Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Youth Group

I just hired a new Director of Family Ministry. His name is Alex, and he has been on staff for about a month. On Sunday, after church, he held a meeting with youth and parents regarding Youth Ministry such as Youth Group (which is going to be called “Southside.” I think that’s really cool.), as well as Sunday School. I sat in on the meeting and was really encouraged about the future of family ministry here at South Church. I look forward to seeing what God is going to do through Alex’s leadership.

One of the things that struck me, as I listened and observed, was the amazing opportunity these young people have that many of their peers do not. In my teen years, I was not a part of a faith community and did not attend a Youth Group or Sunday School. However, when I became a Youth Pastor in the late ‘90’s, I witnessed firsthand the incredible things that can happen when young people, excited about Jesus, get together, grow together, and serve together. I saw remarkable things happen at summer camp and youth retreats. Kids came to faith in Christ and began to see each other differently. Colossians 3:12-13 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.” In my youth group and every summer at Camp Winniaugwamauk, I saw young people learn to love and accept one another. There were no “cliques.” No cool kids versus geeks. Lifelong, meaningful, relationships are often formed in church youth groups. It is also fertile soil for the next generation of church leaders.

Look, I know. Teens will sometimes be teens. It is biological. Hormones and all. Sometimes they believe they have all the answers and have nothing else to learn. Especially, from you. I get it, but let’s not forget. We were teens too and, to be honest, not any different. Nonetheless, we all have an opportunity to be a mentor to young people. An example. To make allowance for their faults, and be forgiving, understanding, and encouraging. Yes, on occasion, you may be speaking with someone who has blue hair or a variety of piercings, but we too are called to be tenderhearted, merciful, kind, and patient. Remember what God said to Samuel when he was searching for the next king of Israel. “The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).

If you have teens, encourage them to participate in youth group. They will be blessed. If your children are grown, encourage your grandchildren and always be encouraging to the young people in your church. Let them know, you are so glad they are there; that you care and support your church’s Youth Pastor and family ministry. Remind them, as Paul said to Timothy, “Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity” (1 Timothy 4:12).

Think about it. Young people could be anywhere else on Sunday mornings. Specifically, still sleeping, but they are in church. They could be off with friends on Friday nights, but instead they are at Youth Group. That’s something to be thankful for right there, isn’t 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.

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

The Instant

On the way to church this past Sunday, Renée and I encountered yellow police tape stretched across Maple Avenue. Rarely is police tape a good sign. We prayed for whatever situation was happening and took a detour. Sadly, we later discovered that someone riding one of those Lime electric scooters now available throughout the city was hit by a car and killed. This past Thursday, a veteran Connecticut state trooper Sgt. Brian Mohl, who had 26 years of service in the department, was working a midnight shift in Woodbury was killed when his cruiser was swept away amid heavy flooding from the remnants of Hurricane Ida.

A man riding a scooter. A husband and father of three gone in an instant. Events like this remind us of the fragility of life, as we were on September 11, 2001. It is hard to believe, but we are coming upon twenty years this Saturday. I will never forget sitting, in my office in Maine, just stunned, staring at the television as that event unfolded before my eyes. Two thousand nine hundred and seventy-seven innocent people died that morning – in an instant.

Yes, it changed our lives. We still have to take off our shoes at the airport. We cannot park close to certain buildings. There are watchlists and air marshals. All of that is true. However, what hit me this week was more the reality of “the instant.” The idea that one moment everything appears okay, and the next, it can change forever. None of us know how long we have. Twenty years? Sixty? Ninety? Everything could change in an instant. An illness, accident, natural disaster, terrorist attack. The Bible says, “How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog – it’s here a little while, then it’s gone” (James 4:14). Remember the childhood nighttime prayer? “Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake. I pray the Lord my soul to take. Amen.” Most of us use the updated modern version instead, “Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord my soul to keep. Guide me safely through the night and wake me with the morning light. Amen.” It’s a little softer, lighter, right? However, tomorrow morning is not guaranteed. 

Now, I mention this not to instill any fear. The Bible is clear, “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 walking around today, or any other day, expecting Wile E. Coyote’s ACME anvil to drop out of the sky and onto your head. No, I mention this for the opposite reason. Not knowing, should motivate us to treasure every moment. Bill Keane, illustrator of the Family Circus cartoon, once said, “Yesterday’s the past. Tomorrow’s the future, but today is a gift. That’s why it’s called the present.” I do not know what tomorrow brings. None of us do. I do know the Bible also says, “Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning” (Lamentations 3:23). 

I know that every single day we have another opportunity to live, laugh, and love. Don’t take them for granted. I encourage you to treasure each and every day. Cherish time with family, friends, co-workers, and brothers and sisters-in-Christ. Tell those you love that you love them. “Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry” (Ephesians 4:26). Make up with your husband or wife. Life is a blessing. So be blessed and be a blessing to someone else today.     

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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, September 1, 2021

How Will You Plead?

Well, I was called for jury duty this week. In the end, they texted me on Monday evening to tell me that I was not needed, but I was ready to serve. I think all citizens should serve. In the United States, one is considered innocent until proven guilty, and our constitution guarantees us all the right to a fair trial before a jury of our peers. Not every nation makes that promise. We are truly blessed.

When you think about it, the task of a juror is pretty significant. To judge someone’s guilt or innocence, and impose a monetary penalty, or send someone to prison is a serious responsibility.

At first, I thought to myself, wow, I am having a hard enough time contemplating what it would be like to judge a single person’s actions, God has to judge each and every one of us. Then, I remembered. Actually, I think God has it a little easier. Why? He does not have to decide our guilt or innocence. We are all guilty. Romans 3:10, “No one is righteous – not even one.” Psalm 51:5, “For I was born a sinner – yes, from the moment my mother conceived me.” Romans 3:23, “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” When we stand before the Lord on Judgment Day, we will not be able to plead innocent. 2 Corinthians 5:10 reminds us, “For we must all stand before Christ to be judged. We will each receive whatever we deserve for the good or evil we have done in this earthly body.” Now, some people mistakenly believe if we do more good than bad, we will be okay. On the scales of justice our good deeds will outweigh our evil. Unfortunately, I am afraid that is not true, because the Bible says in James 2:10, “…the person who keeps all of the laws except one is as guilty as a person who has broken all of God’s laws.” That’s right. As Jesus told us in Matthew 5:48, “…you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.” What? Perfection? Are you perfect? I know I am not. That means when we stand before God, we will all be found guilty. Yup. Sorry. I will as well. So, what hope is there for us?      

