Monday, December 17, 2018

Day of Praise

Tues, 12/18/18, "Day of Praise"

"Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey." - Zechariah 9:9

I'm glad you all had such a sense of humor yesterday about happy mornings because today's Bible verse comes right back at us with the same appeal, saying, "Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem!" (Zechariah 9:9).

It's as if God is saying, "I'm determined for all you people to be joyful and happy."

Even in the morning. 

And this time God offers the chuckle, saying, "See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey" (Zechariah 9:9). And you know what I'm talking about if you've seen the movie, "Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows" (2011). In the movie, there's a scene where all the good guys get a regular horse, except Sherlock Holmes, who gets a mini horse that looks like what's described in today's verse. It looks as if Sherlock Holmes is riding "on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey."

It's hilarious!

And yet he's the hero. The genius. The warrior who overcomes evil. 

And so it will be with Jesus, according to the prophecy. And so it was fulfilled. On Palm Sunday, Jesus came riding into Jerusalem on a donkey, as noted in John 12:14-15, "Jesus found a young donkey and sat upon it, as it is written, 'Do not be afraid, O Daughter of Zion; see, your king is coming, seated on a donkey's colt'" [fulfilling today's verse from Zechariah 9:9].

Can you picture it?

It's hilarious! A king is coming, seated on a donkey's colt!!!

And yet Jesus truly is the hero. The genius. The king. The warrior who overcomes evil. Far greater than Sherlock Holmes or any other hero for that matter. For Jesus is mighty God in man, riding on a baby donkey, on an itty bitty, beast of burden. 

Eeeyaw! Eeeyaw!

It's enough to make you smile, chuckle, even be happy, isn't it?

Even in the morning. 

"Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey." - Zechariah 9:9

Praise God!

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Day of Praise

Mon, 12/17/18, "Day of Praise" 

"Praise the LORD. How good it is to sing praises to our God, how pleasant and fitting to praise him!" - Psalm 147:1 

Somebody long ago impressed on me that if you have to get up in the morning, you might as well get up happy. 

I mean, what's the alternative? Mopin' around? I can see the cow holdin' the sign in a ChikFilA ad, speakin' to the moper, sayin', "Reeeeally?" 

I do realize how Dr. Gary Chapman, in his many books on relationships, talks regularly about morning people versus night owls. I honor that. 

But, I still contend that, if you have to get up in the morning, you might as well get up happy. After all, in my 50+ years, I've sincerely only met one person who responded to considerate happiness with something a little less happy. And I sincerely think they were trying to be silly. (Hey, morning happiness includes giving people the benefit of the doubt, especially in the morning! 😀)

Everybody else was clearly blessed by the happy morning person to some degree or another. In response, some give a little smile. Some chuckle. Some get downright happy. 

Smiles and happiness change things, especially when they flow from thinking about the goodness of our God. That's why the psalmist, in today's verse, is inspired to write, "Praise the LORD. How good it is to sing praises to our God, how pleasant and fitting to praise him!" (Psalm 147:1) 

So here's a great "happy, sing-praises-to-our-God" song to take into our day. If you can't carry a tune, at least carry it in your heart. It'll change your outlook on the day, and probably aaaaaalmost everybody else too. 

By the way, there are a gazillion little phrases like "God hears our prayers," or whatever else you like, that you can use to create and add verses, so be happy and have fun with it! Here's the song: 

"God is so Good" 

God is so good, 
God is so good, 
God is so good, 
He's so good to me! 

He cares for me, 
He cares for me, 
He cares for me, 
He's so good to me! 

I love Him so, 
I love Him so, 
I love Him so, 
He's so good to me! 

I praise His Name, 
I praise His Name, 
I praise His Name, 
He's so good to me! 

Praise God!

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Day of Praise!

Sat, 12/15/18, "Day of Praise"

"and I saw the glory of the God of Israel coming from the east" - Ezekiel 43:2

Amazing!

What must it have been like for Ezekiel to have seen the glory of God?

Can anything compare?

What are the greatest things you've ever seen?

I've seen three things on an internet list of top 10 sights in the world and 39 of a top 100 in the USA. 

But none of them compares to seeing my wife and three children sing and laugh and share a meal together (especially now, as they're all 17 and older). 

But God says in the Bible, in John 1:14, that each of us, like Ezekiel, has seen the greatest wonder known to humankind. We have beheld God's glory in the face of Jesus Christ, who even now is with us and dwelling in us by the person and power of the Holy Spirit. 

Describing what we've seen in Christ is hard. How do you describe "Glory" which is what some Bible dictionaries call "Weighty Importance" and "Inspiring Majesty"?

And yet it's possible. 

God's glory, God's "Weighty Importance" and "Inspiring Majesty" is seen through God's mighty acts in creation. 

No, you probably haven't seen the parting of the Red Sea as God did for Moses and the Israelites. 

But, c'mon, think! God has done something for you that, when you stop and think about it, it's marvelous to behold.

Stars at night. Heart stopper!

Cahaba Lilies by day. Breathtaking!

Birth of a child. Oh, wow!

Laughter of a child. Glorious!

Laughter of an adult. Miraculous!

Looking in the mirror and smiling at what you see because life is beautiful, and by God's grace you have it. Glory!

Dinner on the table, prepared by your teenage children. Are you kidding me?!?!?!?

At their initiative. Silly amazing!

Jesus on a cross. Shedding his blood for you and me. Speechless!

Peeking for a moment at your loved ones together and bowed before God in prayer saying, "Dear Lord, thank you for...". Priceless!

A sun rise in the east. Incomparable!

The Son Rising from the grave after dying for your sin and mine. Beyond understanding and explanation!

Glorious. Weighty. Important. Inspiring. Majestic. 

"and I saw the glory of the God of Israel coming from the east" - Ezekiel 43:2

Praise God!

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Day of Praise

Fri, 12/14/18, "Day of Praise"

"My sins have been bound into a yoke; by his hands they were woven together. They have come upon my neck and the LORD has sapped my strength. He has handed me over to those I cannot withstand." - Lamentations 1:14

What does it mean that the LORD "has handed me over to those I cannot withstand"?

For whatever other things it could mean, one thing it does mean is this: whatever you feed will be the strongest. 

It is a way that God made things to work. The more you feed something, the stronger it becomes.

The internationally-noted Atlanta preacher, Andy Stanley, talks about this very plainly in his book "Enemies of the Heart". The more you feed something, the stronger it becomes.

God made us to hunger for God as we hear in Psalm 42:1, "As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God." If we would surrender to the Holy Spirit and feed our hunger for God, then our hunger for God and God's word and God's wisdom would grow stronger. 

