Will the Lord take me back?

comebackThis is the Scripture from the other day from the free Bible App 365 day reading plan (it’s not read through the Bible in a year, it’s just a verse or few verses every day, and it doesn’t run from January to December, you could begin it today).  I posted it on my Facebook page the same day.  Later in the day (while I was eating at Paula Deen’s restaurant in Savannah), someone sent me a message and asked me if they had strayed from God if He would take them back.  I sent them this picture.  Isn’t that crazy?  This was the Scripture from that same day.

Will He take you back?  He is always ready to forgive.  Have you been neglecting daily disciplines?  Have you been neglecting prayer?  Have you been neglecting reading your Bible or Bible App?  (Download the Bible App for free here).  Has it been a while since you’re been to church?   Have you been neglecting listening to a sermon every day? (That one was specifically for me.)  He is kind and full of mercy; He is patient and keeps His promise.  Come back to the Lord your God.

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Keep running the race

I’ve had many friends and acquaintances who have asked me about blogging.  I know they ask me because I have been blogging for several years.  I have posted over 1,000 blog posts.  I think 1,000+ blog posts (even if nobody ever read them) makes me credible when it comes to talking about blogging.

I tell every person who asks me the same thing.  It’s very simple to begin writing a blog.  Anyone can do it.  The difficulty is not in beginning a blog.  The difficulty is keeping with it.  For every person who keeps writing a blog and who gets to 1,000 posts, there are 1,000 others who started one only to see it fizzle out.  It’s not unlike losing weight, setting aside a personal devotion time, reading through the Bible in a year, exercising, and the list goes on.

We begin so many things with the best of intentions only to lose our motivation to keep going.  Or perhaps we hit an obstacle and instead of having the faith to say to the mountain, “Move”, we just give up.  I remember being on a mission trip with a person who said, “I can’t wait to finish this job!  And that’s so unlike me – I never want to finish anything”.

It happens to marriages, missionaries, and ministers.  It happens in the church.  People are excited to begin new projects or programs and then don’t follow through.  People join the church as new members then fall by the wayside.

Sometimes my prayer is just, “Lord, help me keep going.”

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, Heb. 12:1

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I know you can’t see it now, but there is hope

I always believe that once we hit March, we have winter whipped.  From all the pictures on Facebook today, it would appear that winter is whipping us.  But this snow is going to be short lived.  This weekend it will be about 50 degrees and the snow will be gone.  I realize it seems unbelievable today.  Today, those ready for winter to be can easily be disgusted, depressed, and discouraged.  But there is hope that there is better weather on the horizon.

It’s not unlike life.  While life has many ups and downs, there is always hope for those who call Jesus their Lord.  You just have to hang in there.

I look up to the mountains—
    does my help come from there?
My help comes from the Lord,
    who made heaven and earth!
Psalm 121:1-2

I invite you to listen to this song, the Hymn of Promise – Here are the lyrics:

In the bulb there is a flower; in the seed, an apple tree;
In cocoons, a hidden promise: butterflies will soon be free!
In the cold and snow of winter there’s a spring that waits to be,
Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.

There’s a song in every silence, seeking word and melody;
There’s a dawn in every darkness, bringing hope to you and me.
From the past will come the future; what it holds, a mystery,
Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.

In our end is our beginning; in our time, infinity;
In our doubt there is believing; in our life, eternity,
In our death, a resurrection; at the last, a victory,
Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.

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Open Hearts, Open Doors, Open Minds

pantry signYesterday was food pantry day and this sign was on the door of the church where people normally wait in line.  I know the sign and the spirit behind it made Jesus happy.

It also is a reminder that the church was intended to be a place that opens its doors and invites people in.  Sometimes we, as the church, get it right.  Sometimes we show people the church Jesus intended.

The United Methodist Church has this saying, “Open Hearts, Open Doors, Open Minds”.  The sign our pantry leaders put out yesterday shows open hearts and open doors.  It is impossible for us to open people’s minds to the Good News of Jesus without the open hearts and open doors.  Once they see our heart and are welcomed into Jesus’ church, then they can have their minds opened.  Romans 12:2 puts it this way:

“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

It’s not that we invite the world in to the church because we have open minds and so that we can learn and adapt to their way of thinking.  On the contrary, we invite them in so they can learn what the Scripture teaches about Him and be changed themselves.  And if they choose not to be changed, it won’t be because we didn’t have open hearts and open doors.  And it won’t be because we accepted the ways of the world, which some are inclined to do.

