A Twofold Perspective of John 3:16

His only begotten Son-02How much does God so LOVE the world?
“…He gave His only begotten Son.”

How much does God so HATE sin?
“…He gave His only begotten Son.”

Seeing both the love and hatred of God helps us have a balanced view of Him, of ourselves, and of sin.

No Way to Preserve Freedom Without a Godly Seed

holding-child's-handSo we need every godly individual we can to get out and vote in this coming mid-term election. This message always comes out loud and clear whenever an election season approaches.

Question: where are all these individuals who will vote righteously going to come from…? Christian American families, we need some long term vision. There is a way to have little worry about having enough votes to defeat corruption and continue godly freedom. Tragically, there is a certain segment of our society that is aborting their future voters. It doesn’t take a mathematician to see how the population math works out… but it does take some courage and sacrifice. (Also, did you know there are 400,000 children in foster care in the US, and more than 100,000 of them are waiting to be adopted? In Virginia alone, the state where we presently live, there are 5,000 in foster care, 1,700 with the goal of adoption, and more than 600 waiting right now for a family. Tons of info at adoptuskids.org)

There is no way to preserve freedom without a godly seed. Of course the ultimate goal is to simply love and obey God, love others, and build the Kingdom of Jesus Christ. But the benefits of simple, sacrificial love and obedience always end up being more than we could ever imagine. And it often just begins with me giving up what I want today so that God can use me to have a huge influence and effect on tomorrow.

Life is Good

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Spring is a happy season, when the world comes to life again from the cold winter months. Blossoms bud, birds warble, brooks bubble, as warmth and color flows into the cold barren land once again. There is nothing more wonderful and beautiful than life. We can reminisce about happy spring through the winter months, but there is nothing like actually getting there!

I have pictures in my office of my beautiful wife, reminders of her, reminders of memories with her and of days gone by, but there is nothing like having her with me for real. I’m not in love with a picture of her, I’m in love with the real thing! Pictures bring back priceless memories, but they cannot take the place of something like… touch. Real. Life.

I’m amazed at the artistry that can come from the brush of a talented painter. Or a stunning photograph from a high quality camera that has captured a moment of splendid beauty, full of depth and color. But as captivating as those images are, it’s only a shadow of the real thing— it does not take the place of actually being there. To see it, touch it, smell it, breathe it in.

How can you even define life? Think about that for just a minute. One way to help us think about something is to think about its opposite. What is the opposite of life? Well, I suppose you could say the opposite of life is nothingness. Whatever that is. Where there is no life there is… nothing. If you have not been given the gift of life then, of course, you do not exist. The point here is that life is a gift from the only One Who can “make” it. The Psalmist speaks of God forming his inward parts, and uses the word picture of being knit together in his mother’s womb; of being made in secret, intricately woven. He says, I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well. (Psalm 139:14) You and I would not be in existence if we had not been given the gift of life. And what a good gift it is.

God has given mankind the ability to create, just as He creates. The creative part of us is there as a result of being made “in the image of God.” The creativity within us and the appreciation of beauty is great evidence of our being created by an awesome Creator. Animals don’t create in this way. The animal kingdom is a demonstration of the creativity of God, and this brings Him glory. But mankind was made to make— to create— in order to reflect our Creator. Our creations direct attention and worship and glory toward the great Creator.

But no man or woman can create like God creates. Only God makes real life. And whatever is truly life is truly good. Everything God does is good. Men can make images of real life, but God makes life itself. God’s works are alive, and they are very good (Genesis 1:31). Life is good.

So one way to see the opposite of life, is to think of life never having been given. Now, once the gift of life has been given, there is another opposite. This is probably the word that would come to your mind if I asked you, “What is the opposite of life?” That word of course is death. The opposite of life is the last enemy that will finally be destroyed under the feet of King Jesus— death. (1 Corinthians 15:26)

Death is an enemy. It is the ending and taking away of life that was never intended to end. Death entered into this life-filled world because of man’s sin. Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned. (Romans 5:12) Sin came in and, as God had warned would happen, death was the end result. Sin has polluted God’s good creation of life. While life is the gift of God, death is the ultimate goal of the enemy who is diametrically opposed to God and the life that flows from the Creator. We see this played out in many ways, but here we are mainly focusing on the most obvious way, physical death. Satan is a killer. He was a murderer from the beginning. He promises life (a lie) but in reality, he is seeking to steal, kill, and destroy— The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: (John 10:10)— these things are antithetical to life. And this is a good summary of his work every time. God’s works are life, and life is good, every time. The works of Satan and sin are death and destruction. Every time.

