Mom passed away this morning. She was eighty-one years old. Several of my siblings were with her as she passed. My mother was an interesting individual–almost a polarizing figure. I think very few people who truly knew her were ambivalent. She either liked you or she didn’t. People either liked her or they didn’t. For the most part–save for only a couple of incidents throughout my life–my relationship with my mother was healthy (I think it was a lot easier being a boy in our family than being a girl). And I always knew–even when she was irritated with me–that she loved me and was proud of me.
I thought it might be helpful for me to sit down and draw up a list of things I appreciate about my mom. She was not a perfect mom. But she did more than a few things right. In her honor, I’ll share my list (I stopped at twenty).
- Was always there for me as I grew up.
- Deeply loved my Dad, proving to be his best friend and lover through life.
- Worked hard to help Dad provide for our family.
- Trained me that a clean house is more enjoyable than a dirty one.
- Enabled me to see that a good day of fishing doesn’t require catching a lot of fish.
- Patiently proved to me that a tacky tree painted on a kitchen wall was actually cool.
- Spoke the truth, even if it wasn’t always seasoned with grace.
- Taught me that a hard life should be salted with fun activities.
- Introduced me to good food–surf and turf (lobster, shrimp & steak)!
- Helped me to see that the mentally-disabled are people deserving as much kindness as those self-described as “normal.”
- Never ridiculed my conversion to Christianity.
- Never judged my present or my future based upon my past.
- Loved my wife as if she were a daughter.
- Supported me in my educational pursuits.
- Celebrated my seminary graduation–stuffing her own emotions as she was informed earlier in the day of her mother’s passing.
- Was generous–even forcing me to take gifts from time to time.
- Encouraged me as I served in my vocational roles as pastor, principal and professor.
- Listened intensely whenever she heard me preach God’s Word.
- Complimented me in my role as husband and father.
- Illustrated–through quality time–that being a grandparent could be a blast.
My study in God’s Word the other day led me to Ephesians, chapter six. I found myself flying through the familiar verses of the chapter only to slam on the brakes as I reached the last sentence of the letter.
“Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an incorruptible love.” Ephesians 6:24
The gifted commentator, Matthew Henry wrote, “The words may be read, Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ in incorruption, who continue constant in their love to him, so as not to be corrupted out of it by any baits or seductions whatsoever, and whose love to him is uncorrupted by any opposite lust, or the love of anything displeasing to him. Grace, that is, the favour of God, and all good (spiritual and temporal), that is, the product of it, are and shall be with all those who thus love our Lord Jesus Christ” (eSword).
Baptist theologian John Gill defined this as believers who prove to be “sincere and hearty lovers of Him” (eSword).
And Adam Clarke correctly connects love for Christ with obedience to Christ. He wrote that this concept of incorruptible love is possessed by “those who show the genuineness of their love, by walking before him in holiness of life. Many profess to love our Lord Jesus who are corrupt in all their ways; on these the grace or favor of God cannot rest; they profess to know him, but in works deny him. Such can neither expect favor here, nor hereafter” (eSword).
Are you convicted yet?
I wonder if the believers in Ephesus were convicted when they first read these words. I find it very interesting that several years later, the Apostle John would reprimand them for their lukewarm love for Christ (Rev. 2:4). Perhaps many in the church did not take Paul’s words to heart. Their love became corrupted. Their once-upon-a-time passionate love for Jesus had grown cool.
It’s a sad statement. And, it is sobering to think it could be true of us as well.
How thankful should we be for the final verse of Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus?!
Allow me to close with a great exhortation from a sermon preached by Jonathan Edwards:
“Seeing that Christ is your all, give Him your whole heart. Let Him be the object not only of your highest esteem, but your supreme affection. Let Him engross your heart, and let all your powers and faculties be taken up and employed in loving Him. Love Him with all your heart and with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength. Let Him be the great object of your longing desires. Let Him be your exceeding joy, your only delight. Take your full contentment in Him.”
Christ is the Christians All, The Puritan Pulpit: Jonathan Edwards, Soli Deo Gloria Publications, 2004, p.204.
Mind if I share a devotional I gave to a group of students this week?
