Monday, June 1, 2020

Lower Your Blood Pressure

I am broadcasting to you this afternoon from the Atlantis Paradise Island resort in the Bahamas. Yeah, wouldn’t that be awesome? Beautiful though, huh? The setting does lull one into a peaceful frame of mind, doesn’t it? Palm trees swaying in the breeze. Ocean waves breaking on the shore. It just calms one down. Your find your heart rate slowing, your blood pressure dropping, as you breathe deeply and simply relax. 

You know, you do not have to travel to a tropical island to find that kind of tranquility. Really. Jesus promised us in John 14:27, “I am leaving you with a gift – peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” However, just like, if we want to enjoy the Atlantis Paradise Island resort we have to do something – travel to the Bahamas – in a similar fashion, if we want the peace of Jesus we have to do something as well. First, we have to bring all of our worries and fears to Him. “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28), He says, and we have to leave them with Him. Walk away! This includes our worry. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus was very clear, “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life…Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?” (Matthew 6:25, 27)

Do we believe Him? Do we trust Him? Then we need to leave our concerns and anxieties with Him. I know this is a difficult time. Many of us are genuinely afraid, but, God’s Word is true. All of it. Every syllable, sentence, and chapter. 2 Timothy 3:16 says, “All Scripture is inspired by God.” Proverbs 30:5, “Every word of God proves true.” We agree wholeheartedly when it says, “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you” (Matthew 7:12). “…anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love” (1 John 4:8). “…I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love” (Romans 8:38).

Yeah, those are all great! And, surely, they are true! However, the Bible also says, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).

If you want to slow your heart rate down, lower your blood pressure, and find peace that passes all understanding, then trust God enough to give Him – not “loan” Him – give Him your cares, frustrations, fears, anxieties, and worry. Leave them for Him at the foot of the cross, and do not pick them up again. Ever. Trust Him on that. 

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We are taking prayer requests now. Email your requests to southchurchprayer@gmail.com. We will lift them up every weekday at 4:00 pm on Facebook Live.

Friday, May 29, 2020

Jesus Prays for You


I have read through the entire Bible several times now. I would encourage you to do so as well. It may seem overwhelming at first, but if you break it down into small chunks each day, it can be done. This year I am using the NLT One Year Pray for America Bible. It has me reading some verses in the Old Testament, New Testament, Psalms, and Proverbs every day. It only takes about fifteen minutes. Less time than it takes me to brew and drink one cup of coffee.

One of the great things about reading the Bible is how God can reveal something new to you every time. No matter how often I have read the Gospel of John before, something new jumped out at me this time around when I finished my readings for May 28 yesterday. We are all familiar with the story of the Last Supper. Jesus gathers with His followers in the Upper Room and they celebrate Passover together. Well, in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, one gets the impression that they eat and then leave for the Garden of Gethsemane. How long do you figure that took? An hour? Two? How long does it take you to finish your Thanksgiving meal? Yesterday, in John, I noticed something. First of all, in Chapter 13, John tells the story of Jesus washing His disciple’s feet – it is the only Gospel that does. Secondly, we see that Jesus then taught for quite a while after that. In fact, Jesus’ teaching takes three more chapters 14, 15, and 16, to complete. Apparently, they did not simply eat and run.

Then in Chapter 17 (part of my May 28 reading), I noticed that Jesus prays for His disciples. It is not a quick prayer. It is twenty-six verses long. Over 640 words! Just to offer a little context, the Lord’s Prayer is only sixty-eight words. What jumped out at me this time was the realization that Jesus is not praying only for the twelve apostles or anyone else who may have been at the Seder Meal. He is praying for us too. In verse 20, Jesus says, “I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message.” That means you and me. Did you know that? We do not just pray to Jesus. Jesus prays for us.

Remember when Jesus appeared in the Upper Room again, after His resurrection, but Thomas did not believe because he missed it? What does Jesus tell Thomas when He finally sees him? “You [Thomas] believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing me” (John 20:29). Again, that’s you and me. We believe, but we have not seen. Yes, Jesus prays for me, and for you. I just think that’s pretty cool.

No, I never get tired of reading the Bible. I recommend it highly. Not just once, but repeatedly. God is always ready and willing to show us something new, and I find that exciting!                 