God is all light and life and joy and goodness, the opposite of darkness and the works of death. Death, in all of its forms, came as a result of sin. Man made a choice, and the consequence of disobedience was (and is) death. This is really bad news. But, there is the gospel, the really good news. Again, Jesus said, The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. (John 10:10) Because of the work of the evil one, and the disobedience of our first parents, though men may be alive physically, they are dead spiritually— dead to God. And to be dead to God is to be in this world without any hope. But Jesus has come. And for those who will believe on Him He gives abundant life. Warmth and color flows into the cold, barren souls of dead men. A miraculous “new creation” takes place through faith in Christ. And one day, all who have died physically will be bodily resurrected, when that last enemy has been finally defeated. But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: (1 Thessalonians 4:13-16) Physical life will ultimately triumph over death, and all because of the One Who is The Life, Jesus.

While we are in this world, we are to be the body of Christ, spreading the light, taking a stand against darkness and death in all of its ugly forms. This broad topic could take us in many directions. 

For today, let’s focus on one of the ways that the work of death is dramatically seen in our world— abortion. This life-destroying outrage is a result of millions of people believing the lie of the thief. And oh, how he has done his work of stealing, killing, and destroying. The consequences of such works of death are staggering. I’m thankful for the great effort that has been put forth over the years in this fight for life, and the great progress that has been made. But there is much more work to do, and may the people of God continue to fearlessly stand up for life!

We are privileged to have Comfort Care Women’s Health on the front lines of this battle in our area. Right now our church is raising funds through the Stride for Life program. (If you would like to help support this life supporting effort you can head over here: https://secure.ministrysync.com/ministrysync/event/website/?m=3880363)

May I end here by challenging you to put feet to your prayers in the fight for life. Is there a group in your community that is on the front lines in this fight? If not, maybe God would have you consider forming one.

I’m dreaming of a day when the horrifying death-work of abortion is finally made illegal in the land. Let’s continue to pray and keep doing all that we can to make that dream come true in real life. Let’s be actively pro-life. Life is from God, and life is good.

He’s Not a Tame Lion

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Lately, our family has been enjoying reading together the Chronicles of Narnia Series by C.S. Lewis. We love to read books as a family when we have the time, especially when they are of the sort that everyone is pleading for more at the end of every chapter. These books are of value in every way and appeal to all ages.

If you are familiar with Narnia you know that Aslan the lion is a representation of Jesus in these stories. Something that is noted of Aslan throughout the series is that while Aslan is all wise and beautiful and joyful and full of love, at the same time, “He is not a tame lion.” There is a fear about him, and you never know just what to expect.

In The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, we are introduced to Aslan for the first time. It takes Lewis 12 exciting and delightful chapters to lead up to meeting him, nearly three-fourths of the way through the story. Finally, at the place of the Stone Table (where later, after speaking with the Witch, the mighty Aslan sacrificially offers his own life in order to redeem the one who had rebelled), they see him.

“… the Beavers and the children didn’t know what to do or say when they saw him. People who have not been in Narnia sometimes think that a thing cannot be good and terrible at the same time. If the children had ever thought so, they were cured of it now. For when they tried to look at Aslan’s face they just caught a glimpse of the golden mane and the great, royal, solemn, overwhelming eyes; and then they found they couldn’t look at him and went all trembly…

His voice was deep and rich and somehow took the fidgets out of them. They now felt glad and quiet and it didn’t seem awkward to them to stand and say nothing.”

I’m thankful for stories like this that paint such a vivid picture of my Redeemer. Especially one that is written so well and that will implant these truths into the hearts of my children in a way they will never forget.

While preparing the Easter church bulletin this year, I looked up the description from John of his vision of the resurrected Lord Jesus in Revelation chapter 1.

“And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last: I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.”

This is striking, especially as we consider that this is John the beloved disciple who is seen in the Gospels as being very close to the Lord. John refers to himself in his gospel as the disciple “whom Jesus loved.” Remember, this is the very same Jesus whom John knew so well. And in the Revelation, until Jesus places His hand on John and tells him not to fear, the beloved disciple who had reclined at the table beside our Lord falls at the feet of this very same Jesus as a dead man, at the mere sight of Him.