- We are called to bear fruit.
- Jesus is the Source for our fruit-bearing.
- Apart from Jesus, we cannot produce fruit.
“‘except ye abide in me’ - which strongly expresses the necessity of abiding in Christ by fresh repeated acts of faith” (John Gill)
As I was driving from Decatur to Dayton, TN the other day, I turned on the radio–hoping to be encouraged.
I was not disappointed.
I was just in time to hear Joni and Friends. And–Joni’s words were awesome; biblically and theologically right on. In fact, they were so good I simply had to share them. Here they are in their entirety along with the link if you would rather listen.
Hi, this is Joni Eareckson Tada and welcome to “Joni and Friends.”
Like you, I am so very grateful for my salvation in Jesus Christ. I was looking through a couple of old photo albums the other day and came across some snapshots when I was 13 or 14 years old. Then the other day at Joni and Friends, I was reviewing a video, which included some old home movie footage when I was 15 years old. It had been so long since I had seen such young photos, such long-ago images of myself, that I had to stop and remember, ‘cause life on my feet seems like another lifetime ago. And I must confess, I got myself into a lot of trouble as a 14-year-old. I will never forget when the Gospel finally hit home in my heart, I felt so, well, to put it bluntly, I felt absolutely dirty and I knew that I had absolutely no resources to make myself clean. When it came to my salvation as a 15-year-old, I brought nothing to the table for I was, as Ephesians chapter 2, verse 1 says, “… dead in my transgressions and sins.”
You know, we say that but how many of us really believe that we were completely dead before we knew Christ? I once heard Dr. R.C. Sproul paint a fascinating picture of how “dead in sin” we were before Christ. He described the unbeliever as lying flat-dead-drowned on the bottom of a pool under six feet of water. The man is so dead he can’t possibly hear – he is utterly incapable of hearing—the “good news” that a lifesaver is on the way. That dead man on the bottom of the pool can’t respond. He can’t raise himself up off the floor of the pool and surface in order to meet the one saving his life because, well, he’s dead. Dead men can’t do a thing. This is why God, the Lifesaver, must reach down, pull the unbeliever out of the water, and breathe life into his dead body. Once quickened, the man happily recognizes his Savior, reaches up and embraces Him. Friend, that is the Gospel and that’s why I say I brought nothing to the table of salvation when I first confessed Christ. All I did was recognize Jesus as my Savior because He, first, quickened my heart to recognize and love Him. I love Him because He first loved me.
This is so important if we are to grasp just how amazing God’s grace really is for there are two different interpretations of the Gospel. One makes salvation dependent on the work of God, the other on a work of man. One regards faith as part of God’s gift of salvation, the other sees faith as man’s own contribution to salvation. One gives all the glory of saving to God; the other divides the praise between God who “built the machinery” of salvation, and man who operated it by believing. John chapter 1, verses 12-13 underscore that we are spiritually born “not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” Friend, we are made alive out of the deadness of our sin by the will of God, for Jesus said in John chapter 15, “You did not choose me, but I chose you.”
As much as it goes against our natural grain, we are not masters of our own fate or captains of our own souls. Throughout this day, rehearse in your heart that:
1) All men are sinners and cannot do anything to save themselves; (2) Jesus Christ, God’s Son, is a perfect Savior for sinners; and, (3) the Father and the Son have promised that all who know themselves to be sinners and place their faith in Christ the Savior shall be received into favor and no one cast away.
It’s why I thank God for quickening my spirit and giving me saving faith so that I might recognize Jesus and His great gift of salvation.
As I heal from my procedure on Friday, I have pondered the providence of God. I am grateful today for the following:
- My P.A. Mary Catherine Henderen who insisted I see a well-respected heart specialist in Chattanooga.
- My blood test and four EKG’s which showed no signs of a heart attack.
- My friend Vonnie who came in the middle of the night to watch the kids while we visited the ER.
- My boss who graciously allowed me to take time off for several appointments and my procedure.
- My amazing wife who sat with me during a visit by EMTs, a night at the ER, and as I went through my heart cath.
- My mother-in-law and sister-in-law who watched the children much of the day on Friday.
