Monday, April 30, 2018

Creaky Gates


[Photo of a dilapidated gate]

“Open for me the gates of righteousness;
I will enter and give thanks to the Lord.
This is the gate of the Lord through
which the righteous may enter. I will
give you thanks, for you answered me.”
—Psalm 118:19-21

When you come upon a creaky gate, what adjective comes first to mind? To me, I think “neglect.” If a gate makes a sound, it obviously has not been used often and needs lubrication. Or, it needs a new coat of paint and a couple of new hinges.

What if the gates of the Lord’s house make a squeaky sound, are stuck, or are hard to open? Would not a few swings of the gate help? Perhaps the gates need some children running in and out? Or, perhaps the gates need a squirt or two of oil on the hinges?

I really don’t think the mention in Scripture of the gates of the Lord’s house really refers to the gates themselves. Rather, I believe these references refer to the practices and use of God’s house by His people.

If we belong to God through Christ, Scripture found in 1 Peter 2:9 declares that we are a royal priesthood. Surely, priests need to frequent the Lord’s house.

The Scripture passage from Psalm 118 at the beginning of this blog post seems to indicate that thanksgiving lubricates those gates. When Christians come together, they should enter God’s house full of thanksgiving and joy. Certainly a robust congregation will demonstrate this gratitude. Psalm 100:4 tells us to:

Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise…

Hebrews 10:25 gives us a strong admonition:

Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Obviously the author of this passage of Scripture saw the importance of keeping those gates swinging with our usage.

If the “gates” of your place of worship depended on you for their usage, would they swing easily on their hinges, or creak and fall off? Is it your “habit” to neglect the meeting together of the church? Even those of us who make well-worn tracks into and out of the church building can do so without the joy and purposefulness God requires.

When Sunday rolls around this week, why not make it your glad intention to enter the gates of the Lord’s house with joy, with thanksgiving, and with encouragement for your brothers and sisters in Christ? Say with Nehemiah, as found in Nehemiah 10:39:

We will not neglect the house of our God!



Monday, April 23, 2018

I Think I’ll Wear Pearls


[Photo of a pearl necklace]

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a
merchant looking for fine pearls. When
he found one of great value, he went away
and sold everything he had and bought it.”
—Matthew 13:45-46

I think I’ll wear pearls today. One reason I will wear pearls today is because beloved First Lady Barbara Bush died this past week and she always wore an iconic strand of pearls. I will also wear pearls today because they remind me of the name given my Savior: “The Pearl of Great Price.”

Joni Eareckson Tada reminds us, in her book, Pearls of Great Price,1 that pearls are unique gems, not mined out of the earth, or made from rocks and crystals. Rather, pearls rise out of suffering.

A grain of sand sticks in the fleshy part of an oyster and creates an irritation. To this the oyster adds smooth milky layer after layer to cover the sand until the irritation becomes smooth and acceptable. Jesus, in suffering for us, became like a pearl, a priceless gem of great worth for which a wise person would be willing to trade everything.

Not only did Jesus show us the way to suffer, but He also showed us how He expects to make us beautiful in His time. He has embedded us in a world of troubles and suffering. He has embedded us in a culture that often sees us as an irritation. All of this becomes for Him a perfect environment to bring out the “pearl” in each of us. He will cover us with His shiny beauty for all the world to see.

Yes, I think I’ll wear pearls today. And, I will remind myself that all the irritation and struggles of the day will indeed bring forth His handiwork in my life.


1 Tada, Joni Eareckson. Pearls of Great Price. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing Company, 2006. Preface.



Monday, April 16, 2018

Father’s Arms


[Photo of a man holding a child]

“The eternal God is your refuge and
underneath are the everlasting arms.”
—Deuteronomy 33:27

I have vague memories from age two or three of going with my father to collect eggs. Our hundreds of laying hens roosted in a large hen house on the loft second floor. A ladder stretched from the ground and sat propped to the second floor “balcony”—the only access. My dad became very adept at walking backwards down the ladder carrying full baskets of eggs. On the days when I joined him, he precariously carried me as well as the full basket, with no hands on the ladder.

My mother often reminded me of those days, because I’m sure she did not fully approve of the practice. But, as for me, I enjoyed the climb down the ladder and never feared my father would drop me, or make a misstep. I fully trusted him.

I wish I could say that I trust my Heavenly Father like that when He carries me through precarious situations. Yet, His written Word promises that all my life I can trust His arms to hold on to me and keep me safely in His care, as found in Isaiah 46:4:

Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.

Sometimes when we go through a new dangerous state of circumstances, it helps us to look back at the times He has so lovingly and wisely carried us through. In Isaiah 60:9, Israel was reminded of all the times He did just that for them:

In all their distress he too was distressed, and the angel of his presence saved them. In his love and mercy he redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old.

At the beginning of the book of Deuteronomy, Moses reviews the travels of Israel through the wilderness. He reminds them, and puts to rest their fears of the future, by helping them remember God’s care for them. Here’s what Moses told them in Deuteronomy 1:31:

Do not be terrified; do not be afraid of them. The Lord your God, who is going before you, will fight for you as he did for you in Egypt, before your very eyes, and in the desert. There you saw how the Lord you God carried you, as a father carries his son, all the way you went until you reached this place.