Consider what Jesus taught on eternal punishment in Hell, and how He would boldly speak face to face with the religious and political leaders of the day, warning them of the danger they faced of hell fire. Think of how He walked into the temple and threw over the money-changers’ tables, swinging a home-made whip. What kind of a man speaks directly to devils and demons, and they obey Him, even cowering in fear of Him? What kind of a man sleeps through raging storms and when awoken, commands the storm to stop– and it obeys Him? Imagine the human physical and mental strength that would have been necessary to endure forty days of intense temptation from the devil himself, as well as the unimaginable cruelty and suffering of the crucifixion. We could go on.

While Jesus is certainly meek and gentle in His dealings with people in the Scriptures (and, praise His name, often in His dealings with me!), He is also just as certainly NOT what He has often been portrayed as– a weak, sickly, frail, pale, emasculated Jesus. Jesus is not frail.

Jesus is not a coward. He is not passive. Much to the contrary, He’s the Lion of Judah, and He’s not a tame, domesticated lion. He is Lord and God, and when He roars, all of creation obeys His voice.

The title of this blog is “Turn Your Eyes on Jesus.” And when we do turn our eyes on Him, we begin to see the God-Man for who He truly is.

Like John, I’m so thankful I can rest on my Lord and know I am a follower whom He loves. But it is good for us to remember that He is a consuming fire, the Ruler of the universe, and if we saw Him today, we would go “all trembly” and would fall at His feet as dead men– this One who defeated ultimate enemies the likes of sin, death, hell– this One who by His own power stood up in a dark tomb after being dead for three days and walked out of it. Let’s go ahead and fall at His feet this Easter, and call Him “Lord.”

He Keeps Me Singing

Sing to the Lord

God wants His children to sing! It is a fitting and beautiful thing when the redeemed, those made righteous by the blood of the Lamb, can’t help but to rejoice in their Lord with the God-given creation of singing and music! (Psalm 33:1-3)

But, what is it that keeps His people from singing? I don’t mean simply vocalizing through the mouth, but really singing and serving, with the power of God upon our voices and lives. Singing from the overflow of the joy of our salvation, and from the testimony of the Lord working in your life. Singing as the Lord opens your lips and allows you to truly show forth His praise. Serving the Lord with inner joy and gladness that comes from a heart of gratitude toward God and God-given love toward your neighbor. This kind of singing and serving does not happen by accident, and sadly, is not common in our modern churches, and homes, and lives today.

We can all “fake it.”

We have heard a lot lately about “fake news.” It’s becoming harder today to discern what is “fake” and what is real. In so many areas, the “artificial” is becoming so much like the “real” that it’s getting hard to discern. And so it can be in our “Christian” lives– fake singing, fake praying, fake serving, fake giving, fake teaching, fake preaching– just doing our job, what we’re suppose to do, without the power of God. And, sad to say, we can get pretty good at that.

What causes us as Christians to fall into this state? One cause is the same thing that caused David to “keep silent.” It is unconfessed sin. Listen to the words of David in Psalm 32, “When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring (groaning) all the day long. For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me:”

Have you ever been there? Are you there now? David, the great song writer and singer of Israel had been caught in the trap of sin, and he testifies that he “kept silent.” Sin will always keep us from truly rejoicing in our relationship with God, often expressed in song. Oh, we may go on “doing our thing” and living our days, but inwardly, toward God, we have become cold, hard, and silent. Aren’t you glad for the transparency God has given us in the lives of some of His greatest servants? So that we may be encouraged that we are not alone in our struggles? It’s one of the many reasons it’s so much better to saturate your mind with Scripture than with social media…

Like David, have you been caught in the trap of some sin? Maybe you are not presently. If so, thank God for helping you and ask Him to give you strength to press on for Him. But if you are caught, then you must not “keep silent.”

Our God, Who has given us the reason to sing as Christians, is also the One Who keeps us singing. Not only have we been given salvation through the blood of Jesus, but we have been given a wonderful promise that our transgressions can be forgiven and our sin covered! (Psalm 32:1) We must go to the Lord and confess our sin, admitting that we are guilty. We must forsake our sin, desiring to never come near it again with the Lord’s help. And then we must trust in our faithful God that He will keep His promises and will forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. And keep us singing.

