I’m not really a pet person. I don’t necessarily dislike pets or animals in general, but I’m very content to live without a pet. Even then, there was something about this dog story that drew me in.
The story goes that a 7-year old German shepherd in Italy named Tommy used to accompany his owner Maria to church every day. Maria was faithful to go to pray every morning when the church bell rang, and Tommy joined her each time. Sadly, Tommy’s owner died late last year. Even though she is gone, apparently the German shepherd continues to show up every morning when the church bell rings. While I would not go so far as to say Tommy has become accustomed to prayer in the mornings and won’t miss it now, it is clear that this dog longs to be with his master.
Your alarm clock rings most mornings, just like that church bell in Italy rings every morning. When it rings, do you immediately long to be with your Master? The psalmist said, “My voice You shall hear in the morning, O LORD; in the morning I will direct it to You, and I will look up.” (Psalm 5:3)
Whether one admits it or not, each of us has a yearning within to worship. The Eternal God is worthy of our worship and praise. Wake up each day with a desire to worship and serve your Master.
In the darkest hour of the night Joseph Schaitberger wiped the tears from his eyes as memories flooded his soul. How heavy was his heart! He can still hear his wife's final plea from her deathbed whispering for him to rescue their two daughters. Exiled. Removed from their homeland of Salzburg in 1679 by the harsh edict signed by Archbishop Max Gandolph. All because they were protestants. A people yearning for the light of truth. Inspired by Martin Luther and his 95 Theses the fire was lit, igniting the eternal flames of faith. That Gospel torch now burned brightly in the hearts of so many families.
Yet, the Archbishop embarked on a campaign of religious “cleanliness” to rid the country of heretics. Those deemed leaders of the movement were promptly arrested and forced into hard labor for 45 days. Many were sent to be re-educated to Catholicism. Many were investigated by Jesuits. A thousand protestants would be exiled before this event was over. At this point Joseph recalled standing before the Archbishop who demanded he recant his faith or face exile. For added emphasis Joseph's two daughters were taken away under threats he would never see them again unless he recant.
Yet the answer was clear and sure.
No compromise. No recant. The decision was costly and bittersweet. Exiled. He never forgot his wife's deathbed plea. Three perilous attempts to rescue his daughters were foiled by the authorities. Faith demands a heavy price. Yet, God’s word never comes back void.
With trembling hand Joseph pens the conclusion of his song “Hymn of Comfort for an Exile”:
“Though I go forth to poverty, For Christ's sake, I am going,
And see in heaven, reserved for me, A crown with glory glowing.
Forth from my home I now must go: My children! Must I leave them?
0 God! my tears in anguish flow—Shall I no more receive them?
My God conduct me to a place, Though in some distant nation,
Where I may have thy glorious word, And learn thy great salvation.
And though in this dark vale of tears, I yet awhile must tarry,
I know that thou to heaven, at length, My ransomed soul will carry!”
After researching the above history of my ancestors, the Salzburgers, I am reminded of a people willing to face exile, moved by the eternal flames of faith. In fact, 50/60 years later Leopold Anton Eleutherius Freiherr von Firmian signs the Edict of Expulsion giving protestants a choice to recant their faith or be exiled. Close to 30,000 were uprooted from their homeland.
They were unwilling to compromise.
We live in a world today that is hostile in many ways to Jesus and his followers. China, Iran, North Korea and in other areas of the world faith in Jesus Christ invites hatred, persecution and injustices. Threads of this hostility are felt even here in America. Will I cave? Will I compromise? What will I, what will you do to keep your family intact? Will you do anything to keep from being scorned or branded a heretic or worse?
So Jesus answered and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel’s, who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time—houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions—and in the age to come, eternal life.” Mark 10:29-30
My ancestors left a message in time captured in the beginning of the "Hymn of Comfort for an Exile": “All a wretched exile here—Thus mast my name be given—
From native land and all's that dear, For God's word, I am driven.
Full well I know, Lord Jesus Christ, Thy treatment was no better:
Thy follower I now will be; To do thy will I'm debtor.”
The eternal flames of faith still burn brightly.
“And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full. And he (Jesus) was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake him, and say unto him, Master, carest thou not that we perish? And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.” Mark 4:37-39
We thank you, Lord, for coming and getting in the boat with us as we are going through powerful storms in the World, in our Nation and in our spiritual, emotional, physical, personal and financial lives.
·Spiritual Battles: We ask for Your protection spiritually as we fight the Devil and his minions as we choose to honor You with our lives each day.
