A New Creation

It is absolutely incredible that some creatures are created by God to shed their entire external shell to become a new creation! Right down to the little hairs on their face and pinchers on their nosa shell of a bug 2 (2)e!

Jesus’ death on the cross provides forgiveness for a sinner to repent of their sin and shed that sinful shell and become a new creation too!

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”  2 Corinthians 5:17

Romans 10:9 says “…if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”  Jesus offers us a new start…to become a new creation in Him.  Praise the Lord for his gracious gift of salvation and the wonderful gift of becoming a new creation in Him.



Grace & Perfection

There are some passages in Scripture that will take an eternity for me to fully fathom.  Second Corinthians 12:9 is one of those passages.  It is a truth statement from the Lord to Paul addressing the nature of His grace in the life of Paul as he deals with the reality of his “thorn in the side”.  The Lord tells Paul

My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.

I kid you not…it will take an eternity!  There is so much to this verse.

First there is the sufficiency of God’s grace.  Whatever the situation, whatever the need, whatever the sin, whatever the failure, whatever the trial, whatever the time, no matter how high the mountain is or how low the valley goes…His grace is sufficient for me.  His grace covers my sin.  His grace grants me an eternity in His presence.  His grace lets me see past the fog of fear and beyond the perils of pain.  His grace is sufficient when mankind is ungracious.

Second, His grace gives evidence of His perfect power in wren on rosemy weakness!  When I try to fix things on my own, remove the trial on my own, I fail to give God the opportunity to demonstrate His perfect power.  Think about that for a second….my weakness is an opportunity to lean deeper still into His grace…into His perfect power and in that solution there is perfection.  I can do nothing perfectly no matter how hard I might try.  But by trusting in God’s grace in my weakness His perfection thrives.

I still do not understand it fully…but I understand it a little better.  Every day, every trial, every weakness is yet another opportunity for me to look at those “thorns” in my life and to trust wholly in the powerful, all-sufficient, perfect grace of my Lord and Savior.

When Will It All End?

Matthew 24:7-14 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains. 9 Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. 10 And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. 11 And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. 12 And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. 13 But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

We read this passage and often we focus our attention on the events that will be happening in the end times.  We read of the wars, famines, earthquakes in the news daily.  We see or perhaps experience persecution and tribulation constantly.  We see people hate each other in some of the most violent and abhorrent ways.  With the reality of all of those truths bombarding our eyes, our minds, our hearts every day, we read with hope and expectation the words of this passage and are encouraged by the conclusion that we must be living in “the end days”.

We are reminded to endure to the end; to persevere in our faith; to run the race so as to win.  Amen and Amen to all of that.  May we all be found enduring, running, battling, striving, abiding in the name of Christ and for His glory and honor.

But if we read all of that and miss the exhortation, no…the command of Christ found in verse 14 then we miss our living purpose.  Christ declares “And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”   

The evil and wickedness that pervades our world will not stop the truth of the gospel of the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ from being proclaimed.  It must be proclaimed!  IT WILL BE PROCLAIMED!  But it isn’t going to happen on its own.  God expects us to be His mouthpiece to the nations of the world.  Second Corinthians 5:20 says as ambassadors for Christ, God is “…making his appeal through us.”

The assurance and hope that is found in Christ’s return, that time when the end will come, is directly related to our proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ to the world; proclaiming the truth about Jesus’ amazing grace.  The truth of His loving sacrifice on the cross for the forgiveness of sins is the hope that this world needs.

Let’s get busy and proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ and tell others what He has done for us so that the world may hear, so that our testimony may go to ALL NATIONS, and then He will return!


Just Another Bill

I enjoy technology and the many benefits that it brings.  Microwaves, cell phones, cameras, Bluetooth gadgets, and the like all have a place in my life these days.  Like many folks my age, I amphone from an age group of transitional folks that have gone from having a 4 digit phone number with a rotary dial phone stuck on the wall as a kid, to a cell phone that has more technical capabilities built into it than my entire high school did just a few decades ago.  But along with all of the benefits that these technical wonders bring, come risks and dangers.  phone

Many folks run their entire life from their phone.  Bank accounts, investment portfolios, electronic bill pay, contact lists, calendars, emails, songs, pictures, events, games, thoughts, books, home utility management system, home security access, and remote pet video camera, are just a few of the many items living on many folks tiny portable devices.  And then they lose it and their world comes apart.  Talk about putting all your eggs in one basket!  I digress…

Perhaps one of the more convenient and time saving things that has become more popular in the past 25 years or so is online bill pay.  Whether it is your electric bill, your mortgage, or a one time gift to a favorite charity or “GoFundMe” page, whatever the cause or amount, you can set up a payment of that bill so that the money is paid out on time.  You can just “set it and forget it”.

