Joy

Travel Airport Boarding Pass Boarding Luggage

Fellow Sojourners

Sojourner means, “one who stays in a place as a stranger or visitor.” The word sojourner elicits our emotions. Perhaps, for you, it brings to mind adventure, exploring, and discovery. Traveling to new places and living there for a while to be immersed in another culture. Or, you may feel just the opposite. This word may stir a sense of instability, danger, and poverty. Either way, this word speaks to each of us in a way that stirs our emotions.

Jesus was a sojourner during His earthly ministry. When a man asked if he could join Jesus’ disciples, Jesus said, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” (Matthew 8:20) He was a stranger to the very people He created! “He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him.” (John 1:10)

Strangers

There are many places in God’s Word that tell us that as children of God we are strangers in this world. We can go back to Abraham, “For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.” (Hebrews 11:10) So, we know that it is the will of God for us to be uncomfortable in this world, to have a longing for heaven, to know that our home is in heaven; it cannot be found here.

Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.

1 Peter 2:11

Liberty

There is liberty when we understand that this world is not our home. First, we focus on work that has eternal value. Who would deposit their paycheck someplace where they don’t bank? Secondly, we are free from comparing or coveting houses, cars, or vacations with anyone else. None of those are part of our inheritance and all will be left behind when we get home. And, thirdly, we have camaraderie with fellow sojourners. We are all on the same road, looking forward to the same destination, eager to “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.” (Hebrews 12:1)

Therefore, fellow sojourners, let’s live with joy and anticipation, as we look forward to “the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.


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Creche

Let Us Celebrate Christmas

The word for Christmas in Old English is Cristes Maesse, the Mass of Christ. This phrase was first found in a manuscript written in 1038 AD. A word closer to our word, Christmas, is Cristes-messe, found in an 1131 AD manuscript. In Dutch, the word Christmas is Kerstmis, in Latin, it is Dies Natalis, and from Latin comes the French Noël. In Italian Christmas is Il natale, and in German Christmas is Weihnachtsfest which means sacred vigil. 

Controversies

The celebration of the birth of Jesus has a long and messy past. The first evidence of the feast came from Egypt in 200 AD. Egypt played a very important role during the early Church. Still, there has never been any agreement on the year or day of the birth of Jesus. Christmas has also long been a controversial celebration. In England, Christmas was banned by an Act of Parliament in 1644. People were forced to fast, and shops were ordered to be open. [1]

Nevertheless, Christians, regardless of edicts, and theological proclamations, have felt in our souls that we should join together around the birth of Jesus, independent of denominational differences. All of us should thank God for begetting His One and Only Son. So, let us do so. Let us set aside all malice or contempt, and corporately humble ourselves, worshiping God and celebrating Jesus for being the pilgrim that made the only way of salvation for we are all sinners saved by grace.

Rejoice!

Today is the day we jointly celebrate the birth of God’s Beloved Son, born in a manger. Let us rejoice in God’s prophecy of Jesus in Isaiah 9:6 (ESV): “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Merry Christmas!

Photo by Chris Sowder on Unsplash

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[1] http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/03724b.htm

Gramma and grandson making a cake

God’s Still Crazy About You

A little boy is telling his grandma how “everything” is going wrong.  School, family problems, bullies, and so forth. Meanwhile, Grandma is baking a cake. She asks her grandson if he would like a snack, which of course he does. “Here, have some cooking oil.” “Yuck!” says the boy. “How about a couple of raw eggs? “ “Gross, Grandma!” “Would you like some flour then or maybe baking soda?” “Grandma, those are all yucky!”

Grandma smiles and replies: “Yes, all those things seem bad all by themselves. But when they are put together in the right way, they make a wonderfully delicious cake! God works the same way.  Many times, we wonder why he would let us go through such challenging times.  But God knows that when He puts these things all in His order, they always work for good!  We must trust Him and, eventually, they will all make something wonderful!”

Just think:

  • God is Crazy About You.
  • If God had a refrigerator, your picture would be on it.
  • If He had a wallet, your photo would be in it.
  • He sends you flowers every spring and a sunrise every morning.
  • Whenever you want to talk, He’ll listen.
  • He can live anywhere in the universe, and He chose your heart.
  • What about the Christmas gift He sent you in Bethlehem, not to mention that Friday at Calvary?

