Month: September 2020

RESET: The Ever-Loving Truth

Reset
“The Ever-Loving Truth”
(2 Peter 1:16-21)

“For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” (2 Peter 1:16-21 ESV)

One of the most staggering and memorable images of Jesus Christ’s passion took place in the great hall of Governor Pilate’s mansion. We read about this encounter in John 18, as Jesus stood before Pilate, the representative of all the power of the Roman empire and was being interrogated by him.

“Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose, I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world— to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” Pilate said to him, “What is truth?” After he had said this, he went back outside to the Jews and told them, “I find no guilt in him.” (John 18:37-38 ESV)

A part of the RESET we need to return to as a church and as believers today is an understanding and affirmation of The TRUTH. We live in a culture and among a people who have now rejected the concept of truth as a fixed, objective reality and therefore today we can justify just about anything. We need a reset of our understanding of truth to soak into our thinking as Christ followers that is distinct from the way the world around us sees it.

THE CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING OF TRUTH
1). Truth is relative, or fluid, and therefore so is morality
2). Truth is personal, and therefore allows for our individuality
3). Truth is unknowable, and therefore has no absolute authority

THE BIBLICAL UNDERSTANDING OF TRUTH
1). Truth is absolute, and therefore so is morality
2). Truth is objective, and therefore our preferences are subject to it
3). Truth is knowable, and therefore is not subject to opinion.

When you take the untrue things said about truth and layer them over everything that is happening today, you can see the effects of erosion in everything from morality, to education, to politics, to history, to philosophy and even to religion.

Several years ago, when Stephen Colbert’s show was just getting off the ground, he used a term to describe how people today see the truth. He called our new way of understanding truth, “truthiness.” It became Oxford American Dictionary’s “Word of the Year” in 2006. It beat out “bird flu” and “soduku.” “Truthiness” means that actual facts don’t matter. How we feel is what actually matters. American history is being rewritten today on the basis on “truthiness,” and not verifiable fact.

Again, as Christian people, we need to embrace and drill deeply into the foundation of God’s Word as our grounding of truth more than we ever have. Jesus said, “You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” In 2 Thessalonians 1, Paul tells us that when people reject the truth, they will believe a lie.

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Heb 4:12)

We desperately want something solid to hold on to. The Word of God is that. But even Christian people have begun to neglect the reading and study of God’s Word in our day. Only about 32% of church going folks say they read the Bible every day. When God’s truth is not flowing through our veins, then lies begin to take root and grow: Lies about how we see God, how God sees us, how we see ourselves, and how we see the world.

Learning truth begins early. The other night, McCail watched a cartoon version of the creation story with her Aunt Allie. Thursday, Logan told me she gave McCail an apple for a snack, and my grand darlin said, “Adam and Eve ate an apple…and they died.”

Some years ago, in the early 2000’s we hosted Dr Voddie Baucham here at Fruit Cove. He did a national launch of some material that became a book entitled “The Ever-Loving Truth.”
One of his sessions was entitled, “How to Know Your Bible is True.” He took his thoughts from 2 Peter 1:16-21 and that’s what I would like for us to do today. How would you answer the question, “So how do you know the Bible is true?” To vaguely answer, “well I know it because it changed my life,” may be a true answer but will not satisfy a critic. A Muslim could say, “I know the Quran is true because it changed my life.”

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV)

1). We have a reliable collection of historic documents written down by eyewitnesses. (2 Peter 1:16)

The Bible is not “cleverly devised myths,” as some have suggested. With our Bibles, we have 66 books compiled in one cover that were written by over 40 human writers, over a period of 1600 years, on three continents and in four different languages. And all of them testify to a common theme of creation, the fall, and the redemption of humanity for the glory of God.

In addition to it’s miraculous beginning, we have over 5,800 historic manuscripts, documents, papyrus pieces, and other historically valid documents that we can date, and study and we see incredible agreement within these documents. I minored in history in college, and I did learn that there are ways of scientifically dating documents to the period of their writing.

One thing this takes off the table is any possibility that some crazy little monk or person disaffected with Christians somehow changed the Bible. Whenever someone says that, I want to ask, “So he did that on his laptop right?” How would someone have been able to locate all 5800 manuscripts we have evidence of and change every one of them by hand fifteen hundred years before the printing press?

The earliest New Testament document we are aware of dates to 150 AD, or within fifty years of the original manuscripts written down by the apostles or others. That may not be a big deal to hear that.

