resting in His Word

On a very, very tired Monday morning, I am leaning heavily on the Word of God. Last week took its toll on me. These truths are what keep us going.

Psalm 3:3 “But you, O LORD, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head.”

Matthew 11:28 “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

Isaiah 40:31 “but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”

Psalm 51:12 “uphold me with a willing spirit.”

2 Corinthians 12:9,10 “my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness… for when I am weak, then I am strong.”

And perhaps my favorite strengthening passage for today:

Psalm 23:2-3 “He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul.”

life is not the best

Last night for our Sunday evening service, I planned to preach through Psalm 63. But every once in a while I allow for the whole congregation to have the liberty to raise their hand and share any and everything that they would like to with the rest of us. It is really good to hear people speaking about encouraging and refreshing things in their lives through their walk with Christ.

Well last night, this carried on long enough that I was only left with about 10 minutes to preach. So I shifted gears a bit and explained verse 3 of Psalm 63.

Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you.”

There is a comparison here between God’s steadfast love and life. David, the author of this psalm, says that God’s love is better than life.

The point I wanted our church to grab hold of and completely digest and stand rooted and established in  is that LIFE IS NOT BEST. It is not!

While things in this life may be good, they are not the best. And while things in this life may be bad, there is something better.

Life is full of good and bad. But we all should know that the lottery, and parties, and relationships, and new cars and cell phones are Not the best thing ever. Just like we know that polar pops, and drugs, and stolen air-conditioner units is Not the best thing ever.

The love of God in Christ Jesus for us is so good. It is so lasting. It is so refreshing and restoring. It is so sin-forgiving. It is so peace-bringing. It is so unlike-anything-else-this-life-can-give.

The love of God in Christ Jesus is the best!  Paul knew that. That is why in Phil. 1 he could say “for to me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” For those people who know God’s love, they are fully aware that this life is not best.

So, lets resolve to never ever allow our lives and thrills to send the message that Life is the best thing ever. It is not. God’s love in Christ Jesus is!

polar pops

Polar Pops are arguably the most well-known thing in all of Fairdale. Nearly everyone I know loves Polar Pops.

A Polar Pop is a big, huge, refreshing fountain drink sold at Circle K gas stations. In Fairdale, we only have one gas station. It sells Marathon gasoline and is a ‘Circle K’ convenience store. A few years ago the gas station was a ‘Dairy Mart’, but it changed ownership and became a ‘Circle K.’

That is when the Polar Pop arrived! The ‘Circle K’ brought in a gigantic fountain drink machine. (Now, most convenience stores these days have big fountain drink machines.) The awesome part was that they only cost 59 cents. Plus tax that came out to 63 cents. It was incredible! Any flavor fountain drink anyone could desire. Big and Cold and Refreshing. And only for 63 cents. It was such a good deal that everyone in Fairdale came to depend upon it.

Since the Polar Pop has caught Fairdale by surprise, the price has changed. It went up 10 cents. They now cost 69 cents, plus tax equals 73 cents. Every teenager in Fairdale can tell you that from memory. Hundreds of kids a day walk to Circle K carrying only 73 cents. Many kids pick one up on the way to school and then grab another one on their way home from school.

The Polar Pop has become such a staple that people often go through the Dairy Queen drive-thru and order a meal without a drink and then stop by the Circle K to get the bigger, less expensive Polar Pop. It is such a good deal that people depend on it now. This Christmas the Circle K in Fairdale had a drawing to raffle off a Mountain Bike covered in Polar Pop decals. I even got several Polar Pop t-shirts from the manager to give away to people. Polar Pops are a movement!

I was thinking about the influence of the Polar Pop today. If someone was to drink a Polar Pop everyday for a year,(Undoubtedly, some people do. Many people drink 2 and 3 a day.) they would have spent $266. If they only drank 5 Polar Pops a week (And I know all kinds of people who do this), then they still would have spent $189. Now, I am not saying that the person necessarily wasted that much money. The Polar Pop is so pleasing and refreshing and so affordable that it is actually a very good and wise purchase.

The Polar Pop is such an impactful common item to the young people of Fairdale that for a Christmas present this year we gave every one of our youth in our church Youth Group a gift card to Circle K for only 73 cents. The ladies working the cash register loved Nate and I when we came in asking for those.

The Polar Pop does bring some negativity though. Because of how prevalent they are particularly in our town, you see them littered all over the place. Every yard or parking lot has been the victim of an empty Polar Pop cup. The litter is not only the negative they bring, but also the weight gain. Drinking 32 ounces of Coke or Mountain Dew or Big Red is not and never has been good for you. Drinking several Polar Pops a day is outright terrible for you! So as much as I love Polar Pops, I do wish they were all placed into garbage cans when finished. And I do wish people would have some self-control and not allow a soda drink to cause them to be overweight.

All of this brings me to say that I am really and truly thankful for Polar Pops. They have brought much joy and excitement and atmosphere to my life and to our town. There is no telling how many Polar Pop drinks I have bought for kids as we have been hanging out. That has served to be a very small and minor instrument in the work of God. Countless relationships have been blessed and deepened over a short walk to Circle K to get Polar Pops.

