Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Jesus makes all things new

“Need a fresh start? Jesus makes all things new.”

This message has been on our church’s sign for a couple of weeks now, and I have to say, I love this truth. I mean, who doesn’t need a fresh start from time to time? Who doesn’t wish once in a while that you could have a do-over? We all make mistakes. We all say things we wish we could unsay and do things we wish we’d never done. 

Is a fresh start even possible? 

Or maybe you need more than a fresh start. You need a complete overhaul. Life just hasn’t turned out the way you thought it would. You’ve made your fair share of bad decisions, you’ve had some things that didn’t go your way, or perhaps you’ve been a victim of horrible circumstances beyond your control. You might even be living a nightmare and simply wish you could wake up and things would be all better. 

You wonder sometimes how things could possibly get worse, but do you believe things could possibly get better? 

Dear friend, no matter what has come your way, no matter what mistakes you’ve made, no matter what troubles and turmoil you may be going through, Jesus makes all things new. And with Jesus all things are possible. 

Can you imagine a life with no tears, no pain, no sorrow and no death? Can you envision living in a place where there is no such thing as sin? Where there are no shootings to report on the evening news? No plane crashes, no Muslim terrorist attacks, no Planned Parenthood abortions? No child abuse, no starving children, no homeless families? No lying tongues, no e-mail scandals, no political campaigns? No racial hatred, no arrogance, no greed, no bitterness, no obscenities. No arthritis, no dementia, no heart disease, no cancer? 

Can you imagine a life with filled with only love and kindness and joy and peace? 

I can. I can see it as clearly as I can see the sun that Jesus makes all things new. New life. New purpose. New hope. New joy. I can see it by faith and know that day is coming. 

One of the most beautiful and glorious pictures painted for us in the Scriptures is found near the very end of Revelation. It’s a scene that reveals a new heaven and a new earth, where the former things are truly things of the past. The first heaven and the first earth have passed away, and with it the curse of sin and suffering that has infected mankind with all kinds of pain and sorrow, tragedy and death. 

And there’s a description of the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared like a bride adorned for her husband. In this place God chooses to make His dwelling place among men, to live among His very own people – those who belong to Him through Jesus Christ. 

And in this place there’s no need of the sun or the moon, for the glory of God gives it light, and the lamp is the Lamb – Christ Jesus. There is no darkness there. No more night. Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life. 

Friend, there is hope for you because Jesus makes all things new. And He will begin the work of making you into a new creation the moment you yield Him your heart. Repent of your sin and believe in Jesus for salvation. He’ll ink your name into His book of life, and you’ll start walking in newness of life. 

The message on our sign at the corner of Sangamon and 7th might change, but know that the Word of the Lord stands forever. Fresh starts start now.   

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Good thing

Last Friday my wife and I celebrated our 22nd wedding anniversary. Friend, I’m telling you by experience, God is good! When they talk about “marrying up,” they’re referring to the way God brought an angel from heaven and placed her in my arms.

When we stood before God and those assembled at College Avenue Baptist Church in Normal, IL, on August 7, 1993, we surely didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into, but we vowed to love, honor and cherish one another for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health as long as we both shall live.

As much as I wish I could say that the journey has been nothing but smooth sailing, that’s not always the case. Some days are worse than better. Some seasons of life have been poorer than richer. And sometimes sickness has prevailed over health.

Then there are days I’m just not very likeable, much less loveable. There are days I fail to honor my wife as I should. And as long as I’m being honest, I haven’t always cherished her like I promised I would.

About a year ago it was high time to clean the garage. For the record, it’s high time again. I think it’s always high time to clean the garage. I really don’t understand how a garage can completely clutter itself overnight, but I’ve seen it happen.

Amy and I were working on it together, but she’s much more organized about things than I am. Personally, I was happy with all the loose screws, assorted wrenches and all kinds of doohickeys floating around in the bottom of my toolbox. I was okay with the lawn chairs leaning up against the wall, extension cords hanging from the ceiling or old motorcycle parts cluttering the workbench. Amy, uh, not so much.

In that moment where we didn’t exactly see eye-to-eye on how thoroughly the garage should be cleaned and organized, the promise I’d made in 1993 to love, honor and cherish my wife wasn’t really materializing. As I recall, I reacted by arguing, raising a stink and saying something stupid. And when that didn’t work, I begrudgingly gave in while sporting a rotten attitude that pretty much ruined the day for everyone.