But when we feed our hunger for the things of the world, like food or sex or violence or sugar or risqué tv or money or sports or alcohol or anger or pornography or power or material stuff, then our appetite for those things is actually not satisfied, but our appetite for those things grows. Before long, the appetite has become a strong appetite which becomes an addiction. It happens because it's a way that God made things to work. The more you feed something, the stronger it becomes.

This is the Order of Creation that's at work in Romans 1, where God inspires St. Paul to write: "Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen. Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts." (Romans 1:24-26a)

What are you hungry for? Is it something constructive of God? Or are you hungry for something destructive of the world?

If you're hungry for God and His truly satisfying word and His life-giving ways, then keep going and feed that hunger with God's word.

But if you're hungry for the perishing things and destructive ways of the world, take it to God. There may be medical elements to your growing appetite for perishing things, but ultimately God is The Great Physician who is able to truly free you because ultimately every matter is a matter of the heart. And being made in the image of God, God made our hearts to hunger for God as we hear in Psalm 42:1, "As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God."

Think about it. Pray about it. And I hope you might even grab Andy Stanley's book, "Enemies of the Heart". Pastor Stanley is truly God's servant to help us understand from scripture that the more you feed something, the stronger it becomes.

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, December 12, 2018

Day of Praise

Thur, 12/13/18, "Day of Praise"

"For men are not cast off by the Lord forever. Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love. For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to the children of men." - Lamentations 3:31-33

I am thankful for my parents, athletic coaches, Boy Scout leaders, school teachers, pastors, Sunday School teachers, job supervisors, grandparents and anyone else that God worked through to bring the grief of discipline into my life as a child. 

All of them made me a better person through honest, pruning love. 

Bishops, Church Councils, bosses, Elder Boards, Personnel Committees, and other wise friends in Christ do the same for me as an adult. 

They speak truth that hurts to the end of shaping me into the likeness of Christ.

Today is Thursday. We don't usually get excited on any day, let alone weekdays, to hear truth that hurts.

But it seems to me that we're blessed to have anyone in our lives, be it God or a human being, who is willing to love us enough to tell us what we probably don't want to hear because their words will truly make us better. 

In that vein, as we read the two Bible passages below, let's pause and give thanks for people who are willing to love us enough to tell us what we probably don't want to hear because their words will truly make us better.

"If a man pampers his servant from youth, he will bring grief in the end." - Proverbs 29:21

"And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: 'My son, do not make light of the Lord's discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.' Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it." - Hebrews 12:5-11

"For men are not cast off by the Lord forever. Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love. For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to the children of men." - Lamentations 3:31-33

Praise God!

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Day of Praise

Wed, 12/12/18, "Day of Praise"

"Do not be afraid to serve the Babylonians," [Gedaliah] said. "Settle down in the land and serve the king of Babylon, and it will go well with you." - Jeremiah 40:9

Wait! Isn't Gedaliah one of God's people? And aren't the Babylonians the enemy? And Gedaliah's saying, "Serve the Babylonians"?

Yes.

I remember, years ago, facing the young man who had trespassed against me in a major way. Sinned against me in a major way. Hurt me in a major way. 

To be sure, there are nuances about the whole encounter that now, decades later, I'd do a little differently. But the major part of God's instruction to me was clear then and now.

Forgive the Babylonian, uh, I mean, forgive the guy who hurt you. Forgive your enemy. He's standing right in front of you, so stick out your hand. Greet him. Look him in the eye. And tell him that you forgive him. 

In so doing, you not only serve your enemy. You also serve yourself.

The rational (not emotional) decision to forgive serves not only your enemy. Forgiving your enemy, choosing not to pursue getting even, letting go of the figurative stranglehold on your enemy's throat, forgiving also serves the forgiver.

Forgiveness rids the forgiver of anger. And since anger can destroy the heart, ridding your heart of all anger, like sweeping away anything that feels like spider web when you unexpectedly walk into a spider web, rids the heart of all that would destroy your heart.

This is why St. Paul is God's servant to write in Ephesians 4:31, "Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice." And in Colossians 3:8, "But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips."

This is why Jesus, in Matthew 5:44, says, "But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you."

Because loving your enemies, praying for those who hurt you, serving your enemies, and getting rid of the cancer of anger from your heart, they all go hand in hand.

To be sure, the wound will be poked and called back to mind by a song or a smell or a story or something, and the hurt that was inflicted on you will be stirred again in your heart and mind.

But when this happens, look up to God, call on God's name and say, "Lord, I'm so thankful that you forgave me an infinite debt for my sin and rebellion against you. May your forgiveness in Christ be my strength to remember that I've already chosen to forgive the person who hurt me. It was a decision. And even now, as the hurt was stirred back up, give me your strength to return to and keep my decision in place so that you and your healing forgiveness, not destructive anger and hurt, are the rulers and master of my life. In Jesus's name I ask this. May it be so, Amen."

Friends, a hurt will most definitely be stirred today. Like Gedaliah in days of old, serve the enemy. Pray for them. Get rid of all anger, like sweeping away anything that feels like spider web in your heart. And return to a decision to forgive, just as God in Christ forgave 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

Monday, December 10, 2018

Day of Praise

Tues, 12/11/18, "Day of Praise"

"[The LORD says,] I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean" - Ezekiel 36:25

Sprinkle. Clean. Water.

What a nice reminder...

of Jesus telling us that God's grace, like rain showers, falls on all people,

of Jesus washing the disciples' feet and calling us to share such love,

of water spilling from Jesus's side when he was pierced on the cross where he died to cleanse us from sin,

of your baptism, where you heard of God's love for you, and you were touched with water and the Holy Spirit and, depending on your tradition, maybe declared your love for God too, right then or maybe it was later at your Confirmation,

of the water of hurricanes and our prayers for, on the one hand, the people who've tasted sorrow from those waters in recent history, but on the other hand, some drought-stricken and wildfire-ravaged lands that need water,

of the innumerable wonders of God relating to "Sprinkle. Clean. Water."

"[The LORD says,] I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean" - Ezekiel 36:25

Praise God!

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Day of Praise

Mon, 12/10/18, "Day of Praise"

"Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to the king, 'O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.'" - Daniel 3:16-18

 Dear Friends,

Come what may today, remember that if you have a personal faith in Jesus Christ, then you know the "God who is able." And you will be able, therefore, to stand and endure, with courage, confidence, and wisdom from God, whatever comes your way.

For God sends forth His word by the Holy Spirit that we might yield to His Spirit and receive His Word where God literally tells us what He "is able" to do for you and all who believe.

Daniel 3:17 - If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king.

Daniel 6:20 - When he came near the den, he called to Daniel in an anguished voice, "Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to rescue you from the lions?" [Yes, God did.]

Matthew 26:61 - "This fellow said, 'I am able to destroy the temple of God and rebuild it in three days.'" [Yes, Jesus did say that, as he referred to his body as the temple with the crucifixion and resurrection.]

