A new home…

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We’re moving.  No, not physically moving, but virtually moving.  “The Home Connection” blog is moving off of WordPress to a new location.  Be sure to check it out starting this Sunday, April 5th! 

The Home Connection

We’ll have a blog just for marriages- Marriage is…?  We have a blog just for our parents- Parents blog.  And we even have a blog page just for weekly, family devotions- Family Connection.

I hope you’ll join us at our new home, and we can continue the journey together!

The lost has been found

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I was in a conversation the other day with a trusted friend, and we began to discuss the parable of the prodigal son. This is our sermon text for our mid-week worship this week.  So, I invite you to turn to Luke 15.  Take a few minutes and read through all three parables.

In our conversation, I had a realization, spurned on by my friend’s pointing it out to me..  It was one of those realizations that I’ve always known, but for whatever reason, it hit me again.  As you read through all three parables, did you hear it?  The celebration that happens is because something that belonged to each these individuals has been returned to them.  They didn’t lose something they never had.  They lost something they cherished.  They lost something that meant something to them.

What is something you’ve lost that actually meant a great deal to you?  Last year, in 2014, I lost 2 pairs of prescription sunglasses in a matter of 5 months.  Two pairs.  I loved them both very much.  They were dark enough that the sun did not give me a headache, but not so dark that I couldn’t see as the day went on.  I spent a great deal of time looking for them, and to be honest, still do.  I realize, this may seem trivial to you, but to me, these sunglasses are extremely important.  Without them, I can’t drive for long periods during the day because of headaches, or I can’t work out in my yard without getting headaches.  The clip-ons that I now wear, because of their less expensive price tag, do okay.  But, they don’t do as my prescription sunglasses did.  And for this reason, I continue to seek out these lost pairs of sunglasses.

You see, that’s what Jesus was trying to portray in these parables.  What is something that you have lost that you continue to seek, even if it’s been a while?  I think, because of the society in which we live, this desire to find what’s been lost is, well, lost on us.  I could easily go out and buy a new pair of prescription sunglasses, but I really liked the pair I had, the first time…and the second time.  The woman could have given up on finding one coin in the midst of her dirt floor, but she didn’t.  The shepherd could have counted his losses from one sheep, but he didn’t.  The father could have given up on his son, but he didn’t.  And even when he came back, he didn’t make him earn his way back into the family.

That’s the love of our Father to us.  It’s a love that never stops seeking after us.  It’s a love that never gives up on us.  It’s a love that did everything that was necessary so that we could be again, called His children, without having to earn our place in His family.  It’s a love that endured a cross and a grave so that He could say of each of us, “…this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” Luke 15:32 NIV.

A new day is dawning…

 

 

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I usually get to the office on Sunday mornings early enough to catch the sunrise.  The middle of the summer when the sunrises before 6:15 in NC is about the only time of the year that I’m not there to catch it.  I even make it a point to walk across campus to do whatever I do need to do to catch scenes like the one above.  I love watching the sun rise across our campus, especially right behind our area known as the 3-Crosses, for obvious reasons. 

As we get well into week 4 of Lent, we are getting closer to the end of Lent, closer to the darkest moment in the life of God’s people, when God Himself, in the flesh, took on the sins of the world and took our death as His own, but also the most glorious moment in the life of God’s people, when the women, and the disciples, found the tomb empty on Easter morning!

See, we focus on the sacrifice of Christ during the season of Lent, but always in the context of the resurrection.  As Paul even says, without the resurrection, our faith is in vain.  We have no hope without the resurrection.  Death is still death, except for the fact that it doesn’t have the final say in our lives, there is everlasting life that we still have to enjoy!  Death is not the end. 

That’s why I love to watch the sun rise over our campus on Sunday mornings.  In the life of the church, of any church, there are moments of darkness and struggle, moments when it would seem things just are not going to get better.  But every Sunday, as I watch the sun rise across our campus, I remember there is always hope, the night will not last forever, a new day is dawning.  It’s a hope that can’t be taken away.  After all, even on a cloudy day, I know the sun still rises, even if I can’t see it. 

