My kids love Legos. They enjoy trying to re-make life experiences through Legos.
The other day while watching March Madness basketball, my 5 year old son, Eli, called me to the boys’ room to show me something. I had never seen him do this before. And I did not help him with it. I thought it was cool. I love the sound effects!
Having kids has a way of teaching you a lot about life.
Before I knew any better, I would ask our kids what would they like for dinner. One would want nuggets and fries. One wanted pizza. One would want chips and queso. And one would want nothing but a slushie. At that point, I would realize how unwise it is to ask 4 little kids what they want to eat. There is little chance of them all agreeing. And there is no chance of me pleasing each of them. I quickly learned you can’t please everybody. (Now I just decide, and we go there. Or I just let one of them choose. Much better!)
Anyone who has lived long enough has learned that you can’t please everybody. And if you cannot please everyone, then we ought to try to figure out who do we want to please. And that can be difficult. Many people try so hard to please others or themselves or their families and so forth, yet it is not working. We can’t please everyone. We don’t know who to please. And this confusion is quite displeasing.
Let me suggest 3 ideas (all found in Romans 15:1-3):
Not to Please Ourselves. Knowing God through Jesus so alters our life-focus that we are more concerned with helping others than we are with pleasing ourselves. Romans 15:1 says to not live to please ourselves. Once we realize the freedom in serving others, we can stop trying to please ourselves. Once we stop trying to please ourselves, we are closer to knowing who we should live to please!
Please His Neighbor. Christians are interested in making a difference in people’s lives. Romans 15:2 says to live for the good of our neighbor. It says to live to build him up. We should live to please those around us. Making them better, stronger built-up people!
Christ did not Please himself. Our great God and Savior Jesus shows us who we should please – not ourselves (Romans 15:3). Jesus is the happiest man who ever lived. And that joy came from pleasing God and not self. Jesus lived to please God, and God was certainly pleased with his son. He says exactly that at Jesus’s baptism in Matthew 3:17.
So if we can’t please everybody, who then should we please? We should not try to please ourselves. And we should try to please our neighbors. And when you put both of those together along with the example of Jesus, you have the desire to please God. For we cannot please our neighbors without pleasing God. And we cannot NOT please ourselves without pleasing God.
And Paul says this very clearly in 2 Corinthians 5:9 “We make it our aim to please Him (God).”
You cannot please everybody. Trust in Christ and be committed to living a life that is pleasing to God.
One of the most serious yet ignored and/or misunderstood passages in all the Bible is when God says to us “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” God first said it in Leviticus 11, and Peter quotes it and elaborates on it in 1 Peter 1.
At our church, we are preaching through 1 Peter right now, and our Associate Pastor Troy Harrison preached on this passage (1 Peter 1:13-16) two weeks ago. You can listen to that sermon here.
Three thoughts on being holy (all of these thoughts taken from 1 Peter 1):
You have to know who you are NOT! -We are not perfect. We are often wrong, bad and sinful.
-We are not God’s standard. Jesus is.
-God will judge everyone. And He will judge impartially.
-Therefore we should not be judgmental.
-We should be mindful of our sins and need of God.
-We should worry more about ourselves then we do others.
-You have to know who you are NOT in order to really know who you are.
-Our ability to be holy comes from knowing that we first & foremost are not holy.
-As elect ransomed exiles, we become holy!
You have to know who you are! -You have been ransomed.
-You are living in exile. Earth is not our home.
-Since we are in exile, we factor every experience through this truth.
-Heaven is our home. God is our focus. Everything else is in light of those facts.
-In knowing who you are, you are always reminded who you are not. And who you used to be.
-We are God’s ransomed children. We belong to God. We long for heaven.
-Being loved and ransomed by God, we are now new and free and made and empowered to be holy!
You have to know whose you are!
-We are God’s children because of Jesus.
-The blood of Christ has ransomed us.
-The pure and spotless Lamb of God has taken away the sins of the world!
-It was God’s plan to kill Jesus for our saving.
-Through Him we are believers in God.
-God raised Jesus and gave Him glory so that our faith & hope are in God.
-Since we know God and we know we are God’s, we desire to be holy like Him.
I encourage you to take time to read 1 Peter chapter 1. And see what I am trying to say. May God give us clarity and understanding on what He means when says “Be holy, for I am holy.”
