Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

Oh, the Places You’ll Go! is a book written and illustrated by my all-time favorite author Dr. Seuss. This 1990 book, was the last one published during Theodor Geisel’s lifetime. The plot addresses the journey of life and its variety of challenges.

We are now on the “other side” of our Easter celebrations. The disciples were holed up in the upper room awaiting the promised Holy Spirit. Surely, they were wondering. What was next? Perhaps you are too. Whether you are a new Christian or a long-time believer, you may have the same question. I am a believer. What do I do now?

In Acts 1, Jesus tells His followers that after they receive the Holy Spirit, “…you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere – in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). And, oh, the places they will go.

So, what do we do now? We are supposed to tell people about Jesus. What else? Well, at the Last Supper, Jesus said, “…I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” (John 13:34-35). So, we are supposed to tell people about Jesus and love one another, including our neighbors as ourselves. How do we do that? Jesus said in Matthew 25, that we are to feed the hungry, offer refreshment to the thirsty, welcome strangers, give clothing to the naked, care for the sick, and visit those in prison. Jesus’ brother James put it this way, “What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, ‘Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well’ – but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless’” (James 2:14-17). So, we are supposed to tell people about Jesus, love each another, and care for the overlooked. 

Imagine going to school for medicine, studying for a dozen years, passing your medical board exams, and becoming a licensed physician. After that, you retreat to a cabin in the Maine woods and never help a single other soul. Does that make any sense? Jesus “passed our exams” for us when He went to the cross. We are all now “fully-licensed” Christians. We cannot retreat to the comfort of our own homes and do nothing. We cannot, because our hearts have changed. We have changed. Everything is different now, and, oh the places God will send you. He will put you in circumstances and situations, sometimes not of your choosing, but you will have the opportunity to tell someone about Jesus. Show them unconditional love. Help them during a season of difficulty. Will you? Yes. I believe you will, because you are now a “fully-licensed” Christian, and you will not let all of that training, all of that good news, love, and service go to waste.

What are we to do now? We tell people about Jesus, love each another, and care for the overlooked. That’s it. Do not make it complicated. It’s simple. Be Jesus to those who have not yet met Him, and before you know it, they will know Him too.        

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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.

The Chosen

Well, I pray you had a wonderful Easter celebration with your church, family, and friends. I did. Now for a week of egg salad sandwiches, am I right? Something else happened this past Sunday that you may not be aware of. Easter Sunday was the premier of Season 2 of “The Chosen.” The Chosen is the first multi-season TV series about the life of Christ, and it is incredible! Season 1 has been viewed over 95 million times! What makes this series so different is that it portrays Jesus “through the eyes of those who met Him.

One comment I hear repeatedly from those who have watched it is, “Jesus is so ‘real,’ ‘so human,’ ‘so relatable.’” I believe this was one of Dallas Jenkins’ (the creator of the series) goal, and he does it very effectively.

Although, Jenkins’ portrayal of Jesus as relatable is so effective because Jesus was relatable. He still is. He is also 100% divine and 100% human. John clearly states in his gospel, “[Jesus] became human and made his home among us” (John 1:14). The reality is, if you lived in the first century and walked by Jesus one day on the road to Capernaum, you wouldn’t even know He was the Messiah. There would be nothing which gave that away. Jesus looked like any other thirty-year-old Jewish male from Galilee. The prophet Isaiah describes Him (the Messiah) this way, “My servant grew up in the Lord’s presence like a tender green shoot, like a root in dry ground. There was nothing beautiful or majestic about his appearance, nothing to attract us to him” (Isaiah 53:2).

Jesus could very easily get lost in a crowd. In fact, remember when Jesus preached in the synagogue in Jerusalem? Afterward, the crowd was so angry at Him, Luke tells us, “Jumping up, they mobbed him and forced him to the edge of the hill on which the town was built. They intended to push him over the cliff, but he passed right through the crowd and went on his way” (Luke 4:29-30). He passed right through the crowd. Now, that could have been a supernatural incident, or it could have been that, in the ensuing chaos, He simply did not stick out. Surely, amidst the growing dust cloud kicked up by dozens of sandals, churning up the dry dirt which made up the streets of Nazareth, Jesus was just able to slip away. Look, I enjoy the actor Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson, but if Jesus were ripped like him, He would have stuck out, right? Same thing if He was six foot seven, with blonde hair and blue eyes, but He wasn’t. He looked like a regular guy. He could have been your cousin or older brother.    

