Monday, December 30, 2013

Healing Power

It was another one of those typical Sundays. We were at morning services and the time had come for the Lord's Supper to be served. The first prayer for the unleavened bread had been offered. And at this particular point, as always, I was trying to wrap my head around what it really meant for Jesus to die on the cross. My little girl was sitting next to me on her mother's lap, and as I glanced at her face I saw it. It reminded me of what Jesus had truly come to do.

A day or so ago my daughter had come into the living room crying because our oldest son had accidentally scratched her on the face. The scratch left an abrasion that was going to take a few days to heal. As she sat next to me I saw the mark still there on her small, soft cheek. It had improved a little but still had a long way to go. I thought to myself, "How wonderful that God has made the human body with its own healing power!" I would be especially sad if every time one of my children scraped a knee or cut their hand or scratched their face that it would leave a mark that would never go away.

God is a healing God. He is the only one who has the power to heal. Our limited capacity for our physical bodies to heal themselves comes from God's design. When it comes to being able to heal from within, God still holds the key. Sometimes we need healing from the pains and disappointments and sad circumstances of life. Sometimes we need to heal from the wounds we have regretfully inflicted upon others. Sometimes we need to be healed from the sting of sin. This is why Jesus came to earth and died.

At that moment, I realized again the majesty and wonder of the plan of God. He chose to heal our lives through the scars of our sins that were cast upon His own Son. But he knew it would be alright. He knew His Son would recover. For an eternal and all-powerful God, who created the material universe and even time itself, the physical death of Jesus was no more than a scratch. He knew that the marks would eventually heal. After all, He is God, and it is God who takes the scratches away.

No matter what sins we may be dealing with, and no matter what wounds we may suffer in life, we have a God who can heal us completely. There is no scratch that the power of the cross cannot restore. In the blood of Christ there is matchless, unlimited power. Healing power.

Yes, I'm headed for a home built by God alone.
 Hallelujah, Praise the Lord I am.
Where the only thing there that's been made by man
Are the scars in the hands of Jesus.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

When We Cease to be Christians

This past Monday I travelled to Lawrenceburg, Tennessee for the sole purpose of spending a few hours with my grandparents, Bill and Barbara Watts. It was my Papa Bill's 85th birthday. It was a very special occasion for me, and I feel so blessed that I still have them with me, and that I can still be within driving distance and take them out to lunch.

As we were driving back to their home together I asked my Papa what he had learned in 85 years...what wisdom do you have for a 40 year-old preacher? (My Papa preached for 63 years before having to retire because of his health). He told me two things, one about preaching and one about life in general that I am saving to share at a later date. But as our conversation ended my grandmother added something that I want to share in this article.

My grandmother said, "Jeremy, everyone has a story. No matter where they have come from, no matter what they have done, the minute that we are no longer willing to reach out to others is the day when we cease to be Christians." After I said goodbye I had a long drive back home to think about all that had happened and all that had been said. While thinking about this particular statement from grandma, it occurred to me that my grandparents lives had been dedicated to accepting the truth of this statement and acting accordingly. I am so thankful for their example.

Everyone has a story. How true. God knows every page of every story and every letter of every word we will ever write in our book. He has chosen to know us so intimately that He pays attention to every detail of our lives individually. The ability He has to know us in this way and His willingness to do so is what makes Him God. When we begin to fathom the love that is displayed in His reading of our story and His desire to give it a joyous ending, how amazing the grace and mercy of God becomes! And this is where Christianity comes in. Once we realize what God has done for our story, it becomes our responsibility to care about the story of every man.

God created every individual with a purpose. To God, there is no person who is more beautiful than the next. Jesus came to die because this is what everyone needed. The contents of individual stories all have one thing in common, sin and a genuine and desperate need for redemption. And although we are so different in so many ways, our need for Christ is the central theme to every one of our stories.

If we are going to be the kind of people God created us to be, we will never forget that every person needs someone else to care about their story. If we will do this, we will truly be able to say that we are children of God. The day we stop caring about others will be the day when we cease to be Christians.

"Oh, satisfy us early with Your mercy, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days!" - Psalm 90:14

Thursday, December 5, 2013

What Do Your Kids Want for Christmas?

