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Posts Tagged ‘Joy’

We live in a world starved for solitude, silence, and privacy, and 

therefore starved for meditation and true friendship. (1)

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Surprisingly, the quote above does not come for a social scientist analyzing the culture of the 21st century.  The quote is from C. S. Lewis, written in before 1960, when very few people had a private telephone line, much less a television.

In a more sedate, slower paced society, finding a moment and place to reflect and to refuel was a challenge.  

In today’s world of hyper-connectivity and digital social networks most of us long to be left alone.  We never seem to have a genuine quiet moment to ourselves.  Thus we hunger for silence and solitude, both of which are foundational to being able to relate to others and to build community.

We hunger for silence, an opportunity to be alone, but we fear being disconnected.

In our busyness and fear, we separate ourselves from God.  In our frantic hyper-connectivity with the world, we drown out the voice of God and believe He is hard to find.  Thus, we neither find Him nor connect to Him.

My job requires me to be engaged with people on a regular and daily basis.  These individuals dictate the times and terms of our interaction, which is spurned by crisis in their lives.

Yet, in the expectation for me to be present and to respond to the needs of others, I must have fuel in my tank in order to provide spiritual nourishment and substance for them during their crisis.

Thus, I must carve out time in every day to be alone, to be silent, and to be unavailable to no one, except God. 

This professional necessity is also a personal blessing.

Only after I have been alone with God, am I able to truly engage with others and enjoy genuine friendship and find peace and happiness.

Smartphones, text messages, email, Facebook, and digital notifications of the score in the third inning of a Pirates-Cubs baseball game are not the source of our problem.  

We fear being disconnected, missing a piece of the action, not knowing what is going on in this temporal world.  

This fear drives us away from God, from ourselves, and from others.

Be still and know that I am God … I am with you always (2)

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  1. Lewis, C. S. (2009-03-17). A Year with C. S. Lewis (p. 126). Harper Collins, Inc.. Kindle Edition. 
  2. Psalm 46:10 and Matthew 28:20.
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Christ didn’t die just to pay the penalty for sin;

He died to transform us. (1)

Monday evening she told me with great enthusiasm about her conversion experience at worship on Sunday morning.  She had been living a wild life, drinking abundantly and sleeping around frequently.  

A friend invited her to church and she went.  During worship she was convicted by the Spirit and came forward, giving her life to Christ.  

She was still buzzing with excitement, joy, and peace as she conveyed her story to me on Monday evening.

Six weeks later on another Monday evening she told me the same story.  Since her first conversion she had fallen away.  But yesterday, she went to worship with her friend and the Spirit convicted her again.  She was grateful to be forgiven of her sins.

Six weeks later, then again, after another 42 days … She told me her good news!

Each time I rejoiced that she had repented, confessed, asked for forgiveness, and received it at the throne of God’s mercy.  

Once grace was received, she’d turn her back to God and returned to her tired and worn out ways of drinking hard and sleeping fast.  

The same friend, the same church, and the same Pastor heard her confession and proclaimed God’s grace to her, just as they should.

“But …”  it seemed that no one ever told her more about the other gift which Jesus held in His hands for her.

Thus she lived, chained in bondage to her addiction and hunger for love.  When the addiction and the hunger caused her too much pain, she’d rebound to Jesus as if He and she held onto a bungee cord.  She held on for dear life, He because he had bound Himself to her with His inseparable love.

She never stayed long enough by His side to hear the rest of the story about how He wanted to free her from her bondage to the flesh.  

Jesus wanted more for her! 

He wanted to transform her so she could break free from her past which so presently consumed her.  

Every time when she ran from His arms of grace she would hear Him say, “I have come that you might have life …”

She was always out of ear shot when He finished the sentence “… and have it abundantly!” (John 10:10)

I pray that she finally stayed long enough, to hear that Jesus had more for her than forgiveness of sins.