Face it, God’s crazy about you!


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hand drawn image for two guy walking together

Enjoyable and Pleasant

“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

Colossians 3:17

Thanksgiving to God, helps to make us agreeable (enjoyable and pleasant) to all men (and women). – Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary


Image by Sajjad Saju from Pixabay 

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But enough about us, let’s talk about you! What do you think of us?


Are We Living the Wrong Life?

Yes, the above is my sarcastic way of addressing the 800-pound gorilla featured in so many sermons and small-group Christian meetings. Christian publishing companies and magazines can’t churn out “bloodless” Christianity fast enough. And now, these morally bankrupt folks are stripping Christian teaching of such basics as service to Jesus through sacrifice, punishment, and loss of life. What has gotten into us? There is good reason that countries we previously considered “backward” are sending missionaries to America. Praise God for these bold ministers.

More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Romans 5:3-5

In the “Watch What You Pray For” department, notice how Jesus answers prayers for hope! When was the last time that a Christian elder encouraged you to actually suffer loss for Jesus? Have you witnessed a fellow believer who suffered (beaten, loss of employment, their children verbally abused)? I think we are beginning to see some of this in school board meetings. I had the privilege of working with a pastor in another country that was beaten, tortured, put in jail, and suffered the loss of personal items for many years specifically because he was a Christian. We know that the apostle Paul wrote Timothy, “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,” (2 Timothy 3:12)

A Life That Pleases Jesus is Dangerous

If our lives do not parallel the lives of Christians before us, then we need to judge ourselves, not our spiritual ancestors. “For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved. (2 Peter 2:19)” We often think of “enslavement” to things like alcohol, gambling, sexual sins, greed and so forth. But a Christians can just as easily be enslaved by wasting money, eating too much food, and taking any healthy thing (e.g., jogging, golfing, swimming) and allowing it to control him/her.

Our LBJ (life before Jesus) was founded upon death – have all the fun you can because we’re all going to die. But our LAS (life have salvation) cannot be built upon the foolish idea that we just wait, doing nothing, until Jesus returns, or we die. How crazy is that. What Jesus wants us to do is wade into humanity, so people smell our S.B.O (spiritual body odor).

To the one, we are an odor of death and demise; to the other, a fragrance that brings life. And who is qualified for such a task?

2 Corinthians 2:16

Image by James Chan from Pixabay 


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man sitting in an empty church

Take Me Back

I heard an interesting perspective about Peter and some other apostles at the Sea of Galilee after Jesus arose from His grave. We remember that all the apostles were scattered when the Pharisees apprehended Jesus under duress. Well, the apostle John didn’t scatter, but the rest did. Peter’s was the worst, for he watched the proceedings against Jesus but denied three times that he ever knew Jesus.

Denied Jesus

Before we get on the blame train, have we ever failed to pray at the beginning of lunch with an important client? Have we joined the guys in our brother-in-law’s living room to watch Sunday NFL but conveniently overlooked giving thanks to God for our food? Have we ever joined in wishing someone “good luck?” All of those are denying Jesus. So let’s be slow to judge.

Still, Peter knew he’d messed up real bad. I’m sure he felt like a failure and a hypocrite, the very things the official clergy had been saying about Jesus from the start.

Playing Left-Out

So, as the dust settled, Jesus had proved that He is the Son of God. Everyone could feel the momentum building. His followers were full of questions, and excitement, and anticipation, but not Peter. He thought that he’d missed the boat. Everything Jesus had said was beginning to be fulfilled, but Peter was playing left-out on Christ’s baseball team.

In the Bible, the narrative shifts from Christ’s resurrection to Jesus at the Sea of Galilee. Jesus finds that the fishermen in His inner circle have gone back to their old lives. They were fishing for fish, not men. But I don’t believe Peter was there to catch fish. Peter had been in the inner circle of the inner circle of Jesus. Peter, James, and John were tight with Jesus.

Why was Peter in a Boat?