It is a shame that so many Christians are continuing to “fake it,” “silently serving” through a life that’s defeated by some sin, when God has given us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

David pleads with the Lord in Psalm 51, “Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with they free (willing) spirit.” Now watch this, “Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee. Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, thou God of my salvation; and my tongue shall sing aloud of thy righteousness. O Lord, open thou my lips: and my mouth shall show forth thy praise.” Isn’t God good to allow us to be forgiven through Jesus, and to continue serving Him!

Sin’s power is strong. No breathing Christian who’s desired a life of holiness for more than a few days would deny it. But God’s power is stronger. He has promised us victory. He wants us to be overcomers. He wants to use us in His service. Like David, let’s humbly ask for God’s forgiveness, getting our eyes off of ourselves, and trusting Him to keep His word. Then, as a good soldier, let’s pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and as He empowers us, keep singing to Him and for Him!

All my life was wrecked by sin and strife,
Discord filled my heart with pain.
Jesus swept across the broken strings;
Stirred the slumbering chords again.
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, sweetest name I know.
Fills my every longing,
Keeps me singing as I go. 

-Luther B. Bridgers

All Days Eventually Come

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I recently had the opportunity to say a few words at our local homeschool graduation ceremony. Here is a portion of what I was able to share with the graduates and their families.

All days eventually do come.

For most of you, and possibly all of you, it seems like you have waited a very long time for your graduation from high school. A part of your journey is ending, and I’m sure you are greatly looking forward to the next one.

This is how life is– we live one day at a time– and eventually we do reach each milestone that we work towards and wait for (which can sometimes seem like forever!). Over the next few years you will find that life begins to seem to move faster and faster.

I hope that each of you graduates will find some quiet time in the next couple of days to reflect on where you now are in life. Take some time to talk to the Lord about where you have been, where are you are going. Most importantly, be sure you are on the road that He wants for you at this time.

We have just observed a beautiful ceremony. Each of you graduates are profoundly blessed, and you will realize this more in days ahead. I want to take just a minute to remind each graduate of the biblical principle that says– “to whom much is given, much will be required.”

Each of you has been given so much up to this point in your lives. You have received a quality education under the guidance of your loving parents– a profound gift. You are surrounded today by supportive family and friends who want to see you succeed in life. But again, to whom much is given, much will be required. Because you have been blessed so much, God expects you to take what you have been given and further invest it in the lives of others, and ultimately for God’s glory and His kingdom. And in this, you will find the greatest happiness and joy in life.

Yes, as we are reminded on a very special day like this, all days eventually do come. And while we certainly want to enjoy the journey, we must remember that as someone said, “Life is not all about the journey. The journey is all about the destination.” (J Bloom) What matters most is where you end up. Wisdom is always looking ahead, down the road, not just living for now. Each one of us is working our way towards the day when we will stand before our Lord and Master Jesus Christ, to give an account of how we invested the life that He gave to us. So as you celebrate this very exciting time, keep Him at the center of it all, and follow with your whole heart the road He has for you to travel. And though this narrow road is often hard, if God is truly your greatest treasure, you will end up gaining everything.

The LORD bless thee, and keep thee: The LORD make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: The LORD lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.

Learn to Do, or Do to Learn?

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I had warned him…

I had told my friend that I had never played golf before, but he insisted that I join him for a round of 18 holes at a local high-class golf course. By the second hole, and after the numerous groups we had let bypass us, he knew he had made a mistake! I should have had at least a little training on a driving range before attempting an 18 hole course.

Often in life, this is the way it is. We must learn to do something before we can even begin to do it. We must have knowledge of the thing before we can perform it.

But this is not the way it always is with God.

Many times God calls us, not to “learn to do,” but to “do to learn.”

In 2 Peter 1:1 we read of the “like precious faith” that we have obtained in Christ. We then read a list of things beginning in verse five that we are told to add to our faith. It is interesting to note that God begins with faith– believing Him, trusting Him, looking unto Him. We are saved by faith. We walk by faith, live by faith.

The first thing in the list to add to our faith is virtue. This word virtue here actually means “valor” or “courage.” Then the next item in the list is knowledge. Isn’t it interesting that God does not list knowledge first, but faith and trust, and courage?

