Sunday, March 31, 2013

Hope in the afternoon

There are a lot of stories about Easter. So many ways to look at what happened that day. The one story that jumped out at me this year was one where two people went home after hearing about the events of the morning - still depressed and discouraged. They had heard that others had seen the risen Christ, but they hadn't themselves. It took a visit from Christ to change their hearts.

One of the key takeaways from this passage is that we all have a story we see ourselves in. Everything we've experienced as well as our hopes, dreams, failures, and regrets make up those stories. We see what we can see. But God sees so much more. He can take our story and place it in the context of His Big Story and show us just how He can overcome evil with good. He can explain the Bible in a way that we connect and understand it and are able to see how to live in light of it.

I used this story this morning to illustrate how we can think we know a story, but at times we only know part of it.

A man and a woman had been married for more than 60 years. They had shared everything. They had kept no secrets from each other except that the little old woman had a shoe box in the top of her closet that she had cautioned her husband never to open or ask her about.

For all of these years, he had never thought about the box, but one day the little old woman got very sick and the doctor said she would not recover. In trying to sort out their affairs, the little old man took down the shoe box and took it to his wife's bedside.

She agreed that it was time that he should know what was in the box. When he opened it, he found two crocheted dolls and a stack of money totaling $95,000. He asked her about the contents.
"When we were to be married," she said, "my grandmother told me the secret of a happy marriage was to never argue. She told me that if I ever got angry with you, I should just keep quiet and crochet a doll."

The little old man was so moved; he had to fight back tears. Only two precious dolls were in the box. She had only been angry with him two times in all those years of living and loving. He almost burst with happiness.
"Honey," he said "that explains the doll, but what about all of this money? Where did it come from?"

"Oh, that?" she said.  "That's the money I made from selling the dolls." - from Lion Brand Yarn's website

He didn't really know, did he?

The people on the Emmaus road didn't know all the story either. All they know was that their hopes were crushed and their future looked dark. They just wanted to go home.

Then Jesus showed up and it all made sense.

We cannot let the world write our story.
We cannot assume that our view of our story is correct.
We have to seek God and enter into a deep and abiding relationship with Him where we can see our lives from His perspective.

Christ changed everything when He paid the price for our sins and provided hope beyond the grave through His resurrection.

So failure is NEVER final.

And we can have our stories rewritten by a loving God.

Let Him.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Living in a Pre-Easter World

We miss it almost every year. We forget that the people we read about in the accounts of the events that make up Easter weekend even had a Saturday filled with nothing more than grief, loss, and crushing doubt. The day before they saw their worst nightmares come true before their eyes. Everything they had given three years of their lives to - the central pivot point to every step they made - was dead and buried.

They shared one of the questions that dog us even today - What now?

Some are paralyzed with grief and become almost catatonic, unable to do anything at all. Loss does that.

You lose a family member that has always "been there for you." Now you and the rest of the family have to figure out how to relate to each other - how to live as a family.

You lose a  job that provided for your family, and gave you satisfaction and a sense of identity - is lost. Now you are dealing with a pack of howling doubts about how you are going to make it, and even whispers asking who are you and are you capable of getting another job. The tightness in your throat, the rumbling in your stomach just won't go away. And your family is looking at your for guidance and for security.

Others make peace with the loss and move on, doing what they believe they should do. Little noted in the accounts of the days of Easter are the women who went shopping on Saturday for the spices they'd use to make sure Jesus' body was prepared to the max. If they couldn't change the past, they'd be found faithful with what they could do.

That's living in a pre-Easter world, isn't it.

Living in the fellowship of suffering.

So let's embrace it for what it can teach us about God and His relationship with those who love Him.

First, let's eliminate the biggest fear. God is not dead, He is not asleep, He isn't pretending not to notice our pains and sorrows. We might think so based on what we've seen happen, but if Easter teaches us anything, it should be that God is always at work - even when we can't see Him.

So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.”
Deut 31:6 (NLT) BTW, that's repeated in Hebrews 13 as well.

So God is at work, then what is this experience designed to do? Well, what were we told about faith?
Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see. Heb 11:1 (NLT)

Listen - I've been there and done this too many times. When the storms come, you have to move toward a deeper understanding and practice of your faith. You have to put your fears and doubts behind you and use them as a push to go farther. It's NOT EASY. You might say "I can't do it." And really, many of us can't.

