The Lost Symbol series #7: “Triumphant King”

thelostsymbol520x280
There is both good and bad in the fact that the cross has become a very familiar sight in our world. We see it everywhere we turn from buildings to jewelry. The message of the cross is so simple a child can understand, yet it is so rich that even if we were to spend every waking moment of our entire lives studying it we would fail to mine all the riches to be found there. In this series we will seek to mine some of those riches and spark a passion in each of us to pray as the hymn writer wrote “Jesus, keep me near the cross.”

 

The Lost Symbol series #6: “In My Place”

thelostsymbol520x280
There is both good and bad in the fact that the cross has become a very familiar sight in our world. We see it everywhere we turn from buildings to jewelry. The message of the cross is so simple a child can understand, yet it is so rich that even if we were to spend every waking moment of our entire lives studying it we would fail to mine all the riches to be found there. In this series we will seek to mine some of those riches and spark a passion in each of us to pray as the hymn writer wrote “Jesus, keep me near the cross.”

 

Kingdom Chronicles series #4 “Withstanding Error”

kingdomchroniclesseries

Paul continues his breakdown of the armor of a follower of Jesus Christ with the shield of faith and the helmet of salvation. These pieces of armor are critical for withstanding the onslaught of subtle lies and deception that the enemy throws at the believer.

 

Advent: We are Waiting series #4 – God Redeems in Waiting

adventslide  

Advent is a time in which we look toward the advent of Jesus Christ. We look back toward His 1st advent with celebration and rejoicing, and we look toward His 2nd advent with anticipation. As we wait for His 2nd advent we want to wait well understanding that God has purpose in our waiting. We may wonder in our waiting if God has forgotten or is simply not taking seriously His promises, but nothing could be farther from the truth. God’s patience is a gift for humanity that allows us time to embrace the redemption that is available through His Son Jesus Christ.

 

Fairy Tale Marriage

One of my great joys as a pastor is getting to share in the excitement and happiness of a couple preparing for marriage. I never tire of listening to couples talk about one another, how they met, how perfect they are for each another, and how everything is so much brighter when they are together. Yes, I am a hopeless romantic, and even though I try to hide it and play the part of the macho man, I want to see those sappy romantic comedies as much as my wife does.
One of my great sorrows as a pastor is witnessing a couple who has been swallowed up by the dark side of the vulnerability of love. The twinkle in the eye is gone, the idealism has eroded, and all that is left are broken memories of what was and what could have been.
I have yet to meet a couple who steps into my office or my home with the intent of giving marriage a try for five years or so and then deciding whether they would like to move on to other endeavors or not. When we get married we want it to last for life and we want the happily ever after. The problem is that the happily ever after takes work. It may be a tired cliché but it is true that the shine of love fades when you have to pick up the dirty socks and underwear that somehow ‘missed’ the laundry basket and ended up in an entirely different zip code or when the pounds begin to pile up around the midsection. It was a real eye opener for my wife on that first morning after we got married when she turned to kiss her ‘perfect man’ and was engulfed in a cloud of simple chronic halitosis. I knew it was true love when she fought through it and kissed me anyway.
It would be wonderful if kissing your spouse even when they have a serious case of bad breath were the only thing required for a good marriage, but we all know there is more to it than that. So what is the secret to a good marriage? What is it that keeps a couple together for ten, twenty-five, fifty years, or ‘til death do us part. What is it that allows them to go on sharing an ever-deepening love with one another?
The trouble is that this question is very easy to answer, but it takes a lifetime of hard work and commitment to carry out. No matter who we are, there is a need to be constantly reminded of the foundation upon which happy and healthy marriages are built. So at the risk of appearing trite, shortsighted, or completely out of touch with reality, I’m going to attempt to share two ‘simple’ principles that help build that happy, healthy, hopelessly romantic marriage we all dream of.
I learned a long time ago that in order to give something we have to have it or have experienced ourselves. One of my favorite ancient writers applied this to love when he said, “we love because [God] first loved us.” Some of us have enjoyed the luxury of growing up in the shadow of a marriage in which our parents modeled love for each other and love for us, but sadly many of us did not enjoy this luxury, and don’t desire to journey down the same path as our parents when it comes to love. Regardless of your personal experience with love, or what has been modeled for you, your surest source of receiving love and experiencing love in the purest sense is through knowing God. That same ancient writer not only said that love is from God, but that God is love. He perfected love because love is who He is. Marriages can and do survive apart from acknowledging God and His love, but only by both partners being in a place of regularly receiving the lavish love of God can a marriage soar. The only way to position ourselves to regularly receive God’s love is to receive the gift of his Son, Jesus Christ. Once again the ancient writer, John, sums this up beautifully, “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent His only Son in the world, so that we might live (and love) through him.”
It’s not enough to just know love. Sadly, many who profess to know perfect love through a relationship with Jesus Christ end up with a shipwrecked marriage too. In many of these cases it is the result of forgetting a second fundamental principle; love is a giving thing. Our experience of love is richest and most satisfying when we are giving love away. It is paradoxical but undeniable. Think about what makes a great love story. It doesn’t take a PhD. to recognize the love found in sacrificing everything for someone else. It could be financial security, lofty dreams of fame, or even life itself, and though we may call it foolish, from a practical perspective, we can’t deny that the point has been made that love superseded anything else in life in these cases.
Lucky for us, living out the principle that love is a giving thing doesn’t require regularly making these kinds of momentous sacrifices. In reality, the healthiest marriages are the ones in which both partners have learned to make it a daily practice of giving love in the small things. It never ceases to amaze me how a little can go a long way. Time and again I have watched marriages in danger of caving, begin the healing process by simply committing to daily saying “I love you” in creative ways. From writing I love you on the bathroom mirror so it shows up when the steam from the shower collects, to a chocolate on a pillow, a random phone call, voicemail or text message, there is power in the realization that your spouse is thinking about you. And the truth is, most of us think about doing these things but just don’t take a few moments to carry them out. We did when we were dating, so what has changed? I am not saying that this will solve all your problems, but another ancient writer wisely observed that love covers a multitude of sins. When we know someone loves us there is a lot more we are willing to overlook, even endure. So find a fresh way to express your love every day.
Any seasoned marriage veteran will tell you there is so much more to a happy and healthy marriage than just these two principles. But without these there is not much of a foundation to build upon. Those who overlook these may enjoy marriage for a season, they may even stay together for a lifetime, but in order to experience that ever-deepening, satisfying love relationship with another human being that is the stuff fairy tales and romantic comedies are made of we must commit to these two principles. Allow God’s love, given to us through Jesus Christ, to be your deep flowing well from which your love gives selflessly and regularly to your spouse in little and big ways.

