It’s amazing to me how there are so many songs about the heart and about love in pop culture. While I played several songs on Sunday before the start of my sermon, there were many, many more that included the themes about love and the heart that I could have also included. I think that speaks to how the world is looking to understand, know and find love. It also shows me that pop culture can capture the human experience in powerful expressions. As I noted on Sunday, U2’s song “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m looking for” is such an example. The chorus, which repeats the title of the song, expresses the search of looking for something in life and not finding it, despite basically searching everywhere and through everything. It’s just like what the theologian Augustine said as well, “You have made us for Yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in You.” The world’s songs and the testimony of our own hearts speak to the restlessness within us until we find it in Jesus.
That’s why we have the privilege from God to have a heart: so that we could know Him (Rom. 10:9-10) and to know His love (Rom. 5:5). It stands to reason then, that God ought to have the privilege of being Who we love the most. For what we love, we serve (Matt. 6:21). No wonder because of this that He also commands us to guard our hearts for it is the wellspring/source of life (Prov. 4:23). The Father wants us to guard the very core of us, which He’s given to us so we can grow deeper in His love and experience Him more. This also means that we eliminate unnecessary/unproductive things that distract us from Him and avoid loving things that would lead us away from Him. King Solomon’s life is a sad commentary on this (1 Kings 11:1-4). My friends, I’m going to include the questions from the sermon handout from Sunday as a way for us to reflect on the impact of our hearts in life.
Please read Psalm 63 for Sunday.
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, Lord, my rock and my Redeemer (Ps. 19:14).
Bless your hearts! (**REMINDER FROM SUNDAY: when I say this phrase, I mean it as an encouragement and kindness, not an insult!)
The talents and gifts that God has graciously given to us in Christ Jesus are the ways that He has designed us to minister to one another (1 Cor. 12:7) and to proclaim His love to the lost world.
That’s His plan and He’s not slow about it. He’s waiting for the fullness of those who would believe in Jesus to come into relationship with Him, not wanting any to perish (2 Peter 3:9). We’re in His plan and there is no Plan B. These gifts are given by Him so that we would care for one another and to grow up into maturity in Christ (Eph. 4:13). And, seeing that it is God who empowers each gift within us (1 Cor. 12:6b), we run the risk of blocking, even quenching, His work that would bring further fulfillment in our lives and powerful ministry in the lives of others around us. I think that’s something we don’t think of or perhaps more accurately, we don’t care to think about, that when we don’t use our gifts, we cost others a blessing, maybe even the opportunity to know Jesus.
Don’t get me wrong here, I’m not saying we’re wonderful but His grace is wonderful and He’s worthy of us getting messy in serving others. The scandal of the Corinthian church was that they all wanted the flashy and showy gifts. If you were to ask me what the scandal surrounding the gifts in our time, I would answer like this:
Apathy: Believers don’t care what their gifts are.
Unawareness: Some believers don’t know their gifts, plain and simple.
Negligence: Believers know their gifts but either hide from using them or simply just don’t engage.
Overuse: There is something called the 80/20 principle. It’s the observation that 20% of folks are doing 80% of the work in the church, and risk either overuse or burnout, all the while others sit out. Brothers and sisters, this ought not to be this way (James 3:10b).This isn’t my drumming volunteers for things at the church. You’re just costing yourself a blessing by not serving. If you are part of the 20%, many thanks for serving the Lord and know that He will honor that. If you’re part of the 80%, get moving and be about serving Him!
My friends, our best ability in serving the Lord is our availability to do what He asks of us.
Teach us to number our days carefully, so that we may develop a heart of wisdom. Psalm 90:12
If you joined us on Sunday, you might recall that I shared a story about intentionally turning the wrong way in Bellville last Friday in order to save time on my trip. I’m happy to report that as I was traveling the same way on Sunday afternoon, I took the correct path and took the right turn! I found it very interesting that it really didn’t add as much time as I thought it would on Friday. Isn't it funny (or sometimes not so funny) how time can seem to press in on us? In fact, as we know, it’s in the context of time that our life’s journey is played out. There was another song I was going to play as part of my introduction on Sunday but left it out since I already played several songs. I want to take a moment to share some lines from this song that is one of the Smith family’s favorite songs. It’s titled, “Little Wonders” by Rob Thomas.