·Physical Battles: We ask for Your protection from the current physical challenges and the COVID-19 virus.
·Financial Battles: We ask for Your protection and help for Your children that are struggling with job situations and the roller-coaster of the economy.
When the wind and the storms arise, no matter what the situation, You are in the boat with us and You are the Master of the Storms. You, O Lord, control the wind and waves. You are the Prince of Peace. We are powerless, Lord, but You, O Lord, are the Creator of the Universe and the Master of all things.
Thank you, Lord, for travelling with us during the storms of our lives: You would not have brought us to it, if You weren’t going to bring us through it.
We laud and magnify Your name and Your faithfulness and Your Shepherding of Your flock.
You are the same yesterday, today and forever. You are the Rock of Our Salvation: Thank you for being the Master of the Storms and that we can trust in You and lean on the everlasting arms of Jesus, Our Lord and Savior.
In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
First impressions mean everything.
When you walk into a business how you are treated in those first twenty seconds makes all the difference in the world. That initial moment is revealing. Questions are answered. Do they care? Will my needs be met? Will I have access to all available benefits? Are they just looking for numbers or do they genuinely care for me?
The first twenty seconds are a game changer for any business. Those precious seconds will mean the difference in the customer coming back or never walking through your doors again.
Even deeper than that there is plenty of research that suggests that judgments based on facial appearance plays a powerful role in how we treat others and how we get treated in return. Think about it. Your body language plays a critical role in a conversation. Your presentation and facial expression matters. Just ask any husband and wife. Those dynamics are real and powerful.
What happens when people are visiting your website? People will judge your website in matters of seconds. What they see matters. In, clutter here, sloppy there, and they will be gone forever. What you value matters. Is your marketing shabby? If you don’t care why should they?
Does any of this have an impact on the church?
You bet. The first twenty seconds a visitor or family walks through the doors of your church building will leave an everlasting impression. Will they connect? Will they leave and never come again? We should sit up and take notice. Souls are at stake.
A few things we all need to consider as a church-family:
1. Image means everything.
2. A golden opportunity.
3. Jesus is the reason.
Image means everything. Even more than the looks of our building the visitor is immediately impacted by your body language and facial expressions.
Do you want friends? Well, you must have a friendly spirit (Proverbs 18:24). That spirit is expressed in your body language. The words you speak will be impactful (Proverbs 25:11). The timeliness and choice of your words will be critical (Proverbs 15:23). Choose your words carefully. Maintain a caring and friendly disposition.
This may be the last time you meet this person.
Whether or not this is their first visit or just a one on one meeting, this is a golden opportunity. Value that moment. Think of Philip in Acts 8:30 when the Holy Spirit pointed him in the direction of the Ethiopian eunuch. He ran! What joy! What eagerness! What an opportunity! He didn’t want to waste any more time. Relish the opportunity and give your visitor or guest your full attention (Psalms 118:24). Redeem the time (Colossians 4:5).
Jesus is the reason!
This is why the church has come together! Jesus is the connection. Be thankful and joyful (Colossians 3:17). Jesus is the standard for why you do what you do. Jesus expressed the greatest joy ever in fulfilling his Father’s will to rescue the souls of humanity (Hebrews 12:2). He was and is the greatest example of a grateful attitude. He honored God without complaining. So on those days when you would rather not pull your own weight or feel a tinge of complaint or feel a little down, think of Jesus. You are introducing them to the light that shines brightly in you, right?
Twenty seconds in comparison to say 60 minutes may seem unworthy of our attention. But those precious seconds can leave a lasting impression. As the Lord’s church we should and can give those powerful moments our best effort. Let’s remember that image means everything, that we are presented with a golden opportunity, and that Jesus is the reason.
1 Corinthians 15:12 “But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?”
We are living in a culture that is intolerant of tolerance. Most people are afraid of offending someone especially in regards to faith in Jesus Christ. Our first impulse today is to tread lightly and if you are asked about your faith, water it down and cause no waves whatsoever. We are less likely to speak the truth for fear of being labeled as mean-spirited or judgmental. Yet, the Resurrection of Jesus Christ cuts through the minutia of cultural norms and demands our attention.
The Resurrection of Jesus begs the question- should it matter to you? Yes, and here is why.
The Resurrection of Jesus Christ is the basis of four crucial truths:
What you believe matters.
Different ideas and philosophies are vying for your attention. The light of the resurrected savior shines forth, a strong beacon in this dark and dreary world for the lost desperate soul yearning for something greater, ever present, ever ready to save and transform.