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(1) John MacArthur, Truth for Today : A Daily Touch of God’s Grace (Nashville, Tenn.: J. Countryman, 2001), 128.

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How often we choose labor when He says “Rest”

There is a blessed resting in lying still, 

in letting His hand mold us. (1)

Selah!

If you read the Psalms regularly, you have seen this word frequently.

Selah!

It is a musical term which means rest, pause, break.

Frequently, either in between sections of a psalm or at the end of a psalm, we are instructed to selah.  It is a time to rest and take a deep breath.

Singers and public speakers know they must take a rest, a deep breath, to refill their lungs, before they can sing or speak further.  The failure to take adequate pauses and a deep breath robs your voice of power and narrows the range of tone.

Selah provides a blessing for the listener as well.

The brief respite from noise, sound, words, or music allows the listener to soak in what they have just heard.  Without pauses the words, notes, and lyrics begin to back-up in the brain like rush hour traffic.  Without pauses, the listener becomes so overwhelmed, he stops listening.

Without pauses we lose our voice and our ears.

In ministry, my life is a marathon from Labor Day to Memorial Day.  However, from Thanksgiving to Easter it is a sprint.  When I get to Noon on Easter Sunday, I am spent.  I need to pause.

If you are a daily reader of my devotionals, you have noticed that I have posted by devotionals later and later each day, instead of them being ready when you rise in the morning.  My internal warning signs have been flashing in front of me Selah, Selah, Selah!

This morning, I finally took the pause I desperately needed.  In fact I plan to Selah the rest of the day, piddling around the house and yard letting my mind and heart wander as I ramble through the day completing inconsequential tasks.

I will be unproductive, while my spirit reproduces.

As I read my morning devotions (I read through 12 each day) over half of them said, SELAH!!  The words were different, but God’s message was clear.

I feel better already.

If the voices and tasks in your life are beginning to look like a train wreck during rush hour, I encourage you to selah!

It’s a “Be still and know I am God day” for me!”

If you need one of these take it, even if you have to play tag-team parenting with your spouse.

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  1. Reimann, Jim; Cowman, Mrs. Charles E. (2008-09-02). Streams in the Desert: 366 Daily Devotional Readings (p. 154). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

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Friendship’s trysts are also quiet resting-places, 

where heart may commune with heart, 

where Jesus comes, too, unseen, 

and gives His blessing. (1)

Twenty years ago United Airlines came out with one of the best commercials about relationships.  The commercial was shot in the sales room of a large manufacturing plant.  The Sales Manager was passing out airline tickets to everyone on his staff, while speaking these words:

“It is time to return to doing business face-to-face. No more FAX’s and no more mass mailings.  We are going to see all of our customers face-to-face. We are going to do business in person!”

In our digitalized world, many of us attempt to maintain friendships through electronic media.  Facebook does not facilitate building friendships.  Neither does Linkedin or any of the other social media services.

I long for face-to-face contact with friends, old and new.  Without them, my spirit withers and faints.

One of the blessings of serving as a minister and serving multiple congregations in several states is that I have good Christian friends in all over the United States.  The curse is that we are separate from one another.

My ministry and life has taken me from my hometown where my Dad and siblings still live.  I have been gone from home for 40 years.  I visit when I can, but I must confess I miss the closeness we could have if I lived next door to them.

My own sons have moved away, as part of the natural progression of life.  Then we moved from the hometown they lived in for 20 years.  I miss my friends and their friends in Pittsburgh.  If we still lived there, they would be able to see their childhood friends more easily.

Do not misunderstand me, I have made new friends, good friends, where I currently live.  However, my wife and I still work and many of our friends here work.  Getting together face-to-face is not as easy as I wish.

J. R. Miller is correct when he reminds us, “Friendships are resting places … where hearts commune … and where Jesus adds His blessing!”

