I Love You! Come and Die!

Lon“When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die.”  Dietrich Bonhoeffer

You can take this for what it’s worth as my opinion on dating and relationships, but I would think it’s probably not the most comforting thing to invite someone into a relationship with the words, “I love you. Come and die.”  I guess it kind of worked for Romeo and Juliet, but I’m thinking Shakespeare may have used up whatever romance was in that line.

“I love you. Come and die.”  Doesn't paint a very bright future, does it?  No warm fuzzies attached.  If you heard it from the wrong person, you might call 911.  But, from Jesus, it is not a threat.  It’s a wonderful invitation to live.

It’s one thing to be exposed to Jesus.  Lots of people are exposed to Him.  Some like what they see; others don’t.  Some are drawn to Him; others are repelled.  Some choose to believe; others hesitate or refuse.  All of that has to do with being exposed to Jesus.  It is a whole different thing, though, to be invited by Jesus to die, to realize what Jesus truly wants is for us to die so He can live through us.  “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.”  Galatians 2:20

Let that soak in.  By accepting Jesus’ death at the cross as applying to us, His resurrection then is also ours to claim.  Christ died; we died in Him.  Christ lives; He lives in us.

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"Rescue the Perishing"

Just watching the coverage of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma was overwhelming.  “If you’re not going to evacuate, write your Social Security number on your arm in ink.”  “If the water rises in your home, don’t go to the attic unless you have an ax.”  It was almost unbelievable, except it was very real - people wading in chest-high water, or perched on their rooftops waiting to be airlifted.

In the midst of this tragedy, one word kept popping up - "rescue".  Like the Cajun Navy.  Like all the fishing boats and rowboats and canoes and kayaks.  Everyday people using what they had to save as many as possible.  Apparently, no one had to tell them their boats were needed.  They were not trained rescuers, but they knew they had what others so badly needed.  They knew people would die if they didn’t risk trying to save them.  You and I are not in Texas or Florida.  We have limited provisions to help those who are, and we should be doing what we can.  I see a bigger picture here, though.

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We're ALL Created in His Image

“Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria and preached Christ to them.”  Acts 8:5

The current rise of racism, bigotry, and hatred in so many hearts around the country and our world is truly a sickening thing - white extremists, Muslim terrorists, gang violence, Black Lives Matter.  It’s really easy to jump on the bandwagon and declare all we see on the news as a world full of racism, bigotry, and hatred.  Have you considered, though, a different approach - dare I say Christ’s approach?  Yes, we should stand up and speak out every chance we get against people who treat others in ungodly ways wherever it occurs.  It doesn’t matter if the evil is across the street or across the globe, God’s intention for each of us is to love all the others…period, and to effectively share the gospel with everyone…period.  We don’t get to choose who is worthy of being loved or hearing good news specifically because God loved us and shared His Son with us – and who among us deserved that?!

Loving others and effectively sharing the gospel requires a willingness to reach out to people who are different from us.  We tend to want to hang out with folks who look like us, who talk like us, and who are just like us.  But, how willing are we to leave our comfort zone and go to a person completely different from us with the message of the gospel?

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Wide-eyed Wonder

“Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.”  Romans 12:11

Last month, Pat and I vacationed for a week with our soon-to-be teenage grandson, Carter.  We rode a lot of roller coasters at Cedar Point, Ohio.  We toured Niagra Falls from both the US and Canadian sides, getting very wet.  We ate two great meals in Buffalo, New York – a diner showcased on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives and the Anchor Bar and Grill (original home of Buffalo wings).  We ended our trip with tours of the Creation Museum and the Ark Encounter in northern Kentucky.  Needless to say, Pat and I were bushed as we pulled back into our driveway.  I believe even Carter was a bit saddle weary from the 1700 mile trip.

Part of what kept Pat and me going day after day was watching the zeal of a 12-year old boy enjoying new experiences.  His eyes widened as he approached each roller coaster.  You could see the wonder in his eyes while watching millions of gallons of water flow each minute over the Falls.  His eyes got huge as waitresses set his grilled mac and cheese and a platter of wings on our table.  You could see the wheels in his mind turning as he explored the full-sized replica of Noah’s ark.

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The Seasons of Life and Death

“Will You not revive us again, that Your people may rejoice in You?”  Psalm 85:6

Looking back over the years of newsletters, I realize how “seasonal” they are.  Just as the calendars remind us of birthdays, Easter, and Christmas, our newsletters typically remind us of those days and more.  In this month of July, we celebrate Independence Day.  Many people prophesy we are in our last days as a thriving nation, saying we have strayed too far from God’s plan of “freedom of religion” to our current state of “freedom from religion.”  Our church newsletters still reference holy days like Christmas and Easter.  Much of our culture, though, has decided on Happy Holidays, Winter Celebrations, and Spring Breaks.  Without revival, I do believe America will simply become the next great nation to rise and fall.  That is my opinion, and I’ll leave it there for you to consider.

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Thanks Be to God and FPC

This past Mother’s Day was my 16th anniversary of ministering with all the great believers of First Presbyterian Church here in Madisonville.  Even though I came here with ten years of pastoring and preaching experience, your lives blended with mine since 2001 have created in me a different kind of spirit – better able to feel God’s Holy Spirit in me as I witness His presence regularly in you.  Funny thing is that this drives me to want more of those experiences…with Him and with you.

Over the past 26 years I have taken time to re-evaluate and update a personal faith statement that was first started as I entered seminary in 1988.  You can be assured that I am not the same person (that’s a good thing for all of us).  What I’m beginning to understand is that, done right, a relationship with Christ allows for who I was, lifts me to who I am, and believes in who I am becoming.  Just for your information, here is my most recent update on my continually revising personal faith statement.  I’ve made it simple, so I can live as though what I believe matters.
I believe:

Hope is a "He"

Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.”  John 14:6

“Praise God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  God is so good, and by raising Jesus from death, He has given us new life and a hope that lives on.”  1 Peter 1:3

I’ve spent a fair amount of time in graveyards - the privilege of last words spoken before dirt is shoveled back into a hole, over a casket.  Sometimes it has been for folks I barely knew - a part of being the preacher from “that church” when someone who used to be a member there passes on.  Sometimes it has been for church members who have been closer than my own family members.  And, after more than a few years of being a preacher, I get to be “the family preacher” who has a part in burying his own.

A graveyard is a logical place to go looking for history – for the last day to finally be etched on stone.  There are not many stones that have to be re-etched because somebody died and then “did a Lazarus.”  Dates on tombstones rarely need to be changed.  A graveyard is a logical place to look for historical accuracy.

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