The “New Normal”

“Groovy, Man!”

“You got mail!”

“Good night, John Boy”

“I know nothing!”

“Nip it in the bud!”

“My bad!”

“I’m good!”

Adulting

Crazy busy.

These and hundreds more are words and phrases that crop up each year to describe some aspect of life, culture, thought, action, etc. Today’s new word/catchphrase is, “the new normal.” Seems like everywhere I go, I hear people talking about it.

What is the “new normal”? Everyone would definitely have their very own definition due to COVID-19 and quarantine. Life has changed so much. Indeed, there are aspects of the pandemic shut-down that have been positive, enriching, enlightening, and life-changing. On the other hand, in many ways it has been difficult. So most likely, the “new normal” would be a mixture of life as it was before the coronavirus with a few work, family, recreational, and/or spiritual changes thrown in.

Truly though, what is the “new normal”? Well, just as in all of life, we need to search the Scriptures and see what the Creator of life has to say. No matter the scenario, question, or circumstance of life, you always begin with God, Jehovah Elohim (Genesis 1:1). He is the Starting Point, the Supply, the Substance, the Sustainer, and the true Success of all life, here and for eternity.

We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life (Romans 6:4). This chapter in Romans speaks of our union, identification, and participation with Christ Who has redeemed us from our lost, sinful, helpless, guilty, hell-bound condition (Romans 3). Because we are born in sin (Psalm 51:5; Romans 3:23) and with an old sin nature (Romans 6), we are spiritually dead, following the course of this world and of Satan (Ephesians 2:1-3).

The greatest crisis of my life is how to reverse this condition. Hallelujah for the love of God (John 3:16), the substitutionary death of Christ on the cross (2 Corinthians 5:21; Isaiah 53:5; 1 Peter 3:18) and His resurrection from the grave (Matthew 28:1-6; Romans 4:25; 1 Corinthians 15) and the regenerative, convicting work of the Holy Spirit (John 16:8-14; Titus 3:5) that takes me from a life dominated by the old sin nature, worldly philosophy and Satan, and gives me Christ’s life in exchange for mine! That is newness of life (Romans 6:4)!!

This newness of life is Christ living His life in me and out of me (Galatians 2:20; Colossians 1:27) from the very moment of personal salvation (Romans 10:9, 13) received from Christ by the Holy Spirit. Therefore, I am now alive to God (Romans 6:1-14). This newness of life is continually fresh and refreshing as it is the life (zoe) of God!

My friends, that is truly, genuinely, and for all eternity “the new normal.” This world is constantly changing. Today COVID-19, tomorrow something else. That which is absolutely normal is . . . life in the unchanging, eternal Lord Jesus Christ (Hebrews 13:8), and it is new every morning, every hour, every day, every week (Psalm 23:1-6; Lamentations 3:22-24; John 6:48; 11:25; 14:6; Philippians 1:19-26; Colossians 1:27; 1 John 5:11-12).

So when looking for the “new normal,” look to Christ!

This life is #awesome!

Grace to Go!

Stretching out his hand and with tears in his eyes, he said, “Soon this hand will touch the hand of my Jesus.”

These words were spoken last Saturday by a dear man of God who has given his life to faithfully proclaim and live out the excellencies of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Pastor Bud Parker has been diagnosed with an inoperable malignant brain tumor that is affecting his mobility and vision. As I sat by his side in his humble mountain home, the affects of cancer were readily seen, but the grace of God was much more manifest. It didn’t take long to realize I was seated in the presence of a man who is ready to go Home to Glory!

There were many more times of rejoicing than notes of sorrow as we conversed. During his lengthy stay in the hospital, the Lord enabled him to share the gospel with many, and three precious souls came to salvation by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). We talked of the ministry joys of past years, the privilege of preaching the Word of God, the joy of mentoring so many men in the ministry, as well as rejoicing in all the folks who had come by to visit.

