“Psalm 39: Put Your Hope in the Lord”

I said, “I will watch my ways
    and keep my tongue from sin;
I will put a muzzle on my mouth
    while in the presence of the wicked.”
So I remained utterly silent,
    not even saying anything good.
But my anguish increased;
    my heart grew hot within me.
While I meditated, the fire burned;
    then I spoke with my tongue:

“Show me, Lord, my life’s end
    and the number of my days;
    let me know how fleeting my life is.
You have made my days a mere handbreadth;
    the span of my years is as nothing before you.
Everyone is but a breath,
    even those who seem secure.

“Surely everyone goes around like a mere phantom;
    in vain they rush about, heaping up wealth
    without knowing whose it will finally be.

“But now, Lord, what do I look for?
    My hope is in you.
Save me from all my transgressions;
    do not make me the scorn of fools.
I was silent; I would not open my mouth,
    for you are the one who has done this.
Remove your scourge from me;
    I am overcome by the blow of your hand.
When you rebuke and discipline anyone for their sin,
    you consume their wealth like a moth—
    surely everyone is but a breath.

“Hear my prayer, Lord,
    listen to my cry for help;
    do not be deaf to my weeping.
I dwell with you as a foreigner,
    a stranger, as all my ancestors were.
Look away from me, that I may enjoy life again
    before I depart and am no more.”

 


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“God’s Motherly Love”

“As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you.” — Is. 66:13

 Mother’s Day is a man-made holiday, but mothers are part of God’s design for the family.  But why?  God is intentional.  Everything he does is deliberate and with a long-range, inside and out view of each of our individual lives.  Nothing that God does is accidental or coincidental. 

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Rom. 8:28

God was intentional when He created mothers.  God even had Mary, the mother of Jesus, present at his crucifixion.  Perhaps it was so we would see the tenderness of God’s love even while His Son was dying on the cross.  God had a plan to redeem the soul of man.  And in that process, God imparted principles that work right alongside the Gospel message —principles around hope and love.  In His intentional way, we can see God’s motherly love for us.

During Israel’s exile and the overwhelming feeling of despair, God had to remind them that He had not forsaken them.  God used the example of a mother to let Israel know He had not forgotten them!  God, who we know as “Our Father”, uses the imagery of labor and childbirth, a mother nursing a child, and a child being comforted by a mother all throughout Isaiah 66 to bring out the concept of hope.  A disobedient nation could have hope because God, our Father, also has the capacity to exhibit what we understand as motherly love.

Mothers are as different as each of our unique personalities suggest.  Some are soft and gentle, while others are firm and hard.  Still, there is something about a mother’s love.  It’s almost indescribable!  We honor our mothers today, not only because God’s Word tells us to do so, but also because we recognize the many unselfish and sacrificial ways that mothers have poured into our lives.  We are grateful to God for our mothers.  And we are grateful to God for His motherly love!

 


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“Living with Eternity in Mind”

I’ve been to several visitations and funerals over the past 7 days, and I found myself thinking about the very different ages and stages and stories of each person’s life.  While their life stories were very different, every one of these precious people had professed a hope in Christ.  At some point, each one had made a decision with eternity in mind.

The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen. — 1 Peter 4:7-11

God’s word encourages us to have an eternal perspective—to think beyond the daily routine of our obligations and earthly pleasures and to consider eternity.  Having an appropriate view of eternity should affect how we live, how we handle life’s ups and downs, and how well we prepare for the end that will surely come. 

This could seem sort of dark and sad, however, it is actually appropriate.  It should give us hope.  Christ lived his life with “the end of all things is near” mindset.  He knew he would endure great suffering as part of God’s plan for mankind.  He had a healthy view of eternity. 

None of us knows the day when Christ will return, but we do expect that he will.  None of us knows the exact number of our days either, but those of us who have confessed a hope in Christ expect to go to heaven when we die, and we expect to live eternally.  That is our hope. 

We must live purposeful lives—according to God’s will.  And we must not get overly concerned about the when and the where of Christ’s return, but determine to heed the words from 1 Peter 4 and live our lives with eternity in mind.  No matter what life may bring, love deeply, be hospitable, serve faithfully and graciously…“so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.”

