May 28, 2020

Summer of Love Remix

2018 was dubbed my “Summer of Love”. I attended eleven weddings; nine of which I officiated. On Memorial Day weekend, I attended two wedding (one of which I officiated).

Added to the mix was all of the preparation time, including wedding planning and premarital counseling.

Needless to say, Cathy and I didn’t get up to the family cabin other than the week of July fourth so we did a better job scheduling my weddings for 2019. And, for the most part, we were very successful in not over booking. This included two weddings back to back (Friday and Saturday nights).

This year, 2020, was scripted to also be another summer of love with nine couples asking me to be the pastor for their wedding.

Cathy and I had set up a system that somehow, I had (unintendedly) bypassed. I had two one month (last two weeks) and two the next (first two weeks). I hadn’t noticed my mistake until I was putting them on our joint calendar.

This was helpful as I eventually declined several other couples who asked me to officiate their weddings. I told them that I didn’t want to fill all of my weekends.

We reminded each other of the Lord’s faithfulness in the past, and moved forward as we launched into my Summer of Love 2020.

That is until the corona-covid-19-pandemic-epidemic brought my plans to a screeching HALT! Somebody sneezed and the whole world freaked out.

Suddenly, almost all of my couples went into a tail spin as they were told that they could not have their weddings as planned.

Yes, couples were allowed to get married, as long as the gathering was ten or fewer people instead of the planned 200-300 guests.

Event centers and venues were told that they needed to close up shop in order to slow down this major virus from spreading.

Calls were made. Flight plans canceled. Cakes were put on hold as my spring weddings got moved to either October-November or else to 2021.

Over and over again I listened to couples who were hurt, confused, and frustrated when their plans, many which had been in the works for two years, were no longer an option.

Many felt betrayed when they were told that contractually they were not able to get their money back.

As a pastor (and dad) my heart hurts for them.

Over and over again I listened to vendors and venue owners who were hurt, confused, and frustrated when their plans, many which had been in the works for two years, were no longer an option.

Many felt betrayed when they were pressured by clients who asked for their money back; even though the vendors hadn’t broken the contract and worked hard to come up with other dates for rescheduling the weddings.

The problem was that even when they came up with something new, the government told them that “no” they couldn’t open up their venues or perform a service.

Some things made sense; others were beyond comprehension; all because somebody sneezed and the whole world freaked out.

As a pastor (and vendor) my heart hurts for them.

And, as of this writing, things are still up in the air as to when things can “get back to normal”.

But the truth is, life is unpredictable and the best laid plans of mice and men are just that; PLANS.

I tell every couple at every wedding I officiate that the security of their marriage will rest in the true purposes of their hearts, in their character, in the steadfastness of their devotion to each other, and more importantly the love of God and asking His help.

In other words, the success of their marriages will really be based on how well they choose to face life as they apply what they said at their weddings.

Simply put, how much do they look to the vows that they make and how much do they look to God who created marriage in the first place.

The same is true for each one of us as we go through this corona-covid-19-pandemic-epidemic. Do we really believe that there is Someone who is in control and look to Him, or do we look to our plans as though they are set in concrete?

This Summer of Love may not turn out as I have planned; and that’s OK. Either way, the LORD will be glorified in my life and I will juggle my life to be there for my couples and fellow vendors as together we create stories to tell the grandchildren when this is all over.

May 21, 2020

Does the Bible say to “Ask Jesus into your heart”?

There are sayings and expressions that people use without even thinking about what they are saying. Expressions such as; “I’m so hungry I could eat a horse”, or “I’m starving!”

If we are being honest, no, we are not starving and if we were, eating a horse is not what we are thinking of doing!

For many years, I have heard the expression that people need to “ask Jesus into their hearts”. The same expression is sometimes phrased, "Ask Jesus into your life", or "Invite Jesus into your heart".  

Personally, I can’t find this in the Bible. Instead, I find that the Bible says, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” (Acts 16:31)  

Romans 10:8-13 says nothing about 'inviting Jesus into your heart': But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach): that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. 11 For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.”[c] 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. 13 For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

So, where did we get the idea that people need to “ask Jesus into their heart”? I think that the idea comes from several religious tradition, that don’t come from the Bible, handed down through well-meaning teachers. Anglo-American Puritans and evangelicals in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries used the phrase “receive Christ into your heart,” or something like it, with some regularity.

Another one of these religious traditions taught that we have a ‘door to our heart’ that has a latch on the inside but not on the outside.  We are taught that Jesus Christ is knocking on the outside but cannot come in unless we unlatch the lock from the inside of the heart.  The Bible teaches no such thing.   

