Let’s Not Lose Heart

Last week I planted a Mountain Laurel in the back yard. I have been wanting to plant something like that for quite a while but I kept holding off. We used to have some very nice Hearty Bottle Brush shrubs/trees which bloomed with beautiful red flowers starting in the spring and lasting late into the fall. Not only were they pretty, but they were a great attraction for hummingbirds, finches, and butterflies. But thanks to “Snow-mageddon” in 2022 and the “Great Ice Apocalypse of 2023” – those shrubs and some other plants died long ago. Every time I thought about planting something else, I remembered how much work it was having to remove those dead shrubs, and I remembered other times when ice storms or wind storms resulted in some heavy limbs falling onto the fence and breaking several pickets. And as beautiful as those shrubs were, and as much as I enjoyed the birds and the butterflies, I still thought, “Uggh, why bother?” It just didn’t seem worth the effort.

And that is where my mind was, until I read Galatians chapter 6 as part of a daily devotional. Paul writes to the church about the blessing of bearing the burdens of others and bearing with others and doing good. And in verse 9 Paul says,

Gal 6:9 Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. 10 So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.

I think too many times in life when we get let down by a relationship or we do something good and it seems to backfire, it can be easy to become discouraged. And if we let ourselves dwell on those negative outcomes, we can come to the place where we think, “Why bother?” And in our discouragement, we stop planting, we stop reaching out, we stop connecting and we stop doing good. We lose heart. It is God’s desire that we not lose heart or live in a state of discouragement. God desires that His people would continue to do good; continue to do that which is right, and continue to demonstrate love to others. We are called to be a people of trust and a people of hope. We are to plant, to build, to do good, and connect with others, even though there is a chance that a storm may come and seemingly undo all that we have done. And though the storms may come, we are not to lose heart, we are promised that “in due time, we will reap if we do not grow weary.”

Posted in can't go on, Choose to be happy, Christianity, Church, diligence, Don't give up, Encouragement, faith, Faith during hard times, Galatians 6:9 | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why Do Christians Celebrate Easter?

Some thoughts on this Good Friday…

The last couple of weeks, I have had more than a few people ask me, “Why do Christians celebrate Easter?” And generally, I start off by saying that this is the season we celebrate the central doctrine and the central figure in our Christian faith, Jesus Christ. In our faith community, we recognize that everyone sins – all of us.  And our sin separates us from our Creator God who is holy and righteous. Because He is holy and righteous, sin must be judged. The judgment, the penalty for our sin is spiritual death. But God who is holy, is also loving. He is compassionate, and merciful. Our Creator created us for fellowship with Him and He desires that we be reconciled to Him, that we be restored, and born again to new life. God made a way for that to happen through His Only Begotten Son Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ is God-incarnate; that is to say, God became flesh, became a man and dwelt among us.  Christ, left His glory in Heaven, was born of a virgin, lived a holy and sinless life, and laid down His life on the cross. Jesus Christ paid the penalty for our sin. He died for us, in our place. He was crucified, He was dead and buried, and He rose again on the third day according to the scriptures. At Easter time, we commemorate the fact that Christ died for us and rose again. We celebrate the fact that Christ demonstrated His victory over sin and death and that He offers that victory to us! He offers forgiveness, salvation, and eternal life to us as a free gift.  As Christians, we celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, our Savior, and our Redeemer.

Posted in 1 Corinthians 15:57, Christianity, Church, Easter, forgiveness, God loves you, God's Grace, Good Friday | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Walk Like a Saint

The Bible describes Christians as saints,
What an inspirational and yet intimidating name;
It is given to all who have trusted Christ,
It applies to all just the same.

Sanctified and set apart,
We’ve been forgiven and set free,
Every day we have a choice,
To walk like the saints we’ve been called to be.

We are empowered to do mighty things,
Things that would make others faint.
As you go about your day today,
Remember who you are – God has called you a saint!

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Become a Fighter

This week I have been preparing for a memorial service for a friend. My friend and I often talked about the joy he experienced during his youth while training as a boxer. My friend was a fighter and like anyone you might describe as a fighter, there were times when he got into some fights that he should have avoided. I don’t know about you, but I can relate to that. It serves to remind me that while it can be good to have a fighting spirit, it’s important to channel that spirit and fight the good fight and not get suckered into some contest that is unworthy of our effort and our energy or our convictions and our calling.  I like the encouragement the Apostle Paul gave to a young minister in 1 Timothy 6:12,

1 Tim 6:12 Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called…

This week, I pray that you would continue to fight the good fight of faith. I pray that you would let the Lord lead you and guide you in every contest, every struggle, and every potential battle that may come your way. And if you have been knocked down, I pray that you will let the Lord give you the strength, the will, and the courage to get back up again.  Here is a poem that I have been working on for my friend:

Become a Fighter

One does not become a fighter,
By throwing punches in a ring under the lights.
One becomes a fighter,
By training every morning and sparring late into the night.

