Yes, Let’s Celebrate the Festival! – But Let Us Do it in Sincerity and Truth

A huge part of my childhood was spent in the “church” environment. By this, I mean much of my time as a child was spent going to various church programs, musicals, anniversary celebrations and a number of other religious activities associated with the particular tradition I grew up in. This was all, of course, before I had truly come to saving faith in Jesus Christ.

Now since I have become a true believer and follower of Jesus Christ, and as I have grown over the years since I really began a walk with the Lord, I have learned and grown in so many ways. As a part of that growth and maturity, I have looked back over many of my early experiences prior to coming to faith in Christ and I have evaluated much of what I experienced then in light of the truth I now know today. In so doing, I have not been able to help but to comb over my previous experiences and be able to identify so many redeeming qualities about some of my early experiences. Now you may be asking, what do I mean by “redeeming qualities”? By redeeming qualities I mean things that have some good in them and that, if done in the right way, with the right heart and motive and perspective, can still be used and offered up to God as a legitimate means to worship and adore Him for who He is.

Why do I bring this up? Because as I have been reflecting in recent days on my early experiences and have thought about much of what I recall being said and sang and done as worship, I have realized that much of what I witnessed wasn’t bad in and of itself. Now this is not the case with everything, to be sure. But in large measure there is a lot from my past experiences that I can actually look at now with the new heart and renewed mind that I have today and can consider them good things in and of themselves. So if they were good, then what was the problem? The problem was that the ways many of the people who were doing these things weren’t. And it reminded me of a great lesson that we learn from the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 5:8 when he says this to the Corinthian church gone wild“Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” (ESV)

What is the connection here? Well, without making this too long, here’s the long and short of it. The Corinthian church was a church that Paul had gone to preach the gospel to, and many people were saved as a result (Acts 18:8-11). Yet, though many of these believers had come to faith in Christ, they were still maturing in their walk with Christ (1 Corinthians 3:1-3). And one of the things they were still maturing in was dealing with sin in their midst. The word of God makes it clear. Christ came to pay for sin and set us free from it so that we might die to it (1 Peter 2:24). So in Paul’s mind, continuing to walk in sin after you have been set free from it was not optional (Romans 6:1-2). And so he wrote to challenge these believers to deal with the myriad of sinful problems that had crept into their church. And what he tells them is that because they are now really saved, they need to deal with the remaining sin in their midst (1 Corinthians 5:7). He challenged them to do this because Christ, the Passover Lamb had been sacrificed. And there is the key there. Christ is the Passover Lamb. (Look for a future post for more on the Passover). And, so since Christ has become our Passover Lamb, setting us free from sin and death once and for all, we do have something to celebrate. And so having the festival celebration is very much in order, for there is much to celebrate now that Christ has come and completed His sacrificial and atoning work on the cross! The only difference now, is that because of what Christ has done, we are now free to celebrate the festival no longer as we had to in the past, with the old leaven of malice and evil. Leaven in Scripture is characteristic of sin. But now, because of Christ, we are free to celebrate the festival with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth! Meaning, we are now free to celebrate without unatoned sin in our midst!

And so bringing this all together, what is the point of this post? – well, as I began to think of my early experiences and much of what I recall that I felt was actually good, it made me think of this account. Just as Paul was not condemning celebrating the festival itself, but rather the way the festival was being celebrated, I feel much the same way with much of what is being done in church culture today. Not all of it is bad. Some of it is good. Really good. And much of it can even be really profitable for stirring us up to personal holiness and devotion and joyful worship to our Lord. So in like manner to Paul, I would say that the issue is not the festival celebration in and of itself. The issue is the leaven that permeates the festival celebration. So, the answer? Cleanse out the old leaven that it may be a new lump (1 Corinthians 5:7).

And so let us not necessarily get rid of those things we have done in our history and culture as a means to express our worship to our God (if in fact it is something that is good and redeemable)…let’s just cleanse out the old leaven of sin that permeates it so we can offer it up to God in purity. In sincerity. In truth. And what is the motivation for doing so?

Because Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed. And He therefore now is worthy of the best worship we can give.