The hope is in the sentencing phase. For those who are born again, we can be assured that our punishment has already been carried out through what Jesus did on the cross. We may have been the ones who sinned, but Jesus took the consequences of our sins – willingly. “No one can take my life from me. I sacrifice it voluntarily,” Jesus said in John 10:18. Those who believe have no reason to fear their day in court. We know how it will turn out. Jesus is clear, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father,” Jesus says, “inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world” (Matthew 25:34). However, for those who do not believe, Jesus is pretty clear as well. “Get away from me,” He says in Matthew 7:23, “you who break God’s laws” “…[you] will go away into eternal punishment” (Matthew 25:46).

If you are ever called to serve on a jury, I encourage you to do your duty. There would be no better, fairer, or more compassionate, juror than one who follows Jesus Christ. Also, try to picture yourself as the defendant one day standing in the heavenly court before the Lord and having to plead your case knowing you are guilty. Then, remember what Jesus did for you on the cross and how your case will be dismissed because He has already taken your punishment, and rejoice. Be thankful and rejoice. Live the rest of your days here on earth in thankful appreciation for what Christ did for you.  

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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, August 25, 2021

The Narrow Gate

I have been a pastor for over twenty-four years now. Over that time, I have officiated at hundreds of funerals and weddings. In fact, when I was serving up in Maine, I sometimes did fifty funerals a year. A pastor never forgets his first funeral. I was petrified. All those people thought I would know just the right things to say. I felt responsible for a family’s grief. I mean, I was the one who was supposed to help them find closure, right? Often times, as it was in this case, I did not even know the person. You see, I began as a Youth Pastor. The Senior Pastor did all the funerals for members of our congregation. I was frequently called by the local funeral homes to help out when someone came in who did not have a church or pastor. I was called off the bench to “pinch hit” if you will. If you did a good job, you acquired a reputation among the local funeral directors as someone to call.

I guess I did a good job, because not more than a week later, Brookings-Smith Funeral Home called me again. I remember this one more than my first actually. Why? Because I was still so nervous, I accidentally called the deceased person by the name of my first funeral. Twice! I was mortified! The owner, Gary Smith, tried to be helpful. He said, “That’s okay, Adam, no one is really paying attention to you anyhow.” I still laugh at that. I am chuckling now as I type it. 

This all came to mind this week, because for some reason, I again find myself getting calls from local funeral homes to officiate funerals for people I do not know. I try to accommodate as best I can. I have actually gotten pretty good at it. I mean, I do not do a lot of things well, but I do a good funeral. So, when you die, I’m your guy.

These recent services were a challenge, however, because I soon discovered the deceased was not a believer. It is easier to speak about heaven and salvation when you know they believed in Jesus. What do you say about someone whose eternity is uncertain? I have struggled with these services. Now, I do not know the condition of a person’s heart when it comes to a relationship with Jesus. No one does. However, I cannot lie either and just say everyone goes to heaven regardless, etc. That is not true. Jesus says in Matthew 7, “You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it” (Matt. 7:13-14). Who enters? Jesus was clear about that too. He said, “For 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). As well as, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). So, what do you say about someone who does not believe? Or, you are unaware if they did? Can you see my dilemma?

This is why it is so important to make a decision about Christ. Once we draw our final breath, it is too late, and it is truly heartbreaking, even for the pastor officiating the service, to not know where this person, who was clearly loved, will spend eternity.

Please think about who Jesus is and what He did on the cross. Pray about it. Tell your family and friends about the gateway to life. I know there are people in your life who you love deeply and want them to be one of the “few” who find it, right?    

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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, August 18, 2021

Goodbyes Are Hard

At the Passover Seder meal Jesus was sharing with His disciples, He tells them He will be leaving, but not to worry. “Don’t let your hearts be troubled,” Jesus says, “Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am” (John 14:1-3).

The disciples had only known Jesus for three years. They were just coming to realize who He was, and now He’s leaving? They were understandably heartbroken. Goodbyes are always hard. Remember sending your child off to their first day of school? They were fine. You were a wreck, right? How about when Andy leaves for college in Toy Story 3? I was holding back tears. It’s a cartoon! Still, I was having a hard time. Saying goodbye is never easy. Whether it is you going off to school, or boot camp, or maybe getting married and beginning a new family, it is difficult to say goodbye to someone we care about. 

I often use this John verse when I officiate a funeral. It speaks of how, even though we will miss our loved one, they are now going to be with Jesus in heaven. Amidst our grief, knowing that Jesus has a plan for them (for all believers) should bring us joy.

Over my time, here at South Church, I have had to say goodbye to some people I cared deeply for. When our Worship Leader Sheila Hodges left for Utah years ago, I thought we would never be able to replace her, but God had a plan. Ryan Dafgek answered the call to serve here, and we were greatly blessed. The same thing happened when our long time Church Administrator, Leslie Watkins, retired last year. Lauren Sepko answered the call, and we were greatly blessed again. Last Sunday, after eleven years, Ryan has answered the call to another church, and I do not know what is next. But I do know this, time and time again, God has taken care of us when we were in need. There is no reason to doubt He will not do so once more. God always has a plan. For you. For me. For churches. For our Worship Team. For loved ones who have died. We just need to trust in God. It is hard to do, especially when our hearts are broken, but that is exactly when we need to trust Him most.

