Poetry Saturday—Two For Mom

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My Mom passed away on December 26, 2021. My sister and my son each wrote poems in honor of her life.

Two generations
One begins other goodbyes
Both clasped to Jesus —Denise Van Der Kolk, Haiku for Mom
 
Along the road, sometimes riches disappear
In their place, family and friends appear
Trading time for talents, love and balance
Into the dark we pace together
Fighting wars, we race forever
Some tiresome battles seem unrewarded
But everything in the Kingdom, you can afford it
Here on earth many want more
But in Heaven, you have Riches in Store —Brandon Owens, Riches In Store

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Links & Quotes

“If a claim to spiritual revelation leads us to depend less on the once-for-allness of the historical Word that comes to us by Jesus Christ through the apostles (Hebrews 2:3), then that claim is dubious.” —John Piper

“God, change me today because I have spent time being exposed to Your thoughts in Scripture. As risky as it is, I want Your Word to cut away everything in me that doesn’t look like Jesus.” —Kenneth Blanchard (see Hebrews 4:12) 

A scrip on my back, and a staff in my hand,
I march on in haste through an enemy’s land;
The road may be rough, but it cannot be long;
And I’ll smooth it with hope, and I’ll cheer it with song. —Henry Francis Lyte


Looking forward to beginning a new series at Calvary Assembly of God this Sunday…

Tension Can Be A Good Thing

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

I had a great time on the Ailbe Podcast with Rusty Rabon.

Usually leaders want their lives and their organizations to be tension-free. But I’m advocating that healthy shepherd leaders actually embrace the tension. 

God has wired us all uniquely, but I’ve found that many leaders are slightly unbalanced in their wiring. That is, most of us are naturally more confident or naturally more humble. God made you that way on purpose, but confident leaders are allowing the Holy Spirit to temper their confidence with humility, and humble leaders are allowing the Holy Spirit to bolster their humility with confidence.

The seed thought for this concept that figures prominently in my book Shepherd Leadership was one that I’ve been wrestling with for over a decade. If you’re interested, you can check out this post.

I’ll be sharing more clips from this interview soon, so please stay tuned. Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter is now available in print or ebook, and in audiobook through either Audible or Apple. 

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Thursdays With Spurgeon—Beautiful Homegoing

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

Beautiful Homegoing

You shall come to the grave at full age, as a sheaf of grain ripens in its season. (Job 5:26) 

     The Christian’s death is always timely. ‘You shall come to the grave at full age. 

     ‘Ah,’ says one, ‘that is not true. Good people do not live longer than others. The most pious man may die in the prime of his youth.’ But look at my text. It does not say you will come to your grave in old age, but in a ‘full age.’ … All fruits do not get ripe and mellow at the same season. So it is with Christians. They are at a ‘full age’ when God chooses to take them home. … 

     There are two mercies to a Christian. The first is that he will never die too soon. And the second is that he will never die too late. … 

     ‘But,’ say some, ‘how useful might they have been had they lived.’ Ah, but how damaging they might have been! And were it not better to die than to do something afterward that would disgrace them and bring disgrace to the Christian character? Were it not better for them to sleep while their work was going on than to break it down afterward? … 

     Again, the Christian never dies too late. … God is too good a Husbandman to leave His wheat in the field too long and let it shale out. …  

     Now the last thing is that a Christian will die with honor. … I think there are two funerals for every Christian: one is the funeral of the body, and the other of the soul. Funeral, did I say, of the soul? No, I meant not so. I meant not so. It is a marriage of the soul. For as soon as it leaves the body, the angel reapers stand ready to carry it away. They may not bring a fiery chariot as they had for Elijah. But they have their broad spreading wings. I rejoice to believe that angels will come as convoys to the soul across the ethereal plains. … I think the most honorable and glorious thing we will ever behold, next to Christ’s entrance into heaven and His glory there, is the entrance of one of God’s people into heaven.

From The Death Of The Christian

As I mentioned last week, this sermon was so providential in its timing for me because my precious mother went Home to be with Jesus just days before I opened to this sermon from Charles Spurgeon. 