With his precious wife, Mildred, seated across the room, he looked at me and then her and said, “I am ready to go to heaven, but I don’t want to leave my bride of 58 years. The other night, the Lord spoke to me and said, ‘Don’t be afraid. She was My bride before she became your bride. She is the apple of my eye’.”

Especially at a time like this, the Word of God is the very best comfort, assurance, and hope. While reading 1 Peter 1:1-8, Pastor Parker’s eyes would glisten and then fill with tears. Some of the passages he quoted along with me as best he could. At one point, he raised his hand to rejoice!

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,

4 To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you,

5 Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

6 Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations:

7 That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:

8 Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory:

Near the end of our visit, I noticed that his wife, two of his daughters and other family members were on the front porch. I invited them to gather in the living room, and we sang a medley of songs about heaven. My, what a glorious time we had as we lifted our voices and hands in praise to our great God! Indeed, what a day it will be when our Jesus we will see!!

Watching the grace of God in its total sufficiency from my front row seat was an honor and a blessed encouragement! This dear man of God is living out the words of Tom Hayes’ song, New Grace.

All of grace is my story
All the way from earth to glory,
Since by grace He lifted me from sin and woe;
Living grace He has extended
As on Him my heart depended,
And He’ll give new grace when it’s my time to go.

CHORUS:
Grace not yet discovered,
Grace not yet uncovered,
Grace from His bountiful store;
Grace to cross the river,
And grace to face forever,
There’ll be new grace I’ve not needed before.

VERSE 2:
There’s been grace for every trial,
There’s been grace for every mile,
There’s been grace sufficient from His vast supply;
Grace to make my heart more tender,
Grace to love and pray for sinners,
But there’ll be new grace when it’s my time to die.

CHORUS:
Grace not yet discovered,
Grace not yet uncovered,
Grace from His bountiful store;
Grace to cross the river,
And grace to face forever,
There’ll be new grace I’ve not needed before.

Grace to go!!

Incredible Grace

2019 VBS

As the last of the children got off the van and headed to their apartment homes, I got back into our church van with tears in my eyes.  Vacation Bible School is over for 2019.

God, in His incredible grace, gave us an awesome week! Grace enabled a young boy to be born again.  Grace gave tired, faithful workers the ability to love, serve, and be energized every night.  Grace overcame the flesh and led our workers to be unified around the gospel.  Grace overwhelmed us with answers to prayer.  Grace provided wisdom for the workers to overcome obstacles.  Grace produced compassion for all kids of every race. God’s incredible grace was on display every night!

My tears, though, were mostly for these kids who rode the van.  Their world is one of drugs, sin, selfishness, abuse, alcohol, and no hope. They will not be under the sound of biblical teaching every night next week.  They will be allowed to roam in the night.  They will have to fight to survive.

We will seek to follow up with these kids in the days to come.  We will pray for a miracle of God’s grace to break the chains of sin in the hearts of their parents and in that apartment complex.  We will trust in God’s incredible grace to do the miraculous for His glory!

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast (Ephesians 2:8-9).

And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work (2 Corinthians 9:8).

Praying with tears that soon they will be tears of rejoicing because of God’s incredible grace!

Helping Children Understand Easter

 

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Golgatha

This is an awesome time of the year!  The apex of history is the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus Christ and His bodily resurrection from the tomb (Isaiah 52:13-53:12; Matthew 26:57-28:10; 1 Corinthians 15).  This event sets Jesus Christ and Christianity apart from ALL other religions around the world.

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Outside the Empty Tomb, January 19, 2017

How important that our children understand the truth about Christ and Easter.  There is no problem with enjoying eggs, candy, bunnies, and baskets, but our younger generation must know the truth, and Christ, Who is Truth.

My wife’s blog will help you accomplish this.  Be sure to take take to read and watch, Helping Children Understand Easter

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!

The Gospel Family

 

AFrica 7

Different languages and accents.  Various colors of skin.  Diverse worship styles. Different college backgrounds.  Varied cultural differences.

