This Old House

We invested time, money, and sweat equity there. It represented memories, a chapter in our lives, and all the ups and downs that go with that chapter.

Billie Sue and I both get a melancholy feeling when we go back from time to time to make sure its clean for the realtor to show it to prospective buyers. It represents sixteen years of our lives.

We sometimes reflect on leaving our house in Benton to move to our current house in the Village. But our three-year-old grandkids, Molly, Maggie, and Asher, punched us with perspective!

Guess how many times they mentioned missing the old house they used to visit? Guess how many times they said they wished they could go back there?

Zero!

They haven’t missed it at all! They came at Christmas and this past weekend and they just wanted Gram and PawPa’s lap. They wanted to play with Gram and PawPa. They wanted to go fishing with PawPa. They wanted to go for walks with US!

It didn’t matter what house we were in. They wanted to be with US. What a joy that brings to a grandma’ and grandpa’s heart to have their warm bodies close and happy to be with US, not a house.

The number one, most mentioned, topic in the Bible shows up thousands of times. The New Testament uses three Greek words translated by this one English word.

  • Eros refers to marital or sexual passion. We get our English word erotic from it.
  • Phileo refers to friendship or family cohesion. The name Philadelphia finds its root here.
  • Agape refers to an ultimate, sacrificial commitment.

It is this third word, agape, John uses here for love:

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world – the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and the pride of life – is not from the Father but is from the world. 1 John 2:15-16 ESV

As a grandparent I would be broken-hearted if my grands wanted our old house more than they wanted our laps! Maybe that’s an inkling of what God is trying to say to us in this verse.

Do you think God is broken-hearted when we love this world instead of loving Him? It is not about where we are but Who we are with!

Our Father, forgive us for loving this old world instead of loving You. We have broken Your heart when we have loved this old house instead of loving your lap. We commit  today to loving Your Presence instead loving this world and its stuff.

Crunching the Numbers

Why would a large crowd keep showing up? I believe people will not tolerate long the “guilt-trip.” A large crowd will keep showing up because there’s something really good that draws them.

It is easier pulling a rope than pushing a rope. That’s an odd mental picture, huh? “Guilt-tripping” people is like trying to push a rope.

People flock to a challenge, a vision, or goal which is valuable to them. That’s like pulling a rope.

Ministry leaders, like me, often evaluate what we do by the numbers. Over 500 people attended our Christmas music presentation in the two services! Good job choir, Bro. Jim, musicians, and media techs!

Generous people knocked the top out of our $25,000 goal to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions and gave almost $39,000! Our international missionaries, numbering over 4,000, sacrifice to stay on the field in other countries to share the gospel. You spoke loudly with this great offering to keep them there and send more!

I like numbers. In high school I took every math class offered: Algebra I and II, Geometry, and Advanced Math. There’s something about crunching cold hard numbers I liked.

Jesus attracted some very large crowds. On one occasion he fed 5,000 men.  Assuming women and children were there too, the number could have been twice that!

I like numbers. Hey, there’s a book in the Bible called “Numbers.” Every number represents a person who God loves and Jesus died to save. Numbers serve a purpose.

So I’m amazed at what Jesus does when a large crowd shows up. Instead of giving away a free bicycle to the one who brings the most friends to the next meeting, look what He does:

And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. Mark 8:34-35

Jesus did not come just to attract a crowd. He came to transform lives. He did not come to entertain adoring fans. He came to die a horrible death for sinful people.

Then, He invites us to die too! I imagine when he equated following Him to a Roman crucifixion, the crowd got smaller.

William Carey, the cobbler who became a great Baptist missionary to India said,

The worth of souls, the pleasure of the work itself, and above all the increase of the redeemer’s kingdom are with me motives sufficient, and more than sufficient to determine me to die in the work that I have undertaken.”

Our Father, Your total sacrifice for us through Your Son Jesus Christ keeps us in awe! Lord we lay our lives on the cross with you. Use us for your will and purpose.

No Worries

I held my three-month-old granddaughter yesterday afternoon while she slept for about an hour and a half.

There is something special about holding a baby. The warmth of her body against by chest felt so peaceful.

She had no worries. She had no frets. She had no critics. She had no bills to pay. She had no meetings to attend.

Who knows what she will become, whom she will influence, or how she will live her life.

