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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Give Me a "P"

The letter “P” is a very nice letter. Connect her with the right combination of other letter and she can pray, she can make promises and she can look pretty. But she can’t do it by herself.

The letter “R” is a good letter. I’m very fond of the letter “R.” I even have him monogrammed on a bathrobe. He can read, ‘rite and do ‘rithmetic if you ignore some spelling rules and hook him up with some good friends. But try to stand him alone, and there’s not much there.

What about “A”? That’s a lovely letter. It’s even stitched on my wife’s bathrobe. I wonder, how did “A” get to be the first one in line? Why not “L” or “W” or one of the others? Now, you can use “A” all by itself, but it’ll usually leave you hanging, unless it shows up on your report card. “A” what? You can’t even use it as a word by itself in Scrabble. It needs something to define. It needs help from the others.

Then there’s “I.” The letter “I” has always been a pretty self-centered letter. He thinks he’s just about it. He thinks he doesn’t need anybody else. “I can stand alone,” says I, “just me, myself and I.” But even “I” sounds pretty foolish all by himself. The other letters quickly tire of “I” and his pride, and even he realizes soon enough that he’s really doesn’t have much to say without the help of others.

Now the letter “S” can make a lot of noise and even put quite a fright into many, especially if you’re out in the garden and hear its hiss coming from somewhere around your heel. Hopefully that wouldn’t make you say another “S” word! Despite all the hissing, “S” has such a limited vocabulary.

I do like “E.” My middle initial is “E.” “E” is a very popular letter. Everyone wants to buy an “E” on Wheel of Fortune, but she can only help to solve the bigger picture puzzle. She can’t do it alone.

Letters have to work together in order to form the words we use to communicate effectively with one another. They’re not meant to stand on islands all by themselves. They belong with each other. They need each other. Only together with each other in proper spelling and grammatical relationships can they find fulfillment in their purposes.

When you take the P and the R and A and I and S and the E and join them together, you get the word “praise.” They have to be willing to come together to make such a beautiful expression.

Then they need further help from their friends to define their intentions. It takes other letters and spaces and punctuation to know whether or not “praise” wants to commend the worth of someone or something (such as the call to “Praise the Lord”), or to denote the offering of gratitude or admiration (such as “Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise”).

Do you see how they all must come together and work together in proper relationships in order to become meaningful? Isn’t that how it is with us? Don’t we need to come together and work together in proper relationships to achieve the greatest purposes for which we were created? We’re not meant to try to live on our own. We need each other.

The writer in Psalm 95 understood the joy of coming together with God’s people to offer praise to the great King above all gods, the One who created them, chose them, and formed them for His own glory. In the first two verses look at the way he issues the call to the assembly of the righteous. “Oh come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! Let us come into His presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!”

If you say you’re a follower of Christ but don’t think you need the church, let me urge to join with God’s people in worship and discover that together we’ll make a much more joyful noise, a more beautiful expression of “praise”, than you ever will alone. Together in proper relationships with each other we’ll find greater fulfillment in our purpose. See you Sunday!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Epidemic

Aaaagh! Busy week! No time to write. But found this article to be a pretty telling picture of the condition of many churches. See what you think.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Alive and Well!

One of the most intriguing verses in the Bible is Luke 24:27.

It’s resurrection day. The disciples of Jesus haven’t yet put the pieces together. All they knew was that their Teacher, their Master, their Friend – the One they had been following for the past three years, the One whom they recognized as a prophet mighty in word and deed, the One whom they had hoped would be the redeemer of Israel – was now dead.

He had been betrayed by one of His own. He had been handed over by the chief priests and rulers and condemned to die. People were saying all sorts of false things against Him. The Roman guards had beaten Him mercilessly. The soldiers and the crowds had mocked Him blasphemously.

Jesus carried His own cross through the streets of Jerusalem like a common criminal. He was nailed by His hands and feet to a rugged cross. He suffered and bled and died an excruciating death. Then His corpse was taken down and laid in a tomb.

This was what the disciples knew. It was a sucker punch to the gut. They never saw it coming. They were crushed.