We are comforted by the promises Rev. Spurgeon shares because they are based on the truth in God’s Word. “Good people pass away; the godly often die before their time. But no one seems to care or wonder why. No one seems to understand that God is protecting them from the evil to come. For those who follow godly paths will rest in peace when they die” (Isaiah 57:1-2). 

At my Mom’s graveside committal service I shared this—

One of my favorite authors C.S. Lewis made a comment, “You don’t have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body.” 

This part that we called Claudia Owens was just the body that carried around who she really was. What a beautiful soul that we got to experience for 78 years. What shined through was so sweet and graceful and wonderful. What a glimpse we got! But a joy to know that it was only a glimpse. That the part of my Mom that was so beautiful that we got to see, was only a fraction of her full beauty! The part that was really her, that is at Home with her Savior Jesus now is shining in all its brilliance. … 

We will all miss her and we will grieve our loss. But as the apostle Paul reminded us, we don’t grieve as those who have no hope. We know that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. We know that this body is sown perishable ravaged by the disease of cancer, but that my Mom is now in a place with no more tears or disease. We know that the same Savior that prepared a place for Claudia has prepared a place for us.

And we concluded with this prayer that can be offered up for every Christian who has died at their “full age”: 

Heavenly Father, 

We commit this body to the ground with the full assurance that her soul is in your everlasting presence. Holy Spirit, help us in our grief to be reminded of the hope of eternal life that we all share. Thank You, Jesus, for purchasing this hope on which we stand.

As I mentioned last week, if you don’t have this blessed assurance of the marriage of your soul when you take your last breath here on earth, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

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Stop Listening To You

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

Isaiah 49 has an interesting phrase that appears twice: “But I said…” (vv. 4, 14). 

Notice that first word: But. That conjunction means that “I” am saying something in contradiction to what someone else has said. Sadly, in this case the Someone Else that is speaking in this chapter is God Himself! 

The phrase “this is what the LORD says” is used three times in this same chapter (vv. 8, 22, 25). Look at what God is saying to you and me:

  • I made you 
  • I called you 
  • you are My servant 
  • I reward you 
  • you have My favor 
  • you have My comfort 
  • I never forget you
  • I will never disappoint you 

A consistent strategy of the devil is try to get us second-guessing or doubting God’s promises. He did this to Eve—“Did God really say that?”—and he tried it with Jesus—“Are You really the Son of God?”—and he’s still trying it today. 

Jesus said the devil’s native tongue is lying. He lies and he slanders you. He wants you to simply listen to those lies without questioning them. 

Someone once asked Smith Wigglesworth, “Smith, how do you feel?” He replied, “I never ask Smith how I feel. I tell him how he feels!” 

That’s good counsel for us today! 

Don’t listen to yourself, especially when you’re tired or lonely or anxious or scared, but talk to yourself. Remind yourself what God says to you and what He says about you. Remind those negative thoughts that God never lies, that He is all-loving, that He is all-powerful, and that He has a unique plan and purpose your life. 

Whenever you feel like saying, “But I said,” change those thoughts around to, “But this is what God says!” 

I’ve shared a couple of other posts that expand on this idea which you may want to read here and here. 

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Awesome

Jesus told us that we could pray in His name and expect amazing things (see John 14:13-14, 15:16, 16:23-24). This does not mean that simply adding the phrase “in Jesus’ name, Amen” to the end of a prayer unlocks a secret code. Rather, it means that the more we understand just how awesome our Savior is, and that He is the Key to God’s storeroom, the more we will being to align our prayers with the will of God. 

Jesus desires for His Father’s glory to be seen on earth through the answers to our prayers. The writer of Hebrews opens his letter by reminding us that Jesus is “the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being, sustaining all things by His powerful word” (Hebrews 1:3). 

We will be working our way through the Book of Hebrews to learn just how awesome the name of Jesus truly is. As we do so, my prayer is that your prayer life will flourish into something far greater than it has ever been before! 

Join us beginning this Sunday for our series on prayer called Awesome: Learning to pray in the awesome name of Jesus.