In John 18:37, Jesus claims “For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world — to bear witness to the truth.”
—Jesus’s purpose in coming to earth is to bear witness to the truth.
In reply to that, Pilate asks Jesus in John 18:38 “What is truth?”
—Pilate, like many people, question ‘what is truth?’
Just one chapter earlier in John 17:17, Jesus prayed to the Father “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.”
—The Word of God is the truth.
Earlier in John 8:31-32 to the Jews who were considering believing, Jesus said “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”
—True followers of Jesus know the truth and are set free from sin by it.
In John 14:6, Jesus boldly stated “I am the way, the truth, and the life.”
—Jesus is the truth. (In John’s Gospel, Jesus is also the Word.)
And in John’s prologue (at the very beginning of John), he wrote, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” –Jesus is God in the flesh, and He is full of truth.
Lord willing, Valeria and I will have our 5th child in April. We are looking forward to it. But we also realize that having 5 kids is a big responsibility.
I love the quote by the late Jim Valvano “My father gave me the greatest gift anyone could give another person, he believed in me.”
I want to be a good father to our children.
I recently spent time observing Abraham as a father to Isaac in Genesis 22. There are several key passages in God’s word on parenting and fatherhood (Psalm 127 and Ephesians 6:1-4 just to name two), but I believe that Genesis 22:5-8 is one of the best passages in all of Scripture on fatherhood.
Here are 4 thoughts on Fatherhood from Genesis 22:5-8:
The son was led by his father to worship. In Genesis 22:5 Abraham says “I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you.” Can you picture the power of a dad who speaks like this? Very few boys or sons in the world have ever heard a dad say this. Few have heard their dad say “Lets go to church.” But what about “We’re going to worship.” That is a strong statement. Many dads lead their sons well. Sons treasure being led by their fathers. I have heard my dad say often “Come on son, lets go help your mom.” Or “Come on Josh, lets go mow the yard.” Or “Come on, lets go play corn hole.” I want to be like Abraham in that I lead my sons to worship God.
The son was aware of his father’s devotion and obedience to God. In Genesis 22:6 Abraham is doing everything that God has asked him to do. The whole story of Abraham in Genesis, which covers chapters 12-25, is full of Abraham obeying God. And Isaac, his son, is right there observing all of it. Isaac knew he was loved by his dad. There was no question about that. In verse 22:2 God says to Abraham “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love.” Yet Isaac knew that his father, Abraham, loved God even more. He was meticulous in obeying all that God had told him. In 22:12 God acknowledges Abraham’s devotion to God. While I want my children to know that I love them dearly, I also desire that they clearly observe in me a greater devotion and love for God.
The son understood his father’s faith and practice. In Genesis 22:7 Isaac observes “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” What a great question? Many children have no idea why their parents are religious. Or why their fathers do what they do. Many sons today have no idea what their fathers believe. In this passage, Abraham is getting ready to offer a sacrifice to God. And Isaac is not sitting in the car waiting. Isaac is not disengaged while consumed by his phone. Isaac is there. He is aware. He understands. And he is even pointing out to his dad that there is a key element missing. This is remarkable. Many fathers today have very little devotion to God and that which they do have has not carried over to their children. I want to be like Abraham in that his son understood his faith in and devotion to God.
The father wholeheartedly trusted God. In Genesis 22:8, in response to Issac’s question/observation in verse 7, Abraham boldly answers “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” This is one of the greatest verses in all of the Bible on fatherhood. Abraham had no idea where the lamb for the offering would come from. But he believed God (Genesis 15:6). And in the meantime he was faithful to obey God, trusting that God would provide the lamb. The rest of the passage, verses 9-14, show God doing just that – providing the lamb for the offering. There is nothing better for a son than for his father to wholeheartedly trust and believe in God. With all of my sins and with all of my sons sins, may I continually assure them that God indeed has provided a sacrificial lamb. That’s Jesus!
May God make us fathers who point our children to Jesus!
By now you have probably heard that Fairdale’s IGA Pic-Pac grocery store is closing for good.
This will be a sad day for Fairdale. Pic-Pac, owned and operated by the original owner Mr. Bill Nichols, opened its doors in 1979. For the last 36 years, everyone in Fairdale has been served by Mr. Nichols and his store.
My 2 points in that newsletter were 1) We should learn how to appreciate people and 2) We should learn Faithfulness and Dependability. Mr. Nichols’ life in Fairdale has taught us both.
