New Person

www.bible.com/1713/2co.5.17.csb

Have you ever been the new guy? When I transferred to Harney Elementary between semesters in my first grade year, I had to say goodbye to all my old friends and try to fit in to a new group. It was challenging, especially for someone like me who doesn’t make friends easily. I was “assigned” a friend by the teacher to help me out and show me the ropes at the new place, but it wasn’t the same. I did feel very much alone. Along the way, I did make some new friends, at least people I could sit with at lunch, but have always felt like the outsider.

And then about six years later, I converted to Christianity. Not that my parents weren’t Christians, but I took more time just because I was terrified of being drowned in baptism. Luckily, I made it. But something else was “wrong”. I wasn’t the same person. Oh I had the same body, the same eyes, still wore glasses and my clothes still fit, but my person was changed. it took time for that change to take effect, as I was only 12 and I wasn’t finished growing up yet, but began to see the world differently. Church started to make more sense. I became acutely aware of my sins and sinful desires.

You see, being a new person had nothing to do with the color of my skin, but the change in my heart. I intentionally chose the image above to make this point. We have brothers and sisters in Christ whose skin color doesn’t match our own. But it isn’t about the skin. It’s about the heart. When the heart has been changed, when we become that new person, we are brothers all the same.

I guess that’s all the point I have today. Just wanted to share that with you.

Lord, help me see past the skin, past the eyes and the cloak of racism that many are trying to cover us all with. Help me as a Christian to see others as You see them, for you do not look upon the outer man, but upon the heart. Help me hear the heart of my brothers and sisters. In Your Name I pray, Amen.

Shaken

www.bible.com/1713/psa.55.22.csb

How often do you get “shook”? I have to admit it’s not often, but it does happen. I am sometimes subject to stories that curl my toes and cause me to be thankful that I have my family and my wife. I hear some stories that make me question how people can be so cruel to each other. How do people go from one day to the next without God?

But I have also heard stories about the inhumanity of a church to a person, and wonder if the institution that I serve deserves the care and nurturing I offer it. I have seen some churches that dishonor the message of grace and should not call themselves Christian, and they are usually the ones that consider themselves blameless. I just don’t understand sometimes why some people think that the church is their personal power playground and that they ought to be able to do whatever they want without consequences. Should we not at least remember that the Church belongs to God?

But that’s kind of the point to this verse, isn’t it? We ought to cast these kinds of burdens upon the Lord. We know that trusting in His solid foundation we will never be shaken. And that is where we should all be. We can and should never trust in a preacher, or a church. Those, as good as they are, are based on men. They are only as good as their trust in God goes. But when pride enters the picture, well, pride goes before destruction.

I guess I need to speak from humility this morning and remind myself that it’s not about me. It’s not about what I want, or how I want things done. I need to remind myself that this is God’s plan. This is God’s work. And God will put the men and women in the place he sees fit to accomplish His purposes. Some will appear to be greatly successful, but like a turtle on a fencepost, no one gets there because of their own greatness, but by the grace of God. If there is anyone great within the church, anyone of note, it is because God has put them there. And sometimes they need to be reminded. And yes it is a humbling thing to be a pastor.

God help me today to resist shaking by putting my trust and foundation in You. I have no more sure place to establish myself than in Your promises. Thank You Lord for Your grace, and reminding today that all that I am I am in You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Do Not Be Deceived

www.bible.com/1713/gal.6.7.csb

If there is a command is Scripture we need to heed today it is this one: “Don’t Be Deceived!” Now I could go on about reaping what you sow, but I don’t think that is as important here as the first. I certainly believe you will reap what you sow, and don’t think you won’t If you sow corruption, you will receive corruption. If you sow resentment, you will receive it back in kind. But if you sow love, grace, and encouragement, these things will also come back to you. If you sow the gospel, I can’t imagine the reward that you will receive in heaven.