Africa 4

That’s what I saw in South Africa and Malawi among the natives, the missionaries, the transplants and the travelers.

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Whether it was on a plane, in a mission compound, in a Sunday morning service, at a café for breakfast, in the middle of a bunch of teens, or gathered at a camp, I saw something that touched my heart in some very special ways.  It was a foretaste of Revelation 5:8-9 which reads,

Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. 9 And they sang a new song, saying:

“You are worthy to take the scroll,

And to open its seals;

For You were slain,

And have redeemed us to God by Your blood

Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation.

For sixteen days I had the blessed privilege to experience the multi-faceted family of God all radically changed by the gospel of Jesus Christ; people from varying tribes and tongues and people and nations.

Africa 6  Africa 3

The family of God needs no introductions; our spirit bears witness with each other (Romans 8:16).

The family of God doesn’t see race but grace (Ephesians 2:8-9).

The family of God loves one another (John 13:35).

The family of God honors one another (Romans 12:10).

The family of God rejoices and weeps together (Romans 12:15).

The family of God serves one another in love (Galatians 5:13).

The family of God encourages each other (1 Thessalonians 5:11).

Why? Because of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ!! (1 Corinthians 15:3-4; 2 Corinthians 5:17; 2 Peter 3:9).  What an awesome family around the world from every tribe, tongue, people and nation that will one day gather around the Throne in Heaven!!

From a Pastor’s Heart,

dale

Let Them Come to Me

kids salvation

This week my wife has written some extremely insightful, practical and helpful posts about the issue of children coming to Christ for salvation at an early age.  These writings would be extremely helpful for parents and anyone who works in children’s ministries.

Having received Christ as my personal Lord and Savior at the age of five, this is a subject very dear to my heart.

As a pastor, I have had the joy of seeing many children born again over the years.  How precious is a tender heart coming to Christ in simple faith, taking God at His Word.

Here are the links:

How to Tell If a Child Is Ready to Be Saved

What’s Wrong with Waiting Until a Child Is Older to be Saved

What if Your Child Doubts Their Salvation

Preparing a Child’s Heart to Know Christ

Motion Songs, Scripture Memory & Joy-Filled Believers

kids_at_church

Last night in prayer meeting, we shared in a family-friendly service.  After singing a couple of gospel songs, one by request, we had the kids up front leading the singing of some good, old children’s songs, two of which had motions.  It was fun to look back at the adults who were doing the motions as well, especially on singing “Only a Boy Named David.”

After singing “Boys and Girls for Jesus” we took prayer requests for the unsaved.  How precious to hear these children and adults mention their loved ones, friends, and neighbors’ names.  We then broke up into small groups with adults and children praying out loud for the lost.  How sweet to hold a 4 year old boy in my lap as he prayed in his own precious way, and it was not a short prayer either.

When we gathered back together, we sang the old gospel song, “I Love to Tell the Story.”

I’ve challenged our congregation to memorize Ephesians 4:1-16 over the next two months.  Hence, we then worked on 4:1-3 as a family or in small groups.  The drill was to say 4:1-3 five times aloud in unison as a group.  Then, one person in each group would take the lead in saying the passage leaving out words for the rest of the group to fill in.  This was a blast!  The laughter and joy of memorizing Scripture was so cool!  Then some of folks stood and recited 4:1-3 which was followed by encouraging applause.

We then took Ephesians 4:1 and broke it down word-for-word learning the meaning and the application.  How cool to watch everyone search through Ephesians 1-3 to find what Paul meant when he said in 4:1 to walk worthy of the vocation to which you are called.  The kids did a great job with their answers straight from Scripture.

What a precious time we had as a church family in community last night.

The ice cream treat with my wife and the sunset afterwards was an added blessing, too!

