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Who are those souls that will spend an eternity in heaven with the Father because of your example and testimony?  I have been asking myself this question this morning.

One of my readings today was John 4.  At the end of this chapter, an official traveled to Jesus to ask him to make the journey to his home (a day away) in order to heal his son.  Jesus did not make the trip but he did tell the man, Your son will live.

The man headed home from this encounter and while he was still on the way, people from his household came running to tell him his son was alive and well.  When he asked them when this new development occurred they told him the boy got better at 1:00 the day before.  The man realized that was the exact time Jesus had told him that his son would live.

We are told, as this story closes, that the man and all his household believed.  They believed!  They had experienced the touch of Jesus even though only one had actually seen Jesus and they all believed!

As I have pondered this account.  What is most obvious to me is that the family encountered healing.  They rejoiced in a son made well.  But had the father not been there to tell them how it came about, they would have simply been happy about it but oblivious to the one to whom credit was due.

How many people in our lives experience the touch of Jesus but, because they have not met Jesus, don’t even realize what has happened?  It is up to us to point them to the author of faith and the giver of life.

1 Peter 3 15

Will they see Jesus through me – not just in my actions but in my words?

The father in this account believed and because he believed and shared the full story with his household and they all believed as well.

Is that not our calling – to share Jesus?

May heaven be populated by the souls who saw Jesus in you on this earth.

Be a blessing today!

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Staying Connected

Yesterday, I encountered a huge blessing.  I had the opportunity to enjoy a lunch with some saints from our church.  And part of the lunch was the celebration of communion together.

The occasion that prompted this particular gathering was to say “see you later” to one of the couples around the table.  They have been active pillars of our church since 1966.  Raymond and Betty will celebrate 70 years of marriage this summer and this weekend they are moving from our city.

Over the years, this couple has served in too many roles in our church to even count.  But the one area that rises to the top in my mind is their role in ministering to children.  They have given selflessly to make sure children had a safe and welcoming place to experience the love of Jesus.

I didn’t ask this question, but I believe they would say that working with kids has kept them young.  The both of them are an inspiration.   As times have continued to change, they have worked hard at staying connected to the younger generations.

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I think we need to learn something from their example.  If we are to make sure that future generations grow up to follow Jesus, we must always strive to connect with them.  Raymond and Betty have done a great job doing just that.  In fact, one of the highlights of our time together yesterday was when we lined up to take a group picture and I heard Raymond say, “hang on, I’m trying to take a selfie.”

Raymond and Betty may be moving from our city but they will always be part of our family!

There is a connection that will never be lost.

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Over the past few weeks I have talked with so many people who are carrying such heavy loads – more than normal.  I have been more sensitive in our weekly worship gathering to see hollow looks and stressed-out faces.

The reality of life is that we all pass through moments or days or even seasons of difficulty as we journey along the Way.  It is a mis-conception to think that by giving our lives to Christ and living for him as best we can, we are no longer going to experience struggles.  In fact, most often, the struggles are amplified in some ways because we live in a world in which those of us who strive to honor Jesus with our lives are looked on with condescension or even condemnation.

But I want to encourage you fellow travelers in two ways this morning.

The first is that you are not alone!  You are part of a huge family made up of all kinds of people from all walks of life and all parts of the world that are on the same journey and are experiencing the same struggles you face.  Sometimes it is helpful to know you are not alone.

But even more important to remember today is that no matter how bleak things may seem today . . . Easter is coming!Easter Poster 2018

Jesus walked this Way 2000 years ago and he was treated with condescension and condemnation.  He was pushed to the outskirts of acceptable culture and when he would not go silently into the obscurity, the leaders of his day killed him.

But that was not the end.  He rose from the dead and when he did, he conquered death and defeated sin to show us once and for all that we are more than conquerors when we live our lives for him.  His triumph gives us hope that he is bigger than any temporary struggle we face.

So today, if you are feeling like there is little in your life that offers hope remember that you are not alone and Easter is coming!

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There is something special – even sacred – about our relationships with fellow believers.

I had the opportunity to have breakfast with some wonderful people this morning – one of which has been a friend for 15 years.  His kids call me Uncle Brian even though there is no familial relationship.  It’s that kind of relationship!  He is like a brother to me in many ways.  He is in town for the day for work and he carved out some time to get together this morning.Having Coffee

One of the things that I noticed as we talked and caught each other up on family news was that it was as if we picked up where we left off the last time we spoke.  There is something powerful about a relationship with another when hearts are aligned.  There is a sacred bond between people of faith.