Acts 5:39 - [Gamaliel said], "But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God."

Romans 8:39 - neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 11:23 - And if they do not persist in unbelief, they will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again [to the vine of God's people].

2 Corinthians 9:8 - And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.

Hebrews 7:25 - Therefore [Jesus Christ] is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.

God in Christ is able to do incomparable things for you and all people. Trust Him today, and you will see.

Praise God!

Friday, December 7, 2018

Day of Praise

Sat, 12/08/18, "Day of Praise"

"Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry" - James 1:19 

Many of us here at Christ the King Lutheran Church (LCMC) in Birmingham, Alabama remember our brother Tom Nelson's witness. Tom was at a conference at the World Trade Centers Hotel when the tragic events unfolded that day. His witness was and is that, as he and the others were being moved quickly away from the scene, he was moved by the Spirit of God to ask, "God, what do you want me to do?" 

Such is the essence of today's Bible verse from James 1:19. We are called to "be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry" so we can ask, "God, what do you want me to do?" and then listen for God's reply. 

This same counsel is given by Andy Stanley in his book "Enemies of the Heart" as he describes the antidote to greed, which is generosity. Stanley says that you know that you have yielded to God's life-giving word so that generosity reigns in your heart over greed when you have a monetary windfall come your way and the first thing you do is ask, "God, what do you want me to do with this money?" 

The TV commercials for insurance are true; life does come at you fast. But as it does, "Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry" (James 1:19). For in so doing we can listen for God's response as we ask, "God, what do you want me to do?" 

Praise God!

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Day of Praise

Fri, 12/07/18, "Day of Praise" 

"At the end of that time, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my sanity was restored." - Daniel 4:34 

Recently, someone dear to me asked if they could tell me something. "Of course," I said. They proceeded to tell me how they'd been drawn into the temptations of the world. 

When they were done, we talked about both the temptation itself but also the process of confessing. Their closing comment was, "I feel better now that I've told you." 

Confession is good for the soul. 

Just ask powerful King Nebuchadnezzar, who, in today's Bible verse, tells how he himself had persistently turned away from God by sinning. But God, Nebuchadnezzar confesses, was and is more powerful; God is powerful and loving enough to bring us down to our knees. 

And God is powerful and loving enough to restore us. 

Nebuchadnezzar, who had persistently opposed God, was so moved by God's power and love, in dealing with Nebuchadnezzar's sin, that Nebuchadnezzar was compelled to confess his own sin to the world and encourage others to do the same. For he says in Daniel 4:37, "And those who walk in pride, [God] is able to humble." 

Nebuchadnezzar had learned first hand what surely many of us have heard in Proverbs 16:18, "Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall." 

Let us be encouraged by powerful King Nebuchadnezzar's testimony and the dear one who said to me, "I feel better now that I've told you." 

Confession is good for the soul. 

Praise God!

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Day of Praise

Thur, 12/06/18, "Day of Praise" 

"Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth you will again bring me up." - Psalm 71:20 

In the Bible book of Job, Job is said to be blameless, upright, a God-fearer, and one who shuns evil. And yet Job loses all; he's personally afflicted; and he curses his birth. 

How should we respond when calamity comes upon us, whether it's Job-like or 9-11ish or something to a much smaller degree at work or in our home? 

Giving up often makes things worse, so hopefully we won't give up. 

But how do we hang in there and not give up? God speaks through the Psalmist to Job and to all who've tasted any magnitude of difficulty, along with you and me. God calls us to stop and pray and believe the word of God in our verse, "Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth you will again bring me up." (Psalm 71:20) 

Let us be found believing and encouraging others to do the same. And may God be praised as we do!

Praise God!

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Day of Praise

Wed, 12/05/18, "Day of Praise"

"My face is red with weeping, deep shadows ring my eyes" - Job 16:16

God understands, and no one is exempt. God understands the weeping of every soul.

I remember the time I had just visited a dear friend's mom at a local hospital. When I came out of her room, a young nurse came up to me and said, "Chaplain, the woman in 3102 wants to see you."

I told the nurse that I wasn't one of the hospital's chaplains, but I'd be glad to visit the room nonetheless.

As I entered the room, the woman who requested the chaplain was quick to offer that she and the strong man, who was wearing the tight bandana, were not married as I would think of it, but they were married in the eyes of the Lord.

I'd been down this road before, and what that means is "Don't jump to conclusions! Listen! Because God understands, and no one is exempt."

The strong man didn't say a word as the woman, who was in bed awaiting open heart surgery, never stopped talking about her fears.

I merely listened, waited, and asked if I could pray with them.

Holding their hands (with hers being small and his like leather), I had barely said "Lord" and started praying God's promises, when the tears started to pour.

From both of them.

Small woman needing open-heart surgery. And large, strong, unshaven, bandana-covered, leather-handed man alike.

No one is exempt.

Our hearts, and more specifically our fears, as we walk in faith, yearn to hear and hunger to taste the promises of Almighty God in Jesus Christ.

Look at people today as God is looking at you. The eyes never lie. Someone is hurting in their heart, "My face is red with weeping, deep shadows ring my eyes" (Job 16:16).

Greet them. Ask how they're doing. Listen. And offer to pray.

The tears won't be far behind.

God understands the weeping of every soul. And we are his ears and mouthpiece of comfort for those who need to cry.

Praise God!

Monday, December 3, 2018

Day of Praise

Tues, 12/04/18, "Day of Praise"

"Then Job replied: 'Indeed, I know that this is true. But how can a mortal be righteous before God?
Though one wished to dispute with him, he could not answer him one time out of a thousand.
His wisdom is profound, his power is vast. Who has resisted him and come out unscathed?'" - Job 9:1-4

A dear, older friend of mine once summed up things like this, "God good; sin bad." Job used only slightly different words in today's verse, saying, "Indeed, I know that this is true. But how can a mortal be righteous before God?"

Answer: We can't. 

We can no more be righteous, in and of ourselves, before God than I can reach out my screened window and grab these beautiful stars that I'm looking at this very moment. 

Yes, yes, I remember what we've said in this devotion, we noted from Job 1:1 how God speaks of Job as being "blameless." Surely Job could be righteous, in and of himself, before God, couldn't he? But, biblically speaking, "blameless" merely means a person who is confronted by their sin and doesn't have to be dragged into a legal courtroom to get them to admit that they messed up. 

So Job was blameless, but he was not sinless. 

No one is sinless, except Jesus, which means that no one's heart is so in tune with the will of God the Father that they constantly act in accord with God's will. Only Jesus.

Which throws us back to Job's original question in Job 9:1, "How can a mortal be righteous before God?"

Only through faith in Jesus, which means that we trust Jesus to make all things right, including us. 