In the Bible, God repeatedly promises us He will never leave us or forsake us, and as we read in Proverbs, “Every word of God proves true” (Proverbs 30:5). Perhaps you have had to say goodbye recently. Please, do not worry. Do not let your heart be troubled. When everything is ready, God will reveal the next part of His plan, and He will continue to amaze you!  

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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, August 11, 2021

Silver and Gold

For nine years I served a church in rural Maine. I loved it. The people were great, and Maine is beautiful. I had no plans to leave. I really thought I would retire there. Things do not always go the way we expect though, huh? Perhaps that’s why the Bible tells us, “We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps” (Proverbs 16:9). My version of that verse is, “If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans for the future.”

Quite unexpectedly, I was called to serve a church here in Hartford, CT. It was six hours south, but still New England. I didn’t think it would be that much different. I was wrong. There is a significant difference between rural and urban ministry. Neither is more important than the other, but the issues one encounters regularly does vary.

Now, poverty and drug use are obviously not exclusive to Hartford. They are rampant all over the United States, but the level of addiction and resulting homelessness is often concentrated in cities. On a daily basis, I interact with people struggling with heroin, oxycontin, fentanyl, alcohol, and methamphetamines. They have burned all of their bridges with employers, family, and friends, and the result is no roof over their head or food to eat. My first reaction when arriving here was more judgmental than I would care to admit. “How could they have let themselves get this way? Why don’t they stop? Why did they start in the first place?” It has been fifteen years now and the Lord has taught me a lot. First of all, when you get to know some of these folks, you discover, they are just people like you and me. They have moms and dads. Some had good jobs, wives, and still have children. All of it now gone because of substance abuse. I understand that at some point a decision was made to start using, but no one foresaw this for themselves. It is like an ocean undertow. You planned on just going swimming. People warned you about the undertow, but you’re a strong swimmer. You could handle it. Suddenly, you realize you are not as strong as you thought. You get caught in the current, and before you know it, you’re drowning. I promise you. No one makes a conscious choice to be an addict. In fact, it didn’t take long for me to realize that “there but by the grace of God go I.” One bad decision years ago, and I might be the one ringing the doorbell asking to speak with the pastor. 

Today, I have a different attitude. The truth is my heart breaks for these folks. I know they do not want to live a life like that. Who would? They simply cannot seem to escape. What can we do? What can I do when they ask me, “Pastor, do you have just a couple of dollars so I can get something to eat?” I know full well they have no plans to purchase food. Sadly, food and shelter are just not as important to them as their next fix. The goal, every single day, is to find, steal, con, or panhandle enough money to support their habit. Period. I do not say this disparagingly, but with great compassion. Would you want to live like that? Totally controlled by a substance you simply cannot quit.

Too many well-intentioned people think handing out a couple of dollars helps. They convince themselves, “Maybe they really will buy some food,” or rationalize it, “Hey, I gave with good intentions. What they do with it after that is up to them.” They are trapped. They are not capable of good decisions. Have you ever tried to talk to a young person about saving money up to buy something versus starting with credit cards? How did that go? Yeah, well, the success rate here is about the same.

If we want to really help. Buying someone food or giving someone food is always a good choice. Money? The Bible addresses this scenario in the Book of Acts.

“Peter and John went to the Temple one afternoon to take part in the three o’clock prayer service. As they approached the Temple, a man lame from birth was being carried in. Each day he was put beside the Temple gate, the one called the Beautiful Gate, so he could beg from the people going into the Temple. When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for some money.

Peter and John looked at him intently, and Peter said, ‘Look at us!’ The lame man looked at them eagerly, expecting some money. But Peter said, ‘I don’t have any silver or gold for you. But I’ll give you what I have. In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, get up and walk!’

Then Peter took the lame man by the right hand and helped him up. And as he did, the man’s feet and ankles were instantly healed and strengthened. He jumped up, stood on his feet, and began to walk! Then, walking, leaping, and praising God, he went into the Temple with them” (Acts 3:1-8).        

We have something so much more valuable than money – Jesus! He can do so much more than feed them. He can heal them. They will be able to jump up and walk again! So, why do we offer money? For many, it is easier to handout a couple of bucks (even though that will not really help) than to spend some time sharing the gospel (which can really help).

Think about that the next time someone asks you for assistance. Ask yourself, “Will silver or gold really help here or is it just enabling more destructive behavior?” Instead, offer some food (not money for food). Walk into McDonald’s with them and purchase something. Or, even better, like Peter and John, offer them what you have – the bread of life – Jesus Christ!

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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.

Give What You Have

For nine years I served a church in rural Maine. I loved it. The people were great, and Maine is beautiful. I had no plans to leave. I really thought I would retire there. Things do not always go the way we expected though, huh? Perhaps that’s why the Bible tells us, “We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps” (Proverbs 16:9). My version of that verse is, “If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans for the future.”

Quite unexpectedly, I was called to serve a church here in Hartford, CT. It was six hours south, but still New England. I didn’t think it would be that much different. I was wrong. There is a significant difference between rural and urban ministry. Neither is more important than the other, but the issues one encounters regularly does vary.

Now, poverty and drug use are obviously not exclusive to Hartford. They are rampant all over the United States, but the level of addiction and resulting homelessness is often concentrated in cities. On a daily basis, I interact with people struggling with heroin, Oxycontin, fentanyl, alcohol, and methamphetamines. They have burned all of their bridges with employers, family, and friends, and the result is no roof over their head or food to eat. My first reaction when arriving here was more judgmental than I would care to admit. “How could they have let themselves get this way? Why don’t they stop? Why did they start in the first place?” It has been fifteen years now and the Lord has taught me a lot. First of all, when you get to know some of these folks, you discover, they are just people like you and me. They have moms and dads. Some had good jobs, wives, and still have children. All of it now gone because of substance abuse. I understand that at some point a decision was made to start using, but no one foresaw this for themselves. It is like an ocean undertow. You planned on just going swimming. People warned you about the undertow, but you’re a strong swimmer. You could handle it. Suddenly, you realize you are not as strong as you thought. You get caught in the current, and before you know it, you’re drowning. I promise you. No one makes a conscious choice to be an addict. In fact, it didn’t take long for me to realize that “there but by the grace of God go I.” One bad decision years ago, and I might be the one ringing the doorbell asking to speak with the pastor.