So, what would Peter be doing, back on the sea, the wind whipping the sail, and the lingering smell of old, dead fish – nothing. Peter was doing nothing. He was going through the motions but he felt dead inside. Have we ever gone through the motions? Years ago, I wrote a song that had the line:

You go through the motions without emotions, and you that that ain’t no good.

I think that was what Peter was doing. Let me share a profound statement I heard a preacher say. He said, “Peter wasn’t there to catch fish. He was there because that was where he first met Jesus.” I think that’s true.

Back to the Beginning

I can’t make a doctrine out of that thought, but it makes sense to me because that’s what we all do when we really mess up, and we can’t see how God can take us back – when we know we deserve nothing from Jesus.

Maybe we ran away from Jesus on purpose. Perhaps in our hearts, for a fleeting moment, we wanted just to be our old selves. Immediately, like Peter, we know we’ve done wrong; not just wrong but we’ve broken our relationship with Jesus and invited an insurrection, just as the devil did in heaven.

I don’t know your experience. But here’s what I do know. In our relationship with Jesus, there always comes a time when our spirit cries out, “Take me back, to the place where I first received you” That’s a line from an André Crouch song.

Renewed Vows

Peter needed it. I needed it. Maybe you need it too. We don’t have to deny Jesus to need our life in Christ renewed. You may have read this post and not identified with a single feeling or problem. Praise God, but that doesn’t mean that Jesus doesn’t want you to renew your vows with Him.

You want to remind Jesus that you stepped out from those of the world. You stepped out for Jesus to see you. Oh, the preacher saw you. Maybe your momma saw you. Maybe a loved Sunday school teacher saw you. They may have gone on to glory, but Jesus is still here, and it sure would feel good to step out for Jesus.

Peter was ready. Oh, I’m sure he was a hurting man. So when the apostle John said, “Hey, I think that’s Jesus.” Peter didn’t have a moment of hesitation. He dove in the water and ran to his Master. And as Jesus does, Jesus restored him.

Cheap Grace

Jesus restored him but not with cheap grace. Peter had denied Jesus. He had broken faith with Jesus, the one Peter had received revelation from the Holy Spirit that Jesus was the “Son of God.” So Jesus prodded him. “Are you going to do what I have called you to do? Will you feed my sheep. Will you die for me?” Jesus asked Peter hard questions, and He does the same to us when we have sinned deeply. That’s how relationships work.

If my wife and I have a marriage threatening disagreement, it doesn’t get solved with a peck on the cheek and an “I still love you.” No, we must talk through the problem. Someone must change. We must make sure that our foundation is strong. That’s what Jesus did with Peter. That’s what Jesus will do with us, but maybe we need to go back to the start, like Peter. To go to the place we first received Jesus.

Step into the Aisle

Maybe we need to renew our vows to Him. Perhaps we need to step out, again, into the aisle at church; let everyone look. You can’t let the judgment of others overrule your intimacy with Jesus.

As you may have noticed, I feel strongly about this need, especially for people in leadership positions. If you’ve broken your relationship with Jesus or if you feel dry as dust, then ask Jesus to do for you what He did for Peter, to take you back to where you began your life in Him so He can restore you.

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay


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a bubble floating in the air

Bubbles

Okay, I have a confession to make. When I was a young boy, I liked bubble baths. I know, from birth, I should have been hard as nails, but when I was five, maybe even six, I loved playing in a bubble bath. Whew. Now that that’s off my chest, let’s continue.

When I played in a bubble bath, I carried out nautical maneuvers that made Admiral Nelson’s strategy for the Battle of Trafalgar to be both insipid and uninspired.

Bubble Study

I also studied the bubbles. Each had rainbow sheen, and they seemed to float effortlessly while each bubble easily joined with other bubbles. It is this aspect I want us to consider today.

Based on my study of the Bible, I am convinced that each Christian should live as a bubble. I don’t mean we should live in a bubble as that’s contrary to a command of Christ’s (John 17:15).

Bubble Traits

We should be easily moved by the Holy Spirit (John 3:8). The cares of life should not weigh us down or chain us to the death in this world (Hebrews 12:1).