But GOD can.  - your absence of what it took created the perfect opportunity for the Holy Spirit to work in and through you. God showed up BIG TIME that first Easter weekend, and His power is available to you today. 

Resurrection power.

Think about it. Pray about it.

Then go out and live an Easter life no matter what day it is.

Because the believer in Jesus knows life's greatest secret.

It may be Saturday - but Sunday's coming.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

When the preacher has no words

And they came to an olive grove called Gethsemane, and Jesus said, "Sit here while I go and pray." 33 He took Peter, James, and John with him, and he began to be filled with horror and deep distress. 34 He told them, "My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and watch with me."

35 He went on a little farther and fell face down on the ground. He prayed that, if it were possible, the awful hour awaiting him might pass him by. 36 "Abba, Father," he said, "everything is possible for you. Please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will, not mine."

37 Then he returned and found the disciples asleep. "Simon!" he said to Peter. "Are you asleep? Couldn't you stay awake and watch with me even one hour? 38 Keep alert and pray. Otherwise temptation will overpower you. For though the spirit is willing enough, the body is weak."

39 Then Jesus left them again and prayed, repeating his pleadings. 40 Again he returned to them and found them sleeping, for they just couldn't keep their eyes open. And they didn't know what to say.

I've been reading and rereading this passage. I've studied it in every context, in the original language, through the hearts of many commentators and preachers. What they've taught me, I understand.

But... oh!

I don't know what to say... either.

How could we ever understand just how broken Jesus' heart was that night?

How could we fathom the depths of sadness and depression that gripped the disciples?

But how could they disappoint Jesus like that?


like I have... so... many... times?


I need Good Friday, so this time I'll be faithful. This time I will "watch and pray."

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Words for Sean and Chelsea's Wedding

Our son Sean and his love, Chelsea, were married today at New Hope. The following is what I wrote as a prelude to their vows.

So here we are.

Two people come to be joined together in marriage. They are surrounded by family and friends. They even know the minister pretty well. The preliminaries of discovery, of getting to know each other, of courtship have all occurred. Not that any of those won't continue. They will.

As a veteran of  almost 40 years of marriage, I can tell you all that I still discover new things to love about my bride. Some of those moments come born of laughter. As you share life together you will find much to take pleasure in, to rejoice over. It's been that way since the beginning. In the first recorded marriage ceremony, we read of Adam's "discovery."

23 The Man said,
"Finally! Bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh! Name her Woman for she was made from Man." 24 Therefore a man leaves his father and mother and embraces his wife. They become one flesh.  Gen 2:23-24 (MSG)

We tend to focus on the "one flesh" part, but the Hebrews simply meant that as a marriage, a union grows - you become one. And being that connected means that your sorrows are halved, and your joy is doubled. There will be times when bride and groom will enjoy just being "one" as life rolls forward.

You will also discover that at times you differ on things that matter. In those times your ever present companion in the Holy Spirit will prove to be your greatest help. Certainly there are times you will be able to draw on the wisdom and experience of others - I'd start with your pastor of course - but family and friends can certainly help. But each of them comes with their own particular biases, no matter how well intentioned they may be. You have a helper and He is ever present in good and in not so good. And He knew you would be here today.

We find ourselves standing where we always hoped we might stand—out in the wide open spaces of God's grace and glory, standing tall and shouting our praise. 3 There's more to come: We continue to shout our praise even when we're hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, 4 and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. 5 In alert expectancy such as this, we're never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can't round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit! Romans 5:2-5 (MSG)

Draw on Him, and you will discover just how complete your marriage can be with Christ at the center of it.

As far as that "getting to know each other" part, well, you two have had a while to sort through each of your approaches to relationship. It wasn't the longest courtship, but compared to many of us in here, it did take a while. So I'm pretty confident a lot of things were worked through.

There's one thing though I hope that you will never stop working on, and that is your relationship with Christ and His Church. I have seen it again and again, and for a time Bunny and I were also participants. Couples marry, or have another life change such as the birth of a baby, and they neglect their relationship with Christ and pull away from the Church. Every time it happens, I wonder if they've really thought and prayed through why God puts people together.
Is it hard to make it all work? Yes. But this is the eternally supreme relationship.
21 After proclaiming the Message in Derbe and establishing a strong core of disciples, they retraced their steps to Lystra, then Iconium, and then Antioch, 22 putting muscle and sinew in the lives of the disciples, urging them to stick with what they had begun to believe and not quit, making it clear to them that it wouldn't be easy: "Anyone signing up for the kingdom of God has to go through plenty of hard times." Acts 14:21-22 (MSG)

So don't let work, don't let troubles, OR joys separate you from the love of God through your personal relationship with Him, or your communal relationship with your co-laborers here at New Hope. Amazingly, we actually know a few things here about how to make marriage work, how to keep your relationship fresh with Christ and with each other. And many of us have found deep fulfillment in service here that helps dissolve whatever went on at work that day.

