On Sunday, April 1, we celebrated the bedrock conviction of the Christian faith—Jesus is risen! Yet celebrating Jesus’ resurrection from the dead doesn’t excuse us from reflecting on the significance of Jesus’ death. Indeed, resurrection presupposes death. Consequently, over the last several Wednesday nights we’ve been studying the question of why Jesus had to die in the first place. For those unable to attend the study, I want to provide the key points we covered in hopes of strengthening your faith in our Risen Lord.
1. Jesus died to demonstrate the depth of God’s love. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8, NIV). The desire to be loved is common to the human condition. Among people, however, love is rarely—if ever—unconditional. We might be willing to die for a family member or a loved one, but an evil person? No way! Christ Jesus came to die for sinners, for the least deserving—for you and for me. That’s a quality of love we cannot find in any other source on earth.
2. Jesus died to satisfy the requirements of God’s righteousness. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21, NIV). Our predicament as sinners estranges us from a holy and righteous God. Compared to other people we might think we’re pretty good. But other people are not the ultimate standard of judgment; God, and God alone, is. In order for sinners to be reconciled to a holy God, therefore, a substitute must stand in our place. As our church’s statement of faith puts it, “We believe in salvation by faith in Jesus Christ alone who assumed the judgment due sinners by dying in our place.” Because Jesus, the Righteous One, died in our place, we can be reconciled to a holy and righteous God. The guilt and condemnation of sin no longer has the final word over the believer’s life.
3. Jesus died to defeat death itself. Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death (Hebrews 2:14-15, NIV). Jesus carried out his incarnational mission to its inevitable end, namely, death. He experienced the just penalty for our sin. As the Lord of Life, however, death couldn’t hold him in the grave. The Son of God triumphed over the power of sin, and he has made a way for the believer to experience abundant and everlasting life.
Death has been swallowed up in victory.
Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?
(1 Corinthians 15:54b-55, NIV)
Jesus said, “No one who puts his or her hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62).
As Holy Week approaches, we all have a decision to make. The question is not whether or not we’re ready to celebrate what Easter Sunday signifies. No doubt we all want to share in the jubilant euphoria expressed by “He is risen! He is risen, indeed!” If we believe Jesus has defeated death on our behalf, then who wouldn’t want to follow Jesus into eternal life? But that’s not really the critical question. The question is whether or not we’re willing to follow Jesus on the path that leads to the resurrection.
I have decided to follow Jesus;
No turning back, no turning back.
It would be far easier to jump directly from the parade of Palm Sunday to the empty tomb of Easter. Yet that’s not the path our Savior took. If we’re to follow him, we cannot avoid the Last Supper. Jesus knew full well what it means to obey the Father wholeheartedly, even when such obedience calls for saying goodbye to those you love (cf. Lk. 9:59-60).
Though none go with me, I still will follow;
No turning back, no turning back.
We might even wonder why anyone would choose to commemorate something as seemingly bleak and gory as Good Friday. “Surely,” we may think, “it’s more healthy to stay positive and “ ‘keep on the sunny side, always on the sunny side…’” Yet that’s not the path our Savior took. He didn’t relish the prospect of Calvary’s agony, but he went—for us. Some will allow the concerns and the pleasures of this life keep them from following (Lk. 9:61-62). Will you? Will I?
My cross I’ll carry, till I see Jesus;
No turning back, no turning back.
Some might question why such bloodshed was necessary. Could the Sovereign Lord of the universe not figure out a better way? “After all,” some may say, “are people really that bad off? Sure, no one is perfect, but did Jesus really need to die to reconcile us to God.” Yet that’s not the reality that sent our Savior to the cross. He didn’t approach the cross in hopes of encouraging basically good human beings to live better. Jesus died on the cross because there was no other way to make hopelessly depraved sinners acceptable to a holy and loving God. Some will treat the cross as optional or as a tragic accident of history. What about you? What about me?