But first things first. Do not be deceived, which also means, know the truth. Don’t be gullible. Don’t go with the first witness, but carefully examine all the witnesses you can before you come to an conclusion. I cannot stress this enough with the Corona Virus. We have been indundated with witnesses, both scientists, doctors, medical professionals, politicians, news pundits, etc., etc. about how best to deal with the “outbreak”. Do not be deceived. Do not be hoodwinked. Listen for truth. Coonsider that God does sometimes send these things along to chastise nations, and we have certainly been chastised as a nation. I believe families have been brought together in ways during all of this that God approves.

But I also know that this is an election year. The Democrats, despite having a field of 20 something candidates, came down to a predictable few, and those just don’t have what it takes. I’m sorry if you are a Democrat, but neither Biden nor Sanders just don’t feel presidential. What happened to the noble statesman? Why are we always talking about scandals? Where are the noble policies to motivate Americans to do better, to be better than we are, instead of all of this class conflict and racism?

Being an election year, and knowing that we have had deadly illnesses in the recent past given no more than a column in the paper, I have to wonder if we are being deliberately deceived? Just a few years ago, Ebola was in the news. Our hospital prepared for it, wrote our special protocols, and some Americans were affected by it. We did not lock down the nation. That idea never came up. Who was president at that time? President Obama.

Ebola was a far more serious and dangerous disease than Corona Virus 19, including hemorrhagic fever, a horrible term of illness, and possible death. No one mentioned lockdown. No one even talked about quarantining the nation, or closing schools or businesses. Life went on as normal.

But now we have COVID-19 (ooh scary!) and it’s like the comet is coming to destroy the earth. Are there parts of the country having a horrible time of it? Certainly. Is the entire country having an equal bad time of it. Absolutely not! Therefore you do not need to treat the whole country in the same way. Do not be deceived.

How many people have you been to talk about Jesus to since you entered quarantine? More or less? How many times have you been able to gather with believers? To fellowship and worship? Has an invisible virus kept you from an Almighty God? I hope not.

As Christians, we are to be vigilant. The Devil goes around seeking who He may devour. Without our fellow Christians and accountability, have we been as strong “alone together” as we ought to be together?

Thanks for reading. Keep your eyes open. Don’t give up.

Thank you Jesus for calling us to truth.

Ascension Day

www.bible.com/1713/act.1.9.csb

A little celebrated day on the church calendar probably deserves more attention that we give it. It’s called Ascension Day, and it is the day 40 days after Easter (Resurrection Sunday) that we remember the last day of Jesus. For forty days after His resurrection, our Lord made several appearances to His disciples, and while only a few are recorded in the final pages of the gospels, we are led to believe that there were longer visits in Galilee after the first couple of weeks. During these extended visits, we might surmise that he offered additional teaching to them, teaching which they then explained to us. For example, the sacrificial purposes of His crucifixion were probably explained to them, something which He had only touched on before. He might have explained the Scriptures to them showing them (like the disciples on the way to Emmaus) how the Old Testament and His new revelation fit together, which explains how Peter and the others so readily quoted Old Testament passages in Acts. Of course this is all speculation, because all we really know is that He spent that time with His disciples. But I have no doubt that would have been a master class of preparation for them as they were prepared to build the church on Jesus’ message and life.

For us, most of us anyway, have had to spend these 40 days in quarantine, and only this month have started to see some things open up. So I hope you all have had plenty of time preparing your heart and soul for when things open back up again. There is a sense in which the church itself is going to be reborn, rebirthed from its cocoon of stay-at-home orders and social distancing. In the coming weeks we will need to do some ascending, rising from our homes on Sunday mornings and making our way to the churches to rejoin one another in spirit and song.

My hope for you is that you have been healthy, and that you have been working on your spirit as much as your flesh. We all want to be healthy in body, but it will have been for nothing if our spirit is not also healthy. I want to encourage you, if you haven’t already, get into the word. Get into prayer. Get into a local church where you are fed. Please don’t depend solely on the dollup of truth you get in these blogs. Pursue truth. Pursue God’s Work in your life and others. Never be content with what you already know, but always be seeking.

