Cheap Easter candy

Easter has come and gone. And- as with all holidays- the retail stores have marked down the Easter-themed decorations and associated seasonal items.

The biggest surprise for the Carver kids has been the discounting of the celebrated Easter candy. Chocolate bunnies, brightly colored jelly beans and marshmallow peeps are now 75% off their original price. Just over a week ago the aisles of the local stores were filled with colorful packages. Now the remains of the holiday treats are contained in a couple of bins near the check out counter.

Cheap candy. Valued one day, forgotten the next.

But to be honest, I’m often guilty of cheapening the sacrifice of Jesus and diminishing the blessing of His resurrection.

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.  I Peter 2:24

Easter Sunday is filled with great sermons about the fulfilled promise of salvation. We should be careful that we don’t limit this celebration to a few special occasions.

So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking about the temple of his body. When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.  John 2:18-22

While the Easter holiday has passed, the significance of Christ’s death and resurrection is something that we should appreciate every day.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you,who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.  I Peter 1:3-5

Pray for me to be more diligent in my study of the life of Jesus and His powerful teachings.

And please let me know how I may pray for you.  God bless.

reprinted from April 2015

Standard

Unexpectedly seeing Jesus

I was preparing to leave campus for home tonight when I saw a small sign posted on a bulletin board…”Open Bible Study; Thursday evenings at 7pm; room 215.”

I don’t know why, but it surprised me. Surprised by the sign. Surprised that I saw the announcement among a host of other flyers.

I walked to room 215 to see what was going on. And there they were…four students huddled over their Bibles talking about the quest for perfection through Jesus Christ.

We run into Jesus in unexpected places.

The Samaritan woman ran into Jesus unexpectedly in John chapter 4. In a period of pain and shame, He gave her a thirst for “living water.”

In John chapter 8, an adulterous woman received grace from Jesus.

Zacchaeus was considered a cheat and a sinner…a tax collector…yet Jesus called to him and invited himself into Zacchaeus’ home. We see this in Luke chapter 19.

Where have you last seen Jesus unexpectedly? Was it in a random act of kindness from a stranger? Perhaps it was an encouraging note from an old friend.

This week my prayer is to continue to seek Jesus everyday. And to illustrate the love and compassion of Jesus in my own, public walk.

“In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. Matthew 5:16

Please let me know how to pray for you.

God bless.

Standard

It doesn’t cost a thing to be kind

I was in the “20 items or less” lane at a busy grocery store last week. A few customers ahead of me was a young woman with two small kids. One was a crying infant. The other was a curious two-year old who wanted to be anywhere but in that store. I could tell that it had been a long day for the mom.

She was doing her best to empty her items on the checkout counter…balancing one child on her shoulder and verbally coaxing the other to stay close by. Suddenly, the customer immediately behind her snapped and said: “you’ve got 22 items.”

The mother responded with, “I’m sorry…what did you say?”

“I said, you’ve got 22 items in your cart. The sign clearly says 20 items or less,” she hissed.

The mother was truly embarrassed and crushed. “I’m so sorry. I didn’t know,” she replied.

It broke her spirit. I saw tears well up in that mother’s eyes as she hurriedly paid her bill and exited the store.

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4:31-32

I was stunned with what I had witnessed. The angry words and a hateful tone lingered in the air for minutes after the incident.

I prayed for that mom and her two kids. I also prayed for the angry woman in line with us.

And it served as a powerful reminder to me.

Attitude is everything.

We cannot control what situations life throws at us, but we can control our response.

And kindness doesn’t cost a thing.

My prayer this week is to be more forgiving. I want to be more loving and compassionate. I want to be kind.

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. Psalm 19:14

Please let me know how to pray for you.

God bless.

Standard

No returns allowed

I remember the first gift I ever really wanted.

I was eight years old. It was an Earl Campbell football from the Western Auto store. I was a Houston Oilers fan and Earl was (and still is) my hero.

Santa came that Christmas morning and to my great disappointment- he brought a Tony Dorsett football. There had been an apparent mix up at the North Pole and I’d been given a football embossed with the name of the star running back of the rival Dallas Cowboys.

Fortunately, Santa made it right a day later.

As I’ve grown older, my thoughts about gifts have changed. Trips with Hollianne are cherished gifts, as were the births of our three children. I consider each time I see my parents as a gift.

I know a man who received a kidney transplant from his brother. I’ve read of another who received a heart from a complete stranger. Precious gifts indeed.

But the greatest gift we will ever receive came centuries ago.

This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 1 John 4:10

This was the ultimate act of love. Jesus died on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins.

Jesus died for the Jews and Gentiles.

The Republicans, the Democrats and the independents.