Today, I have a different attitude. The truth is my heart breaks for these folks. I know they do not want to live a life like that. Who would? They simply cannot seem to escape. What can we do? What can I do when they ask me, “Pastor, do you have just a couple of dollars so I can get something to eat?” I know full well they have no plans to purchase food. Sadly, food and shelter are just not as important to them as their next fix. The goal, every single day is to find, steal, con, or panhandle enough money to support their habit. Period. I do not say this disparagingly, but with great compassion. Would you want to live like that? Totally controlled by a substance you simply cannot quit.

Too many well-intentioned people think handing out a couple of dollars helps. They convince themselves, “Maybe they really will buy some food,” or rationalize it, “Hey, I gave with good intentions. What they do with it after that is up to them.” They are trapped. They are not capable of good decisions. Have you ever tried to talk to a young person about saving money up to buy something versus starting with credit cards? How did that go? Yeah, well, the success rate here is about the same.

If we want to really help. Buying someone food or giving someone food is always a good choice. Money? The Bible addresses this scenario in the Book of Acts.

Peter and John went to the Temple one afternoon to take part in the three o’clock prayer service. As they approached the Temple, a man lame from birth was being carried in. Each day he was put beside the Temple gate, the one called the Beautiful Gate, so he could beg from the people going into the Temple. When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for some money.

Peter and John looked at him intently, and Peter said, ‘Look at us!’ The lame man looked at them eagerly, expecting some money. But Peter said, ‘I don’t have any silver or gold for you. But I’ll give you what I have. In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, get up and walk!’

Then Peter took the lame man by the right hand and helped him up. And as he did, the man’s feet and ankles were instantly healed and strengthened. He jumped up, stood on his feet, and began to walk! Then, walking, leaping, and praising God, he went into the Temple with them” (Acts 3:1-8).         

We have something so much more valuable than money – Jesus! He can do so much more than feed them. He can heal them. They will be able to jump up and walk again! So, why do we offer money? For many, it is easier to handout a couple of bucks (even though that will not really help) than to spend some time sharing the gospel (which can really help).

Think about that the next time someone asks you for assistance. Ask yourself, “Will silver or gold really help here or is it just enabling more destructive behavior?” Instead, offer some food (not money for food). Walk into McDonald’s with them and purchase something. Or, even better, like Peter and John, offer them what you have – the bread of life – Jesus Christ!  

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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, August 4, 2021

Boundaries and Limitations

This Sunday I am preaching in John chapter six. This is a pretty incredible chapter. Jesus feeds the five thousand. Actually, Verse ten tells us, “The men alone numbered 5,000” (John 6:10). When one includes the women and children, it is much more likely the number is closer to ten thousand! Then, we read the story about the disciples being caught in a storm and Jesus walking on the water to them. After that, Jesus teaches a crowd about the bread of life. He says He is the true bread that came down from heaven and goes on to imply His body and blood would be sacrificed in order to grant believers eternal life.

Continuing this metaphor, Jesus then says one has to eat His flesh and drink His blood. What? He means one has to accept Him into their life and become united with Him. We do this in a couple of in two ways: (1) by believing in His death and resurrection (the sacrifice of His flesh and blood and His rising from the grave) and (2) by devoting ourselves to living as He requires, depending on His teaching for guidance and trusting in the Holy Spirit for power. It was a metaphor! (Eating His flesh and drinking His blood.) Nonetheless, many of Jesus’ followers were shocked and horrified. So much so, that rather than trying to understand what He was teaching, they simply left. Abandoned Him. The person they had heretofore believed was the Messiah. However, as soon as He said something they had trouble accepting or understanding, they deserted Him. In many ways, things have not changed over the last two thousand years. 

I know of plenty of so-called “disciples of Jesus,” believers who claim to accept He is the Son of God, who love Him when He talks about loving our neighbors and doing unto others as we would have done unto us. They love hearing about His healings and miracles. They love all the good stuff. However, when Jesus teaches something difficult. Something we do not like or even disagree with many do the same – desert Him.

Listen, when we were raising our children, we had limitations, boundaries, which we expected them not to cross. We did so, because we had knowledge they did not have, and we wanted to protect them, because we loved them. Why is it so hard for us to consider God has the same for you and me? His children. Remember, we would sometimes get so upset with our children because they incessantly asked, “Why? Why? Why?” Finally, in exasperation, we would reply, “Because I said so!” It wasn’t that we didn’t want to tell them. We were. They were just incapable of fully understanding the reasoning. It wasn’t their fault. They were children. Similarly, our Father sometimes says, “Because I said so!” or maybe “Thus saith the Lord!” We may not like it. It may make us angry, but He has knowledge we do not. We are His children. He is the Father.

This is why the Bible says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take. Don’t be impressed with your own wisdom. Instead, fear the Lord and turn away from evil. Then you will have healing for your body and strength for your bones” (Proverbs 3:5-8). 

When we come across a limitation that God has placed upon us, and we do not understand why. Trust Him. He is God and we are not. He has knowledge and understanding that we never will. Remember, the boundary is there because He loves His children 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.

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Bookmarks

I like movies. I have mentioned that before. On any Top 10 list of movies of all time, one would expect to find Casablanca, Citizen Kane, or Notorious (by Alfred Hitchcock). However, most people today would never watch them. Why? They are all black and white. Today, any film not in color or HD for that matter is readily dismissed as “less than.”

Why is it we think everything modern is best and the past has nothing to offer us? Can we so easily toss aside Plato, Aristotle, Socrates, just because they are old? The same goes for our faith. Some of the most brilliant Christian theologians, preachers, and scholars lived long before the internet. It is hard to imagine sometimes that life really was rich and profound even before Google or Apple.