The best historic documents we have from antiquity, never challenged by historians, are Caesar’s The Gallic Wars. We have only ten copies of that manuscript, the earliest of which was written nine hundred years after Caesar’s death. Aristotle’s Poetics is another example cited by historians. We have five portions of this document, the earliest one written 1400 years after the death of Aristotle.

We have absolutely indisputable evidence of the historic validity of Scripture. But the Bible is not just that.

2). These eyewitnesses recorded supernatural events, which took place as fulfillment of specific prophecies.

There are literally dozens of Old Testament prophecies spoken hundreds of years before Christ even came that predict the events of His birth, His birthplace, His ministry and ultimately even His death. Every prophecy we can locate in the Old Testament was fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Mathematically the chances of only a few of these being right are mind boggling. For all of them to be correct is…supernatural. It’s not just a history book. It’s a book that records supernatural…God-orchestrated events.

3). The Bible brings light and transformation.

“Day star dawns.” The light of faith comes by hearing and hearing the Word of God. It’s like a light dawning in a dark place. Lives truly are changed by the Word of God!

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Heb 4:12)

“I don’t know how to explain that miracle where Jesus came to a wedding a turned water into wine. But I know when He came to my house, He turned beer into furniture.”

4). These prophecies and miracles point to the Bible’s Divine origin

The Bible is essential in these days of fake news, and conspiracy theories, and just not knowing what is true and what isn’t any more. If you believe the Bible is the Word of God, be ready to be ridiculed for it. The world and our spiritual enemy, the devil, wants to silence the truth.

But as CH Spurgeon said, “The Bible doesn’t need to be helped, any more than a lion needs to be helped. You don’t help it. You just turn it loose!”

RESET: Honor God

RESET:  Honor God * Exodus 20:1-3; Romans 1

“And God spoke all these words, saying, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. “You shall have no other gods before me.”  Exodus 20:1-3 ESV

“For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.”  Romans 1:19-21 ESV

 

We are in a time of resetting.  We are resetting many things in our life:

How we work, how we socialize, how we go to church, how we do school, and family, and many other areas.  The spiritual reset happening in our day is pretty amazing, though.  People are tuning in to church services in unprecedented numbers.  It’s happened here.  A mathematician in (Jeanette Bentsen) Copenhagen noted a marked increase on internet search engines on the subject of “prayer.” Ninety-three countries showed skyrocketing numbers of people turning to the internet to try to understand prayer!  There is a spiritual hunger… a spiritual reset… happening in our world right now.

We live in a difficult day to talk about religious subjects, especially when THE subject is…God.  It hasn’t always been so, but confusion and chaos and even anger seem to swirl around any conversations about Him.

Some of us remember it not always being so controversial.  There was a day when it was the most natural thing in the world to go to a neighbor and invite them to attend your church with you.  It was just… neighborly, even normal etiquette to do this.

If sharing our faith in that time was like a football game, this would be like taking a ball already at the five-yard line into the end zone for a touchdown.  Easy really.  Even the Jaguars… no I won’t go there.

Then, around the seventies, churches and anything organized began to be suspect.  People were abandoning religious systems by droves.  In that time, talking to someone about God or your faith was more like carrying the ball from the fifty-yard line.  Not impossible, but much harder.

But now in a culture where postmodernism rules and everything solid has become liquid…talking to someone about religious realities is like starting with the ball all the way outside of the stadium.  Today many people have to be persuaded that God exists.  They aren’t even on the field!

To get to a RESET in life means we must return to a Biblically faithful understanding of Who God is.  I don’t think I’m overstating when I say that EVERY problem we are facing today; politically, racially, and personally, comes from our rejection of the truth that there is “one God,” or our belief that there is no God or there are actually many “gods”

So, I challenge you today to think about this important topic with me for about twenty minutes.  It may be the most significant twenty minutes of someone’s life who is listening today.  I no longer assume everyone agrees on what we’re talking about when we say “God.”  They don’t.  I will even challenge some of you who claim to be Christian to examine what you think about when you say “God.”

A.W Tozer said, “What you think about when you think about God is the most important thing about you.”  Your thoughts of God determine your behavior, your morality, and even your mental and emotional health.

The Bible reveals God to us.  In particular, it reveals these three things:

1). God exists.  There is a God.  He made the heavens, and the earth, and all things visible and invisible.  All of creation screams out his glory: “The heavens declare the glory of God….”    “I am the Lord your God.  You shall have no other gods before Me.”  God exists alone.  That does not mean God is lonely.  It means God does not need anything else to exist.

