Friday, February 24, 2012

Lenten Sermon Series

It is the season of Lent and time to turn our eyes and our hearts toward Calvary, not just to look at the empty cross but to look at the empty tomb and to contemplate what it means to us and to the world.  We will be looking at the 7 last words of Jesus from the cross as our Lenten Sermon Series.  I hope that the words of my mouth and the meditation of our hearts together will glorify God in this holy season and cause us, by God's grace, to grow closer to the one who died to save us from our sin.

The first sermon of the series is about those words that Jesus uttered as he witnessed the milling mass of humanity that gathered to watch his execution.  There were the Roman soldiers there to do their jobs as executioners and keepers of the peace.  There were the members of the Sanhedrin who had set their plan in motion not knowing that this was truly the "Son of God" that they were accusing of blasphemy.  There were the curious, the morbid onlookers who came to witness the spectacle.  There were the disciples and women who came to mourn the loss of a son, a brother, a friend.  Even they did not comprehend the hand of God at work on that forlorn piece of rock that is known as Golgotha. 

"Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing" were the words that Jesus uttered first.  They most have sounded strange to the soldiers who were casting lots for his garments.  They were used to hearing mutterings and curses from men who were condemned to death, but this man prays for those who persecute him.  Is this prophesy fulfilled as Isaiah pronounced "for he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors." (Isaiah 53:14)

"Father, forgive them" were the words and they were intended for all those who were present just as they were meant for us in 2012 for none of us are innocent of the crimes commited against God our Father.  All of us are guilty of the sins that nailed him to the tree. 

"Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."  Pray that God would convict us of our sin and heal us of our disease that we might serve him lovingly and mightily during this Lenten season.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Grace, Grace, Marvelous Grace

Some of you know that our daughter, Angela, and her family are staying with us for a few weeks while they make the final preparations to make their 5 year sojourn to the mission fields.  We are delighted to have them for this extended visit although three little girls aged 10, 9 and 2 can certainly alter your normal living pattern.

The youngest is Mickayla and she is a delight to my soul.  She absolutely wears me out with her energy and compulsion to be on the move.  "outside, outside" she declares every time we walk by a window.  "Swing, me swing" she will tell me several times a day.  "Come on" she demands if things get a little slow or if I dare to sit down for a few moments.  I must admit that I am ready for her to go to bed by the end of the day.

But she has this one little endearing quality that always makes my heart sing.  Every morning when she comes up the stairs she enquires, "paw (my name is paw), paw?"  When she discovers me, she throws her arms up in the air and her face is fully of a great big toothy smile; her eyes are fixed expectantly on me and she is genuinely and absolutely delighted to be in my presence.  How can I resist such love?  I cannot. 

But I sometimes wonder if we don't miss great blessings because we ignore the marvelous love that God offers us every day.  His mercy is great and his grace is free.  His mercies are new every morning.  Do you need to feel like you are the center of the universe?  Get a grand daughter like my Mickayla or center yourself in the knowledge that you have a "Paw" who is waiting for you to throw your arms up and climb into his gentle embrace.  Unlike me in my aging flesh, he never grows weary of you and he is always delighted to hear your voice.  Wait marvelous grace indeed.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

no greater love

Greater love has no one than this, that he would lay down his life for his friends.  John 15:13

It is Valentine's Day and I hope that you remembered (not too late) to do something special for those that you love.  The story of Valentine and his desire to celebrate love during a brutal time in the history of humanity is a great story of living to a higher ideal.  Christianity is all about that higher ideal....loving something and someone bigger than ourselves.

God calls us to first love him with all our heart, soul and strength and then to love our brothers (and sisters) as we might love ourselves.  To love God is to love all that he is and that includes his creation that he declared to be good.  Humanity is an important part of that creation and that part which was created in his image.  We cannot declare ourselves to be Christian if we are not busily about the business of loving (and caring) for each other.

Part of our problem with loving each other is that we have forgotten how to define love.  Popular culture has twisted the word and illustrated its meaning is some very unchristian kinds of ways.  Love, pure love, the kind of love that God calls us to is unselfish and always seeking the best interest of others.  So, my Christian friends, this is my challenge to you today on this St. Valentine's day.  Love someone fact seek the best interest of others today before considering yourself.  See if unselfish love doesn't have a uniquely wonderful blessing.  One that the rest of the world may not have yet discovered.

Praying that your life is filled to overflowing with giving and receiving the kind of love that God declares to be "very good".

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Home again

Patty and I have had a most delightful time vacationing in the Savannah/Hilton Head area for the last 10 days.  We have toured the antebellum streets of Savannah, walked the river walk, toured some of the historic homes, played golf and walked the shores of the Atlantic Ocean.  We head home today and look forward to being with a portion of our family for a few weeks before they begin their mission to India.  On Saturday morning I will be speaking at the First Baptist Church of Oak Grove as part of a 2 day Men's Prayer Retreat.  I would ask your prayers that God would give me a word and use me to help the 200 men who will gather to grow in their prayer life and walk with God.  I will be speaking about the power of prayer.

As Patty and I walked the seashore I was struck at the power of this mighty ocean to change the shore line moment by moment with its powerful tides and waves.  Every moment something knew was being brought to shore and something old was being remade.  And then I thought of the Psalmist who said our God holds these powerful, earth shaping oceans in the palm of his hand and I was humbled at the image of God's continuing ability to recreate all things.  He has set the Earth in motion and created these great forces with the word of his mouth and he is able to do all things in heaven and on earth.  What could we imagine that he could not do?

The world is filled with terror and anxiety.  We worry about the price of gas and what will happen to our ability to get from here to there.  We worry about the political tenor of our nation and who will be able to lead us through the mine field of political rhetoric.  We worry about nuclear power in the hands of those who do not fear its potential consequences for global destruction.  We worry for our children and our children's children.  How much better would our time be spent if we sought God's peace and purpose and acted out of the love that he has for his creation.  He has the power to make all things new again.  Let us pray that he will reshape our hearts and give us courage to act out of that love.

Looking forward to being home and greeting you in the love of Jesus.