A friend of mine gave me a set of bookmarks a couple of years ago for Christmas that reminded me of that. There are printed quotes on them from some of the greatest Christians voices of any time. Things like John Bunyan (1628-1688) saying, “Prayer will make a man cease from sin or sin will entice a man to cease from prayer.” John Owen (1616-1683), “There is no death of sin without the death of Christ.” And, my favorite which is from, Augustine of Hippo (354-430), also known as Saint Augustine. Augustine is considered to be one of the most important Church Fathers. Augustine was a theologian, philosopher, and bishop in Roman North Africa. The quote on my bookmark could have been written for the twenty-first century just as easily as the fifth. Augustine says, “If you believe what you like in the Gospels and reject what you don’t like, it is not the Gospel you believe but yourself.”

Wow. I encounter this nearly every single week. Even though the Bible speaks clearly about numerous moral and ethical dilemmas we face, and have been facing for millennia, we still appear free to reject whatever we do not like. Never mind God tells Israel, “Do not add to or subtract from these commands I am giving you. Just obey the commands of the Lord your God that I am giving you” (Deuteronomy 4:2), or “Every word of God proves true” (Proverbs 30:5), or even Jesus Himself reminds those in the Temple, “…you know that the Scriptures cannot be altered” (John 10:35). So many people today still think the Bible is just a book and we get to be the editors.

Just because something is old, say two-thousand years old, does not mean it no longer matters. Does not contain truth. The Bible is truth. “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right” (2 Timothy 3:16). It does not go out of style and we do not know better. Augustine knew it then, and we should listen to him now. He may be old, but he is still right. “If we believe what we like in the Gospels and reject what we don’t like, it is not the Gospel we believe but ourselves.”  

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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, July 21, 2021

Do Not Fear

Way back in 1989, New York Magazine published an article by journalist Eric Pooley titled “Grins, Gore, and Videotape – The Trouble with Local TV News.” I mention this, because it is the first verifiable use of the phrase, “If it bleeds, it leads.” Eric meant, the stories that get the most attention are disasters. Whether they are natural like hurricanes, blizzards, earthquakes, wildfires, or manmade like shootings, robberies, rapes, riots, etc. Tragedy sells papers. Gets ratings. Rarely does a story about a man who collects broken down cars and fixes them so he can then give them away to people who really need reliable transportation like single moms or someone trying to find work. That’s a true story, but front page? Sell papers? No. It’s not “sexy” enough. For whatever reason, calamity, heartbreak, misfortune, fear gets our attention.

Since we are still trying to recover from a pandemic, let’s talk about fear. Over the past eighteen months or so, we were all afraid of being infected with severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). Otherwise known as Covid-19. Did you know the only reason it’s called Covid-19 is because it broke out in 2019? Now, I remember the year Renée and I were married, 1981, was the first time AIDS really came to National attention. At the time, we had no idea if it was the next Bubonic Plague of the 14th century, which killed some 200 million people (60% of the European population) or not. Everyone was afraid of contracting AIDS. At the beginning, we did not know how it was transmitted. Similarly, early last year, we were still not sure if Covid-19 would be like the seasonal flu or smallpox. During the 20th century, smallpox killed 300 to 500 million people. Our first minister Rev. John Whiting died from smallpox in 1689. So, fear is understandable. 

Fear is also not always a bad thing. Fear of contracting AIDS led to widespread use of condoms. Fear of getting into a car accident makes us put on our seatbelts. Fear of getting Covid-19 led us to social distance and wear facemasks. Fear of hell can motivate one to seek forgiveness in Jesus. However, fear can also be destructive and incapacitating. It can stop us from applying for job. Asking someone on a date. Entering a talent contest. Going for our driver’s license.

The Bible is clear. “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand” (Isaiah 41:10). When David was facing a powerful Ammonite army, God told him, “…be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you” (Deuteronomy 31:6). Paul reminds us, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7). 

We need to be smart. As we have been over the past eighteen months. We cannot live recklessly thinking, “Oh, I have nothing to fear. God will protect me.” That’s arrogance. When Satan tempted Jesus to jump off the Temple saying, “[God] will order his angels to protect you.” Jesus responds, “The Scriptures also say, ‘You must not test the Lord your God’(Matthew 4:7). There is a difference between believing and testing the Lord. Between trust and plain stupidity.

Look, I promise you. Even in the midst of these variants, we can survive Covid-19. Just as we did smallpox and AIDS. What we cannot do is live in fear. God has our back, and our front, and our top, bottom, left and right. Yes, even though, at times, we are walking through a valley of the shadow of death, we should fear no evil: for God is with us. He comforts us. He anoints our heads with oil until our cups run over. Be smart, but trust Him with all of your heart, mind, soul, and strength. He will never let you down.  

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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, July 14, 2021

A Faithlift

Here at South Church, we are in the midst of an upgrade to our historic Meeting House. We are calling it a “Faithlift.” This is our third Meeting House, built in 1827. Our first was in 1670. Our second in 1754. We have a beautiful Meeting House worthy of keeping it in good shape. We are repainting, putting in new rugs, refurbishing the original doors, installing Livestreaming equipment and finally air conditioning! Hallelujah! Praise the Lord!

As beautiful as our building may be, we do remember that in 2 Samuel, God says to the prophet, “Go and tell my servant David, ‘This is what the Lord has declared: Are you the one to build a house for me to live in? I have never lived in a house, from the day I brought the Israelites out of Egypt until this very day. I have always moved from one place to another with a tent and a Tabernacle as my dwelling. Yet no matter where I have gone with the Israelites, I have never once complained to Israel’s tribal leaders, the shepherds of my people Israel. I have never asked them, “Why haven’t you built me a beautiful cedar house?”’ (2 Samuel 7:5-7) 

Yes, God was okay with a tent. He did not need a palace. Nonetheless, the crowning achievement of David’s son King Solomon’s reign was the erection of a magnificent temple in Jerusalem built to honor the name of the Lord. We have been building them ever since. 

