A Marriage that is Merry and Bright!

Christmas DateBeing the romantic at heart, Christmas provides many opportunities for strengthening your marriage.  There is enough unnecessary stress during the holidays.  Therefore, instead of bowing to Grinch stress, let me offer some helpful suggestions to make your marriage “be merry and bright.”

Men, take 15 minutes.  Get your December calendar and mark out at least five days you and your wife can have a date.  Come on, men.  Get up right now.  Go get your calendar.  Got your pen?  Now, write “Date w/ _______” in five day boxes on your calendar.  If you don’t plan it, most likely it will not happen.  Furthermore, when someone invites you to another activity, you say, “Sorry.  I have something already planned for that day.”  Your wife will see that she is your top priority, and the mistletoe will become even more special to both of you!!!

“After the Kids Go to Bed” Date:  You did not marry your kids.  You married your wife, and she needs you to spend time with her without interruptions.  So, meet in a cozy place in your home.  Make or purchase your favorite snack and drink.  Play some soft Christmas music in the background.  Play a game, work on a puzzle, watch your favorite Christmas movie, . . . just do something together AND SILENCE YOUR PHONES.  When you are done, read Luke 2:1-20, and pray together.

“Fireplace” Date:  Find a location with a fireplace such as a restaurant (Panera, Chop House, Cracker Barrel), a coffee shop (local) or a hotel lobby (Grove Park Inn; DreamMore Resort, Dollywood).  Sit as close as possible to the fire . . . and to each other.  After securing a coffee/hot tea and pastry, just talk.  Ask each other the questions.  Enjoy each other’s company.  Block out the rest of the world.  Check out this website for some good discussion starters: 50 Question to Strengthen Your Marriage  (Don’t get distracted by the other articles on the blog site.  Stay on point.)

“Book Store” Date:  Locate a table near the coffee shop of a local bookstore or a reading couch.  After you’ve found your spot, then you begin your three to five round search for books.  On each round, both of you look for a book for that round’s subject.  Give about 5 minutes for each search. Once you have found your book, return to your location.  Taking turns you share your findings with each other by reading a portion of the book to each other, discuss it, and then return the books at the same time. From there, go find the next round’s subject and repeat as described above.

  • Round One:  Find a children’s book that was one of your favorites as a child.
  • Round Two:  Find a cookbook that has one of your favorite recipes.
  • Round Three: Find a book that gives info and pictures of a place you would like to visit.
  • Round Four:  Find a book of romantic poetry.  (Be sure to read the poem you found to your spouse.)
  • Round Five: Find a clean joke book.  (My wife and I have laughed so hard tears ran down our cheeks.)

When you have completed this fun, romantic, insightful evening, men, share your next date idea with your wife.  Watch her reaction!!

“Grocery Store” Date:  Men, you probably don’t go to the grocery store with your wife.  May I just say, you are missing out! Truth is, every time you’re with your wife, especially alone (if you have children still at home), it should be an event, not just another trip out with “what’s-her-name.”  My wife and I have had more fun over the years shopping together, even at midnight.  And your wife will definitely need to buy groceries for the Christmas season.

As you stroll the aisles, certain food items make for good conversation.  The music played throughout the store can create a dance moment right there on Aisle 8 (It’s ok to dance….it’s your wife!).  The card section makes for some good laughs as you read humorous cards to each other or tender moments as you share the romantic ones with each other (That way you don’t have to complain about the price of cards or wonder what romantic thing you can say to each other!!).

“Light It Up” Date:  Prepare your favorite hot drink, bring along some snacks, warm up the car, and go for a drive looking at Christmas lights.  Be sure to listen to Christmas music.  Hold hands; drive slow; enjoy the moments; stop for a kiss here and there; and if it’s snowing, get out of the vehicle, walk in the snow for a block or two (snowballs are allowed, too)!

God created marriage and expects us to rejoice with the wife of our youth (Proverbs 5:18).  Husbands, brighten your Christmas and your marriage!

May Your Days Be Merry and Bright

 

National Enquirer Prayers

two men gossiping

“What a blessing to have friends you can ask to pray for a situation, and they don’t ask questions.”

Have you ever heard the tag line, “Enquiring minds want to know”? This line was made famous many years by the tabloid National Enquirer, sadly located in your supermarket checkout line.

National Enquirer has made millions on man’s insatiable desire to know the stuff of somebody else’s life, even if it is a lie.

