Archive for September, 2015

Autumn’s New Season

Thank you to my friend KS, who finds the most delicious creation quotes.

And Happy First Day of Autumn to all.

“Is not this a true autumn day? Just the still melancholy that I love — that makes life and nature harmonize. The birds are consulting about their migrations, the trees are putting on the hectic or the pallid hues of decay, and begin to strew the ground, that one’s very footsteps may not disturb the repose of earth and air, while they give us a scent that is a perfect anodyne to the restless spirit. Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.” ~George Eliot

Hand Over My Heart

“Giving thanks to the Father.” Colossians 1:12

This column is dedicated to Jim, who insists I mention my grandkids in every column. I try, Jim.

This past week I continued my universe-wide, world-class celebrity tour of elementary school Grandparents Day appearances. Having been to southern Georgia the week before, I ventured to Bradley County—twice—where two of their finest students color their world happy and brilliant. Frankly, Georgia’s celebration was far more humane, providing a mid-day lunch instead of a seven o’clock breakfast…In their favor, I did come home with a brightly colored, laminated poster with one grandkid’s hand over a heart. Very cool.

This column is the last of three on the super-charged prayer of the Apostle Paul in Colossians 1:9-14. We’ve seen the encouraging, uplifting, and challenging reality we can know and walk in the will of God and live a life that is pleasing to God. As we do, God will use us in good works, we grow in intimacy with Christ, and we are empowered with God’s strength in the tests of faith. The last inevitable result of a walk pleasing to God in His will is a lifestyle of thanksgiving. This is in stark opposition to a regular problem: complaining (Cf. 1 Corinthians 10). Ouch.

The Apostle focuses on three piercing features of what happened when we turned from trusting ourselves—rejecting Jesus Christ—to trusting in Him alone to give us everlasting life: “…who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”

First, God has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints. There is so much to say. We did not earn our inheritance in the presence of Christ but we have graciously been qualified. And, I get to spend eternity with saints like Clarence Grosscup, King David, Paul, and…Jesus.

Second, we are no longer enslaved in a kingdom of darkness. By contrast, we are now citizens of the kingdom of God—the kingdom given by the Father to His specially loved Son, King Jesus Christ. Soon to be fully realized, it’s a place and time engulfed in His pure light, where there is no darkness at all. I can’t wait.

The last highlight of our salvation is truly rich—and great cause for continual thanksgiving: we have been redeemed—purchased out of the marketplace of slavery to sin and its consequences. Redemption’s crowning jewel is forgiveness of our sins. May this never become ordinary.

Thanksgiving isn’t just sixty-four days away. It is every day.

In the world, hands can symbolize many things including confidence and arrogance. Of course, in worship raised hands can picture volumes of spiritual expression. For our daily walk, I like the picture of our hand over our heart in devotion and thanksgiving for the immeasurable gift of salvation through God’s Son, Jesus Christ.

The Rhea Herald-News, September 23, 2015

The Inviting One

New Day, September 8, 2015

“I am the Lord, and there is no other, besides me there is no God; I equip you, though you do not know me [Unbelieving Cyrus not yet born!], that people may know, from the rising of the sun and from the west, that there is none besides me; I am the Lord, and there is no other. I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the Lord, who does all these things.” Isaiah 45:5-7

A Puritan prayer, paraphrased, summoned me to Isaiah 45 this morning:

“You are the Inviting One…

the Almighty Instructor…

the Light-Dweller, inaccessible to man and angels,

hiding Yourself behind the elements of creation,

but known to us in Jesus.”

The invitation of God at sunrise is irresistible. The elements of creation vary every day. This morning, they included wispy clouds elongated by atmospheric winds, thin and pink, drawing our attention to the soon-rising sun. And, Oh…that subtle, waning crescent moon smiling on the dawn! Thank You, Father, for waning and new moons that always smile toward the sun.

Father , Thank You for inviting us to join creation’s chorus of wonder and joy and gratefulness every day! Teach us this day to more fully know the Jesus the Anointed One, Creator, and Savior—to join with the Apostle Paul in declaring: “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.”

Ever Full of Sap and Green

Rhea Herald-News, September 2, 1015

They are ever full of sap and green.” Psalm 92:14

Have you wondered what you would actually say in the presence of royalty? Visit with me with Philip Newell. If the Father allows me to get old (er), I want to be like him.

Mr. Newell was ninety-six years old when he last closed his eyes on earth. The public knew him as a writer and the son of a famous Christian writer, William Newell. To our church family, we remember him shuffling down the center aisle at church to the first or second row where he could hear and see everything on Sunday mornings. Sundays—worship—mattered to him.

Privately, I went to visit him regularly at his assisted living residence. With a Bible in his lap, he received me as if I were a long-lost relative. He tired easily so our times together weren’t long. He often shared what he had been reading and I always asked if I could pray for him before leaving. But always—memorably and wonderfully—Mr. Newell, nearly breathless, always jumped in when I said “Amen” and prayed, quoting Scripture, and summoning God to watch over me and my family.

When he died, I was asked to speak at his funeral. My heart full, I could hardly speak.

I want you to remember Mr. Newell’s witness to the importance and joy of public and private worship. He was Psalm 92 personified, “It is good to give thanks to the LORD…How great are your works, O LORD…They are planted in the house of the LORD; they flourish in the courts of our God…they are ever full of sap and green.”

Psalm 92 portrays the public side of worship—its glorious and life-giving benefits. It is the only psalm designated for the Sabbath. Since resurrection Sunday, the majority of followers of Christ recognize the first day of the week as the time for gathered worship. Worship was vitally important to the Jewish community and it is to Christ’s followers today. In the psalm, singing, thanksgiving, praising, music, gladness, and declaring the steadfast love of our Most High God are soul-nourishing experiences meant to be shared together each week before we scatter into the world.

Psalm 92 presents four privileges cultivated on Sunday that strengthen us for Mondays. Like breakfast, these are essential for spiritual health. The first is the vital meal of spiritual maturity. We “flourish…and grow like a cedar in Lebanon” (v.12). Our life goal is to increasingly be like Christ. Like breakfast, Sundays are irreplaceable for maturity.

The other three honors seem obvious but are joyful parts of Sunday’s banquet. Faithfulness (v.13), commitment to service (v.14), and verbal declaration of the God’s righteousness and faithfulness (v.15) complete our feast. Slowly chew on these with Psalm 92 in your hands. Will you pray them for your church, pastor (s), and yourself?

Then we, too, can be like Philip Newell: “Ever full of sap and green.”

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