It's not always easy. But putting God first and staying deep in relationship with Him and His people is always right.

13 "Don't look for shortcuts to God. The market is flooded with surefire, easygoing formulas for a successful life that can be practiced in your spare time. Don't fall for that stuff, even though crowds of people do. 14 The way to life—to God!—is vigorous and requires total attention. Matt 7:13-14 (MSG)
Finally, a word about courtship.

You two really grew up knowing each other. And over the last few years at times it has seemed to Bunny and to me that you were already acting like a couple who have been married for a while. And yet, you weren't. Today you make perhaps the second most important commitment of your lives. The time for presenting your best side, for holding back for fear of what the other might think, is over. Now, you give your all.

Are you ready?

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Like That!

1 Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. 2 Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn't love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that.    Gal 5:1-2 (MSG)
This crazy bifurcated life I have now puts me in contact with kids 5 days a week. Hundreds of them. I get to see a lot of different ways children relate to them, and for the 15 I see up close and personal, sometimes it's funny and sometimes it's heartbreaking.

Two children may be at odds all of one day and be best friends the next. There can be tears and laughter together in the same day. And once you meet the parents a lot of times the things you see in the children become a lot clearer. For good or not so good. That's what children do.

In my case, the closer I can get to Jesus, the more giving I am, the more forgiving I am, the more tolerant I am of others, the more I put myself second to loving as Jesus did. So many times the creeping selfishness that is human nature comes a calling.and I relate out of a "what's in it for me" heartset. So I stop and remember - I am a follower of Jesus and He is my leader and my Lord. I may not have a Bible handy, but if I pray, asking Him to give me the strength and courage to love extravagantly, I can too.

So read the Scripture above. Think about how much YOU ARE LOVED BY GOD.

Now go, love like that!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Love wins.

No one's ever seen or heard anything like this,

Never so much as imagined anything quite like it-
What God has arranged for those who love him. 1 Cor 2:9 The Message

You need to know that. I need to know that.

We look around and we see so many things that are broken - some irreparably. We look back and remember painful events that left scars on our soul. We look ahead and can only see more of the same. We need to stop and see Jesus is near. Always.

I've been finishing tomorrow's sermon and I found myself praying for people. People dealing with pain, with heartache, with grief. Young and old, everybody hurts. I pray for them, that the author of all compassion and comfort will surround them with His love. That they will know He loves them.

I've been praying for New Hope. We're the church in the neighborhood, with a heart for anyone who comes through our doors. We've seen many people come to faith here, and others deepen in faith here. I pray for understanding of where our church can see even more of God's mercy and grace shine around us. I'm praying for those who've come here for a season but who just cannot seem to put down roots. Like a child who breaks away from a loved one's embrace, they run outside. Again, and again, and again. And it breaks my heart.

There are times when being a pastor is sheer joy, and times when it plumbs the depths of sorrow.

But in both the good and the bad, I remember -

Love Wins.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Christian "Baggage"

Our friend Allan in front of New Hope

From a really good article in "Relevant" magazine today.
Marcus Mumford got one thing right—the Church is something you enter at your own risk.
Because you might actually bump into humanity there. You might hit up against something you disagree with. You might have to listen to music you don’t like. You might get asked to share your stuff. You might learn from a tradition far older than you, and realize how small you are standing before such a legacy. You might even be asked to worship something other than yourself.

I agree with every single thought expressed above. Maybe it just hit a nerve but I wanted to jump up and say "AMEN!"  

The article was about how people like the lead singer for "Mumford and Sons" choose not to be identified as Christians because (supposedly) the term has so much " baggage."

We do carry a lot.

Those folks that we "carry" by delivering free meals to each week.

Those who live because we sent money overseas to help them receive clean water due to the wells we have helped dig.

Those who have hope and a future from the support we give as we sponsor orphans and children literally all around the world.