When God told Abraham to leave his homeland and journey out, He did not tell him anything. The only instruction given to Abraham was to “go,” and in Hebrews 11 we read that he simply obeyed what God said and, “went out, not knowing whither he went. By faith he sojourned in the land of promise…” God expected Abraham to “do to learn.” He had to step out in obedience, though I’m sure he would have liked more information about God’s plan! Abraham passed the test and was truly blessed as God led him.

God’s people can often be hindered from obeying God because of feelings of ineptness or inadequacy. We feel that we cannot do this thing because we do not know how. We feel we have not learned enough or are not capable enough. There are others more knowledgable and much better at it. We must realize that when we choose to step out onto that seemingly dark, narrow, frightful path of God’s calling (the same path walked by countless followers of God throughout the ages!), simply taking the first steps of obedience to the clear leading of God in an area, He will give light along the way, and He will do the equipping. He will give the knowledge we need to do the job in His own timing.

Certainly there is a learning curve that must take place in any area God is calling us to. Yes, we must “learn to do” at some point. Teachers learn how to teach, mothers learn how to nurture, missionaries learn languages. But the truth is, often this learning takes place as we begin to obey the Lord in spite of our weaknesses and limitations. Fear of failure or discomfort should never stop us from stepping out in obedience and letting God begin His guiding and equipping.

This is the way God works– God calls, we demonstrate faith through our obedience (the “doing”), He equips (the “learning”), we give Him the glory, and our faith is strengthened.

Did you catch that? This amazing interweaving of the human and the divine?

God calls. I demonstrate faith through my obedience. God equips. My life bears fruit, and I give Him the glory. He strengthens my faith.

Then, what happens next?

He calls again. My faith is challenged again.

However, if we never step out of our comfort zone and demonstrate true faith in God by simple obedience, verse eight warns us that it is possible for a child of God to be “barren” and “unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” A spirit of fear and unbelief will lead to this dreadful testimony.

What work has God called you to– In the church? In the home? In the community? At the office? Across the street? Across the world? Whatever it is, don’t allow fear and lack of knowledge or inexperience to discourage you. By faith, obey God in whatever He has called you to. And then stand in awe of Him as He teaches you. Let’s learn to “do to learn!”

Preparing for the Meal

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My wife and family of eight children waited impatiently behind me as I inserted the key into the lock of our front door. A faint aroma teased my sense of smell. As we stepped into the front hallway, we were overtaken by the savory scent of roast beef, potatoes, and carrots cooking. (Hear a choir of audible “mmms” and “ahhs” here.) Very soon we would all sit down to eat our fill of a delicious meal that had been slow cooking while we were at church.

As we sat down to eat this feast, one of the family members could have asked himself, how did all of this deliciously cooked food come about? (Which I say completely for the sake of illustration. Because obviously at this point, the only priority is food entering our mouths rather than pondering philosophical questions entering our heads.) Did it just appear? (It’s about to disappear!) The obvious answer to the philosophical question is, of course not! Someone had to prepare it all, put together the correct ingredients, add seasonings, and get things started. In a home such as ours, it takes much ahead-of-time planning, preparation, and a mom’s constant call of “I need some helpers please!” to make this happen. You must prepare a meal before you can enjoy partaking of the meal.

Was the preparation really necessary? Was the hustle and bustle worth it? No, probably not. As long as we didn’t mind eating raw beef, cold, uncooked carrots, and crunchy, hard potatoes. No preparation, no yummy food. And believe me, in our household of eight children (three of them being constantly “starving” teenagers who, contrary to the evidence, can NEVER find anything in the house to eat), one assistant pastor and a church pianist, yummy food on a Sunday afternoon is very much needed!

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Our little Annalise Marie enjoying her favorite cereal, Rice Krispies. (June, 2016)

Now for the application. When we arrive at our church each service, do we expect to partake of a “delicious meal” in a spiritual sense? The Word of God is often compared to food. If a spiritual feast is going to take place, somebody has to be doing some preparation. You may think, “Yes, you’re right, the pastor should have been preparing to serve us some spiritual food.” This is true. But, we also have a responsibility to prepare. Of course you should prepare your own ministry of sharing God’s love and His Word through whatever ministry He has called you to bear fruit in, whether singing, teaching, counselling, giving and so on. But, not only should we all be preparing in a tangible sense (choir practice, lesson study, texting encouragement to a brother or sister in Christ), we should also prepare in a spiritual sense. We should prepare our hearts.