One day I hope we all ascend to meet Him in the air. Until then, always be ready. God bless you today!

Open Door Policy

www.bible.com/1713/rev.3.20.csb

When I was in college, I stayed in the dorm. Two guys to a room, down a long hallway lined with similar doors. I felt like a sardine in a can. I hated having the door closed, because it made the confined space feel so much smaller, so I left the door open as much as possible. I liked being able to see who was walking past, just to let me know that my world was a little bigger.

I still like to keep the door open. I like my privacy, but I like feeling part of that larger world, that I am not alone. It also reminds me that if I even think about being up to no good, someone could walk in at any moment. And that keeps me safe, knowing that I am accountable to others for my behavior. A lot of bad things happen behind closed doors.

So when Jesus comes and knocks on the door, what do you do? Inherent in the question is that the door is closed. As good a person as I may be, there are some things I don’t want Jesus to find. Like unexpected visitors, you have to quickly clean and hide stuff to allow them inside. I don’t keep the cleanest of houses, and there’s always something that needs cleaning. To have an unexpected visitor drop by is challenging. To have Jesus knock on the door is downright terrifying.

But knock He does. Behind your closed door, what do you do? Do you tell Him to come back later when you have time? Do you tell Him to wait a minute while you get your life cleaned up so He has a place to sit? Do you crack the door open and ask Him, “What do you want?” Do you let Him in?

Because Jesus walks in, He will not be content to stay in your front room. He will want not only to clean, but also make improvements. He will want to see every room in the house, including the closets. Jesus is a carpenter. He will be taking your measure. He has plans for your house than you cannot imagine. But only if you let Him in.

Jesus I hear you knocking at my door. I know that opening at door and letting You in will change my life. Help me have the courage to open. I need you in my house. In Your Name, Amen.

Ashamed

www.bible.com/1713/rom.1.16.csb

What does shame look like? Is shame quiet in the face of mocking and persecution? Is it going along with a joke when it is convenient? Or is it quietly agreeing with someone mocking our Savior because you can’t or you won’t disagree? Have you ever been ashamed to share the gospel?

I know I’ve been in those situations. It is uncomfortable, not only because its awkward, but because this verse is running through your mind. It is one feeling I hate, I dread, because it happens just often enough to remind me of who I am supposed to be.

Yes there are times I feel bullied, and feel I have to shut up lest I endure mocking and ridicule I don’t think anyone enjoys that. I freely admit that I have been less that I should be. Often. And yes, there have been times I have been ashamed to speak His name. My only prayer is that the Lord will understand my circumstances and forgive me.

Thanks for reading today.

Dwell Richly

www.bible.com/1713/col.3.16.csb

What do you do to get your worship groove on? Some folks like to put on worship music on their radio or their music player. Other folks like to open up a hymnal and sing with abandon. But let us not forget that other great style of worship, singing together.

What most seem to forget when it comes to the biblical instruction for worship is that it is to be done together with other believers. This is usually where we run into problems. Whereas you and I have our preferences as to the type of worship we enjoy individually, it gets a little tiresome to have to sing with others who do not share your worship style. For myself, I’m all for singing together with others, as long as it is songs that I am familiar with. But where I attend, that is usually not the case. I will grumble I suppose, since our worship team is dedicated to the idea of singing a new song every week. Now I suppose that if I listen to Christian music radio more than I do, I probably would hear all the latest from Hlllsong and Elevation worship which our church favors. But who has time for that? I have always believed that you should always a mix of new and old, familiar and new. That way everyone can worship at least once.

I also believe you ought to sing as much as you teach. For everyone, this is probably the one time all week we will all get together and worship. If so, then it ought to include songs we can all sing. This may mean singing the same song every week or every few weeks just to get everyone on the same page. The more we can sing together, the more we can worship together. And that’s kind of the point regardless of how old or young your congregation is.

I may just be set in my ways, but there are good ways and bad ways to put together a worship service. Just my two cents.