To learn more about these wonderful truths join us for our Gospel Meeting. For more information regarding this meeting go to normanchurch.com
At the start of it all, God the King made a perfect world in which humans, as the caretakers of the Earth, would live in perfect harmony with their creator. He placed the first humans, Adam and Eve, in the Garden of Eden and gave them instructions about how to live. He told them to “be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28). Humans were to populate the Earth. He told them to “subdue [the earth]; and have dominion over [all of its creatures]” (Genesis 1:28). They were to be stewards of the planet. Finally, he warned them not to eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:17). With all of the earth before them, they were only restricted from eating the fruit of one tree.
To the dismay of all who would come later, a mysterious serpent manages to deceive the woman Eve. She and her husband eat of the forbidden fruit and change the course of the world forever. Though they had been told not to eat the fruit, the serpent enticed them by saying that they could become just like God. All they had to do was take a bite. And they did. God is immediately aware of what they did and exiles them from the Garden. No longer will God and humans live in harmony.
Adam and Eve wanted to take God’s place by deciding what is right and wrong. Though God had established the law, they rejected it. As John wrote, “Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness” (1 John 3:4). To sin is to act according to our own law, instead of God’s. That is an essential understanding of what it means when we sin. We are trying to take the place of God. Unsatisfied with our place as stewards, we rebel against the great King. Ascending the mountain and gunning for the throne, we demand authority. We think we could do better. In its most fundamental sense, that is what it means to sin. It is rebellion. It is mutiny.
When a human first demands that throne, they become a sinner. They have rejected God and He has taken note. The record of this person’s sin in God’s mind is a permanent record. Without statute of limitations, it remains etched on their soul as a part of their identity. No longer can they be defined as human. They are now defined as sinner.
Not only does this identification reflect a record of past rebellion, it also reflects the rebellious nature of the person. The sinner is the person who “makes a practice of sinning” (1 John 3:4, italics added). Just as a cat who once found milk in a bowl on the front porch of a kind stranger will come back again and again, the sinner who once has tasted the excitement of sin will return to seek the throne again. The title sinner describes the way a person lives the same way the title traveler can describe someone’s lifestyle. The traveler is a person who goes from place to place, always looking for new experiences. They want to see new states, new countries. Always on the road or in the air, they are known to their friends as a traveler. It is natural to understand them as such because their lifestyle fits the title. So it is with the sinner. Their life is defined by the continuous breaking of God’s law. It has become second nature to them.
Finally, a sinner is a person exiled from the presence of God. Adam and Eve were kicked out of the Garden because of their sin (Genesis 3:24). At that point, their relationship with God was strained. Every sinner experiences that same reality. Parents lament the distance that grows between themselves and their children when their children become rebellious. Much the same, God laments the rebellion of His children. During a time when the nation Israel had been rebellious, Isaiah the prophet explained their condition by saying, “your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God” (Isaiah 59:2). God desires oneness with the people He created. But sinners cannot experience that.
The title sinner is not something to be used of other people. It is a title we have all worn. Gracefully, God has a plan to change our identity in Christ. When we put on Christ, we don’t have to be labelled by our failure. We can be fundamentally changed and brought near to God once again. The record is rewritten and our sins wiped from memory. Victory comes through dying to the sinner inside us and walking in new life.
If you’ve been following these blogs over the past several weeks, you might have thought this: “Now what, though? I’m a Christian. I’ve obeyed the gospel and had my sins washed away. What’s next?” Well, as important as naming the name of Jesus is, walking in His way every day is just as important.
Start by asking this question: Where am I spiritually today?
Taking an inventory of where you stand in the faith and being honest about it is a great place to begin. Are you where God wants you to be? Once you have answered that question, a vital follow-up is this: What does God say about that? Do His thoughts on where you are spiritually line up with your opinion on the matter? I pray you are walking in His way every day and growing in your faith.
But here is another important question to ask: Where am I heading?
God’s plan for your life has to be your plan. Naming the name of Jesus alone is not enough. Following in the steps of Jesus, being conformed to His image, and having the mind of Christ is required. You can’t rely on what you’ve done and where you’ve been in the past. You must go forward, guided by God’s desire for the thoughts you think, the decisions you make, and the actions you take.
Dig into His Word and let it change you every day.