It has been a humbling day in so many ways. But this last thing that just happened surpassed the rest of the day in humbling moments by a wide margin. There is a family from our community our congregation has been helping . Without going into details, I will simply tell you that unless we provide them a Christmas, they are not going to have one. I have a great job. Today I got to pick up a Christmas tree that was donated by a kind lady with new lights and ornaments and deliver it to the house of this needy family. It was nice to see them be excited about it. I had asked the parents to get the two children, (a girl and a boy), to write up a wish list for Christmas. They gave it to me as I left.

What do your kids want for Christmas this year? Is it X-Box or Playstation? What kind of electronics and toys are they expecting? What brands and types of clothes? My oldest son honestly said when put to the test, he would love to have an "I - anything." You know, ipad, ipod, iphone - anything that starts with "I." Good luck with that, son (dream big!)...Let's face it, our kids are pretty blessed, we might even say spoiled. But it is Christmas. It is easy for us to give to them. What parent doesn't want to give their children more than they had when they were the same age?

So now let me tell you what is on the list of this little girl and boy (5th and 3rd grade):

Pet Shops Littlest Pets
Dolls and Clothing
Hair-bows and Pony-tail clips
Coloring books and crayons
Books to read

Push cars
A track for the cars
Coloring books and crayons
Books to read

They both said they would also like some Legos so they can play together.

How does reading that list make you feel?

You see, our kids are conditioned to ask for expensive things because of what they already have! But what is going to make them happy? None of the "things." But an expression of love and something new and special will be enough. What a humbling list! It makes me think about the difference between what I want and what I need. It makes me wonder if some of my wants don't need to change.

What do I want for Christmas? I already know. I want to fill the list for both of these children. That will be enough for me.

What do you want for Christmas?

"I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’" - Acts 20:35 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

How to Overcome a Negative Label.

Sometimes people misunderstand you. Sometimes people misrepresent you. Sometimes they don't see what you want them to see. Christians are supposed to be salt and light to the world (Matt. 5:14-16). But what do we do when others label us as unloving, uncaring, or unfeeling? What do we do when the world sees us as close-minded, dogmatic, and legalistic?

The reputation of every Christian is so important to the work of the church. But let's face it, are Christians perfect? No. Do Christians still sin and make bad choices? Yes. It is in these moments of our humanity that Satan gets to work. He wants the world to see a different picture of us and the church than the picture that God has chosen to represent Him. How do we overcome our moments of weakness that allow others to shout, "hypocrite!"? How do we manage our broken hearts when we are depicted as "un-Christian"?

1. We must choose to be kind. Has someone accused you? Have they said evil things about you? Have they tried to hit you where it counts? Nothing hurts me more than a person saying to me that I am supposed to be a man of God, but in reality I am something else. I don't want the Lord's cause to be hurt by my mistakes. When people attempt to cut us down we must respond with the same kindness Jesus displayed when he was treated that way - "who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously" (1 Pet. 2:2:23). "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good" (Rom. 12:21).

2. We must strive to be at peace and let it go. The devil wants us to hold a grudge. He loves that because he is the king of grudges. When others lash out at us the easiest thing to do is take it to heart and remember the pain that has been inflicted. But God wants us to let it go. He wants us to make every effort we can to make peace with others, and if they refuse our efforts He wants us to move on. It was while we were yet sinners, that in due time Christ died for the ungodly (Rom. 5:6-8). The people responsible for the greatest moment of God's pain were immediately offered forgiveness and entrance into God's family, the church. How amazing! Jesus said we should quickly agree with our adversary and move on with life (Matt. 5:25).

3. Let what God truly knows about you be enough. We are never going to be guaranteed that others will completely understand us. Even in some of our closest relationships, people may have opinions about us that don't represent our true selves. But God knows the secrets of the heart (Psalm 44:21). He knows our frame and He remembers that we are dust (Psalm 103:14). At the end of the day, it is what God knows and understands about us that really matters. If we love Him with all of our heart, and if we are daily seeking His will and the best interest of others, we need to be satisfied with where we stand with God. There is no consolation or joy of hope that compares with knowing that we are pleasing to God.

I am thankful that the only One we really need to please in this life is the One who created us. He alone will judge us righteously. He alone loved us enough to offer His Son to make the Judgment Day a good day for His people.

"For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ." - Galatians 1:10