Where else does this idea come from? It also can be seen in stained glass set beautifully in church buildings. I personally think that some of this comes from people seeing either of the two allegorical paintings of Jesus Christ standing at the door knocking painted by William Holman Hunt or the one painted by Warner Sallman.

What about Revelation 3:20?  ”Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.

“Doesn’t that refer to the ‘door of our heart’?” I say, “No”. Take time to read the context of Revelation 3:14-22. The door mentioned is the door of the church of Laodicea; not a reference to the door of the heart or the door of your life or about salvation. It means to dine, that is, take the principal (or evening) meal or fellowship with the Lord.  

Religious songs are another source of this wrong teaching; songs we sing simply because we like them. In other words we have theology totally based on the words of the song even if they are not scriptural.  

One of these songs is called; "Come Into My Heart, Lord Jesus" which says; "Into my heart, into my heart; Come into my heart, Lord Jesus." This song is sung as people are given the opportunity to "Invite Jesus into their hearts".  

Some scriptural references are misinterpreted because of tradition. Some people will quote passages like Ephesians 3:16-19  that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, 17 that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— 19 to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”

But it doesn't say ‘ask Him into your heart’; rather it is says; “that He would dwell in your heart by faith”.

Some will say; “But what about John 14:23; Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.”

It says, “We” will come and make “our” home with him. I would say this is speaking of the triune nature of God and it is the Holy Spirit who dwells in us when we surrender our lives to Jesus.

Referring to Jesus, Colossians 2:9-10 says For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; 10 and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power”

When we surrender our lives to Jesus, we are filled with the Holy Spirit; who is fully God as a member of the Trinity and a representative of the Father and the Son.

Acts 2: And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.”

Acts 4:31 “And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness”

Acts 13:52 “And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit”

Ephesians 5:18 “And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit”

Acts 9:17 “And Ananias went his way and entered the house; and laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you came, has sent me that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”

Jesus, after He completed His work here on the earth, went to be with the Father.

Romans 8:34 Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.

Hebrews 10:11-14 “And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, 13 from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool. 14 For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.

John 14:12-17 “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. 13 And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.15 “If you love Me, keep My commandments. 16 And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.

John 14:26  “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.”

John 16:7-15 “Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they do not believe in Me; 10 of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; 11 of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. 12 “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. 14 He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. 15 All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you.”

The Bible simply says that we are to believe or trust the gospel message that Jesus paid for our sins by His death on the cross, and that He was buried, and that He was resurrected from the dead.  

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes...” (Romans 1:16a). 

"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)

We Receive Christ Through Faith
"By grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast" (Ephesians 2:8,9).

Just to agree intellectually that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and that He died on the cross for our sins is not enough. Nor is it enough to have an emotional experience. We receive Jesus Christ by faith, as an act of the will.

Receiving Christ involves turning our wills and lives to God and trusting Christ to come into our lives to forgive our sins and to make us what He wants us to be. The Bible calls this "repentance". What that means is to "change the way you think"; in other words, go another direction- with our thoughts, words, actions; with how we live our lives.

God will only give eternal life to:
1.   Those who are sorry for their sins.
2.   Those who are willing to turn away from what the Bible calls sin.
3.   Those who put their complete trust (have faith) in Jesus Christ and what He accomplished through His death, burial, and resurrection.
When We Receive Christ, we will experience a “New Birth”
So, how do you do you receive Christ?
1.   Stop trusting in your own efforts to please God and begin to trust in what Jesus Christ has already done.
2.   Ask God to forgive you for your sins.
3.   Ask Jesus to take His rightful place as Lord and Savior of your life.
4.   Turn away from whatever the Bible says is sin. NOTE: This is only possible after you have made Jesus the Lord of your life.

You can do this right now by praying (speaking to God) in your own words like this:

This new life will continue to grow by:
·        Spending time reading the Bible which is His Word
·        Spending time with other Christians at church, Bible studies, and fellowships.
·        Spending time sharing with others who yet don’t know how they too can get right with God.

"Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved

May 14, 2020

Lessons from Khan's Mongolian BBQ

It was 1980 something and I was about to expand my culinary taste repertoire. I was invited, along with Cathy, to join some friends at a “Khan's Mongolian BBQ” restaurant.   

After you are seated, you are escorted to a buffet line and handed a plate or bowl on which to place your choice of raw meats, fresh veggies, and Mongolian noodles.

