Category Archives: Love of God

What Is a “Blessing”?

Earlier this week I posted a question on Facebook:

If I could offer you your choice – if you’d just come to church just once – of either $1,000 or a blessing from God, would you come?

I got a few responses, but one friend, Michael Wheeler, decided to probe a little, asking if I could define what a “blessing” actually is.

The answer seems obvious, but how do you define “blessing”? That word is thrown around with no real meaning. – Michael Wheeler

I gave a typical tongue-in-cheek response:

True. I know a thousand dollars would surely BE a blessing right now 

Michael followed that response with how that he had asked “countless pastors and laypersons who overuse that word to define it, but have never gotten a satisfactory answer.” He then went on to say that the use of the word “sounds good,” but carries with it “no real meaning.”  “Other than salvation,” he proposed, “we have no other ‘blessings’ or promised things over what unbelievers experience.

Well, in fun I replied to Michael Wheeler’s question with:

Do you even own a box of crayons?

As expected (because Michael is usually a very serious kind of guy), he answered with:

Nope… Is that the extent of your definition of “blessing”?

That is when – after a brief distraction – I wrote the following:

No, not hardly. I got distracted by other things. I only asked that because sometimes I feel like you see things only in black and white – not as in truth claims, but in what you see. For instance, I never read fiction, but then I read “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe”…it added color to the pallet of my spiritual imagination. Lewis didn’t teach me any new truth, but he added shades of color to what I could already see.

Much of what I would call “blessings” are those moments when the Spirit opens the eyes of my understanding and allows me to see the beauty of a Truth in a new shade. In some ways, it’s like God takes me into His art gallery and amazes me with a new painting of the same scene. I’m speaking in terms of spiritual imagination, of course… the box of crayons.

We are blessed every day by the goodness of God. That goes for everyone who enjoys the providential care of the Creator (it rains on the just and the unjust). But we are also blessed in that we have a Father who not only gave us salvation but continues to give us bread instead of stones. He is the one who will one day bring us close to Himself and share with us that little white stone with a name on it only the two of us will know – that’s true intimacy. So, many blessings are no less than those moments when we enter into worship – corporately or privately – and sense the real presence of the Holy Spirit reassuring us of the truth that He will never leave us or forsake us, that His grace is sufficient for every need. I could go on and on.

If I had the time to sit down do a more meticulous study of the definition of “blessing,” I’m sure you’d find the result more satisfying to your particular taste. However, what I’ve just described for you is the practical and real-world look at how I see it. Simply put, many times getting a “blessing” may be nothing more than being brought the realization of how good, merciful, and gracious our Father is. If He throws in a thousand dollars, well, that’s a bonus.

Excellent answer,” wrote Mr. Wheeler.

That’s why I thought it would be worth sharing with you!

What do you think? How would you define a “blessing”? 

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Filed under Church, Love of God, salvation

If Ever I Loved Thee

Today is Haley’s 19th birthday! Yay Haley!! And since we are back in Chattanooga for the event, I thought I’d repost something from the past – since I’m not preaching anywhere, today (we’re going to church with Haley).

Next week: Bethlehem Baptist – see you there!

A Hymn Sermon

One of the greatest hymns, at least one of my favorites, is “My Jesus, I Love Thee.” This past Sunday morning I preached a sermon based on the four verses from this song.

Below is a copy of the simple outline I took to the pulpit. I must admit, it got me a little wound up. (Can I get an “Amen!“)

“My Jesus I Love Thee”

My Jesus, I love Thee, I know Thou art mine; (Jn 21:15-17)
For Thee all the follies of sin I resign; (2 Tim. 2:19)
My gracious Redeemer, my Savior art Thou; (Ruth 2:10)
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now. (The Place of Regeneration)

I love Thee because Thou hast first loved me, (1 John 4:19)
And purchased my pardon on Calvary’s tree; (1 Peter 1:18-19)
I love Thee for wearing the thorns on Thy brow; (Mt 27, Mk 15, Jn 19:2)
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now. (The Place of Realization)

I’ll love Thee in life, I will love Thee in death, (Job 13:15)
And praise Thee as long as Thou lendest me breath; (Job 33:4)
And say when the death dew lies cold on my brow, (Ps. 116:15)

If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now. (The Place of Resignation)

In mansions of glory and endless delight, (Jn 14:2)
I’ll ever adore Thee in heaven so bright; (Rev 21:23)

I’ll sing with the glittering crown on my brow, (2 Tim 4:8)
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now. (The Place of Revelation)

-William Ralph Featherstone (1864)

Regeneration. As I read the lyrics, I began to see a logical progression through the believer’s life. First, there was the love for Jesus that comes when one is born again – that moment of regeneration, when one is “saved.” The love we have for Christ is evident by our desire to repent of our sin and turn from its “follies.” Along with that there’s the humble heart that asks, as Ruth, “Why have I found grace in thine eyes, that thou shouldest take knowledge of me?”

Realization. The second verse describes a maturing love for our Lord that, over time, gains an appreciation for what Christ actually did to save us. Our love deepens when we begin to realize all those little sins, even the most petty, caused the sinless Son of God to have to endure unimaginable pain and humiliation, not out of obligation, but because of His love for us. His cross should have been mine, but He loved me first; therefore, I love Him.