That same National Enquirer search can be found among well-intentioned people who “pray.” Have you ever heard someone say, “I just found out (circumstance) about (name).  I’m only sharing this so you can pray about it.”  The bait has been thrown out, and wham!  We take it hook-line-and-sinker!  Do we really want to know so we can genuinely intercede or do we just want the National Enquirer version?

Or, someone is going through a rough time in their life, and they ask you to pray for them.  To further “enquire” may lead you into an area of their life they are not comfortable sharing. It puts them on the spot and causes them to perhaps not ask for prayer support in the future.

gossip in prayer

Have you ever considered that you really do not need to know all the details?  God already knows. What else matters?  Prayer for others gives you the opportunity to mention their name before the Throne of Grace, to pray Scripture for them, to pray for the need even if you do not know the details, and to bear one another’s burden (Galatians 6:1).  May I remind us that the Holy Spirit even prays for us when we don’t know what to pray (Romans 8:26).

How much more content our lives would be if we hungered for what God wants to say to us every day from His Word rather than the tidbits of other’s lives.   James 1:26 reminds us, If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.

Yes, “enquiring minds want to know,” but settled hearts are satisfied to just mention your name to our omniscient Heavenly Father.

Come On In!

Hospitality Quote

“How in the world could I carry on a conversation with folks from India?  I don’t even like to talk.”

This was the transparent admission of a lady who had recently hosted a family in her home from a totally different land, speech, and culture.  As she shared her story, she quickly admitted that the evening was one of rich blessings!  During their meal together and discussion around the table, she and her husband learned of God’s work in a far off land; His answers to prayer; His working in the hearts of lost souls; His provision of peace, power, and protection; His encouragements to these precious servants of the Lord even in the most difficult of times.  She was more than glad she had stepped out of her comfort zone. Her invitation to “Come!” set the stage for some “unexpectedly happy results.”

Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality (Romans 12:13).

Show hospitality to one another without grumbling (1 Peter 4:9).

Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares (Hebrews 13:2).

In the Hebrews passage, the writer is not advocating hospitality on the off chance that one might happen to receive an angel as a guest but rather because God is pleased when believers are hospitable.  Sometimes unexpectedly happy results follow acts of hospitality.  It was highly esteemed in the ancient world and was certainly very important for Christians. Accommodations at inns was expensive, and in any case inns had a bad reputation.  But as Christian preachers traveled around, believers gave them lodging and so facilitated their mission.  Without hospitality in Christian homes, the spread of the faith would have been much more difficult. (The Expositors Bible Commentary, p.146)

You see, when you invite folks into your home, it’s not you or your house they need to see; it’s Jesus.  His invitation to you and everyone is always, “Come” (Matthew 11:28-30; 14:29; 19:14; Luke 6:47).  Therefore, in following Christ, you, too, say to others, “Come.” That invitation opens up another opportunity to share Christ and to live out the gospel.  Remember, Christ is the initiator in the invitation to come; therefore, you follow His lead and be the initiator in inviting others.

Have you recently taken the opportunity to host someone in your home? Have you prayed about it? Are you willing to trust in the grace of God to help you experience the joy of hospitality?  How about the next guest speaker or missionary who’s coming to your church?  (You want to really encourage the heart of your pastor?  Look at the church calendar to see when the next preacher or missionary will be at your local church.  Weeks in advance, tell your pastor you are more than glad to host them for a meal and/or provide their lodging!) What about the family that’s been visiting your church for the past couple of Sundays?  Thought about having your neighbor over for a cup of coffee?

Don’t be looking for an angel, but do remember “God is pleased when believers are hospitable.”

Come on in!

 

Sandwiches & Stories

“You used a Black & Decker drill to perform surgery on a man in jail?”  That was my response a few years ago as an OB-GYN doctor serving in medical missions in Africa told her story while we were gathered around our dining room table.  Even better was the fact that this man later came to believe in Jesus Christ as his personal Lord and Savior (John 3:16; Romans 3:23; 6:23; 10:9-13).

This story was one of probably a thousand or more in my lifetime! Growing up in a pastor’s home provided many opportunities for evangelists, college presidents, pastors, and missionaries to put their feet under our kitchen table and/or sleep in our guest bedroom.

I can remember as a grade school aged boy sitting at the kitchen table after an evening church service listening to all kinds of ministry stories.  Those memories are also a part of my junior and senior high school days as well as college.

With eyes wide open and ears open even wider, those narratives told me that life was full of blessings, fun, hardships, trials, laughter, questions, burdens, answers to prayer, rich in Bible knowledge and application, and tears to name a few.  But no doubt about it, those stories from real Christians revealed a genuine relationship with Jesus Christ and an unshakable faith in an awesome, faithful, promise-keeping God!