- My experience at Memorial Hospital in Chattanooga–a center of healing which is unashamed of faith in God.
- My God prompting compassionate people at Memorial Hospital to render their services to us free-of-charge.
- My nurse–Kay–who quietly said, “Praise the Lord” when the IV stick worked at her first attempt.
- My results from the heart cath–a clean heart acting normally.
- My healing–no complications as of yet.
- My children–who were praying rather than worrying.
- My students–some of whom cared enough to ask “How did it go?”
- My weekend–rainy days perfect for the R&R I needed.
- My friends–many of whom prayed for me over the past month or so.
I’ll stop at fifteen. As you can see, there are many reasons for which I should be grateful. My God has been exceedingly gracious to me. He has not treated me as my many sins deserve. We have seen His hand throughout this situation. And I have also seen yet again how very kind He has been in providing me Jodi as my wife. She has shined throughout this ordeal. As we approach our twenty-second wedding anniversary, I am more “in love” with her now than I ever. How thankful I am!
Thanks for stopping by for the update. If you prayed, thank you so much. We are convinced that the Lord both heard and answered those prayers. It is our hope that He has been exalted through all the appointments and conversations.
I close by quoting my nurse on Friday,
“PRAISE THE LORD!”
I am not exactly sure when it began. I don’t even know if I can explain to you all of the symptoms I have experienced. Several times over the past month we thought I was having a mild heart attack. To this day, no one is convinced that I actually had one. But one thing is sure–I have had a heart cath. That’s short for heart catheterization. This morning a well-respected heart surgeon investigated my heart through the use of dye and x-ray the ins-and-outs of my pumper. The results were what we had hoped–no apparent issues, no blockages, and no signs of heart disease. Whatever was causing my symptoms, my heart is currently off the hook. For that information, we are indeed grateful.
Have you ever faced your mortality?
This is the second experience in which I genuinely felt as if I was staring death in the face. This time I did not flinch. Death does not frighten me. It is only a dark gate which will open and allow me to experience eternal light. I have no concerns for my soul. My concern focuses on my wife and my children. I do not want to leave Jodi a widow. I do not want my children to be fatherless. Yet I am not in charge of the moment of my death any more than I orchestrated the moment of my birth. These are events fully controlled by God. He chose March 18, 1965, for my arrival. He has also chosen the specific day for my departure. It might still be today. It may be ten years from now. I may live to be older than my grandfather. It’s all up to Him.
But something is up to me–how I live today.
Since death is out of my sphere of control, I must concentrate my efforts on that which is–living each and every day. And–that living has purpose. I have the incredible opportunity to glory in Christ and glorify Christ. Today affords me the privilege of knowing and showing Christ. Furthermore, I have been both equipped and exhorted to bless others. As a result, every day has significance. Every sunrise is a reminder that I am to be about this mission of loving God and loving others.
Jonathan Edwards was a man on this mission. Consider the following resolutions:
5. Resolved, never to lose one moment of time; but improve it the most profitable way I possibly can.
7. Resolved, never to do anything, which I should be afraid to do, if it were the last hour of my life.
17. Resolved, that I will live so as I shall wish I had done when I come to die.
This is truly living in light of eternity. This is how I want to live. I want my only regret on my deathbed to be the fact that I cannot take my loved ones with me to heaven.
But am I living this mission today? Are you?
I used to say that I want others to consider me to be a godly man by the time I am fifty. Now–just three years away from the BIG 50–I know that will not be reality. So I pushed that hope back another ten years. By the time I am sixty, I want those who know me to think of me as a man who is Christ-exalting and people-blessing. But for that to be the case, I must consistently cultivate my relationship with Christ, and I must hold myself accountable to ministering to the needs of those around me. And “those around me” begins at home–with Jodi and the kids. And that’s why I want to keep living even though it is “better by far” to be HOME with Jesus.
So, if you are reading this blog, my guess is that I am still among the land of the living. And living is exactly what I plan to do.
Won’t you join me?
I love God’s Word. That love began the moment God changed my heart and my mind. It is a love which will continue. The reasons are simple. I love God’s Word because of what it is and because of what it does.
