"Hoodeedoodeeray!"

Lon“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.”  Ephesians 2:8

I am alive today because of God’s grace.  The sun came up this morning because of God’s grace.  The stars were out last night because of God’s grace.  The breath I’m taking in right now is because of God’s grace.  I am forgiven of the sins I have committed because of God’s grace.  I am forgiven of the sins I will commit because of God’s grace.  I open God’s Word today because God’s grace has given it to me.  I am able to pray, to have access to a conversation with the one and only God, because of God’s grace.  I hear the robins singing in the prayer garden outside my office on this chilly morning as a reminder of God’s grace.  The daffodils burst through a late snow a few weeks ago as a reminder of God’s grace.  There are a thousand natural and supernatural benefits we enjoy every day because of God’s grace.  Many, if not most, of these phenomena go unnoticed on a typical day.

What might happen if we noticed them more?  What if we were constantly aware of God’s grace?  We would be more thankful, more humble, more aware of what God is doing in the world, more aware of the needs of people around us, and more aware of the power of God’s Spirit available to us.  And, in turn, God’s grace would be pouring out of our lives.

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Stay Off the Pause Button

“You can only be young once, but you can always be immature.” – Dave Barry

What if we could just push the pause button on growth?  Would you choose to stay 16 forever?  How about 39?  Or would your pause button be at 60?  Aging is something we cannot stop.  But maturity – that is a different story.  We can keep living and behaving with the same understanding at 40 that we had at 14.  It would be awkward for anyone watching, but we can choose to do it.

With the coming of March we are into the season of Great Banquets – seven of them before the end of May to be exact (and that’s not counting YES and Chrysalis weekends).  A fresh season of Banquets always has me reflecting on the potential for spiritual maturity.  Over the past three decades I’ve seen adults young, old, and in between at every level of spiritual maturity.  I’ve come to realize the pause button I mentioned earlier is available in our spiritual lives, too.

Think back to when you became a believer.  You probably got into God’s Word and grew.  But, like many folks, you may have allowed things like career, marriage, and family to take up more of your days than you might have guessed possible.  And, like so many others, you pushed the pause button on your spiritual growth.

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Shed Those Bindings!

Well, we’re already a month into the new year.  Time flies when you’re having fun!  Do you still remember your new year’s resolutions for 2019?  Or are you like me, just not even making a resolution because you don’t need the guilt of not carrying out what you resolved to do?  However, I do believe that we would all do well at this point in the year (regardless of resolutions) to remember that in Christ, we all are something new and different than we were when we were not in Christ.

Paul helps us with that In his letter to the church at Ephesus.  “Put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and…put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”  (Ephesians 4:22-24)

This makes me think of one of my favorite stories from the Bible, involving Jesus’ good friend, Lazarus.  Lazarus was sick.  Jesus found out, but waited to come until four days after Lazarus had died.  When He got there, Jesus ordered the stone to be removed from the tomb and then raised Lazarus from the dead.  There’s a lot of interesting and fun stuff going on in that passage, but the one thing I notice for sure is that Lazarus rises from the dead and, of course, he’s still bound up by the cloth wrappings of a dead person.  Normally, all those strips of cloth are not a problem; dead people don’t need much arm and leg room.  Jesus said, “Unbind him, and let him go.”  (John 11:44)  What I love about this is that Jesus is not allowing Lazarus to be bound in the clothing of a dead man.  Instead, He’s clearly intending for Lazarus to shed the garments of death and move forward in life.

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With Jesus, Are You a Follower or Just a Friend?

“Go and search diligently for the child and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.”  Matthew 2:8

Jesus was born, just as the prophets had predicted, just as the angel had told the shepherds.  The birth had taken place, and yet even as time passed, King Herod was still trying to stop Christmas.  Ironically, Herod pretended to be a worshiper.  He told the wise men, “Go to Bethlehem and search carefully for the child.  And when you find him, come back and tell me so I can go worship him, too!”  Herod, though, was pretending, and in his pretending was truly a false worshiper.  There are people like him today; you may actually know someone like that.  They say they believe in God, but they live lives that contradict what they say.

Herod wanted to be the king of his own life, but he was really a slave.  He ended up not being the King of the Jews but the king of fools, tossed on the ash heap of history like dictators before and after him.  Herod reminds us that every person on earth will reap what they sow.  Herod would have liked the wise men to think he was a God-worshiper and Jesus-praiser.  We probably could all come up with the names of folks who seem to have great words for God and say they can’t live without Jesus in their lives, and yet their living sure doesn’t seem to reflect their words.  In some cases, it seems they are obviously Facebook friends with Jesus, but I have to wonder if they are actually “following” Him.

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It Wasn't Supposed to be Like This

“This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners…”  1 Timothy 1:15

It wasn’t supposed to be like this.  I was moving along, mulching up leaves in my back yard, just as I have every fall for the past upteen years.  Then, the same underground stump I’ve mowed over for all those years decided to raise its ugly head…and my mower caught it.  The engine sputtered and died, but not before gouging the ground with its bent blade.  So, not only did I bend the blade, but the ground around looked like it had been freshly plowed instead of mowed.  And that underground stump just sat there smiling at me.

So I pushed the broken, dead mower to the driveway and called the repairman.  Then the Fall ice storm of 2018 happened - right on my lawn mower that has never spent the night outside.  It wasn’t supposed to be like this.

After a few days, they came for my mower.  It’s been three days now and I’m still waiting.

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Blessed to be a Blessing

This is a tough column to write this month.  Tomorrow morning fourteen members of FPC (and one friend from Houston, Texas we haven’t met yet) will be flying to Merida, Yucatan, Mexico for our third Living Waters for the World mission trip.  I’d love for this column to be about how wonderful it was, but it hasn’t happened yet.  Anticipation is high, knowing from experience what it means to help in providing a community with clean, safe water – something every one of us has the privilege of taking for granted.

Can you imagine the anticipation and joy of the members of Getsemani Presbyterian Church in Opichen?  I doubt any of us really can.  Just know that these partners in mission have been praying and preparing for what we will join them in accomplishing for their entire community.

I hope you can feel the joy of knowing our entire church – through prayer and financial support – will be a part of Christ’s plan for His body, the church.  Prayer and preparation, teamwork in ministry beyond our own walls, achieving what we can only do together, yet only when our focus is on serving Jesus by loving God and loving others.

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We Believe! We Believe!

“The problem with using quotes from the internet is verifying the accuracy of the source.”  [Abraham Lincoln]

It’s one of those stories that just gets better with time.  There was a Frenchman named Charles Blondin who made money walking a tightrope across Niagara Falls in the late 1850’s.  It became the rage to watch Blondin and his antics.  He crossed the Falls blindfolded.  He crossed the Falls while cooking an omelet.  He crossed the Falls with his manager on his back.  He even pushed a wheelbarrow across the Falls one time.  But this is where the “history” gets a little fuzzy.

I would guess over the years I have paid attention to more than a few sermons (there was also a period of several years when I didn’t).  I’ve heard a lot of preachers tell about the day Blondin stood ready to cross Niagara Falls with a wheelbarrow.  “Do you believe I can cross the Falls pushing this wheelbarrow?”  Everyone watching shouted, “Yes! We believe!”  “Do you believe I can cross the Falls with a person in the wheelbarrow?”  “Yes! We believe!” they all shouted.  “All of you believe I can cross Niagara Falls pushing a person in a wheelbarrow - terrific!”  Then Blondin quietly asked, “Who will go first?”  No one responded.

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