You can also determine the type and amount of savory sauces, seasoning, and oil you want in the dish. From spicy chili sauces to the house special ‘Mongol Sauce’, there are endless possibilities and flavor combinations for you to choose from.

After you make your selection, you take it to the iron grill where they turn those ingredients into a true culinary adventure.

You can go back over and over again and try something new each and every visit!

As I said, I had never eaten at Khan’s or anything like it before, so when I went through the line, I filled my plate with what I thought was a large portion of food.

My hosts looked at what I had chosen and told me to go back and pile it up higher on my plate. I had seen their plates which were filled almost to the ceiling, but had written off the amount they chose because they both were somewhat larger than Cathy and I. OK, they both were fat!

I told them that this was enough food for me and they replied that I needed to at least double what I had chosen. They told me that once you fill your plate up, and the fire comes, you don’t get to go through the line again.

I reluctantly went back and added another heaping spoonful of something.

They looked and me and once again told me to go back, explaining that once the food was placed on the griddle, the items would shrink as they were consumed by the heat.

Many of the food items, when the fire hits them, would be reduced to almost nothing because they were mostly water.

Other items that were harder, such as peanuts or meat on bones, would make it through the cooking process and remain true to their size and portion and would come out richer and taste better.

I told them that this was enough food for me and they gave each other a look that I would soon come to understand.

I handed my plate to the chef and stood back to watch him do his craft on the large griddle surrounded by fire. And, a very short time later, I was handed my plate of what would turn out to be a feast fit for a king.

All was well until I sat down at my table with Cathy and the host couple and looked at everyone else’s plate, and then looked at mine. On everyone else’s plate (Cathy had listened to their advice) was a nice large portion; but not over-loaded.

The amount on my plate looked as though it was an in-flight meal on an airplane. Or else that it came from some snooty restaurants where the bill that they give you is much larger than the portion that you are served.

Once again, my hosts (lovingly) gave me the “we tried to tell you…” look as I regretted not listening to their advice.

It’s amazing how I had thought that the amount that I had was so much UNTIL it was placed in the fire. Then, it was revealed that I didn’t have as much as I thought I had.

The Apostle Paul writes in his letter to the young church in Corinth that there is a day coming when everything we have done while we were alive on planet Earth will go through a fire to see what we have really done.

He writes that some of our work, piled high as it may be in our metaphorical plate or bowl (or wheelbarrow), is simply wood, hay, and straw and will be burned up. These were the things we did as filler items in our lives and consumed our days and nights.

Other things that we have done he compares to gold, silver, and precious stones. He writes that they would make it through the process and remain true to their size and portion. In fact, they would come out purer and clearer and more valuable.

I think of that scripture often. I realize that, yes, Jesus’s sacrifice for us who receive it will bring no condemnation during this process. After the fire hits, all that we did will be met with; “Well done good and faithful servant.”

But, like when I looked at my friend’s plates, I don’t want to wish that I had loaded up my plate with things that would bring Him honor and glory. I don’t want to be the one about whom other’s say; “Man was that ever a big fire!”

I want my life to reflect His goodness to me. I want my final “dish” to look as though Jesus had made a difference in my life; beyond salvation. I want it to be piled high with gold, silver, and precious stones; all of which reflect back His image.

After all, once you fill your plate up, and the fire comes, you don’t get to go through the line again.

1 Corinthians 3:9-15
For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building. 10 According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. 11 For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13 each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. 14 If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.

All Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

May 7, 2020

Have we finally found the meaning to our lives?

My, how the days have gone by,
Did we sing, did we laugh, did we cry?
Again, there's a year left behind,
Did we rush, did we care to take time?
Time for old, forgotten people who look
To the older ones to be their eyes.
To inspire and to cheer,
Hold a hand and draw near to the wise.
Can we count the lessons that we've learned,
When love's a gift how then can it be earned,
Have we finally found the meaning to our lives.
We soon recall to mind
The days we'd gladly shoulder
Each other's burdens and hold hands.
The old were once so very young
But they grew older,
The children changed with every passing glance.
Here, passing through space and time,
Did we think that we could tow our own line?
Who said there's no God to be found?
You're misled, He is all around.
Round the corner there are children
Who look to the older ones to be their guide.
To inspire and to cheer,
Hold a hand and draw near to their side.
Can we count the lessons that we've learned,
When love's a gift how then can it be earned,
Have we finally found the meaning to our lives.

Artist: Phil Keaggy Album: Town to Town (1981)