The world behind me, the cross before me;
No turning back, no turning back.
As our only sure and certain hope of salvation, Jesus demands more than our shallow celebrations. He calls for radical and unreserved loyalty. Consequently, may the Spirit use our Holy Week services this year to cultivate such discipleship in us.
The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” (Luke 17:5).
How often have you prayed what the apostles asked of Jesus? Like the apostles, we want to rely on faith to carry us through life’s trials and tribulations. Yet we question whether or not we have enough. “Lord,” we might say, “help me to have enough faith to endure this season of pain.” “Help me to have enough faith to remain sane during this season of sadness and uncertainty.” “Help me to have enough faith to withstand the stress produced by this conflict.” No doubt the earnest desire for more faith resonates with most believers.
According to Jesus, however, faith is measured by quality, not quantity. First, Jesus compared faith to a tiny seed: “If you possess faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and the tree will obey you” (Lk. 17:6). Jesus is saying, in effect, stop worrying about whether or not you have enough. Focus on determining whether or not your faith is wholehearted and genuine. Such faith is powerful—powerful enough to deliver you safely on the other side of any season of life.
Second, as Jesus was wont to do, he told a parable about a master and servants. For the sake of argument, he invited his audience to put themselves in the position of a master wealthy enough to afford servants (quite a stretch considering the social status of Jesus’ first followers). When the servants return from completing their tasks, do you think the master will say, “Welcome home! Sit down and make yourself comfortable while I prepare your dinner!”? Of course not, says Jesus! The master will say something like, “Wonderful, you’ve finished plowing and tending the sheep! Now, get in the kitchen and make my dinner the way I like it!” Servants work at the pleasure of their masters, not the other way around. They don’t expect to be rewarded for simply doing their job (Cf. Lk. 17:7-10). Similarly, disciples maintain a firm grasp on where they stand in relation to the Master. They don’t consider themselves more highly than they ought to.
In light of Jesus’ teaching, at least two points of application come into focus: (1) Christian grammar calls for caution when using the word “deserve.” All we deserve, strictly speaking, is the punishment due sinners. Which Scripture clearly affirms to be death (Rom. 3:23). Consequently, beware of “woe is me” thinking when facing hardship or suffering. Receiving God’s grace should exceed any disciple’s wildest dreams. (2) Instead of wringing our hands and fretting about the quantity of our faith, we’re called to be about our Master’s business. Genuine faith will manifest itself in dutiful action performed unconditionally. May the Lord give us such faith as we get to work!
At that time, large crowds were traveling with Jesus. Turning to them, he said, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—indeed, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. Anyone who does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:25-27).
Has this ever happened to you? You’re making a significant purchase or signing a binding contract, either online or in person. It’s time to check a box, make your mark, or otherwise signify your approval. But just above the signature box you notice lines upon lines of miniscule and indecipherable legalese. Even if you could understand it, you know there’s just not enough time to read every word. So, we usually just gloss over it and—for all we know—sign our lives away along with our children and grandchildren!
While this tactic is often utilized with the best of intentions to protect the business with which we’re negotiating, we can’t help but suspect that all the fine print is masking something vitally important. We rightly wonder whether or not someone might be taking advantage of us. And I’m sure you could cite plenty of instances where the fine print came back to bite you or someone you know.
As Jesus was resolutely making his way toward Jerusalem, he noticed that the crowds were quickly multiplying. Maybe they were drawn to his teaching. Maybe they were drawn to his miracles. Maybe they were drawn simply because others were drawn to Jesus, and they wanted to jump on the band wagon. Whatever their reasons, Jesus insisted they all know exactly what they were getting themselves into.
Facing them directly, Jesus said that following him for the sake of rewards was not enough. On the contrary, there would be a cost to pay. Jesus was on his way to lay down his life for the sins of the world. Anyone who would follow him, therefore, must be prepared to do at least two things: (1) love Christ more than anything or anyone else in the world and (2) brace for suffering.
