Timeless Truth

This past weekend we watched the video at the Woodside services where three compelling stories were told of people coming to Christ. Throughout the video Billy Graham shared the gospel the way he has done for many decades. My wife and I talked about it on the way home, rejoicing over the simple message that changed our lives when we were children. We were so thankful that many heard the gospel again and responded positively to the invitation of Jesus. Their eternity changed.

The message that was preached is called the Gospel or the Good News. Its simplicity is often a barrier to people who want to make it more difficult or want to contribute something to their own salvation. The Bible says that it is all by grace through faith. If we could work for it, we could boast about it. We bring nothing and God accepts us just the way we are.

The gospel addresses man’s greatest need. The Lord created man to walk with him and to enjoy an incredibly beautiful world. That did not last long before our forefather Adam sinned against God. As a result, we were born in sin according to Romans 5:12: “Wherefore as by one man sin entered into the world and death by sin, so sin passed onto all men, for all have sinned.”  All have sinned and come short of the glory of God. The wages of sin is eternal separation from God in a place of torment.

God loved us so much that he sent his son Jesus to come from heaven to earth in order to die in our place (John 3:16, Romans 5:8, 2 Corinthians 5:21).  Jesus paid the penalty for our sin by his death on the cross. He died that we might live.  Through his death the gift of eternal life is available to all who believe. The Scriptures challenge us to repent or turn from our sins and believe in Jesus for our salvation. “Whoever calls on the name of The Lord shall be saved.” (Romans 10:13)

This is an old story that should not be changed by any new generation or culture. There is no other way. There is no other name that brings salvation except the name of Jesus.

If you know Jesus, rejoice in the life you have in him and share it with others. If you do not know him yet, why not today?

God’s Eulogy

A eulogy is when someone pays a tribute to a person – usually at his or her funeral. A eulogy is statement of praise to who a person was or what he or she accomplished. In Joshua chapter one after Moses had died, God gave a wonderful eulogy to this great man who led the people of God for 40 years. God announced, “Moses my servant is dead. Now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them, to the people of Israel.”

It is interesting to note that even though Moses died, the work of God did not. Life had to go on and the plan of God had to have new leadership. Joshua was to be that man. It is hard to follow a strong leader especially when the task is to lead the people into a new, unfamiliar land with unforeseen challenges and powerful enemies. God assured Joshua and told him to be strong and courageous for He would be with him.

The old leader was gone and the new was off and running to a huge task powered by a promise from God. What about that eulogy? God said simply, “Moses, my servant, is dead.” This seems to me to be more than a simple statement. Two words by God to describe a man seem so fitting, “my servant.”

A servant is one who has relinquished his rights and is committed to do the will of his Master. The servant’s agenda is God’s agenda 24/7. A servant is not proud or self-absorbed; he simply lives and serves to honor his master.

Moses lived such a life that God summed it up by referring to him as “my servant.” I would love to live in such away over the years God has given me that He would be able to say, “Doug, my servant.”

I think that is a well-lived life that sure beats a page full of accomplishments in a Wikipedia entry. How about you?

What Size Are Your Prayers?

Last weekend I had the honor of speaking at the dedication of the new White Lake worship center. It was a very exciting time to celebrate with the good people there under the leadership of Brad Hulcy and his team. I chose as a text Ephesians 3:20-21. It is a doxology where the Apostle Paul is closing out an incredible prayer (verses 14-19) in which he asks God for some very big things for the church of Ephesus.

“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever, Amen.”

I think that this doxology was to give his readers hope and strength to know that the big prayer that Paul had prayed for them in verses 14-19 could be realized because God could make it happen. Paul uses a double superlative in verse 20 to emphasize that God could do infinitely more than what any of us could actually request, think or imagine. It is not even close; our prayers could never challenge the ability or the sufficiency of our God to answer.

Then, why don’t I pray bigger prayers? Is it because of fear, lack of faith or am I blinded by the obstacles? Could it be that I have too small of a vision of God? Frankly, as I look back at some of the things that I have dreamed and then prayed for, I am embarrassed that the prayers are so small. My prayers should reflect the size of my God!