I don’t know what your Lenten season has been like.  Maybe its been one of a great deal of self-reflection, meditation and prayer.  Maybe it’s been one of celebration, or one of great sadness.  But, because of the resurrection that we will again celebrate in full array just a couple weeks from now, I know that a new day is coming, there is hope that things will get better, things will change.  As I even pray with those I go to visit, our Lord’s mercies are new every morning.  If anything, the season of Lent should remind us that even in the darkest moment in the lives of God’s people, there’s always reason to hope, there’s always a reason to rejoice.  It was in the death of Christ that our sins were forgiven.  It was in His resurrection that we have been given everlasting life. 

I hope that you’re able to enjoy a sunrise this week…even if you’re up out of obligation and not by choice.  Grab your cup of coffee, tea, or whatever you drink, and soak it in.  A new day is dawning. 

Slipping Away

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These are my footprints on a local trail about 5 days after it had rain.  Yes, it had rained enough that it was that slippery. I wish I could say this was the only hill I did this one, but it wasn’t.  I just had to keep hiking though to make it back to my car. 

We’re are walking through the season of Lent together, a season of contemplation and reflection, a season where we remember the sacrifice our Savior paid for each of us on the Cross, and of course, His beautiful resurrection that always gives us hope.  Many of us have given up something, or tried to do something, for the season of Lent- like refusing to drink coffee/cokes/etc…or maybe actually doing our devotions on a daily basis, or keeping a daily faith journal, or something to that affect.  And this post isn’t about whether we should give something up or not, or whether we should include something in our routine.  That’s a faith conversation to be had before the season of Lent begins. 

This is about what many of us have certainly experienced by now- failure.  If you gave something up, how long did you last?  Or, if you were trying to add something to your routine, how long was it before you missed it one day?  Or two? Or three, four?

My wife and I have been working through a daily couples’ devotion, written specifically for ministry couples, during this season of Lent on Romans 8.  We did great for about a week, but then, life got in the way.  You see, my 10 month old doesn’t always stay asleep after she puts him down.  I don’t always have energy after coming home from an evening of meetings.  Sometimes we really just want to turn the T.V. on veg-out before we decide it’s time for us to lay down. 

Romans 5:1-8 was the Epistle lesson assigned a couple weeks ago, and I would invite you to turn to it now.  Go ahead and read it. 

Notice where Paul starts this part of the conversation- with our justification in Jesus Christ, His death and resurrection.  That’s important.  We start everything we do as children of God in the justification we have in Jesus Christ.  If we don’t, we tend to look to ourselves, our own successes, or our own failures, instead of to what Christ has already done for us.  Then, Paul begins to look at those times we seem to fail, or things don’t go as they should. 

We don’t talk about perseverance when life is going great.  We talk about it when we are struggling.  We don’t talk about building character when everything is swell, we talk about character forming in the challenges of life.  So, what Paul is doing here is not anything new-except to frame it in the justification that we already have in Jesus Christ. 

This is why Paul can say these things (perseverance and character) can lead to hope.  Not because our hope rest in our ability to endure, but because it rest in what has already been secured in Jesus Christ. 

So, if you’re like me, and your Lenten efforts have already slipped, or you’ve already given up…take heart.  Your justification is secure in Jesus Christ, there is still hope.  There is always hope in Jesus Christ.  No matter how many times you may slip, keep pushing forward.  The end goal is already promised, so in the mean time, “…perserverance produces character, and character, hope.  And hope does not disappoint us because God has poured his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given to us.” (NIV). 

Being made new

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I love to watch the snow fall.  I can sit by the window for hours and just want it come down and cover everything.  To me, there is just something so overwhelmingly beautiful about it.  But, I also know, for a lot of people, watching the snow come down brings a sense of frustration or nervousness- usually because they have to get out in the snow the following day.

It’s also interesting to me that something so beautiful can really cause such a mess.  In areas where snow just continues to pile up, the melt and run-off can actually cause severe flooding.  Or, in areas where snow is a rare occurrence, it can be a major factor in accidents and injuries.

