The T.C. Principle

Things Change

Many years ago there was a preacher by the name of Jack Exum who often liked to talk about the T.C. Principle. The meaning behind the T.C. was simple… It meant, “Things Change”. You actually don’t have to live that long now days to realize the truth of that principle. And, of course as you deal with life today you are, as many of us are, surely amazed at how quickly things change.

How quickly things change

Honestly, 4 or 5 weeks ago we were planning vacations; we were excited about school graduations; talking about what we would do when the kids were out of school for the summer. We were looking forward to cooking out in the back yard with our friends. In short we were planning for the future with hope and expectation, but things changed didn’t they.

Our focus changed

Changed focus

In just a matter of days for many the focus has changed from being excited about the future to wondering if we will survive this present crisis of the Corona19 virus. I know that for some who are quarantined in their home… they are loosing hope. How many know someone who has contracted this virus or has died of this virus already and they tell us it is only going to get worse. What are we to do? What can we do?

Focus on what you can do, not what  you can’t!

Let me suggest a couple of things: First, you take all of the precautions you can to keep yourself safe physically. You act wisely, conserve your resources and do what you can with your own abilities. Second, you begin to take a close look at what really matters in life.

God of the second chance

For much of our world the concept of God or Religion has become something to be laughed at as a silly superstition. Those who practice their Christian faith openly have been ridiculed and in some places in our world actually persecuted. Perhaps it is time for you to rethink your position of God and Religion.

Where is your hope?

Things change in this world, quickly, and often not the way we would want, but there are some things that never change. And the most solid thing you can hold on to is our God. There is an old hymn that proclaims: “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness”.  Hope of what you might ask, it is the Hope of something better than what we have here in this life. It is the hope of eternal life with our God after this life is over.

The Apostle Paul trying to encourage early Christians about life and death says: 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14,Our friends, we want you to know the truth about those who have died, so that you will not be sad, as are those who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will take back with Jesus those who have died believing in him”.

You need protection in this scary world of ours!

Shield of faith

Is our world a scary place, is it sometimes a discouraging place or even a depressing place? Yes it can be… IF you do not have any hope. I don’t know about you, but for me, My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and his righteousness. And as another old hymn says, “This world is not my home I’m just a passing through, my treasure is laid up somewhere beyond the blue.” How about you?

 

 

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The church of the second chance

Second Chance

I was in Michigan recently and saw a sign on a church building that declared it was, “The Church of The Second Chance”. That thought has stayed with me and I have mulled it over and what the true message is in that description. I think it boils down to the idea of “Hope”.

Hope is necessary

How many times have we wished for a “do over,” a chance to redeem ourselves or correct some words we said or actions we have taken. We sometimes beg for a second chance to make things, our lives or the lives of others better, but far too often that possibility is denied us.

Forgiveness in necessary
Forgive

So many times hearts are broken, spirits are crushed and souls are lost because we don’t understand the concept of grace and forgiveness. A quick question… according to Jesus, can you tell me how many times you are supposed to forgive someone? Answer: Matthew 18:21, “Seventy times seven”. That’s a bunch isn’t it? An interesting application to that is given by Jesus in Luke 17:3-5 where he says: “So watch what you do!”If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. If he sins against you seven times in one day, and each time he comes to you saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him. The apostles said to the Lord, “Make our faith greater (or increase our faith).””

Pray for more faith

If the truth be told, I am right there with the apostles… I need more faith to do a better job of forgiving! I need more faith to do a better job of truly understanding grace and forgiveness. I need more faith to understand the true nature of having and giving a second chance!

Grace is necessary 

We are told in Ephesians 2:8,For it is by God’s grace that you have been saved through faith. It is not the result of your own efforts, but God’s gift, so that no one can boast about it”. Basically this scripture tells us it doesn’t matter how good we think we are or how much good stuff we do, we are saved simply because God loves us enough to give us a second chance.

Second chances are necessary

In all of this I’m trying to say, our churches need to be a place where we understand the nature of giving a second chance, or a third chance or a fourth chance… or wait… perhaps even seventy…. I understand we can’t condone or embrace sin, but we can forgive, because each one of us is forgiven ourselves. This is why Jesus adds in Luke 17:3,So watch what you do!”If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him.”

God of the second chance

I don’t know about you, but I live in Christ, because I have been given a second chance, and a third, and a fourth and so on my life continues, because we are loved by the God of the Second Chance!

 

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The Corona Virus and a Snake on a Pole

Humanity

The Bible is full of wonderful stories that show us the power of God and how much he loves us as the people he created. We are called “humans”, but at times I wondered how much “humanity”, we really have in us… What does that word tell us about what or who we should be? It is defined as: “noun. The definition of humanity is the entire human race or the characteristics that belong uniquely to human beings, such as kindness, mercy and sympathy. An example of humanity is all the people in the world. An example of humanity is treating someone with kindness.”  (www.yourdictionary.com).

Satan has led many away since the beginning

I guess our world is not so different than it has been since almost the beginning is it. I mean it; near the beginning our history began with Cane killing his brother Able and quickly grew in sin after that.