I am determined to pray bigger prayers, to trust a big God with my burdens, dreams, desires and hopes. How about you? What are your God-sized prayers for your spiritual life? Your family? Your job? Your service to him? Your marriage? Your future? Your finances?

I am coming to the conclusion that nothing is too small to bring to God, but neither is anything too big for him.

Trust and Obey

I closed 2013 by preaching a message to challenge the Woodside family with two words for 2014. Those two words are Trust and Obey, taken form Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in The Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” We all want the result of verse six, even claiming it as a promise. We want a successful, prosperous and happy new year. And yet our part is to trust and obey.

To trust means that we put our full weight down and yield completely to God. God is the only one worthy of this unquestioning trust. God is from everlasting to everlasting. He was here before the mountains and therefore a very worthy and objective source of reference. So we seek him for his wisdom, counsel, direction and protection. God knows us better than we know ourselves. He created us, formed us, redeemed us and calls us by name. He loves us beyond measure and he wants his best for us.

The sages of Proverbs caution us not to lean on our own understanding. This is so easy to do. While we are expected to think and evaluate, our experience and reasoning should never be substitutes for trusting God.

Acknowledging him in all our ways demands complete obedience in every area of life. This means that we must know God’s word and obey it completely – no exceptions. Our relationships, our finances, our future, our plans, our vocabulary – everything falls under the authority of God’s Word.

I want God to make straight my paths. No matter the obstacles or hindrances, he goes before me on the pathway. While I want the blessing of God in my life, why would he want to bless me or anyone who does not trust him or obey him? I need to trust The Lord enough to obey him even when I do not understand, even when it does not make sense, and even when I don’t think it is going to work in the short term.

I related life with Christ to riding a tandem bicycle. Too often we want to sit in the front seat where we control the speed and direction. We think we know best and we are comfortable to know that Christ is with us. But to change seats with him changes everything. We are ready to trust and obey in all things. Tim Hansel writes that our ride can be prosperous, adventuresome and exciting. He can take us places where we never would have or could have gone.

I pray for each of you reading this that as you trust and obey in 2014, God would give you the ride of your life.

What is on Your “Must Have” Christmas List?

If you Google “must have Christmas gifts,” you will find sites that list the most sought-after watches, gadgets, toys, computers and tech devices. What is on your “must have” list this year?

This past Saturday a man talked with me in the church foyer and asked what I wanted for Christmas. I told him that I had everything I needed and that there was not anything I really wanted for Christmas.

He paused a second, then stepped toward me and gave me a hug. He explained that everyone needs a hug at Christmas. It caused me to think about my answer to him. I was too quick to say that I do not need or want anything. Truth be told, there are some things on my “must have ” Christmas list.

None of the things on my list can be found at a mall or purchased with money.

Joy is on my list. I want to experience the joy of giving to the needy. This is a great time of the year to give and serve. I am looking forward to spending time with our family with eating, laughing and sharing together. I want to hear the laughter and screams of my grandchildren as I pull them on a sled behind the tractor. These events are filled with indescribable joy.

I love the joy of giving a special financial gift of thanksgiving and sacrifice to The Lord and to the vision of Woodside. I know that lives will be changed because of it. I love the joy of hearing the stories of how Jesus changed the lives of people. Many become followers of Christ during this time of year.

I want to experience the peace that was promised in the coming of Christ. In the midst of a crazy Christmas schedule I want to reflect on that special peace I have in knowing Christ and walking with him. I am looking forward to the many opportunities of sharing that peace with others during the Christmas services.

On my “must have” list is all of the blessings that come from worshiping with the Woodside family. I love people and I enjoy our times together to sing, to pray, to greet and to hug. After all of the Christmas Eve services, Carolyn and I will arrive at home around 2 a.m. Christmas morning. We will be tired but energized having spent Christmas Eve with thousands of the most wonderful people in the world.

So, I have lots of things on my “must have” Christmas list, but all of them I can make happen by spending time with people. How about you? What is on your “must have” list?