Here is one of my favorite passages of Scripture. It is Scripture on Scripture.
“The revelation of GOD is whole and pulls our lives together. The signposts of GOD are clear and point out the right road. The life-maps of GOD are right, showing the way to joy. The directions of GOD are plain and easy on the eyes. GOD’s reputation is twenty-four-carat gold, with a lifetime guarantee. The decisions of GOD are accurate down to the nth degree. God’s Word is better than a diamond, better than a diamond set between emeralds. You’ll like it better than strawberries in spring, better than red, ripe strawberries. There’s more: God’s Word warns us of danger and directs us to hidden treasure. Otherwise how will we find our way? Or know when we play the fool? Clean the slate, God, so we can start the day fresh! Keep me from stupid sins, from thinking I can take over your work; Then I can start this day sun-washed, scrubbed clean of the grime of sin. These are the words in my mouth; these are what I chew on and pray. Accept them when I place them on the morning altar, O God, my Altar-Rock, God, Priest-of-My-Altar” (Psalm 19:7-14; The Message).
I love God’s Word because it is God’s Word. God has communicated. Last night I studied the introduction to Luke and Acts. Pastor Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church in Seattle pointed out something to me that I had not fully considered: Theophilus is one of the heroes of the Bible. Do you remember Theophilus? Scholars believe that he is the wealthy benefactor who supplied Luke with the resources needed for his investigative reporting (Luke 1:3; Acts 1:1). Having been radically changed by God through the gospel, Theophilus joyfully assisted Luke by providing the means Luke needed to interview the eye witnesses and record the history of the early church (Acts). How thankful should we be for these two men?!
I love God’s Word because of what it does. God uses it to transform lives. He has used it to transform my life. We find this concept in the passage printed above. God’s Word is great and God’s Word does great things. It points us to Christ and what a Christ-centered life looks like lived in a Christ-neglecting culture. It reminds us of the beauty of purity and the heinousness of sin. It convicts. It comforts. It exhorts. It instructs. How thankful should we be for this gift?!
Have you been reading God’s Word? I highly recommend it! I know one thing–I don’t plan to put it down!
Cascade is my beautiful four-and-a-half-year-old. And this morning, she amazed me.
After we sang the last song, the choir exited the platform and Pastor Rob approached the pulpit. As I reached for my Bible, Cascade grabbed a hymnal–thinking it was a Bible. But as soon as she opened it, she realized that it was, in fact, a hymnbook, not a Bible. Not satisfied with simply having a book, she replaced it in the open pew slot and took out the pew Bible. As she settled into the pew, she opened the Bible only to realize that she had it upside down. Not content to have an upside-down Bible, she turned it so that she could read the words (even though she can’t really read yet). Then what happened floored me. Mommy offered Casade her kid-friendly Bible with pictures. She flatly rejected the offer, preferring, instead, a “real” copy. And–if that wasn’t enough, as Cacade looked at the place in the Bible that she had opened to and compared it to what Celena had opened to–the text of Acts, chapter thirteen–she began a fast search to find it. That’s when I jumped in to help.
That experience reminded me of something Dayton, my seven-year-old, said last weekend. With the DS game console in his hand, he asked me if we were going to have some time in the Bible. Of course, I said “Yes.” (What choice did I have?) Then he replied, “Good, because it is better than this” (the DS).
More is caught than taught!
My kids understand the value of God’s Word. They agree with the sentiments of David:
“The law of the LORD is perfect, restoring the soul; The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. The precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; The commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; The judgments of the LORD are true; they are righteous altogether. They are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold; Sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb” (Ps. 19:7-10).
In one of the courses I am teaching currently, we are studying the book of Colossians. I have always appreciated the admonition of the first several verses of chapter three. The Apostle Paul wrote,
“Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth” (Col. 3:1,2).
Psalm 1 exhorts me to meditate upon God’s Word day and night (1:2). What would cause such a radical habit–the continued contemplation upon the Word of God? Delight. “But his delight is the law of the Lord” (1:2).