There are many magnificent cathedrals all over the world. Regardless, of your faith tradition, one of the most beautiful churches is St. Peter’s Basilica (otherwise known as the Vatican) in Rome. I was blessed to be able to visit the Vatican in 2001. It is a truly stunning structure. Really breathtaking. So is St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. Actually, I believe St. Patrick’s is larger than St. Peter’s. Why such structures? Cathedrals are built to inspire awe. That’s what the Vatican did to me. In medieval times, when many monumental cathedrals were built, they were meant to symbolize great faith, as well as to display the creative gifts God had given to artisans of the day.

When Cain killed his brother Abel, it was because God had rejected Cain’s offering. Why? Because Cain had not brought his best to the altar. Abel had. God wants us to give Him our best in all areas of life. He wants us to be the best believer/Christian, and the best son/daughter, brother/sister, husband/wife, father/mother, friend/coworker that we can be. The premise was the same in the Middle Ages when constructing a church. The Master Builder designed ribbed vaults, buttresses, clustered columns, ambulatories, wheel windows, spires, stained glass windows, and richly carved doors. As an artisan, you wanted to offer God the very best of your gifts and talents. As a result, still today, we are able to enjoy the beauty and splendor of some of the most magnificent buildings humans have ever constructed. 

Now, this does not make cathedrals any more holy or sacred than any humble, plain, New England Meeting House. Remember, God said He never complained about a tent. In the end, it is not about the structure. It is about the hearts of the people inside. Remember the story of the Widow’s Mite? Jesus was sitting near the collection box in the Temple watching as people dropped in their money. Many rich people were putting in large amounts. Then a poor widow came and dropped in only two small coins. Jesus remarks, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has given more than all the others who are making contributions. For they gave a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she had to live on” (Mark 12:43-44).

We do love our Meeting House and I hope you can visit someday, but remember, it is not about the amount of your offering or the size of your church. It is about giving God your very best. It is about the heart. It always has been, and it always will be. For, God also told Samuel, “People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).  

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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, July 7, 2021

A Pilgrim Funeral

I have been a congregationalist since 1989, which makes sense, I guess, as I pastor South Congregational Church. The Pilgrims who came to Plymouth in 1620. You know, the first Thanksgiving Pilgrims. They were Congregationalists too. We practice a pretty “normal” Christian faith. I believe in the Father, Son, Holy Spirit, and that the Bible is true. I believe humankind is sinful by nature. That Heaven, Hell, and Satan literally exist, and that salvation is given to us not through works but by God’s grace alone. Our Sunday worship would look very familiar to you, as would weddings, baptisms, and funerals.

Interestingly enough, what I do for a funeral service today, would be unfamiliar to pilgrims like William Brewster or Priscilla Mullins. Funerals were exceedingly simple during the first few years after the Pilgrims’ arrival in North America. There were no unique funeral rites. Normally at burials, nothing was read, nor any funeral sermon given. The community would just come together by tolling of the bell, carry the dead solemnly to the grave, and then stand by while the grave was filled back in. The ministers were most commonly just present. In fact, families or small communities often shared the same grave.

When a “pilgrim” died away from home, the burial took place wherever the death occurred. They would dig a shallow grave for the remains and then place a large flat stone on top to keep the site from being disturbed by wild animals. This stone, by the way, was called the “wolf stone.”  

I mention all this funeral talk because I officiated two funerals this past week. One in Pennsylvania, and the other here locally.

Sadly, in my twenty-four years of pastoral ministry, it seems to me the sacredness of a man and a woman becoming one before God has faded quite a bit. Most weddings nowadays have become all about the “show.” The flowers, the dress, the reception, or what we can do that might go viral on YouTube. I actually “enjoy” funerals. Please do not misunderstand. Maybe “enjoy” is not the right word. Perhaps appreciate is better.

At a funeral, people are not thinking about the reception. They are reflecting on the loved one they have lost, and perhaps even their own mortality. Even better, maybe they are considering what their eternity might be. That’s what I appreciate. Funerals make one think about what comes next. That’s why I always share the gospel at a funeral. Just to let people know. This person is in heaven, not because of any of the wonderful things you have heard that they did, but because of the one wonderful thing that Jesus did on the cross. Their faith in Christ led to their salvation, and that is why we can be sure of where they are now.

Everyone, much to the surprise of many, does not go to heaven. Only those who believe in Jesus do. After all, Jesus Himself said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father, except through me.” All faiths do not lead to salvation. All roads do not go to heaven – only one – Jesus. “No one can come to the Father, except through [Him].” 

Truth is, not even all those who proclaim to be Christian will get there. Jesus also said in the Sermon on the Mount, “Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter. On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws’” (Matthew 7:21-23). Talk is cheap. Actions are what matter. Am I truly a Christian? Has my heart been transformed? Can you find any evidence to support my claim of being a Christian?

Today at funerals, we are not silent. We talk about our loved one. The life they lived. How they blessed ours. It is a sacred time when we get to remember someone special, and maybe even ponder, “What will my future be?” Will Jesus say, “[Welcome!] Well done good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:23), or “I never knew you.” 

You see? Funerals make one think, and I do enjoy that.  

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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, June 30, 2021

Solid Food

I just returned from a week vacation visiting my first grandson up in Maine. It is an absolute joy and delight to hold him. When I could pry him out of his Gram’s arms. It was a double blessing for me as all three of my sons were together as well for the first time in several years. Jared lives in Virginia (he actually proposed to his girlfriend Stephanie – she said, “Yes,” while they were there). Jeremy is in Connecticut, and Justin (the new dad) lives in Maine. As I am holding Nova in my arms, I was having trouble remembering when my boys were that small. It’s been so long. They are all grown men now – in their thirties. It is a little weird when you recognize your children are adults. They live in their own homes. Have their own jobs, relationships, families, responsibilities, etc. It was interesting to now be the “elder statesman,” sitting more on the periphery, watching, and listening as they discussed problems and issues of the day – adding my two cents every once in a while. It was really neat watching, listening. I just smiled and said to myself, “They’re all grown up now.”