God gave us all these Christian friends for a reason: to live with them, to be encouraged by them, and to encourage them.  Paul wrote to his friends:

For I long to see you … that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine. (2)

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  1. Quote by J. R. Miller in, Samuel G. Hardman and Dwight Lyman Moody, Thoughts for the Quiet Hour (Willow Grove, PA: Woodlawn Electronic Publishing, 1998).
  2. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Romans 1:11–12.

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Easter Sermon Notes

Remember What He Said

Scripture: Luke 24:1-8 and 1 Corinthians 15:1-2, 54-58

To listen to this sermon, click here on April 9 and click on link for sermons

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I. Don’t you remember what I said ….

A.  Words we have all heard

B.  Luke 24:5-6 – The 2 men/angels to the women at the tomb

Why do you look for the living among the dead?

He is not here!   He has risen!

Remember how He told you …

C.  The women had already forgotten

When reminded by the angel

=> 24:8 Then they remembered His words

D.  Regarding His death and rising

Matt 16:21, Mark 8:31, 9:31, 10:34, and Luke 9:22

Jesus began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again.

E. Regarding His Resurrection

Matthew 22:31-32

I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. I am not God of the dead, but of the living.

John 11:24

I am the resurrection and the life.

II. Paul writing to the Corinthian Church

A.  1 Corinthians 15

Reminds us of the reason for the season

What are we celebrating today

Everyday within the church

The resurrection of Jesus

B.  He reminds them to believe in 15:1

The good news that I proclaimed to you, 

which you in turn received, 

in which also you stand, 

And by which you are saved,

C.  ==> theological discourse on the resurrection …

3 sections in 1 Corinthians 15

1. 1-11 – The Truthfulness of the Gospel

2.  12-24 – The Resurrection of the Dead

3.  35-58 – The Resurrection of the Body

D.  Crescendo of chapter 15 is reached in verses 54-57

When he speaks of the victory of the cross

Listen to Paul’s summary about

what the resurrection of Jesus means for us:

Death has been swallowed up in victory.

Where, O death, is your victory?  

Where, O death, is your sting?

The sting of death is sin, 

and the power of sin is the law. 

But thanks be to God, 

who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

E.  The resurrection of Jesus represents the two victories of the cross

Over two powers/realities which deeply affect our daily lives

1.  Over the power of sin to cause our spiritual death

2.  Over the power of physical death to end our life

III. The Resurrection gives us victory over Sin

A.  Sin has incredible power over us

In Romans Paul tells us about the realities of sin

Romans 3:23 – All sin and fall short of the glory of God

Romans 6:23 – The wages of sin is death

B.  While we like to argue about what sin does to us,

We all know deep within our souls

What sin does to us, to our relationships, to our lives

And to our relationship with God

C.  Sin destroys life,

it weighs down life,

it takes life away,

it kills life

D.  While we may bravo in our sin when committing it

We regret our sin when is shatters our life

E.  Examples of sin destroying life

1.  Zacchaeus – the tax collector

Cheated and greedy, loathed by the people

Found forgiveness and restoration in Jesus

2.  Former Illinois Governor – Rod Blagojevich

Now serving 14 years for corruption as governor

Affect on his 2 daughters

I will guarantee you sin is weighing him down

3.  The Woman caught in adultery

Leaders wanted to stone her to death

Have you ever been in room

When spouse reveals/confesses adultery to spouse and family

Looks could kill – pain, anger, grief

Weeping of regret for sin … Weighs down heavy

4.  Even unintended sins ==> deep regret

Elderly priest – Good Friday – ran over 5 parishioners,

killed one, imagine the weight on him

9 year old playing with gun kills his twin –

Imagine the weight on his shoulders

and father who left gun loaded and available

F.  Anyone who says sin is

without consequence without victims is deceived

G.  Every sinner prays for a do-over

All of us in this room have done something we regret

It hurts … It pains … It weighs us down

H.  The wages of sin is death

But because Jesus died for us

Took on the death of our sins

And because he rose from the dead

The death of our sins has been removed

==> why Paul proclaims

Death has been swallowed up in victory.