There’s no fine print here. There’s no effort to spin the facts to make them more palatable. Jesus states the cost of finding everlasting life plainly and simply. To follow Jesus is to lay down one’s life for him without exception or qualification. He wants more from us than shallow, lukewarm, and casual obedience. He wants to forgive us, to pour out his grace on us, and to make us holy as he is holy.
As we journey toward Holy Week and Easter this year, may the Spirit lead us to recognize and give thanks for the clarity of Jesus’ call to discipleship. And hearing the call, may we follow wholeheartedly.
In reply the Lord said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things, but only one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the best portion, and it will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:41-42).
“Unbelievable…” thought Martha as shook her head in disgust while frantically jumping around from one task to another. “Jesus has come to our house, and Mary can’t lift one finger to help! Could she be any ruder to our guest? What is she thinking, just sitting there at his feet? And why is Jesus letting her get away with it?” Peeved to the point of exasperation, Martha just couldn’t tolerate such blatant injustice for one more second: “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left all the work for me to do alone? Tell her to help me!”
Surely Jesus’ repetition of her name—“Martha, Martha”—conveys both the tenderness and the urgency of his reply. “I hear you,” says Jesus, in effect. “I know you’re stressed out and overwhelmed. But the furious energy you’re expending is entirely misdirected.” Although his answer is somewhat cryptic—what exactly is the “one thing”?—Jesus is steering Martha toward a more focused understanding of what counts as worthwhile work.
To say we live in an easily distracted culture is patently clichéd. It’s obvious that smart phones, social media, and clickbait marketing have nearly perfected the ancient craft of seizing human attention. Some websites have even developed a complex algorithm to ensure their site is as “sticky” as possible. By aggregating the kinds of topics and products you’ve shown interest in online—an approach drawn from the “deep neural network” concept (just Google it!)—companies seek to keep you “stuck” on their website. It’s a proven strategy.
Yet the overlooked irony in all of these well-known tactics is that it is precisely distractions that are used to hold our attention. To put it bluntly, human nature has a way of gravitating toward junk. Of course, we’d all prefer to believe we’re too shrewd and sophisticated to fall prey to such blatant, lowbrow tricks. But if we’re honest with ourselves, we have to admit we can do lots of things, watch lots of things, read lots of things, and say lots of things without ever really accomplishing anything.
Which brings us back to busy Martha. Jesus isn’t commending Mary for not working; Jesus is highlighting Mary’s priorities. Because of the omnipresence of diversions in our lives we, like Martha, are prone to confuse our busyness—especially busyness conducted on behalf of Jesus—with productive faithfulness. Ultimately, however, Jesus didn’t want the banquet Martha was fretting over. Likewise, Jesus doesn’t want to know how many hours of Christian service we’ve logged. He wants us, all of us—heart, soul, mind, and strength. May God, therefore, help us prioritize our work so that our busyness serves our greatest and highest purpose—“to know God and enjoy Him forever.”
Each Monday, Pastor Dane hosts a lunch for Leesville Road High School students at the TBC Youth House. The lunch on February 6, 2018 had a record crowd of 26 students. Lunch is prepared and served by TBC members Dottie and Errol Fogg and Beth Obenschain.
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Even sinners lend to sinners in order to receive back what was borrowed. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting any repayment. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful (Luke 6:34b-36).
We’re living in especially volatile times. To be sure, every generation faces explosive issues and polarization. Mean-spirited rhetoric and fiery outrage are nothing new. Yet clearly the pendulum has swung in the direction of entrenched animosity. Other than shake our heads in despair, what are we to do? More specifically, what are we to do as Christians?