The older we get, the more history we have experienced with our watchful Heavenly Father. And, the more instances we have to remember His special care. Today, if you are facing a precarious situation, go back over all the times God carried you through other dangerous and terrifying times. Be encouraged that, as He did for you in the past, He will continue to do in the future.



Monday, April 9, 2018

Tell-Tale Marks


[Photo of a teacher with a chalk mark]

“Live such good lives among the pagans
that, though they accuse you of doing
wrong, they may see your good deeds and
glorify God on the day he visits us.”
—1 Peter 2:12

One day after teaching all day, I stopped at the local supermarket where I saw a woman in the bread aisle. She seemed smartly dressed, with comfortable shoes, looking intelligent, and collecting her groceries quickly. I wondered if she might be a teacher, too.

Not until I pulled my cart up behind her in the check-out line did I know. There on her back side stretched the all-too-visible line of chalk. I knew it! No one but a teacher would have that tell-tale mark.

Christians should have tell-tale marks, too. Do you have identifying signs—tell-tale marks—that reveal a family likeness to Christ?

Do people recognize the presence of Christ in you by the purity of your speech? By your respectful treatment of others? By your submission to authority? By your refraining from gossip? By your reputation for loving others?

When you sit down to lunch, do you bow and quietly thank God for it? Do you show compassion and caring? Do you live a holy life?

In some settings, governmental law may prohibit us from preaching Christ. But, no law anywhere can prevent us from showing the Fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (see Galatians 5:22-23)—even in a public school, or in the public square!

Wherever God has placed us in this world, He expects us to reveal the tell-tale marks He has placed on our life.



Monday, April 2, 2018

Will You Celebrate?


[Painting of Jesus appearing to the disciples in the Upper Room]

On the evening of that first day of the
week, when the disciples were together
with the doors locked for fear of the
Jews, Jesus came and stood among them
and said, “Peace be with you!”
After he said this, he showed them his
hands and side. The disciples were
overjoyed when they saw the Lord.
—John 20:19-20

The first time the disciples had gathered together since the Last Supper, at which time Jesus had explained to them the importance of His upcoming death, must have been a real celebration. Yes, there was some fear and doubt. But, once the disciples began to realize what had really happened, can you imagine the joy?

Did someone go out and bring back food? Did they dance and sing? The evening air must have rang with stories from the women who had first discovered the tomb was empty and who had ran back to tell the disciples what they had discovered; from those two disciples who had sped to the tomb in the morning; and from the two travelers who had met Jesus on the road to Emmaus. Can you imagine how these devoted followers of Jesus moved from their doubts and fears to the sudden realization of the amazing truth of the resurrection?

Do you think they worshipped and sang hymns? Surely, if they sang a hymn as they went out to Gethsemane on Thursday evening, they would have much more joyfully and willingly sang on this occasion.

Do you celebrate on Easter? Now, I’m not asking if you take your children or grandchildren to meet the Easter Bunny in preparation for this special day. I’m not asking what you intend to serve at your special Easter dinner. I’m not asking if you have a new dress, or hat, or purse to wear for the Easter parade or to attend your church’s service.

I’m asking what you will do to celebrate Jesus’ resurrection. Will you take the time to consider the miraculous rescue Jesus planned for us through His conquering of sin, death, and Satan on our behalf? Will your heart fill with worshipful gratitude for the eternal plan of God the Father, the suffering of His Son, our Lord Jesus for us, and the amazing power over our sin, and all, sin won through the sustaining power of the Holy Spirit?

Will you celebrate in the company of others who rejoice in the joy of the resurrection? Will you heartily sing songs of praise, listen to the Scriptures with attention and awe, and realize again the love of God for you? Will you enjoy this period of Eastertide, from the sunrise on Easter Sunday morning and all through the days to come? Will you shout with great joy: “The Lord is risen! He is risen indeed!”

As George Ratcliffe Woodward’s marvelous hymn declares:1

This joyful Eastertide,
   away with sin and sorrow!
My love, the Crucified,
   has sprung to life this morrow.

Refrain: Had Christ, who once was slain,
   not burst his three-day prison,
   our faith had been in vain.
But now is Christ arisen, arisen, arisen;
   but now is Christ arisen!

Death’s flood has lost its chill
   since Jesus crossed the river.
Lover of souls, from ill
   my passing soul deliver.

Refrain: Had Christ, who once was slain,
   not burst his three-day prison,
   our faith had been in vain.
But now is Christ arisen, arisen, arisen;
   but now is Christ arisen!

My flesh in hope shall rest
   and for a season slumber
Till trump from east to west
   shall wake the dead in number.

Refrain: Had Christ, who once was slain,
   not burst his three-day prison,
   our faith had been in vain.
But now is Christ arisen, arisen, arisen;
   but now is Christ arisen!


1 Woodward, George. This Joyful Eastertide. Public Domain.