Faith

Be Thou My Vision

Be Thou My Vision

We live in a day when we have become jaded and critical. Our first reaction is most often to distrust and deride. We often call truth a lie and a lie the truth. That with which we disagree is fake and only that with which we agree is real. There are no longer absolutes, only what I label to be true. It is a time heralded by meanness and callous disregard expressed toward one another. Too often we look upon compassion as weakness and bullying as strength. Instead of blessing we curse. Instead of offering respect, we show contempt. Instead of offering forgiveness, we condemn. Instead of choosing to love, we choose to hate.

For a moment last week social media celebrated a few minutes of captured video when Brandt Jean extended Christ-like compassion and forgiveness to Amber Guyger, convicted of fatally shooting his older brother. Though most chose not to mention Christ as the source and the reason for his compassion, few could ignore the heartfelt sincerity of the one who had extended it.

Even Judge Tammy Kemp who adjudicated the trial, after its conclusion was moved to extend a moment of heartfelt personal compassion to the one upon whom she had just pronounced sentence….

Leave the Crowd, Climb the Mountain

Leave the Crowd, Climb the Mountain

Whether you are leading the crowd, following the crowd or standing in the midst of the crowd, there is comfort in hanging with the crowd. They are our people – and we feel safe and secure in their midst. It may be the crowd at our workplace, our neighborhood, our church, or wherever we hang out. The crowd is familiar with who we are, and we are familiar with who they are. We have history together – perhaps lifelong. It can be a frightening thing to leave the crowd.

But often, God calls us to do just that. He calls us to go on a journey with Him. He leads us to climb a mountain with Him – to a place or a height that we have never been before. And that climb frequently involves leaving the crowd behind – either temporarily or in some instances, permanently.

Jesus repeatedly called people to leave where they were and follow Him. And invariably He told them to climb a little higher, go a little further and draw a little closer. In the Old Testament, we often see God telling Moses to do so….

Eight Twenty-Eight

Eight Twenty-Eight

Today is August 28th, also known as 8-28. For me this day is an annual reminder of the promise of God found in the book of Romans. There Paul writes:

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28 ESV).

For me it is one of the most powerful promises that God has given us. It is a promise that is not only true on this day of the year; it is a promise that is true every moment of every day. It was true before time began and it will forever be true. 

It is a promise that remains true even when we don’t recognize it. It remains true in good times and bad. It is true in life and in death. It is true in health and in illness. It is true in prosperity and in poverty. It is true in the sunshine and the storms….

Jesus Will Still Be There

Jesus Will Still Be There

This week has been filled with special memories for our family. Our second grandson was born at 6:09AM Sunday morning. All seven pounds fourteen ounces of him! i can’t think of a better way to start a week than to welcome a new life into your family. 

Kenton was scheduled to arrive on Tuesday. The doctor was scheduled. The delivery room was reserved. Our daughter’s bag was packed. But someone forgot to tell our grandson. But no fear – he didn’t arrive early. He arrived right on time! It was the rest of us that were off on our calendars.

My wife and i received that middle of the night call and quickly made the two hour drive to be here. As we were driving, the song “Jesus Will Still Be There” (lyrics below) by Selah came up on my playlist. 

As i listened to the lyrics of the song, i couldn’t help but be struck by this idea. “Kenton, today is the first day of your life outside the womb. And if there was one word i would tell you and your older brother to hold onto every moment of every day of your life, it would be just that – Jesus will still be there….

What A Beautiful Name

What A Beautiful Name

As we gathered in worship this past Sunday, we sang the song “What a Beautiful Name” by Hillsong (lyrics below). As we sang those words, i was reminded of a glorious confession of truth that we would all do well to embrace.

The lyricists write: 

Death could not hold You, The veil tore before You
You silenced the boast of sin and grave….
Nothing can stand against
What a powerful Name it is
The Name of Jesus

More often than not, we think of those words in light of Christ’s bodily resurrection on Easter morning. And there is no question that should cause us to rejoice. But there was reason for rejoicing even before that occurred. When Jesus declared, “It is finished” (John 19:30 NLT), He also said, “Father, I entrust My spirit into Your hands” (Luke 23:46 NLT). Let us not forget that Jesus was as much man as if He was not God at all. At the moment of His death, His soul and spirit immediately departed from His physical body – which is the exact same thing that will occur for you and me at the moment of our deaths (if Jesus doesn’t return before then). 

We would do well to remember….