Those who have benefited from our food bank, who we have bought gas for, put up in hotels, or in some other way met them at the point of need.

And each other as we lean on our faith and love for God and for each other. Yep, we do carry baggage, but it's what our Leader told us to do.

 Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. Gal 6:2

 So we'll keep on keeping on. If you want to be a part of something gloriously imperfect, come join us at New Hope as we carry our "baggage" and follow Jesus.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The difference between school and life?

"I keep telling you, people are always picking on me."    :)

Well, another day begins. Filled with possibilities and drenched in the hope, joy and peace that knowing Jesus brings.

"The difference between school and life?
In school, you are taught a lesson and then given a test.
In life, you are given a test that teaches you a lesson." - Tom Bodett

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Whatever You Do

A traveling preacher out one night and upon entering a town stops at the door of a little home. Coming to the door was a woman with apron on and paring knife in hand. She had been peeling apples for a pie, and greeted the pastor with a smile.

Hat in hand, the man asked her. "Does Jesus live here?"

Puzzled, she thought at first she didn't understand his question. Seeing her face revealed to the preacher her heart, so he asked again, "Does Jesus live here?" This time she heard well, and was considering the thought that the man was not quite well.

She said nothing, not knowing what to say. "Does Jesus live here?" was the question again, and it produced even more unease in the woman. Before she could stammer any answer, the man said, "I am so sorry. I had hoped Jesus lived here."

With that, he put his hat back on and walked on into the night.

The young woman went back to her work, but couldn't help wondering about the man and his question. Soon her husband came in, and she told him of her strange encounter.

The husband told her, "Well, why didn't you tell him that we are members of the church on the hill, that we give regularly to the work of it, and attend Sunday School once in a while?" But the young woman had caught a grasp of the old man's meaning.

"He didn't ask that, John. He asked whether Jesus lived here or not."

It made me think this morning of these verses.

6 And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands I am giving you today.
7 Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are away on a journey, when you are lying down and when you are getting up again.
8 Tie them to your hands as a reminder, and wear them on your forehead. 9 Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
Deut 6:6-9 (NLT)

The Hebrews were very successful in keeping their religion a part of every day life. How did they do it? They integrated what they believed into how they lived. They used their lives, their homes, and their vocations to honor God, and taught their children to do the same. It's one of the reasons why, despite the best efforts of evil people down through the years, the Jews still exist as a people, even in cultures that abhor everything they are.

I'm a student of culture, a history buff. And I would tell you that we live in an America that is very much post-Christian. If we are to bring our faith forward and deliver it to generations to follow, we have to be much more like the Jews in the way we approach our family responsibilities.

But far more important than that, we need to be far more passionate about wanting more of Jesus in our lives. We need to hunger and thirst for more of Jesus.

We have to find ways to intentionally model Jesus no matter where we physically might be - at home, at work, out in the public.

I don't want my faith to be an afterthought, like "David is a teacher and he's a Christian." I want people to put Christian before teacher when they think of who I am. I don't mean dropping a bunch of "God talk" on everyone - I mean God actions - like Jesus did.

We can do this. Through the power of the Holy Spirit - the Jesus in us.

Monday, March 11, 2013

The Preacher Trembles Sometimes

"Don't preach at me!"

How many times have you heard that used in a TV drama - in heard - even said it - in real life? Have you ever heard anyone say "Please preach to me."?

Didn't think so.

So preachers have been calling the act of preaching something else for many years. Call it a "message", "talk", or whatever you call it, fact is that when you step up in front of a bunch of people and present yourself as having a message for them involving the Scripture, it's preaching. But there's preaching and there's PREACHING.

My hope/intent/expectation when I prepare is that I will help people understand or discover what God has placed there in the text, in the context it was written, applied to the time we live in today. Yes it's one sided, but it's one half of a conversation with the other half hopefully between the hearer and the Holy Spirit. I use humor, illustrations from life in general and my own life, and sometimes video to help people bridge the gap between the Word and their lives.

I've studied preaching at two seminaries, continued studying it personally and in cohorts of other preachers, and read thousands of sermons. Yes, thousands. Most of the giants of the past and the present day preachers have been examined for fidelity to the text, construction of their messages, and means or method of delivery. Over the years I have changed to be more text based, because I felt it was where the Holy Spirit would have me work.

One of the things I wish I could change about myself is that I am super critical of my preaching. I never think I have enough preparation time (especially now that I teach fulltime +), and I am working on every Sunday's sermon up to the last minute. Once it's over, I think of things I could have said better, things I could have left out or put in, and wonder whether I did the best I could.