So what about online giving of tithes and offerings at church?  Is it evil or a blessing?  My thought on it is this…it is just a tool.  Much like our cell phones, it is just a tool to be used by us in a manner that brings glory to God.  How we use it, how we think about it, makes all the difference.  Being able to be faithful in giving to the Lord by setting up auto-pay may help some folks to be more regular or consistent in their giving.  For younger generations, where a paper checkbook is as antiquated as the rotary phone I used to use, the ability to give online is a basic expectation for a church to be current and relevant.

What really matters in all of this is our heart condition as we approach giving of ourselves in the form of finances to the Lord.  One particular passages in the Bible, 2 Corinthians 9:7, helps to explain the importance and approach to  understanding God’s will regarding the “why” and “how much” we give back (not give) to the Lord.  IT says “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”  Another passage, James 1:5, gives us the biblical approach on how to make that determination in your heart regarding giving.  It says “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.

As much as I love putting our family offering into the plate each week, I expect we will make the change to online giving.  It won’t change or diminish our worship of the Lord in any way.  It certainly will not change the manner in which my wife and I approach prayerfully considering and determining what will be given back to the Lord.  The truth is, everything we have is His in the first place…we are just stewards of it while we are here and while He gives us the opportunity to manage it.

At the end of the day, if technology helps us to be more faithful in our giving by doing it online, great!  We just must make absolutely certain that our worship through giving can never be a “set it and forget it” kind of thing.  We can never develop an attitude where tithing is just another bill to be paid.

“Absolutely and Emphatically”

One of Strong’s definitions for the Greek word for persevere found in the Bible says this: “absolutely and emphatically, under misfortunes and trials to hold fast to one’s faith in Christ.”   In the light of the headlines these days it is perhaps more important than ever that those that profess faith in Christ persevere;  that we “absolutely and emphatically” hold fast to our faith in Christ.

Not to bum you out or anything…but here are some recent news headlines:

  • “Gunman kills 3 then self at UPS facility in San Francisco” (www.cnn.com) 

  • “Moderate earthquake, 5.1 mag was detected near Champerico in Guatemala” (earthquakenewstoday.com)

  • “Leading GOP Congressman and Aides Shot in Alexandria, VA” (www.christianheadlines.com)
  • “Christian Pastor Tortured in Vietnam for Evangelizing” (www.christianheadlines.com)
  • “ISIS Kills Two Chinese Missionaries Who Were Evangelizing in Pakistan”  (www.christianheadlines.com)

Those headlines might draw your attention to Matthew 24:3-14 which records Jesus’ conversation with the disciples regarding the signs that would precede the end of the current church age.  The disciples ask a pointed question of Jesus saying “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and the end of the age?”  Jesus’ responded very specifically and told them about an array of signs that ranged from world events such as earthquakes and famines to people issues such wars, false prophets, persecution, hatred, and betrayal.  But that was not the thrust of what Jesus wanted to convey to them.  In the light of those things Jesus gives them real life exhortation that would ultimately change their worldview.  Jesus turns the conversation back to one of major themes of His life…enduring love.

In verse 12 Jesus responds to their question saying “…because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold.”   But he doesn’t stop there…and here is where the life application kicks in. He goes on to say “…but the one who endures to the end will be saved.”  That word for endure is the same word for persevere described above.  If there was ever a time in our lives to endure, to persevere in our faith in Christ, it is now.

With each passing day the number of opportunities in our lives to share the truth about the love of Jesus decreases.  Time is not on our side and Jesus knew it when he commanded the disciples and His command still holds the same message and urgency for us today.  The question is…what are we to be enduring at doing?  It is the entirety of the Christian life…it is our faith in Christ, and in the context of this text it is our love for the Lord.  “The love of many will grow cold” Jesus said.  But for the enduring, persevering Christian it cannot…it must not.