Probably the easiest option is to pick a side. Isn’t this what the roaring and bombastic voices around us are clamoring for us to do? If we’re to be informed and engaged citizens, then surely we must weigh in and lend our voices to the cantankerous chorus of outrage, right? Unless there’s a better way…
Of all the counter-intuitive, upside-down, and other-worldly things the Lord Jesus ever uttered, his teaching on loving our enemies must rank toward the top. “Tolerate our enemies?” Sure, no problem… “Refrain from violence toward our enemies?” Fine, if we must… “Recognize the humanity of our enemies?” I guess so… But to join together the words “love” and “enemy” just seems ridiculous! Nevertheless, Jesus says his followers are to go so far as to show kindness and mercy toward those who hate us.
On what basis? God the Father—the Most High—shows kindness toward the ungrateful and the wicked. Even though human beings refuse to acknowledge God’s existence and sovereign rule, the Lord gives breath and life. Even though human beings fail to give thanks for every good and perfect gift that comes from above, the Lord provides ongoing nourishment for both the just and the unjust. Even though human beings actively rebel against God and spit upon the abundance of his grace and mercy, the Lord sent God the Son to become one of us. Even though human beings crucified their one and only Savior, God continues to hold out the offer of salvation from his righteous judgement. Indeed, God is kind to the wicked.
So, in the midst of today’s pervasive hostility and vitriol, what are we to do? Although we will have our opinions and although we will sometimes need to speak our opinions, we will always strive to ensure our attitudes reflect the kindness of our loving heavenly Father. Take heart, no matter how bad it may seem out there, nothing and no one can ever take our Lord off the throne of grace. Confident of that truth, may we also show kindness to all.
Since many have attempted to set down an orderly account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were passed on to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, I too decided, after researching everything carefully from the very first, to write an accurate and orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught (Luke 1:1-4).
Ready or not, 2018 is in full swing. The warm and fuzzy afterglow of Christmas has faded away. The ball in Times Square has dropped. The daily grind to fulfill obligations, meet deadlines, and check off responsibilities has resumed at full tilt. As a result, we might legitimately question the validity of all those glorious promises we celebrated at Christmas—“Where is this Savior who has been born to us? Where is this peace on earth? ‘Good will’ you say? Bah humbug!” Christmas was wonderful, but the world seems to have transitioned into 2018 with just as many difficulties as we saw in 2017. So what difference did Christmas make?
Enter the Gospel according to Luke. The Apostle Paul’s beloved physician seeks to assure Theophilus (an otherwise unknown Christian reader) that he hasn’t been handed a bill of goods. On the contrary, Theophilus can have certainty regarding what he had been taught about Jesus. Even though human history and its manifold problems continued beyond Jesus’ time on earth, what Jesus accomplished in his death and resurrection remains available throughout all generations. The key for Theophilus, and for us today, is to follow the unbreakable chain—link by link—all the way back to the Savior. Or, to use a more contemporary image, we can visualize clicking on one hyperlink after another until we arrive back at the original source—Christ Jesus himself!
Certainty comes from recognizing that the same Jesus who, according to the Apostles’ Creed, was “born of the Virgin Mary” and who “suffered under Pontus Pilate” also calls us to follow him in 2018. Like Luke and like Theophilus, we weren’t there to hear Jesus preach. We weren’t there to see him calm the storm. We never had an opportunity to follow him as he walked upon the water… But we do have the chain that links us to those who saw it all firsthand. We weren’t there to recline with him in the upper room. We weren’t there to witness his crucifixion for the sins of the world. We never had an opportunity to check out the empty tomb for ourselves… But we do have the chain that links us to those who first saw and believed.
May the same Spirit who inspired Luke to write, and who preserved the Scriptures for us to read today, link together “the faith once for all delivered to the saints” and our lives in 2018. And may we, like Theophilus, have certainty about what we’ve been taught.
When the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, so that we might receive adoption to sonship (Galatians 4:4-5).