Interesting enough, I did not learn until long after I had left home that it was my dad who invited most of those folks home.  My mom really did not like duty in the kitchen.  That was just not her “cup-of-tea.”  I share this to encourage you.  Our meals were usually very simple.  The table was not elaborately set.  Mom used what she had, and in our early days at home, that was not much.

You see, it was not the food at the table I remember or how the table was decorated that has left an indelible impression upon me.  Most assuredly, it was all those hours in the presence of simple servants of the Lord.

How grateful I am that many, many times, my folks would let me stay up on a school night way past bedtime to sit under the influence of such godly men and women.  The eternal influence in their eyes was always more important than the temporal influence.

May I encourage you to host missionaries, evangelists, preachers, and other servants of the Lord in your home?  How cool it is to have a faithful missionary from a far-away land while eating dessert share accounts of God’s grace, protection, and answers to prayer!  What an impact it is to listen to a preacher tell about a lost soul receiving Christ as his Savior or expound the Word while eating a grilled cheese sandwich!  Oh, how wonderful to hear a college president while enjoying a bowl of corn chowder share how the Lord provided the school’s needs at just the right time!

Parents, your children need to experience this!  They need to experience it often.

Prepare the guest room, fix some sandwiches and invite a servant of the Lord into your home.  By the way, be sure to open your ears, too!

Thanksgiving on the Clearance Aisle

 

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One stroll through such retailers as Target, Wal-Mart, Dollar General, etc., and you might be left with the impression that we went straight from Halloween to Christmas! Tucked over in a corner, like it was an afterthought, are the remains of fall decorations already clearance priced. What happened to Thanksgiving?  Did someone misplace it?  Did the Grinch steal it, too?

Aww, never fear!  Thanksgiving is always here!

Thanksgiving is every day.  In the words of Pastor Rick Johnson, “Soak your soul” in the following living words of God:

Ephesians 5:20 – Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

1 Thessalonians 5:18- Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

Hebrews 13:15 – Through Him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge His name.

This morning, as I have done in past years, I am daily logging a “note of thanks” in my journal.  A focus on gratitude redirects our selfish hearts to hearts warmed by the goodness of God seen all around us, even in the hard times.

How about joining me this month?  Start a thanksgiving journal. Communicate each day with others your note of thanks.  When asked, “How ya doin’?”— share your thanksgiving note!

Don’t let thanksgiving be on the clearance aisle.  Put it up front for all to see and hear!

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing! Know that the Lord, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations. (Psalm 100)

Men, How Would You Answer?

men2

The following question was posed today on Facebook:

Which would you rather be known as:

  1. A good man
  2. A man who is “good at being a man?”

Why?

The first thought that came to my mind was the human connotation of being known as a “good man” (#1); a morally good man, a nice person.  Nothing wrong with that, but goodness alone will not get me to heaven (Romans 3:10; 5:6-8).

Then I considered the second option and quickly said, “No.”  In every area of the world, even in my own neighborhood, there is a varied criteria for what makes up a man.  So the standard for being “good at being a man” would fluctuate like corn stalks in the wind.

men

So which is the correct answer?

I chose #1.  Why?  Well, when it comes to having an absolute standard on the issues of life, you turn to the Word of God.  These passages of Scripture give us the characteristics of a good man.  Check’em out, men!

Psalm 37:23 – The steps of a good man (“a strong man, a warrior”) are ordered by the Lord, And He delights in his way.

Psalm 112:5 – A good man (“happy; joyful; benevolent”) deals graciously and lends; He will guide his affairs with discretion.

Proverbs 12:2 – A good man (“happy; joyful; benevolent”) obtains favor from the Lord.

Proverbs 13:22 A good man (“happy; joyful; benevolent”) leaves an inheritance to his children’s children, But the wealth of the sinner is stored up for the righteous.

Proverbs 14:14 – The backslider in heart will be filled with his own ways, But a good man (“happy; joyful; benevolent”) will be satisfied from above.

Matthew 12:35 – A good man (denotes the soul considered as the repository of pure thoughts which are brought forth in speech) out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things.

Acts 11:24 – For he was a good man (upright, honorable), full of the Holy Spirit and of faith.

So men, which would you rather be known as?  #1 or #2?

In a Split-Second!

Missle Cruiser

That’s all it takes for news anyplace in the world to reach the world along with its far-reaching impact due to the internet.  It impacts the minds, hearts, and emotions of millions . . . in a split-second!