I am not convinced that Cascade and Dayton truly delight in the Word of God. However, they do see it as a valuable possession. They have an awareness that the Bible is special. If I have taught them anything, I have taught them this. My hope is that they have also seen my delighting in the Scriptures. Trust me when I say that I will use these recent experiences with the children to spur me on to greater delight and an even more conscious example.
PS–If you look closely at the Bible in Cascade’s lap, you will see two Latin words – tolle lege. Those were the words Augustine heard the children singing in the famous account of his conversion. Translated, they mean “Take up and read.” Let’s do so this week! Pick up. Read. Delight.
That word has been stuck in my mind for days. God has used His Word as well as some examples lately to remind me that I must be vigilant to my forward momentum with Christ.
Two passages in which I see this theme are found in the book of Colossians. I’ll quote both below in the New American Standard and The Message.
“As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude” (Col. 2:6,7; NASB).
“My counsel for you is simple and straightforward: Just go ahead with what you’ve been given. You received Christ Jesus, the Master; now live him. You’re deeply rooted in him. You’re well constructed upon him. You know your way around the faith. Now do what you’ve been taught. School’s out; quit studying the subject and start living it! And let your living spill over into thanksgiving” (Col. 2:6,7; The Message).
“If then you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth” (Col. 3:1,2; NASB).
“So if you’re serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides. Don’t shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ–that’s where the action is. See things from his perspective” (Col. 3:1,2; The Message).
Beloved, I have a deep desire to finish well as a Christian. I want to run this race to its completion. The only way for me to be successful in this vital endeavor is to continue moving forward. I am called to run my race with perseverance (Heb. 12:1). Every Christian is commanded to do the same.
How’s your race going?
We are either moving forward, standing still or headed in the wrong direction.
May God grant for us that which He has commanded from us–lives which are centered on Jesus Christ–resurrected lives which find us moving forward every day, even if that progress is inch-by-inch!
Mind if I share a devotional with you? I presented this material to one of my college classes last week. I hope they were encouraged, and I hope the same is true for you!
Colossians 2 is an exhortation:
Col 2:1 For I want you to know how great a struggle I have on your behalf and for those who are at Laodicea, and for all those who have not personally seen my face,
Col 2:2 that their hearts may be encouraged, having been knit together in love, and attaining to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ Himself,
Col 2:3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
Col 2:4 I say this so that no one will delude you with persuasive argument.
Col 2:5 For even though I am absent in body, nevertheless I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good discipline and the stability of your faith in Christ.
Col 2:6 Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him,
Col 2:7 having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude.
To find our treasure in Christ.
To faithfully walk with Christ.
Colossians 2 is a warning:
Col 2:8 See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.
Col 2:9 For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form,
Col 2:10 and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority;
Col 2:11 and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ;
Col 2:12 having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.
Col 2:13 When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions,
Col 2:14 having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.
Col 2:15 When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him.
Col 2:16 Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day–
Col 2:17 things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.
Col 2:18 Let no one keep defrauding you of your prize by delighting in self-abasement and the worship of the angels, taking his stand on visions he has seen, inflated without cause by his fleshly mind,
Col 2:19 and not holding fast to the head, from whom the entire body, being supplied and held together by the joints and ligaments, grows with a growth which is from God.
Col 2:20 If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as,
Col 2:21 “Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!”
Col 2:22 (which all refer to things destined to perish with use)–in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men?
Col 2:23 These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence.
Paul’s point: The all-sufficiency of Christ; Christ is enough!
- He is enough for our pursuit of wisdom and knowledge (2:3).
- He is enough for our salvation (2:11-15).
- He is enough for our sanctification (2:16-23).
- Our Reality in a land of shadows (v.17)
- Our Head (v.19) – The Lord (v.6), fully-God (v.9)
- Our Value against fleshly indulgence (v.23)
Questions to Ponder
Is Jesus truly our treasure?
Am I faithfully walking with Jesus?
Do I recognize that Jesus-and is not the same as Jesus-alone?
Am I careful not to confuse conviction with command?
Is my faith contingent upon experiences?
What am I seeking to accomplish through my self-denials?
Does my life genuinely reflect “Jesus is Enough!”