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What’s On the Inside? – A spiritual lesson from McDonald’s & Long John Silver ketchup

What’s On the Inside? – A spiritual lesson from McDonald’s & Long John Silver ketchup

Hey Fam and Friends. I’m back! At least for now. Sorry I’ve been away from the blogosphere for a while. Been a busy year thus far.

Anyhow. Hope you enjoy this recent musing that the Lord laid on my heart. And since I mention heart….

I went to McDonald’s one night to get a meal which included a side of fries. And like most people would, I asked if I could have some packets of ketchup to go on my fries. This is not always the case, but this particular night I guess the worker was feeling incredibly generous and when I got home I realized that they had given me quite a few packets of ketchup. Way more than I needed for the single meal I had that night. So deciding to be prudent and not wasteful I decided to just hang on to the extra packets I had for another day.

It just so happened that another day came pretty quickly – I ended up going to get another fast food meal the next day or so, only this time it was from Long John Silver. (Now before you judge me, remember I said life has been busy, Lol! And while I do advocate taking care of your body, which is God’s temple, I do also find comfort in 1 Timothy 4:1-5). Still, watch your diet and take care of yourself folks! 🙂

So, needless to say, with this meal I ordered, I again had a side of fries. The worker asked me at the window if I needed any condiments, but this time all I asked for was tartar sauce. And why? Yep, you guessed it…because I knew I already had plenty of ketchup already waiting for me at home. And even though the ketchup I was planning to use was from another restaurant, I still had every intention to use it. And why? Perhaps you are two for two….it’s because I knew that what was on the outside of the packets I had at home was just outside packaging – I knew it was what was beneath it that I was really concerned about. It was what I was really after. It was what I really wanted. I was just after the ketchup. Not the outside packaging, no matter what label or restaurant name it had on it. At the end of the day the package was going to be opened, I was going to use what was inside, and the external packet was just going to get thrown away. So it didn’t matter to me whether the ketchup was from McDonald’s or if it would have been from Wendy’s, or Burger King, etc., etc. All I was concerned with was what was on the inside. What was beneath the packaging.

God is the same way. Mankind tends to be impressed with the outward appearance. How nicely one looks…or doesn’t look. How nicely one is dressed…or not dressed. How much money a person makes…or doesn’t make. What that person does for a living…or doesn’t do for a living. Yes. This is how natural man views people. But I am so glad it is not so with God. He is not so much concerned with what your outward appearance is. His appeal and interest is with what is inside you. What is beyond the packaging. He’s concerned with the condition of your heart. And your heart is in fact what He sees and knows like no other – for He says in 1 Samuel 16:7 “But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”, and again He says in 1 Chronicles 28:9 And you, Solomon my son, know the God of your father and serve him with a whole heart and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches all hearts and understands every plan and thought. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will cast you off forever.”

So unlike with man, God is concerned about what is on the inside of you. So the question is, when the Lord looks on the inside of your heart, what does He see? That which pleases Him, or displeases Him?

If you honestly answer that it is that which displeases Him, man have I got some good news for you – I know someone who gives new hearts – Jesus! He gives entirely new ones! And it starts with you confessing yours is not right before Him and is bad and in desperate need of replacing. And that He is the only One who can give you one that will be right before Him and towards Him. And BAM. There’s your new heart. Doesn’t matter what the external packaging is. He’s concerned about what’s inside. So go ahead. Repent of your sins and your old wicked ways. And trust Jesus Christ for your new heart. Today.

Final Lesson – “Joyful Endurance”

So, I’ve gone back and forth as to how many more lessons I learned from my Mom that I would write about, and after mulling over my notes I think I will make this one the last one, primarily because it sums up what all else I would have said.

Among the greatest spiritual lessons I took away from my Mom was the importance of and key to Joyful Endurance. My Mother was one who endured. But that in and of itself is nothing to shout about or jump up and down over, because after all there are all sorts of individuals, believers and non-believers alike, that endure. Just simply enduring is something that most people write off as “just a part of life.” And yes, at some level that is accurate. Enduring the everyday as well as the abnormal twist and turns of life is something that all who wake up in the morning and still have life routinely do. So just enduring life and what it throws our way in and of itself is not necessarily something that is noteworthy or praiseworthy. However there is a type of endurance that does raise an eyebrow. There is a flavor of endurance that sends off an aroma that is not typical. There is a way to endure that can leave one standing head and shoulders above most. And that is the endurance of a “good soldier.” More specifically, a good soldier of Jesus Christ. And what does it mean to be a good soldier of Jesus Christ?