Contagious Faith

Contagious Faith

One of my favorite movie scenes is from the 1989 adaptation of William Shakespeare’s “Henry V”. The English noblemen and their outnumbered and less-skilled troops stand in the moments before the bloody Battle of Agincourt. The noblemen are lamenting the overwhelming odds that the French have over them and are maligning the many Englishmen who have chosen to stay at home in their warm beds instead of joining their fellow countrymen on the field of battle. Morale is at a low; the English are all but defeated before the battle has even commenced. Having heard these laments from the shadows, Shakespeare’s King Harry (played in the movie by Kenneth Branagh) steps forth and begins to rally his troops with an impassioned speech. By its conclusion, his troops are celebrating that they are few in number, and are inspired to advance “once more unto the breach”. Though the speech is a work of fiction, it is evocative of the contagious spirit of courage and conviction with which King Harry led.

In Joshua 2, we read about two spies that Joshua sent into the Promised Land. As they surveyed Jericho, they narrowly escaped arrest within the walled city and were given refuge by a prostitute by the name of Rahab….

Press On (even when the ship goes down)

Press On (even when the ship goes down)

In last week’s blog post, we looked at the assurance of God’s faithfulness as we encounter the storms of life. We looked at the storm that Jesus and the disciples encountered as they crossed the Sea of Galilee. We again witnessed His faithfulness in bringing His disciples safely to the shore. We were reminded that we can be confident in His miraculous ability to still storms that arise in our lives. But what do we do when He doesn’t still the storm? What do we do when the ship goes down?

The apostle Paul together with two hundred sixty-six other men found themselves in the midst of one of those storms in the Mediterranean Sea. A few in the group of prisoners, soldiers and sailors were followers of Jesus, but the large majority were not. It was Paul who had earlier expressed safety concerns to the ship’s officers before the storm arose, recommending that they find a safe harbor for the winter. But the ship’s owner and captain, motivated by their own personal avarice, assured the Roman centurion (the patron of the trip) that the journey could be made. Given the option of listening to experienced sailors or a tentmaker, the centurion opted to follow the advice of the former. 

Ultimately the ship was battered by gale-force winds that raged for days….

It Is Well

It Is Well

There is a difference between hoping and knowing. Most often we use the word “hope” when we want something to happen, but we are not 100% certain that it will. We “hope” and pray that the operation will go well, or the job will come through, or everything will work out. Whereas we use the word “know” when we have 100% certainty. To “know” is to have an understanding that is irrefutably truthful and factual; it cannot be contested.

In our world today, “truth” can be difficult to nail down – just spend two minutes reading or listening to the news! Truth has become relative and ever-changing. When truth is no longer absolute, we can no longer “know” with absolute certainty. We are left with little choice but to hope. As followers of Christ, we will readily confess that our “hope” is in Him. But what does that really mean in light of the storm that is immediately in front of us?

It Seemed Good To The Spirit

It Seemed Good To The Spirit

Whenever God is at work, there will often be people who attempt to put their mark on the work. They will endeavor to either add to, or take away from, the gospel. Often times, it is not an intentional attempt to distort the gospel; rather, it is borne out of personal, cultural or traditional influences. A group of men from Judea were deriding the Holy Spirit’s saving work among the Gentiles in Antioch (Acts 15). They believed that one could not be saved apart from the requirements of the law of Moses. Though they themselves had received salvation by believing in Jesus, they also believed that the laws they had followed since birth were a part of their salvation. They were mixing their personal religious experiences with salvation through Christ, and teaching a distorted gospel. They were saying that a Gentile had to first become a Jew in order to become a Christian. In essence they were saying that simply trusting in Jesus Christ wasn’t sufficient; they also had to obey Moses.

Peter himself had learned that salvation is not decided by whether one eats meat or doesn’t eat meat, or whether one eats pork or doesn’t eat pork. Salvation is not dependent upon whether we gather to worship on Sunday, or the Sabbath, or another day. It is not the result of keeping the Law, going through a ritual, or joining a church. We are all sinners before God, for whom Christ died on the cross. He was buried and rose again. He paid the price and extends His salvation to us by His grace which we receive through faith. There is one need, and there is but one gospel – with nothing to be added to, or subtracted from, it.

The church can still be guilty of trying to add to it today ….

Taught By A Master

Taught By A Master

This morning i was reminded that six years ago today, i stood in the presence of a master craftsman. i must confess i do not know the craftsman’s name. i had never seen him prior to that day, and i haven’t seen him since – except in my mind’s eye. We didn’t speak the same language, so all we could do was smile and nod at each other. Regrettably, i do not know anything about the man beyond what i observed in the moment. But as i stood there that morning riveted in his presence, i knew it was a moment i would never forget – and a lesson that would forever be etched in my memory.

i was standing in a blown glass and ceramic manufacturing shop in the city of Hebron in the West Bank. This master craftsman and i were about the same age. He had the appearance of a man who had worked hard all of his life. He went about his craft in a way that clearly evidenced his mastery. No effort was wasted. Each and every step had purpose. He started with a simple indistinguishable rod of glass. But from the beginning, i could tell that he was not seeing what it looked like now – he saw what he was shaping it to become….