God exists.  He is real.  He speaks.  He creates.  To deny Gods existence is to deny the most fundamental truth of your existence.  You cannot live as a flourishing, contented, fulfilled human being if you deny the very One Who gave you breath and life and purpose. We are incurably religious people.  Every one of us.  It is in our DNA to worship…something. And today you…every one of you…worship something or someone.

Conspiracy theories are not a new thing.  Heard of Area 51?  Heard of Jimmy Hoffa being buried under Giants Stadium?  We kind of laugh these off, but the past six months have birthed so many more conspiracy theories around Covid 19 and the upcoming election.

We believe conspiracy theories about God.  Sometimes the God you have rejected is a god you should reject, since your image of Him is built on lies.  Adam and Eve believed a conspiracy theory about God, and it led the entirety of humanity into sin and alienation from Him and each other.

You see, they believed a lie that some of you also believe.  That, if there’s a God, He doesn’t want you to have joy in life.  He sits in Heaven, makes you miserable, and then laughs at you.  In other words, we sometimes believe God is NOT good… we believe a lie.

The goodness of God is that which disposes Him to be kind, cordial, benevolent, and full of good will toward men. He is tenderhearted and of quick sympathy, and His unfailing attitude toward all moral beings is open, frank, and friendly. By His nature He is inclined to bestow blessedness and He takes holy pleasure in the happiness of His people.  (AW Tozer)

Adam and Eve believed the lie.  While God had opened every venue of food and enjoyment possible in the Garden of Eden, He stopped them from eating the fruit of one tree.  Their belief was God was holding out on them.  He didn’t want them to be fully happy.  He wasn’t truly good.  The tempter lied and told them, “If you eat of this tree, you’ll be like God.”

What they failed to see was they were already like God!  He created them “in His image.”  Eating from the tree would them less, and God knew that.  So, He said, “Don’t.”

We believe lies about God, too.  “God wanted me to suffer, so He took… what… from you?  Your health?  Your job?  Your spouse?  Your money? God just wants to punish me for some little thing I did wrong.”  These conspiracy theories make us push God away or even deny His  existence.

2). God can be known.  He wants to reveal Himself to us.  The first clear revelation of what He expects for our lives to fully flourish before Him was the Ten Commandments.  We think these were rules to stop our pleasure.  He gave them to us that we may know life and not death.

Through the centuries God has revealed Himself through Scripture, and through prophets, and through miracles.  He revealed Himself through creation, but we have worshiped the creation more than the Creator.   “What can be known of God is plain to them,” Romans 1 tells us.  There is no possibility for any person who has ever opened their eyes and had rational thoughts to ignore God as He is revealed through creation.

God speaks.  God is always speaking if you know how to listen.  But His ultimate communication was not through a prophet, and not through a miracle, not through creation and not through a smoking mountain and not even through a book.   God revealed Himself in His Son.

“Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.”  (Hebrews 1:1-3 ESV)

Jesus was given as the perfect and complete revelation of God.  He showed us God in flesh, so we could see clearly Who He was, what He was like, and how He loves us.  “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

Jesus came to reveal God’s glory.  There’s a name for people who stare at the sun too long without sunglasses.  They’re called blind.  The glory of a star that is the least brilliant star in our solar system can blind you after only a few moments of staring at it without some kind of protective filter.

Sunglasses.

But in Jesus Christ, John’s Gospel tells us, we “beheld (stared long at it; comprehended it) His (God’s) glory….” Jesus was the Divine filter, the protective lens that God gave us so we could see Him, and touch Him, and know Him and even understand Him.  (“That which we have seen….”)  And it is only through Jesus that we can do that.  No other way, no other means of salvation.

Another lie we believe about God is that He reveals Himself to us in all other religions.  “You call God Buddha, you call Him Allah, you call him Vishnu or some other exotic name… it doesn’t matter.  We’re all talking about the same God, and we’re all going to the same place when it’s all over.  Right?”  Wrong.  That’s a conspiracy theory.

The way of salvation is open to all, but there is only ONE WAY to find it, and that’s through the revelation of Jesus Christ.  He is God’s final Word.  “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.   (1 Timothy 2:5-6 ESV)

3). We are to honor God.  Are you honoring God with your life?  With your worship?  Do you truly worship God so you can know Him and love Him?Jesus said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.”  Does that sound like your pursuit of God?  Do you worship Him with all your “mind, heart, soul, and strength?”  Or is worship half-hearted for you or worse, even ignored?  We honor God when we trust Him as our God.  When we depend on Him.  When we lean on Him for our strength and in our trials.  Do you worship Him?  Do you trust Him?