Well for those who are Christians, we have placed our hope not in the things of this world, but we have placed our hope in the promise of the world to come (2 Corinthians 4:17-18). And as a result, our faith then propels us to think and live and believe in a certain way in the here and now. A way that is counter-cultural. A way that is against the norm. A way that is in humble obedience and conformity to the way of our Master. Included in this new way of thinking and living and believing also includes how the believer handles the trials and test and difficulties of life. For those who are without Christ and without the aid of the Holy Spirit, some typical responses in the face of difficulties are to despair or to give up or lose hope or quit or retaliate and lash out at others and maybe even blame others for the problems that are being faced. But not so for the believer. For the believer, though we may experience all these emotions (and it is perfectly normal that we do), the ultimate difference is that we do not remain in this frame of mind (2 Corinthians 4:8-9). There is a power greater than ourselves that enables us to see past our current circumstances and to see with the eyes of faith that everything that is happening to us is for a divine and greater purpose (Romans 8:28).

The result of this is what? That we do not lose heart. That we do not give up. That we do not faint. But even still more than that. Not just that we don’t lose heart, or don’t give up, or don’t faint. But we do this joyfully. With a smile. With laughter. With a genuine peace and calm and assurance that at the end of the day all will be well because all is well with our souls. And when one knows this to be true at the very deepest level, then they are able to march through the difficulties of this life because they know it is only temporary. There is an abiding and unfathomable hope that is laid up for the Christian beyond this life, and it is beyond all comparison!…especially when ultimately weighed against what seemed to be a hard struggle here on earth.

And my Mom exemplified this principle well. She showed me well what it was like to not just have this hope in theory, but in actuality. She ran her race well. She fought the good fight. She kept the faith. And I am confident her light, momentary affliction prepared for her an eternal weight of glory – a weight that only becomes even more glorious on the heels of endurance. Therefore, let us also endure. But no need for us to endure in sorrow. Let us endure with joy. We are headed somewhere where suffering and sorrow and pain will be no more. Just a few more rolling suns at most. So hang in there. Endure.

And for those who don’t yet believe – I want to encourage you to place your faith in Christ today. He is the only hope for you to be able to endure with joy. Apart from Him there is no salvation and therefore no reason to endure. But when He is your hope, then there is all the reason in the world to endure. Put your faith in Him today. And He will help you endure until the end…with joy!

Lesson # 2 – His Grace is Sufficient…

Lesson # 2 – His Grace is Sufficient….

Happy New Year to everyone! I trust everyone had a safe night of ushering in yet another year. Well, here I am with my first post of 2015. And how fitting that it comes on New Year’s Day. Today is my Mom’s birthday. She was born January 1, 1951. For those who have been following, I have been sharing lessons that she taught me (either directly or indirectly by her life) before she left to be with the Lord last year. So here is Lesson #2.

His Grace is Sufficient!

Oh how powerful a lesson this was. This of course comes from the well-known Scripture passage penned by the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Corinthians. He states in 2 Corinthians 12:9 “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”…

On the surface this statement would seem like nothing but a nice cliché to post on your wall as a cute little morning devotional to start the day. However, if one backs up to the list of Paul’s perils he lays out in 2 Corinthians 11:24-29, then they quickly get a flavor of the depth of meaning this statement in 2 Corinthians 12:9 has. And if those aren’t enough, Paul goes on to discuss the infamous “thorn in the flesh” that God chose to leave with the weary Apostle for his own good. Wow. So all the perils in 2 Corinthians 11:24-29 (which include sleepless nights, hunger, shipwrecks, danger, hardship, etc…you get the idea), and then on top of that a thorn in the flesh!

