Great news everyone. Pam was released from the hospital today. It came as a surprise to all of us. She is already in bed resting. She told me the last time she felt this good was in early December. The doctor was quite pleased with her recovery. Just yesterday evening she ate her first real meal in many days. She is to resume her activities gradually. The doctor told her she can eat lots of cheese and yogurt. I know that we can attribute that to the power of prayer. Thank you to all who have been praying for us. We really felt the presence of God through this trial. God bless each one of you.
All of our scriptures this week revolve around the Word of God. I especially like the Psalm 19 text. The Nehemiah passage shows what happens with God’s chosen people followed the Word of God. And in the Luke passage, Jesus declares that He has come to fulfill God’s Word.
It seems that since I’ve started this, life has been pretty crazy. I want to take some time this week to meditate on God’s Word, especially Psalm 19. This is some great stuff.
Yes, If you checked the above post, Pam did come home from the hospital and yes I still bowled tonight. That was quite an experience. At 5:00 we left Reidsville, NC for home. It’s about a 40-45 minute drive. We also had to stop at Food Lion for some special food (yogurt and cheese) for Pam.
I got home just in time to drop Pam off and run to the bowling alley. I arrived just in time to put on my shoes and put my ball on the ball return. I bowled 131, 143 and 109 for a 383 set and a 127 average. My average for the year is 126, two pins lower than my finishing average last year. Tonight was much more consistent. It was good but I really wanted to get home to see Pam. Next week, things around here should be more normal.
I’ve already recapped most of today in other posts. For me it was a day of watching football and I’m not usually a big football fan.
What about this morning you ask? I enjoyed this morning’s service even though I was missing Pam. First, I had to wake the girls at 9:00, because normally Pam does that. I taught the “Young Adults” class for Sunday School. Now, I am the youngest Young Adult and I’m 43. We had a good class as I taught from the Wesley curriculum.
For worship, we started with a time of reflection and then I read part of Psalm 35. Third Day has done a great job in putting this to music. Their song “Your Love, O Lord” is a wonderful paraphrase of that psalm. I taught this to the congregation and we may revisit it a few times over the next few weeks. I’ve included a clip here.
We sang a wonderful gospel song “In My Heart There Rings a Melody” followed by “Above All” and “O How He Loves You and Me” as we looked at the theme of God’s amazing, extravagant love. As I prepared to preach we sang another gospel song “Love Lifted Me.” I then preached from Ephesians 2:1-10 on God’s love. I also expressed my appreciation to the congregation for the love and support they have given to our family over the last week. Next week I begin a new series inspired from resources sent by the Department of Evangelism and Church Growth. It is a missions and evangelism series titled, “Love Is Always Worth the Risk.” It is a great series to preach in the season following Epiphany.
Pam had a much better day today. My leadership team gave me the evening off and one of the leadership team watched the children for me. They also took us out to Pizza Hut for lunch. Thanks Gayle for all you do. Also, we got a feast for dinner tonight. Thank you to Mary, Frances, and Lillie for the wonderful food. We only have a part of it eaten. We have a wonderful church and I let them know that this morning.
So, I spent the afternoon and evening with Pam. At dinner she got real food; country fried steak, mashed potatoes, vegetables, and yogurt. She ate about half, but it was alot of food. Pam’s going to become very acquainted with yogurt and cheese after this episode. I asked her when the last time she felt this good and she said it was sometime before Christmas. When I got to the hospital I told her she looked pale and she is. Hopefully she’ll be getting some color back in the coming days. Looks like now she will be coming home on Tuesday, but we’ll play it by ear.
Again, thank you for your prayers. We appreciate you. God bless. Dale
My hometown Eagles bit the dust yesterday. Today I watched with interest two games. First, the Seahawks at Bears. Since several in my church pull for the Seahawks, I thought I would pull for them. Looks like they suffered the same fate as the Eagles and by the same score too! Since we lived in upstate New York for five years my adopted hometown team is the Patriots. Because of their win today, it looks like I’ll be pulling for them. Even though they moved to Indianapolis over 20 years ago, I still can’t pull for a team that moved from Baltimore. Go Patriots!!