If you have missed any of the messages in this series, check them out here:

Everlasting, Unshakable Joy

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

The Lord is angry with all nations… (Isaiah 34:2). 

Perhaps that verse surprises you in light of the title of this post, “Everlasting, Unshakable Joy,” but stick with me.

These phrases from Isaiah 34 do sound like terrible news:

  • God is angry with all nations
  • His wrath is on all their armies
  • God will totally destroy them
  • Even all the starry host will fall
  • God Himself says, “My sword has drunk its fill” 
  • All the world’s princes will vanish away 

But please keep in mind that this is only bad news for those who don’t have their sins forgiven through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. “For the Lord has a day of vengeance, a year of retribution, to uphold Zion’s cause” (v. 8). And, “He will come with vengeance; with divine retribution He will come to save you” (35:4). 

So God’s anger is not at those whose sins have been forgiven, but at those who are not only unforgiven but hell-bent on attacking those who are forgiven. 

These words are intended to “strengthen feeble hands, steady the knees that give away,” and to bring strength “to those with fearful hearts” (35:3-4). 

The righteous have nothing to fear when the world is quaking in fear! “They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crowned their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away” (v. 10)! 

This is why Jesus told us, “I tell you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more” (Luke 12:4 NIV), and, “Save your fear for God, who holds your entire life—body and soul—in His hands” (Luke 12:5 MSG). And also the apostle Peter reminds us that we do not fear what the world fears (1 Peter 3:14). 

If your sins are forgiven, if you are walking in God’s paths, if you are seeking to savor the glory of God, and desirous that His glory be seen on earth as it is in heaven, there is not only nothing to fear, but you will have an everlasting, unshakable joy! 

Get your eyes off the world’s bad news, and keep your eyes firmly on the Good News that only Jesus has made a reality! 

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Year-End Review (2021 Edition)

I have the privilege of pastoring Calvary Assembly of God. One of the things I am honored to do is share a message from God’s Word with our church each week. And nor just teaching, but reminding folks of whatwe have learned too. The apostles Peter and Paul both saw the value in this as well.

So here are all of the sermon series that I shared in 2021. Clicking on each series title will take you to a list of all of the sermons in that series. 

Foundation Stones—Any architect will tell you: You can’t build a great building on a weak foundation. This is just as true in the spiritual realm, which is why John Calvin warned, “Those who are strong only in fervor and sharpness, but are not fortified with solid doctrine, weary themselves in their vigorous efforts, make a great noise…[and] make no headway because they build without foundation.” We have had on the Calvary website since Day 1 a link to “What we believe,” but more than just having them listed there, it is important to discuss them.

Be A First Responder—There is a line in an old hymn that convicts me every time I sing it: “Oh, what peace we often forfeit; Oh, what needless pain we bear all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.” Why are we so slow to drop to our knees in prayer when trouble strikes? It seems we fool ourselves into thinking the problem is small enough to handle on our own, or we think God isn’t concerned with something that may seem trivial, or we’ve been-here-done-this before and know the way to go. But this isn’t what our Heavenly Father desires; instead, He wants us to come to Him before we try anything else. Instead of making prayer our last resort, why don’t we strive to make it our first response!

Confessions Of A Dying Man—In our justice system, rarely will a judge allow hearsay testimony to be introduced in court. But there is one notable exception: a dying declaration. A dying declaration is the statement of a mortally injured person who is aware he or she is about to die. This statement is admissible testimony in court on the theory that a dying person has no reason not to tell the truth. Jesus was nailed to a Cross. Mortally injured, unable to escape, He had no reason to lie. In His dying moments, struggling to get enough air in His lungs to be able to speak, Jesus choked out seven statements that still have a profound impact on us today.