The gospel – Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection – is our salvation. However, it is even more
than that. It also is our daily renewal. We walk by faith, inspired by the good news of the Savior every day. It saves us, it sustains us. I can never lose sight of the cross, never lose sight of His grace and mercy. I need this daily. I need Him daily.
So, now what?
If you are seeking His will, and motivated by the salvation of which you are assured through the blood of Christ, continue to press toward the final goal – eternity in heaven. I Corinthians 15:58 encourages us with these words: “…Be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.”
Death. It’s inevitable. It’s the moment that no one can avoid. It’s the common denominator among all humans. Death is something we don’t really think about nor talk about, and if we do, it’s usually about someone else.
For some people, the words I am going to die are so terrifying that they will sink into depression or become overwhelmed with anxiety. For others, the idea of their own mortality just never crosses their mind. No matter the reason for not thinking about death, there’s a need to deal with the problem of death and not run away from it, and thankfully, the Gospel of Jesus Christ provides a solution to this problem.
One of the clearest statements of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is found in the beginning of 1 Corinthians 15, in which it states that the Gospel message is that Jesus died, was buried, was resurrected, and seen by others. It is no coincidence that within this same chapter we find that Jesus provides the answer to a fear of death, and provides us with a healthy perspective of death: Oh death, where is your victory? Oh death, where is your sting?... Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. This same message is corroborated by Hebrews 2:14-15 in which we learn that through Jesus defeating death (by resurrecting), he has freed the people enslaved to death through fear. Through these passages, the New Testament writers are showing us how Jesus Christ provides an answer to the fear and anxiety brought about by death. From these two passages we can see that our mighty and loving God has overcome death in Jesus, has provided us victory over death through Jesus, and that our victory is manifested in our own personal resurrection. This personal resurrection is expounded on in 1 Corinthians 15, and the message found there is one of hope. Just as Christ was raised, so will we, and just as Christ put on an imperishable body, so will we. Therefore, just as Christ was victorious over death, so are we.
It is evident in scripture that the Gospel of Jesus Christ provides us with a healthy perspective of death. A perspective that concludes that not even death can separate us from the love of God (Romans 8:31-39). A perspective in which we can boast of life eternal with our loving Savior (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). A perspective that is intrinsically encouraging, provoking us to live in harmony with our God and so also with one another (1 Thessalonians 4:18; 1 Corinthians 15:58; John 13:35).
With the ability to view death in a healthy light, we must be sure to do so—and not to ignore it.
Just because we have a healthy perspective on death doesn’t mean we can now go on ignoring our inevitable death. Jesus tells a story in Luke 12:16-21 that helps us see the need to consider (with some form of regularity) that we will not make it out of this world alive. He tells a story of a man who has a great year in his business, and with his profits he determines to seek greater profits and to ensure that he can live comfortably. The foolish part about this man’s thinking is that he never stops to think about how he will not have this stuff when he dies. He never stops to think about anyone but himself—including God. We can be this foolish man when we are forgetful; when we are blinded by our academic or professional pursuits; when we are blinded by the comfort we enjoy in our air controlled rooms on our comfy couches with our entertaining television. We are the foolish man when we fail to remember that we will one day die and in turn fail to maintain a relationship with Jesus: the only one who can offer us a solution to the problem of death.
We are blessed to have a loving God who never had to experience death yet did experience death to overcome it for us. The question to consider now is this: what will you do about it?
My hope is that you seek Him and wholly trust in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
If your prayers are few and far between because God’s replies feel vague or nonexistent, you are not alone. The perceived lack of answers from God can keep some from praying, and some from believing. Prayer is obviously an innate part of our relationship with the Lord, and probably all mankind. No matter how weak our faith may be, calling on God is like an instinct. Even those who don’t know Christ will drop to their knees and plead for God’s intervention in the darkest moments.
God does answer prayer.
He answers prayer because He is the answer. Sounds cliché, but it is the truth. He is our comforter, provider, teacher, counselor, physician, healer and redeemer, but we often don’t want His kind of answers. Instead we ask God to send specific solutions to remedy our problems. We lose our job, then a new job is the solution. We lose our health; restored health is the solution. It’s not to say He can’t answer these needs if He chooses, but He wants us to call on Him by faith for His name’s sake.
But what about the stormy days when we’re going down with the ship? Surely, we can put aside the just “have faith” solution for a tangible lifeboat? This is the kind of storm so violent that every moment is occupied with turmoil and a moment free from the storm cannot be found, much less a free moment to sit and pray. And if you do pray, it is 100% about getting out of the storm and finding calm waters. Isn’t saving us from the proverbial storm a high enough priority that nothing else matters?