It reminded me of when Paul rebuked some believers in Hebrews 5. “You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God’s word. You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food. For someone who lives on milk is still an infant and doesn’t know how to do what is right. Solid food is for those who are mature…” (Hebrews 5:12-14a).

This is not the first time Paul used the milk to solid food analogy. He did so in 1 Corinthians as well. His point is when we were new believers (like a newborn baby) we are drinking spiritual milk. Eventually, however, we are all supposed to start eating some solid food. Have a deeper knowledge and better understanding of what it means to be an “adult Christian.” At some point, we are to move beyond Noah’s ark, David and Goliath, and all the other stories we learned in Sunday school. They are important. Don’t get me wrong, but there is so much more. How do we move from milk to solid food?

We spend time in prayer. In His Word. In church. There are so many books and devotionals we can enjoy or, if you prefer, websites, YouTube videos, podcasts, and Facebook Live broadcasts (like “Food For Thought”). We may begin our secular education in kindergarten, however, we do not stop there, right? I mean, I love Dr. Seuss, but after a time, Hop On Pop, should not be enough. After kindergarten, there are twelve more grades for us to complete. Then, even after graduation, there is still plenty of material available for us to devour in order to facilitate our continued spiritual growth.

I pray you are hungry for solid spiritual food. That you are going to church, to a Bible study, reading, praying. Look, there is no such thing as spiritual obesity. You can consume as much as you want.

I imagine God loves sitting on the periphery, watching, and listening as we discuss spiritual problems and issues of the day. Surely, He smiles and says to Himself, “They’re all grown up now.”

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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, June 16, 2021

Essence of Nard

In Mark 14, John Mark tells us the story of when Jesus visited Simon’s (a man He had healed of leprosy) home in Bethany. While He was there, His friend Mary (Lazarus’ sister) came in with a beautiful alabaster jar of expensive perfume made from nard and poured it over Jesus’ head. Why would Mary do such a thing?        

In Exodus 30, the Lord says that everything set apart for God was to be anointed. In that instance, this meant the tabernacle, the ark, the table and its instruments, the lampstand and utensils, the incense altar and main altar, and the washbasin. Aaron, the high priest, and his sons (also priests) were also to be anointed. The result was a holy place with holy furnishings, holy items of worship, and holy ministers set apart to be used by God for a special purpose.

Now, Jesus was certainly being used by God for a special purpose. In doing this, Mary is not only recognizing that God is using Jesus for divine purposes, she is declaring Him to be the Messiah. The word “Messiah” comes from the Hebrew, mashiach, and means “anointed one.” 

“Some of those” at the dinner were indignant and scolded Mary. John later tells us this was the treasurer Judas Iscariot, who says, “Why waste such expensive perfume? It could have been sold for a year’s wages and the money given to the poor!” (Mark 14:4-5) Not that Judas really cared. John reveals, “…he was a thief, and since he was in charge of the disciples’ money, he often stole some for himself” (John 12:6).

This afternoon, I am not focusing on Judas’ dishonesty (though he certainly was dishonest) or Mary’s faith (though she was certainly faithful). I want to point out the essence of nard. You see, anointing was often done using olive oil. In fact, God tells the prophet Samuel to “…fill your flask with olive oil and go to Bethlehem. Find a man named Jesse who lives there, for I have selected one of his sons to be my king” (1 Samuel 16:1) Samuel will go on to anoint the youngest son, David, as the next king of Israel. Olive oil is certainly less valuable than essence of nard, which was exorbitantly expensive. In today’s money, the amount of perfume that Mary poured over Jesus’ head would be worth $55,000! What?? Why would Mary do such a thing? Does even the dishonest treasurer, Judas, have a point here? Hey, even a blind squirrel finds a nut every once in a while. 

I believe, Mary offered her essence of nard, because that was the most valuable thing she had to give. That is what I am focusing on today. Let’s face it. The truth is all of us have too much. I’ll bet you have a junk drawer filled with stuff at your home. As comedian George Carlin once said, “A house is just a place to keep your stuff while you go out and get more stuff.” Hey, a yard sale is an admission that we have too much stuff. Of all the abundance of stuff, what should we give to the Lord? The junk in the drawer or the stuff we take out only on holidays? I don’t really have to answer that, right?

Surely, most of us are not able to offer $55,000, but that does not mean we cannot give our best to God. We can give Him the best of our love, our time, our attention, our service, our obedience, and, yes, our resources. Mary gave Jesus her best. How about you?

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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, June 9, 2021

The Fat-tailed Dwarf Lemur

Did you know that the fat-tailed dwarf lemur of Madagascar hibernates in tree holes for seven months of the year? Hibernating bears are able to recycle their proteins and urine, allowing them to stop urinating for months and to avoid muscle atrophy. I mention this because, on one level, it feels like the church has been hibernating for the past sixteen months. Now that we seem to be looking at the light at the end of the Covid tunnel, it is time to begin ramping things up once again.

It can be difficult though, can’t it? I mean, when we purchased that treadmill or started that diet, we were full of motivation and enthusiasm. Is your treadmill now covered with clothing or boxes of stuff? When is the last time you stepped onto your scale? After we pause doing something for a time, we can easily lose our motivation and slip back into old habits. Similarly, so many of us stayed home from church for the past year, or just engaged on Sunday mornings whether it was in-person or online. The church’s ministries and outreach in many cases were “hibernating.” Waiting for the appropriate length of time to pass. It is harder to get back on the treadmill a second time than it was the first. Likewise, we can sometimes get comfortable in our hibernation from ministry.

It is time to begin coming out of our caves. There is still much to be done in our church families, wider communities, and beyond. We may have hibernated, but need did not. There are still people who need to hear the gospel. People who want to be enriched, encouraged, and equipped.