 


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Trust God

I heard someone say the other day, “If you don’t know it is NFL Draft weekend here in Nashville, you must be living under a rock!”  Yes, the NFL Draft festivities started this past Thursday!  32 teams were selecting athletes from a crowded field of hopefuls!  I did my research and learned that there are about 3,500 eligible players for about 254 spots plus a few free agents.  If you caught any of the draft rounds, you saw the excited athletes surrounded by an entourage of cheering fans and family as their names were called.  For these athletes, the years of hard work, training and preparation, topped off by their performance at the NFL combine, has caught the attention of the decision-makers for at least one of these teams.  With all of the fanfare, even with those who give God praise and thanks for being drafted, there are over 3,000 athletes who don’t get chosen.  What about them?  And what about those aging out of the NFL at the ripe old age of 30?  Both of these groups are impacted right in the midst of the excitement of this draft weekend. 

For the undrafted, they ask “What now?”  For those aging out, they also ask “What now?”  Fortunately, the answer is the same for all:  “Trust God!”  Or as the scripture so eloquently teaches, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV)

There are times when we have to face the truth of whether or not we truly trust God.  This applies to everyone involved and affected by the NFL Draft Weekend events.  It applies to all of us, too!  We all can probably recall a pivotal moment in our lives where we had a similar draft weekend-like experience, and our faith was tested.  Maybe it was receiving an admissions letter from a college…or a denial letter.  Perhaps it was an audition, or a job interview, or a promotion—and whether or not we got what we were going for made all the difference to us.  In moments of great joy and in moments of uncertainty and insecurity, we are called to trust God…either way. 

Some of us are in the midst of our Draft Weekend-like experience, and we are waiting for our names to be called.  Some of us see it coming in the near future, and our faith will be tested.  Whichever it is for you, and  whichever way it works out, remember this one important lesson:  Trust God.  No matter what it looks like in the moment, trust God.

 


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Let Your “Hosannas” Ring True!

The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” –Matthew 21:9 (NIV)

Today is Palm Sunday—a significant day for the Christian in this the season of Bright Sadness where we mourn and celebrate all at the same time. On this day, scriptures tell us the Prince of Peace triumphantly entered Jerusalem, the “City of Peace”, as the crowd of people lined the roads and cheered, “Hosanna!” meaning, “Save!” Ironically, these were some of the same people who days later would cry “Crucify him!” 

But even then, Jesus had foretold of his own suffering and death.  While the crowd was crying for him to save them from the Romans (Acts 1:6), Jesus had entered the city to save them from something even more significant—eternal death. Jesus knew he would soon have to endure great suffering and shame to save all of mankind.

Can you imagine the confusion that followed the first Palm Sunday?  Towards the end of this same week, the joyous cries would give way to fear and doubt. The disciples—those who had followed Jesus and sat under his teachings—would fall asleep on him, betray him, deny him, run away in fear, fall into despair, and essentially fail…at first. Can you imagine what it was like for them during this next week’s events over 2000 years ago? (As Jesus’ disciples today, we should put ourselves in their shoes and think about this for a moment.) When Jesus was crucified, the people had no idea of Easter back then. The disciples watched Jesus, their king and savior, be arrested and whipped and humiliated and crucified. What hope of resurrection did they have then? It hadn’t happened yet!

We, however, have the good fortune of hindsight.  Because of the scriptures, we can see the happenings of Palm Sunday in a more meaningful light. We can think about the events of this next week already knowing about the resurrection—not only that Jesus died, but also why he died and that we are the reason. Our cries of Hosanna today are because we know Jesus to be a savior! So as we enter into Holy Week, let us praise God for who he is and for what he did in sending his son, Jesus, as a sacrifice for our sins. Let us honor Jesus as the one who saves!

As disciples of Christ who really get what this whole Easter season represents, let our “Hosannas” ring true!

Hosanna!  Hosanna!!  Hosanna!!! 

 


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A message for the Youth – “Trees of Righteousness Planted by the Lord”

A seed is an interesting creation of God’s.  It is wildly amazing when you compare the size of a seed to the plant or tree that grows from it.  And that’s how we tend to think about our children!  The youth in our church are seeds in one sense of the word, where we guide, nourish, and encourage them to reach their full potential.  They are also striving to be the seeds in the sense that their ministry theme declares: spiritually enlightened and empowered disciples—SEEDS.  (See the front of this program.)  We give the Youth Ministry members opportunities to participate in the Sunday services.  We support their ministry efforts and their development.  We want our S.E.E.D.s to become full-grown “Trees of Righteousness”, and they must pursue it!

Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the LORD, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither — whatever they do prospers” (Ps. 1:1-3).  

Righteousness is “the state of moral perfection required by God to enter into heaven”. The Bible tells us that we can never be righteous apart from God.  We must rely on God.  We must trust in the Lord to help us strive for this perfection.  Nobody’s perfect—our children aren’t and neither are we!

But blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit” (Jer. 17:7-8).

We are well aware that trials and tribulations will come.  Our youth are not immune to their own share of trials and tribulations.  We would do well to remind them of who they and whose they are.  We would do well to keep these S.E.E.D.s firmly planted in the rich soil of God’s Word, watered by the Lord, and basking in the warmth of the Son.  When our young people are tested, we all need to remember what is declared over them:  They are SEEDs destined to grow into trees of righteousness planted by the Lord.  (And a tree planted by the Lord is not easily moved!) 

Youth:  It won’t always be easy, but keep your trust in God, pursue righteousness as you grow up, and let your lives bring glory to God!  We are praying for every one of you!

 


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“Only One Way”

What would you think of a doctor who, instead of telling you the truth, told you what you wanted to hear?  “Oh, I see you’ve gained a little more weight.  Even though belly bulge is a risk factor for heart disease, you will probably be alright.  You seem as healthy as an ox otherwise.”  And if believing that doctor’s softened diagnosis, you suddenly dropped dead, what would you think then? 

Most of us would prefer the hard truth in a situation like that.  “C’mon, doctor.  Give it to me straight.  What’s going on with me?  What do I need to do?”  But when it comes to the Gospel, some of us prefer to share a watered down version that is easier for the unchurched to accept.  But like the doctor, when we don’t tell the whole hard truth, people will miss the fact that they are in danger of dying without the promise of eternal life.

And so the doctor tells you that if you don’t drop 50 pounds and change some of your lifestyle habits, you are most assuredly going to have a heart attack or a stroke.  You could even die.  You listen to the hard truth and strive to make the changes necessary so you might live. 

How would you feel if you had to complete a very difficult task, but someone told you there’s a shortcut that will save you time and effort?  How would you feel when you found out that the shortcut, while a much easier way, actually places you on a path to nowhere?  So, imagine how disappointing it will be to those with which we share the Gospel when they discover we gave them a shortcut to salvation that doesn’t actually save them!

Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.”  (John 14:6)

The hard truth of the Gospel—the one way to God—is extremely important to share with the unchurched.  Every one of us has to understand how wretched and lost we are without Jesus as our Savior.  We must resist the urge to try and soften the truth to make it easier to hear.  We must not try to create a shortcut to God just to make it easier for people.  It won’t work. 

Springtime is here!  As the Easter season quickly approaches, remember there is only one way to God, and that is through Jesus!  Share this truth and help someone come to Christ today. 

 


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“The High Cost of Forgiveness”

In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that He lavished on us. –Eph. 1:7

Like most mothers, I think my children are “the world’s greatest, bestest, most well-behaved, precious, loving, and all things good in the earth” children in the whole wide world.  Even still, because nobody’s perfect (ha!), I had to try to teach each of them a very important lesson around relationships, trust, offenses, and forgiveness.  See, I believe that the art of forgiveness is a value that can be taught.  When it is based on the scriptures, it makes it easier to learn, especially when we are a family of believers.  Nevertheless, there is a vital difference between us and God.  While God’s word teaches us that God will forgive us when we repent and ask for it, humans are not always that easily receptive to an apology.  So I wanted my children to understand this difference when it comes to human relationships.  Once you offend a person, all you can do is try to make reparations and ask them to forgive you.  You can’t make them forgive you.  While I also teach them that it is right for us to forgive, we all have a free will.  You can’t make people forgive you and you can’t make them reconcile.  It is in these moments when people can begin to seriously consider the high cost of forgiveness. 

For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. –Romans 6:23

Forgiveness is essentially covering someone else’s debt.  Forgiveness is not making an excuse for the offense or pretending it didn’t happen.  Our all-knowing, all-seeing God doesn’t do that either.  God made a way for our sins to be forgiven.  God made a way for our sins to be covered by the blood of Jesus!  Man broke God’s heart when we chose to sin against him, and his forgiveness definitely came at a high cost!  It cost Jesus Christ his life!

