Too Full?

Too Full?

Psalm 34:8 – “Oh taste and see that the Lord is good.”

Have you ever said, “oh no I’m too full I couldn’t eat another bite. Everything was wonderful but I just can’t eat anymore.” That happens a lot during the holiday season with Christmas and Thanksgiving or even with New Year’s celebrations. We eat and we eat and we eat. We indulge on the meats and that main dishes and then we dive into desert. Inevitably someone says “here try this”, and a lot of times the response is “oh I can’t, I couldn’t eat anything else I’m just to full.”

I wonder if that doesn’t happen spiritually as well. We partake of things and we get filled up until we can’t hold anything else. The Bible says, “taste and see that the Lord is good.” But are we too full to do that?

Certainly the world says “I am full. I am full of my way of life, I am full of my success, I am full.” Maybe they are filled up with their accomplishments, maybe they are filled up with sin, maybe they are just filled up with self, but the response of the world to Psalm 34:8 is usually “no thank you I’m full.” Of course sometimes its not a “no thank you” sometimes it is a I don’t want anything to do with that. Many times however the world just says no thank you to Jesus, because they are just to full.

The question for Christ-followers though has to be, what about us? Do we get so filled up with things that we don’t have room for Jesus. “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” We would never say it but maybe our response is I’m just too full, I don’t have time. I’m just too full, the sins of the world have taken over. I’m just too full look at all I’ve done. We would never say it but maybe our pride, our busyness, our flesh, or our selfishness gets in the way of us really tasting and seeing that the Lord is good.

When that happens we miss out. We don’t miss out on our salvation, I’m not suggesting that we could lose that, but we miss out on time with Jesus. We miss out on communing with the God of the universe. We miss out on walking with Him and talking with Him. We miss out on so much. Taste and see that the Lord is good, don’t fill yourself up with the things of the world or with busyness or with your sin or with your selfishness (its a temptation that hits all of us), but really taste and see that the Lord is good. After all the Bible gives us a wonderful promise, “those who hunger and thirst after righteousness will be filled.”

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Gospel Lessons from a Shipwreck

Gospel Lessons from a Shipwreck

Acts 27:9   “Since much time had passed, and the voyage was now dangerous because even the Fast was already over, Paul advised them, 10 saying, “Sirs, I perceive that the voyage will be with injury and much loss, not only of the cargo and the ship, but also of our lives.” 11 But the centurion paid more attention to the pilot and to the owner of the ship than to what Paul said. 12 And because the harbor was not suitable to spend the winter in, the majority decided to put out to sea from there, on the chance that somehow they could reach Phoenix, a harbor of Crete, facing both southwest and northwest, and spend the winter there.”

Shipwrecks make good theater, good stories, gripping drama, that is unless you are aboard the ship. In Acts 27 Paul is a prisoner on a ship that is sailing for Italy. He is going there to face a trial for preaching the Gospel. Paul is not a violent prisoner and in fact has probably been fairly helpful to the ship’s crew, still they do not pay a lot of attention to what he has to say.

He tries to warn them that if they continue on this journey that a shipwreck will occur. He tells them if we continue on this way there will be injury and loss, then to drive his point home he says not only to the ship and the cargo, but also to us. In other words if we continue on this way some of us will die. If I had been one of the ship’s crew I might have taken time to listen, but they didn’t. In fact the Bible says they paid more attention to the pilot and the owner of the ship that to what Paul said.

You can almost imagine the conversation, the pilot would have said “oh I’m fully capable of making this journey, I have made many much more difficult than this. I’m a good captain, we will be okay.” The owner of the ship would have scoffed as well, thinking and maybe even saying, “this ship will hold up. This ship can handle it. We will be fine. Sail on.” Don’t doubt me, don’t doubt my ship, we will be okay. They probably said and thought in their pride.

Pride goes before a Bible and that was certainly the case here. The ship was involved in a storm and eventually ran aground on an island. The crew was able to survive but the cargo was lost and they experienced two weeks of hunger and fear, all because they did not listen to what Paul had to say. What is fascinating is that even though they didn’t listen to Paul, Paul continued to care about them, talk to them, help them, and tell them about Jesus.

It is a fascinating story to read. A true story with so many detail, but also a story that shows us in reality how the world feels about us as Christians. We are to warn them and tell them about Jesus. We are to tell them the only way to be saved, and yet in many cases they aren’t going to listen. They are going to continue on their journey thinking everything is going to be ok. It can’t happen to us, seemed to have been the prevailing thought on the ship and it is the prevailing thought today as well. We are going to be okay, don’t bother us. We can handle it.