Where, O death, is your victory?  

Where, O death, is your sting?….

But thanks be to God, 

who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

I.  At Easter … because of Jesus’ death resurrection

We celebrate the forgiveness of our sins

The removal of the wages of sin from us

J.  This news, this fact, causes many in the church

to move from lamenting

to singing and rejoicing

Examples:

1. African-american spirituals:

2. The American spiritual

3.  Those whose lives have been broken by sin

shame us in our ho-humness of Easter Hallelujahs

Friday at Rockford Rescue Mission

Weeping, wailing, dancing, shouting

Genuine joy … lives saved by God’s grace

K.  If it weren’t for Easter … The resurrection

We couldn’t sing these songs

IV.  Resurrection gives us victory over death at the end of this life

A.  As believers and by God’s grace

We share in Jesus’ resurrection

John 11:25-26

Jesus said to Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.

B.  I have spent much of my ministry with people as they deal with death

C.  Death not only ==> grief and sadness

it also ==> anxiety, worry, fear in all of us

What comes after death?

Is death the end?

Is this all there is to life?

D.  Jewish faith places emphasis on remembering

Because no belief in an after-life

Jesus teaching about resurrection, an after life

was something people had never heard

People do not simply live on in the memories of others

there is life after our physical, earthly death

E.  Easter – Jesus’ resurrection

Is more than Jesus telling us

It is Jesus proving for us that

There is more to life on earth

than death at the end of the day

F.  Paul said in Philippians 1:21

For me to die is gain, for me to live is lost

G.  Jesus’ resurrection becomes

The resurrection of our bodies after death

The gift of life eternal

The communion of the saints

H.  Life in and of itself is hard

For most people in most cultures

Negro spirituals sung while toiling in the fields as slaves

Joyously sing of resurrection and better heavenly world

Three most moving ones are:

The Gospel train’s comin’ 

Swing low, sweet chariot

Soon and very soon.

V.  These two victories of the cross

A.  The forgiveness of sins

The resurrection of the body

Are not victories everyone will celebrate

B.  Do not be fooled by sentimentality that says

the forgiveness of sins

the resurrection of the body

is for anyone

We love to say …

Pastor, you know 

the friendly neighbor, the nice lady down the street

their spouse, the caring coach, my good muslim neighbor

they’ll be heaven!  

Won’t they?

C.  We may wish it, but scripture teaches differently

Scripture teaches – Only for those who believe in JC

will share in the victories won by Jesus in His resurrection

D.  These victories are for those who believe

In Jesus as God’s Son, as Lord and Savior.

As the two angels at the tomb said to the two women:

Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee:

This is what Jesus said:

Mark 16:16

Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned

John 3:16-18

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

Jesus to Martha in John 11:25-26

Reveals the importance of belief

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. 

Do you believe this?” 

John wrote his gospel so we might believe and be saved

John 1:6-7  => belief

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him.

John 20:30-31

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

VI.  The Easter Invitation

A.  Easter is a celebration

For believers and followers

B.  Not only is Easter a time for celebration

But it is a time for commitment

for recommitment

C.  Perhaps

You have taken the Lord for granted

Jesus died for me but I am going to do what I want

You have fallen away

Placed distance between you and Jesus

You know you have not been a faithful follower

D.  Now, today is the time

To commit yourself to the Lord

To accept Him as Savior and Lord

To recommit yourself to follow him

If you have not professed your faith in Jesus

as God’s Son, as your Lord and Savior …

If you have not repented and confessed your sins

asking for God’s forgiveness through Jesus …

Do so now, today

so that Jesus’ resurrection, His victories

Over the power of sin to cause your spiritual death

Over the power of physical death to end your life

will be yours

Do so now,

so that Jesus’ resurrection and forgiveness

will be your resurrection and forgiveness

Paul put it this way:

This is the good news that I proclaimed to you, 

which you in turn received, 

in which also you stand, 

And by which you are saved

That Christ died for our sins 

That Jesus was buried

That he was raised on the third day 

Just as He said,

in accordance with the Scriptures.