But it is even more amazing that the baby Mary held that first Christmas came with such an important agenda for His life!

She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins. Matthew 1:21

The name Jesus simply means “he saves.” And indeed he does! Each year we celebrate the sacred and holy birth of the Son of God, our Savior and Lord.

It is so difficult to comprehend all the implications of that birth!

  • The God of the universe became one of us!
  • God wants a personal relationship with each of us!
  • He came specifically to die as the perfect sacrifice for sinners’ sins.
  • He and the Father are one, if you know the Son, you also know the Father.
  • He came to bring God’s peace and grace to those who will believe and receive Him.
  • We really don’t have to be anxious about anything.
  • … and the list could go on and on.

Oh, to be a little child again with no worries, frets, or pressures. Oh, that’s right, I can, I MUST become like a child in order to trust Him. Pray and relax in Him. Don’t worry, be anxious, or fret.

If God can send a baby to perfectly accomplish such an agenda as saving the world from sin, surely he can handle my little worry too!

Merry Christmas!

Our Father, thank-you for Jesus! Thank-you for what Christmas really means. Thank-you for saving us.

I Don’t Like Talking about It

I often get overwhelmed and depressed. There, I said it. I didn’t want to say it. I don’t like talking about my weaknesses.

I fall into the trap that many other pastors do. We often feel we must appear to have it all together all the time.

We don’t have it all together all the time! But you already knew that, didn’t you!?

I would rather talk about my spiritual gift inventory that reveals the strengths of teaching and encouragement. I would rather point to (brag about) the things I’m “good at.”

I regularly pray rebuking these spiritual attacks attempting to defeat me.  I ask often that these feelings of inadequacy and depression be covered by the blood of Jesus. In Jesus’ name I tell Satan to get behind me and out of my life. I use memorized verses to replace the thoughts that want to tear me down.

Why can I be honest about something I really want to pretend doesn’t exist? Because the apostle Paul with all of his strengths, letters he wrote, sermons he preached, churches he started, and mission trips led did the same thing!!!!

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 2 Corinthians 12:9 ESV

Admitting my weaknesses helps me realize that the grace of Jesus Christ is enough for me!

Being honest about my humanity helps me see His power at work in my weaknesses!

Only by admitting my weaknesses can the power of Christ truly rest upon me!

Jesus did not suddenly appear on eath as a victorious, conquering King. He revealed himself in weakness. He came as a helpless baby dependent on his mother. Even in Christmas we celebrate power revealed in weakness!

Since the Son of God became weak to show God’s great power and love, how much more must we follow in His steps!

Our Father, we are weak, dysfunctional, and damaged in many ways. THANK-YOU that Your grace is enough for us, Your power is perfected in our weaknesses, and the power of Christ rests upon us in spite of ourselves. We admit to You our many weaknesses so that today Your power will shine brightly through us. Thank-you for the constant presence of Jesus in us who makes this possible.

You Have an Appointment

“Honey, I made my favorite thing for dinner tonight!”

“Oh really,” he replied quizzically, “what’s that?”

She replies, “Reservations!”

Last week my parents asked me to go with them to his appointment at the U.A.M.S. Reynolds Institute on Aging. Memory loss issues runs in the family as they near their 80s. My Dad is no exception. I went with my Mom and Dad to help negotiate the morning traffic, construction, and the U.A.M.S. complex of buildings.

Every fall I get a physical. Every six months I get my teeth cleaned and checked.

Appointments, we look forward to some and others we don’t.

But there’s one appointment everyone has and no one will miss it. It is an appointment made by God himself.

And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.  Hebrews 9:27-28 ESV

Our Father and Creator has provided everything we need so we can be ready for this appointment. We celebrate the first coming of Christ at Christmas. Christ will come a second time for those who are eagerly waiting for this appointment to arrive.

The first time Christ came he dealt with sin once for all. He is the total and complete sacrifice needed for sin. The Old Testament sacrificial system required sacrifices to be done over and over and over again.

It sounds gruesome to some, but I’m actually looking forward to dying. No, I’m not in a hurry to leave this earth. But as the writer of Hebrews says it, I am “eagerly waiting for him.”

That’s an appointment I look forward to keeping. I rejoice that my name is written in heaven. What a day of rejoicing that will be!

At the same time we wait with tears. We all have those we love and know who ignore the fact that they even have an appointment with God.