The world says (in pride) we can handle what life throws our way, we can handle our lives and live them the way we want to live them, and if there is a judgement when we die we are pretty good people so we will handle that too. The reality of the situation is however we aren’t designed to live life the way we want to live it, we can’t handle the hardships on our own (at least not successfully) and the only way to face Almighty God in judgement is not on our own merits but only through Jesus Christ and what He did on the cross of Calvary. The world says we don’t need God, we are okay by ourselves, and even though we tell them and warn them, many times they still don’t listen.

The question then has to become, what do we do? What do we do when the world doesn’t listen, but they are headed for a shipwreck? What do we do when we know what is coming? Just like Paul we continue to be there for them (Paul didn’t have a choice and our faith says we don’t either). We continue to love, continue to help and continue to pray. We have to also continue to trust God knowing that He is working and He is moving and that in reality He is the only one who can truly change hearts. So we keep loving the lost, keep trusting in God, and keep praying for the ones who don’t know Jesus, and we do all of this for the glory of God.

Missed Snow Days and Life Lessons

Isaiah 1:18 -“Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the LORD, “Though your sins are as scarlet, They will be as white as snow”

Last Thursday night the weather channel app updated their forecast to say 3-5 inches of snow that night. I mentioned it to my wife who is a teacher and the kids overheard. From that moment on there was shouts of snows and squeals of joy as they anticipated the sure snow day that was coming on Friday. Even the 4 year old joined in the celebration and he doesn’t have school. The anticipation was wonderful until Friday morning.

Friday morning came and there was nowhere near 3-5 inches of snow on the ground. In fact there was not even 3-5 flakes in the air. Squeals of joy turned into screams of horror. The busted forecast had turned our joy into weeping. It was a terrible scene.

It was a scene that can be very much like life. Life can disappoint. Life can set you up and let you down. Life can cause weeping. We can as well. We can disappoint people, we can steal people’s joy away. We as human beings can cause all sorts of horrific scenes. Why? Simply put our sinfulness.

We make a mess of things because of our sin. We cause mourning because of our sin. Weeping happens because of sin and we disappoint people because of our sin. (Just as a side note if you read that and thought yep their sin sure has hurt me, read it again and realize your sin can cause all of this as well). CS Lewis rightly said that “human history is the long story of mankind trying to find happiness in anything besides God.” That is the source of pain and disappointment. We make idols of ourselves and we sin in our idolatry. That sin causes disappointment, frustration and problems. Sometimes for ourselves, sometimes for others, most of the time for both. We can make a mess of things.

Fortunately there is a Savior who can make things right. A Savior who Isaiah says “repairs, rebuilds, and restores.” I don’t know about you but I so desperately need that with my faults and sins. I need a repairer and a rebuilder. I need someone who can restorer. Jesus can, in fact the truth is Jesus is the only one who can.

Missed snow days lead to disappointment and life does as well on a much larger and frankly sadder scale. Thankfully we have a Savior who restores us and who can rebuild what sin has destroyed. A Savior who can take our sins and wash them as white as snow. John Newton put it this way, “I am a great sinner but thankfully I have a great Savior.”

The Paradox of Life

The Paradox of Life

Matthew 11:28 – “Come to me all you who are weak and heavy laden and I will give you rest.”

dictionary.com defines paradox as any person, thing, or situation exhibiting an apparently contradictory nature. Coffee then is a paradox. What do I mean by that? The caffeine in it perks you up and may even cause you to “fulminate”, which means to explode with a loud voice. It may give you the energy needed to tackle a tough task or to loudly sing the praises of God. Yet at the same time that it energizes you, in some ways coffee relaxes you. There is something at least temporarily relaxing about taking a sip of that marvelous morning brew. The pause refreshes us, it gives us an opportunity to think and to focus and somehow that is relaxing. Maybe it is the familiarity of drinking a cup, maybe it is the routine, but somehow coffee is relaxing. Energizing and relaxing at the same time, coffee is a paradox.

Christianity is as well. We who are followers of Jesus Christ are both saints and sinners. That is paradox. We are sinners by nature and by action but we are saints through the blood of Jesus Christ, and hopefully because of that we are working hard to live holy lives in the world in which we live. Christianity is a paradox.

It is a paradox because we are saved by the grace of God. His grace saves us and not our works but once we are saved we then want to work for the glory of God. Someone once said, “good works are not the root of our salvation but they are the fruit of our salvation.” Works don’t save us, but once we are saved we want to work. Christianity is a paradox.