Here are the lyrics I’m referring to:
Our lives are made
In these small hours
These little wonders
These twists and turns of fate
Time falls away
But these small hours
These small hours still remain
It’s a poignant song that captures the sentiments that our lives are made up of these small hours that are the most significant in the end. God has given us these small moments & hours (and sometimes big moments & hours) that we would know, love and serve Him. He’s the source of our time and it’s important that we use it wisely to honor Jesus. No wonder Moses prays and asks God to help him have a heart of wisdom in regards to all his days. We can learn a lot from Moses in Psalm 90!
Here are the questions I included in the handout from Sunday for us to ponder again on our time usage:
What are God’s purposes He wants accomplished?
What are your priorities? (Any discrepancies with the above question?)
What are your personal time-wasters?
What season are you in? It’s important to know what season you are currently in: Ecclesiastes 3:1-8.
What do you need to do to make the most of your time?
Please read 1 Corinthians 12 for Sunday and blessings as He redeems the time for you!
Somehow God uses our giving to further his kingdom. I think that’s one of many reasons that God commands and tells us to give back to Him. For when we give to Him, it acknowledges Him as the source of everything in our life, not just financial provision. In Leviticus,, He commanded that tithes and offerings be brought into the storehouse to provide for the priests and that these offerings would be holy unto the Lord. In Proverbs 3:9-10, He promises that those who honor Him in these ways would have barns that overflowed.
In New Testament times, with our giving, we get to advance missions, support local ministry and help those in need. But, ultimately, all of this is to enable the kingdom to move forward and to help us realize how much money can get a hold of our hearts, if we’re not careful to love Jesus more. Paul warns us that the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil (1 Tim. 6:10) and indeed we don’t have to look far in the world to see what evil has happened around the pursuit of money. Even in the church world, sadly, there’s much corruption around money. That’s why the writer of Hebrews tells us to be content with what we have and to know that the Lord will never leave us or forsake us (Heb. 13:5). That’s why prayerful examination is so important in making sure that we are honoring Him, above all, with our first and with our best. Because after all, the Father gave us His first and best in Jesus.
I’d like us to be praying for our time together on Sunday as we examine how to best use our time God has given us on this earth. To that end, please read Psalm 90.
We give, because He first gave to us!
Three servants were entrusted with the possessions and wealth of their master in the Parable of the Talents in Matt. 25. The first servant received five talents, the second servant received two talents, and the third servant received one. The Scripture expressly notes that the master gave these talents to the servants based on their ability (Matt. 25:15). He knew what he was doing in giving such wealth for them to manage as a talent represented 20 years worth of wages. That’s no small amount! The first two servants immediately went out and began to grow their master’s wealth. The third servant? He went and hid it in the ground. As you can imagine, the master was pleased with the first two and angry with the third servant.
This parable of Jesus should sober us up pretty quickly because He’s entrusted so much to us, His servants! For the master to find his servants doing what he asked of them was pleasing. To find a third servant who buried his precious treasure in the ground had to be frustrating to say the least. Jesus is teaching us this parable so we will be ready for His return by being faithful in what He’s asked us to do. He wants us to love Him, live in the power of the Holy Spirit, and share Jesus with the world! Just as the servants gave an account to their master, so we will give an accounting of every area of our lives to Jesus.
Here are the questions I asked us to prayerfully ponder at the end of our time together on Sunday:
Friends, let’s get working with the talents the master has given to us!
Hello NewLife Family!
I’m going to share a thought with you that I shared with staff this morning at our weekly meeting. It’s from A.W. Tozer, who was an Alliance pastor and respected author but was also widely recognized in his time as one who walked closely with God.