Surely this would be enough to drive one to their wits end. Surely this would be enough to cause even the most dogged of believers and followers of Christ to give up and go back on God. To throw in the towel and turn back to the seeming comforts and ease of life according to this present world. But Paul learns something. He learns that there is something available for such wearied travelers that is beyond them. And that is God’s grace. His unmerited favor. His kindness and warmth and love and forgiveness and patience and on and on it goes. And it is unlimited. And even better. It is sufficient. Sufficient? What does that mean? That means it is enough. It is enough to get you through. It is enough to sustain you. To keep you. To shelter you. To keep you from turning and going back on God. Even in the most difficult of circumstances, His grace is ENOUGH. It is sufficient. It is ultimately all you need to make it. And that is good news for those who have placed their faith and trust in Christ. He promises grace that is enough to get us through even the most difficult of life’s circumstances. And so what was the beloved Apostle’s response to his weaknesses in light of this sufficient grace? Well the “B” clause of verse 9 says this: “…Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”

In other words, if it takes my weakness to experience and enjoy the supernatural power of Christ in me, then so be it. Because through His power, I can become strong, though I am weak.

My Mother lived this. Throughout her journey she did not complain about her weakness, but she rather boasted in her own weakness so that she could tap into the supernatural strength of the risen Christ to rest upon her. And it was a strength that gave her a smile when she would otherwise cry. A strength that gave her joy when she would otherwise be in sorrow. And a strength that gave her the power to love and to give when she would otherwise be embittered and stingy.

That same power is available for you and I today. I made it through 2014 on this lesson. Though I’ve preached this message to others, my Mom taught it to me experientially on a whole new level by her living example.

And so I commend this lesson to you as well. Regardless of what 2015 may have ahead, for those of us who are in Christ, His grace will be sufficient. No matter what comes our way. His grace will be enough!

Lesson # 1 – “What’s a mystery to man…

is no mystery to God.”

This was one of the last (and more memorable) spiritual life lessons my Mom taught me before going home to glory earlier this year. It was a few months before she passed and she was in one of her stints back at the hospital. I was headed out on the road on business and so wanted to stop by for a few minutes to check in on her. It happened to be right around the time the mystery was going on with the Malaysian aircraft that “disappeared” over Southeast Asia and could not be discovered. I remember her laying there in her bed as we were watching the coverage on the news and just saying very plainly in her classic and wise way, “What’s a mystery to man is no mystery to God.” We conversed for a few moments about that and a number of other things, I gave her a kiss and I was on my way. But little did she know she had just rocked my whole world by that one statement. It stayed with me the rest of that day. The rest of that week. And now has remained with me in the months it has been since she first said it.

It is so interesting because it is one of those things that we can know innately at an intellectual level, but when you have it put so plainly, it really makes you stop and ponder how deep and true the reality is. Scripture teaches us that “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein, for He has founded it upon the seas and established it upon the rivers” (Psalms 24:1-2).

This lets us know that not only are there certain things that are a mystery to man, but they are a mystery to us because it is not our world to begin with – it’s His!

Old man Job was reminded of this first hand by God Himself when Job went too far in putting God on the witness stand, demanding answers from Him that Job soon learned God wasn’t obligated to have to answer –at least not in the way Job demanded. Here is just a little bit of the Lord’s response:

Job 38:1-6 (ESV)

Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind and said:

“Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Dress for action[a] like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me.“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements—surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?

Wow. What a response! I don’t know about you, but the last person I would have wanted to be that day was Job. But if we are honest we have all been Job’s at some point in our lives, shaking our fist at God and demanding answers from Him as to why He has chosen to run things the way He has. But thankfully Job redeems himself in the end. Rather than lifting up his heart in pride, Job humbled himself before the Lord and gave what was the only appropriate response to such a revelation of the truth. Hear Job’s response:

Job 42:1-6 (ESV)

Then Job answered the Lord and said:

“I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. ‘Hear, and I will speak; I will question you, and you make it known to me.’ I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent[a] in dust and ashes.”

So friends, rather than us lifting up our hearts in pride toward Creator God when things are done in this life that we may not be able to quite make sense of, may we too humble ourselves as Job did and offer to our Lord the only proper response. That He knows things to wonderful for us to know. And let us find the promised rest and contentment there.

