Sunday, May 24, 2015

STICKS AND STONES

SO GOES THE LIE: “Sticks and Stones can Break My Bones, but Words Can Never Hurt Me.”  In reality, the little ditty should be, “Sticks and Stones Can Break My Bones and Words can Really Kill Me . . . over and over and over!”

Let’s be honest, the hurtful things that people say to us, even in jest, can stick with us long after they first passed through our ears and penetrated our hearts. In fact, some of those words can last a lifetime. The bruises and breaks that come from sticks and stones may last awhile, but the cutting knives of hurtful words can pierce the soul leaving scars which forever mark us. Yes, we can learn to live with these scars, but they seem to be there as a constant reminder.

Words are powerful. They can hurt. They can heal. Therefore, let us choose wisely how we will speak to each other.  Consider God’s Word to each of us as we seek to live in community.

Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. (Colossians 4:6)

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. (Ephesians 4:29-32)

And finally,


Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. . . . Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 5:1-2, 18-20)

Sunday, May 17, 2015

THE COST OF COMMITMENT

BEING A CHRISTIAN IN AMERICA carries very little cost. But it should! Considering the cost that our Lord and Savior paid for us upon the cross our commitment should be high.

This week I read a blog post from Greg Strand (Director of Biblical Theology and Credentialing, for the Evangelical Free Church of America) and I was greatly convicted by what he wrote about the cost of commitment, specifically referring to the high cost involved for those who are willing to be baptized into Christ’s Church located in Asia.

Our greatest fear in getting baptized revolves around embarrassment of standing dripping wet in front of a large gathering and mumbling out some word about our belief in, and desire to, follow Jesus. Not a high cost factor, if you ask me. But think of our brothers and sisters in Asia and consider what Strand writes.

A Christian missions agency in South Asia, listed a series of questions that church leaders must ask new believers who are considering baptism. These are the seven questions asked to help determine a new convert’s readiness to follow Christ:
1. Are you willing to leave home and lose the blessing of your father?
2. Are you willing to lose your job?
3. Are you willing to go to the village and those who persecute you, forgive them, and share the love of Christ with them?
4. Are you willing to give an offering to the Lord?
5. Are you willing to be beaten rather than deny your faith?
6. Are you willing to go to prison?
7. Are you willing to die for Jesus?

“If the new convert answers yes to all of these questions, then leaders invite that person to sign on the bottom of the paper that of their own free will they have decided to follow Jesus. But here’s the risk: if a new convert signs the paper and is caught by the government, he or she will spend three years behind bars. The one who did the evangelizing faces six years in prison. If you were being baptized, would you sign? If you were the pastor, would you perform the baptism? Would you consider it a joy and privilege to do so?”

Now, that’s paying a high cost of commitment.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

THE HOLY SPIRIT IN THE FLESH

THE OLDER I GET the more I am convinced that my mom (many moms for that matter) had a special relationship with the Holy Spirit. Just as He knows all about me and what I am up to at all times, so did my mom. Just as the Holy Spirit both convicts of sin and comforts the sinner, thus it was true for my mom. And just as there are times when I can feel the Holy Spirit’s presence and I can see His work in me, so it is with my mom. Not that she is in some way looking down from heaven and directing my steps, but rather her many years of work and prayers are still at work in me.

My mom was not perfect and I have not met a perfect mother yet. (Except for my wife and the mother of my children, of course. A man has to eat!) But the truth of the matter is that my mom, and many of the moms I have known and even called “mom,” were always at the work of seeking to ensure perfection in their children and their homes. Sure, they failed often, (they are not the Holy Spirit in the flesh) but they often sought to give their best even at great cost to themselves.

Therefore, on this hallmark of a day called Mother’s Day, I would like to offer this blessing to all the moms and those who stand in the place of moms to kids in need of a mother’s love:

Gracious Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
I beseech that You would bless the mothers of this world
as they seek to care for those You have entrusted to them.
May You grant them;
wisdom as they guide,
strength as they serve,
compassion as they care,
and courage as they protect their children.
May they know Your power, peace, protection,
and most of all, Your great love.
Amen!



Sunday, May 03, 2015

SPEAK TRUTH! LOVE WELL!

BEAUTIFULLY SCRIPTED on the back wall of the Sanctuary are two phrases; “Speak Truth. Love Well.”  This is not the new Vision or Mission Statement for our church, but the reminder of how our lives are to be lived within community. Whether that community is inside or outside the walls of Felton Bible Church.

I was first introduced to these two phrases while watching the weekly video podcast, The Table presented by the Hendricks Center at Dallas Theological Seminary. Their phrase reads; “Teach Truth. Love Well,” and is more fitting for the seminary setting. When I first read the words I thought how important they were to the work of shepherding God’s people. As a pastor, I am called to teach God’s truth well, (2 Timothy 2:15) and to love God’s people well, as exemplified in and though the life of Jesus Christ. (John 13:34; John 15). As I further contemplated the phrase I realized that this is the call to the church as a whole.  I all of our lives we are called to speak God’s truth in the midst of loving all people well.