“What went wrong?” they must have wondered. “This isn’t the way it was supposed to be! He was supposed to lead the charge to overthrow the Roman oppression and set Israel free! Maybe He wasn’t who we thought He was. Maybe we’ve been following the wrong guy. I guess He’s not the Messiah after all.”

“But the miracles! What about walking on the water? What about the feeding of the multitudes? What about the healings? The crippled are walking, the mute are talking, and the blind are seeing. What about Lazarus! He just had to be the One!”

“And His teachings! What about calling Himself the ‘Bread of Life,’ the ‘Light of the world,’ the ‘Good Shepherd,’ and the ‘Resurrection and the Life’? Didn’t He say, ‘I and the Father are one’? Didn’t He say, ‘The Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost?’ Didn’t He say, ‘He who believes in Me will live,’ and ‘have eternal life’? How could He not be the One sent from God?!”

And on this resurrection day further complicating the heart-wrenching situation, some women who had gone to the tomb early in the morning came back reporting that the body of Jesus was not there. They talked about a vision of angels who said that He was alive. Even some of the disciples went to check it out, and the tomb was empty, all right, but Jesus was nowhere to be found.

As two of the disciples were talking about these things on the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus, Jesus Himself drew near and engaged in conversation with them, though their eyes were kept from recognizing Him. After hearing their story, Jesus then rebuked them for being so slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken. He then launched into one of the most intriguing expositions of Scripture in history.

Oh, to have been there! If only we had a record of that message!

Luke 24:27 reads: “Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.”

Would Jesus have started at Genesis 3:15 and described how although the serpent had bruised His heel upon the cross, He had crushed Satan’s head in the resurrection? Would He have explained the picture of the Passover, how the blood of the lamb upon the doorpost saved the Israelites from death, and how the blood of the Lamb of God takes away the sins of the world and saves His followers from death and hell? Would He have taken them to Isaiah 53 and showed them how this passage pointed to Him?

Jesus could have gone to any text, any story, any Psalm or any prophet and explained to those disciples how the Scriptures testified about Him.

As He spoke the truth His words burned within their hearts, and when He opened their eyes to see Him the pieces came together and they knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that Jesus had risen indeed. They knew that His suffering and death was not the end, but the pathway to glory. Their hope was restored. Their sorrows erased. Jesus, their Savior and Lord, was alive and well!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Risen from the Dead!

If not for the resurrection of Jesus, all hope would be in vain. If not for the resurrection of Jesus, all faith would be empty. If not for the resurrection of Jesus, all labor in the Lord would be worthless.

The message that we declare hinges on the truth of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. Our only hope of eternal life in heaven rests on the fact that Jesus rose from the tomb on the third day. Those who follow Jesus put all of their eggs in this one basket. We’re investing everything we have, we’re mortgaging the house, we’re banking on this one thing: Jesus lives today and forever.

It seems many religious people want to diversify their spiritual accounts. They believe a little of this brand of Christian faith, they follow a particularly likeable teaching from an eastern religion, they buy into a percentage of new age philosophy, and leave a little room for whatever else tickles their ears. Such investments will depreciate faster than your 401(k) and leave you with absolutely nothing.

Investing your life in Jesus will pay greater rewards than anything this world could even think about offering you. The greatest riches in this life, the most magnificent mansions overlooking the ocean, the Armani suits and Italian shoes, the finest wines and the most luxurious yacht in the harbor will all pale like debris compared to the glories of dwelling in the presence of God.

The promise of heaven is as real as the air you’re breathing. This is no ponzi scheme. It’s not some multi-level marketing gimmick nor is it pie-in-the-sky wishful thinking for dreamers who lack perspective.

The reward is dwelling for eternity in the very presence of the One who loved us and gave Himself for us! Jesus says, “Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, I would have told you. I go there to prepare a place for you, and if I go and prepare a place for you I will come again and receive you to myself, that where I am there you may be also. You know the way to the place where I am going” (John 14:1-4).

One of His disciples spoke up and said, “We don’t know where you’re going, so how can we know the way?”

Jesus answered him by saying, “I am the way and the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Do you hear that message, friend? There’s one way and one way only. It’s Jesus!