And a fighter does not become a champion
Just because they always win.
A fighter becomes a champion
By getting up off the canvas, time and time again.

So, seek to become a fighter,
Bravely facing the problems and challenges of every day.
And you’ll become a champion,
By pushing through any obstacle that life may send your way.

Blessings to you, my friend. I hope that you have a great week. I pray that you will experience God’s peace and His direction every single day. I pray that you know how much the Lord loves you.

Posted in 1 Timothy 6:12, Be Prepared, Christianity, Church, doing the right thing, Don't give up, faith, Fight the good fight, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Numbering Our Days and Gaining Wisdom

I was talked to a lady at the hospital one time who was telling me what it was like to be over 90 years old. She told me, “I’ve been around a long time. You can be 93 looking to turn 94 but there ain’t much future in it. You’ve already done most of the things you’re gonna do. That’s why us old people, our minds live in the past so much. We will never go on cruises again or take vacations. All you can do is tell stories…hopefully you will have somebody around who wants to listen to those stories.” You can bet I sat around for a good while listening to her stories. She shared freely and openly about the battles and the blessings, and the hopes and heartaches that she has endured throughout the years. She had some good stories to tell and I was blessed by the time we spent together.

Her initial statement about there not being a lot of future in “being 93 looking to turn 94” reminded of the prayer of Moses in Psalm 90:12 where he says, “Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” As that psalm points out, our time is fleeting and it is wise to cherish the time we have. We should view each day as an opportunity to make a good story, maybe a new story. Maybe part of that good story will be taking the time to stop and listen to a story that someone else has to share. Yes, we would surely be blessed by prayerfully asking God to teach us to number our days.

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According to Your Unfailing Love

This week, someone asked me if I could visit with them about a handout they received which quoted some words from Psalm 51. We opened a Bible and looked at the verses together. I explained this psalm was written by David and it records his thoughts as he went to the Lord in repentance for some terrible sins he had committed, sins for which he felt great remorse and shame. As we discussed David’s words, we talked about the fact that everyone has sinned, everyone has done wrong things, and for that reason, many people live with a heavy sense of guilt and shame. That seems to describe how David was feeling after he was confronted with his sin by Nathan the prophet. David feels horrible about what he has done, he keeps beating himself up, and finally David goes to the Lord in prayer and entreats the Lord to forgive him, to wash away his sin, to cleanse him of his unrighteousness and restore the joy of his salvation. David trusts that God will answer that prayer. I believe it is a prayer the Lord always answers.

After several minutes of us sharing our thoughts on this passage, they pointed back to verse one where David speaks of “God’s unfailing love.” They began to weep and proclaimed, “I know what this means. I’ve done some things that I’m not proud of too…but God still loves me. God still loves me!” It was a beautiful moment. It was such a blessing to be present as God restored the joy of someone’s salvation.

I hope that you have experienced the joy of His salvation.  And I hope that you cling to it tightly and forever embrace God’s unfailing love.

Posted in Christianity, Draw close to God, faith, forgiveness, God loves you, guilt and shame | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Let Others Help

The recent ice storm was not very kind to my trees. In fact, it was brutal. The freezing rain we endured several days in a row covered every branch and every leaf and just kept building and building through the week. Finally, the branches started snapping. One branch bigger than my leg gave way and blocked the driveway from one side to another. As I looked at that mess, I wondered how long it would take to get it cleaned up with my little pruning saw. The task seemed overwhelming. But as I started working on sorting things out, my neighbor came over with his chain saw and offered to help. I hemmed and hawed a little bit, professing that I could take care of it all by myself. He persisted, “Please, I don’t mind.” I finally relented and let him help. It was the best decision I made all week. Working together, we got things cleaned up pretty quick. I noticed the same thing going on throughout my neighborhood this week; there were many broken limbs and yes, many neighbors helping each other.

As I reflected on all the tree limbs which were broken by ice storm, I thought about how far too often, we are weighted down by the stresses and struggles of life. We keep trying to hold up, we keep trying to bear the weight, but it seems to build and build and eventually, it can become too much. And when it does, we break in some form or fashion. It may be physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual…or a combination thereof. And as we start to assess the situation, it seems overwhelming. We wonder how we will ever get things sorted out. We become so focused on the hassle in front of us, that we forget about the help around us. And far too often we face all our troubles and all our headaches all by ourselves. It doesn’t have to be that way.

Please know that no matter what type of mess you may be facing, there is always someone who is willing to come alongside of you and help you and support you. Maybe it’s not broken tree limbs that you’re dealing with, maybe it’s a broken heart or a broken spirit. Please, don’t give up hope…and don’t turn down help. You don’t have to face overwhelming situations all by yourself. Reach out. Speak up. There are friends, neighbors, and family members who will help you and support you. I know because I have seen them helping others all week long.  And I know that with the Lord’s leading and guiding, He will provide someone to help you.