Do you obey Him?  “If you love Me, you will do the things that I say.”  Do you do the things that He says, or do you pretty much live your life on your own terms, and do whatever your flesh and whatever the world tells you?  Do your friends have more influence on you than God’s Word?

For some here today, or listening online or on the radio, you start by “resetting” what you believe about God.  Let’s start here:  Do you believe that God exists?  Do you believe He made you?  Do you believe that one day you will stand before Him and give account for your life?  “Those who come to Him must believe that He is (He exists!) and that He rewards those who come to Him.” (Hebrews 11:6)

The world becomes a strange, mad, painful place, and life in it a disappointing and unpleasant business, for those who do not know God. Disregard the study of God, and you sentence yourself to stumble and blunder through life blindfolded, as it were, with no sense of direction and no understanding of what surrounds you. This way you can waste your life and lose your soul. (Packer)Today you can push the reset button.  You can take a step back and say, “Maybe I’ve gotten this all wrong.  Maybe you’re one of those folks not even in the stadium today.  Is it time for you to step onto the field, and begin moving toward the goal line?  If so, today is the day to take that step by faith.

Contact us through the Connection Card on the web page.

Let us introduce you to the God Who Exists…and the God you need to honor by giving Him your life, and your allegiance, and your all.  Don’t believe the lie that says, “You’re too far gone for God.  You’re too messed up.  You’ve used up all your chances.”

Drowning Without the Truth

A few years ago, comedian/commentator Steven Colbert coined a word to describe how issues of truth and falsehood were being handled in our culture. The word was “truthiness.” It became Harvard Dictionary’s “Word of the Year.”

“Truthiness” is truth without backbone, sentences without meaning, words that mean, as the famous “Cheshire Cat” said, “exactly what I want them to mean.”

How do we move, think, and even communicate in a culture where the foundations have eroded so badly?

As we have lost truth in our culture as a solid reality, everything else around it becomes liquid. Today, young people speak of being “fluid” in their sexuality. The word “sex” or “gender” now mean “exactly what we want them to mean.”

The truth that Jesus spoke about, however, was robust. Unchanging. Life-altering. “You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.” There is a power that comes with truth.

Truth tears down strongholds, and sets captives free. Falsehood erodes our minds, our relationships, and our country. Russia learned this in their failed effort to hide the truth about the Chernobyl disaster from their own countrymen and the world. Boris Gorbachev, in a later memoir, said the Chernobyl disaster and resulting coverup led directly to the fall of the Iron Curtain.

A nation without the truth drowns in the resulting “liquidity.” An individual without truth drowns in their own falsehood and efforts to cover the lie. When we reject the truth, Paul said, “we believe a lie.” And we believe many lies today.

“The truth is out there,” the old X-Files television series would repeat. It is. Not in outer space, but much, much nearer.

It is found in Him Who is “the Way, the TRUTH, and the Life.” The truth, not “truthiness,” can be found in a relationship with one person.

His name is Jesus.

Don’t Miss The Joy! Chapter 12

Holding on to Contagious Joy

Philippians 4:10-23

With this message, we will bring our series on Philippians to a conclusion.  It’s been a very odd time to preach on joy.  Every news headline seemed to fly in the face of the text I would be preaching the next week.

Life was normal when we started this series in February:  The coronavirus was something that barely got a news headline.  It was, at that time, happening “over there” in another world.  The economy had not upended.  We were able to gather in our church sanctuary without masks and meet in our Bible studies face-to-face.  Students were in school classrooms, not at home working from the kitchen table.  Or maybe now, YOU’RE working from the kitchen table at home and that’s your “new normal.”

But we’ve been talking about contagious joy over these months of drastic change.  In Philippians, there are 14 uses of the word JOY:

  • I always pray with JOY because of this
  • I REJOICE
  • I will continue to REJOICE
  • your progress and JOY in the faith
  • your JOY in Christ Jesus
  • make my JOY complete
  • I am glad and REJOICE
  • you too should be glad and REJOICE with great JOY
  • REJOICE in the Lord!
  • my JOY and crown
  • REJOICE in the Lord always I will say it again: REJOICE!
  • I REJOICE greatly in the Lord

Now if you are tending to get down, read those fourteen verses out loud to yourself and I can almost guarantee they’ll get you in a better frame of mind.  I say that because I’ve done it!  It works, even writing them out.