Here it is:
“On our part, there must be surrender to the Spirit of God, for His work is to show us the Father and the Son. If we cooperate with Him in loving obedience, God will manifest Himself to us, and that manifestation will be the difference between a nominal Christian life and a life radiant with the light of His face.” (Quoted from the book, The Pursuit of God, and a chapter called “The Universal Presence”)
Here we see Uncle Tozer (yes, I call him that because of his legacy in our denomination), striking upon something very important. He’s noting the difference between a nominal Christian life and one marked with the glory and the presence of God. We’ve all met those saints who just seem to shine with Jesus in whatever they’re doing, whether worshipping on a Sunday morning or washing windows on a Tuesday morning. What’s the difference? Uncle Tozer had it right: our living submission to the Father. Jesus promised His disciples, both in His time on earth and those of us who would follow later, that He and the Father would make their home with those who love Jesus and keep His word. That obedience is to be marked by love: not just duty or grinding our way through but loving Jesus and wanting to do what He says. That’s what sets apart one from the other, a nominal Christian life or a radiant life in Christ. The latter is my goal. It’s what I want for my family, for the NewLife family, for everyone really. Because, not only does our salvation hinge upon Jesus but so does our joy, our love, our meaning, our very lives.
When we stand before Jesus, I want Him to say, “It’s so good to see you! You’ve done it! You’ve done what I asked you to do. Come enter the joy of My Presence.” There’s nothing nominal about that.
As we walked through some of the main points in 1 John on Sunday, we paused to dwell on this verse found in 1 John 1:5, “This is the message we have heard from Him and declare to you: God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all.” (NIV)
John is sharing what he heard directly from Jesus. It’s the words of the Word that John is passing on to us. It’s the message of Jesus and the Son wants us to know that the Father is light. He’s not saying the Father has the light or it’s with Him but that He Himself is the Light. To further clarify his point, John makes it clear that there is not even a hint of darkness in the Father. Who God is, is who God is. Period. There’s no deception, there’s no shadow or turning with Him (James 1: 17), there’s no darkness in Him at all, as the NIV, ESV, NLT all state. The CSB says, “there is absolutely no darkness in Him.”
So, then, we can trust Him! He’s not going to play games, trick us, or deceive us. He isn’t tempted by evil and tempts no one with evil (James 1:13). In other words, He’s a Good God. Everything about Him is good and all His ways are good. The problem is that we live in a fallen world where sometimes our vision of His Goodness can be blocked by our circumstances (either internal or external), and so we can sometimes wonder, doubt, or even despair. Thankfully, even in these hard times, He is with us in the valley of the shadow of death and those shadows can be very dark! And, the darkness that covers us or that we seek to hide behind, even that, David says, is like light to Him. “Even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day for darkness is as light with you.” Ps. 139:12 (ESV) And what our lives? We are called to walk in the light as He is in the light, so we can have fellowship with one another and Jesus’ blood will cleanse us (1 John 1:7). It’s no wonder then, that Jesus, the Truth Incarnate, tells us this about His Father. Let’s make sure we’re listening!
Let’s walk in the Light!
“I am going fishing.” Simon Peter in John 21:3
Why was Peter fishing? I’ve heard people be critical of Peter for going fishing that night when he, John, and several other disciples went out fishing. But I think we should give grace to them. After all, Jesus had not ascended to His Father yet, the disciples hadn’t yet had the time of training that Jesus would impart to them before His ascension, and they hadn’t experienced Pentecost yet. So, what would they be doing with themselves?
Peter had an idea. He went back to what he knew. Fishing was familiar to him. It was his way of life before he started to follow Jesus. As we talked as a church on Sunday, it was a way to provide for himself and potentially earn some money. Perhaps he needed something to take care of his family as he was married, which we saw when Jesus healed Peter’s mother-in-law (Mark 1:30-31).
There might have been a certain comfort for him as he was out on the boat that night, even if it wasn’t a successful fishing trip. Then, at dawn, someone on the shore asks if they caught anything and then tells them to try fishing on the other side. It’s a huge catch of fish! John realized first that it was Jesus and exclaimed, “It is the Lord!” Immediately, Peter put on his outer garment and jumped into the sea to get to Jesus. Peter’s fishing trip ended up netting him a meeting with Jesus! This meeting would lead to Jesus forgiving Peter and restoring to him his purpose.