Seeking the Lost, Shine series #1

Zacchaeus was a wee little man…a man whose life was transformed through his encounter with Jesus. As his story comes to a close, Jesus makes the declaration that He has come to seek and to save that which is lost – those who are like Zacchaeus was. Now, He desires to accomplish this through His followers and when He does it is one of the most joyous occasions in our lives.

 

50 forward series #5: Shepherd

message title: Shepherd

message text: John 10:11-18

message date: 01.31.10

In this 50th year of ministry for MorningStar Baptist Church we are celebrating the fact that Jesus Christ has been our all-sufficient source and solidifying this reality for the years to come.  Jesus makes 7 sufficiency statements in the book of John.  This fourth sufficiency statement affirms that Jesus is our good shepherd because by His death we are saved.

 

shepherd outline 5

So many “Pacos”

            I recently came across a Spanish story of the relationship between a father and son which became so estranged that the teenage son ended up running away from home.  Realizing the consequences of his stubbornness the father quickly had a change of heart and began a journey in search of his estranged son.  The father searched for several weeks with little success so he decided to run an ad in the local newspaper.  The ad read, “Dear Paco, meet me in front of the newspaper office tomorrow at noon.  All is forgiven.  I love you, your father.”  The next morning the father showed up at the newspaper office shortly before noon and to his surprise, there waiting for him in front of the office were eight hundred ‘Pacos,’ standing there, all of them seeking forgiveness and love from their fathers.father son

            The reality brought out through this story is that we all want and need forgiveness in our lives.  Though our desire for forgiveness may vary from situation to situation and some of us may have effectively desensitized ourselves to our drive for forgiveness through resisting it, this built in mechanism still resides within all of us.  This innate drive to seek forgiveness is further confirmed by our decisions to withhold forgiveness from those who have wronged or hurt us or someone we love.  Withholding forgiveness is like our way of disabling the individual who has been so insensitive to us, and seeking to keep them in a position of indebtedness to us until such a time as we determine that the price has been paid for the pain they have inflicted. 

            I was recently speaking to some friends of mine who work in the area of finance and banking.  I asked them what they believed was the average amount of credit card debt for an American.  I figured they would say something like eight thousand dollars, but I was shocked when they shared that it was probably closer to the neighborhood of fifteen thousand.  That figure does not include mortgages and cars!  Some of you may be higher than this average and some of you may be lower but just imagine if the every lending company you are indebted to called you this week and released you from all further payments on your debt.  I’m talking mortgage, car loans, boat loans, second mortgages, third mortgages, credit cards, department store cards, etcetera, etcetera.  There is not one of us who would refuse such an offer though we may ask to see the fine print and ask what the catch is.

            Forgiveness between individuals is much like the financial debt we have incurred.  Each time we pain someone we sustain a moral debt to them.  As we seek to pay back this debt the individual from whom we have incurred the debt makes the determination at what interest rate the debt will be paid back.  Our desire is that forgiveness would be granted with just a simple “I’m sorry,” and the debt would be cancelled, though just as with our financial debt, forgiveness usually requires more than just a simple, “I’m sorry.”

Jonathan Edwards, a preacher who was central to the Great Awakening of the 18th century described it this way, “Any sin is more or less heinous  depending upon the honor and majesty of the one whom we have offended.  Since God is of infinite honor, infinite majesty, and infinite holiness, the slightest sin is of infinite consequence.”  Our debts against God carry a humanly immeasurable interest rate, thus making the debt humanly un-payable.  No amount of saying, “I’m sorry,” no amount of good deeds or kindness can ever cover the debt even of just one thought that is contrary to the holy character of God.  That is what makes God’s offer of forgiveness so absolutely amazing.  Only He could take the necessary steps to guarantee our forgiveness and rather than dangle that fact over us like a vindictive and vengeful God, He followed through for us at great personal price to Himself.  Our moral debt against God requires a morally perfect sacrifice, and the only morally perfect sacrifice was God’s only Son, Jesus Christ.  Forgiving our moral and spiritual debt against God cost God His one and only Son and what does it cost us, absolutely nothing.  It is highly likely that your bank won’t call today and cancel all your financial debt but it is absolutely certain that God is calling today offering full forgiveness of all your moral and spiritual debt to Him through His Son Jesus Christ.  No fine print, no catch just a free gift of a debt cancelled.  All you have to do is accept it.