“’For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ This is a profound mystery — but I am talking about Christ and the Church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself and the wife must respect her husband.” Ephesians 5:31-33

A few years ago I was asked to help as Terri Turner married Daniel LaCoste on a beautiful piece of property near the Gulf Coast in southern Alabama. Friends in attendance remembered the occasion and asked if I might be wiling to officiate another wedding. While rain forced us to move this past weekend’s event indoors, we had a great time as Charleigh and Trevor became husband and wife.

I shared four important ingredients in the relationship between Jesus and His Bride, the Church. These are good reminders:

  • Faithfulness — Jesus is faithful to us and He calls us to be faithful to Him. Trust is critical for any relationship. This evening, you both are pledging before God and many witnesses to be totally committed to one another. Never let there be any question regarding your faithfulness.
  • Communication — Jesus communicates to His Church. He gives us His written Word, the Bible, and He asks us to constantly listen to Him. He also wants to hear the desires of our hearts as we pray and honestly express our deepest thoughts. Communication must be ‘two-way’ for a marriage to thrive. Be willing to speak and be willing to listen.
  • Sacrifice — Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice for His Bride and He asks us to be willing to lay down our lives for one another. ‘Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for Her…’ We are all in the habit of thinking mainly of ourselves, but in marriage, we must put the other first. Be willing to sacrifice.
  • Love — ‘The greatest of these is love.’ God loved the world so much that He gave His Son to rescue us and invite us into relationship with Him. Jesus teaches us how to love one another. He is love and He lives in the hearts of those who put their faith in Him. Listen to Paul’s description of true love below, and daily put these words into practice. As you do, you will not only build a solid marriage, you will demonstrate God’s goodness to the world.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” I Corinthians 13:4-8

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I was released from the hospital two days after having my spleen removed last week. So far, everything seems to be going well. I have four incisions in the left side my abdomen, but no memory whatsoever of the operation. Susan and I are thankful for your prayers.

In Jesus, God our Father communicates with us, His children, through the Holy Spirit He has given us. Most obviously, He communicates through His written Word, but the Spirit also teaches us through circumstances and life experiences. All the heroes of Scripture could attest. By entering the fiery furnace, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego learned… Running for his life as King Saul chased, David learned… Bitten by a deadly serpent after surviving a shipwreck, Paul learned… We could go on and on.

img_2386Recently my youngest grandchild and I started playing a game. She comes to me, I whisper in her ear, then she runs off to play. I was sitting at the dinner table after a meal at Kinsey’s and Jordan’s house the first time it happened and I whispered into her right ear. After running to play a few minutes with her brother in another room, Keightley returned and offered her left ear. I whispered and asked if she understood. She nodded then ran off again.

I left the dinner table to sit on a nearby sofa when the two-year-old returned a third time. “Which ear, Keightley?” I asked. “Both ears, Opa!” she answered. So I whispered something in one ear then the other. Each time I told her things I most want her to know: how much Opa and Susu love her, how much her parents love her, how much Jesus loves her, how she needs to get along with her older brother… Keightley always listened intently and always nodded affirmatively when asked if she understood.

I hear God’s whispers in hospitals. He is the perfect Father who knows exactly what we need. This past week, I mainly remember four words: “I am with you.” It is love that prompts a grandfather to summon a grandchild to his lap so he can whisper words of love and affirmation… and it is love that leads God to whisper to us. “I love you; I created you; Jesus died for you; the Holy Spirit lives in you… do you understand?”

“Both ears, Abba!”

“Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.” I Kings 19:11-12

“What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs.” Matthew 10:27

“Because you are His sons, God sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father.’” Galatians 4:6

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May God give us more and more understanding about what took place on a Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday around 2,000 years ago. His plan to save us was fulfilled at great cost, and the miracle of Jesus’ resurrection stands as the most important event of all time.

Now we can live resurrected lives by the power of the Holy Spirit until Jesus returns in glory. May we never lose sight that this is God’s ongoing plan. May the children of God live boldly as the salt of the earth, the light of the world, and the ambassadors of Christ in a confused and dangerous world. Jesus says there is a cost to follow Him… but it is totally worth it.