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We are taking prayer requests now. Email your requests to southchurchprayer@gmail.com. We will lift them up live every weekday at 4:00 pm on our South Church, Hartford Facebook page.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

One Hundred Acres of Wisdom


When I was growing up, I loved the stories of Winnie the Pooh. Who could possibly not love that silly old bear? Pooh was a little naive and slow-witted. In fact, he was often referred to as a “bear of very little brain.” Nonetheless, Pooh had a depth of wisdom that perhaps he was not even aware. I love Pooh-isms like “People say nothing is impossible, but I do nothing every day!” “A hug is always the right size.” “Love is taking a few steps backward, maybe even more…to give way to the happiness of the person you love.” And, how about, “Some people care too much. I think it’s called love.” The other characters in the Pooh stories were just as wonderful. For some reason, I identified with Piglet. Piglet is generally timid, but he tries to be brave and on occasion conquers his fears. When Tigger entered the storyline, it was as if a piƱata exploded! Tigger is always filled with great energy and optimism. Then there is Eeyore. Eeyore the donkey is just so loveably gloomy, cynical, and doubtful. His pessimistic outlook is revealed in an encounter with Piglet, who cheerfully wished him, “Good morning!” To which Eeyore responds, “Well, I suppose it is...for some.”

I suppose on some level we all have a little Pooh, Piglet, Tigger, and Eeyore in us. During this quarantine time, the goal is not to let our inner Eeyore dominate, right? I know it can be a challenge. Things look bleak right now. We are not sure when we can return to “normal,” or what normal will even look like when we do. Simply, not knowing itself is hard. The truth is friends, we do not have much control over the circumstances we currently find ourselves in, but we do have some control over how we respond. The apostle Paul says near the end of his letter to the church in Philippi, “And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me – everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:8-9).

Choose to think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise and you will find God’s peace! Choose to see, it’s not that we have a glass, which is half-full or half-empty. It’s that, at a time when our thirst may be great, we still have water to drink! Hey, even Eeyore said, “Could be worse. Not sure how, but it could be.”

Thanks for taking time to read my blog today. As Pooh once said, “Any day spent with you is my favorite day. So, today is my new favorite day.”

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We are taking prayer requests now. Email your requests to southchurchprayer@gmail.com. We will lift them up every weekday at 4:00 pm on Facebook Live.

Monday, May 25, 2020

Uncle Stanley


It is kind of sad to watch what an increasingly secular society does to holidays. The word “holiday” comes from an Old English word meaning, “holy day, consecrated day, or religious anniversary.” Nonetheless, today, Christmas – the celebration of the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ – has become more about Santa Claus, flying reindeer (especially one with a red nose), and gifts. Tons and tons of gifts. Many school systems don’t even have a “Christmas Pageant” anymore. It’s now the “Winter Pageant.” Easter is the celebration of the resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. However, when you go to the store around Easter time, what do you see? Stuffed bunny animals, peeps marshmallow candy, chocolate eggs, malted eggs, egg-coloring kits, baskets, and jellybeans. I was on the website of a large box store to see what was available at Easter time, and they actually have a separate link titled “Religious Easter Items.” I’m not picking on them. I am truly not. They were doing what any successful retailer does – responding to their customers. Retailers simply want to make money. Sell stuff. As a result, stores would have far more “Religious Easter Items” to sell if that was what the public was clamoring to buy. Retailers accurately reflect the mood of us consumers.

Well, today is Memorial Day, and sadly, it too, over the years, has devolved into discounted merchandise. Try it. Google “Memorial Day Sales.” As I did, you will find links to save money on mattresses, furniture, automobiles, clothing, hardware, etc. The list is endless.

Look, I like to save money as much as the next guy, so I am not saying I will never buy a new sofa on sale on Memorial Day. I also love St. Nicholas and coloring Easter eggs. I just want to make sure that today we also take time to remember men like my great Uncle Stanley.

When the United States was attacked on December 7, 1941, and we entered the Second World War, my great Uncle Stanley Pianowski, my Grandpa’s brother, wanted to join the fight. So badly did Stanley want to defend freedom, he had to lie about his age, and he did so he could join the US Navy. Sadly, he was lost at sea. There is no record of his service because he also used a false name not wanting to be discovered as underage.

Christian history is littered with similar stories. Beginning with Jesus, the apostles, the martyrs, as well as many modern-day missionaries have long defended the faith so that we can be free to worship God without fear. After celebrating the Passover meal with His disciples, Jesus said to them, “This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you.” A new commandment to love one another. Then, just so everyone is clear what He means by loving each other, He follows with, “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:12-13). They do not know it yet, but Jesus is about to do just that on Calvary in the next twenty-four hours. We should never forget what Jesus did. That’s why we celebrate Christmas and Easter. Similarly, you may be surprised how many of us have a great Uncle Stanley story in our family history. People who fought and died so that we could remain free. We must never forget that is what today is really all about. If you can get a great price on a new car today, go for it! But, please, also take a moment to remember your friends who loved you enough to lay down their lives. People whose names and faces we will never know.          

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We are taking prayer requests now. Email your requests to southchurchprayer@gmail.com. We will lift them up live every weekday at 4:00 pm on our South Church, Hartford Facebook page.