To be sure, sometimes in surrendering to Jesus, he sends us to do something like pray for an enemy or pay retribution to someone we hurt.

But there is no way to pay back God. All we can do is thank Him.

So, "How can a mortal be righteous before God?"

Answer: 1) Don't wait to be dragged to court to admit a wrong. 2) Put your faith in God's Son, Jesus, who makes all things right. 3) Thank God. 4) Serve people...with a joy that springs from thanks to God.

That should make for a Happy Day and a Happy World. Let's go!

Praise God!

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Day of Praise

Mon, 12/03/18, "Day of Praise"

"And [God] said to man, 'The fear of the Lord—that is wisdom, and to shun evil is understanding.'" - Job 28:28

Throughout Job 28, Job has been repeatedly "asking" where one can find wisdom and understanding.

Inspired by the Holy Spirit, Job's conclusion is twofold: 1) wisdom and understanding do not belong to humanity and can't even be "found" by humanity and 2) wisdom and understanding belong to God and must be revealed by God to humanity, which is why "The fear of the Lord—that is wisdom, and to shun evil is understanding." (Job 28:28)

The "fear of the Lord" can be summed as "a recognition that God is God, and we're not." And because God is God, God can do whatever God wants to do, including annihilate us for our sin, if God wanted to.

Such fear of the Lord, such recognition that God can do whatever God wants to do, including annihilate us for our sin, is God's ordained way then to open the eyes of our heart to the magnitude of God's grace.

As the famous song goes, it (grace) is amazing, simply amazing, unfathomable, inspiring beyond compare.

God's grace then compels us to "shun evil" and find that, just as God has ordained the fear of the Lord as wisdom, so too has God ordained that to shun evil is understanding (Job 28:28). It just works because God has ordained it that our brains just work better and see things they wouldn't otherwise see when we pursue God and flee/shun evil. It's amazing, God's saying, how many "Oh, I get it!" moments we have when running to God and running from evil.

After all, God is God, God is the Creator of how things work, and we're not.

"And [God] said to man, 'The fear of the Lord—that is wisdom, and to shun evil is understanding.'" - Job 28:28

Praaaaaaaaise God!

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Day of Praise

Sat, 12/01/18, "Day of Praise"

"Immediately the fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the wall of the king's palace, opposite the lampstand. And the king saw the hand as it wrote. Then the king's color changed, and his thoughts alarmed him; his limbs gave way, and his knees knocked together. Tekel, you have been weighed in the balances and found wanting" - Daniel 5:5-6, 27

One of the all-time favorite activities is doodling. Ya know, while you're supposedly listening to someone else, you're drawing stuff on paper. Doodling. 

I knew this guy in college who was constantly doodling crosses. All kinds of crosses. One cross looked like a scales; ya know, scales--the ancient way of weighing things, where you put something like a piece of silver on one side and a supposedly honest measure on the other to see how much the silver weighs. The key words being "supposedly honest" because the merchants used to cheat people all the time.

Like King Belshazzar of today's Bible verse. He apparently cheated his people all the time. So God sized him up and, through Daniel, told King Belshazzar, "you have been weighed in the balances and found wanting" (Daniel 5:27).

The "writing was on the wall" (Daniel 5:5-6), which is where we get that old expression from. We get it from the Bible. It's as if God is doodling crosses that look like scales and, like King Belshazzar, "the writing is on the wall" for all of us. And "we have been weighed in the balances and found wanting."

Uh oh. Unless, something happens to change things, we'd all be doomed. 

And fortunately, God makes something happen. God sends his Son, Jesus Christ, to take on a very plain cross, with nothing fancy about it. It's a wooden post down into the ground and a wooden post going cross ways. 

The writing was on the wall. We were going to perish because we'd been weighed by a fancy cross, a scales, and we'd been found wanting, lacking, falling short, not measuring up to the righteousness required for fellowship with God forever. The writing was on the wall, and we were on our way to hell. 

But praise God that "God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten Son," that whosoever believes in His forgiving work, on that plain old cross, would not perish, but have eternal life. 

So now, for all who believe in Jesus, there's a new writing on the wall. Life forever with God. 

So if we get bored at all today, maybe we could doodle that! And may God be praised as we do! 

Praise God!

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Day of Praise

Fri, 11/30/18, "Day of Praise"

"In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the Lord spoken by Jeremiah, the Lord moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia to make a proclamation throughout his realm and to put it in writing." - Ezra 1:1

Today's verse is the simplest reminder of why we trust the promises of God: God has the power to do whatever it takes to fulfill his word.

In the case of today's verse, God moves the heart of a foreign king to fulfill God's word. Furthermore, that foreign king did not even acknowledge God, let alone trust or worship God. And yet God moved that king's heart so that, at the right time, God came through for all who trusted and worshiped God as Lord.

Friends, if you trust and worship God, God will come through for you. Believe it, because it's true!

Dear Lord, you know our frailties, uncertainties, burdens, fears, and needs. Give us your peace, we pray, trusting that you are Sovereign God and that, at the right time, you come through for all who trust and worship you. Amen.

Praise God!

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Day of Praise

Thur, 11/29/18, "Day of Praise"

[God said to Daniel in a vision,] "As for you, go your way till the end. You will rest, and then at the end of the days you will rise to receive your allotted inheritance." - Daniel 12:13

There it is.

Resurrection.

In the Old Testament of the Holy Bible.

"You will rest, and then at the end of the days you will rise to receive your allotted inheritance." (Daniel 12:13)

I've been walking around for the last hour just smiling at the mere thought of it.

When I die, it's not the end.

When you die, it's not the end.

Death does not have the final word.

God does.

And as great as that is.

God actually gives us more.

Yes, if there really is resurrection...

Then there is more than resurrection.

Resurrection, until it happens, is a future event.

What about the present?

With resurrection, God covers that too.

With resurrection, God covers the present too.

That's why, in today's verse, God also said to Daniel in a vision, "As for you, go your way till the end."

Operative word is "go".

As in, "Go, get on with it."

As in, "Go! Live with confidence!"

As in, "Go! Live with a confidence that doesn't fear death because, well, because there's resurrection."

That's exciting to me for my life.

That's comforting to me too.

Ya see, I got kids. Three of 'em. And a son-in-law. I have a wife. I adore them all.

One day, unless something very rare happens and we all die together, one of us, probably me first, is gonna say some last words to the others before I die.

I think about those words from time to time.

My last words are gonna be "Go, get on with it."

I'm not being morbid.

To the contrary, it's empowering.

It's empowering to envision my wife and my 4 kids living with a confidence that doesn't fear death because, well, because there's resurrection.

Indeed, life's good.

Now.

And forever.

Because, well, because there's resurrection.

[God said to Daniel in a vision,] "As for you, go your way till the end. You will rest, and then at the end of the days you will rise to receive your allotted inheritance." - Daniel 12:13

Praise God!