I won’t write next week during our Spring Break as I’ll spend several days in the hospital. We’ve tried three strategies to help my blood counts rebound, but nothing has worked. I’ve received blood or platelet infusions nearly every week for two years and the doctors believe this is unsustainable. So here’s the plan:

I’ll be admitted to the hospital Tuesday for a surgery to remove my spleen on Wednesday. It is likely that my spleen has been gobbling up my blood cells… at least that’s the way I understand it. Susan and I have a peace about it all and we would appreciate you praying for God’s will to be accomplished.

I hope to be home by the end of the week… without an organ I don’t know too much about. We thank God for his faithfulness and for the Body of Christ.

Happy Easter!

“You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of His Spirit who lives in you.” Romans 8:9-11

“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subject to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved.” Romans 8:18-24

“I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints, and His incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of His mighty strength, which He exerted in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly realms…” Ephesians 1:18-20

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A common question being asked these days is: “What’s your why?” In other words: ‘Know your purpose; figure out why you’re pursuing the things you’re pursuing…’ It’s a good question, but I think Jesus would phrase it this way: “Who’s your why?”

“When I asked the apostles if they were going to walk away from Me like most listeners did, do you remember My friend Peter’s response? ‘Where shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.’ Though not perfect, Peter was beginning to realize something: ‘I am Truth.’ Do you remember Martha asking Me to tell her sister Mary to leave My presence to help in the kitchen? I replied: ‘Mary has chosen the better place to be… at My feet. Martha, Martha, you are worried about many things, but only One is needed.’ I wanted my friends to know: ‘I am Life.’ Do you remember Thomas asking: ‘Lord, we don’t know where You are going, so how can we know the way?’ I answered: ‘I am the Way.’ Why don’t you let Me be your Why?”

Jesus became the all-consuming quest of Paul, who had been a merciless persecutor of God’s children. From a prison cell, he confessed that he had not fully attained his goal, but there is no doubt about his ‘Why.’ Try to read his words to the Philippians below as if you are seeing them for the first time… and notice his challenge to us.

If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.

But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ — the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ — yes, to know the power of His resurrection and participation in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection of the dead.

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained.

“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” John 14:6

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peepawIf there’s one thing I hope to inherit from my dad, it’s his gentleness. I often see his tenderness with his great-grandchildren. I’ve witnessed the gentle way he cared for his aging mother, who passed away in 2003 at the age of 103. Recently Kinsey’s family visited my parents and watched Peepaw rescue a distressed animal. A day-old calf was caught in some briars and separated from its mother on the opposite side of a shallow creek. Peepaw carefully untangled it, picked it up, and walked it across the stream to be re-united with its mother.

bdayMy dad turns 88 on March 19 and happily continues his gentle ways with people and animals. Our grandson Wilkes turns 6 two days later. We got to join family and friends this past Sunday for an early birthday celebration in the park.

Jesus calls Himself the Good Shepherd, One who knows His sheep by name and cares so much for each of them that He was willing to lay down His life. In my mind, I picture His gentleness most clearly as He welcomed children into His arms. You can tell a lot about a person by how they interact with kids. “Let the little children come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matthew 19:14)

jesusIf you have not yet discovered ‘The Chosen’ video series about Jesus, find it online and watch it for free. Episode 3 is called ‘Jesus and the Children’ and shows the King of kings befriending a group of Hebrew kids. Don’t expect action-packed drama in this episode, but marvel at the gentleness, wisdom, and love displayed. Surely every parent wants their children to meet such a Man.

Jesus is gentle with adults too… The blind beggar, the woman caught in adultery, the teacher who came to Him at night, the woman at the well, the despised tax collector… all experienced One who could have judged, but instead showed tender mercy. And still today, Jesus welcomes all who will listen to His voice. There is no sweeter invitation…

“Come to Me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

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