We should remember that. Jesus really had a fully human experience. He ate. He drank. He got tired. He slept. He got frustrated and angry. He wept with sorrow and danced at a wedding in Cana. Even though He was the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, He didn’t live in a palace surrounded by servants who waited on His every need or desire. He could have. He is the Messiah after all, but He didn’t. Paul reminds us, “Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being” (Philippians 2:6-7). That was intentional. Jesus wanted to experience what we experience. Joy. Love. Hope. Anger. Peace. Grief. Friendship. Because He did, there is nothing you and I can go through in life that He does not understand.

When you are tired and hungry, Jesus knows. Before He feeds the five thousand, Mark tells us, “Then Jesus said, ‘Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.’ He said this because there were so many people coming and going that Jesus and his apostles didn’t even have time to eat” (Mark 6:31). When you are tempted to sin, Jesus knows. The devil tempted Him three times in the desert. When you lose a loved one, He knows. He weeps when Lazarus dies. When you are betrayed, He knows. For thirty silver coins, Judas told the Sanhedrin about the Garden of Gethsemane, and those who welcomed Him so jubilantly on Palm Sunday, were shouting for His crucifixion five days later. 

I want you to remember that Jesus told us in the Gospel of John, “The thief’s [Satan’s] purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give [you] a rich and satisfying life” (John 10:10). He really does know what our everyday lives are like. 

I highly encourage you to watch both seasons of “The Chosen.” Download the app onto your phone or tablet and cast it to your TV. It reveals a great truth. Jesus walked the walk. He lived a human life. He knows and understands – firsthand – all of our challenges and joys, and He wants to bless us.               

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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, April 14, 2021

Today Is the Day of Visitation!

I am in Florida this week, visiting my in-laws and my parents. Believe me. I do fully understand how blessed I am. After all, I am going to be 58 years-old myself this year, and, yet, I still have my mom in Portsmouth, NH, my dad and other mom in Venice, FL, and both my in-laws in Brooksville, FL, all now in their 80’s, are still healthy. So many of my friends and peers cannot say the same thing. On one hand, I realize I too may be the recipient of some great genetic material! Praise God! On the other hand, I am also aware that I could lose any of them, at any time.

I don’t mention this to be maudlin or depressing. That is not my point. My point is that, while we still have those we love (like I have all my parents), we should make sure of two things: #1 let them know we love them, and #2 spend time with them. Hence, my trip to the Sunshine State. I have not seen my Florida parents in five years, and it will be great to spend a couple of days with them. Is it a long drive? Sure. Is it worth the drive? Absolutely! 

I encourage you to do the same. Is there someone in your life that you love and haven’t seen or contacted for a while? Send them a card. Call them. There is this new thing called the internet too. You can email, Skype or Zoom someone. If you are able, visit them. Especially, those who are getting along in years. There will come a day when you will not be able to.

If there is some quarrel between you, as Elsa sang, “Let it go!” First of all, Jesus reminds us that our own salvation can depend on it. “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:14-15). Secondly, holding on to a grudge only feeds bitterness inside. Holding on to such anger and resentment is like a cancer. It destroys us from within. Let it go. Mend fences. Offer that which you have received – grace. The Bible says, “Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others (Colossians 3:12-13).

I have so many wonderful memories of my mom and dad growing up. Of my other mom over the last forty years. I know Renée does too of her parents, and we both understand, one day we will have only that – memories. They will always be treasured memories, but today, it is not time to be sad. It is time for me to continue to make new memories with a mom in New Hampshire and other parents in Florida whom I love.

The Bible says, “…the ‘right time’ is now. Today is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2). I say the same about those we love. Tell them! Contact them! Visit them! Don’t wait until all you have is regret. Do it now! To paraphrase Paul, “Today is the day of visitation.”              

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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, March 31, 2021

Change Can Come Quickly

Today is Wednesday. The Wednesday of what we have come to know as “Holy Week.” Now, the people of 1st century Jerusalem did not call it that. They did not know what was about to happen. We have the advantage of 20/20 hindsight. What were the people of Jerusalem doing today? They were going about their usual routine. They went to work. Smiths were making all sorts of implements out of iron, silver, or gold. It could be a plow for a farmer or a necklace for a lucky lady. Men tilled their fields. Carpenters made furniture. Stone masons built or repaired homes and protective walls. Women went to the market to purchase groceries and baked bread.

