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.