Just last week, I was honored to represent our church in joining with our Councilwoman Vicki Welch and several other community leaders in surprising Mr. Nichols at Pic-Pac with a plaque of recognition for his service to the Fairdale community.
All I have ever known is Pic-Pac being a huge community supporter!
Change is inevitable. Time goes on. But on behalf of everyone in Fairdale, we say Thank You Mr. Nichols!
“He is like a tree” is a powerful Scriptural compliment.
What does it mean?
Who is it referring to?
What does it mean to be like a tree?
This statement comes from Psalm 1.
The person who is “like a tree” is the blessed man. But what makes this person blessed?
With a strong statement, the blessed man is first described by what he is NOT.
He does not listen to the wrong people (he is not someone who walks in the counsel of the wicked)
He does not hang out with the wrong people (he is not someone who stands in the way of sinners)
He does not get caught up with the wrong people (he is not someone who sits in the seat of scoffers)
The blessed man is not judgmental, hypocritical, legalistic, too good, high-rolling, holier-than-thou or whatever else. But there are some things, some ways, he is not!
After saying what the blessed man is not, Psalm 1 then tells us what the blessed man is: one who delights in the Word of God and meditates on it day and night. Thats it! Thats all it says! Psalm 1 says more about what the blessed man is not than about what he is!
Then in verse 1:3 it makes this great statement referring to the blessed man = “He is like a tree.”
What a great Scriptural compliment! A healthy tree. A fruitful tree. A prosperous, blessed man. He is like a tree!
Do you know anyone who is “like a tree”? Does anyone come to mind that is strong, healthy and fruitful “like a tree”? Do you have anyone you admire because of their delighting in the Word of God?
If you want to give an encouraging compliment to someone, tell them “You are like a tree.”
May God continue to raise up more and more men and women who love His word that it may be said of them – he or she is “like a tree!”
Not everyone celebrates Christmas. And out of all the people who do acknowledge Christmas, not all of them enjoy it. Some people really love Christmas. Some people don’t even like it.
So, who is Christmas actually for?
Is Christmas an American holiday? Is it for wealthy upper-class people? Is it for needy lower-class people? Is it for Christians? Is it for Jews?
Is Christmas for children? Or just strong families?
Again, who is Christmas for?
Looking at Matthew chapter 1 and the story of the birth of Jesus, I see 3 very real answers to this question.
Christmas is for people who are in awkward situations. Joseph and Mary were betrothed. This means they were planning to get married, and they had not slept together yet. They were virgins. They were almost married, but not yet. Then one day out of nowhere Mary is pregnant. Again, she had never had sex before. Joseph knows Mary was not pregnant from him. That is an awkward situation. So much so that the Bible says that “her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.” (1:19) Joseph was crushed. He thought Mary had cheated on him. Can you imagine the word spreading around town? This fine young man, Joseph, had been done wrong by his fiancée. That is an awkward situation. How did this situation come about? God made it happen. God made Mary pregnant. God’s plan to come and save us from our sins included a very awkward situation. Joseph & Mary were in an awkward situation. Christmas, absolutely, is for people who are in awkward situations. This Christmas don’t be ashamed to celebrate Christmas in the midst of some awkwardness. Our Savior King can handle it. Thats what He came for!
Christmas is for people who are living in sin. After Joseph gets the awkwardness cleared up by the angel, the angel proceeds to tell Joseph what to name the baby. His name will be Jesus. Many may ask or wonder ‘why did they call his name Jesus?’ The angel goes on to tell us that info too. “you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” (1:21) Jesus came because of our sins and for our sins. Sin in our lives is not at all a reason to keep Jesus away. In fact, you could say, our sins are the very reason He came. Christmas is not for people who don’t sin. Not at all. Christmas is for people who sin. “Jesus said to them, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.'” (Mark 2:17) Again, He came for sinners. This Christmas don’t be afraid to confess your sins and don’t be distant from others who have sins. That is exactly who Christmas is for – those of us who sin!