Posted in bad weather, Don't give up, faith, Faith during hard times, Galatians 6:2 | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pray at All Times and Never Give Up

In chapel this week, we talked about prayer again and we talked about  the importance of consistency in regard to our prayers.   I believe that consistency in our prayer life is something that most Christians do not emphasize enough.  Jesus talks about the importance of consistency and persistence in prayer in Luke 18.  He tells of an unrighteous judge who was constantly petitioned by a widow who needed legal protection.  Finally, the judge gave in and granted her request, not because he cared for her, but simply because of the widow’s persistent pleas for help.  The unrighteous judge wanted her to go away.  Jesus followed that parable by saying in Luke 18:6:

Luke 18:6  And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge *said; 7  now, will not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them? 8  “I tell you that He will bring about justice for them quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?”

I do not know what you may be praying for this week but I know that you should exercise your faith and be persistent.  I know that you should not give up.  I know that you should boldly go to the throne of grace regularly and seek wisdom, strength and provision from the Lord God.  The Lord cares for you and He hears and answers the prayers of His children.  The responses and answers you receive are not given to make you go away, they are designed to draw you even closer to Him.  Go to Him in prayer, lift up your requests and supplications so that you can experience His peace and His presence today.

Posted in Christianity, Church, Don't give up, Don't stop, Draw close to God, faith, God answers prayers, prayer | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Approach with Confidence

I have had several conversations with different people over the years about the concept of prayer. And I have dialogued with many individuals who have respectfully stated that they saw no need for it and thought that Christians were wasting their time engaging in it. Many have pointed to several individuals they know who have prayed for something but did not get the answer they desired. They therefore drew the conclusion that God does not answer prayers. I disagree and believe that such a conclusion is born out of a wrong understanding of the purpose and the concept of prayer. Prayer is not a means where we drop off a laundry list with God of things that He must do for us. No. Although the Bible does say in Philippians chapter 4 that “by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let our requests be made known to God” it does not promise that we will have our requests and our “wish list” fulfilled. Prayer is a means whereby we come boldly before the throne of grace “that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” And when we go to God’s throne we accept whatever mercy, whatever grace, and whatever help God bestows upon us. He may not pull us out of a difficult situation, but we can always trust the He will pull us through those situations.

It helps me to think of prayer like this. God is a mountain and prayer is a life line; it’s a big strong rope that we make into a lasso. And we swing that rope and we lasso the top of that mountain. Now we are connected and we put our hands together and pull on that rope, and we pray, and we pull. And we invite other people to pull on that rope with us! And when we pull on that rope, it doesn’t pull the mountain closer to us, it pulls us closer to the mountain! The more I pull, the longer I stay at it, the more people I invite to pull with me, the closer I get to the mountain. See, prayer helps me draw near to God. And when I am closer to God, I have a better chance of seeing and understanding how He is working in my life so that I can line myself up with His will.

At the same time, prayer pulls me closer to His comfort, closer to His mercy, closer to His grace during my time of need. And it is true sometimes He does answer my prayers, my requests and my supplications EXACTLY as I have asked. That does happen sometimes. Sometimes it does not. But what happens EVERY time is that God gives me His comfort! What happens EVERY time is that He gives me His grace! What happens EVERY time is that God embraces His child who draws near to Him in their moments of need. As Paul says in Philippians chapter 4, when I make my requests known to God by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, I am blessed with a peace that passes all understanding. God always answers prayer. He may not give me what I want, but He shall always supply me with what I need.  Therefore, let us confidently approach His throne of grace.

Posted in Christianity, Draw close to God, faith, Faith during hard times, God answers prayers, God loves you, Hebrews 4:16, Help from God | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How Much Do You Need to Know?

This week someone earnestly asked me, “How much do you need to know to share the gospel?” In answer to their question, I told them about a man I know a long time ago named Ronnie. Ronnie lived in a group home facility for people with cognitive challenges. Ronnie loved to smile and Ronnie loved to tell his story. Ronnie would gently and sincerely tell people about how his life used to be before he knew Christ. His was not a life filled with drugs or violence but he would tell you it was a life filled with anger, bitterness and frustration on a daily basis. Ronnie said that one day he finally went to church with a friend who had been consistently inviting him; a friend who treated him with gentleness and respect. Ronnie said he began to learn about Jesus and after several weeks of fellowship in a bible study with his friend, he prayed to receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Ronnie sang in a choir with some of his friends from the group home. Ronnie loved to put on his suit and go out and minister in the community as a part of the choir. As a member of the choir, God blessed Ronnie with many opportunities to share his story.

Ronnie was not what most people would consider a highly educated man, but he had a great deal of understanding. He understood what Jesus did for him. He understood that Christ had delivered him from his sin and from a bitter attitude and an angry spirit. Ronnie knew his personal story. Ronnie knew Christ as Lord and Ronnie took advantage of every opportunity to tell his story. When I hear that question, “How much do you need to know to share the gospel?” I think of my friend Ronnie. And then I understand, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. Oh, I hope you know Christ like Ronnie did. I hope you know Christ as Lord and Savior. And if you do, I hope you tell your story.

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