From a pastor’s heart,

Dale

The Message of Good Friday

 

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Golgotha, the Place of the Skull
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.  For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.  More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation (Romans 5:6-11)

It’s About the Cross

When I Survey the Wondrous Cross

Want to know more about Christ’s death for you?

A Masada-Sized Fear!

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As we pulled up into the parking lot, there it was . . . the main transportation to Masada . . . a cable car suspended in mid-air!  Folks, my take on this is, man made it and therefore it can break.  There was no way I could ride hanging from what to me was a thin thread with thousands of pounds suspended from it.  When the moment came for our group to board, the crowd was so large that I slipped away.  No one missed me until they were on their way up the mountain.

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For five years, I have been dogged by the fear of knowing I would probably “return to the scene of the crime” someday.  Also, Craig, who organizes these trips, has threatened me non-stop ever since!

So, Monday morning, January 16, after a dip in the Dead Sea, it was off for a stop at En-gedi to view where David hid from King Saul (1 Samuel 23:29), and then . . . Masada.  I wanted to be like David and hide again, but I knew I needed to face this fear by God’s grace.

Same story as five years ago.  The bus ascended the parking lot and there in my view was that cable car.  As we entered the complex and received our tickets, I was praying and so were others.  Craig came to me and said, “I want you get in the middle the cable car, face the mountain, and keep your eyes on me.  I promise you, it will be okay.”  I did exactly as he said.  My knees were a bit rubbery, but it wasn’t long until we were at the summit.  The doors opened, and by grace, I had conquered another fear in my life!  My! What views and history I had missed by slipping away five years ago.

As I walked around on that massive rock plateau of what was once Herod’s fortress (Masada), I thought about Craig’s words to me.  They are absolutely spot-on for dealing with any and all of our fears.

  1. Get in the middle of the cable car. Whatever that fear is in your life, you need to get right into the middle of it and meet it head on!  Don’t make excuses for it!  Don’t try to make it what it is not.
  2. Face the mountain. Yes, your fear(s) may be a mountain to you, but instead of running from it, taking some false remedy to overcome it, or living in that fear the rest of your life, face that mountain!
  3. Keep your eyes on me. This final command is the most important.  Hebrews 12:2 says, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the Throne of God.

The word looking means “to turn the eyes away from other things and fix them on something.”  This is not a quick glance but a fixed look on something.  For all the fears of life, you must fixed your eyes on Christ.

That fixed look begins at salvation as you see Christ alone as the only Savior (1 Timothy 4:10, We have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers), Redeemer (Galatians 3:13; 1 Peter 1:18), Reconciler (Colossians 1:20-21), Rescuer (Colossians 1:13), and Justifier (Romans 3:24; 5;1) for sinful man.  He is the Author and the Finisher of our faith.  This is proven by the fact that He is seated at the right hand of God the Father, the place of authority.  There is only one way to Heaven and that is through the death, burial and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ (John 14:6).  Jesus is not A way; He is the ONLY WAY.  You must turn from all other religions and self-helps to Jesus Christ alone.

Then once you are truly born again, you live the rest of your life with your eyes fixed on Christ through faith in His Word because now Christ is always for you (Romans 8:31-39). Peter stepped out of the boat in faith, but he began to sink when he took his eyes off of Christ (Matthew 14:22-33).  The Lord’s words to Peter sum up all of life after salvation when He said, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid (14:27). Our Savior never leaves us or forsakes us (Hebrews 13:5).  He is our Shepherd Who leads us even in the valley of the shadow of death, but we are to fear no evil, because He is with us (Psalm 23:4).

What do you fear?  Let these words sink into your heart.

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. . . . For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I am the one who helps you.” (Isaiah 41:10, 13)

By the way, all the way up the mountain, Craig talked to me.  In the midst of your fear, rather than listen to yourself and others as well as the distractions of your fears, listen to Christ.  Read and meditate on His Word that addresses all the fears of life.

So, get in the middle of the cable car; face the mountain; and keep your eyes fixed on Christ!