 

Impacting Our Culture

Recently I finished reading WHY CITIES MATTER by Stephen Um and Justin Buzzard. The authors included a portion of a letter (Letter to Diognetus) written to a government official in A.D. 140  arguing that Christians were not a blight to a city, but rather the “heart and soul of the city.”

“Christians are indistinguishable from other men either by nationality, language or customs. They do not inhabit separate cities of their own, or speak a strange dialect, or follow some outlandish way of life … with regard to dress, food and matter of life in general, they follow the customs of whatever city they happen to be living in, whether it is Greek or foreign. And yet there is something extraordinary about their lives. They live in their own countries as though they were only passing through. They play their full role as citizens, but labor under all the disabilities of aliens. … Like others, they marry and have children, but they do not expose them. They share their meals, but not their wives.

They pass their days upon earth, but they are citizens of heaven. Obedient to the laws, they yet live on a level that transcends the law. Christians love all men, but all men persecute them. Condemned because they are not understood, they are put to death, but raised to life again. They live in poverty, but enrich many; they are totally destitute, but possess an abundance of everything. They suffer dishonor, but that is their glory. They are defamed, but vindicated. A blessing is their answer to abuse, deference their response to insult …

To speak in general terms, we may say that the Christian is to the world what the soul is to the body. As the soul is present in every part of the body, while remaining distinct from it, so Christians are found in all cities of the world, but their religious life remains unseen. … It is by the soul, enclosed within the body, that the body is held together, and similarly, it is by the Christians, detained in the world as in a prison, that the world is held together. The soul, though immortal, has a mortal dwelling place; and Christians also live for a time amidst perishable things, while awaiting the freedom from change and decay that will be theirs in heaven.” 
(Quoted from Christian Classic Ethereal Library on pages 145-6 in Why Cities Matter)

Disciples were multiplied during those days of our committed spiritual forefathers. Perhaps we can learn a lot from their model of living in two worlds at the same time.

 

 

HONORING OUR VETERANS

This coming Monday, Nov. 11, is the day we celebrate Veterans’ Day. This has been celebrated since the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 when the major conflicts had ended in World War I.

Memorial Day is a time to remember and give thanks for the veterans who died while serving in military service, while Veterans’ Day is our time to honor all those men and women who have served and are presently serving in the military for our country.

While the men and women we honor on Veterans’ Day did not sacrifice their lives, they did sacrifice a lot. All of them left their parents and families to make a commitment to defend our country. Some of them delayed their education in order to serve.

I know a lot of veterans who postponed wedding plans, while others left their new husband or wife in order to follow this dream or calling on their lives. Some could not be home when a child was born or when a parent died or when a sibling graduated from school. Birthdays, if they were celebrated, were celebrated from a distance. Before this digital age, communication was through letters and cards.

Many veterans have been so shaped, perhaps even scared, by their years of combat that they struggle physically or emotionally for years following their discharge. Their lives now include intensive counseling, wheelchairs and artificial limbs. All veterans sacrificed a significant portion of their lives for the noble cause of serving and defending millions of Americans who were living their lives and chasing their dreams.

These men and women deserve our greatest respect and our utmost gratitude. Let’s thank God for our veterans and then let’s take any and all opportunities to thank our veterans.

The Hardest Job in the World

In my opinion, the hardest job in the world is also the most important job in the world – it’s parenting.

Parenting is so important because we are called to shape the lives of people – our children. We will affect their character, choices, successes and failures for many years. As parents we can impact our children for Christ, introducing them to a lifetime of worship and relationship in addition to an eternity in His presence.

No one, especially in their earlier years, can have a greater influence on our children than we as parents. So we are careful to model Christ-like character and be diligent to teach them about God through His Word. We exercise measured, biblical discipline as we train them to ascertain what is right and wrong. The goal of our discipline is to see our children become self-disciplined, living under the authority of a living, loving God.

While at times our teaching and training are formal, the classroom is open 24/7 as our children watch and hear us do life. Imitation is the most powerful teaching method available.

Parenting is also the most difficult job for several reasons. First, for many, parenting involves on-the-job training. No single class or weekend seminar can train a parent to handle all of the issues at each developmental level of a child. When we make mistakes (we all do), we seldom get a mulligan (a “do-over”). We quickly learn the lesson and move on.

