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

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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?

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!

Dressing for the Eyes of God

closet of clothes

What if, during a Sunday morning service, a man came barging through the doors of our church and began to loudly use profanity! Of course, nobody would allow such an act in one of our services. While this example may seem a bit extreme, something takes place in many churches every week that can be just as much of a distraction from what God is wanting to accomplish in His service– a woman’s immodest dress.

Ladies, it is a sin to dress immodestly. And may God help us not to bring immodesty into the very meeting place where we gather together to win the lost and encourage one another in purity and godly living!

Satan is very deceptive. God gives us the truth and Satan contradicts His truth. God says that women should “adorn themselves in modest apparel” (1 Tim. 2:9). Satan then questions what immodest apparel really is. He also sets the world before us with example after example of terribly immodest apparel, so that the immodest apparel some choose doesn’t seem all that immodest any longer in comparison.

Some may ask, “What is the definition of modest clothing?” Here is a question for anyone struggling with that question– why are you struggling with this question? Are you trying to get as close to the line of sin as possible? Are you dressing to please the eyes of men or the eyes of God? If you are dressing to please God, then I don’t think this really becomes an issue any longer. The choice then automatically becomes one that is nowhere near the line of sin. Our dress standards will be right because we have a right view of God. We will wear nothing that has a question mark hanging over it.

Is a lady to blame for her immodest dress? Yes. But I believe there are others at whose feet the blame should be cast as well. If a wife (or daughter) who is dressing improperly has a husband (or father) who calls himself a Christian, as the leader of the home, he is the one who is accountable. While some women may not be completely aware of how men are affected by a woman’s immodesty, men are certainly aware of it! Men, be sure your wife and daughters are dressing for the eyes of God. Take the lead in your home. You will gain a new respect from her as she sees your love and concern for her, and for the work of the Lord.

Who else is to blame? With all due respect, I believe “aged” women in our churches are also to blame. God has set forth an important ministry in Titus 2, “The aged women likewise… That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste… that the word of God be not blasphemed.” Dear older saint, please remember that God has given you the responsibility of a teaching ministry to those younger women of your church. The next time you see someone in the church dressing inappropriately, instead of gossiping about her, maybe you should ask yourself if you are partly to blame, and then kindly and lovingly speak to her about it. There may be some who have never had a good example to follow and need you to help them. While some will not listen, you may be surprised who will.

This issue is a concern for many church leaders today. Most of God’s children are not intentionally trying to hinder the work of the Lord. Most Christian ladies do not put on a certain outfit with the intention of distracting a lost soul or placing a stumbling block before a fellow believer. But when we catch ourselves dressing for the eyes of men rather than God, we can become exactly what we never intended to be– a tool of Satan. Have a humble, godly attitude toward this serious issue, and make necessary changes in order to be an effective tool for God.

God loves you dear lady! Be a shining example of a beautiful daughter of the King. Let Him have His way with thee!

Waiting on God

waiting-on-god

All days eventually come! Do you remember waiting for a special day in your life that had not yet come, but was approaching, such as your wedding day or graduation day? An event may seem far off in the hazy future. (Especially in our younger years. I’ve just passed the 40 milestone and the years are speeding up!) We count down the days, hours, even minutes. But the day eventually does take place. All days eventually do come.

For unto you is born this day.
On a certain evening on a quiet hillside, a group of shepherds sat watching their sheep, doing the normal everyday things they had been doing for a long time, expecting nothing more than what they had always experienced. Suddenly startled by an angel, they heard the completely unexpected announcement that “unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the LORD.” Wow! THIS day! An event that God had promised, an event they had believed would one day come– the coming of the Jewish Messiah– had come! That very night, the day had come. The Savior was born! How exciting to have been present when the day of the first coming of the Savior finally came. The faith of the shepherds transformed into sight on that day.

Mine eyes have seen thy salvation.
Eight days after the Savior was born, Joseph and Mary brought the baby Jesus into the temple, to go through the processes of the Jewish law that were required of them. A man by the name of Simeon also came into the temple that day, directly led of the Holy Spirit. We are told that he was a just and devout man, with the Holy Spirit of God upon him. The Holy Spirit miraculously revealed to him that this baby was the Christ, the Savior that God had promised he would see with his own eyes before he died. Taking the baby up in his arms, he glorified God and said, “Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: for mine eyes have seen thy salvation.” The faith of Simeon was transformed into sight on that day.