I’m about to go get one now!

i love my dad

While visiting our families in North Carolina over Christmas, we got a big snow. Here is a picture of me with Eli and my father with JJ. My dad has always lead us to do fun things outdoors like building a snowman. You can see many more pictures on our family blog at www.joshjr.blogspot.com

Adam was the first man on earth

I believe that wholeheartedly.

I believe it because Genesis 1 and 2 describe that clearly.

But I also recently was thinking through Acts 17:26

And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place”

God  made every nation of mankind from one man, Adam. Adam was the first human. Eve was the first woman. And from those two, God populated the entire earth.

I believe it.

parents be encouraged

This coming Sunday, I will preach on Luke 2:41-51. This is the passage where ‘the boy Jesus is in the temple.’

This passage teaches us a lot.

One interesting point is that Jesus’ parents, Joseph and Mary, had lost him.

Luke 2:43 says “as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it”

Wow! I cannot imagine really losing my child.

Then Luke 2:44 says “but supposing him to be in the group they went a day’s journey, but then they began to search for him…”

Wow! I really cannot imagine losing my child for a day or more before I even realized it.

Then Luke 2:46 says “After three days they found him…”

Wow! I totally cannot imagine losing my child for three whole days. I would be freaking out. Or as Mary, his mom, said to him “Your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.” I would be in great distress.

All parents be encouraged! Even great godly parents (who had the favor of God upon them so much that they were able to raise the Savior of the World and King of the Universe) mess up, stress out, and lose their kid sometimes.

Good thing He was safe all along and about His Father’s business!

the exclusivity of salvation being only in God

Jesus says it very plainly in John 14:6

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Peter says it plainly in Acts 4:12

“And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

Paul says it plainly in 1 Timothy 2:5

“For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.”

And I am sure you knew these three passages, but have you ever read Psalm 62? Lately, Psalm 62 has been such a mighty blessing to me. I have read it everyday now for several days. Everything good, strong, lasting, meaningful, steady about me is because of God. Or better said, is not even me but God in me. Psalm 62 shows me this.

Notice the exclusivity of salvation belonging completely to God.

Verse 1 “For God alone…”

Verse 2 “He only… is my rock and my salvation”

Verse 5 “For God alone…”

Verse 6 “He only…”

Verse 8 “Trust in Him at all times…”

Is there any doubt or question at all who saves? Salvation is of the Lord! Hear the words of  “the great multitude that no one could number, from every nation” in Revelation 7:10 as they cried out:

Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne and to the Lamb!”


Lil Wayne reads the Bible for the first time

Recently, Lil Wayne was released from prison.

In some of his comments following his release, he says this about the Bible

““I also read the Bible for the first time. It was deep! I liked the parts where some character was once this, but he ended up being that. Like he’d be dissing Jesus, and then he ends up being a saint. That was cool.”” (The cover picture is not good, but you can read it here. Rolling Stone magazine)

I pray that He would believe the message of the Bible that Jesus saves sinners.

shopping carts

The other night while leaving Wal-Mart, I noticed about 600 shopping carts scattered across the gigantic parking lot. An entire conversation took place in my brain.

It was a rather nasty night out. It was cold, temp was in the 20s. It was rainy. No one wanted to be out in it… especially the Wal-Mart “cart-guy”. But he was. In only jeans, a zip-hoodie and work gloves, he was out trying to get in the several hundred stray shopping carts. I felt bad for him. Who wouldnt? He was so cold. And his entire time out there gathering up carts was due to the fact that so many people are too lazy or busy to put the cart where it goes! I happen to like putting my cart back. (Its also one of the most fun things that our Youth Group does. On random nights, we take all our kids to Wal-Mart and ask them to very calmly get all of the carts out of the parking lot and back into the store all nice and neatly. The manager and the “cart guy” especially love it when we do this. All Youth Groups should try it. Great fun!)

Is it wrong to not put your cart back in the “Return Carts Here” thing? Is it ok to just leave it right there in the vacant parking place that your car was just in? Is it fine for Wal-Mart’s hundreds of customers per hour to leave their carts anywhere they please in a quarter mile radius of the store because they have a “cart guy” who will come and bring them all in?

God tells us to “hold fast to what is good” (Rom.12:9) and to “overcome evil with good” (Rom.12:21). Shouldn’t we be willing to take 20 more seconds and put our carts back? Shouldn’t we long to be a blessing to the “cart guy” and not adding to his frustration?

Lets think about Christ being exalted in the small things of our day…even returning our carts to the “Return Carts Here” thing.

I belong to Jesus

What a statement!

Arguably the world’s best soccer player, Kaka, boldly proclaims who he belongs to! Kaka is from Brazil and plays on the highest level of professional soccer in the world. Kaka often wears this bold t-shirt under his uniform jersey. It is common for soccer players to remove their shirts after games. This provides Kaka a great opportunity to proclaim his faith to the world. In South American Brazil where Catholicism is so widespread and therefore the emphasis on the virgin Mary, it is quite a testimony and statement that Kaka announces he belongs to Jesus.

It is also encouraging to know that he has “God is faithful” stitched on to the tongue of his soccer cleats.