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

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Smoldering churches

img_0685The haunting images of the burning Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris dominated the headlines this week.  This church had stood the test of time, as construction started in 1163 and took over 100 years to build.  But in a matter of minutes, the blaze took down a historic spire and engulfed much of the facade, stained glass windows and roof.

We’ve got our own destructive fires in churches closer to home. Fires of indifference and apathy.

Results from a Gallup Poll released last Thursday show that adults who belong to a church or other religious institution has dropped by 20% over the past two decades. Church membership is at an all-time national low, dropping to 50% (church membership was at 70% in 1999).

We are encouraged to gather together.

Not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Hebrews 10:25

Indifference and apathy grow in spaces that are void of genuine relationships.  Churches can thrive when we create a loving, warm environment.  That can’t be done by our ministers, counselors, elders and deacons alone.  The membership has to help.

Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. I John 4:11

Talk with the church leaders about lapsed members. Volunteer to write letters or call these folks. Ask and listen about their needs.

Create opportunities to serve with others: Visit the sick or the elderly. Get a small group together to serve at the homeless shelter.

Fellowship is a contact sport.  Assembling for worship. Praying together. Singing together. Studying God’s word together. Attending to each other’s needs.

And if you find yourself in a spiritual funk- pray about it. And then tell someone about it. Your brothers and sisters in Christ want to help you…they just need to know how.

My prayer this week is to be more aware of ways to encourage old friends and engage new ones in their spiritual walk. And in doing so, I know that I will be uplifted as well.

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

God bless.

 

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When the room is spinning

I’ve been struggling with a bout of vertigo the past two weeks. My head spins if I make a sudden movement to the left or right. It’s even worse if I get up and down quickly.

I lose my balance easily too. It’s frustrating.

We aren’t sure what’s causing it. My doctor is hopeful that a round of strong antibiotics will help.

The only peace I have is to keep my eyes fixed straight ahead. If I stay focused on what’s directly ahead of me- I can keep my balance.

I guess that’s great advice for life, too.

Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you. Proverbs 4:25

I tend to get into trouble when I take my eyes off Jesus. It’s easy to do. Worries at work consume me at times. Or family issues distract me from my study of the Bible or prayer time.

Worse yet, sin can separate me from my walk with Christ. I’m too easily distracted by temptation or pride and forget the source of true strength and wisdom.

Do not turn to the right nor to the left; Turn your foot from evil. Proverbs 4:27

This week I am praying for better focus. I want to be free from the distractions of life that burden me and keep me from truly walking with Jesus.

And please pray for some relief from this vertigo. It’s dampened my spirit.

Let me know how I may pray for you.

God bless.

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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.

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You gotta have friends

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My grandfather once told me that you could count your “true” friends on one hand…and possibly have fingers left over.

He may be right.

How many true friends do we have? Those that we can count on during the truly hard times.  Those that will put everything else aside and focus on our needs.

I was studying Mark chapter 2 earlier this week.  It contained an interesting story about friendship.

A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. They gathered in such large numbers that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Mark 2: 1-5

It’s an incredible scene.  There was a paralyzed man who had four friends who cared about him so much- they carried him to see Jesus.  And when they couldn’t get their paralyzed friend near Jesus, they dug a hole in the roof above Jesus and lowered him down.

Now that’s friendship.

We’ve got many examples of how to be a true friend in the Bible.

A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.  Proverbs 17:17

Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17

That is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine. Romans 1:12

My prayer this week is that I become aware of ways that I can serve others. I am often preoccupied with my own challenges and obstacles, and I don’t take the time to minister to others in need of friendship. I pray that God helps me with this…and that I can be an encouragement to others.

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

God bless.

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Survive and Advance

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I’m sitting in Indiana this morning, awaiting my favorite college team’s game in the finals of our conference basketball tournament.  It’s March Madness for us- and for everyone else who loves and follows college basketball.

You know the mantra…”survive and advance.”  It’s not always about winning pretty. You just need to win and advance to the next round.

Isn’t that what life as a believer is like?

We have seasons of life when work, illness, family strife or economic stress weighs us down. The pressure can be overwhelming at times.

But our God is a God of comfort. There’s blessed assurance that we are God’s children- and He is always watching over us.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. Psalm 23:4

This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life. Psalm 119:50

My prayer this week is to remember that our God is an ever present source of comfort. I only need to seek peace through Him.

We can survive and advance.

And please let me know how to pray for you.

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Pet Peeves

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A student recently interviewed me for a class project. The questions focused on “pet peeves”…those behaviors or traits that tend to get under your skin.

I have a couple.  First, I don’t like it when folks remind me how busy they are…or how hard they are working. In this case, actions speak louder than words, right?

And I also frown when people bring problems to the table, but offer no possible solutions.

Jesus talked about bad behaviors often in the New Testament.

And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” Mark 7:20-23

We often think of sins categorically.  You know..you have the “big ones” that people can easily detect and are widely socially unacceptable. Then there are the “little ones” that are under the surface and not so evident…pride, deceit, lust and greed.

But God knows…and there is no category to sin in His eyes.  We know God’s pet peeves.

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. 1 John 1:8-10

My prayer this week is to acknowledge the sin in my life and focus on making modifications in my behavior. I want to be pure from within.

And let me know how I may pray for you.

God bless.

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