The first century family ate two daily meals, either in the home or in the field. The first meal which “broke their fast” was eaten in the late-morning, as a break in the workday. It could include some roasted grain, olives, figs or other fruit. There may also have been some bread dipped in olive oil or vinegar, or eaten with garlic, onions, or black radishes for flavor, as well as water or wine. In the Book of Ruth, we come across an example of a typical meal. “At mealtime Boaz called to [Ruth], ‘Come over here, and help yourself to some food. You can dip your bread in the sour wine.’ So she sat with his harvesters, and Boaz gave her some roasted grain to eat. She ate all she wanted and still had some left over” (Ruth 2:14). The main meal of the day was the second meal. It was eaten in the evening. There would be bread that had been baked that day, as well as soup or a stew of vegetables or legumes. This was served in a common pot into which everyone dipped their bread. On occasion, there may be cheese and fruits (such as fresh figs and melon when in season), as well as dried fruits. To drink there was again, water, and wine, although milk could also accompany this meal. In this particular week, families were also preparing for the coming Passover Seder meal.   

I mention all of this to divert your attention a little. As I painted this picture, I will bet you forgot that two days from now, Jesus will be crucified. That was intentional. Just for a moment, you were not thinking about Holy Week. You were thinking about lunch maybe, but not crucifixion. These people certainly were not. 

They were unaware that Pharisees, Sadducees, and Herodians, were plotting ways to assassinate Jesus and His good friend Lazarus (for having the audacity to be raised from the dead!). They could not have known Judas was recruited to betray Jesus. That He was going to be arrested and brought before Pontius Pilate to be condemned to death. They had no idea how quickly things were about to change.

That can happen in our lives too. In a quick moment, a driver runs a red light and slams into your car. The doctor gives you a diagnosis of cancer, or worse, your child. Planes fly into buildings. Bombs go off during a Marathon. A tornado. A flood. A mass shooting. Yes, life can change in a moment.

I say this not to create fear. Fear is not of God. As Paul tells us, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7). I do not want you worrying that a meteor may come crashing through the atmosphere and land on you today. That’s ridiculous. I am saying that things can change in a moment. Even Jesus’ return will be in an instant. In the blink of an eye everything will change. 

That’s why we need to be prepared. One cannot wait until they are moments away from death to be in a relationship with Jesus. It is important to do so now. While there is still time. If you know someone who is not, please share the good news of Jesus with them. Those of us who have been born again, who have confessed our sin and accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior, have no reason to fear. We are the beneficiaries of what happened on Good Friday, and especially what took place on Easter Sunday. Our hearts are not troubled. We are saved! Jesus has already prepared a room for us in His Father’s home.

My friends. Enjoy this Wednesday. You have no need to worry. 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. Besides, as Jesus asked, “Can all your worries add a single moment to your life” (Matthew 6:27)?       

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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, March 24, 2021

Linda's Gift

After the resurrection, before Jesus ascended to heaven, He commanded His followers to “…go and make disciples of all the nations” (Matthew 28:19). “And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere – in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). How does one make disciples? Jesus says we start with love. At the Last Supper He tells those gathered, “…I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples” (John 13:34-35). 

It sounds pretty easy. Love each other. But love is more than just kind words. Love is action. Jesus makes clear, in Matthew 25, He wants us to help feed, clothe, visit, and care for the sick. This is why we call our Haiti Mission – M25. Jesus’ brother James emphasizes this when he reminds us, “What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, ‘Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well’ – but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless” (James 2:14-17).

Seeking to be obedient and put love into action, South Church began a partnership with a sister church in Camp Perrin, Haiti, back in 2010. Our mission is to help Pastor François, his wife, and staff reach out to their community with the message of hope, promise, and salvation found only in Jesus.  

We do this not by just telling them God loves them but showing them. Over the past ten years, we have helped reopen their school, and continue to provide monthly financial support for their teachers and principal. We added electric lights to their school and worship space. Then had to reconstruct their building from the ground up, after the devastating 2016 Hurricane Matthew swept through. We send missionaries on a regular basis, and while visiting Camp Perrin, they run children and community evangelism outreach programs, as well as provide food assistance and a health clinic.

I mention this today, because of an amazing thing that happened here last week. Completely unexpectedly I received a letter in the mail from a Connecticut Probate Court. Linda Holbrook was never a member of South Church. She was a close friend of Rose Hubbard’s and enthusiastic supporter of M25. It seems, Linda has remembered us in her will. Some money will be coming designated to go to supporting our Haiti Mission. Now, I do not know if it will be $100 or $5,000, but the idea that a non-member believes in our efforts in Haiti so much is both humbling and a reminder of what God can do when He sees love in action. 

Our brothers and sisters in Camp Perrin desperately need fresh, clean, water. God bless Linda. Her gift might make that happen, as we hope to drill a well soon, or at the very least, begin the fundraising effort.

Remember today that you too are called to tell people about Jesus everywhere. How? Begin by putting your love into action. That’s all God needs to work with. He can do some pretty amazing things with it!           

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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.