If we’ve learned one thing, I hope it is that we understand joy has nothing to do with our emotions or our life circumstances.  Joy comes independently of those things, although our emotional mindset or distressing circumstances will choke our joy out if we let them.

And to a degree we must CHOOSE joy, remembering that it is not just a decision we make.  The joy that Jesus offers is something He wants to give, and we must want to receive, but there are some things we must do to hang on to it.  So, let’s hear Paul’s closing words to the Philippians today in the last 13 verses of Chapter 4.

Hanging on to joy means:

We must learn to prize contentment

Let’s remind ourselves one last time that Paul was not writing this from the deck of yacht or a cruise ship in the Caribbean.  He was in prison, either in Caesarea Philippi or Rome.  He was awaiting possible execution and chained by the wrist to a Roman guard all day long.

. . by great endurance, by afflictions, by hardship, by difficulties, by beatings, by imprisonments, by riots, by labors, by sleepless nights, by times of hunger . . . (2 Cor 6:4-5)

Three times I was shipwrecked. I have spent a night and a day in the open sea. On frequent journeys, I faced . . . hardship, many sleepless nights, hunger, and thirst, often without food, cold, and lacking clothing. (2 Cor 11:25-27)

He could rightly have said, and we would have understood, that, “under the circumstances I’m doing alright.”  Now I hear some folks “catch” us when we say something like this: “Well the Christian shouldn’t live under the circumstances.  You should live OVER them.”

That is a Christian cliché.  How do you live OVER circumstances? You are IN your circumstances.  Now we shouldn’t live washed away by the pain and tribulation of life.  God never intends that.  But humanly speaking, your circumstances are where you live, and sometimes what you must endure.

A more authentic reply is, “I’m pressing on in spite of my circumstances, and learning to find victory in them.”  Joy is not about learning how to “float above” life without being affected by it.  That is what Buddhism teaches is possible.  It isn’t.  You’re going to be swamped by the waves of life sometimes.  But you don’t have to drown in them.  WE read a moment ago in verse 13 I can do all things through Christ Who gives me strength.

By the way, that verse is probably one of the most misquoted verses in the New Testament.  In context, the verse is saying “after learning to be content in little and learning to be content in much, and even now sitting in a prison cell on trial for my life, I now know that Jesus is enough.”  The Stoic philosophers of Paul’s day taught the virtue of self-sufficiency.  Paul was teaching the contentment that comes with CHRIST-SUFFICIENCY!

It’s not saying “I’m going to go be a Christian athlete…I can do all things…”  It’s not saying, “I’m going to go be a brilliant and wealthy Christian businessman or woman.”  Those statements still rest a lot of the heavy lifting on you…what YOU are going to do…. what YOU are going to accomplish.  He is saying “whether my life circumstances are good or bad, high or low, rough or easy, Jesus is all I need.”  “I can do (bear) all things through Christ Who strengthens me.”  This is Christ-sufficiency.  Jesus is always enough.

Contentment, we learn here, is independent of what we are going through in the moment.  I have learned to live with plenty, and with nothing.”  Later in 1 Timothy 6 we pick up on contentment again where Paul tells those with plenty that “godliness with contentment is great gain.”

Three things that might help us:

  1. Contentment must be LEARNED.  It doesn’t just fall on you.
  2. Contentment is a SECRET.
  3. Contentment is independent of our circumstances or possessions.

Again, Christian joy and contentment do not come through what we have, or through what we lose.  Now understand, this is not about becoming stoic and phlegmatic or just learning to be self-sufficient.  It’s about becoming fully dependent upon the sufficiency of Christ, and nothing and no one else… because everything, and everyone you have…can be taken from you.

If we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.” (1 Tim 6:8)

We must learn to practice gratitude

A part of the motivation for the Philippian letter was to thank the church for a financial gift they sent.  By the way, your gratitude to God at some point will take the form of what you give.  Giving should never be about fund raising for the church.  It is always about worshipping as an expression of our gratitude.

They were showing their gratitude for what the Apostle had done for them.  They understood the cost he paid for starting their church.

But from this, Paul helped us understand the importance of our giving.  We never give because God needs our money.  We never give to “pay” someone’s salary.  And we don’t give so we can get our way.  We give…. get this…. because we NEED to give:

1). To overcome the grip of covetousness that money has on us.  Jesus said our life does not consist of the things we possess.   The bottom line in our bank account does not guarantee quality of life, or absence of it.

2). To demonstrate our gratitude for what God has done.  We’ve been able to help keep our mission partners moving forward by your generosity.  But God keeps the records.  “I want a gift that will be credited to your account,” Paul said.

