pomp and circumstance

This is our final week of school so this will be the last writing for a while. As you know, graduations have taken a new path this year because of our social distancing constraints. One way or another, I hope you can celebrate with graduates you know in the completion of a section of education. Congratulations to all!

img_1621Wilkes’ birthday is two days after my dad’s March birthday, and Macy’s big day is two days after my mom’s birthday in May. We recently visited my parents for an early celebration of my mom turning 86. The next weekend we enjoyed a Minnie Mouse Tea Party on Macy’s third birthday. What a blessing!

img_1641We are so thankful for our family and friends. We also thank God for the health He has given me this past school year. The steroid regimen I received to boost platelet and red blood cell production in my bone marrow was ineffective in March, so it looks like we may now try a different drug which will be administered once-weekly four times at Emory. We know God is in control… and we cherish your prayers.

Our team of sixteen had to cancel a May trip to Ecuador, a nation hit particularly hard with the virus. Please pray for brothers and sisters in Christ all over the world who have suffered in many different ways because of the pandemic. Susan and I were also planning to visit friends in a couple of other countries this summer, but it looks like we’ll have to wait a while.

I love Jesus’ words: “Fear not, little flock.” What an honor to be in the ‘little flock,’ knowing our Good Shepherd is the perfect Leader. He is with us! This is why we need not fear. Let’s constantly depend on God’s grace and the Spirit’s reminders to keep our eyes, hearts, and minds fixed on the One who holds all things together.

“The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers, or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things and in Him all things hold together.” Colossians 1:15-17

“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” Colossians 3:1-2

“And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus the Pioneer and Perfecter of faith. For the joy set before Him He endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of God. Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Hebrews 12:1-3

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resistance, suffering, and perseverance

Lewis is my name and I recently turned my life over to Christ. My wife Sarah saw the huge change in me and decided to put her faith in Jesus also. Our two young children now have parents who are trying their best to be the mom and dad, and the wife and husband, God wants us to be. We are far from perfect, but we both feel so blessed to be on the same journey of faith, hope, and love.

But this journey is being met with resistance. Sarah’s family has basically disowned her and we have faced a host of other challenges. Reading the Bible helps us understand that there is a battle being fought in the spiritual world that is very real. All children of God have a ruthless enemy who hates to see a person or a family dedicate itself to the Lord and His ways.

Individually, I’ve sensed Satan’s desire to simply get me to retreat from faith and return to a life of ‘calling my own shots.’ So my prayer is to recognize his crafty ways, and for God, who has all power, to make me good soil. I do not want to be the hard path, or the rocky soil, or the thorny ground where ‘life’ is choked out. I want to bear fruit for the One who saved me. (see Mark 4:1-20)

Remembering the power of prayer and the Person of the Holy Spirit who lives in us, I must ‘resist the devil’ and know he will eventually flee. The life of the child of God (or the family of God) is no joke. Satan constantly schemes… but “greater is He who is in us than he who is in the world.”

I need my focus to be on our Good Shepherd who has rescued His sheep and will not be defeated. No one can snatch us out of His hand! He gives peace in the midst of the storm. He whispers: ‘Joy comes in the morning’ and encourages us to persevere. He says perseverance must be learned for us to become mature.

I long to be a mature husband, a mature father, a mature disciple of Christ… who lives by faith. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight.” If difficulty comes, I must choose to trust, obey… and persevere.

Though He has given us salvation and every spiritual blessing, God seems to choose to let suffering take place in the lives of His children. Though we are young in the faith, Sarah and I confess that our trials have actually led to more dependence on God. If Jesus “learned obedience from what He suffered,” should we be any different?

What did Jesus mean when He said anyone who follows Him must “take up his cross daily”? Peter wrote: “If you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in His steps.” I don’t have all the answers, but such Scriptures help us understand that our blessed life in Christ will not always be easy. I am asking God for grace to be faithful… no matter what.

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:2-3

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Spirit, power, and prayer

Hello, my name is Lewis. Recently, during perilous times, I was rescued. Jesus would say I was born again… born of water and the Spirit. Because of Him: God has forgiven my sins; I’ve been set free from the plague of addiction; and I have experienced peace beyond understanding. God’s love has invaded my heart… the Holy Spirit lives in me.

Before Jesus completed His time on earth, He told His disciples it was better for Him to leave so that the Spirit could come. He promised His followers this Gift from His Father… the Helper, the Counselor, the One who would remind, teach, and empower.

The Bible says: “When you believed, you were marked in Christ with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession.” We’ve been marked with the Holy Spirit!

Paul prayed that God would give His children the ”Spirit of wisdom and revelation that we might know Him better.” He gives power to those who believe. “That power is the same as the mighty strength He exerted when He raised Christ from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly realms.”