I mention this because Proverbs 11:14 says, “Without wise leadership, a nation falls; there is safety in having many advisers.” Like nations, without wise leadership, ministries too will fail. People have to step up and serve. Unfortunately, too many Christians think the “other person” is going to do it. That is not always the case. I know. Truth be told, we don’t really want to clean off our treadmill, or get back on the diet, but that is the only way we will lose weight and get into shape. Similarly, there is much to be done to build God’s Kingdom. It will not build itself. Without leadership, ministries fail. 

Jesus even admits, “The harvest is great, but the workers are few” (Luke 10:2). So, whether it is teaching Sunday school, helping with Youth Group, leading a Men’s or Women’s ministry, or going on a mission. We need to carve out time to serve the Lord no differently then we need to make time to walk on the treadmill. (Can you tell my treadmill needs to be cleaned off?) Yes, it does mean we have to come out of the warmth, security, and comfort of hibernation, but we had to at some point, right? I am here to say, “The time is now, friends.” I pray you are getting ready to reengage. Don’t be a fat-tailed dwarf lemur. Step out into the light and pick up where you left off. There is work to be done. It did not go away, and God is counting on 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, June 2, 2021

I Am in “The Club”

Renée and I were blessed this past weekend with being able to drive up to Maine and meet our brand new first grandson – Nova Michael Söderberg. It was so amazing to hold Nova in our arms. Kiss him on the head. Feed him. Rock him to sleep. Just watch him. I could spend hours simply looking at what a miracle God created.

Of course, I expected to be overjoyed seeing my grandson. That goes without saying. After all, Proverbs 17:6 says, “Grandchildren are the crowning glory of the aged.” As one of the “aged,” I could not agree more. However, something else hit me that, for one reason or another, I did not expect. I love Proverbs 23:24 in The Message version of the Bible. It reads, “Parents rejoice when their children turn out well.” As I visited my son and daughter-in-law, do you know what hit me? Not that I am a grandfather, a “Papa”, but rather, that my son is a father. I always believed he would be a good one, but I was now witnessing it firsthand. It was playing out right before my eyes, and I could not have been prouder.

I was a young dad. I was twenty years-old when my oldest son Jeremy was born, twenty-two when Justin (Nova’s father) came along, and twenty-four when my youngest, Jared, arrived. I have no idea why I was in such a hurry, but I do not regret a minute of it. I was blessed growing up too. I had great parents. Nonetheless, no one can really be fully prepared or “trained” how to be a dad or mom. Not really. It is more an “on the job training” kind of a thing. I learned on the fly. I did the best I could, and, trust me, made more than my share mistakes. However, Proverbs 22:6 says, “Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it.” As I watched Justin with his newborn son, I began to feel a little better. You know what? Maybe I did okay. It is obvious Taylor’s parents did well, because she is a wonderful new mom. I really did not expect to be so moved watching my child as a new dad. It was truly awesome.

 

I have tons of pictures. Thank God, we no longer have to take photos with a camera, then bring the film cartridge to the drug store, and wait a few days for it to be developed before we can share them with everyone, huh? Hallelujah! No, I have a folder in my Dropbox account just slowly filling up. Nova is also now my screen saver on my cell phone. Yeah, I am enjoying doing all of the grandparent stuff now that I am in “the club.” Watch out for us. We will overwhelm you with photos, videos, and stories of how our grandchild is the best. It’s what grandparents do.

Even so, amidst all this excitement. More than anything else. I hope that as Justin gazes upon his new little guy, he might now have an idea of much I have loved him from the moment I held him in my arms back on May 15, 1986. Even more importantly, I pray that he realizes this is how much God loves us. God looks at each of us like I looked at Justin, and like Justin looks at Nova, and His heart is filled to overflowing. You do not have to be a father, mother, or grandparent to understand that God loves you, and wants to be with you – always. He does! That’s why He sent His Son into the world. He could not accept being eternally separated from us, so, God gave His one and only Son so that we would be forgiven of our sins and enjoy eternal life with Him in the kingdom of heaven. That is both true and truly awesome.                

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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, May 26, 2021

Thank You!

This coming weekend is Memorial Day weekend. Many Americans will head to the beach, lake, backyard for a barbecue. We will be inundated with various sales pitches on television, radio, and the internet. I will never understand what recognizing those brave men and women who sacrificed their lives in defense of liberty has to do with getting a good deal on a new mattress or SUV. Then again, I also do not know what a chubby and plump, right jolly old elf has to do with the birth of the Christ Child, or a bunny with Jesus rising from the grave. We are a funny people. 

Memorial Day is significantly different from Veteran’s Day or Armed Forces Day. Veteran’s Day is a celebration of those who have served our nation. Armed Forces Day is meant to recognize those who are currently serving. Memorial Day is more solemn. On this day, we remember those gave the ultimate sacrifice. I include Veterans who served and have now gone on to their reward. Nonetheless, it is a day to contemplate, to remember their sacrifice. 

Did you know the average age of a serviceman in WW II? Twenty-six years old. Their lives had hardly begun, and yet, they left all that they knew in order to defend freedom all over the world. Those who served in Vietnam were an average of nineteen years old. Nineteen! They cannot even legally drink in America yet, but they can fight for America. Do you know someone who is nineteen? Maybe a son or daughter. Can you imagine them crawling through jungles in Southeast Asia? 

Jesus said to the disciples at the Last Supper, “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13). That’s what Jesus did for us, and that is what more than 1.3 million Americans have done to defend us since the American Revolution. In Jesus’ case, how do we thank Him? Romans 12:1 says, “…give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice – the kind he will find acceptable.” We are to live lives in a way that glorifies and honors Him. How do we thank American soldiers, airmen, sailors, and Marines? We only ask for one day (not a lifetime). One day. So, on top of getting a great deal on a new car or flat-screen TV, pause and thank God for those who gave their lives. Pray for the families who were never able to celebrate weddings and grandchildren, because their loved ones never came home.

I will always be humbled by those who willingly put themselves in the line of fire so that I would not have to – those who served and are serving. Thank you, Lord, for raising up such men and women. However, this weekend, I want to especially recognize those who laid down their lives for this nation that I also love. 

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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.