Standing with Jesus - and Each Other

It’s a weird and bizarre world.  The weight of sin this past week has been so evident.  My prayer has been that every evil and bad thing on the news might drive believers and non-believers to their knees before God, as we acknowledge Him, His love, His forgiveness, and His grace in the midst of so much terror and tragedy.

As murder and terror and floods and tragedy claim more lives, and as decent people seem all too eager to debate fault and politics, I am at a place this morning where I must simply rely on God’s Word being what Jesus says it is.  As His time on earth was nearing its end, Jesus prayed to the Father about us: “Sanctify them by the truth; Your word is truth.”  [John 17:17]  There is no way we deserve that kind of prayerful consideration, yet Jesus’ love and forgiveness and grace are greater than our sin.  As God’s own, we are redeemed.

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"Let's Fight Prejudice!" (if it doesn't cost too much)

“Dearly loved friends, I have been eagerly planning to write to you about the salvation we all share.  But now I find that I must write about something else, urging you to defend the truth of the Good News.  God gave this unchanging truth once for all time to His holy people.”  [Jude 3]

For twenty-five years now, I have nearly every month written a newsletter article.  Almost all that time, the lead line has been “It Takes Grace…” because, well, ‘it’ does take grace, whatever the ‘it’ in life is for that month.  Sometimes, though, I’ve thought about changing the by-line to “Huh?!” or maybe “Reflections of a Weird World.”  But then, it just keeps coming back to the fact that with everything going on around us, it certainly does take grace – and aren’t we blessed to receive every grace necessary for our lives?

Like this month, I’ve been trying to make sense in my own head over “bathroom bills.”  I’ve got more questions about all this than there is space allotted to a newsletter article.  I understand that my idea of common sense isn’t everyone’s idea of common sense, so I’ll just leave that part of it alone.

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An Offer You "Shouldn't" Refuse

I’m writing this on April 13 for a very special reason. History will be made tonight and I want to do this before the momentous events take place.  It is going to be an historic night in the National Basketball Association for two reasons:

  1. Kobe Bryant is retiring…finally.  Tonight is his last game.  Kobe has been a Los Angeles Laker for twenty years.  (He has sweat socks older than some of his teammates.)  He is the third-leading scorer of all time and has been an All-Star eighteen times.  Now, that’s impressive.
  2. The Golden State Warriors are trying to win more games in one season than any team in history.  If they win tonight, it will be their 73rd victory, while losing only nine times all season.  That, too, is impressive.

Another thing impressive about tonight’s events is the price of admission if you want to witness either event.  I just heard on the radio that the last available seats for the Lakers/Jazz game – two seats – were purchased for $45,000.  And for the Warriors game, the average list price for one ticket (now sold out) was $1,594.

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Moving Beyond "Me"

Well, by the time you read this we will have celebrated the Resurrection.  Once again we will have felt the wonderful love of God – so deep that He was willing to send His Son as a human to live before us, die in our place, and rise again so we can, too.  For many in our church family, it is just the celebration we have needed and it could not have happened soon enough in the midst of our grief and pain over losing loved ones.

Now that Easter has come and gone…I worry.  I worry about me, because I know me real well.  And, if you are like me, you should be worried, too, at least a little.  Now that Easter has been celebrated, how long will it take before we revert back to some really sad ways of thinking.  I really hope and pray I don’t do this, but the tendency is there to make our experience with God through Jesus a religious attempt rather than a relationship gained.

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Share What You Know is True

“Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”  [Matthew 28:19-20]

Have you ever been in that awkward position of having to introduce a person to another person, or even to a crowd of folks, only to realize you really don’t know much about the person you were introducing?  Yes, that can be an awkward moment.

So, what do we say when we are trying to introduce God to others?  (You are trying to introduce God to others, right?)  It could be tough if you don’t know much about God.  We have all heard that Matthew 28:19-20 is our mandate from God to reach out to others – go make disciples of all nations.  That’s pretty much everybody we come in contact with.  But if we look just a little deeper at that great commission, we see some help in how to introduce people to God.  It says, “in the name (singular) of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”  In the name, not names…Jesus is giving us some great help with our great commission.  We are to welcome people into a relationship with a singular God – a Father who is God, a Son who is God, and a Spirit who is God…three in One.

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A Fresh Start

So, how are you doing on your New Year resolutions? Hmmm…

Didn’t make any?  Me either.  I’m a chicken, too.

Seriously, whether we’ve announced it or not, whether we’ve put it in our Dear Diaries or not, you and I know that sometimes we need a fresh start, don’t we?  Maybe it’s to experience victory over a particular struggle, to make an upgrade in a career, to revive a marriage…somewhere most of us have something to work on – and if you don’t, you need to be teaching a class for the rest of us.

Maybe we can learn something from Peter the Apostle.  He certainly came to the place where he needed a fresh start.  Luke 22 tells us that after Jesus was arrested, Peter was warming himself by a fire, and he denied even knowing Jesus…three times!  Jesus turned and looked him squarely in the eye.  Can you imagine Peter’s shame and humiliation?  He left and wept bitterly.  Can you imagine carrying the weight of that night on your shoulders?

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Wise Men Still Need a Star

O Star of wonder, star of night, star with royal beauty bright, westward leading, still proceeding, guide us to Thy perfect light..."

I love the Christmas carols.  Seems like, though, we don’t get to listen to them long enough.  And now, by the time you read this, Christmas will be over and the carols replaced by other songs.  However, one of the carols actually should be saved to listen to now, a few days after Christmas.  We Three Kings tells the story of the Magi, the wise men who showed up later, when Jesus was a young child, far removed from that angel-filled, shepherd-praising night in Bethlehem.

"We three kings of Orient are, bearing gifts, we traverse afar, field and fountain, moor and mountain, following yonder star.  Born a King on Bethlehem’s plain.  Gold I bring to crown Him again.  King forever, ceasing never, over us all to reign..."

The song of the wise men.  Far from home, they had come to honor a king, shown to them by a star that directed them to the place where Jesus was living.  And when they saw Jesus, they offered their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh - gold to represent His kingship; frankincense to represent His priestly role; and myrrh, an embalming oil, to speak of the importance of His death.

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