Even the worn-out announcement “Breaking News” still grabs the inquisitive minds of so many!

Early this morning as I sat by the fireplace reading Jeremiah 14-16, I repeatedly saw phrases like this: Then the Lord said to me . . . The Lord said . . . Therefore thus says the LORD.

Compare for a moment earthly, internet news and the words of God.

  • The news you hear in the world turns old in moments; God’s Word is never stale, it’s eternal and life giving (Psalm 33:11; 119:25, 89, 92-93; 1 Peter 1:25).
  • The news you hear in the world is often tainted by man’s viewpoint; God’s Word is always pure, perfect and true (Psalm 119:160; Proverbs 30:5; John 17:17).
  • The news you hear in the world is always a symptom of a greater problem; God’s Word always correctly diagnosis the case and prescribes the correct remedy (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
  • The news you hear in the world can quickly become irrelevant; God’s Word is always relevant and fresh for every situation of life (Psalm 119:89-96).

As I pondered God’s direct communication to and through Jeremiah to Israel and their subsequent response, I thought of my response to God’s Word as I read its pages.

Which affects me more; which grips my heart the most; which grabs my inquisitive mind?  News on the internet or the truths of God’s Word?

Spend some time meditating on Psalm 119:97-104.  In a split-second it can change your life, and it’s always for good.

97 Oh, how I love Your law!
It is my meditation all the day.
98 You, through Your commandments, make me wiser than my enemies;
For they are ever with me.
99 I have more understanding than all my teachers,
For Your testimonies are my meditation.
100 I understand more than the ancients,
Because I keep Your precepts.
101 I have restrained my feet from every evil way,
That I may keep Your word.
102 I have not departed from Your judgments,
For You Yourself have taught me.
103 How sweet are Your words to my taste,
Sweeter than honey to my mouth!
104 Through Your precepts I get understanding;
Therefore I hate every false way.

Faith & Courage

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Wow!  What a world we live in today!

  • Rebellion towards authority.
  • Fake news.
  • The threat of nuclear war.
  • Disrespect for our flag and our country.
  • Hatred poured out on the gospel.
  • Natural disasters.
  • And on and on and on and on…..

But, are we surprised?  Since the Garden of Eden, sin has had its tentacles sunk into the heart of man and its curse on this earth (Genesis 3).  Jesus said, These things I have spoken to you, . . . . In the world you will have tribulation [trouble] (John 16:33).

Yesterday morning, needing an encouraging boost from the Lord, I read the following words:

For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, 3 if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. 4 For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 5 He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. 6 So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, 7 for we walk by faith, not by sight. 8 Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. (2 Corinthians 5:1-8).

Did you note the repeated phrase, So we are always of good courage (5:6, 8)?  How can I have good courage in a world of sin and trouble?

  1. Remember, as a born again believer, you are not Home yet!
  2. When your body groans because of pain, accident, old age, etc., remember God said it would. Hang on, a new body is coming!  The groaning is a constant reminder of that new house!
  3. God has prepared us for this. We are equipped to endure to the end by His grace.
  4. Faith gives courage because faith is based upon the character of God Who is holy and cannot lie. You look around, and you are tempted to fret and despair.  What does faith say?  Who is God?  Wow! What courage that brings!

How are you walking today?  What has your attention?  What are you meditating on?  Living by faith or fear?  Courageous or cowering?

By the way, Christ has the final, authoritative word on all of life.  Meditate on the rest of John 16:33, These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

Press on, believer!

Change!!!

old car 1         old car 2

For good while now the “How many ____________ does it take to change a light bulb?” lines have been circulating.  For instance,

  • How many Pentecostals does it take to change a light bulb? Any of them because they all have their hands in the air!
  • How many Methodists does it take to change a light bulb? We choose not to make a statement either in favor of or against the need for a light bulb. However, if in your own journey, you have found that a light bulb works for you, that is fine. You are invited to write a poem or compose a modern dance about your personal relationship to your light bulb and present it next month at our annual light bulb Sunday service, in which we will explore a number of light bulb traditions, including incandescent, fluorescent, three-way, long-lived, and tinted; all of which are equally valid paths to luminescence.
  • How many independent Baptists does it take to change a light bulb? CHANGE!!  WE AIN’T CHANGIN’ NOTHIN’!!

Now, please take these and others like them all in stride.  It is only a joke.

Truthfully though, for oh so many, change is not a joke.  Most folks don’t like change, and for many, the older we get the harder it is to deal with change. We want our grocery store to stock the same items on the same aisle week-after-week; we tend to want our children to stay young and at home, never to grow up; we are not too fond of anything that is labeled “new and improved” because we know it’s not going to be the same; and we don’t want the stamp machine down at the post office to change either.  Just ask Barney Fife.