Jesus says, “come unto me all you who are weak and heavy laden and I will give you rest.” That is a wonderful promise for life isn’t it? Because in reality life can make us all weak, life can make us all feel heavy laden. Life is hard so He beckons us to run to Him and find rest. Yet once again Christianity is a paradox, Jesus gives us rest, but following Him also gives us a burden for lost people. The Bible says that Lot was “tormented” when he lived in Sodom because of the things that he saw there. He was tormented because he say the sin and lostness of the people. Christianity is a paradox because we can give our burdens to Jesus yet at the same time we must be burdened for those who are lost and for the sins of the world.

Jesus showed us that on that first Palm Sunday. The people were celebrating. They were waving their palm branches and singing, “blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord,” as Jesus rode into town. They were praising Him as King, and all the while Jesus was weeping. Weeping over the lostness of the people.

Christianity is a paradox, yet it is about a Savior who is truth. We can run to Him when life is hard, that is truth. We can carry our burdens to Him and know that He cares, that is truth. We can work, in response to our salvation, so that God may be glorified and others hear about His truth. We are to be burdened for the lostness of the world, but we can carry that burden to Jesus as well. We can pray for our lost friends and family members and know that Jesus Himself is concerned about them and that He loves them even more than we do.

So let Jesus energize you to go and do things today for His glory. Let Him energize you to love your family, to love others, to do good things, and to tell others about Jesus. But even though you are energize, relax knowing that God has all things under control. That He cares about you and about the things that you are concerned about. After all He died so that the lost could be saved, so we could be forgiven, so that we can have a relationship with Him and live for His glory.

Bible Studies, Community Celebrations and the Privilege of Children

Matthew 19:13-15 – Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, 14 but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” 15 And he laid his hands on them and went away.

Today I was blessed to be able to spend time with children. The morning began at Gray School leading an FCA devotional and it ended with being at Sulphur Springs School and a community event called “Snowed in”. As I looked around at both places I couldn’t help but notice the smiles and the joy on the faces of the children. They were two very different settings, one was in a classroom with a time of looking at the Bible together, the other was a fun community outreach event with games and food. Both were about the kids.

When I got home I couldn’t help but think of Jesus’ words, “let the little children come to me…….for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus loved children. He blessed them, He spent time with them, He made sure they knew they were loved, and ultimately He died on a cross for them. That is nothing short of amazing, especially in that culture. That culture (the Middle East 2000 years ago) viewed children as nothing more than property. It was radically different than our world today.

Our world today is very “kid friendly”. Our world today has children’s music, children’s movies, places where children can go play and all of that. Jesus’ culture however had none of that as children were basically viewed as property. Jesus as He often did went against the grain of culture. Jesus took time with the children. His disciples said no. Basically, don’t bother Jesus with something as small as children, but Jesus took time for them. Why? Because He wanted them to know that they were loved, that they were cared about and that they were important to God.

Today we must have the heart of Jesus. We can watch kids movies, we can listen to kids music, we can structure our weekends around our kids ballgames or other events. There is definitely nothing wrong with any of those things but most importantly we must show kids that they are loved. We must let them know that they are valuable. We must let them know that they matter to God, in fact that they matter so much that Jesus died on a cross to save them. That is our calling, that is our challenge, that is our privilege.

A popular Christian song from a few years ago passionately said, “people need the Lord”, and that is 100% true. Children are people, so children need to Lord. We adults need to do everything we can to make sure that the next generation knows about Jesus. Again it is our calling, our challenge and our privilege.

I enjoyed this morning tremendously and I enjoyed this evening immensely, but in between was my favorite part of the day, I got to spend some time with my children. They are all 3 extremely different, smart, sensitive, rambunctious, sometimes wild, one is autistic, but even though they are different the calling is the same – I am to lead them to Jesus and teach them about Him. That is my calling, my challenge, and my privilege and if you took the time to read this it is yours too. Take time to love a child towards Jesus this week. It really is a privilege.

Presidential Faith?

James 2:17 – “So also faith by itself, if it does not have works is dead.”

Faith is a word that has been on display this week with the inauguration of the 45th President of the United States. The swearing in ceremonies indirectly referenced faith as the President and Vice-President placed there hands upon the Bible as they took their oaths. There were also several prayers of faith offered during the ceremony. Next came the Prayer service at the National Cathedral where faith was once again in the spotlight. Many of the commentators asked the question, “what is the faith of Donald Trump? What is his faith in?” That same question was asked of Barak Obama and of George Bush and Bill Clinton. It is a question that the public has wondered about most likely for as long as we have been a nation. What is the faith of our President?