By all appearances, Christmas and New Year’s would seem to have nothing in common. Christmas, at least for most Americans, looks like opening festively wrapped presents beside a tree decorated with bright lights and ornaments. It involves singing about snow, Santa, reindeer, the manger, the angels, the shepherds, and the Wise Men. New Year’s, on the other hand, typically looks like postponing sleep to enjoy raucous parties and nostalgic ceremonies, such as watching the ball drop in Times Square. While the Christmas tree may be present for both, Christmas and New Year’s differ drastically in terms of atmosphere, sounds, and traditions.
Nevertheless, in the providence of God, Christmas and New Year’s fall within close proximity to each other. To be sure, diverse historical contingencies contributed to our Gregorian calendar and its placement of Christmas on December 25. Yet the Scriptures show us time and time again how the Sovereign Lord of the universe commandeers the warp and woof of history to accomplish His ultimate purposes. Consequently, it would be a mistake on our part to overlook the relationship between Christmas and New Year’s.
As Paul reminded the Galatians, we measure time by Christ’s life. The time designations BC (“Before Christ”) and AD (Anno Domini=“Year of Our Lord”) hold a sacred significance for Christians—the secularizing trend toward using BCE (“Before the Common Era”) and CE (“Common Era”) notwithstanding. Unlike many other cultures, both ancient and modern, we don’t measure time by leaders or events (e.g. “In the eighth year of so and so’s reign…” or “In the tenth year since the battle of such and such…”). On the contrary, we believe time must be counted, weighed, and determined by Immanuel’s entrance into our finite sphere of existence. The world is qualitatively different because at just the right moment “God sent his son, born of a woman, born under the law,” for us and for our salvation.
So, what does Christmas have to do with New Year’s? Although we celebrate them in different ways, the two holidays enable us to approach the future with hope. Because Christ has come into our world, we need not hear the ever-ticking clock of time with despair and cynicism. That sound signifies another moment, another year, lived “in the year of our Lord.” Christmas shows us who holds the future—and the New Year—in His hands.
May we, therefore, approach 2018 joyfully and hopefully. Happy New Year!
And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked upon the humble state of his servant” (Luke 1:46-48a).
Are you in the Christmas spirit yet? What’s your usual technique? Sometimes we take the sacred ritual approach — watching a sentimental movie, dining on some annually-craved comfort food, and reminiscing about Christmases of yesteryear as treasured decorations are unpacked and nostalgically positioned. Sometimes we utilize the giving approach — donating to worthwhile charities, picking out the perfect gifts for friends and loved ones, and baking treats that never disappoint. At still other times we try the bonding approach — overlooking past grievances, spending quality time with family and friends, and nurturing the relationships we hold dear. Whatever it takes for you, the goal is the same for us all — to reach a heightened sense of contentment, generosity, and happiness. In short, we all want some warm and fuzzy feelings this Christmas.
If you haven’t yet enjoyed such bliss this season, I sincerely hope you will. But I also hope you’ll join me in praying for something more steadfast and sure. As much as we’d all like to permanently bask in the glow of Christmas merriment, here’s a harsh spoiler alert: eventually the Hallmark channel will return to its regular programming (broadcasting uplifting tear-jerkers without the holiday glee), the decorations will need to come down and be put away, and bleak winter conditions will persist for months to come. Then what?
You might be thinking, “Oh come on, can’t we just savor Christmas without being reminded of how quickly it comes and goes?” Trust me, I’m really not trying to be a Scrooge. I just believe God wants more for us than fading joy. God wants us to experience a joy that flourishes throughout all seasons. Even though such joy may lack fading joy’s glitz and glamor, flourishing joy brings infinitely more happiness since it derives from the Infinite God.
So how can we have flourishing joy? Mary’s exuberant testimony shows us that the difference between fading joy and flourishing joy hinges on one word, namely, Savior. While fading joy depends upon our ability to create something for ourselves — a mindset, an emotional state, an experience — flourishing joy depends upon whether or not we receive the baby in the manger as Immanuel, God with us and God for us. So may God save us from our frenzied — and ultimately fruitless — efforts to turn happiness into something we can achieve. Instead, like Mary, may we receive Christ as our source of joy and well-being. And may God grant you and your family a Merry Christmas marked by joy that flourishes long after December 25!