You see, change provides a sense of security.  When things supposedly stay the same then we are comfortable.

Truth is, change is all around us every day. Nothing ever stays the same: the universe, your job, your children, the government, the newness of your car, etc.

With that being said, I want to share from my heart two brief, important principles of life in reference to change.  There is much more to be said, but consider these simple truths.

  1. Security in this life can only be found each day in knowing and resting in the Immutable One, Jehovah God.

Malachi 3:6 declares, For I am the Lord, I change not.

Ponder these words found in Psalm 102:12, 25-28, But Thou, O LORD dost abide forever; And Thy name to all generations . . . Of old Thou didst found the earth; And the heavens are the work of Thy hands. Even they will perish, but Thou dost endure; And all of them will wear out like a garment; Like clothing Thou wilt change them, and they will be changed. But Thou art the same, And Thy years will not come to an end. The children of Thy servants will continue, And their descendants will be established before Thee.”

Since God is unchanging, therefore, His Word is unchanging, His plans are unchanging, His character is unchanging, and His knowledge is unchanging.

This security in Jehovah can only be found through a personal relationship with Christ (John 14:6; Ephesians 1:3-14; 2:1-9).

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today, yes and forever (Hebrews 13:8).

  1. For the follower of Christ, change is the order of the day in our walk with Him.

The good that comes out of all things working together is the daily transformation of our lives into the likeness of Christ (Romans 8:28-29; Galatians 5:22-23; 2 Peter 1:3-11).  All of us as believers wear an “Under Construction” sign due to the sanctifying work of God in our lives through the Holy Spirit.

As we spend time in the Word beholding our God and His Son, we are changed by the power of the Word. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:17).

So, how do you respond to change? Are you resting today in the Immutable God?  Are you growing and changing into Christlikeness as the Spirit convicts and instructs you?

The most important changes of life are spiritual not material. This isn’t about changing a light bulb which is discarded.  This is about the life of a genuine believer in Christ shining for God’s glory.

Sing Congregation! Sing!!

In Christ Alone

There are many reasons to be excited about attending church on Sunday and one of those is participating in worship with a congregation that sings!

Music has always been a major part of my life.  My mother played the piano for nearly 75 years.  My dad loved to sing.  I cut my musical teeth on children’s records and long-play albums.  The sounds of Jack Holcomb, Helen Barth, Doug Oldam, 16 Singing Men, and many others filled our home every day.  We even had a membership with Word Record Company and received monthly sacred albums.

My mom would play the piano in church and Dad would lead the singing.  I vividly remember as a little boy that small congregation along the river in Dart, Ohio, singing their hearts out to such songs as “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms,” “When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder,” “Hear Ye the Master’s Call,” and many, many others.

Believe it or not, the first time I led singing in church was at the age of 12, and I led my first choir at the age of 14.

Some of my fondest memories of music are also connected with a packed out Lodge at The Wilds Camp and Conference Center as a teen singing those great camp songs!  Also, how blessed to have attended many, many Southern Gospel concerts with my father-in-law, my wife and our daughters who are musicians.

How absolutely grateful I am that God created music!!  Even more, how awesome it is to sing with other believers on Sunday who are gathered in the presence of God, our Heavenly Father, lifting their voices in praise and heartfelt melodies!!

This past Sunday, as I stood at the front row of the auditorium, I could hear the congregation singing behind me.  Having led singing for many years in our church, I could only imagine their countenances as they sang, “Amazing Grace, My Chains Are Gone,” “Come, Christians Join to Sing,” and a new song we are learning, “Jesus, the Son of God.”  Many, many times when our congregation sings, I think, “This has to be a foretaste of Heaven!!”

May I encourage you to serve the Lord, to worship the Lord, and minister to all those around you this Sunday by lifting your voice in praise!  Ask your worship leader ahead of time what songs will be sung so you can sing them with your family during the week before the Sunday worship gathering.  Use those songs in your personal daily meeting time with God in His Word and prayer.  Come prepared to Sing praise to the Lord, you saints of His, and give thanks at the remembrance of His holy name  (Psalm 30:4)

Sing praises to God, sing praises! Sing praises to our King, sing praises! (Psalm 47:6)

Sing out the honor of His name; Make His praise glorious. (Psalm 66:2)

Oh come, let us sing to the Lord! Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation. (Psalm 95:1)

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. (Colossians 3:16)