Most of the time it ends there, and life rushes in and the new week opens and Sunday is in the rear view mirror. But not this week. I preached on Saturday too. It was a memorial service for someone I had never known. As I prayed toward it, after talking with the family, I felt very strongly that I needed to present the Hope that is found in Jesus explicitly.

I did - you can read pretty much what I said in the post preceding this one. Since I was so pointed and let's face up to it - blunt - I worry that I turned people off rather than turning them toward Jesus. As I write this, I'm reminding myself that I had prayed for wisdom and wrote as I felt the Spirit directed me to. So I should be grateful that I delivered what I was given to do.

I guess I just don't want to be a reason for people to turn away. The gospel will do that sometimes, but I pray to make sure I don't.

Saturday, March 09, 2013

I Didn't Know Her, But I Know Jesus

In a little while, I'll be speaking at a memorial service for someone I didn't know. It happens more often than you'd think. In such cases, I go into it hoping to be able to be God's agent of comfort and healing. In doing that though, I don't try to make the departed something they were not, and I also don't pull out my magic judgment glasses and pronounce them  "In" or "Out."

What I want to do, is be like Jesus, who was able to love people so deeply and so well that they heard who He was and felt to the core of their being that in Him was hope, and a life without Him was hopeless.

So here is the message I'll bring today. Maybe there's someone else who needs to come home.

1 The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need.2 He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams.3 He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name.4 Even when I walk through the darkest valley,[1] I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.5 You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings.6 Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever. Psalms 23:1-6 (NLT)

That psalm is probably the most often read Scripture at times like this. It has brought comfort to untold numbers of people in its simplicity. It was written by David. King of Israel when he was an old man looking back over his life. And what a life it was. He was a man loved by God, but a murderer and an adulterer. He had all sorts of family issues. 

But at the end, he paused to reflect and remember that he was loved and that he had hope beyond the grave. I thought it was fitting that we begin with that.

We’re here today to pause, reflect, and remember the all too brief life of Cheryl Agerton. You’ve taken the time to be here, which leads me to believe, even if you are still hurting, angry, or discouraged, that you want to hear that there is hope and healing – that it is possible to get to a place of peace, even in a devastating loss for which there are few answers and many questions. For my part, I am a follower of Jesus Christ – a Christian, and a pastor. I cannot hurt for you, but I can hurt with you. I cannot answer all your questions, but I can point you to One who can.

So let’s take a moment and pause our “whys” to focus on Cheryl’s life.

From what I was given, Cheryl was born on June 9th, 1974 in Ft. Walton Beach Florida and given the name Cheryl Diane Agerton. Until the last few months of her life, she lived here in the area, growing up around the beautiful bayous, bays, and beaches of this blessed Emerald Coast. One constant reminder among those I was given was to mention just how much Cheryl loved the water. I was told that she loved going to Turkey Creek or even just to sit down the way on John Sims behind Badcock at water’s edge and just enjoy it.

Let me read what Nancy wrote about her best friend

It’s echoed again here in what another person wrote.

Two things in common in both of those – Cheryl was loved for who she was, and both of them hope to see her again. Push “pause” on that last one for a minute and we’ll come back to that. But weren't those both wonderful testimonies from people who cared for Cheryl? I’m sure others might be able to say the same.

Cheryl was blessed with four children, Austin, Anthony, Valerie, and Elizabeth, and a grandson, Bentley.

While we’re “pausing” here to remember and reflect, we ought to admit that Cheryl’s relationships with her children weren’t everything they could have been. We’re not here to pass judgment on that, or on her. But at times like this, it is a good time for those left behind to examine their own actions, feelings, and convictions to see if they pass the test. I truly believe that while many of us focus on stuff like jobs, or possessions, or even having everything our own way, that once the opportunity to change them is taken away by death and the ability to see them from another perspective is given us – most of us would make changes – some of them major changes – in the way we had lived. It’s too late for Cheryl to make it right. But it’s not too late for you.

Once Cheryl was told she had cancer, and that it was almost certainly terminal, she made some changes immediately. She left her beloved bayous and beaches and headed for Oklahoma, which by the way is not known for either bayous or beaches. What was the attraction there? One of the most powerful words any human being can use and one of the greatest feelings any of us can have.
1: to desire with expectation of obtainment
2: to expect with confidence : trust

Cheryl went to Oklahoma in the hope that her cancer might be cured. She did whatever they told her to do out there, and they did everything that medically could be done. We’re here today at her memorial service so its obvious that the medical option did not work.