I declare today that I have been faithful. If anyone suffers eternal death, it’s not my fault,  for I didn’t shrink from declaring all that God wants you to know.   So guard yourselves and God’s people…. I know that false teachers… will come in among you after I leave.. some will rise up and distort the truth in order to draw a following. Watch out! ~ Acts 20

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The faith and courage it takes to act

adamhaitiWe’re booking our air today for the first international mission trip ever as a church. Our final total is 17 people – 6 of whom are 25 years old or under. We’ll be in Léogâne​ Haiti from April 6-11. We have some people who are really stepping out on faith – some who can not afford to go, some who have never been on a plane before, some who are afraid of flying, some afraid of getting sick in Haiti, and some who are literally afraid of dying.  Some are concerned with what we will eat, where we will sleep, where we will go to the bathroom, where we will bathe or shower, and what we will be doing.  And I’m sure I haven’t covered all the fears.  Yet by faith, we believe the Lord is leading us to go.

Sometimes I think about the real people whose real stories are relayed to us in the Bible.  So often we read the Bible and we know the stories so well (and the outcomes) that we forget the faith and courage that it must have taken these real people to act, not knowing how it would turn out.   I admire their faith and courage.  Likewise, I admire the faith and courage of the people who are going on our trip to Haiti.  While the stories of the 17 of us who are going to Haiti will never be chronicled in the Bible or even in a book, our own stories are being written.  And the author is the Creator of the universe.

And when the music fades, I want my life to say I let You write your story on my heart. ~ Francesca Battistelli

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Their problem with Christianity

burntchurchIn 2010 Diane and I went to the country of Ghana in Africa.  On the flight we heard about Christians who had recently been killed and churches that had recently been burned by Muslims in neighboring Nigeria.  We were assured that it would be safe where we would be in southern Ghana and it was.  The question for me as a typical American was, “Why do Muslims want to kill Christians?”

While I’m no Islamic scholar, as I understand it the root of the Islam and Jewish/Christian problem goes back to the 7th century.  Muhammad believed he was a prophet of God, but the Jewish and Christian leaders did not believe he was.  When he was rejected, he was furious.  After his rejection, Muhammad then believed he received a new revelation from God and Islam was born.  And as luck would have it for Muhammad, this new revelation was permission (some say a command) to kill “the Jew” (and Christians are considered a branch from the Jews).  And that led to Islamists conquering Christian lands which led to the famous Crusades where Christians did things we think of as incomprehensible (it was a barbaric time) and took back land and turned back Islam.  And that was over 1,000 years ago.

For Christians, it’s not even thought about today.  I’m guessing just about everyone reading this had no clue about those events.  But Muslims haven’t forgotten them.  And contrary to what the progressives want us to believe, the belief in the Muslim teaching “to kill Jews hiding behind stones, trees” is still prevalent in the middle east today.  Most surveys say the majority there still believe that it’s right to kill Jews.  So when you hear Iran’s leaders say they want to wipe Israel off the map, now you understand a little better.

And most evangelical Christians still believe that Jesus is the only way.  And this is still offensive to everyone else who wants us to say their religion is just as valid as Christianity.  It would be wonderful if some of our more liberal Christian brothers and sisters were right that there were many roads and many religions that lead to God.  But when Jesus claimed that He is the Way, and that there was and is no other way to the Father except through Jesus, I believe Him.  If there was another way, why would Jesus have died on the cross?  He would have said, “There’s no need for me to die on this cross, take one of the other ways“.

And now you know why this is especially offensive to Muslims – Muhammad is still being rejected.  And his followers are still killing people for rejecting him.  And when people in our country are starting to be afraid to the point of being unwilling to proclaim Jesus as THE Way, when you think it might be unwise for me to blog about this, when you are afraid to share it, then we are beginning to get just a little taste of what it’s like to convert to Christianity in another country and what it will be like here in America in the not too distant future.  In the words of Franklin Graham, “The storm is coming”.

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Be more like a child

IMG_2815I’ve been bowling every Monday night for several months now.  Our church pays for bowling for any young people who want to show up on Monday evenings.  (I’m not one of the young people, but one of the chaperones.)  Last night I picked up a 10 year old who needed a ride.  It was the type of evening that your car windows would start to fog up if you didn’t have the defrost on.  As the side windows fogged up, the 10 year old wiped the condensation from the window with his hand.  Adults don’t do that.  As a matter of fact, it’s been a long, long time since I’ve seen anyone do that.  It brought back memories to when my kids were young and did that.  It brought back memories to me getting yelled at for doing that when I was a kid.  “Quit that! It will leave streaks on the windows!”

As I still think about that this morning, I’m reminded of Jesus telling His disciples (and us), “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”  I know what He meant.  He meant that if we feel like He wants us to wipe the condensation off the window, we do not worry that it might leave streaks on the window and we do it anyhow.  He meant that if He calls us to do something, we don’t worry about the cost.  We don’t worry if we look foolish or if it goes against what grown-ups typically do or should do.  It doesn’t matter if it makes sense to everyone else or if it does not meet their expectations.  It means being willing to say, “Yes, Daddy” to our Heavenly Father and just trust Him.  And as we grow up, this keeps getting more difficult. 

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