Remember the definition provided earlier… persevering, enduring, is a command for us to “…absolutely and emphatically, under misfortunes and trials to hold fast to one’s faith in Christ.”  Christ promised that he would never leave us nor forsake us.  His love for his children is enduring, it perseveres.  Despite misfortunes and trials, the reviling words of man and the brutality of the cross did not keep him from persevering in His steadfast enduring love.

The Holy Spirit worked through the author of Psalm 136 to give us an image of the enduring, persevering love of Christ in words that are truly remarkable.   I share them here in closing since they are such a vivid reminder and encouragement that will prompt us to live a life for Christ, with an enduring love for Christ that lasts forever:

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of gods, for his steadfast love endures forever.
Give thanks to the Lord of lords, for his steadfast love endures forever;
to him who alone does great wonders, for his steadfast love endures forever;
to him who by understanding made the heavens, for his steadfast love endures forever;
to him who spread out the earth above the waters, for his steadfast love endures forever;
to him who made the great lights, for his steadfast love endures forever;
the sun to rule over the day, for his steadfast love endures forever;
the moon and stars to rule over the night, for his steadfast love endures forever;
to him who struck down the firstborn of Egypt, for his steadfast love endures forever;
and brought Israel out from among them, for his steadfast love endures forever;
with a strong hand and an outstretched arm, for his steadfast love endures forever;
to him who divided the Red Sea in two, for his steadfast love endures forever;
and made Israel pass through the midst of it, for his steadfast love endures forever;
but overthrew Pharaoh and his host in the Red Sea, for his steadfast love endures forever;
to him who led his people through the wilderness, for his steadfast love endures forever;
to him who struck down great kings, for his steadfast love endures forever;
and killed mighty kings, for his steadfast love endures forever;
Sihon, king of the Amorites, for his steadfast love endures forever;
and Og, king of Bashan, for his steadfast love endures forever;
and gave their land as a heritage, for his steadfast love endures forever;
a heritage to Israel his servant, for his steadfast love endures forever.
It is he who remembered us in our low estate, for his steadfast love endures forever;
and rescued us from our foes, for his steadfast love endures forever;
he who gives food to all flesh, for his steadfast love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of heaven, for his steadfast love endures forever.

Pages Left Over

More than 30 years ago my wife worked in her college print shop.  As a gift to me she made a custom pad of paper that I could use for when I did some side jobs in tree work.  It was awesome to have something with my name and “company” information on it that I could give to people.  It was a way for me to communicate with customers with something far better than chicken scratch on a napkin.  Once we were married and I had taken a city job, the days of weekend tree work dwindled and so did the use of that special pad of paper.

The other day, when going through some old boxes of stuff, the last remaining remnants of that special pad of paper resurfaced.  My wife showed it to me and once again, so many tktree paper imagememories of jobs that I had done during those years came rushing back.  I remember the long days spent dragging sticky pine branches with my wife, hauling logs to the dump, splitting hardwood for firewood, and smelling like a combination of pine tree, wood chips, and gasoline.  I remember just how utterly exhausted I would be but also how satisfying it was to put my hands to a task with passion, determination, and great care.  Those memories are powerful, fresh in my mind, and lasting.

But there are pages of the pad left over…pages that have not yet been used.

For some reason that fact bothered me for a time and it made me wonder if there were more jobs that I could have done, jobs that I missed or turned down, that would have used up all the pages of my special pad.  I know that at this point in my life I am not going to be climbing up any 100′ trees or splitting a cord of wood any day soon.  So I am left with the memories and a longing.

As I thought about that I started to reflect on the work that I have done for God.  I remember days of hard labor for Him.  I remember nights in long meetings working with determination and care on the things that have eternal meaning.  I have memories of preparing to teach a class, preach a sermon, or build the stage for a VBS program.  I remember having sore “spiritual muscles” for days or weeks all from working hard for Him to teach and to learn from His word.  It is good to be doing that kind of work…it is the best kind of work.

gloves and stuff.jpgBut just like that special pad of paper for my tree business, there are still pages left on the spiritual pad of paper of my life.  God put my name in His book, on His special pad, and he wrote Jesus’ name on my life.  Every day He wants me to reflect Him to others.  He wants me to be getting dirty doing the work He has called me to.  That is something to be excited about.  That is the kind of work to put my heart, mind, and soul into.