We Are: Pentecostal—Pentecost for over 1500 years was a celebration in Jerusalem that brought in Jews from all over the world. But on the Day of Pentecost that came just ten days after Jesus ascended back into heaven, the meaning of Pentecost was forever changed! Followers of Jesus—now empowered by an infilling of the Holy Spirit—began to take the good news of Jesus all over the world. These Spirit-filled Christians preached the Gospel and won converts to Christ even among hostile crowds, performed miracles and wonders, stood up to pagan priests and persecuting governmental leaders, and established a whole new way of living as Christ-followers. We, too, can be Pentecostal followers of Jesus Christ today. 

Selah—The word Selah appears nearly 70 times in the Bible, almost exclusively in the Psalms. Although it is primarily a musical term, it applies beautifully to our summer series. It means a pause. Throughout the Psalms, Selah appears at the end of a verse, at the end of the psalm, or sometimes even mid-sentence. But each one of them is perfectly placed by the Spirit-inspired authors to get us to take a breath and deeply contemplate what we just read or sang. 

Major Lessons From Minor Prophets—Sometimes the naming of things gives us an inaccurate picture of the thing being named. For instance, many people think the “old” in Old Testament means outdated or perhaps updated by the “new” in the New Testament. When in fact, both Testaments are needed to give us the full picture of God’s love and glory. A similar thing happens with the headings “major prophets” and “minor prophets.” It makes it sound like the major prophets have something major to say to us, while we could take or leave the minor messages of the minor prophets. In reality, they were given these headings simply because of the volume of writing—the five major prophets consist of 182 chapters, whereas the 12 minor prophets only have 67 chapters. The volume of their writing may be minor, but their content carries major messages of meteoric power! 

X-ing Out Anxiety—Two brothers—one a doctor and one a pastor—addressed the prevalence of anxiety in our culture. They wrote, “A recent survey of primary care physicians in the United States revealed that at least one-third of office visits were prompted by some form of anxiety.” Anxiety can negatively impact our relationships, our ability to think creatively, our physical health, and even our relationship with God. Thankfully, one of the titles given to Jesus is The Prince of Peace. Join us for this freeing series called X-ing Out Anxiety, where we will be learning what God’s Word says about getting free from the anxiety that is robbing us of life, and replacing that anxiety with His peace.

People Will Talk—Sometimes celebrities and other people in the public spotlight will hire a publicist to help promote their cause, build their brand, or present them in the best possible light. If you wanted to stretch the terms, you could say that some of the Old Testament prophets and the New Testament disciples could have been viewed as the “publicists” for Jesus. At least, that’s what critics might point to. But despite the best efforts and high salaries of publicists—both ancient and modern—they cannot control the “word on the street.” What people are actually saying about the one in the spotlight is usually the best evidence of who that person truly is. As we celebrate this Advent season, we are going to look at what the people on the street were saying about Jesus at the time of His birth. Before He ever performed a miracle or presented a parable—before any of His “publicists” could try to make Him look good—people were already talking. And what they said about Him is truly enlightening.

We will be returning to a couple of these series in 2022, and we’ll be launching some brand new ones as well. In either case, if you don’t have a home church in the northern Kent County area, I would love to have you join us! 

An Appeal To Preachers

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

…They have turned their backs to Me and not their faces; yet when they are in trouble, they say, “Come and save us!” (God in Jeremiah 2:27) 

In so many ways the USA today resembles ancient Israel. Abortion, prostitution, idolatry, envy, greed, atheism, dirty politics, self-serving church leaders. Our culture calls itself “Christian” but we live anything but. 

God is not allowed to be mentioned in our schools, but the moment there is a school shooting, people cry, “Where was God?! Why didn’t He stop this?!” 

God is banished from the town square, but as soon as a tornado or hurricane or flood levels the town, the people yell, “How could God let this happen?!” 

This was exactly the same lifestyle and same response in Jeremiah’s day. 

When these painfully tragic things happen, there should be a different response: “Consider then and realize how evil and bitter it is for you when you have forsaken the Lord your God and have no awe of Me” (v. 19). 

Typically, this considering takes place post-tragedy. But it really should be considered before disasters strike. Four times in this chapter God calls us to consider “the word of the Lord” (vv. 1, 4, 5, 31). In order for that considering to take place, loving pastor-shepherds need to hold up the mirror of God’s Word to the ungodly lifestyles people are living.