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When it comes to forgiveness, I talk a good game, thanks to my selective memory.

 

Yesterday I shared with others the heroics of my forgiving spirit and how God honored my graciousness in His time.  While I was speaking about what God is able to do when we have a forgiving heart, I spoke too much about my graciousness in light of the hurt I endured.

 

There are other stories I could have told.  

 

I could have rattled on about the times when I harbored deep grudges, nursed wounds beyond their expiration date, and gossiped about how I had been wronged.

 

Jesus handled the betrayals, denials, and physical blows against Him differently than me.  Except for telling Judas to “Do it quickly,” He received the betrayals, denials, and blows against Him in silence.  

 

Jesus never threatened His executioners with impending judgment; instead He forgave them. He accepted His suffering without bitterness. (1)

 

When we chatter on about past hurts and wrongs against us, we cannot boast about having forgiven the offender.  As long we allow the hurt or offense to live in the present, we have not put it into the past.  

 

Forgiveness involves the placing an offense against us into the past.  

 

I remember the tenderness of being wounded by someone who refused to forgive me when I asked for forgiveness.  A close friend tried to console me by saying, “Do not worry, they will forgive you eventually!”

 

It was the eventually which crushed my spirit.

 

How long would I need to wait to be forgiven?  How long would I have to live on edge, teetering between the loving grasp of forgiveness and the rejection of un-forgiveness?  How long would I need to earn brownie points before I could step away from egg-shell living?

 

I expect others to forgive me now and to do so with a grace that does not humble me.

 

As I move closer to Easter I anticipate celebrating God’s amazing, life-giving, death defying grace.  

 

God is anticipating the same from me.

 

Jesus taught me to pray, “Forgive my debts as I forgive the debts of others!” (Matthew 6:12).

 

You cannot grasp the joy of Easter while holding fast to an unforgiving spirit.

 

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  1. John MacArthur, Truth for Today : A Daily Touch of God’s Grace (Nashville, Tenn.: J. Countryman, 2001), 107.

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Whatever I love is my god.

 

This quote by St. Augustine frequently causes me to reflect on what are the things I love.

 

How do you know what you love?  I go by what I grieve losing.  If I am sad to have lost something, then I clearly had an affectionate attachment to it.  The extent of the grief measures the depth of the love.

 

Sunday afternoon I was thrilled that my favorite basketball team won a game to advance in the NCAA tournament.  Minutes after the game, I learned that our star point guard had broken a bone in his wrist.  His availability for the rest of the tournament is questionable.  Our chance of winning the prize is greatly diminished.

 

I was in a funk all night long and did not sleep well.

 

Is basketball my god, or perhaps one in a constellation of gods I adore?  I hope not, but I do orient my life and schedule, hopes and dreams around my team’s games.  

 

Another measure of whether something is your god is how much pride you take in it.  

 

Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man.”  (1)

 

My favorite team has had a great season and has provided me with much enjoyment, but the season will be incomplete if they do not win the NCAA title.  Winning allows me to boast, “My team won!” 

 

When my grief pulls me down and my pride puffs me up, God does me a favor and reminds me of His Word:

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize?  They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. (2)

 

Later in 1 Corinthians 13:13, God reminds us that there are three lasting things in life “faith, hope, and love.”  He concludes by teaching “The greatest of these is love!

 

Why do we place greater love in perishables, than in non-perishables?

 

Guard your heart.

 

Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, all of your soul,

all of your mind, and all of your strength. (3)

 

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  1. Lewis, C. S. (2009-03-17). A Year with C. S. Lewis (p. 88). Harper Collins, Inc.. Kindle Edition. 
  2. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), 1 Corinthians 9:24–25.
  3. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Mark 12:30

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