Christmas is for people who are lonely. Jesus is not the only name designated for the savior-child. In 1:23, we are told of another name for Jesus – “Immanuel.” He is given this name because of who He is and because of what this name means. Immanuel means “God with us.” Jesus is God. And Jesus came to us to be with us. We need Him. We need to be with God. In a very real way, all of us are lonely without God. And though we may try various ways to fill that loneliness, we are not able. Ultimately, having Jesus with us is the only way to not be lonely. God knows this. So He came to us. This is precisely what Christmas is all about. Christmas is for lonely people. This Christmas as all of our hurts, struggles and needs seem to become more obvious and visible, please remember that is what and who Christmas is for.
Christmas is a huge holiday! And in short, it is for everyone. Whether people want to embrace Christmas or not is their choice. Either way, it is still for them. Because Christmas is about Jesus coming. And Jesus came to love, forgive and save sinners. And we are all sinners.
I have been a part of a lot of funerals. In a strange but real sense, I have come to really enjoy them. Not because they are such a time of fun, happiness and celebration. But rather because of the impact they continue to have on my life and soul.
I don’t expect anyone to go searching for random funerals to attend, but I do hope that you will be more eager to attend funerals that are close to you.
Here are 4 reasons why you should attend more funerals:
Your family. The most important relationships in life are those in our family. Husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, and so on. These relationships are so important. We often take them for granted. We often neglect the opportunity to really enjoy and appreciate these loved ones. Funerals remind us of these strong-bond relationships. Funerals remind us that God gave us our family. Funerals remind us of all the hard times and all the good times and all the memories that families have to treasure. Funerals remind us to prioritize our family before it is too late. I have seen wives bury their husbands, and it moved me to love and lead my wife well until I die. I have seen parents bury their children, and it moves me to tears every time as it challenges me to be the very best dad I can be every day for my kids. I have seen a 10 year old boy standing on his tip-toes stretching to lean into the casket to kiss his father good-bye. I will never forget moments like that. One reason to attend more funerals is to strengthen your commitment to family.
Your friends. Funerals will show you how much someone was loved. Funerals will show you how many friends someone had. I have been to funerals where less than 10 people attended. It was sad. And I have been to funerals that were so crowded there was standing room only. When it comes time for you to die, who will attend your funeral? Who would want to? Who would say this person was such a dear friend to me that I do not want to miss the funeral? Or let me take this a little further – Would there be any diversity at your funeral? If you are white, would there by any black people at your funeral? Would there be any Latino/Hispanics at your funeral? Would there be any International people at your funeral? Would your co-workers come to your funeral? Would your next-door-neighbors come to your funeral? These are good questions to ask. Funerals have caused me to examine what kind of a friend I am. Have I cared about people? Have I invested in people? These are some of the questions that funerals can raise. One reason to attend more funerals is to strengthen your commitment to being a true friend to people.
Your focus. One of my favorite things about funerals is how people speak so highly of the deceased. This is special! (Now I am not for us lying and making the person out to be greater than they were, but I don’t think that is always the case anyways.) It is beautiful to be at a funeral service and hear many people saying so many positives about the deceased. I have often wondered ‘why don’t we say these things BEFORE they die?’ Wouldn’t it be even better to tell THEM how highly we view them- along with telling everyone at the funeral? I think the stresses and pressures of life often hinder us from seeing the good in people. We see the negatives in people and it causes us to overlook the positives. Funerals change that. Funerals are a time when people overlook the bad so they can focus on the good of a person. There is something healthy about that! I want to encourage people more often. I want to speak well of people. I want to build people up. One reason to attend more funerals is to strengthen our focus on recognizing the good in people.
Your faith. With our happy-go-lucky lives we often are focused on something other than the main thing. Most people don’t think about life or death, heaven or hell, forgiveness or condemnation during their weekly routines. Funerals are excellent for bringing a pause to our normal lives. Funerals allow us to sit down for an hour (or less) and think about what really matters. Death has a way of doing that! Death is the best at leveling the playing field. Everything comes into perspective at death. Once we finally focus on deeper things like God and forgiveness for our sins then we will consider our faith. One reason to attend more funerals is to examine and strengthen your faith. Do you believe in Jesus? Are you ready to die? Are your sins forgiven? Funerals will get you pondering that! And it is too costly to never get around to your faith.
No one likes death, and we shouldn’t. Death is the wage of sin. We hate death. But funerals can be a blessing. And attending funerals can be beneficial. The next time you have the opportunity to attend a funeral, don’t look for excuses not to go. Instead, Go and watch your life and soul be impacted. You will be a better man or woman because of it!