Wednesday, September 30, 2020

A Pleasing Aroma

I know lots of people are into essential oils nowadays. For me, I love candles. I always have. I am blessed because of where I live, that it only takes me an hour to travel up I-91 to Yankee Candle’s flagship store in South Deerfield, MA. It is a wonderful place! On top of that, it is only an extra thirteen minutes to get to Bernardston, MA, where Kringle Candle has a factory store. Both places are candle-lovers paradises.

I like to match the scent to the season. In the spring, perhaps it’s Meadow Showers – the scent of fresh raindrops on blades of green grass. In summer, I enjoy Lilac Blossoms – the smell of an alluring grove of lavender, white and deep purple lilacs. It reminds me of my childhood home on Brattle Street in Holden, MA, and my next door neighbor Mr. Naptin’s amazing lilacs, the scent of which drifted into my upstairs bedroom window on summer days. Or, it could be Beach Walk – the scent of refreshing salt water and sea musk warmed with sunny notes of tangerine and orange blossom. When fall begins, it is time for Autumn Embers – a mix of apple, spice, and a touch of smoky firewood. Maybe even some Whipped Pumpkin Spice – creamy milk blended with pumpkin and spices and sweetened with maple. Of course, as we close in on Christmas I always have a jar of Balsam and Cedar going – aromatic cedar wood and juniper berry blended together in a fresh forest scent. Today, I think of my mom’s love of birch trees and I am burning Silver Birch – the scent of Siberian Pine, Clove, Eucalyptus, Pine, and Patchouli.   

As I enjoy my candles, it always reminds me of the incense burned in the Temple and how important it was to worshiping God. The altar of incense was made of acacia wood and overlaid with gold. In Exodus, God Himself even gave the recipe for making the incense and stipulated that no other incense ever be burned on the altar.

In Psalm 141, David writes, “Accept my prayer as incense offered to you, and my upraised hands as an evening offering” (Psalm 141:2). Incense, then, is seen as a symbol of prayer. As the smoke arises upward, so too does our offering of prayer ascend to God. In Leviticus, God mentions how sincere offerings are “…a special gift, a pleasing aroma to the Lord” (Leviticus 1:9). The fact that the incense was always burning means that we should always pray. “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17; KJV).

The next time you light a candle or use some essential oil, may it remind you of how much the Lord enjoys the sweet smelling aroma of our prayers. And remember, prayer is always in season.      

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

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.

Friday, September 25, 2020

Happy Birthday?

One of my most favorite Bible readings is Psalm 139. In verses 13-18 we read,

“You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body

                        and knit me together in my mother’s womb.

Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!

Your workmanship is marvelous – how well I know it.

You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,

as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.

You saw me before I was born.

Every day of my life was recorded in your book.

Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.

How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered!

I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand!”

I mention this, because today is our Director of Family Ministry Kyle Singerman’s birthday! He turns thirty today. Over the years, I have found birthdays to be odd. We celebrate a year of what? Breathing? We ate and slept for another 365 days. Is that an accomplishment? Really? The person who should get some credit today is our mothers. They did all the work. Perhaps on our birthdays we should get them a gift. Send them some flowers.  

The other person we should recognize is the creator of life – God. He was the one who knit us together in our mother’s womb. He planned for us. He waited for us, and He celebrated when we arrived. He has a purpose for us. Every single one of us.

I know there are people in the world the evil one uses to try to tear us down, disparage, criticize, and condemn. That’s what Satan does. Jesus said in John 10, Satan’s primary purpose is to steal, kill, and destroy, and the devil uses all sorts of people to try and accomplish that on his behalf.  

Do not listen to him. Instead, on your birthday – on every day – give God thanks and praise for His marvelous workmanship – you!

So, happy birthday Kyle, and anyone else who may share it with him today. Remember God could not wait for you to get here, my friend, and you are so valuable to Him that He was willing to go to the cross for you. That is certainly reason to celebrate! 

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

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 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.