We should be transparent, like a bubble. People should easily see through us and see Jesus. We should not carry darkness in us that blocks the light (Matthew 5:16). For Jesus is the light of life (John 8:12). Our lives should not be as a bucket that blocks the light of Jesus (Matthew 5:15). And we should not have anything in us that distorts the light of truth. Sin clouds our transparency, so that must be dealt with quickly.

As a bubble, we are covered by God’s promise, the promise God made and established by the rainbow (Genesis 9:13). In God’s promise we are no longer under condemnation (Romans 8:1)! We live within God’s promise.

Just as bubbles easily move about, they also easily congregate (Hebrews 10:25). One connects with another and a third connects with both. Soon, these bubbles coalesce and become a congregation, shaped by their Master’s hand. That first bubble is still in there, but it’s not what is apparent. What is apparent is a congregation that remains nearly weightless, still able to be moved by the breath of the Master.

Bubble Assassins

And when the time comes, our bubble pops, but not without a remnant. When our bubble pops, the rainbow promise that has held the bubble in its visible form deposits its promise on the thing that caused its demise (Acts 7:60). Our bubble is no longer visible, but what it was is simply not seen (2 Corinthians 5:8). It has left its promise upon its assassin and has been transformed into its new life, a life in unison with all the other bubbles that went before it (Hebrews 12:1).

Bubble Story

Yes, there is a message for us in bubbles. No matter what we look at, if we really look, we will find Jesus.

Photo by Braedon McLeod on Unsplash


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kids with a lemonade stand

Hey Chris, Come on Down

I read (skimmed) an article in a magazine that my wife receives – she still likes paper. The human-interest story was about a kid that would climb up the tree in his front yard to watch a road construction crew building a road near his home. This was back when all the work was done by human labor, so progress was slow. Still, each day the workers got closer.

One day, the boy climbed up in the tree and he saw that they would be quite close to his home. Big trucks were passing right in front of his house. This was his chance for success! It was hot and the men were working hard, they would all be thirsty! He quickly climbed down the tree and, with his mother’s help, built a lemonade stand.

Don’t Stay in the Tree

It worked. The work crew started buying his lemonade. This boy’s story made me think of Zacchaeus. Zacchaeus was a man of small stature with a big reputation, and not a good one. He was a chief tax collector. The best modern-day example I could think of is that Zacchaeus was as despicable as the worst leader of a political party to which you are not affiliated. I’m serious. He was despised

Now Zacchaeus had a burning desire to see Jesus, so, like that boy, he and hope climbed up in a tree. Jesus came along with His entourage and the ever-changing crowd of followers ding-donging Him for something. Amid the tumult, He looks up and says, “Zacchaeus, come on down. I need to have dinner with you!” Let’s read Jesus’ account:

When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. Luke 19:5–6

Jesus Calls Us by Name

Just like that boy, Zacchaeus scurries down the tree, excited and joyful. Zacchaeus wanted to demonstrate to the crowd that his faith was now in Jesus, he would no longer extort money from everyone. So, he made a financially devastating decision, but Zacchaeus didn’t care because he had his eyes set on eternity. He understood money and knew that money comes, and money goes, but when Jesus calls you by name, you had better take up His offer.

This truth is true for the saved as for the unsaved. We all need to listen for Jesus to call us by name. When He does, He is providing us with an opportunity to touch eternity, to touch God! How can any of us pass up such an opportunity? Life, purpose, community, being valued and loved are just the fine print of God’s benefits package. God has the desire and ability to accomplish in us whatever he calls us to. But we must answer.

Hey Gary, come on down! Hey Chris, come on down. Hey Abhilash, hey Max, hey Susan, come on down. I want to go to your home and have a meal with you. I know you by name!

Image by Mary Bettini Blank from Pixabay


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Two men hugging at church, greeting

Today is Hug a Christian Day!

Greet one another with a holy kiss.2 Corinthians 13:12

I did a Google search and didn’t find a day set aside to hug a Christian, so I decided to create one. Each year, on September 27th, is “my official” hug a Christian day.

You may ask, “Why do we need a special day set aside for this?” That’s a good question. I don’t mean that we can only hug a Christian on September 27th. It’s just that I have observed that some Christians seem to fall through the cracks. And the cohesive nature of Christianity compels us to not social-distance. Community cannot be maintained without human contact.

