Wednesday, September 16, 2020

They’re All Saints!

I have two funerals this week. One was for an 86 year-old, and the other was only sixty-six. (There was a time when I thought 66 was old. Not so much anymore.) Funerals are an interesting experience. Regardless of age or circumstance, all of the literally hundreds of funerals I have done in over twenty-three years of pastoral ministry have one thing in common. We all have a tendency to extol the virtues of our deceased loved one beyond the bounds of reality. It’s kind of funny, really. After someone dies, if you talk to family and friends, they will all tell you that their loved one was Mother Teresa or MLK Jr. I have yet to do a funeral service for one “normal, average, everyday person.” They were all saints!

The two people I will bury this week were good women. There is plenty of evidence to support that, but, neither of them was a “saint.” They would be the first to tell you that. None of us are either. The Bible says, “Everyone has sinned. We all fall short of God’s glorious standard” (Romans 3:23). I have. You have. These women had, because they were human like you and me. Besides, how “good” they were had no bearing on what was next for them. Life is made up of decisions, choices. Just like us, many of their choices were good ones. Others not so much. “We all fall short.” However, there is one decision both of these women made which mattered more than any other. They chose to believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. That is truly the most important decision they ever made. It is the most important decision any of us can ever make. Why? Because, Jesus says in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” That means, regardless of what the world says, all faiths do not lead to salvation. There are not multiple paths to heaven. “No one can come to the Father except through me,” Jesus said, and that is the decision we all have to make – whether or not to choose Jesus. Both of these ladies chose. They understood the idea of Jesus loving them (and you and me) more than life itself. That Jesus went to the cross, to secure forgiveness for our sins – not His own – He didn’t have any. They understood that, “God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16), and they made a choice to believe in Him. It is only because of their choice that we can have absolute certainty they are with God at this very moment. Not because of all the wonderful things they may have done, or the fact that they were such good people, but because of the one wonderful thing that Jesus did, and who He was.

Have you made that choice yet? Pray about it. Ask yourself, “What is next for me?” If you have questions, that’s okay. Ask. There are pastors everywhere who are more than willing to answer questions. We love to do that, but please understand, your “goodness,” my “goodness,” will not suffice. It’s not about how good we are. God’s standard is perfection. That’s why we all fall short. Please think about it. Such a decision will make all the difference for you too, one day.     

-----------------------------------------------------

Remember to email your praises and petitions to southchurchprayer@gmail.com. We lift them up every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, at 4:00 pm on Facebook Live.

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Rejoice in Suffering?

In the first-century, suffering was the rule rather than the exception for a Christian. The Apostle Paul tells us in Romans 5, this means we will experience difficulties that help us grow.

“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love” (Romans 5:3-5).  

We rejoice in suffering, not because we like pain or deny its tragedy, but because we know God is using life’s difficulties and Satan’s attacks to reveal our character. I use “reveal” intentionally, because I read that a famous football coach once said, “Football does not build character, it reveals it.”

Likewise, I believe we often do not know what we are “made of” until we are forced to find out. We won’t know where our faith is until we have to rely on it. This may come in the form of a personal challenge – loss of a job, an illness, disease, or injury – or maybe we our child is born with special needs or we have become the primary caregiver of an elderly parent. If such a problem or trial happened to a friend, we might have said to ourselves, “Wow. I don’t know how they do it. I don’t think I could.” When, all of a sudden, it is you, and, guess what? You step up. You respond. You find a reserve of energy, faith, and love you did not know you had. Except for this challenge, you may never have known you had.  

Yes, problems and trials help us develop endurance, strength of character, and a confident hope of salvation. In moments of difficulty, if we are willing to look, we will discover how much God loves us. That the Holy Spirit has filled our hearts with God’s love. It has always been there. It’s just that, sometimes, we are unaware of the depth of our faith or the strength of our character until it is revealed through a trial or tribulation.

So, to all of you who are facing a problem or trial, please know I am praying that God is working on you, and you are discovering you are the person He created you to be. You always have been. You just didn’t know it yet.                 

----------------------------------------

Remember to email your praises and petitions to southchurchprayer@gmail.com. We lift them up every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, at 4:00 pm on Facebook Live.

 


Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Methylchloroisothiazolinone?

I was in the shower the other day and happened to look at the back of RenĂ©e’s shampoo bottle. (I don’t use shampoo. I just use the bar of soap I wash everything else with.) Besides water, I had trouble pronouncing a lot of the other ingredients. Sodium benzoate, Ethylene Glycol Distearate, Trihydroxystearin, Tetrasodium EDTA, Benzyl alcohol, Sodium Xylenesulfonate, Sodium chloride, Methylchloroisothiazolinone, Methylisothiazolinone, Citric acid, and Sodium citrate. Now, I do not have a clue what those are or what they do, but we know it works. Our hair gets cleaned.

In a somewhat similar fashion, we read in Isaiah, “‘My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,’ says the Lord. ‘And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts’” (Isaiah 55:8-9). Again, in Romans, the Bible says, “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them” (Romans 8:28). 

Yeah, oftentimes I have not a clue why things are happening in my life or in the world. None of it seems to make any sense at all. Yet, when all is said and done, God has a plan and a purpose for everything and everyone. It just works. I may not live to see things to their completion, but in the end, we have to trust that God will make it all work.

I think of it as being a puzzle piece. We are just one puzzle piece. We may see the other four pieces that are connected to us, but we do not have the ability to see the picture on the box – the final product – but God does. He is the creator of the puzzle and all the pieces like you and me. Be the best puzzle piece you can be, and trust Him with the rest. He’ll make it work.   