Second, the job of parenting never ends; it just changes. While parenting may start with indoctrination, it transitions to coaching, mentoring and advising. Of course, through all stages, we are praying for our children… and then their children.

Third, parenting is tough because there is very little support from our culture to reinforce biblical teaching. In fact, too often the cultural forces are in dramatic conflict with Christian values. Our kids are hearing multiple voices that make life more challenging for both kids and parents.

Parents don’t despair; there is help and hope for this most difficult and most important task. The Bible shares many guidelines and principles regarding parenting. The Woodside Bible Bookstore also offers many helpful books to equip parents.

For some practical application as well, we have internationally renowned psychologist Dr. Kevin Leman coming to Woodside’s Troy Campus for some special parenting seminars on Sunday, October 27 and Monday, October 28. These are some great opportunities to get biblical insight as well as hands-on parenting helps. Tickets are $25 for all three seminars and you can purchase them at http://www.woodsidebible.org/homeremodeled/seminar/

At Woodside Bible we are a family and we want to learn and grow together, supporting each other as parents. Our Kids Ministry stands with parents to train their children to be men and women of God – let’s keep taking this job seriously and doing our best, in God’s strength, to be parents who honor the Lord.

Shutdown

As I write this blog our federal government continues in shutdown mode. We probably all have our opinions about the problem, who is to blame, and how to solve it. I will not bore you with my solutions.

Perhaps for many Americans, cynicism has taken over. Our elected officials are engaged in name calling, blame shifting and waiting for the other to blink. The media has joined the fray and eagerly seems poised to declare the winners and losers.

The Washington mess is a solemn reminder that we live in a broken world that desperately needs to be fixed. That day will come when The Lord returns to rule and reign. He will reign with righteousness and peace.  While we look forward to that day, we long to see progress today.

As Christ followers we cannot become detached; we must be engaged as good citizens.  Both Jesus and the Apostle Paul remind us to pay our taxes, to give honor and respect and to pray. May our disgust and cynicism be turned to prayers for our leaders to look to God for guidance, to remember their calling and responsibility, to treat each other with respect and dignity (even in the midst of dramatic disagreement) and to rule and govern this great nation with humility and integrity.

As you have just finished reading this, will you take a minute to pray?

COME

Jesus gave the challenge to GO and make disciples of all nations. The apostles and the church obeyed.  The church has grown all over the world as Jesus’ disciples took his command seriously. If you know Jesus today, it is because someone told you about the life-changing message of Christ.

The challenge remains today to GO and take the gospel message to Troy, Warren, White Lake, Farmington Hills, Lake Orion, Detroit, Romeo, Royal Oak, Pontiac and to the distant places of our world.  We must GO! And yet, before Jesus gave the command to GO, he gave the invitation to COME.

His invitation came with wide open arms as he said, “COME to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”  Jesus knew exactly what we needed and he was the only one who could provide it. The invitation was powerful and life-giving.

At one point in his ministry, Jesus talked of the people who had searched the Scriptures that they may have eternal life, and yet they refused to COME to him that they may have life. Our positive response to the invitation of Jesus results in eternal life.  Jesus gives the invitation out of compassion, understanding our situation and burdens.

The invitation demands commitment, for Jesus said, “Whoever does not bear his own cross and COME after me, cannot be my disciple.”  Once a person COMES to Jesus he is a disciple, which means he learns from the teacher. He follows in the Rabbi’s footsteps and becomes more and more like the rabbi over time.

The invitation to COME results in a closeness and communion with Jesus. Our times with Jesus in Bible study, prayer and meditation are life-changing. We need to COME to him often for refreshment and revitalization as we live out our busy lives on mission for him.

Jesus invites each of us, like he did the disciples of old, to COME apart and rest. Not only is our time with Jesus life-changing for us, it is noticed by others. “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized they had been with Jesus.”

By all means, we must GO. And yet COMING precedes GOING. We need our times with the Lord.  Would you accept the invitation to COME to Jesus for salvation and then to COME often for communion, learning and refreshment? You will never regret COMING.

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