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Day of Praise

Wed, 11/28/18, "Day of Praise"

"'In that day each of you will invite his neighbor to sit under his vine and fig tree,' declares the LORD Almighty." - Zechariah 3:10

Bet you haven't done that lately. Ya know, invite your neighbor to sit under your vine and fig tree. 

Well, it's best that we all start doin' it on a regular basis.

If you check out the twenty (20) Bible verses where "vine" and "fig tree" are paired, what you discover is that being under a vine and fig tree represents being under God's blessings. Easily understood blessings under the vine and fig tree are prosperity, safety, beauty, hope, and the expulsion of fear. Blessings under the vine and fig tree that require a little more thought (but blessings nonetheless) are peace from a foreign king, a place to repent, a place to reveal faith and joy even in hard times, and a place to look for the fruit of a person's life. 

The point is that a person's heart gets healthy under the vine and the fig tree.

In contrast, within those same twenty (20) Bible verses where "vine" and "fig tree" are paired, what you discover is that the absence of a vine and fig tree (and therefore the absence of blessings to sit under) brings bad news, namely, the bad news of ruin by way of destruction, judgment, plague or drought. 

The point is that the absence of a vine and fig tree represents stepping out from under God's blessings. And taking your life into your own hands. News flash -- that's not a good idea. 

So what then does "'In that day each of you will invite his neighbor to sit under his vine and fig tree,' declares the LORD Almighty" (Zechariah 3:10) mean?

It means we should all regularly "invite a neighbor" to our home to sit under our blessings. 

Talk to them. 

Listen to them. 

Visit together. 

Catch up on one another's lives. 

Be thankful to God and encourage each other. 

And watch what happens to your hearts: prosperity, safety, beauty, hope, and the expulsion of fear. And if you really invest your heart in the visit, maybe you'll see a few of those rarer blessings like repentance, a testimony to faith and joy in hard times, and conversation about the fruit of a person's life. 

My wife and kids and I do this all the time. We sit under the vine and fig tree to talk, listen, visit together, catch up, be thankful to God, and encourage each other. It's a blast. We do it when it's just us. And we also enjoy "inviting people over to sit under our vine and fig tree" just like every Tuesday night at 7 pm when literally the whole world is invited to our home, and 10-20 different people (with a few regulars) show up. (PS - You're invited!)

Friends, invite a neighbor over to sit under your vine and fig tree.

And may the prosperity of relationships reign. 

Praise God!

Monday, November 26, 2018

Day of Praise

Tues, 11/27/18, "Day of Praise"

"No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest," declares the LORD. "For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more." - Jeremiah 31:34

In today's verse, God foresees a day when all people will know the LORD. It is God's vision. It is what God is working towards. 

A major aspect of people knowing the LORD is that people will know that God "will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more." It is God's vision that relationships will truly be healed in a way that only God can heal them. 

This knowing of God by all people and this knowing of God's forgiveness and healing is tied to the Word of God through Jesus in John 17:3, "Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent."

In sum, the best life, eternal life, is directly tied to knowing God, to knowing the Son of God who is Jesus, and to knowing God's forgiveness of our sin through Jesus.

This is God's vision. It is God's goal. It is what God is working towards everyday by the person and power of the Holy Spirit because God wants everyone to have the best life, that is, eternal life. 

What about us? What are we working towards everyday? Maybe the weekend is our goal. Maybe a sales record is our goal. Maybe a bigger house. Maybe a new car. Maybe having a child. Or getting the children through college. 

Those things are a part of life in this world to be sure. But there is so much more. So much more.

God wants us to know Him, the LORD, the Master of the Universe, the Sovereign over all Creation, where scientists now think there are over 140 BILLION galaxies, each of which has over 100 BILLION stars. And GOD uses that creation as a footstool!!!

Big Amazing God has a goal, a vision, a desire that He works towards everyday. He wants us to know Him, His Son, His forgiveness, His healing, and the Best Life that He alone has to give. 

Jeremiah, the prophet, worked everyday, in everything he did, he worked with a burden for all people to know God and God's vision. Later St. Paul and many others did the same. Jesus died for the same.

Is there room in our day for God's vision? Is there room in our day for God? If the best life is knowing God and all His benefits, what is the life that barely thinks of Him? What is the life that rarely worships Him? What is the life that cares not to serve Him by sharing His vision with all people in the things we say and do to others everyday? 

God wants so much for us. God wants us to know Him and the best life, eternal life, and God works everyday to that end.

What do you want? What are you working for? Think about it. There's probably more waiting for you than what you're claiming. 

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, November 25, 2018

Day of Praise

Mon, 11/26/18, "Day of Praise"

"[God] said to me, 'Son of man, stand up on your feet and I will speak to you.' As he spoke, the Spirit came into me and raised me to my feet, and I heard him speaking to me." -- Ezekiel 2:1-2

There is a person in our church who, every week, every Sunday, says, "I almost didn't come today, but I'm glad I did because now I feel better."

Simple question, Why? Why do they feel better? How does that work?

Simple answer, God's Word is God's way to fill us with His Spirit and raise us up. That's what is plainly said in today's Bible verses through Ezekiel.

If you don't want to feel empty and down, go to church and do other things like read your Bible and talk to others about Jesus and tell others how Jesus died for them and whatever it takes to hang out with God and His Word.

God's Word is God's way to fill us with His Spirit and raise us up.

Everyday.

"[God] said to me, 'Son of man, stand up on your feet and I will speak to you.' As he spoke, the Spirit came into me and raised me to my feet, and I heard him speaking to me." -- Ezekiel 2:1-2

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, November 23, 2018

Day of Praise

Sat, 11/24/18, "Day of Praise"

"'I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,' declares the LORD." - Jeremiah 9:24

Happy Saturday! For many of you, today is a day for "exercise." A day for getting active with a jog around the neighborhood or getting things done around the house.

God likes to "exercise" and get active too. Actually, in today's verse, God says he "delights" in exercise.

And it's a good thing.

Because, according to God in all the other verses in today's Bible reading, God has lots of chances to exercise. Lots of chances to exercise "kindness, justice and righteousness on earth."

Just yesterday, God exercised kindness on a man who is grieving, a man who had been in a car accident, a woman with recent surgery, another woman who had been in the hospital, and a woman with a difficult aging parent situation. God exercised justice on a situation that brought peace to a family. And God exercised righteousness, well, in more souls than there is room here to list.

That's a lot of exercising in one day...and that's just through the lens of one man in one place. How much more throughout your life and all the world? Day after day, season after season, year after year.

But God is up to it.

Actually, no, we must say more because God says more.

God delights in all that exercise.

Because God delights in you.

So, today, as you jog around the neighborhood or get things done around the house...