A lame man was brought to Jesus for healing and Jesus told him his sins were forgiven. The crowd around them was not impressed, in fact they were upset with Him for forgiving someone’s sins! But after that, Jesus healed the man and the lame man stood up and walked, and the crowd was in awe. It’s not unlike us today. We call on Jesus for help with an urgent need and all He gave is forgiveness of sins. We’re not impressed. We asked for a new alternator for the truck and got nothing but eternity with the King of Kings. That’s really cool, but how do we get to work in the morning? We want a knee replacement and He gave us eternity in heaven with Him. You see the point? The tangible answers and provisions are wonderful things, but nothing should displace the priority of our salvation. Next time a storm rages, reflect on the reality of your eternal existence, and you’ll see the storm through different eyes.
The greatest answer is Jesus. He offers Himself when we call.
Jesus is the messenger and He is the message. He is the eternal answer. The divine and merciful plan from before creation was to send the Son of God to make atonement for our sins and reconcile mankind and God. Jesus said, I am the way, and the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father but through Me. (John 14:6). He brought Word from heaven, and He is the Word. He preached salvation and He is salvation. We were in darkness and He is the Light of the world. We call on Him and He always saves us.
Romans says “All who call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Jesus is the answer to our prayers. We may never appreciate the magnitude of this truth this side of life, but when we stand alone before God on judgement day, we will be glad Jesus was the answer when we called.
A lot of people today have valid questions about the judgement of God. Is there really going to be a judgement? What is judgement like? Who is going to be judged? Can a loving God really condemn people to hell? These are all great questions that the Bible answers for us.
God gives us a picture of judgement in the book of Revelation 20:11-15. Here we are told about a great white throne with God seated upon it. Then we get a look at who is present at judgement. The holy scripture says, “I saw the dead, the small and the great, stand before God.” So yes, there really is a judgement coming for all of us. Every one of us will stand before God for judgement regardless of our earthly status. It won’t matter if we are wealthy, middle class, or poor as a church mouse, we will all stand before God. Since we are going to stand in judgment before God, then we should want to know what His standard for judgement is going to be.
God is holy and righteous.
His judgement is also holy and righteous according to His standard, not man’s. God as the sovereign being has the right to make the rules and enforce them. We see this principle displayed over and over again in His holy word. God’s righteous judgement means that it is perfect and without flaw. We are told again in Revelation chapter 20 that God will open books at the judgement and that we will be judged according to the things in these books. One of the books at judgement is the Book of Life. This book contains the names of everyone who is saved and who is now adopted into the family of God. We are also told the fate of those who are not children of God and who are not written in the Book of Life – they are cast into the Lake of Fire which is the second death, it is eternal hell. God in His righteous judgement must condemn all those who are disobedient to Him and their final end is eternal hell.
This Book of Life sounds important.
How do I make sure that my name is written in it so that I can go to heaven? Only those who are obedient to God’s word and remain faithful will find their names in the Book of Life at judgement. Revelations 3:5 says that the ones who overcome will have their names in the Book of Life and that Jesus “will confess our names before God and his angels.” We are also told that our obedience to God includes being obedient to His gospel. The gospel is the good news of Jesus Christ and is embodied in His death, burial, and resurrection. The wise and honest heart asks how one can be obedient to Jesus’ death, His burial and His resurrection.
The answer lies in the sacred and holy act of baptism.
In the Book of Romans, the Apostle Paul shows us how to walk the “Roman Road” to salvation. In chapter 6 Paul says that when we are baptized, we are baptized into Christ’s death and that we are buried with Christ in baptism. Being immersed in water symbolizes both the death of Christ and His burial. Then as we are raised out of the water, we are likened to Christ being resurrected from the grave. In this manner we are obedient to the gospel of Jesus Christ and we have our names written in the Book of Life.
We are told in the Book of Acts that there is going to be a resurrection of the dead. This resurrection of the dead includes those written in the Book of Life and those not found in that book. On that day, when we stand before Him, we will understand what the writer of the book of Hebrews meant when he said, “it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”
Friend, you can make sure that when you stand before the Living God and He judges you eternally that you know that you are saved. Simply be obedient with His word by believing that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, repent of your past sinful life, and live for Jesus. Confess that Jesus is the Son of God and be immersed in water in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit for the remission of your sins. Its as easy as that to make sure that your name is written in the Book of Life and that you have a mansion in heaven with your name written on it.