There are still pages on the pad of my life to be lived for Jesus and for the glory of God and until His pen stops writing it is my job to keep my life’s pad out of storage and ready to be written on!

How about your life pad…is God busy writing all over it or is it packed away in a box somewhere?

Return to Sender

We have all probably gotten some mail back at some point in our lives that has a stamp on it saying “RETURN TO SENDER”.   Perhaps the person doesn’t live their anymore, or perhaps we just wrote down the wrong address.  One way or another the destination was wrong and the delivery couldn’t be made.

As believers we have a sender in fact, we have the entire Trinity involved in our earthly destinations.  The apostle Paul wrote about it in the first few verses of his letter to the Galatians when he said “Paul, an apostle—sent not from men nor by a man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead…”  A few chapters later he writes “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.”  Paul knew exactly who selected the destination and he knew who would be assisting in the delivery.

The Lord doesn’t make mistakes when he chooses the destination address that he has chosen for you.  The only thing that can mess up the delivery is if we resist His leading in our lives (see Jonah).  Let us be yielded to the Lord’s leading and make sure we are delivering His truth and love.  Neither rain, nor snow, nor stubbornness, nor pride, nor unloving attitudes, etc… shall keep us our appointed rounds!

In Christ…

Is your “well done” well done?

Every year a committee at my company gets together and after a great deal of effort and investigation they select an employee to be given a very special recognition.  The award is given to an employee whose performance and behavior is truly exceptional both in their job/role as well as in their personal character.  The award was established many years ago in the memory of a terrific employee who tragically lost his life in a head-on collision with a moose.  There is a similar but separate award that recognizes a noteworthy high performing team each year.  The process of determining who will be selected for the individual award consists of soliciting for nominations, conducting interviews, and many hours of deliberation.  It was a tremendous honor to have served on the individual award committee this year as it was an opportunity to get to know many dedicated, talented, and high performing coworkers.

After many months of work, today I had the privilege of giving the good news to this year’s individual award recipient on behalf of the committee.  It was a pleasure to tell them that they had done an truly incredible job and that many other people were of the same opinion.

Of course God does not waste special “events” like these in our lives.  The whole process reminded me of our lives as children of God and the day we look forward to, when we will stand before our Lord longing to hear him say “Well done good and faithful servant…”  There were several insights that came to mind as I considered this whole experience.

First, being the one that got to meet with this individual and recognize their efforts, I was reminded of how God delights in us when we have done the best job we can in obedience to Him.  It was a true delight and privilege for me to tell someone that they had done an excellent and amazing job and I thought of how I long for my Lord to be delighted.  I want to stand before Him and have Him say with great delight “Well done good and faithful servant.”  I want Him to be delighted but not for my benefit or self-promotion, but because in His delight He is glorified, honored, and blessed.

Another insight came to mind as I considered the response of this year’s winner when given the news.  In keeping with their character, they asked, “Are you sure this isn’t for the team award?  There are a lot of other folks on this team that help make all these results happen!”  They didn’t want it to be about themselves, rather they wanted others to be recognized for their efforts as well.  Now I realize that we are going to stand before the Lord alone and be evaluated based on what we have done for Him, but consider this…what if we earnestly sought out opportunities to encourage others to live, serve, and grow in the life that God wants while we are serving here together, so that when they stand before the Lord there will be immeasurable delight for the Lord for what they have done as well?  What if you and I were more interested and excited about each other and not primarily in our own recognition when we stand before the Lord?   In Hebrews 10:24-25 it says “…let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”  In Philippians 2:3-4 it says “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”  I have every confidence to believe that if were we to be busy with that kind of encouragement and concern for each others interests, that the Lord would be abundantly delighted, and His name glorified!

One other thing grabbed my attention when I shared the news with this individual.  Initially, the individual was speechless when they heard the news.  There was this look of shock and surprise as they were processing the recognition and honor that they had been given.  I later wondered how I might react to that kind of news in the workplace.  Would I be humble?  Proud?  Puzzled?  This individual clearly didn’t expect to be recognized for this award and I expect it was probably the furthest thing from their mind when they came to the office today.  When we stand before the Lord and are given praise from the Lord himself saying “well done good and faithful servant…“, how will we respond?  The only proper response will be to do as the Elders will do as recorded in Revelation 4:11 and we will take any praise or recognition given to us, any crowns or rewards, and give them right back to Him for He alone is deserving of all glory and praise.