When we think about our sin, and how God sent his only Son to be the sacrifice to make a way for us to be forgiven, it is very important that we think long and hard about it.  Around Easter, we are able to take the time to think about the agonizingly cruel death Jesus suffered on the cross.  Most of the time, though, we tend to gloss over it without dwelling on how awfully gruesome crucifixion actually was.  And Jesus was innocent.  That makes it worse, doesn’t it?  Yes, forgiveness comes at a high cost!

Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.

–Luke 11:4

Praise God for his Son, Jesus Christ!  I am so grateful that God is not like us humans!  I praise God because of his lovingkindness and his grace and his mercy!  God sent his Son to save us from our sins, and it comes at a high cost.  Remember that.

 


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“Never Stop Praying”

Never stop praying.  —1 Thessalonians 5:17

Yes, that is essentially what that verses says.  Other translations say “pray continually” or “pray without ceasing”.  The point is the same…never stop praying! 

Now that probably seems like an obvious command.  Then again, when you try to actually do it, you begin to think it’s an impossible command.  Why would God lay out such a seemingly impossible directive for his children…for us to keep our heads bowed and eyes closed all day long?  Well, that’s not what the scripture means.  (I know you knew that!)  It means that we are to resort to prayer as our first and last activity of the day, our primary ongoing response to every situation, and a consistent part of our regular routine throughout the day and night.  With this in mind, we are actually able to follow the command as God designed.

“Never stop praying” means we should have an awareness of God’s power and sovereignty all of the time.  We must become so keenly in tune with how actively God is involved in our lives that we immediately turn to him in prayer for all of our issues and concerns.  Essentially, the minute we encounter issues, we automatically go to God in prayer. 

But it’s not just about going to God only when we have problems.  It’s also about having that ongoing relationship with God before, during, and after a problem.  We’ve previously established that prayer is communicating with God.  We’ve established that prayer is indicative of our relationship with God.  We’ve established that prayer is important for many reasons, including whether or not we are relying on God as opposed to ourselves.  Prayer is key to our Christian walk.  It’s for our good! 

If you already know this, then check yourself against the ideal.  Do you pray without ceasing?  If not, why not?

In 1 Thessalonians 5:17, Paul commands us to depend on God and to commune with God through prayer—non-stop.  So…NEVER STOP PRAYING!

 


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“What happens when we look back?”

As I sat down to write today’s meditation, one question kept demanding to be answered:  What is the real purpose behind our looking back at our history?  Over the years, I have known there is no good reason not to look back, but I needed to answer this question clearly so that the deeper significance of our annual activities would come to light.

 

There are several things that happen when we look back at our history:  1.  We reflect on how far we have come as a people.

  1. We honor our ancestors who made sacrifices and who accomplished great things that benefit us still today.
  2. We consider where we are today, and with a hopeful heart, we determine to continue striving towards freedom and equality and reward.

 

Interestingly, each of these things has a spiritual benefit.  When we reflect on how far we have come as a people, we must acknowledge God’s presence in our story.  The Gospel truth was never far removed from the cries for freedom in those old days!  When we look back, we can see the bigger picture and better understand God’s plan at work for all of humanity.  When we honor our ancestors for their sacrifices and accomplishments, we have no choice but to also honor God!  We find examples of God’s love, and deliverance, and blessings.  We know that everything we are and everything we have is because of God.  And when we consider where we are today, hope arises in us anew.  We know that all things work together for our good.  Our history teaches us about unity, about faith, and about sacrifice in a way that should help us to better understand the principles of our Christian beliefs. 

 

From the beginning of man, since Satan entered in and had his way, there has been a people bound up in sin in some fashion.  Oppression and all of its ugliness has been a problem for many centuries.  Even today, some ugly situation makes the headlines and a new movement is spawned to take it on.  Some of you will sit here and dwell on the many issues we all face and become overwhelmed.  But let me caution you against that.  We have a future hope that should turn all of the present-day evil on its head.  Hope is the one ingredient we must nurture—in ourselves and in those we have an opportunity to affect.  We must maintain hope.  Hope is the reason we are here today.  Hope is the reason we look forward to tomorrow.  Hope is the reason we keep going.

 

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. —Rom. 15:13  

 


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