----------------------------------------

Remember to email your praises and petitions to southchurchprayer@gmail.com. We lift them up every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, at 4:00 pm on Facebook Live.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Let’s Show God

I am reading through the book of Job right now and it is, once again, so pertinent to our circumstances today. Amazing how God’s Word does that, huh? For those who do not know the story. Job was a man of great faith. A successful farmer with a large family, and many servants. Satan claimed Job’s faith was based upon his wealth. He believed, if Job lost his wealth, he would lose his faith and curse God. The Lord had faith in Job, and so He allows Satan to take away Job’s wealth. Satan kills all of Job’s animals including his donkeys, sheep, and camels. He then kills all of his farmhands and shepherds. Satan doesn’t stop there. He also kills all of Job’s children. Leaving Job penniless and alone. Only Job’s wife survives. Still, Job does not lose his faith or curse God. Satan then claims it’s because Job has good health, but if he lost his health he would lose his faith and curse God. God continues to have faith in Job and allows Satan to do as he pleases without taking his life. Satan, therefore, “…struck Job with terrible boils from head to foot” (Job 2:7).

Now Job is a sinner, just like the rest of us, but he had not done anything to deserve these consequences. God was essentially betting on Job. Believing in Job’s faithfulness. Similarly, we are sinners too, but we have not done anything specific to deserve Covid-19. Sometimes bad things happen. Bad things happen to bad people, and bad things happen to good people. We do not live in paradise. We live in a fallen world, full of fallen people.

The question is, will we lose faith and curse God when bad things like the coronavirus happen? How about a hurricane? Tornado? Any other illness. Cancer. Heart disease. Stroke. Alzheimer’s. 

It is easy to have faith when things are going well. It’s much harder when things are not. Like Job, I can understand frustration, weariness, disappointment, and even anger. However, think about this. When your child is afraid or in pain they usually run to you and want to hold on tighter, don’t they?

I don’t know if this coronavirus is a test, like Job’s situation was for him. My prayer is that we continue to face this unexpected event affecting every facet of our lives, by running to the Lord, and holding on tighter to Him. He is the only source of true restoration, healing, and peace. 

At the end of the story, we learn that Job never lost his faith. God restores his fortunes. Giving him twice as much as he had before. God even gives Job ten more children and he lives to see four generations of his children and grandchildren.

God does bless the faithful. Let’s show God that Satan cannot get us to curse Him either. Let’s show the Lord that our faith is true by encouraging each another, and helping one other during this most difficult of times. Let’s show God that He can bet on us too. I do love it when Satan loses.  

---------------------------------------- 

Remember to email your praises and petitions to southchurchprayer@gmail.com. We lift them up every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, at 4:00 pm on Facebook Live.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

I Do

Two Saturday’s ago, my middle son Justin got married. I am so blessed to now have Taylor as my daughter-in-law. Any parent will tell you when your child is hurting, whether it is from a physical injury or emotional wound, your heart hurts just as much. It is difficult to explain. It is something you cannot really understand until you have children of your own. The opposite is true as well. Taylor so obviously makes Justin truly happy, and I believe he makes her happy too. To see my son so deeply, genuinely happy brings a dad indescribable joy, and I am grateful to God.

Today, I want to share with you what I said to them at the ceremony, as I believe it is a message for a wider audience. I said, 

“Justin, Taylor, your mom (soon to be mother-in-law) and I have been married for thirty-nine years this October. I wish I could say it was four decades of marital bliss, but I would be lying. Marriage is work. Hard work. Worthy of the work. I so wish that I had the insight I have accumulated over the past thirty-nine years, back in 1981. I would have been a much better husband, father, and person. One piece of wisdom I can share, I discovered only a few years ago. It relates to what the Bible says in Ephesians 5. In Ephesians 5, the Bible clearly presents a command to husbands and wives. Husbands are to love their wives, just as Christ loved the church, and wives are to respect their husbands. What hit me was that when a bride and groom make such promises on their wedding day, they make them not only to each other, but also to God. He is present. He is listening. He was the one who brought you together. There will be times when keeping the promise will be a challenge. Ask anyone who has been married longer than a year. Nonetheless, because you make this promise to God, He expects you to honor your word. This means, a husband is even called to love a disrespectful wife, and a wife is called to respect an unloving husband. There is no justification for a husband to say, ‘I will love my wife after she respects me,’ nor for a wife to say, ‘I will respect my husband after he loves me.’ ‘No,’ God says, ‘I do not care how he or she is behaving, you promised Me to love, cherish, honor and respect each other, and I expect you to honor your promise.’ Keep your promise to God, even when it is hard, and He will bless you with a marriage beyond anything you could imagine, and you won’t have to wait thirty-nine years to figure that out. God loves your wedding. Invite Him to your marriage too.”

Do you see why this is not just for Justin and Taylor? Whether you have been married one year, fifty years, or are hope to get married someday, Ephesians 5 still applies. When you stand before God and exchange vows and promises with your beloved, you are making those same promises to the Lord. In the midst of an argument, however – especially if we are the “wronged” party – we tend to feel entitled to withhold our love or respect until our spouse is rightly apologetic and repentant. That is not what we promised. Sure, on occasion, our spouse may not be living up to his or her promise, but that never excuses us from honoring ours. Especially, our promise to God. He always lives up to His word.

I encourage all my married brothers and sisters out there to remember the promise you made to God on your wedding day. Keep it. Honor it, and God will bless you more than you can imagine. For those who are not married, you can bless your children’s, family members, or friend’s marriages by sharing this with them. “I do,” is a promise made to God, not just to each other.

----------------------------------------

Remember to email your praises and petitions to southchurchprayer@gmail.com. We lift them up every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, at 4:00 pm on Facebook Live.