Reality check: “It is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment.”

EVERYONE will keep this appointment!

Pray urgently this Christmas for those who need to know Jesus as their Savior. Witness as the opportunities arise. Pray for our International Missionaries, over 4,000 of them scattered around this globe, that their sharing of the gospel will be successful!

Give a generous, sacrificial amount to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering this year. My challenge is to think in terms of giving your largest Christmas gift to this offering. How much did  you spend on your most expensive gift this year? Give at least one dollar more to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions!

Our Father, thank-you for sending Jesus to be the perfect sacrifice for our sin. Thank-you for the salvation that will be fully revealed on that day we stand before you. We urgently request that our friends, grandchildren, children, neighbors, and acquaintances come under the deep conviction of your Holy Spirit of their urgent need for a Savior. 

 

Nose Prints on the Window

Everyone pressed toward the window to get a peek. The two dozen people had waited for quite a while. A tangible excitement filled the room.

Grandmothers, Grandfathers, Great-grandparents, Aunts, Uncles, Cousins, and friends gathered for the event in Hot Springs. Then there she was! The first grandchild on both sides of the family and first great-grandchild too!

Our son dressed in scrubs and mask held her up to the window proudly. Eventually he handed her off to the nurse to do those newborn things.

What added to the suspense, our son and daughter-in-law had decided not to tell us her name until after she was born.

We saw our son ask the nurse for something. They left the nursery. He came back in with a plain white piece of paper and held it up to the glass.

Quickly-printed big letters spelled, ‘MOLLY MAE.’ An audible joy filled the hallway knowing her name for the first time.

Even with the advanced medical technology and understanding we have of a developing baby in the womb, the birth of a baby is still an extraordinary event!

Just as you cannot understand the path of the wind or the mystery of a tiny baby growing in its mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the activity of God who does all things. Ecclesiastes 11:5 NLT

I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Psalm 139:14

As you celebrate Christmas this year, remember how amazing this birth is. He is God’s Son conceived in the virgin Mary by the Holy Spirit. “Ooohs” and “Aaahs” are appropriate.

As amazing as any birth is, the birth of the Son of God is even more amazing!

Bethlehem overflowing with those coming for the Roman census afforded little privacy. Born in a place animals rested. A feed trough served as a baby bed. The birth announcement was a sky full of angels. Just some local blue-collar workers out taking care of some sheep pressed their noses to the window that night.

And the Father did all of this knowing full well His perfect Son would be the perfect sacrifice for a world full of sinners – us!!! Oh, and his name, the name that is above all names, “JESUS!”

Press your noses against glass with a fresh amazement this Christmas!

Our Father, we “Oooh” and “Aaah” at the amazing grace you shared with us at the birth of Jesus. We thank-you and praise you!

 

A New Whiz-bang-whatchamadoodle!

“Look what I got for Christmas!” she exclaimed. “See my new smart phone.  See my new coat.  See my new whiz-bang-whatchamadoddle!”

The new gizmo excited her so she wanted to tell her friends. Or was she bragging because her stuff cost more than their stuff?

Does receiving a gift give us the right to brag? After all, these are gifts. Gifts are given whether you deserve them or not. Right?

Or does the receiving of the gift depend on whether you’ve been “naughty or nice” as the famous song goes. The implication is that if you are nice, then you get gifts, but if you are naughty, you don’t get gifts.

Our Christmas traditions of Santa Claus are fun with our kids and grandkids, but really work just the opposite of the gospel.

The gospel says we’ve all been naughty, no one is nice. We are so naughty we deserve the worst of punishments. We have all disobeyed with a rebellious heart the loving Creator and holy God of the universe!

So the true Christmas meaning is that the Son of God was born to become God’s GIFT of salvation and forgiveness.

We are totally undeserving. There’s nothing we can do to earn this gift. We don’t get it by being nice.

It is a gift in the truest sense of the word. Only by a pure act of God’s grace do we receive this gift of salvation.

God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.  Ephesians 2:8-9 NLT

For by grace you have been saved through faith and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. Ephesians 2:8-9 NKJV

Our Father, our appreciation for sending your Son Jesus on that first Christmas cannot be expressed fully by our words. So look into our hearts and see the humble gratitude for the greatest gift of all. We praise you and you alone for providing what we did not deserve and could not provide for ourselves.