I don’t know about you, but I have this tendency to favor my own opinions and want to do things my way. But that kind of mindset doesn’t usually make for a great marriage, especially when I’m called as a Christian man to give myself up for my wife as an act of love – the way Jesus gave up His life for His bride, the church (Ephesians 5:25).

You know how the story ends, don’t you? So we cleaned and organized the garage the way my wife wanted it done (despite my little temper tantrum), and lo and behold, it turned out great. Tools were organized. Boxes were labeled. Camping supplies and automotive products were arranged neatly on shelves. Even the doohickeys found a home. And I felt like a fool for being so childish and selfish.

Do you know what’s held us together for 22 years? Do you want to know the secret to a great marriage when so many other well-meaning couples don’t make it?

Here’s my best answer. The “secret” is the glue of Christ Jesus. It’s only by the grace of God that our marriage is what it is. We can make a loving commitment to one another, but it’s because of Him that forgiveness and mercy happen in our home. It’s because of Him that serving one another in love takes place. It’s because of Him that we seek to build one another up. It’s because of Him that patience and kindness can replace envy, arrogance and rudeness. It’s because of Him that I don’t insist on my own way, become irritable or resentful (at least on my good days).

That’s love in action, made possible because Jesus holds us together. My wife truly is my “good thing” (Proverbs 18:22), and I thank God for such a gift.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

It's time to end the slaughter of abortion in America

In the land of the free and the home of the brave, in the nation whose Declaration recognizes that our Creator has given each one certain inalienable rights – foremost of which is “Life,” and in a society which upholds God’s command, “You shall not murder” (Ex. 20:13), it is unconscionable that taking the lives of babies in the womb is accepted.

America, we have been duped. Under the guise of women’s rights and freedom of choice, we have fallen for the lie that the child conceived in the mother’s womb is nothing more than fetal tissue. We have been deceived into believing that she is free to decide whether to keep the pregnancy or terminate it, like making a choice on whether to keep the gym membership or cancel it. For 42 years we have granted the legal right to abortion and have left some 55 million dead babies in our wake. 

It’s time to end the slaughter. It’s time for abortion to become absolutely, unequivocally unacceptable. It’s time to end abortion in America. 

Even if you’re not a Bible-believing Christian, you have to recognize the barbarity of what’s going on with the largest abortion provider in America, Planned Parenthood. Recent undercover videos have demonstrated the depth of depravity within this evil organization. We now know that at least some of its doctors have been harvesting and selling selected organs from the children they destroy in the womb. Apparently, they carefully crush the baby in such a way that they can still extract his or her heart, lungs and liver intact. And the cavalier manner in which they describe their grisly work has left those with a conscience in revulsion. 

We’ve got to rise up and say, “Enough!” We cannot continue to allow this bloodshed on our watch. As if the act of abortion is not an abomination already, the added atrocities committed by Planned Parenthood must compel us to stop the massacres. 

The science on the matter is settled. Life begins at conception. At conception a new DNA structure is created that’s embedded in each individual for the rest of his or her life. And consider these facts. A baby’s heart begins beating as early as 18-21 days after fertilization. Brain waves can be detected at 40 days. Within the first trimester of pregnancy the baby has defined fingers and toes, eyes, ears, mouth and nose! That doesn’t sound like a glob of immaterial tissue to me, nor has it ever to any mother who has rejoiced in the excitement of new life being formed day-by-day inside her womb. 

And not only is the science settled, the theology has long been established. In the Bible we read of the psalmist’s delight in the work of God: “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made…My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in the secret place, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them” (Psalm 139:14-16). 

To anyone who has ever had an abortion, encouraged someone to have an one, supported lawmakers who justify it or who have stood by silently while this holocaust has happened, yes, the blood is on our hands. But the gospel tells us that every sin and every stain and every trace of guilt can be washed away by the precious blood of Jesus shed on the cross of Calvary.  He is the God of forgiveness and grace, who cleanses and restores. His mercies are new every morning. By His wounds we are healed.  

Now is the time to cry out to Jesus for mercy and repent of our sin. Now is the time to pray for abortion to end. Now is the time to defend the weak and helpless – the unborn. Now is the time to use our vote and our voice to choose life.