Ezra was a man in the Scriptures who had this testimony: “For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the LORD, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments.” (Ezra 7:10)

Notice the order of what Ezra did. He prepared his heart:

  1. to seek God through His Word.
  2. to obey what he learned God wanted of him.
  3. then to teach and minister to others what he had learned.

What a testimony God gives of this man! I want this testimony for my ministry! Notice that it does not say that Ezra had complete knowledge of all spiritual things. It simply states that his heart was ready to seek the Lord and to obey, and then to reach out in ministry.

When we step into the church building on Sunday, have we prepared our hearts ahead of the service? Have we added the proper ingredients into our lives in order for the Lord to serve others through us? We can often talk of spiritual things, but do we actually do them? Here are a few daily/weekly ingredients:

  1. Bible reading and meditation— allowing the Word of God to “slow cook” in our hearts through the week is one ingredient that will help us prepare to give (as well as to receive) a spiritual feast.
  2. Seeking God’s face— asking Him to work in the service, to take away any spirit of coldness from the congregation, and that He be glorified in all aspects. Asking for souls to be saved and rebels to have their hard hearts softened by the invading Holy Spirit upon them. And then stepping into the church building with great expectation for the day!
  3. Obedience– always a key ingredient. Prepare to obey. Recognize that as you are challenged by the preaching of God’s word, it is likely that steps of obedience will be required. These steps may sometimes be on the hard road of great faith.

Putting these ingredients into our lives can allow the Holy Spirit to serve through us in ways we cannot imagine.

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Our Thanksgiving breakfast table. (November, 2015)

Are we preparing for a delicious meal? Or, are we going to sit down with a heart grown cold? Draw near to God, add the proper ingredients to your daily walk with Him, prepare your heart, and then feast on the truth of God together with those you are serving!

Are You Prepared for Sunday?

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We’ve all been there: pull into the parking lot of the church 30 seconds before Sunday School. Plaster on a smile as you rush to get the kids and yourself to class. Where’s my Bible? Oh yeah, it’s in the car… better go get it. Wow, this shirt sure wrinkles quickly. Did anyone remember to turn of the iron at home? Camp registrations have to be turned in this morning? Totally forgot about that… guess I better fill them in now… Time to go to the choir room already. Where is my folder? I know I left it right here after choir practice last week. Oh, that’s right, I took it home to look over this week, ha, ha! I forgot to bring it back… I guess I’ll ask Joe if I can share his music. But I can never see the music when he holds it at that angle! Oh, we’re starting. Okay, here we go… 1,2 “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee…”

Sound familiar?! It can be difficult to worship and minister to others when it seems you are caught in a tornado! Is it just the inevitable Sunday morning routine, or can the chaos be avoided? Is it possible to arrive at church with a joyful heart, a genuine smile, ready to worship the Lord, and ready to be an encouragement to fellow brothers and sisters in Christ? It is often easy to forget that as we go to meet with the church, we should not only have our hearts prepared to worship the Lord together, but we are gathering with fellow believers with the intention to not only be ministered to, but to minister. This is a big goal for each Sunday. It is important that we work ahead in order to set ourselves up for the Lord to use us.

Here are a few practical tips that may help you be better prepared on Sunday:

Prepare on Saturday

If you never seem to have time to prepare on Saturday, then consider cutting down your activities on Saturday night. Listen to some godly music as you set clothes out, find pairs of shoes, or do some meal preparations. Prepare your heart for the Lord’s day just before you go to sleep on Saturday night. Instead of choosing an activity or entertainment that will keep the family up late, work to quiet your heart as you prayerfully consider the ministry He has for you the following morning.

Arrive at Church Early

Sunday morning may not be the best time to try to get some extra sleep! Save that for Sunday afternoon. When you arrive early you will have time to get your family settled, and take care of any last minute preparations.

Meditate Throughout the Week

If you are involved in the music or choir ministry, meditate on the choir special for that Sunday throughout the week. Post the words somewhere you will be often, or keep them on a notecard, or on your phone. If you are a Sunday School teacher, it might help to make the weekly lesson a part of your daily devotional time with God. Your heart will be more focused on the ministry God has given you when you have taken the time to internalize the message.

Be Right With the Lord

All the physical preparations in the world will not prepare you to minister if you are not prepared spiritually. Let your ministry on Sunday be an overflow of your walk with the Lord through the week!