On Sunday, December 3, the TBC Children’s Choir presented “Jingle Bell Beach” to a large audience of parents, grandparents, other relatives, and friends. The musical was directed by Paige Williamson and Katy Moore, with Jonathan Moore and Dale Williamson handling the soundboard. Afterward, everyone was invited to a pancake supper prepared by Ernie and Meghan Rushing and Dane Hadley.
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How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good reports, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns” (Isaiah 52:7).
This verse is simultaneously stirring and puzzling. Since we all seem to be continually confronted with bad news, we can’t help but resonate with the image of someone who has good news to share—news of peace and salvation. Such a reality, we no doubt think, is a beautiful thing to consider. In fact, we might just be able to look beyond our present circumstances when we consider the beauty of peace, salvation, and the proclamation that God reigns.
Yet before we pursue that train of thought too far, let’s notice what the verse actually describes as beautiful: “How beautiful upon the mountain are the feet…” Feet, you say? First, how could feet be beautiful, especially when compared to the lofty ideals described in the verse? Secondly, why would we discuss feet in preparing for the Advent season?
Let’s take a look at the broader context. To deliver his message of hope to Israel on the backend of exile, the prophet seems to be picturing a besieged city. Surrounding the city are hostile forces scheming their next assault. Inside the city are citizens battered by the ravages of war. While most of the inhabitants hunker down and brace for the enemy’s attack, a few watchmen courageously stand their ground on the city’s walls. Suddenly, in the distance, a running messenger comes into view. Despite the obstacles in his way—uneven, mountainous terrain and sharp rocks—the messenger doesn’t relent. He maintains a steady yet vigorous pace as he makes his way toward the city. Before he even utters a word, the watchmen can tell by his buoyancy that he brings good news—news of peace and salvation! God himself has arrived to save them (cf. Is. 52:7-12).
For those who find themselves feeling overwhelmed, burdened, afraid, discouraged, and hopeless the mere sight of a messenger bringing good news—indeed, even the messenger’s feet!—can be seen as beautiful. Are you looking for such a messenger this Advent season? Take a few moments to stop worrying about whether or not all the Christmas decorations are up, put aside your shopping list temporarily, and focus on the beauty revealed by Christ’s arrival. The birth of Jesus demonstrates that God himself has come to bring peace and salvation, to say, “Your God reigns!” Likewise, consider who in your life right now—family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, etc.—might need to hear about this good news from you. And may we all grow in our appreciation for the beauty of both the message and the messenger.
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).
Thanksgiving is almost here. Alongside feasting with friends and family, this time of year moves us to take stock of our lives. We assess the good, the bad, and the ugly. We try to look for the silver lining. Usually, though not always, we can identify at least a handful of elements in our lives that inspire gratitude. Harmonious family dynamics, trustworthy companionship, good health, vocational fulfillment, and/or meaningful pursuits can each lead us to give thanks. Even when one of these life variables is missing or uncertain, we still attempt—even if for just one day—to look on the sunny side. We realize not all of our circumstances are ideal, but we strive to look for the more favorable circumstances whenever we can.
How different is the urging of the Apostle Paul to “give thanks in all circumstances”? All circumstances? Really? Surely we are not to give thanks for dysfunctional family dynamics, loneliness, sickness, vocational confusion, or an overwhelming sense of hopelessness, right? What could Paul possibly mean? To look on the bright side of things is one thing; to give thanks “in all circumstances” is another matter entirely. Was Paul simply out of touch with reality?