As I have reflected on our time together, I have had two parallel thoughts.  One is that I am so thankful for my friendship with Lew – he is a blessing in my life.  The other is a conviction that I should see all the relationships to which God draws me as being just as sacred.

We are wired for relationships – that is God’s design.

What relationships do you see in your life today that you would count as sacred?  Do those people know how you feel?

Let them know they matter!

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As a believer in America, what is going through your mind this morning?  What can we do to ease the suffering of those directly affected by the shooting yesterday?  How do we move forward toward celebrating a new Sunday this week without the horrific tragedy of yesterday at the forefront of our minds?  Will we gather free of fear and able to focus on heart-felt worship?  Or will we be tentative and distracted?

Yesterday was the first of two consecutive Sundays set aside as International Days of Prayer for the Persecuted Church.  We live in an era in which Christians are persecuted.  There are countries around the world that do not allow open worship of Jesus.  And even in our own country, the church is being painted as an institution of hate instead of the gathering of believers who love.

Jesus prophesied and said that if we follow him, we will be hated by the world.  This is nothing new.  But when something like the shooting in Sutherland Springs happens so close to home, this prophesy takes on powerful significance.

So what do we do?  How do we move forward?

First, we pray.  We pray for our brothers and sisters in Sutherland Springs.  We ask for God to bring healing – both physical and emotional as well as spiritual.  We ask God to find us faithful as the larger church in being strength and encouragement for those who were directly impacted by this act of cowardice.

Second, we trust.  Not one of us knows what tomorrow will bring and because of that fact, we must approach the day in one of two ways.  We either hide in hopes of finding protection, or we trust God to walk with us through whatever this day may bring.  I choose to trust.

No matter the evil we face in this world, God is bigger!

Never forget that fact!

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Yesterday marked the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s 95 Theses being nailed to the church door in Wittenburg, Germany.  As we have reflected on the changes brought about by that act, we have recognized the debt we owe to those early reformers.  Our focus on grace alone through faith alone comes directly from this movement.Wittenburg door

But I have wrestled with something for the past several weeks leading up to this momentous day.

Are we still in need of reform?

It is said that the generation of leaders after Martin Luther held that every generation is in need of reform.  I believe that is true.  The Gospel message does not change.  The fact that all people are sinners in need of saving does not change.  The truth that salvation comes only by God’s radical free gift of grace does not change.  The reality that this grace must be received by each individual through a heartfelt trust and faith does not change.

But what does change is how we live with these truths and how the church seeks to carry out her calling into God’s mission in light of these truths in an ever-changing culture.  We walk a line between being in the world but set apart from it.

I believe we are guilty of gross negligence if we acknowledge the courage and boldness of Martin Luther and other reformers but do not take a serious look at where we may need reform today.  What are the areas we have conformed more to the world than been transformed to God’s kingdom and rule?  Are there areas of life and ministry where we have lost sight of what matters most?

Holy God, show us your ways!

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Caught Between

On August 25th, the lives of all Texans were drastically effected by a devastating storm.  Hurricane Harvey produced more rainfall in Texas than the United States had seen in one storm in recorded history.  Of course the damage caused by the rainfall was not all the damage produced by Harvey.  It was a Category 4 hurricane at land fall.  The initial destruction was due to 130 mile per hour winds and storm surges reaching 8 to 9 feet (or higher in some areas).

While most were not directly impacted, this storm affected all Texans.  Life changed for everyone for at least a week or two.  Hearts were drawn to those who were directly impacted.  Generosity was plentiful.  Donations of needed items as well as time and labor were offered from all over the state.  Honestly, there was a sense of renewed hope in the kindness of humanity – actually making one proud to be a Texan.

Now here we sit – two months removed from Harvey’s winds.  Two months ago, many of us were scrambling to make preparations – boarding windows, purchasing supplies, trying to find gas stations that still had gas.  But today many are still trying to find hope and desire to move forward.

For the bulk of the state, life for most folks is back to normal.  Even here in Corpus Christi, most people have rejoined the daily mayhem that is “normal” life.  But so many other people here in the Coastal Bend are trying to decipher what normal will be moving forward.

The experts are telling us we are looking at a 2 to 3 year period of rebuilding before we can expect a new normal (others are saying it will take much longer).  So what do the people do who are caught in the middle what once was and what is not yet?  Where do they find hope?

sunrise-over-lake-and-mountains-13826409293GfI am reminded of David’s inspiring words in Psalm 121 – “my help comes from the Lord.”  When things look darkest, we can know that there is help – there is hope.  We need to remember that this world is temporary.  We are not citizens of this world but rather simply passing through.

So what do we do in this in-between time – this time between what once was and what is not yet?

We lift our eyes to the Father and trust.

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