Remember, the LORD is with you. He is your help and strength. And he loves every minute of it.

I pray you will too.

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, November 22, 2018

Day of Praise

Fri, 11/23/18, "Day of Praise"

I just like this one, so here it is again. :-)

"I warned you when you felt secure, but you said, 'I will not listen!' This has been your way from your youth; you have not obeyed me." - Jeremiah 22:21

There is a young boy, not my son, whose father is not around. Even when the father was physically present, his heart and mind were elsewhere.

This boy, whose physical father has been distant at best, comes to our 5pm Sunday worship. He likes to sit next to me in worship. And whatever I do in worship, he does.

If I stand in worship to sing, he stands. If I lean forward to listen more intently, he leans. If I bow my head in prayer, he bows.

Though children do indeed sometimes act like children because after all they are children, God made children to want to learn of God from parents and parent-like adults. God made children to want to learn from their parents how to worship and pray and live in the Lord.

In today's Bible verse, God makes a direct connection between what Jehoiakim does now (i.e. not listen) and what he did as a "youth".

God makes this direct connection with the training of youth and their practices as adults.

What will they know of God? It depends on what they were trained as youth.

Will they value worship? It depends on what priorities they were trained with as youth.

Will they have a daily relationship with the everlasting God or be like the guy who once told me that he might think of God once every two or three weeks? It depends on what a child is trained to set his/her heart on daily when they're young.

I'll say it again, though children do indeed sometimes act like children because after all they are children, God made children to want to learn of God from parents and parent-like adults. God made children to want to learn from their parents how to worship and pray and live in the Lord.

Look at your child, if you have one. Today's Friday, what you teach them about the presence of God today is at least as important as also going to worship with them this Sunday.

If you do not have your own child or maybe they're grown, be like Jim who has been Leonard's Big Brother for years. Leonard was born very different from Jim. But when you're around Leonard, it feels like you're around Jim. Leonard is learning about a daily relationship with God from Jim. It shows.

God makes a direct connection with the training of youth and their practices as adults.

This is why God speaks to youth in Ecclesiastes 12:1, saying, "Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, 'I find no pleasure in them.'"

This is why God speaks to adults in Proverbs 22:6, saying, "Train up a child in (or as one translation has it "Start children off on") the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it."

Dear God, you have made the connections clear between what we teach and train the children in our world to value and to practice and what they will do as adults. You are present every single day, offering life, worship, forgiveness, guidance, and conversation with you. Help us as adults to joyfully learn to walk with you daily and to boldly invite the children in our homes and communities to do the same. 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

Day of Praise

Thur, 11/22/18, Thanksgiving Day, "Day of Praise"

Praise the Lord. Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. - Psalm 106:1

Happy Thanksgiving!

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

Re: PLEASE Answer — Day of Praise

#6

Sent from my iPhone

> On Nov 22, 2018, at 1:39 AM, Ruth Hudson <mruthhudson@gmail.com> wrote:
>
> #6, #3, #2, #5, in that order.
>
> Sent from my iPhone
>
>> On Nov 21, 2018, at 10:48 AM, Chris DeGreen <pastorchrisdegreen@gmail.com> wrote:
>>
>> I'm interested in your feedback and anyone else you would know who'd be willing to answer—-
>> Question:
>> If you were going to spend 2-3 hours on a single day, like a Saturday morning, learning with others to be a more effective instrument for drawing others closer to Jesus and the forgiveness and hope we have in him, which of the following would you want to learn about the most?
>>
>> 1. How to meet people and create interest.
>>
>> 2. How to overcome common roadblocks. (Top 5 roadblocks)
>>
>> 3. How to present the Gospel in different ways.
>>
>> 4. How to ask for a response to the Gospel.
>>
>> 5. How to communicate "next steps" for growing in a personal relationship with Christ.
>>
>> 6. How to tilt people off center who have been repeatedly exposed to and become numb to the Gospel in order to move them to a response to Christ.

Re: PLEASE Answer — Day of Praise

#6, #3, #2, #5, in that order.

Sent from my iPhone

> On Nov 21, 2018, at 10:48 AM, Chris DeGreen <pastorchrisdegreen@gmail.com> wrote:
>
> I'm interested in your feedback and anyone else you would know who'd be willing to answer—-
> Question:
> If you were going to spend 2-3 hours on a single day, like a Saturday morning, learning with others to be a more effective instrument for drawing others closer to Jesus and the forgiveness and hope we have in him, which of the following would you want to learn about the most?
>
> 1. How to meet people and create interest.
>
> 2. How to overcome common roadblocks. (Top 5 roadblocks)
>
> 3. How to present the Gospel in different ways.
>
> 4. How to ask for a response to the Gospel.
>
> 5. How to communicate "next steps" for growing in a personal relationship with Christ.
>
> 6. How to tilt people off center who have been repeatedly exposed to and become numb to the Gospel in order to move them to a response to Christ.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

PLEASE Answer — Day of Praise

I'm interested in your feedback and anyone else you would know who'd be willing to answer—-
Question:
If you were going to spend 2-3 hours on a single day, like a Saturday morning, learning with others to be a more effective instrument for drawing others closer to Jesus and the forgiveness and hope we have in him, which of the following would you want to learn about the most?

1. How to meet people and create interest.

2. How to overcome common roadblocks. (Top 5 roadblocks)

3. How to present the Gospel in different ways.

4. How to ask for a response to the Gospel.

5. How to communicate "next steps" for growing in a personal relationship with Christ.

6. How to tilt people off center who have been repeatedly exposed to and become numb to the Gospel in order to move them to a response to Christ.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Day of Praise

Wed, 11/21/18, "Day of Praise"

"The LORD said to Moses,..'A woman who becomes pregnant and gives birth to a son...must wait thirty-three days to be purified...If she gives birth to a daughter...sixty-six days'" -
Leviticus 12:1-5

I know that people are different, but sometimes they're tragically different. As in today's verses.

I know a pastor who used today's verses to tell his congregation that the Bible was archaic, antiquated, and anachronistic. So, he said, you don't have to take it seriously, let alone believe it. He left behind an F-5 sized path of destruction of people's faith.

But praise God that people are different, sometimes refreshingly different. As in today's verses.

I know a pastor who used today's verses to tell his congregation that the Bible was inspired by the One True Living God over 2,500 years in multiple languages on multiple continents through multiple authors about multiple topics to multiple audiences and through all that pointed to one man, Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ, the Son, the Living Word of the Living God, which must be a divine pointing to one man because the odds of such are like one-in-an-inconceivable-number that is illustrated in Josh McDowell's book, "More Than a Carpenter." This pastor, as God's word says, also needed Jesus to die for his sin, but, upon his death, he left behind a legacy of numerous believers who endured difficulty with confidence in God because, though God's word may seem archaic, antiquated, and anachronistic to begin with, if you'll "wrestle with it" (the literal meaning of "Israel") and live it, so it can prove itself, then you'll see not only its relevance to today but also its life-giving power.