Jesus endured the suffering and humiliation of the cross. He received the painful scourging at the hands of Roman soldiers and wore the crown of thorns they placed on His head in mockery. He took their taunts and spits and insults. He let them drive the nails into His hands and feet upon that wooden beam. He bled and He died for the sins of man.

Jesus, the righteous one, took the place of you and me, the unrighteous, that we might be forgiven for our sins and be saved. He bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live for righteousness. By His wounds you have been healed (1 Peter 2:24).

But death could not contain Him. Jesus was “delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God…crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was impossible for him to be held by it” (Acts 2:23-24). Are you trusting in and following the Risen One?

“I serve a risen Savior, He’s in the world today; I know that He is living, whatever men may say; I see His hand of mercy, I hear His voice of cheer, And just the time I need Him, He’s always near. He lives, He lives, Christ Jesus lives today! He walks with me and talks we me along life’s narrow way. He lives, He lives, salvation to impart! You ask me how I know He lives: He lives within my heart.”

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Following the Way

It hardly seems possible that baseball season is coming right up. I’m still enjoying March Madness! I think “madness” might be the right word, not for describing the upsets and thrills the basketball tournament brings, but rather for defining the emotional energy and investment fans pour into their teams. I’m sure my family thinks I’m mad in March.

And then you go right into baseball. The NCAA championship game will not have even tipped off before Adam Wainwright takes the hill for the Cardinals on Opening Day next Monday. The next thing you know we’re into T-ball and Khoury League – and then the summer’s almost over and school’s back in session!

I was thinking this morning about my son Tyler’s team from last year. One of his games was played at Carrier Mills. I don’t know much about the town of Carrier Mills. I know how to get there. I didn’t know where the baseball field was, however.

I knew Carrier Mills was a small town. How hard could it be to find a baseball field in a small town? So we drove to Carrier Mills and I thought maybe I’d see a sign with an arrow pointing to the park or something. It wasn’t the first time I’ve been wrong. I thought surely if I drove around a couple of blocks I’d find it pretty easily. Like I said, I’ve been wrong before, and it probably won’t be the last time.

Finally as we enjoyed the scenic route through the streets of Carrier Mills we saw the coach’s family vehicle making a turn. I quickly pulled in behind them and followed them directly to the ball fields. My wife was thinking maybe we should have followed them to begin with. I guess the scenic route didn’t do much for her. I didn’t want to be the one to let down the entire male global population and admit that I needed directions.

Yes, men, sometimes we need help to find our way. We can waste much time and burn much energy and frustrate ourselves and those around us by taking the “scenic route.” Sometimes we need to follow someone who knows where he is going.

In life’s journey – the road each of us must travel – if we ever want to make it to the destination of heaven, we need help to find our way. We will waste our precious time and burn our greatest energies by going our own way. We will find ourselves wandering aimlessly around, looking for fulfillment and meaning but never truly finding it if we think we can make it there on our own. And we will one day discover that the road we’re on is not the Road to the Final Four, but the “broad road that leads to destruction” (Mt. 7:13).

We need to follow the One who not only knows the way, but who is the Way. Jesus declared in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” Friend, this is an invitation for you to come and follow after the only One who will get you where you want to go. It is not the road of fame or fortune. It is not the way of comfort and ease. It will not earn you the applause of men nor the wealth of the world. But it leads to eternal life!

The invitation is open to anyone. Whosoever will may come. But you must come on God’s terms. That means a life devoted to following Jesus. And a life devoted to following Jesus means a life of rejection, suffering, and maybe even death. Jesus says to all: “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it” (Luke 9:23-24).

Are you trying desperately to find your way in life, but coming up empty? I’m not asking you to follow a religion or a set of rules. I’m pleading with you to follow the Son of God – Jesus! I’m asking you to turn away from sin and all of your self-efforts to be good enough, and to trust in Jesus and follow Him. I’m asking you to “Enter through the narrow gate…for the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Mt. 7:13-14).

I might still be driving around Carrier Mills today if I didn’t turn and follow the Coach, and have missed the game. Don’t miss out on life. Turn and follow Jesus!