I won’t attempt to answer that question for Barak Obama or for Donald Trump as I believe their lives will answer that question. How they conduct themselves will let us know whether or not they are men of faith, after all faith without works James says is dead. It is nonexistent. What he means is this, not that you work to earn your salvation, but that if you are a person of real faith, it will show up in your works. Your actions will show your faith. That is true not only of Presidents but also of people. Our faith shows through in our actions and in our words.

I think about George Washington. Much has been made of his faith throughout history. Was he a Christian, was he an atheist, was he a deist? Just what did George Washington believe. His granddaughter Nelly who lived with the Washington’s because of the death of her own parents says this, “my grandfather George would travel to church if the weather permitted.” When you read that it doesn’t seem that church attendance was all that important to him. If the weather permitted and it was convenient he would go to worship, but you have to examine the facts of the statement, and in reality the statement in its entirety. She went on to say “it was about a 3 hour journey to get to the church.” That sheds a whole new light on his faith doesn’t it? In fact we are a little more understanding toward the phrase “if the weather permitted.” A 3 hour journey on horseback or in a wagon was bad enough if it were sunny, if the weather was rough however it would have been almost unbearable. So here is what we know George would travel many times a year to church, and the journey took three hours.

That is amazing. A three hour trip to get to church and then a three hour trip home. I think it is fair to say that faith was important to George Washington, in fact I believe his faith in Jesus shaped his very life. His life however forces me to ask a question of myself, would I travel 3 hours to get to worship and then another 3 hours to get home? If you take into account the time of the service itself and even as short time of fellowship after the service, Washington would have been looking at 8-9 hours of time spent traveling to and from worship, and in worship itself. That is dedication and I have to ask the question, do I have that kind of dedication? Is worship that important to me? Is it to you?

Would I like Washington did, kneel in the snow to pray in the midst of battle? Is my faith that real to me? Is your faith that real to you? History will bear out the faith of our Presidents and eternity will as well. Were they were sincere believers of not? Of course history and eternity will also answer that question about us, are we sincere in our faith or not? For those who are true believers their witness will continue throughout all eternity, for those that aren’t the Bible says, “there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” The question we must answer isn’t about the President, instead it is about us, is our faith real or not?

You are What You Believe

John 1:14 – “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

A new year. Just the words themselves sound hopeful. A new year, with new chances, new challenges and new opportunities. Many people will say as we go into a new year, I’m going to do this or I’m going to do that. We call those declarations, New Year’s Resolutions, and one of the most popular resolution is “I’m going to eat better” as we go into the New Year. This is important health experts will tell us because “we are what we eat.”

Now of course they are using exaggeration when they say that to make a point, and the point is this what you eat affects how healthy you are. Eating a good, balanced diet is important. Eating clean food and not junk food or fast food all the time leads to us feeling much, much better and hopefully being healthier. You are what you eat.

I know those things are true, but I also believe it is true to say, “you are what you believe.” You are what you put your faith and your trust in. You are what you believe. The world throws all kinds of deception at us. It will tell us that there is no truth, but the Bible makes it abundantly clear, Jesus came with grace and TRUTH. He is absolute truth, and He is the living, word of God. God’s word is true. Do we believe that or not? Do we believe in Jesus and His grace or not? You are what you believe!

Of course I’m exaggerating here to make a point and show just how important it is to believe in Jesus and His truth. If you believe in His truth, you don’t become truth. You do base your life on His truth however and it becomes the foundation that you build your life on. If you believe in Jesus obviously you don’t become Jesus, but you do become one of His followers. You do become touched by His grace (Jesus came with grace and truth, John 1:14 says). And if you are touched by His grace, the Bible tells us that you are Redeemed, your sins are forgiven, you are changed and that now you have a relationship with the God of this universe. What you believe is extremely important.

If you believe in Jesus you are touched by His grace. That grace says not only that you can “approach God’s throne of grace with confidence”, but that Jesus Himself is praying for you as well. That grace not only says “I am with you always,” but it also says “I am preparing a place for you” where you can live with me in a place called heaven. That grace says I am with you now in the weeping, mourning and pain of life and I am with you even in death. And it triumphantly adds to that I am also returning and setting up a Kingdom where there is no more weeping, no more mourning and no more pain. The grace of Jesus says I am returning and I am destroying sin and death forever. What you believe is of the utmost importance, so do you believe His truth and trust His grace?