To all of my fellow pastors, I appeal to you to boldly and lovingly proclaim the full counsel of God’s Word. Not just the “pleasant” parts that speak of God’s blessings, but also the calls to repentance that will allow your people to avoid God’s righteous judgment. And don’t wait to only speak about these topics post-tragedy, but make this message a consistent part of your teaching. 

Pastor, if you don’t speak these truths to your flock, how will they know how to live in the way that pleases God? I am praying that God will help you in this. 

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Thursdays With Spurgeon—The Death Of The Christian

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

The Death Of The Christian

You shall come to the grave at full age, as a sheaf of grain ripens in its season. (Job 5:26) 

     Let me tell you a parable. Behold, two men sat together in the same house when Death came to each of them. He said to one, ‘You will die.’ 

     That man looked at him. Tears suffused his eyes, and tremblingly he said, ‘O Death, I cannot! I will not die.’ He sought out a physician and said to him, ‘I am sick, for death has looked upon me. His eyes have paled my cheeks, and I fear I must depart. Physician, there is my wealth. Give me health and let me live.’ The physician took his wealth but gave him not his health with all his skill. The man changed his physician, tried another, and thought that perhaps he might spin out the thread of life a little longer.

     But alas! Death came and said, ‘I have given you time to try your varied excuses. Come with me. You will die.’ And he bound him hand and foot and made him go to that dark land of Hades. As the man went, he clutched at every side post by the way, but Death, with iron hands, still pulled him on. … He did not come to his grave, but death fetched him to it; the grave came to him.

     But death said to the other man, ‘I am come for you.’ 

     He smilingly replied, ‘Ah, Death! I know you; I have seen you many a time. I have held communion with you. You are my Master’s servant. You have come to fetch me home. Go and tell my Master I am ready, whenever He pleases. Death, I am ready to go with you.’ And together they went along the road and held sweet company.

     Death said to him, ‘I have worn these skeleton bones to frighten wicked men. But I am not frightful. I will let you see myself. The hand that wrote upon Belshazzar’s wall was terrible because no man saw anything but the hand. But,’ said Death, ‘I will show you my whole body. Men have only seen my bony hand and have been terrified.’ 

     And as they went along, Death ungirded himself to let the Christian see his body, and he smiled, for it was the body of an angel. He had wings of cherubs and a body glorious as Gabriel. The Christian said to him, ‘You are not what I thought you were. I will cheerfully go with you.’ At last Death touched the believer with his hand. … So did Death put his finger on the man’s pulse and stopped it for a moment, and the Christian found himself by Death’s kind finger changed into a spirit. Yes, found himself brother to the angels. His body had been etherealized, his soul purified, and he himself was in heaven.

From The Death Of The Christian

I love God’s timing. In my ongoing series looking at the sermons of Charles Spurgeon, I simply turned the page to the next sermon for this week, and this parable was especially timed for me because my Mom just passed away on December 26. 

What a godly woman she was! 

What a thrill it is to know that Death did not take her to her grave, but that she came to her grave at full age, fully ripened in God’s timing. Our family is at peace because we know that my Mom is now at Home with her Savior Jesus—the home she has been longing for! 

Our family loves the promise in 1 Thessalonians: And now, dear brothers and sisters, we want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died so you will not grieve like people who have no hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13). We grieve because we will miss her, but we have such an unshakable hope of her eternal home! Paul goes on to tell us that we should “encourage each other with these words” (v. 18). 

So let me encourage you, my friend, with this question: Will Death have to take you to the grave, or will you come willingly with him? If you have your sins forgiven because you have placed your faith in the sin-forgiving work Jesus Christ did upon His Cross, then Death will have no fear for you. If you are uncertain or fearful, don’t lose another moment! Pray to God: admit you are a sinner who is helplessly trapped in your sin, believe that Jesus paid the full penalty for your sin, and then ask God to forgive your sins because of your faith in Jesus. The moment you do that, you will be completely forgiven and the fear of Death will be removed. 

If you have any questions about this, please get in touch with me.

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