This morning I want you to play a word association game with me. What is the first thing you think of when I mention these words? flowers, candlelight dinner, romance, cards, diamond ring, long walks through the park, hugs, kisses, candy. Now you’re wondering, “Where is pastor going?”
When I say the word “love,” what do you think of? A romantic love? A mushy, “boy meets girl” kind of love? The love between brothers or sisters? Or perhaps you’re thinking of something else.
We as a human race think a lot about love. Songs for centuries have been written about love. In our modern day culture, that appears to be the only subject of songs. One of the stations I listen to even devotes the entire evening to “Love songs with Delilah.” Listen to the titles of some old and some not so old songs; “All You Need is Love,” “What’s Love Got to do with It?” “Love Will Find A Way,” and “Love is a Many Splendered Thing.”
As you can see some are very optimistic about man’s situation. Look at the title, “All You Need Is Love.” As if love can solve every problem on the planet. Some would say, “Can’t we all just get along.” Others are very pessimistic. What does love have to do with our existence on this planet anyway?
God has many things to say about love. Matter of fact, to paraphrase a common saying, “All I ever needed to know about love, I found in the Bible.” This morning’s text comes from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians.
Read Ephesians 2:1-10
1As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. 4But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions–it is by grace you have been saved. 6And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God– 9not by works, so that no one can boast. 10For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
One of the difficult things about the English language is that is a borrowed language. It is a language that has developed and changed over hundreds of years. It is not as descriptive as it could be at times. Many times when you see the word love in the Bible, there are three possibilities. First, there is philo. This is a brotherly love. Our city of Philadelphia is called the city of brotherly love. It is a love between siblings. Then, there is eros. Eros is a sensual love between man and wife. It’s where we get the word erotic. The last type of love is agape. This is a unconditional love. In our 21st century culture, we usually don’t thing much about unconditional love. We usually attach conditions. Well, because you did such and such, I won’t love you as much or I won’t take out the trash.
So you see, love can be a difficult subject matter. Now, let me say this, I do not consider myself an expert, especially when it comes to matters of romantic love. I learn each day, just as you do. However, I do want to discover this morning, along with you, more about love. If you’re pessimistic about love and wonder, “What does love have to do with it?” I want to give you hope.
God through his son Jesus Christ demonstrated his love for us. Why do I say that? Let’s look at our text.
1As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.
Paul puts it this way in his letter to the Romans, “For all have sinned and all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” Remember back to the Garden of Eden. God created the heavens and the earth and all the animals in and on the earth, yet he deemed creation incomplete. Then, he created Adam and he was satisfied. God had someone he could communicate with. The Genesis account tells how God would walk with Adam in the cool of the evening and talk with him. Yet, God sensed that Adam needed a companion. So, God created Eve out of Adam. Notice that God gave Adam and Eve a free will. He told them they could eat of any fruit in the garden except for two trees. They disobeyed. God found them out as he will all of us. Give the same situation, all of us would have failed that test. We have be born sinful and by our own human nature we follow our desires and thoughts. So again let me ask you, “What does that have to do with love?”
Let’s take another look at God’s Word.
4But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions–it is by grace you have been saved.
Aha, it’s because of God’s great love for us. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” God sent his only son Jesus Christ to die for us, to shed his blood for us. Jesus Christ died in our place. He was placed in a borrowed tomb and then rose again. Paul says that, “[He] has made us alive with Christ.”
Now, I know some would have a lot of trouble with that statement. They would make statements. If God is a God of love, why do we have such tragedy in our world? Why do the innocent suffer? It goes back to the Garden of Eden. Through Adam sin entered the world. We are children of Adam. We all have sinned. We all deserved death. God’s justice demands death. However, God in his mercy gave us Jesus to die in our place. Jesus is the second Adam and through him we can have eternal life.