The Unsurpassed Gift of Grace

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In the book of Luke, we have a beautiful account of a person who is completely overwhelmed by the grace of God in her life.

First, meet Simon. A Pharisee. A religious leader in his day. A man who had no concept of how spiritually sick he was.  Simon had invited Jesus to his home to eat with him. That was a good move on Simon’s part. He had invited Jesus in. Whatever Simon’s motive, he at least wanted to talk with him.

We are then introduced to another character who, uninvited, entered the home of Simon while they were eating. The brief description of this person is “a woman in the city, which was a sinner”. (Luke 7:37) Obviously, it was no secret who and what this woman was. But unlike Simon, she knew. She understood how great her need was. She knew how spiritually sick she was. And previously, she had no idea what kind of gracious God was seeking her.

This woman had lived a life of evil, wicked sin, and had a reputation. Simon the Pharisee knew her as soon as he saw her. Later, Jesus spoke of her sins, “which are many…” She had sinned and had brought others with her. But in this account, we don’t find her in sin. We find her at the feet of Jesus, not wooing and enticing, but weeping. She is not just crying, but truly weeping, as her tears of repentance and gratitude flow onto the feet of the Savior. Her long hair, once used for purposes of sin and seduction, are now being used to wipe the feet of her new Master. She is overwhelmed with emotion and begins to kiss His feet, then anointing Him with her sacrificial offering of the ointment she had brought with her.

When the self-righteous Pharisee sees this display take place in his own home, he is disgusted. He believes Jesus is unaware of the identity of this sinful woman who is making all this fuss over Him. Simon doesn’t understand that not only does Jesus fully know who this sinful woman is, He also fully knows who Simon is. He even knows what Simon is thinking. Jesus, in answer to Simon’s thoughts, begins to tell Simon a story. In the story, two debtors owe a creditor. One debtor owes the creditor a whole lot more than the other. The gracious creditor, when he sees that neither one could ever pay the debt they owed, freely forgave them both of their debts. Then Jesus asks the question to Simon, “Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most?” Simon answers, “I suppose that he to whom he forgave most.” He supposed correctly. Jesus then points out that the woman’s actions are tokens of true love for the Savior, which Simon had showed none of. She knew she had been forgiven of much, therefore she loved much. Self-sufficient Simon didn’t realize his own great need of forgiveness, and so, he loved little.

The grace of God is glorified in this unlikely object. Who would have thought that a woman such as this would now become a daughter of the King? Yes, she had provoked the Lord to wrath with her sins. Yet, she is now the object of amazing grace! What good news that our Lord is a Savior Who will “eat and drink with publicans and sinners” (Luke 5:30) that He is “a friend of publicans and sinners” (Luke 7:34) that “this man receiveth sinners and eateth with them.”

Are you in desperate need of forgiveness? If so, this truth should be a great comfort to your heart! God has often reached down into the sewage of sin and brought out the filthiest of sinners. They too have been forgiven and cleansed by the blood of Jesus, and made to live righteous and godly lives! The truth is, whether we see ourselves in Simon, or in the “woman of the city,” we are ALL in desperate need of forgiveness, for we ALL have sinned and come short of the glory of God. But, the unsurpassed gift of the grace of God, through Jesus the Son, was made known to us, just as it was at some point to this sinful woman, and we also believed in the Only Begotten for forgiveness.

When we see the exceeding sinfulness of our sin, we are overwhelmed with the boundless, amazing grace of God! However, when we forget how terribly sinful we really are, our love for the Savior grows cold. There sits Simon the Pharisee, feeling pretty good about himself. Yet, the grace of God has found this sinful woman of the city, and not him. Simon does not see himself as an object of the wrath of God. He is trusting in his own life lived in a very “good” way. The Bible says, “Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.”

At the end of the account, Jesus says to her, “Thy sins are forgiven thee.” Think of that. How shocked Simon must have been to hear Jesus say those words to her! But what those same words must have done for her broken and contrite soul! The gracious Savior doesn’t stop there. He then says to her, “Go in peace.” How these words of grace to the former sinful woman of the city should stir all those who have found the very same unsurpassed gift of forgiveness and grace in the very same wonderful Savior. May Jesus Christ be forever loved and praised by the unworthy objects of His amazing grace!