Resignation. Thirdly, there’s that place in life when we must ultimately resign everything – our hopes, our dreams, our lives – to the One who ultimately lends us each breath. This deep, trusting love comes from a life that has witnessed the enduring faithfulness of our Savior, leading us to echo the words of Job, “though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.”

Revelation. Then, finally, there will be the place of revelation that will send our love for Christ soaring to infinite heights. We will know as we are known. We will have no more need of faith, for faith shall become sight. We will be eternally overwhelmed by the Love of the ages, forcing us to cry out, “If ever I loved thee, my Jesus tis now!

Just thought I’d share 😉

Sermon: “My Jesus I Love Thee!”

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Filed under Christian Maturity, Faith, God, Love of God, Preaching, salvation, worship

Introducing Emma

The “Mug” Post

I know that some of you may have short-term memory, but many of you may remember a post I published back in January entitled, “How Do You Pronounce This Word?

What was the word? Grandpa.

All I did was show a picture of a coffee mug, then promise that more details would follow.

Well, now is the time to share the details that I promised earlier.

But first…

Meet My Granddaughter!

Emma Louise Westbrook!

On Friday the 24th of this month (May), I officially became a grandpa – Emma’s adoption became final. The above picture was taken at the courthouse, and it’s obvious she’s intelligent enough to understand everything that was happening.

Who wouldn’t smile at the thought of being the granddaughter of a grandpa who can sing, draw, color, play with blocks, imitate Grover from Sesame Street, and generally be a kid at the drop of a hat?

Adoption Conversation

I have to admit, I look forward to the day, someday in the future, when the whole subject of adoption can lead to an “adoption conversation.”

There are five times in the Bible where “adoption” is mentioned. One of those times is in the well-known verse below:

For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. – Romans 8:15

It will be great to one day have a conversation with her about salvation, and from an aspect that few of us understand as much as she will – because she’s that intelligent 🙂

We will talk about how that just like her mom and dad, her Father in heaven said, “I’ll do whatever it takes to make her mine.” And maybe – because she’s a smart one – she’ll enlighten me to some deeper aspects of a truth that applies equally to me.

I’m so happy that Josh and Alicia were able to have their dream come true to expand their family. We were already so proud of them, but now we are even more proud of how they are becoming the best parents they can be.

My prayer for them is that they also think of the “adoption conversation” and remember that they, more than anyone else in the world, will be able to mirror the love of the Father in their parenting. By their example they can lay the groundwork for a personal introduction to the One who wants to adopt us all into His Family.

Now that you know her, expect more in the future – I’m a grandpa, you know. 

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Filed under Family, Love of God, Parenting

Things I Wish You Knew about Me

Awards

I was scrolling through some older posts and came across the one you are reading right now (that’s freaky, isn’t it?). It was a post about getting awards from other bloggers, but then having to nominate a bunch of other bloggers to make it all official.

What I said back then is still true today… that’s too much work for an award, don’t you think?

very-inspiring-blogger-awardSeriously, what other kind of award demands that in order to receive it you’ve got to nominate 10 others? Can you imagine an Oscar winner being handed the statue, but before it exchanged hands the winner had to nominate 10 other actors? Can you imagine the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize having to nominate 10 others before receiving his mostly undeserved, politically motivated award money?

Honestly, there are many blogs better than mine (your’s is probably one of them). If I deserve an award, they all do.

Things Heretofore Unknown

Another requirement of many blogging awards is that the recipient list 8 or 10 things heretofore unknown (things you didn’t know about the blogger).  But as I began thinking about a list like that, a mental image of a creepy identity thief came to mind.

So, I’m gonna do something a little different. I am going to list 10 things about myself that I wish were true.

In other words, I wish the following list would rise up and wake me out of my slumber, smack me in the face, and say, “You da man!

10 Things about Myself (I Wish Were True)

  1. I wake up every morning with a smile on my face.
  2. I am fluent in three biblical languages, not including KJV.
  3. I love all forms of exercise, including running, mountain climbing, skydiving, and especially curling (the Winter Olympic version of shuffle board).
  4. I have every sermon planned in advance, outlined and alliterated, filled with perfect illustrations, by Friday night each week…6 months in advance.
  5. I never lose my temper.
  6. I handle all the finances in our household, never make a late payment, and never have to ask my wife for advice.
  7. I love cottage cheese.
  8. George W. Bush once asked to speak with me about some personal matters, but I referred him to Billy Graham, being that I already had a date planned with my wife.
  9. My book is on the New York Times best-seller list.
  10. I never sin.

The Worthy One

When I consider the above list one things stands out to me more than anything: I’m not perfect. But hey, I don’t claim to be, either. I mess up, get angry, act out of pride and my own self-interests, and generally fall short in every list I create. In short, I’m a sinner.

But even though I am a sinner, I have a Savior. And because of His mercy and love, the kind of love that took what I deserved and carried it all the way to Calvary, I echo the words to a wonderful song, “Blessing and honor, strength and glory and power be to You the only wise King.