Jesus teaches us to pray for things that require God’s power. For example: “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.” So I am praying for those in darkness to see the Light. I am praying for the sick to regain their health. I am praying for the hungry to have food and the orphans to have homes. I am praying for the widows and the homeless and the addicts and the imprisoned.

But God also wants me to be involved in His work. Am I willing to tell others what Jesus has done for me? Am I willing to serve the sick, the orphans, the widows, and the poor? Will I visit or write letters to those in prison? Will I give my money to help those in need?

I used to always criticize the rich for not being generous enough or the government for not being helpful enough or my neighbor for not being thoughtful enough… but now Jesus tells me to quit judging others and start being a part of the solution. I am to pray without ceasing… and love others without limit. I am to rely on the Holy Spirit… knowing He now lives in me. I am to talk the talk of a child of God… and walk the walk of Jesus. He gives us power to live this way! “Lord, help us… and may the world be drawn to Your beauty and love.”

“For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love, and self-discipline.” II Timothy 1:7

“If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” Luke 11:13

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faith and experience

Hello again, my name is Lewis. In the midst of difficulty, I have found Jesus… or maybe, Jesus has found me. Good can come from bad… I say this because I really don’t think I would have pursued God had life not changed so dramatically. Now I am consumed with Him… and I’m asking: What does He expect from me?

Reading His Word, it looks like God has accomplished everything through His Son Jesus Christ and now He asks us to live by faith. “Without faith it is impossible to please God…” seems pretty clear, but what is faith? The Bible says: “Faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” I think God wants us to be confident in His love and certain that He is with us.

It is tempting to try to figure things out before believing. In the case of Thomas, Jesus said, “Reach out your hand and put it in My side.” Then He said, “Because you have seen Me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” That is us. That is me.

It must work like this: God reveals His truth; I choose to believe (or not); then experience follows. Here’s an example from my brief journey:

The Bible says: “We know that our old self was crucified with Him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin… Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with Him… In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” (see Romans 6)

While I don’t quite understand how I died when Christ died, by faith I am believing Jesus took my sin and my ‘old self’ to the cross with Him. And when He rose on Sunday morning, He included Me in His resurrection. Because He lives, I live… in Him, as a new creation… no longer a slave to sin.

So here’s my experience: I am a new man. Before Christ, I was a slave to sin, addicted to bad habits I could never conquer. Now I am free. This is a miracle brought about by one event: Jesus Christ came into my life. ‘I once was lost, but now I’m found… I was blind, but now I see.’ I am praising God for His grace and I am giving Him all the credit for saving me. If He rescued me, He can rescue anyone.

I must now tell my friends and family that God is real and that He loves us. I must share this new life I have found in Jesus. “Lord, let me shine Your light! Please help others find You too.”

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come. The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And He has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God! God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” II Corinthians 5:17-21

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on a stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16

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peace and love

Hello, my name is Lewis and it has been one week since I surrendered my life to Christ. I said: “Lord, You have given Your life to save me… thank You. I don’t understand everything, but I am offering myself to You and trusting You completely… even in this horrible pandemic. Take my life and do with me as You please.”

I feel as if I am a new man. My outlook, my attitude, and my whole mindset have changed. A good friend always told me I needed to seek the true meaning of life… and I am beginning to understand. With so much free time during our mandated confinement, I have decided to read the Bible. My friends and family would really laugh if they saw me now.

I now possess a peace I have never experienced. This peace is more powerful than any fear. In trying to understand it, I’ve concluded much stems from this truth: God loves me. The Bible says He has known me before I was even born and that He longs for me to know Him.

Jesus said: “Now this is eternal life: that they know You the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” Granted, it has only been a week, but knowing God changes everything! God is love and He loves me despite my past, despite my wrongdoings, despite my years living opposed to Him. He has provided forgiveness and hope and a future. He is the Source of peace.

My friend says this peace is supernatural… and I guess it is… but isn’t it also a natural product of the Father’s love? Do we not witness peace in the faces of our sleeping children? In a loving, stable home with parents present, a child need not worry. Peace flows from love.

I am no expert… but my life has changed. Amidst the troubles, peace has come into my heart and into my home. Will it exist if I experience loss? Will it remain if I get sick or a family member gets sick? I can’t yet speak from experience, but my heart tells me sorrow still exists in our world and difficulties do not disappear… but the love of God cannot be changed. If He is the Author of peace, then peace is always possible. “With God, all things are possible.”.

“I will put My laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be My people. No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest. For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” Hebrews 8:10-12

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:4-7

“And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.” I John 4:16

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