There was, and is, another option however.

Now I am about to head into deep waters here, and I’ve already been admonished that too much “God talk” might not be appropriate given Cheryl’s life as you knew it here. But folks, look around. We’re not at the DAV, the American Legion, the Elks, or the bar. We’re here in a building set aside to gather in and worship God, not so we can feel better about ourselves, but so we can learn to love others as much as Jesus does. We do not come here to learn new ways to throw stones at others. We come here to learn how to give our lives away to others because of our love for God.

Quite frankly I didn’t know Cheryl, but even if I had known her from birth, and knew everything possible about her life, I would not presume to judge her.

We believe here in a God of second chances, who possesses the ability to know everything about us, our open rebellion, our inherent stubbornness, our secret and not so secret disobedience, and yet pursues us relentlessly with His offer of forgiveness and peace with Him if we will only admit our sin, turn away from it, and accept forgiveness through belief in His Son Jesus as the One who saves us. 

We here have all sinned – and do sin. But we here have been forgiven. And we don’t base that on a feeling, or how many times we come here, how much we give, or whether our Aunt, Grandmother, or Grandfather was religious. We base that on God’s Word.

Here at New Hope, we root for people to be changed. We cheer on each other as we imperfectly try to live out what we believe. And here at New Hope we hope and pray that every person receives the gift of forgiveness and the comfort and peace of eternity with Jesus in heaven when they die. We’re in good company with that since that’s why Jesus came.

16 “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.17 God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him. John 3:16-17 (NLT)

So Jesus didn’t come to point fingers, but to offer a hand to pull whoever would take hold of it, to lift them to rescue.

And there was nothing any of us did to deserve that.

11 We believe that we are all saved the same way, by the undeserved grace of the Lord Jesus.” Acts 15:11 (NLT)

So we hold to the faith that changed this world forever. Love God with all your heart, mind, body and soul, and love other people.

And that message is the very message about faith that we preach:9 If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.10 For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved.11 As the Scriptures tell us, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be disgraced. ”12 Jew and Gentile are the same in this respect. They have the same Lord, who gives generously to all who call on him.13 For “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Romans 10:8-13 (NLT)

Now before I go on, if anyone that still remains here that does not want to hear such “God talk”, I guess I’d want to ask “why?” Why wouldn’t you want to hold onto the hope that you would see your loved one again? Why would you close your mind and heart to even the possibility that I and billions of other people who follow Jesus and trust him might have stumbled into the greatest gift ever? 

If what I believe is not true, nothing has changed about what will happen when I die. But if it is true, as I believe with my whole heart, then the door was open for Cheryl, and it is open for you.

I reminded you of what you already knew a minute ago. Cheryl’s hope in a medical cure proved not to be effective. And I was concerned going into my conversation with the family the other day that when the medical option failed, Cheryl was out of options for eternity.

But Thelma told me that once Cheryl arrived in Oklahoma, not only did she grab hold of the possibility of hope that medicine might cure her, she also began attending church with some folks out there.  And again, I have no way of verifying this, but Thelma tells me that Cheryl became a child of God. That's a reason to celebrate and to give thanks to the God who pursued her all the days of her life.

He never gives up on anyone, no matter what. I’m hoping to meet Cheryl one day in heaven and hear about how all that worked out. As I said earlier, there’s no way for Cheryl to go back and live her life over again. What she did, she did. If you were blessed by her life, then hold onto those blessings. If you were hurt though, you need to find hope yourself so you can let those hurts go.

There’s still time. Come home. Turn away from this world and the way you have lived, and turn to Jesus and a new way of living. Trust Him as the One who will save you from yourself.  Be born again.

Sunday, March 03, 2013


We had a great morning at New Hope with a great discussion in Bible Study, uplifting worship, and a message that I pray makes us seek to be closer to God.

We're working our way through David Platt's  "Follow Me"  and it is proving to be very challenging. Each week we break down the book in Bible Study, the sermon, and then wrap it up on Wednesday night. Here is today's sermon PowerPoint.

Music today was great too. I love the blend between old and new.

Now onto my next ministry work today - grading papers and planning next week's learning for my 3rd graders.