But, that seems to be the case with a lot of things in this life, in this fallen world.  I was reflecting on this last night as I walked home for our Wednesday evening worship service.  During the season of Lent, as Christians, we take the time to reflect and remember our sinfulness, our need for a savior to rescue us and redeem us, and the price our Savior did pay to do exactly that.  As a child of God, this time of reflection is a good reminder, it seems to strengthen my faith in the love of my God, and His promises to me.

Still, there’s that passage from Paul to the Corinthians that says the Cross (and the empty tomb), will actually seem like foolishness to those who do not believe.  Much like snow is beautiful and stunning to some, and miserable to others.  The message of the Gospel seems ridiculous and useless to those who do not believe- but for those of us who do believe, it is joy and hope!

What causes such different reactions?  For us, its the work of the Spirit on our hearts and minds, shaping our understanding of God and His Son Jesus Christ, shaping our understanding of who we are in His presence.  The season of Lent reminds us that apart from the work of God in our lives, this would all seem ridiculous and foolish.  But, because of the work of God in our lives, it seems so beautiful and amazing that our God would do such a thing for each of us- that He would sacrifice His Son on the Cross and raise Him from the dead for our salvation.

Snow is so beautiful to me because it seems to highlight God’s creation in a way that doesn’t happen in other seasons.  You seem to notice every branch.  You can hear the birds chirping just a little more, and the glow of the sun is that much brighter.  Lent is a season that does the same thing for our faith as we turn our focus to the way our Savior walked for our own salvation.

The beginning of contemplation

Tomorrow marks the start of a new season in the Church year- Lent.  And it starts with a worship service in which we are strongly reminded that “dust you are, and to dust you shall return.” (Gen. 3:19).  It’s not typical for us to start a season of the Church year, or even our worship services on such a somber note.  But, the season of Lent is a reality check for us as the people of God, redeemed in Christ Jesus.

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For the 40 days during Lent (note: Sundays are referred to as ‘in Lent’ because they are not actually counted as part of the 40 days) we turn our hearts and minds to the Cross, as Jesus did in the final chapters of the Gospels.  In the Gospels, there is a distinct point in the reading, where it becomes very obvious that Jesus has His mind focused on the Cross, on what is about to come.  In Matthew its when He begins to predict the death of the Son of Man, similar in Mark.  Luke actually speaks of Jesus turning His face to Jerusalem.  This is significant for us.  Especially in light of what Jesus said about Himself, that He didn’t come for the righteous but for the unrighteous.  He came for us.

This season of the Church year is a reality check because we are reminded of what it took for us to become “redeemed, children of God.”  It wasn’t the magic waving of a stick, or even just a simple word being spoken.  It took the sacrifice of our Lord, on a Cross, dying as we should have died, all so He could reconcile us back to Himself.  It took our Savior doing what only He could do.

But see, even as much of a reality check as the season of Lent may be in the fact that it reminds us of our need for a Savior, it also reminds us of the reality that He did die on the Cross, but that He also rose from the dead.  Yes, we “bury” the alleluias from our singing during this season, we focus more on confession and repentance, but we do so knowing the joy that is at the end of these 40 days.  Our Savior did die for our sinfulness, but He also rose for our eternal life.  This is the reality we now live in.

So, over these next 40 days I would invite you to contemplate the sacrifice of our Savior as we walk together in the season of Lent, but also remember, this is only 1 season of the Church year, this is a time of repentance and contemplation because this is a season of our Church year that reminds us…the best is yet to come!

Open doors to neighboring

Well, we’ve made it to week 5 in our series based on the book, The Art of Neighboring.  This week’s focus in on “Open Doors”.  I would invite you to listen to the sermon from Sunday…

 

Open Doors

 

So, who might be the person God is placing in your life that you can dive both feet into the relationship?  It’s important to realize that this never means you ignore or forget the person behind a closed door.  But, it’s God who opens the doors to a person’s heart, not us.  So, in following His command to love our neighbor, we patiently wait for the opportunity that may come when He does open the door to somebody’s heart, and we can show them the love of Christ that we have come to know so well.  But, for those doors that are already open, we love them as Christ loves us- a love that causes our cups to overflow.  God’s blessings as you continue to love your neighbor and bridge your heart to theirs.