Kinda like Jesus of Nazareth, the One to whom all scripture miraculously points, "wrestling with" the word of the Father in Gethsemane, living it all the way to the cross, letting it prove itself, prove its relevance to today, and its life-giving power, which raised him from the dead. (Check out Lee Strobel's book, "The Case for Christ.")

Oh, by the way, today's verses are health laws to be sure, but they are reminders to moms and families when a child is born that the first 33 days for a boy and 66 days for a girl are critical for bonding with mom.

Don't make scripture hard. Read it. Believe it. And (drum roll) you'll see how wonderfully true and relevant and powerful and life-giving it is.

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, November 19, 2018

Day of Praise

Tues, 11/20/18, "Day of Praise"

"'they could save only themselves by their righteousness,' declares the Sovereign LORD." - Ezekiel 14:14

Today is a simple, straightforward teaching, calling each person to surrender to the work of God's Holy Spirit in your heart. 

For the Holy Spirit of the Living God wills to work a faith in you that believes that God loves you and makes the way for you to have peace both with God and also with all people who believe.

Such belief, such faith, that yields to God's work in us and trusts God's work for us, is one of the most critical teachings of the Judeo-Christian heritage.

Faith is a gift from God (Ephesians 2:8-10). Faith is not our own work.

Faith does not save us. Faith instead receives the God who, through Christ Jesus, saves us.

God saves. God works faith in us, in other words, God works a simple trust in us that God saves. God calls us to surrender to God's work and believe that God does for us what we cannot do for ourselves, namely, makes us right with God. This is called the "right"eousness of faith.

Here are some Bible passages to consider on this critical teaching. Meditate on one of them, and let God's word bless you today and forever.

Romans 1:17 --
For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed-a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: "The righteous will live by faith."

Romans 3:21 --
[ Righteousness Through Faith ] But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify.

Romans 3:22 --
This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile,

Romans 3:25 --
God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood-to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished-

Romans 3:26 --
he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.

Romans 4:5 --
However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness.

Romans 4:9 --
Is this blessedness only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? We have been saying that Abraham's faith was credited to him as righteousness.

Romans 4:11 --
And he received circumcision as a sign, a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. So then, he is the father of all who believe but have not been circumcised, in order that righteousness might be credited to them.

Romans 4:13 --
It was not through the law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith.

Romans 9:30 --
[Israel's Unbelief ] What then shall we say? That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith;

Romans 10:6 --
But the righteousness that is by faith says: "Do not say in your heart, 'Who will ascend into heaven?'" (that is, to bring Christ down)

Galatians 5:5 --
For through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope.

Philippians 3:9 --
and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ-the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.

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, November 18, 2018

Day of Praise

Mon, 11/19/18, "Day of Praise"

"The word of the LORD came to [Ezekiel]: 'Therefore say: "This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I will gather you from the nations and bring you back from the countries where you have been scattered, and I will give you back the land of Israel again."'" - Ezekiel 11:14,17

Have you ever done something where the next thing you said was, "Oops, I'm dead"?

I was about seven and, on this particular day, bored. So I went to the garage, got a wiffle ball and bat, and went to the front yard.

My older brother, Ben, for whatever reason being unavailable, was not there to throw me the ball. So I threw the ball to myself, which obviously means I tossed it straight up. When the ball came down I swung, and it went right back where it came from, that is, straight up...and, well, back.

Ya see, if ya don't know, wiffle balls can spin like crazy and curve in all sorts of directions...like straight towards your parents' large bedroom window.

And when wiffle balls start spinning, they can continue to spin like there's no tomorrow, even when they meet an object...like your parents' large bedroom window.

A wiffle ball!?!? It shattered that window like the old "is it live or is it Memorex?" glass.

Oops, I'm dead.

Remember, there is no older brother around, so there's no older brother to blame. No sirree; it's all on me.

I was so traumatized at my impending death, (I mean it was a window, that to a seven year old seemed like it would surely cost hundreds, even thousands of dollars to repair) that I don't even remember how my parents found out. I don't know; maybe it was unusually cold in their bedroom that night and they followed the icicles.

But, however they found out, something tells me that they knew who (me) and what (wiffle ball) before I stopped cryin' and wonderin' how much longer I had to live.

All I know is I paid nothing for the window. No money. No spankin'. Not even a line-up and questioning of all four kids.

My parents paid the whole price. And gave me back my life again. (Not that they themselves ever took it away.)

I think I do remember them asking me to find a spot in our nice-sized yard that was a little farther from the windows whenever I had an inkling to play wiffle ball by myself, but otherwise, they never took an ounce of life or even pride away from me.

It's kind of like God to His children in today's Bible verse. We get bored. Do something stupid. Break something (like a relationship). Say, "Oops, I'm dead."

And God pays the whole price, as the Son of God loses his life on the cross and gives us our life back again through the forgiveness of sins.

Hopefully, we remember God asking us to play differently the next time, but otherwise, God really doesn't want to take an ounce of life or even pride away from us.

Huh, interesting...the things we can learn about God from a wiffle ball and a big dose of loving parents, family, or friends.

Something's gonna break today. Spread the love, people. Spread the love.

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

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Day of Praise

Sat, 11/17/18, "Day of Praise"

"Therefore this is what the Lord says about Jehoiakim king of Judah: 'He will have no one to sit on the throne of David...because they have not listened.'" - Jeremiah 36:30-31

Listening is critical in every relationship, but listening is most critical in our relationship with God.

It works like this.

To listen is for one party to receive a word or words from another party. So to listen is to receive a word.

In the beginning of the Gospel of John, chapter 1, if we listen, God tells us that His Word is His Son. Jesus is the Living Word of God.

So, to listen to God, to receive God's Word, is to receive Jesus Christ.

Listening to God and therefore receiving Christ is critical because through Christ alone can we have a right relationship with God. Through Christ alone can we have peace with God. This is true because Christ alone took on human flesh and had no sin. NONE! So Christ's death on the cross was not for his sin, but his death was for our sin.

So when we listen to God, we are listening to God's Word. When we listen to God's Word, we are listening to Christ. When we listen to Christ, we are receiving Christ into our being. When we receive Christ, we are receiving all of Christ, including his work. When we receive Christ's work, it includes his saving work on the cross, where he pays the penalty for our sin because he himself had no sin to pay for.

In sum, to listen to God is to receive and be filled with God's Word, who is Jesus Christ. You are filled with both the person of Jesus and also the saving work of Jesus. God fills us with Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit. A Spirit-filled life is a life filled with Jesus, who in turn pours the person and power of the Holy Spirit into us!