For after all…“What’s a mystery to man, is no mystery to God.”

Thanks, Mom. 🙂

Lessons Before Dying – Spiritual Lessons My Mom Taught Me in Her Final Days

Hello friends! Well it has been a while since I’ve had the privilege of sharing a new blog post with you of musings that the Lord has laid on my heart. As many of you may know, my Mom, Sandra L. Love, was called home to be with the Lord on May 30th of this year. Since that time, I have had many days to reminisce and reflect on the life and memories my Mother left behind. And what a life and legacy she left.

My Mom is an amazing woman. She is a hero of mine, and without question a spiritual giant in my life. She taught me by her life and example the realities of what the book of 1 Peter is all about for believers, and how to suffer well (1 Peter 3:14). She also taught me by her life and example the realities of 2 Timothy 2:3, in enduring hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.

I can’t wait to see her again in glory (1 Thess. 4:13-18). She’s certainly earned her place among that great cloud of witnesses in Hebrews 11! And so it is with great joy that I am pleased to in the coming days, share several of the spiritual lessons my Mom taught me in the final days of her journey as a pilgrim through this barren land. I pray you will be blessed, inspired, and perhaps even yourself drawn to the truth and the promise of who Christ is and the everlasting hope we have in His name.

Enjoy and be blessed!

“If You Wipe, You Don’t Have to Scrub” (Come and Find Rest!) – A Subtle Reminder in My Mother’s Wisdom

My brother and I were helping my dear mother the other night clean the dishes and the kitchen after winding down the evening from a wonderful Sunday dinner (delicious steaks made on the grill by yours truly…and I might add that they were really delicious!…and did I already mention they were made by yours truly? LOL…just kidding).

But nonetheless, as we were helping her she was (in her own Mother Love way) gently but firmly giving us our tasks and marching orders for cleaning the kitchen just the way she wanted it. And one of the tasks she gave my oldest brother was to clean the microwave. A little time went by and she noticed he was still cleaning it. She asked him what was taking so long. He replied that he had to scrub a little so it was taking a minute. She let him know (again in her own Mother Love way :-)) that if he and my dad and all of us who frequently use the microwave would start wiping it down after each use then he wouldn’t have to worry about scrubbing it. And the thought just popped in my mind – if you just take the time to wipe you won’t have to scrub later. I told my mom how proverbial I thought this was!

And as I continued to ponder that thought, it took me to another important truth Jesus was getting at, which parallels this proverbial statement from my mom. Only this has to do with the whole of life.

As human beings, our natural fallen and selfish tendency is to want to take matters into our own hands,  want to do things our own way and want to push our own thoughts, ideas and agendas for making things right rather than submitting ourselves to the best way, and in actuality, the easiest way. And that is the way of surrender. Jesus says to us these glorious truths in Matthew 11:28-30:

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

In essence, he is speaking to all the “scrubbers” out there. Stop scrubbing. Stop making things harder than it has to be. Just come to me. Just as you are. Not with your ideas. Not with your opinions. Or ideas. Or suggestions. Or thoughts on how you think things should be. That’s not for you to concern yourself with (Acts 1:7). But just bring yourself. Bring all of you. Your heart. Your mind. And your soul to me. And I WILL give you rest. He’s assured us folks. We will find rest if we come to Him. And all it takes is for us to come to Him simply and humbly- as a little child (Matt 11:25-26). And we will experience and enjoy this promised rest!

And that’s not even the best part – the best part is that not only is He telling us that we can stop “scrubbing”, but He also is telling us that we don’t even have to wipe! Because He already did that for us! How you might ask? Well over 2,000 years ago the Beloved Son of God carried an old rugged cross up to a hill called Calvary, and he spilled his precious and pure blood that is now available to wipe away all the sin and guilt (1 John 1:7) of anyone who would lay down their weapons of warfare and rebellion against Him, and instead run to Him to find this promised rest. And oh what a glorious rest it is. So please. Take my mom’s advice.

Stop scrubbing. And wiping for that matter. Because Jesus has already done that. Just come. And rest!

Here’s a great song by Nicole C. Mullen that reminds us of the Lord’s plea to Come Unto Me….Enjoy!