The Reason Why

I know that in our culture, the idea of a holy kiss is repugnant to many people. This is why I didn’t designate today as kiss a Christian day, but feel free to do so if the recipient grants their consent, in writing, and said document is officially notarized. 😉

Here’s the real reason that I’m serious about this day. We have allowed the body of Christ to be drawn and quartered by every crisis du jour. Jesus’ body on earth is divided and weakened because we’ve allowed the cares of life to overrule the commands of Christ.

but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.

Mark 4:19

Cast Off Selective Devotion

Our selective love and devotion must stop, and the best way to say, “no more” is to have human contact with fellow Christians. To hug each other and encourage each other through the washing of spiritual water (Ephesians 5:26).

Please join me today in celebrating our brothers and sisters in Jesus. Let us find our best and closest friendships within the body of Christ (Romans 12:4–5). If there is anything that hinders our love, we must crucify that thing. What good is it if we gain the whole world but forfeit our souls (Matthew 16:26).

C’mon, Hug a Christian Today

Will we go to hell if we hate our fellow Christian brothers and sisters? I don’t know, but how can we be so callous? So let’s rejoice in the body of Christ. Let’s be bold and courageous in this world of fear. Please join me, as we step out in faith and hug a Christian today. I think this might just catch on!

Photo by Erika Giraud on Unsplash


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Military draft in New York in 1917

Soul Obligation

My Military Draft Registration

I’m old enough that I was eligible when America still has the military draft. Whether I wanted to or not, I had an obligation to my country to register for the draft – the pool of men from which the draft board selected candidates for military service.

Our draft board had a large office in the primary United States Postal Service building in our city. The building was impressive and intimidating. I don’t know when it was built, but the main floor’s ceiling was at least sixteen feet high, perhaps even more. 

The builders constructed nearly everything on the main floor with thick marble and filled the seams with brass. There were mosaic patterns on the floor. The moment I opened its enormous doors and stepped inside, my every footstep echoed throughout the room.

In this daunting room, I had to walk fifteen- or twenty-feet to arrive at the foot of the building’s magnificent marble staircase. The staircase led me upstairs to a drab, poorly lit, narrow hallway that provided access to many federal offices. The draft board office was at the end of the hallway, so I had to pass the IRS office, the FBI office, and other government offices, each one making me feel more insecure!

Finally, I reached my destination and walked in. After an eternity and a half, a man came to the counter, which separated me from the office. He greeted me without even a hint of a smile. He knew I was uncomfortable; that was the point. In those days, our federal government required every young man to go to the office to register for the draft. I’m sure that they wanted each of us to understand the solemnity of our actions. We were fulfilling our obligation, and it was an action that was profound. Some of us that entered that office would be killed in action or disabled for life, so it wasn’t to be taken lightly.

Serious Stuff

More intimidating and more profound is our obligation to Jesus Christ, for He said: “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10:28) That’s as serious as it gets. Still, I have good news.

During my Bible reading today, I came to a favorite passage for many Christians:

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”

1 Peter 2:9-10

As the Holy Spirit often does, I saw something new. The words that lifted off the page are “that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” Now, I’ve often read this passage as God’s permission, something like, “You are a holy nation, so you are allowed to proclaim…” This interpretation is likely valid, but there’s more to it. The word “that” points us to an obligation we have. We love being a royal priesthood and being God’s people, but those privileges bring with them a soul obligation.

Soul obligation

The “me” that is me is my soul. In heaven, we will be known as we are known. (1 Corinthians 13:12) And the me that is known is my soul: “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26)

In 1 Peter 2:9-10, the Holy Spirit inspired the apostle Peter to write our soul’s obligation. We can’t be quiet Christians, stealthy Christians, or Seal Team Six Christians. We must be proclaimers! We must open our mouths and speak of the glories of God.

Telling people about Jesus, about having the Holy Spirit within us, about our heavenly Father is not a difficult yoke (Matthew 11:29-30). Jesus has placed an easy yoke upon us. How marvelously our Savior treats us. So, let’s rejoice in Christ’s easy yoke, and may you “proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

Photo is Public Domain


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