This also explains why you feel empty when you don't listen to God's word by not worshiping God and not spending time with God in the reading and study of His word and not living with God by not living according to His word.

It all fits together.

And this is very simply why, in today's verse, God says what God says. When you listen to God, you receive His Son, Jesus Christ, and all his benefits. When you don't listen to God...well, you don't receive His Son, Jesus Christ, so it's impossible to receive his benefits, like forgiveness, peace, courage, wisdom, and everlasting life. God's trying to give his word and its benefits to everyone, but tragically, not everyone is receiving them because not everyone is listening.

This is why some people are so passionate about telling God's Word to others. In sum, lives are at stake. And because lives are at stake, some people are so passionate about telling God's Word to others that they're willing to lose a lot, maybe even everything, for telling it.

Please, please, please...receive God by listening to God's Word; worship God; live in God. And encourage others to do the same.

We will be blessed in listening, so may God be praised for speaking His Word of Life!

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, November 15, 2018

Day of Praise

Fri, 11/16/18, "Day of Praise"

"Josiah however would not turn away from [Neco king of Egypt]...[Josiah was] badly wounded...and he died." - 2 Chronicles 35:20-25

Josiah's kingship, leadership, courage, resolve, and premature death are about much more than a timid resignation to each person's life having only a certain number of days (Psalm 90) and having boundaries of time set in "pleasant places" (Psalm 16).

Josiah was a human being with a mission. He had what every person, being made in the image of God, longs for. He had a reason to live for which he was willing and unafraid to die.

His mission was to know the LORD and to walk in his mighty power. Not recklessly. But purposefully. To be in a relationship with God that was at the top of his list and at the center of everything else on the list.

Josiah determined to live, possibly, even probably, fewer days in the LORD and the LORD's mighty power, instead of more days in his own strength where he had no need for the LORD's strength and therefore no need for the LORD.

This is the life for which all of us are made and to which all of us are called, that is, in a relationship with God where God's at the top of our list and at the center of everything else on our list, where we're determined to live, possibly, even probably, fewer days in the LORD and the LORD's mighty power, instead of more days in our own strength where we have no need for the LORD's strength and therefore no need for the LORD.

For who or what are you living? The house payment? Retirement? Get the kids through college? Those will never satisfy. Josiah learned that at a very, very, very young age. That's why he lived for the longing of his heart, the longing of every man's heart, the longing of every human being's heart.

Josiah lived and died for God! And in so doing, blessed us all by calling us all to live for more than the world is and more than the world could ever offer.

And we will live well, doing the same.

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, November 14, 2018

Day of Praise

Thur, 11/15/18, "Day of Praise"

"Their evil deeds have no limit; they do not seek justice. They do not promote the case of the fatherless; they do not defend the just cause of the poor." - Jeremiah 5:27-28

The Bible prophet Jeremiah preached for years and didn't have a single convert. Almost 3,000 years later, has anything changed?

Three times in chapter 31 alone, Jeremiah speaks of new things that God promises to do in people's lives. So why didn't everyone come running and listen to all the prophet was sent to say?

Well, that's just it. People don't want to hear "all that a prophet was sent to say."

Jesus died for our sin. Part of our sin is believing that "I'm doing the best I can, and that should be enough."

But in today's verses, Jeremiah is God's instrument to say that our "evil deeds have no limit" because it includes the things we don't do, like "they do not seek justice. They do not promote the case of the fatherless; they do not defend the just cause of the poor."

Nobody wants to hear this because we're all pushing back and saying, "Hey! I'm doing the best I can!"

But there are two things that we really need to take away from these verses.

First, we need the reminder that we can never do enough to be pleasing in God's sight. Martin Luther asked, "When have I done enough?" The only answer that he found in the Bible and that also gave peace to his soul was this--"Only Jesus, like us in every way, except he had no sin, can do enough. And what Jesus has done gets credited to us when we put our faith in him."

God calls this the righteousness of faith. It's peace with God through faith in Jesus Christ.

The other thing that we really need to take away from today's verses is that, having peace with God through faith in Jesus, we are called to stop and not push back long enough to ask, "Is there something more I could be doing to 'seek justice, promote the case of the fatherless, defend the just cause of the poor'?"

Do we even care?

Care. That would be a good start, knowing that's what God, through Jesus, has done for 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, November 13, 2018

Day of Praise

Wed, 11/14/18, "Day of Praise"

Happy Birthday today to my sister, Cathy, and to Amanda and my sweet niece, Marley, and to any of you other dear friends with a birthday today! Yay! 

"In those days, when your numbers have increased greatly in the land," declares the Lord, "people will no longer say, 'The ark of the covenant of the Lord.' It will never enter their minds or be remembered; it will not be missed, nor will another one be made." - Jeremiah 3:16

Let's play the "association" game. Ya know. I say a word, and you respond with a word that comes to mind. Ready? Santa _______. Barack _________. Hillary __________. Donald _________. Harrison _______.  Ark of the ______________.

I assume you all responded in unison with "Claus, Obama, Clinton, Trump, Ford, Covenant." I also assume if I'd said, "Indiana ______" then you would've said, "Jones." Congratulations!

Or maybe not.

As it pertains to Harrison Ford, Indiana Jones, and the Ark of the Covenant, our culture gives folklore hero status to movies that celebrate the search for famous Biblical artifacts such as the Ark of the Covenant.

On the other hand, God says, "Let it go!" Or in the words of today's Bible verse, God says, "people will no longer say, 'The ark of the covenant of the Lord.' It will never enter their minds or be remembered; it will not be missed, nor will another one be made." (Jeremiah 3:16)

The reason is simple.

As much as we love to touch and see amazing relics of Biblical proportion, you can't have a relationship with the Ark of the Covenant, the wood of Noah's Ark, or even the wood of the cross of Jesus Christ. The list of course could go on and on with water from the Jordan River and even the Bible itself. You can't have a relationship with any of these things.

But you can have, indeed your heart yearns to have a relationship with the God who revealed himself through the Ark of the Covenant, the wood of Noah's Ark, the wood of the cross of Jesus Christ, the water of the Jordan, and the ink and paper of the Bible.

Call on the name of the Lord, and find peace and calm and power and courage and direction in life and salvation from sin. 

In contrast, call on the Ark or the wood or the water, and hear..., well, you might as well be calling out, "Bueller..., Bueller..., Bueller..." because Matthew Broderick (Ferris Bueller) has not only taken a day off but is permanently on leave from call.

So, when you have that biopsy today or that surgery tomorrow or that meeting this morning, as much as we are grateful for people that touch us and things that comfort us, please remember that it's the God of the people and the God of the things in whom we find what our hearts desire.

Call on the Lord. Call on His Holy Name. He loves you and is with you without fail.

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