By inviting each of the disciples to that breakfast on the beach, Jesus was extending to them not only forgiveness but a restoration of purpose and a restoration of fellowship with Himself. In His kind love and warmth of grace, Jesus provided food for them after a long night of a fishless fishing expedition. And He does the same for us. With Him in our lives, we are given fellowship, provision, forgiveness, and purpose. What a kind thing of Jesus to do for us when we really deserve to be left out in the cold. Thankfully, He’s not one to react in a conventional manner and as He restored Peter, He gives us the hope that He will do the same for us.
Let’s be thankful for Jesus and His kindness to us!
Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” John 20:19b
The Resurrected Jesus came and stood among His disciples. The Resurrected Jesus came and stood among His disciples! One small thing: the doors were locked! They were afraid of the Jews (most likely the ruling leaders who had just had Jesus crucified) and here was Jesus! The locked doors were no barrier for Him. In fact, He doesn’t even mention the closed doors. He instead gives them peace and shows them His hands and side as a confirmation that it was Him. Jesus miraculously showed up and gave them peace.
That became the theme for us on Sunday. Many of you stepped up to the microphone to share a time in your life when Jesus miraculously showed up and gave you peace. The stories y’all shared as you were prompted by the Holy Spirit were an encouragement to many hearts, including my own. Since Sunday, folks have been sharing with me how much it meant to hear the stories of Jesus showing up in each other’s lives. That’s very meaningful because these weren’t stories from other people, they were stories from us, from our own lives and encounters with the Risen Lord Jesus.
Just as John and the other disciples experienced the Power and Presence of the Lord, so have we! An equally important lesson we can take from John and the other disciples as well as our own stories is that Jesus is not a “one hit wonder”. We can have hope that He will again be our help. We all need to hear that. We all need to remember that and we all need to encourage each other that He is our Hope and our Help. Sunday was a great testimony to that. Now, let us keep walking forward with Him today!
Peace be with you!
Please read John 21 for Sunday.
Welcome to August, NewLife. Maybe it is just me, but it seems the days are going by faster and time is speeding by me. 2022 is over half behind us – the kids are heading back to school soon – and football games and Friday night lights are just around the corner.
So what does all that mean, you ask.
We don’t have time to miss Jesus. We don’t have the luxury of being selfish and fearful. We must step into our relationship with Jesus and others, intentionally now – before it is too late.
As John 20:1-18 shares, Mary missed Jesus. Simon Peter missed Jesus. So how do we not miss Him? The first place we must start is in our own heads. Mary couldn’t see Jesus because she had already made up her mind what her reality was. She believed someone stole the body of Jesus. She wasn’t looking for a Victory of Death Savior, but a body of her teacher.
NewLife – let us think about God intentionally and desperately pray that our eyes are open to Him and His works around us. Let us not assume we know what is going on – but to step into the chaos knowing full well that the Spirit is with us and is in complete control of things – and will always remain with us despite our circumstances.
So let's try this NewLife:
PS – The term I couldn't come up with Sunday was The Shroud of Turin - which some believe to be Jesus' burial face covering.
I shared an important announcement on Sunday. Beginning late August, I will have the privilege of helping take care of my new grandson a couple of days a week. I’m really looking forward to this, but knew that I couldn’t take that on while working so much here at NewLife, taking care of my family, and being available to help my parents.
So, at the end of August, I’ll be transitioning out of my role as Worship Team Leader and Church Ministries Coordinator. I’ll still be working in the office on Wednesdays to take care of some administrative details. I’ll still be an involved member of the congregation, leading worship here once per month, and leading the SALT&LIGHT Team.
Pastor Kyle will be taking on the role of the Worship Team Leader, under his role as Associate Pastor. I wanted to make sure everyone was aware of this change in leadership so you’d know who to contact with questions or comments.
It has been such a great experience leading the Worship Team. I’ve made amazing friends along the way, learned so much, and enjoyed the creative outlet this has provided. I want to thank all the members of the Worship Team for all that you do and the time that you give. I also want to give a big thank you to Andy and the Elders for allowing me this opportunity to grow and use the gifts God has given me AND also for your grace and understanding in this new season of my life. I sure appreciate you all.
Your sister in Christ,