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It’s Time for Faith to Grow (20210712)

 
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23
 
Is it too late to plant something? It’s the middle of July and the small local nurseries are either closed by now or they are down to only a few geraniums. If we were to walk into a nursery and say, “Well, I guess it’s time to get the planting starting” imagine the surprised looks we would get. The time to start was two months ago at least. This seems way past planting time.

I imagine that we can see our present stage in life that way. No matter what age you are, is it planting time?  Often, we see planting time as those seasons in life when we’re young and all of life’s choices are before us. It’s time to plant when you’re taking college entrance exams, choosing what to do after high school, and picking what major to study or what job to begin. It’s time to plant when you are just starting a new relationship. All these are wonderful times to see life full of promise and ready to grow.
           
But I wonder if it’s not planting time in every season. Who’s to say that now isn’t a good time to plant something new in our lives? No matter what age we are, no matter what the calendar says, no matter whether we’ve tried planting this or that ten years ago, who’s to say this middle of July isn’t the time to plant?  God’s nursery is not closed for the season. God’s stock has not been picked over, down to one sad orange geranium. God’s soil for growth hasn’t lost its potential for true miracle growth.
           
For example, think of the fruits of the Spirit that are our text. Who’s to say that this isn’t the perfect season and week for a re-seeding of at least one of those fruits? Perhaps this is the time to read that list and to say, “Lord, I have quite a few bare spots in the lawn of my life.  More self-control would certainly fill up that corner and wouldn’t a fresh covering of patience look good right by the front door?”  You and God can have that conversation and choose the fruits that could best be re-seeded today. Lots of good things are already growing in your garden and maybe it’s time to plant a few more.

Our Heavenly Father, help us see the fruits of the Spirit that you wish to replant in our lives and give them good growth even in these summer weeks. We pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.


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The Truth Will Set You Free (20210709)

 
silhouette of man and woman standing beside cross during sunset
 
If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.  John 8:31

This week began with Independence Day and the appreciation of freedom.  To be sure, freedom in our nation is real and meaningful.  We are free to worship God in the way that we want to.  We are free to work, free to move about the nation, free to get married and raise a family.  There’s so much freedom here that I am certain all of us take it for granted from time to time. 

But Jesus says something interesting in John 8.  He says that the truth will set us free.  How does truth set us free?  I suppose that one might think of a person who has been wrongly convicted of a crime.  He has served for years in prison until…until some new evidence emerges which demonstrates he was not the one who committed the crime.  In this scenario, the truth set him free.

Well, you and I haven’t been wrongly convicted of a crime. We are legitimately guilty!  All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.  That’s truth.  But this truth doesn’t set us free.  In this way and in the earlier illustration, truth is understood as a concept, a factual statement or factual circumstance.  When Jesus speaks of truth, we should hear it as less of a “what” and more of a “who.”  Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life.”  Truth, as Jesus defines it, is Jesus.  And that is how truth sets us free.  He, the Truth, covered Himself with our sins and died on a cross to take those sins away.  He, the Truth, rose from the dead, destroying the power of death and the grave.  Thus, we are free from the condemnation of sin and free from an eternity without God.  That’s freedom indeed; freedom that comes from the Truth Himself!
 
Prayer: Lord Jesus, we praise you that you are the Truth who has set us free.  Amen.

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Freedom (20210707)

us a flag on wooden fence
 
So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. John 8:36 

This week began with American Independence Day.  And over last weekend we saw displays of patriotism on shirts, banners, at parades and parties.  We Americans use the word “freedom” a lot.  You and I as Christians know that America does not have a corner on the market of that word.  In fact, it has been used for a long time to describe our condition because of Jesus Christ.

One of the mantras that often accompanies talk of freedom in our nation is the reminder that freedom is not free.  As an Air Force chaplain for 22 years, I can attest to this.  One of the things that chaplains often have to do is preside over ceremonies honoring those who have died for this country.  You can be certain that family members and friends of those who lost their lives defending our nation are extremely aware that freedom is not free.  And so, when we celebrate things like our independence, the more astute among us will at least nod and remember that there has been a high price to pay for freedom over the last couple of centuries.

When Jesus said, “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed,” he was talking about how our bondage to sin ends and our destiny of eternal life begins.  The freedom we enjoy as Christians is a freedom to serve God instead of self, to serve others because we want to, and the freedom of knowing that our sins are forgiven and that we will live forever. 

his too, as we know, came at a price.  Freedom is certainly not free, especially when we look at the cross and how our Savior gave his life so that you and I would know the freedom of forgiveness, service, and hope.  You and I are the most free people in the world.  Yes, because we are Americans.  But even more, because we know Jesus Christ.

Prayer: O Lord Jesus, we thank you that through your life and death, you have given us freedom.  Amen.

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Sacrifice (20210702)

brown cross on brown surface
 
I will offer to you the sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the Lord. I will pay my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people. [Psalm 116:17-18]
 
Worship costs something. Whether it’s giving up time, energy, other activities, money: worship costs something. Every decision we make requires us to give up other things, and when we commit to worship, we pay for it. 
 
Here’s an example. Your favorite sports team plays a game tonight, but your neighbor also invited you over for dinner. Also, your church has a servant event…. What do you choose? You are going to have to give up something. 
 
When it comes to worship, we demonstrate our willingness to sacrifice for God’s will. It might be giving thanks, even though you’d rather complain. It might be donating money to the mission, even though you’d rather buy some new clothes. It might be giving up your time, although you have a hundred other things to do. 
 
But that’s the heart of our Savior. Jesus could have done anything he wanted, but instead he chose to give his life for us. To serve us. He sacrificed himself, so that we might be able to call on the name of the Lord, so that we could be in the presence of God and his people. 
 
So we make the sacrifice of thanksgiving, too. We orient our lives around worship, choosing the proper sacrifice, and living a life that honors God.
 
Prayer: Dear Lord, help us to live in light of your love. Our lives are not our own- they are yours. May we be a sacrifice of thanksgiving, reflecting the generous love of Jesus every day. In His name we pray, Amen! 

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Praise (20210630)

 
Praise the Lord. Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens. Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness… Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise the Lord! [Psalm 150:1-2,6]

Hallelujah! It’s as much a cultural exclamation as a church one. This is the literal phrase from which we get “Praise the Lord.” Ironically, many secular people are giving thanks to God, too! 
 
As we worship the One True God, one of the most important things we can do is to praise. Praise, at its essence, is a shout or a loud outburst of joy and energy. Just saying the word “Hallelujah” forces you to do exactly what it means- shouting out in praise to the Lord. 
 
How are you praising God these days? Do you sit quietly and thank Him? Do you write in a journal? Do you go to your front porch and shout out loud, “Praise God!!”? 
 
Get vocal. Get verbal. You can’t keep in what God is working out. You can’t keep quiet with God’s exultant love. Praise God for the wonderful things God has done. Praise Jesus for his wisdom and guidance and love and sacrifice. Praise the Holy Spirit for filling your lungs with breath and your heart with joy. 
 
Worship God today. Let everything that has breath- you, me, this whole world- shout out loud, “HALLELUJAH!”
 
Prayer: Dear Lord, we praise Your name! We praise You for your love and kindness. We praise You for providing for us. We praise You for the hard times and the restful times, for the work and relationships in our lives. We praise You for Your plan to rescue all of us. We praise You boldly in the name of Jesus. AMEN!

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