Let me try to clear this up by reading 1 John 4:9-10. “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”
This is powerful. Let me tell you why. See God has given us the ultimate example of how to love. God’s love is agape love, no conditions. You know what most of us would have done to Adam and Eve. We would have said, “You made your bed now lie in it.” God did not. He was already working on a plant to redeem man. Most of us think of the word redeem as something you do to a coupon. The concept is similar. What happens when you redeem a coupon? You save money. Does the retailer have to bear the cost? No, the cost is born by the manufacturer. God redeemed us with Jesus Christ. We don’t have to pay the cost of sin. Our creator will pay is for us. Jesus Christ reimbursed God for our shortfall.
Most of us only hear this when we attend a wedding if we hear it at all, but God through his son Jesus Christ is giving us the example of how to treat each other. We need to treat each other with agape love. (Love with no conditions.)
So what is the reward of God’s love?
6And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.
Our reward is eternal life that we can sit with him and worship with him forever. As I was preparing this sermon, I typed in the word “love” and looked for synonyms; words which mean the same thing.) Did you know one of the synonyms for love is worship? When we love each other, we worship each other. God loves us. He desires a relationship with you. Paul tells us the wages of sin is death. What is death? It is separation eternally from God. It is a place where love does not exist. The Scriptures also tell us that God does not want any of us to perish. God created us. He loves us. Think about things you have created. Maybe, it’s a son or a daughter. You have a great love for them. God has a love for his children, just they way you have a love for your children. You know why? Because, God designed it that way. God designed us for worship (or love). It is a two way street. Love goes both ways, just as worship goes both ways. I’ll bet you never thought about it that way before. God desires our worship. And how can we not worship him when remember all that he has done for us. Worship also means God expressing his heart back to us. He delights in your presence, just as we as earthly parents desire our children’s presence.
So what does it take to get the reward of heaven and God’s eternal presence?
8For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God– 9not by works, so that no one can boast. 10For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
The answer is simple, there is nothing we can do except accept the gift he has given us. We can’t be good enough to save ourselves. We can’t go to church enough to save ourselves. We can’t feed the hungry enough to save ourselves. There is nothing we can do. It is a free gift. What do you do when you receive a gift? You take it with thanks. Why? Because you can’t earn a gift and you can’t earn salvation. It is God’s gift to you. And why is that pastor? So none of us, including me can boast how we saved ourselves. We have to say only by the grace of God. Only by God’s mercy. God’s justice demanded death, but his mercy grants us life, even when we don’t deserve it.
Do you know that you are a work of God? Whether you want to be or not. God has a work for us to do. But first we need to receive him. Receive his love.
As I diversion to what’s been going on around here, I actually took the time to watch the hometown Eagles play the Saints last night. It looked good for a while. I thought the Eagles might make it to the NFC Championship. I liked the fire in QB Garcia. It won’t be long until baseball season and I can see if the Phillies have what it takes to go to the World Series.
Well I have returned from Reidsville, past the land of Eden (North Carolina, that is) back to Martinsville. We received good news from the doctor today. I appears that Pam has anti-biotic induced colitis.
I’m praising God that the diagnosis was what it was. I know it’s easy to praise God once you know. This morning I was worrying and praying about what the results of Pam’s test would be. I played Casting Crown’s Lifesong CD on purpose. I listened to the song “Praise You In This Storm.” About the only thing that has given me peace this week was singing songs of praise to God. Something about being in His presence gave me peace.
I realized that the diagnosis could have been different. Would I have been as willing to praise God if it wouldn’t have been good news. I don’t know. We never know how we are going to respond until we get there. I’ve been trying to remember verses like Romans 8:28 and songs like “Blessed Be Your Name,” “Broken and Beautiful,” “My Savior and My God.” and “Praise You In This Storm.” My FLAME friend Joy, just posted on Mark Schultz’s song yesterday. Aaron wrote My Savior and My God from an old hymn titled, I am not skilled to understand. I received great comfort from those songs this morning. Thank you all for your prayers.
Just a quick update. Pam goes for a major test tomorrow morning at 8:30. We’ll know more after that. Thanks for your prayers.
PS. Well, it may not be a major test to the doctors, but to us it is. Like Mark Wilson said a few months ago. It’s major if it’s happening to us.