The rain is falling in my corner of the world. The rain started Sunday and we are expecting rain through Friday. Six days of rain! Thirty-four more and we might face a flood of Biblical proportions.
Even in the rain, there are rays of sunshine. Yes, the sun sneaks through the clouds. Yes, the rain washes away salt and dirt on the roads from the last two weeks of icy weather. Yes, the rain waters the earth for the flowers of spring. But there was something else I saw yesterday. Something nice, something sweet.
I should back up a bit and tell you that I work in a college town. That is an understatement. I work in Tuscaloosa, Alabama the home of the University of Alabama where enrollment this academic year was approximately 38,000. There are a more than a few students and young adults everywhere.
Now I come back to the rain and yesterday. Yesterday evening, I was driving to the hospital as the rain was beginning to fall as the light faded from the sky. As I crossed the railroad tracks, there they were, a young couple walking in the rain, sharing an umbrella and having a great time. They were smiling and laughing. You know, the laugh of young romantic love. It was a sweet walk for them and a sweet moment for me to see.
I thought of a few things as I saw this couple.
- I thought of Amy (my wife of 25 years) and all the walks we have shared since we started dating 28 years ago.
- I thought of the talks we have on those walks.
- I thought of the last chapter in “Little Women” by Louisa May Alcott – Under the Umbrella.
- I thought of the second verse of “Every Little Thing She Does is Magic” by the Police.
- I thought of the talks and walks I have with God as He holds my hand through life (Isa 41:13; 1Jo 1:7).
Growing up in the 1970’s and 80’s family vacations were events. We did not fly, we drove and drove. We would pile into the 1967 Chevrolet Biscayne, the 1968 Dodge Polara, or later the 1981 Buick Century and head to the Smokey Mountains, to Orlando, or to southern Ohio. Did I mention hours in the car? On a few occasions my brothers and I would play backseat games, like “Don’t Cross This Line.” You know this game, a participant draws an imaginary line on the hot vinyl seat and dares the other sibling(s) to cross it. Then the accusations begin to follow. “He is on my side!” “He is touching my seat!” “He is touching me.” The obligatory follow-up are statements of defense, “I did not!” “He is taking up too much room!”
A good game would bring comments from the front seat. Comments similar to this, “Do I need to pull this car over?!” Or “We can turn around and go home.”
This may be a faulty recollection. This may be a nightmare I once had. But I have an image of Dad hitting the brakes, pulling over, and saying, “Grow-up!” I think I tried at that moment to get a little taller, I know I likely sat up straighter and began taking up a little less space . . .
One job parents have is to help their children mature. I heard a recently heard a lecture on adolescence and maturity. The speaker (Dr. Jean-Noel Thompson) made reference to a book by Tim Elmore entitled “Artificial Maturity.” In this book there is a list of Marks of Maturity. As I consider these, they are not just about adolescents, but about growing in Christ as well. Take a look at these seven characteristics of maturity and think about how you and I can mature as Christians.
- The mature are able to keep long term commitments.
- Mature individuals are unshaken by compliments or criticism.
- A mature person possesses a spirit of humility.
- His or her desires are based on character not feelings.
- They express gratitude consistently.
- They prioritize others over selves.
- They seek wisdom before acting.
Paul says, “Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature.” 1 Corinthians 14:20.
It is time to grow up in Christ.
Old Man Winter and Jack Frost made a stop over in the hometown of Oakman, Alabama on Wednesday. I love the way a good 2-3″ snow covers the grass and the walkways hiding their imperfections. I love the peacefulness of new fallen and early morning snow. Driving to Tuscaloosa this morning, I loved the snow covered fields and the snow laden trees with their branches hanging low over the path. There is a beautiful calmness associated with a light snow. (For those in the frozen tundra called the Mid-Western and North Eastern United States, I know it is no longer beautiful, but give this Southerner a break. We don’t get snow like this all the time and it melts away by the next day.)
As I took in the beauty of the snow as it was falling and laying down a fresh white blanket, I could not help but think of the following passages of Scripture:
- “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me and I shall be whiter than snow.” (Psa 51:7). David pens these words after realizing the magnitude of his sin. He is pleading with God for forgiveness.
- “Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; thought they are read like crimson, they shall become like wool.” (Isa 1:18). Ah, the beauty of the forgiveness of sin.
Like David in the psalm or the people of Judah to whom Isaiah prophesied, we have the stain of sin in our lives and on our hearts. There is nothing, NO-THING, you and I can do about it on our own. I cannot do enough good deeds to outweigh my sinfulness. The balance always tips toward sinner and away from perfection. But thanks be to God for His Grace through Christ. I join with the Paul and shout, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! . . .” (Rom 7:24-25).
Will you allow God to wash you whiter than snow?
What makes you happy? When are you feeling your best?