This, of course, requires some preparatory work on our part, first, knowing the truth of God well enough to speak it out. We do not have to wait until we know it perfectly, we are called to speak that which we know and to continue to grow in His Word so that we shall move from spiritual breast-fed infants to spiritual adults able to feast upon the banquet of God’s Word. (1 Peter 2:2, 1 Corinthians 3, 2 Timothy 3:14, Hebrews 5:11-15)

Second, we must love as we have been loved by Christ, which includes of course forgiving as we have been forgiven. (Matthew 6:9-15, 2 Corinthians 5:17-21, John 13:34; John 15

Both these phrases work in tandem with each other for we cannot love well without speaking the truth, and we cannot speak truth without loving well. Therefore, my challenge to all of us as we leave the sanctuary each morning that we rededicate the sanctuary of God within us to speak truth and to love well to the praise of God’s glory and the furtherance of His Kingdom.


May these four words become both our invocation and benediction, to draw us in to worship and to lead us out to service.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

STICKINESS

OUR YARD IS FULL OF FORGET-ME-NOTS. And I mean FULL! Each spring brings my wife back into her garden to weed and trim and to simply enjoy being outside in the midst of God’s beautiful and bountiful creation. And every time she is working out in garden in the early spring she does her best to help in the spreading of more Forget-Me-Nots. It’s not that she tries to, it’s just that Forget-Me-Not seeds seem to have a knack for jumping off the plant and sticking to any bit a clothing that it can find.

The removal of the fuzzy little Velcro-type seeds becomes a spring-time ritual at our home. I am sure Linda is responsible for plant redistribution for the entire Forget-Me-Not population in our neighborhood, if not for the larger general area! It’s not that she’s trying to be the Johnny Appleseed for the propagation of Forget-Me-Nots, it just happens.

There’s of course a Gospel lesson here for each of us.  The spreading of the Good News about Jesus Christ and His sacrificial, sin-atoning death and resurrection, should be as natural for us as moving the seeds of the Forget-Me-Not. The seed of the Gospel must be on us, often unnoticed, but ready to be dropped when the timing and soil is right. In fact, when it comes to those sticky little seeds, they seem to have a mind of their own. You don’t even have to worry so much about planting them, if you have them stuck to you the planting just happens.

So, do you have the Good News, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, stuck on you? Those seeds can only attach themselves as you are spending time in the Garden of God’s Word, on your knees in prayer, seeking to remove any weeds of sin, trimming back the overgrowth of wasteful activities, and just learning to lay back and enjoy the beauty of God’s recreation in you through His Holy Spirit.

I guarantee that if you spend that kind of time in the presence of God’s Garden, those loving seeds of His Gospel will attach themselves to you, ready to find the fertile soil in which to plant and grow and multiply.

Be sure to take some Garden time today and enjoy the beauty of the Lord!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

WORKING FOR JUSTICE

DEAR BLOG READERS. 

Please take 20 minutes to watch this video with Gary Haugen of the International Justice Mission.  It is filled with sad news and good news, with great needs but also great hope.  Maybe you'll be led to pray, to give, to act. 

As Gary continually reminds us, it's all about COMPASSION.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

UPHILL THEOLOGY

AS THE SAYING GOES, “IT’S AN UPHILL BATTLE!” Why must it always be so? Well, I guess for one thing walking uphill is hard work. Walking uphill, especially on a steep grade, is more difficult than a lazy stroll around the duff-covered nature trail at Henry Cowell State Park, or a walk in the wind along West Cliff Drive.  However, sometimes getting to the top provides a great view and the climb is worth the effort.

Ah, there’s the rub; is this sweaty uphill trudge worth the effort? What if I get to the top of the mountain and there’s nothing to see, or worse, what if what I see is more mountain?! We really don’t know if the effort will be worth it all . . . unless, we’ve been this way before, or if we trust the encouragement of the person who told us it would be worth it once we made it to the top.

Our walk with Jesus Christ is more often than not a tough journey. He seems to have a thing for wilderness walks (Matthew 4:1-11), stormy seas (Matthew 8:23-27), mountaintop meetings (Matthew 17:1-9), and mid-night darkened gardens (Matthew 26:26-46).

But, here is the good news; in all of these uphill battles, Jesus is there with us. Yes, I realize that it may seem like you’re all alone and that he has left you to face this aspect of the journey on your own, but the reality is that He IS WITH you!  He is not only Immanuel, God with us, but He is also the One who declared, in both the Old and New Testament (Deuteronomy 31:8; John 14:15-18) that He would never leave us or forsake us, He would be with us always, wherever the journey takes us.


Therefore, if you find yourself traveling one of those unpleasant places, take heart you do not travel alone. God, the Almighty, is at your side! (Psalm 118:5-9) And if God is leading you on the journey, it’s always worth it.