I may receive a few awards, but one day I will lay every accolade, every award,every trophy, every crown at Jesus’ feet. He is the One who really deserves them.

If you never know anything else about me, I hope you know I love Jesus.


Note: For some reason I haven’t received anymore blogger awards since I first wrote this back in April of 2014. Wonder why? 😦

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Filed under blogging, Christian Living, Christian Maturity, God, Love of God, worship

“What Is Good About Good Friday?”

“What Is Good About Good Friday?

The other day I heard a man,
A man of radio fame,
A man who wrote a book about God, Faith, and Reason.
It really doesn’t matter his name.

This man has degrees; he’s paid his dues.
I’m sure he could teach us some lessons.
But this worldly-wise man proved unwise indeed
When he posed the following question…

“What is good about Good Friday?”

It wasn’t a joke, please understand;
He genuinely wanted to know!
This educated doctor with millions of books sold
Was clueless on his radio show.

What is good about Good Friday?

The greatest crime committed by man…
A day which should be most infamous
Was the bait and switch that fooled the Devil
And set up the Day most glorious!

On that Friday God’s love was manifest
The greatest Love in history.
But this man with one question exposed his ignorance
When the Cross to him was a mystery.

-Anthony Baker

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Filed under Easter, Jesus, Love of God, poetry

Still Unashamed Of the Cross

This Sunday morning I will be taking a break from my regular sermon series and will preach from the following passage:

But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; – 1 Corinthians 1:23 

The key point of the sermon will be centered around the word “crucified.” Maybe I’ll, write about it in the future.

But below is something that came to mind as I was thinking of the Cross. It’s a post I wrote last year. And I’m STILL unashamed!


Back in 2014, during the semifinals of The Voice, “Team Blake” member Craig Wayne Boyd cranked out a fantastic rendition of the classic hymn “The Old Rugged Cross.” Many people – including those who call themselves “Christian” – were shocked. Why did a singer choose to sing this hymn on a national stage – in a competition? I mean, the cross? Really? What was this guy thinking?

Maybe, just maybe, Craig Boyd was letting the world know where he’d lay that crown, should he win it.

You see, it was on the cross of Calvary that the “Dearest and Best” was slain. It was on this cross that the “ordinances against us” were nailed (Col. 2:14). It was on this cross that our Savior promised that if He be lifted up, He would draw all men unto himself. It was on this cross where Jesus said, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

Without the cross, grace would be a non-issue and the Law would still be my master. Without the cross, Easter would be irrelevant. Without the cross, we’d never been able to witness the most powerful manifestation of love (1 John 4:9-10)the world would ever see.

It was on that old, rugged, blood-stained cross that Jesus paid the penalty for my sin. It was the crossroad of judgment and mercy where the Lamb of God humbled Himself (Phil. 2:8) and purchased my reconciliation with God (Eph. 2:16).

So, why cherish the cross? Because it was and is proof positive that even before I knew Him, even when I was steeped in sin, God loved me enough to die in my stead.

It’s shame and reproach I’ll gladly bear.

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Filed under Christianity, Easter, Faith, God, grace, Love of God, worship

Fakeless Friday Facts

Fakeless News

So much has been said about “fake news” over the last couple of years, therefore I want to do everything possible to keep things real. Whatever I report will be genuinely true.

However, I’m a blogger, not a reporter, so what I offer by way of news will be limited to what’s already in the news… unless, of course, it’s about me.

And if it’s about me, you know I’m telling the truth…at least more often than CNN 😉

Friday Facts

The Bible makes it very clear that we are not to dwell on bad news, stories of evil, and illicit nonsense meant to rot the soul. On the contrary, the Apostle Paul writes:

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things [are] honest, whatsoever things [are] just, whatsoever things [are] pure, whatsoever things [are] lovely, whatsoever things [are] of good report; if [there be] any virtue, and if [there be] any praise, think on these things. – Philippians 4:8 

So, let me share with you some factual news that fits the above prescription:

  • I’m loved by God, and so are you! That’s the truth!
  • I’m not perfect and I’m overweight, but I’m working on it, just not enough. Just being honest.
  • My recent heart problems were nobody’s fault but my own. Had I been eating better and exercising a long time ago, my arteries would not have been as clogged and I would not have had a heart attack. I got what I deserved – that was just.
  • It’s good to have a wife that loves me despite my selfish and stupid ways. Her love is not predicated on my looks or my income, either. Her love for me is genuine and pure. But even though it’s pure by human standards, it’s not as pure as the love of Christ which was completely selfless and self-sacrificing.
  • Emma Louise

    My new little granddaughter, Emma, is a bundle of cuteness! She’s lovely!

  • Hey, I have good news to report! I had a CT scan on my throat, but the lump was not cancer!

What’s been good in your life this week? What didn’t go as badly as you expected? Who still loves you despite what you’ve done or not done?

The fact is God loves you, gave his Son for you, and offers you an intimate relationship, even kinship, with Himself! Despite anything else going on in your life or in this world, knowing THAT is awesome news that rarely gets reported. You should praise Him!

Think about that!

 

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Filed under current events, Family, Love of God, Thanksgiving, worship