We live in a world that looks for happiness. Even the Founding Fathers of the United States include the pursuit of happiness as one of mankind’s inalienable rights. (Note that to pursue happiness is a right, not happiness.) According to these men, this right is from our Creator. Maybe that is why I hear many people defending their lifestyle and worship style choices by saying “God wants me to be happy.” Does He? Does God want me to be happy?
I did a quick search of the English Standard Version via E-Sword for the phrase “be happy.” The search yielded only one reference, “When a man is newly married, he shall not go out with the army or be liable for any other public duty. He shall be free at home one year to be happy with his wife whom he has taken.” (Deuteronomy 24:5) There is not much there stating that God wants you and me to be happy, instead this verse tells us about the importance of focusing on our marriages.
Just for the sake of comparison, I searched the phrase “be holy.” The search yielded 156 verses with a combination of those words and 32 matches for the exact phrase. Consider this selection as an example of the results, “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:14-16).
Maybe, A pparently, Obviously God wants us to be holy.
With all that said, let me share with you a small piece of wisdom about holiness: When I am pursuing holiness, I find much happiness. Holiness is key to happiness. If you want to be happy then:
- Trust God, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” Psa 23:4
- Be content with God’s blessings, “But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.” 1Ti 6:6-8.
- Live in the moment with God, “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” Mat 6:34.
- Set a goal of holiness, “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” Col 3:1-2.
Be Holy to be Happy, walk in the steps of the Lord. “I know, O LORD, that the way of man is not in himself, that it is not in man who walks to direct his steps.” Jer 10:23.
Yesterday’s sermon was from the chronological reading we are doing as a congregation at Central. There were three main lessons that we learned from Nadab and Abihu and their offering in Leviticus 10. Here are those three lessons.
Lesson One: The Worship of God
- Approach God in Worship Doing only what He Commands.
- This regards God as holy and honored.
- We are presumptuous if we think we know what God wants.
- The Regulative Principle of Worship: 1689 London Baptist Confession:
“But the acceptable way of worshipping the true God, is instituted by Himself, and so limited by His own revealed will, that He may not be worshipped according to the imaginations and devices of men, nor the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representations, or any other way not prescribed in the Holy Scriptures.”
- This principle apply to our singing, the Lord’s Supper, and all of worship.
Lesson Two: Approach God with Respect
- Not only respect His commands (wishes, desires)
- But also with Reverence: Lev 10:3
- Consideration for Who God is:
- We cannot approach God flippantly.
- Respect impacts my
- Attitude toward and in worship
- Attendance and Attention in worship
- Activity in worship
Lesson Three: The Priority of God in my Life
- Mat 6:33
- Mat 10:34-39
- Col 3:1-4
- God and His Will come first!
If you would like to hear the audio file of this lesson it is available HERE: Look for the title “Lessons from Nadab and Abihu”
From deep in the files comes this type writer copy of a poem of unknown origin (I did make some updates for inflation and current culture):
- Funny how twenty dollars looks so big when we take it to church; But so small when we take it to the store
- Funny how long a 60 minutes is when we are at worship; But how short when watching a game, on the computer, or out with friends.
- Funny how laborious it is to read a chapter in the Bible; But how easy it is to read 200 pages of a best selling novel.
- Funny how we cannot think of anything to say when we pray; But do not have any difficulty gossiping about others.
- Funny how we believe everything on social media; But question God’s Word, the Bible.
- Funny how we thrill at overtime at a football or basketball game; But complain when worship extends a few minutes.
- Funny how we need 2 or 3 weeks to fit a church event into our schedule; But have no problem adjusting for other social events at the last minute.
- Funny how people scramble to get a front row seat at a concert; But scramble for the back row in worship.
- Funny, isn’t it? Or is it really funny at all?
I recently had another birthday and that makes me older that many and younger than others. I am old enough that this summer my high school graduating class will
Let’s look into this . . .
hold our 30 Year Reunion. Time truly does fly by. Sometimes I feel like the psalmist, “I have been young, and now I am old . . .” (Psa 37:25). But my years provide me with advantages of experiences and those experiences brought about lessons. Lessons not only from my own experiences but also the experiences of others. Lessons I learned and want to take time to share with you.
- I cannot make someone love me. All I can do is try to be someone who is not difficult to love.
- What we have in life is not as important as who we have in your life.
- We are each responsible for what we do, no matter how we feel.
- Heroes are those that do what has to be done, without regard for how they feel or the consequences.
- Trust builds through the years, but a single second or two can destroy trust.
- A few minutes of mistaken actions can provide a lifetime of heartache.
- We are each in control of our own attitude. We can choose our attitude!
- No matter how good a friend is, we are going to hurt each other on occasions. Forgiveness is essential to life-long friendships (and marriages).
- Along those lines, forgiving others is often easier than forgiving myself.
- Maturity has more to do with attitude, dependability, and being responsible for your life than how many candles were on my last cake.