I am incredibly grateful for your faithfulness to continued stewardship during this time of being separated and shut down by the pandemic.  It is not the case in every church.  I am encouraged and blessed that you are continuing to demonstrate mature stewardship, which partly means you don’t just give when you are here.  You give even when you can’t be.

We also need to take heart in understanding the verse that says, My God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. When we give gratefully, we are saying “I believe that God will supply all my needs and will continue to do so.”

We are laying hold of that truth that our income, our possessions, our needs are not simply met because we work hard or have a great job or a great boss.  We have a great God Who owns everything!  “It is He Who gives us strength to get wealth.” If we really believe that we will not struggle with giving.

So, gratitude is not about simply being polite.  It is not just a nice habit to build into our children or into ourselves, although I really hope you are teaching that to your children.  I look at a child that is grateful and, without even knowing the parents, I think, “That child is being raised well.” Folks we are either living as grateful people, or as entitled ones.  Giving is a lifestyle choice that involves everything we have.

“When I survey the wondrous cross” contains a stanza which states,

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small
Love so amazing, so Divine
Demands my soul, my life, my all. 

We must learn to prioritize community

We need each other.  We truly cannot, nor should we try, to do this alone.  Circumstances may shut us up alone; lockdowns may keep us at home to avoid illness, our groups may not be able to meet face-to-face.  But all of us have learned through these hard days that community is essential.  We need each other!   Paul mentioned “the brothers with me” and “those of Caesar’s household” in his farewell.

Rejoicing in the Scars

Rejoicing in the Scars

by Cayela Moody

 

He was my sixth child to master the skill of clapping and by far the most memorable. We were alone on the couch, doing our morning snuggles. The house was optimistically quiet, as if it was preparing for the noise which was inevitably coming.  He is twenty months and hasn’t spoken his first word, or blown a kiss, or waved bye bye. We have spent hours in therapy with this goal teaching to this simple goal, because if you can clap, than maybe we can get him to sign “more”, and if he can sign, he can communicate, and if he can communicate, maybe he will stop banging his head on the floor when he gets mad at us.

I have modeled clapping consistently in play. We have banged blocks together so he understands the motion. I have made him clap his hands while he pushed back more times than I could even count. So, on this unassuming morning, as he was drinking his milk and I drank coffee, equally preparing for our calendar of to-do lists for the day, I never expected it to happen. He set his milk bottle down, (judge me if you must), and he looked studyingly at one hand, then the other, almost as if to say, “So, if I slap this hand against the other one, she might  scream in my face and we will both get a good chuckle out of it.”

So he did and he was right. I screamed and I told him he was the smartest little boy I had ever met and I gave him too many kisses on the cheek to stand. I jumped up and down and danced and I praised the Lord for this simple and amazing talent. Then he did it again. Then he showed Dad when he got out of bed. We spent the rest of the weekend celebrating and I have no plans to stop partying.

I don’t remember the exact moment when any of my other babies learned this common feat. If I have learned anything over the past years of a fuller submission to his calling it is this: The greater the challenge, the greater the reward. Anything that comes easy can be easily taken for granted.

We are so beautifully reminded by Paul in Romans 5:3-4,  We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.

I have always been so puzzled by this verse. To me rejoice means a celebration. Perhaps shouting a happy hallelujah? But my heart is rarely filled with delight at the realization that my tomorrows will be heartbreaking for a time or that I am entering a period of anguish and hardship. But this I know to be true: I have always grown more from the storms than the sunshine. Maybe it isn’t the suffering we should rejoice in, but rather the scar to follow.

These battle wounds weave and build our testimony. When someone asks me how I have joy in trials or they have seen me come through a valley, I always point them to the one who fully bore my burdens during that time. It is by suffering that we come to know him on a deeper level. Day in and day out, I find more confidence that he is consistently faithful. A scar will leave us changed forever. We won’t ever be the same again. I can rejoice knowing that this trial will not only help define me, but in time refine me. Jesus bore the ultimate scars and by those wounds we are healed. How humbling to consider that God could use my heartbreak and challenges to someday help strengthen or heal another.

In my refinement and closer walk with Jesus, I still have my share of uphill battles. As I was sharing my full plate with a friend, she in her thick southern accent reminded me, “Honey,  that’s not a plate. You have a platter.”  And when that sense of being overwhelmed begins to creep back in, I remind myself to cast to Christ those fears that I was never meant to carry and focus on the simple joys and moments that I am blessed with or beautiful victories of overdue milestones that are finally achieved.

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