Waiting.
Before the account of Simeon seeing the newly born Savior of the world, the Bible says in Luke 2:25 that Simeon had been, “waiting for the consolation of Israel”; for the coming of the Messiah. I wonder how long he had been waiting? We are not told how long it had been from the time God promised Simeon that he would see the Christ child until it came to pass. It appears he had been waiting a long time, and was toward the end of his life when his faith was made sight, since he stated that the Lord, having kept His promise, could now let him depart in peace. He had probably waited many years for this day.

What about those shepherds to whom the angels appeared? After going and seeing that which had been made known to them, they went about telling the news of what had happened and what they had seen, obviously overwhelmed with excitement! The Bible says, “And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.” But I have often thought, then what? What did the shepherds do then? After the night of excitement and amazement, then what? Well, they were back to, you guessed it, waiting. Again.

Joseph kept his little family in Bethlehem for two years, until God told him to take them by night and run to Egypt, as Herod was preparing to kill the babies of Bethlehem in his savage efforts to destroy this perceived threat to his rule. What would the shepherds have thought after this event? Was the child killed with all of the others in Bethlehem? Where did Joseph and Mary go? Time went by– a year, five years, ten years, thirty years– I think of how their faith must have been tested in what had been told to them.

Where is faith found? In the mountaintop experiences when we see God’s hand obviously at work? No. At least, not so much. Faith is found in waiting. God promises. We believe His promises. And we wait. Like Simeon and the shepherds, we wait for our faith to be made sight, no matter the circumstances of our lives. We don’t always understand the events that take place during our times of waiting on God. We don’t understand why God would take so long to keep His promises to us. We don’t like waiting! Especially not in America, where we are used to modern conveniences such as microwaves, fast cars, and instant information about anything we want at our fingertips.  “Have it your way right away.” But, it is in the process of waiting that God is working, and that is where our faith in Him is found. Our all-knowing God does things in ways that are not our ways, and His timetable is not ours. We must trust Him during the waiting. The Bible tells us in 2 Peter 3:8-10, “… one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack (delayed, tardy) concerning his promise … but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night…”

Waiting on God to keep His promises is nothing new with God and His relationship to His people. Think of Abraham, promised by God that he would be the father of many nations, yet had no child. And God didn’t give him a child until he and his wife were well past child bearing years– Abraham was over one hundred years old! For us, looking back, it’s easy to say, “They should have believed God.” But, can you imagine day after day, week after week, years turning into decades… “God? About this promise?”

God told Noah that a flood would come, and then gave him instructions on what to do to prepare. Noah simply obeyed in faith, and approximately one hundred and twenty years later, the flood came, just as God had said it would. Did you get that? One hundred and twenty years! There is no record that God told him when the flood would come. Maybe it was just after he and his sons finished building the ark, and maybe it was long after. The Bible says they simply went into the ark when the Lord told them to. I’m sure Noah’s faith was strong on day 1 of building the ark. He had just received a promise from God Himself! But what about on day 36,500?! Years becoming decades, and still no flood. Just faith, in the waiting.

What is it in your life that you are waiting on God for? What promises have you claimed from God’s Word that you believe God for? Be assured that though the battle goes on and the waiting may seem long, the promises are sure, and God is going to keep His word! Have faith in God like Simeon, Abraham, Noah, and countless others in this great cloud of witnesses who have gone before us. Though they had to wait, their faith was eventually made sight. Let us pick up our cross on this narrow road to which Jesus has called us, believing the promises He has made to us, serving Him as we wait on the fulfilling of His promises.

We live between the two comings of Jesus. We look back on His first coming, and we look forward to His second coming, believing when He says, “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” (John 14:1-3) As all days eventually do, one day this day will come. What joy will be in our hearts if we have lived in faith, preparing for the promises to be fulfilled, patiently waiting for our faith to be transformed into sight!