The wealthy and the poor.

He died for you and me.

He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. I John 2:2

During my prayer time over the weekend I’m going to specifically focus on the sacrifice of Jesus and His willingness to die for you and me.

It’s the greatest gift ever.

Please let me know how I may pray for you.

God bless.

Standard

Who lost the Super Bowl

Tonight’s Super Bowl was a game for the ages. It contained multiple lead changes, record setting offensive numbers and trick plays. Best of all, the outcome came down to the last play of the game.

Ultimately, the Philadelphia Eagles made one more play than the New England Patriots.

For many of these players and coaches, this will be their last opportunity to ever play in Super Bowl. Most players never have the chance to come back.

Dan Marino is perhaps one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history, yet he only played in one Super Bowl…a loss.

Fortunately for us, we serve a God that believes in second chances.

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. 2 Peter 3:9

We fall short every day. We struggle with relationships. We lose our temper. We ignore opportunities to serve and help others. We let worldly pursuits cloud our focus on Jesus.

But He loves us anyway.

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. John 3:17

My prayer this week is to pursue every opportunity to serve Jesus and others. I want to be grateful for second chances- and pass along that grace to others.

God bless you.

Standard

Chased by my past in Nashville

I went for run in Nashville today. It was just before daybreak- and it was really dark.

My hotel was near the Tennessee Titans stadium, so I thought I’d enjoy a run through downtown and across the bridge to the football complex.

I love that bridge. We’ve walked it dozens of times over the years to attend Titans games. It gives you a beautiful views of downtown Nashville and the Cumberland River.

And the view from the bridge this morning didn’t disappoint. Although it was pitch black, I could still see the lights of the downtown buildings and the channel lights outlining the river.

But I wasn’t alone.

Soon after entering the bridge I heard footsteps behind me. I turned to look and saw a dark, shadowy figure about 20 feet behind to my left.

I picked up my pace. I thought that I might be able to put some distance between the stranger and me.

But I couldn’t. The footsteps seemed to get closer and the figure appeared to be gaining ground.

My heart was racing. Was I being stalked? Was I being chased? I didn’t have my phone with me. My mind was racing with bad thoughts. I had to get away.

I finally reached the other end of the bridge and ran down the ramp to the stadium exit as fast as I could. I looked over my shoulder to see that nothing was behind me. Whatever was chasing me had stopped.

I ran for another 20 minutes to allow the sun to come up. Daybreak would give me the courage to again cross the bridge.

But in the daylight, everything became clear.

As I crossed the bridge I determined that the footsteps I had heard earlier were my own. The echo of my own steps bouncing off the bridge walls gave the impression of a second set of footsteps.

And the dark, shadowy figure? Trash cans. Large, slim industrial trash cans neatly spaced alongside my running route.

It was all in my head. The darkness veiled my view of reality.

Guilt from my past can do the same thing. It can distort my thoughts.

Sometimes my past haunts me. Even though I repent and change course, my sin follows me.

Past sin can make me feel as if I’m not worthy. Imperfect. Unforgiven.

But that’s not what God says.

I, I am the one who wipes out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins. Isaiah 43:25

Our sins are wiped away. With repentance, God will “not remember your sins.”

We need to accept God’s forgiveness. We need to quit looking back.

And we need to move forward with confidence.

The wicked flee when no one pursues, but the righteous are bold as a lion. Proverbs 28:1

Let’s run like the lions.

My prayer this week is to forgive myself of guilt and sin from the past- and look forward with hope and resolve to be better.

And let me know how I may pray for you.

God bless.

Standard

One less plate at the dinner table…

It’s a habit.

When Hollianne makes dinner at the Carver house, we set the table for five.

Carson’s departure for college this summer has changed that scenario. 

We were eating spaghetti before church on Wednesday night.  Without thinking- I set the table for our meal…and out of habit prepared five plates.

Only four of us were home. 

It was a sad reminder of our new reality. We miss Carson being there. 

We’ll see her this weekend. And for a few days our “home” will be complete- whole- again.

That joy reminds me of Luke 15.  This chapter has two parables of seeking something missing…and the thrill of finding it. My favorite is the story of the lost sheep.

‭So he told them this parable: “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.  Luke 15:3-7

I can’t begin to fathom how much Jesus loves you and me.  He loves us unconditionally and wants us to draw near to him. Even when we are stuck in sin- Jesus still seeks us. 

We can’t run away from this love. He will always desire for us to come back. 

We’ll have five plates around our table this weekend at the Carver house. Our hearts will be full.

And I’m so grateful that Jesus will always have a place at his table for you and me.

Please let me know how I may pray for you this week.

God bless you. 

Standard