Take another look at what Paul said. He presses us to give thanks in all circumstances, not for all circumstances. Far from being out of touch, Paul came to know the full range of human circumstances during his lifetime: “For I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to have scarcity, and I know what it is to have abundance” (Philippians 4:11b-12a). The secret? “I can do all this through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). For Paul, gratitude wasn’t merely an exercise in trying to see his cup as half full. Instead, Paul recognized that because Christ reigns victoriously as our Risen Savior we have an unshakable hope— “an anchor for the soul, firm and secure”
(Hebrews 6:19a). Jesus lives, and there is no putting Him back in the tomb. Because He lives and reigns, moreover, “we have strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow.”
Whatever your life is like this Thanksgiving, hear the Spirit’s summons to rejoice, pray, and give thanks in all circumstances. In Christ Jesus we can receive the grace to be forgiven, the strength to endure, and a hope that transcends this life. So may God richly bless your time with family and friends this Thanksgiving, and may we all fulfill God’s will for us in Christ Jesus by giving thanks in all circumstances.
Naomi said, “Look, your sister-in-law is going back to her people and her gods. Follow her. But Ruth said,
“Do not urge me to leave you or turn away from you. For where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God (Ruth 1:15-16).
Who doesn’t love convenience? From gadgets and appliances to schedules and travel, we all seek out whatever happens to be most convenient for us. Regrettably, however, we often apply the same desire for convenience to our spiritual lives. We’ll do whatever Christ asks us to do—as long as it doesn’t cause us any inconvenience! Consider the times when Jesus called individuals to follow him, and he got responses like “Lord, first let me go and bury my father” or “Lord, first let me go say goodbye to my family” (cf. Luke 9:57-62). Such individuals were perfectly willing to follow Jesus as long as they could do so on their terms.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with convenience, but we need to beware of how it can insidiously become an idol that encroaches on our commitment to follow Christ unreservedly. To prevent this danger from creeping into our discipleship and causing us to love comfort more than Christ, we are aided by studying the exemplary commitment revealed in Ruth.
1. Commitment is a choice.
After Naomi, Ruth’s mother-in-law, had lost her husband and two sons, she decided the only course of action was to return to her home in Judah and absolve her two Moabite daughters-in-law of all obligations toward her. Naomi believed she couldn’t possibly ask them to leave behind their homeland, their families, their cultures, and their gods. Nevertheless, Ruth and her sister-in-law, Orpah, loved Naomi so much that they chose to remain with her no matter what inconveniences lay ahead (1:10).
2. Sometimes, it’s a lonely choice.
Naomi recognized the gravity of their choice and urged Ruth and Orpah to consider the fact that they would probably never marry again in Judah. While Orpah turned back, Ruth remained steadfast in her commitment to Naomi—even when she was the only one still standing (1:11-15).
3. It’s a choice tested by time.
Regardless of the inconvenience and the potential loneliness, Ruth wholeheartedly cast her lot with Naomi (1:16-17). The sincerity of such a commitment can only be revealed over time. It’s one thing to make a commitment under a certain set of circumstances. It another thing entirely to make a commitment regardless of circumstances (e.g. the traditional wedding vows, “For better for worse, for richer for poorer…”).
May Ruth’s commitment to Naomi reflect our prayer to Christ, especially when we become spiritually tired and disheartened. May the Spirit lead us to choose commitment over convenience.
Our annual Fall Festival is for people of all ages, and we always expect great attendance by children. This year we also had several youth and many adults join the fun. And, of course, we had lots of games, food, prizes and prize winners.
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Some of our prize winners:
Our annual Homecoming Celebration included special music by our guest instrumentalists, the Handbell Choir, the Chapel Choir, and our Minister of Music Ernie Rushing. Our Pastor Dane Hadley led the Children’s Message and Dr. John Allen, a former pastor of Tabernacle, provided the morning sermon. A luncheon followed, and we were pleased to reconnect with many former members and friends of our church. Many thanks to the Homecoming Committee for their planning and preparations for this happy occasion!
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