With all of that in my mind I was once again reminded of a verse that hangs over my desk.  The verse is Colossians 3:23-24 and it reads “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.

Our King deserves our very best each and every moment of every day.  May he delight in all that we do both now and forever more.


I Should Be Committed

This month I celebrate 30 years of working for the same company.  Later this year my wife and I will celebrate 30 years of marriage.  In the fall my folks will celebrate 72 years of marriage!  Except for a couple of brief times away, I have been attending the same church for more than 54 years!  I’m not writing those things to boast.  I will say though that it is not the norm in our society these days to see long term commitments in the workplace, the home, or the church.

I understand fully that there are valid reasons for ending relationships but today, let me focus on the reasons for long term commitments because I want to try to be an advocate to change the pattern. I want to skew the averages and change the status quo!

So let me share a few verses that reflect God’s character and his desire for us regarding loyalty, faithfulness, and commitment…

Proverbs 3:3-4  “Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart.  So you will find favor and good success in the sight of God and man.

2 Timothy 2:13  “…if we are faithless, he remains faithful for he cannot deny himself.”

Romans 8:38-39  “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

1 John 3:24  “Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.”

Hebrews 10:24-25  “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

God is faithful.  It is his character.  It is the foundation of so many great hymns…Blessed Assurance and Great is Thy Faithfulness are just a couple that come to mind.  Perhaps the most explicit and powerful verse about God’s enduring, eternal faithfulness and loyalty to us is found in Hebrews 13:5 “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”  It is a restatement of a promise made by the Lord through Moses found in Deuteronomy 31:6-8 as Israel prepared to cross the Jordan River into the Promised Land.  What a promise…what blessed assurance.  What confidence it gives us to know that God will never leave us…never forsake us.

Like i said in the title of this post…I should be committed!  Each day is a new opportunity to commit to, and invest ourselves into our relationships with our family, our friends, our coworkers, the family of God, and most importantly our relationship with God himself. Let’s start each day with an eternal mindset; with a commitment to being faithful.


Keeping It Unstained

Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ”  1 Timothy 6:12-14

Fight the good fight of the faith.”  We know that it is a daily battle that requires our prayer and study, our preparation and equipping, our abiding in Him, and our dependence on the power and wisdom from God.  It mandates we put on the armor of God in order to stand.  But there is a manner of fighting that good fight that Paul wants to share with Timothy and we need to pay close attention to his charge as we engage in this faith battle ourselves.

Paul says to “Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses…”  Some translations render the words “take hold of” as “lay hold of”  He is not saying that we are to work to grasp or obtain our eternal life.  Rather, we are to fight and battle to keep intact our good testimony of the eternal life that we have been called to by God himself.  We are to take hold of it, to fight to defend it like the treasured, precious gift that it is.

Paul later says that we are to “…keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach…”   What commandment is he referring to here?  It is the Gospel of love.  It is the gift of salvation, the gift of eternal life that we have been given…that is the Gospel message.  That is the commandment.  It is the truth of our “good confession” that we share with “many witnesses“.  In 1 Timothy 1:5 Paul wrote to Timothy saying “The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.”  Our testimony day and in and day out as we fight the good fight of the faith needs to be grasped, taken hold of, and kept unstained and free from reproach.  We need to all that we can to keep our testimony pure.  We need to focus on the things that Paul wrote about in verse 11 just prior to his encouragement to Timothy when he said “Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.”  These are the things that help us in our fight to keep our testimony unstained.

Lastly, in the midst of these two exhortations, Paul gives us the burden of cause, the purpose and model behind striving for Gospel purity in our lives.  In verse 13 Paul told Timothy “I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession…” God is the author of life and Christ is the perfect example of the Gospel lived out.  In the light of those truths, Paul charges Timothy to keep the commandment…to preserve intact the perfect, precious gift of salvation until the day of Christ’s return.

May we all be encouraged to preserve intact our own precious testimony and may we live a life spent pursuing and sharing the love of God that has been so richly shown to us.

In Christ