Cain and Able

As we look at the past few thousand years of our history it is easy to see it filled with all kinds of wickedness. We know how far we as “humans” have strayed from what the Creator intended us to be. So many approve of killing unborn babies, yet protest the mistreatment of animals. We as a people wait with bated breath for the next episode of some television series that preaches to us the acceptability of lying, cheating, stealing and even killing our fellow humans. We live in a world where people have forgotten God and His purpose for creating us. Rather than showing kindness, mercy and sympathy to others and loving and worshiping our creator, (our God), we only want to make ourselves happy, no matter who else it hurts.

Not much seems to have changed

serpent on rod

No, not much has changed, even through God has tried repeatedly to bring us back to the right way of living and thinking. In the book of Numbers 21:5-19 there is a brief story of God’s chosen people once again forgetting their God and only thinking of themselves. They started complaining about how hard things were in their lives and how much God had let them down. They were rejecting God and His love and leadership and wanted to do things “their way”. Because of this God sent poisonous snakes among them to kill those who rebelled. Well, as usual when this started to happen…. Well people changed their mind about what was right. In Numbers 21:7-9 we read: “Then the people came to Moses and said, We have done wrong in crying out against the Lord and against you: make prayer to the Lord to take away the snakes from us. So Moses made prayer for the people. And the Lord said to Moses, Make an image of a snake and put it on a pole, and anyone who has been bitten by the snakes, looking on it will be made well. So Moses made a snake of brass and put it on a pole; and anyone who had snakebite, after looking on the snake of brass, was made well.

Corona Virus Snake bite

coronavirus

I wonder; could this Corona Virus be our “snakebite”? A large portion of the humans of our world are being brought to its knees. Could it be God’s way of telling the world it is time to start showing humanity to others as well as making trusting, loving and serving God a priority again? I know so many people who have thought, “One day soon, someday I’ll go back to church, I’ll read my bible more, I’ll pray more, I’ll love more, I’ll help others more”. The problem is that for many they will and are being brought down by one of the smallest things in the world… a tiny virus that may keep them from ever seeing… “someday”. What about you? We don’t have a snake on a pole or even a king on a cross, but we do have an empty tomb and a risen savior. Perhaps it’s time we truly looked at them.

Book - Is God mad at me?

Is God Mad at Me?

Have you ever wondered why?

book- have you ever wondered why?

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My Anniversary

Russ Lawson

Unexpected Anniversary

Can you believe how quickly anniversaries roll around? I really hadn’t thought about this one coming… not that it was a surprise, I just didn’t think about it, however I have it marked in my calendar. Now I’m not suggesting that I want to celebrate or expect cards and such, because it is my one year anniversary of my nearly dying.

Yep, one year ago on March 21st I had a major heart attack. The heart specialist who worked on me said that I came very close to dying and if they had not worked on my quickly enough I would have died. For most of us who have been through this type of event, it generally of makes you take a look at your life and how you are living it.

Examining our lives

I’m sure you remember the story Jesus told in Luke 12:16-21 about the fellow who was satisfied with his life to the point he was gloating about his success. He was so successful that he was planning on building bigger buildings just to store his stuff.

I like the way a modern translation puts the story so I’ll share the last part of it here with you:

“Luke 12:19 Then I will say to myself, Lucky man! You have all the good things you need for many years. Take life easy, eat, drink, and enjoy yourself !’

Luke 12:20 But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night you will have to give up your life; then who will get all these things you have kept for yourself ? ‘ ”

Luke 12:21 And Jesus concluded, “This is how it is with those who pile up riches for themselves but are not rich in God’s sight.” (GNB)

 

Be ready for the unexpected

Now I remember very clearly not being afraid when my “near death event” happened. I prayed when they were wheeling me to the ambulance, “God, I’m ready to come and be with you, but if possible I’d like to stay around and be with my loved ones awhile longer.”

 

Take a closer look 

Of course after things settled down I began to take a look at my life and see some things I could do better at. No, I didn’t make a list of them, but I have been trying to be more like I think God would want me to be. Yes, at times I struggle just like you to do the right thing and say the right thing, but just like you, I am a work in progress.

John reminds us in 1 John 2:5:  “But in every man who keeps his word, the love of God is made complete. By this we may be certain that we are in him”. (BBE)

Now we know that no one can keep God’s word perfectly and never sin, (1 John 1:7-10), but God does expect us to make the effort. When we try our best, he takes up the slack and helps us across the rough patches by His Grace. You see, that’s what I am doing with my “Second chance” at life. I am doing my best and letting God’s grace fill in the spots where I fail.

So how are you doing with the life God has given you… sometimes OK and sometimes not so good? If that’s you, you are perfectly normal…. Just make sure you are doing your best to do the right thing according to his word.

Stories to touch the heart

  Stories to touch the Heart

More stories to touch the heart

More stories to touch the heart

Have you ever wondered why?

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Corona Virus and Faith

Faith and the Corona Virus

Now what does Faith have to do with the Corona virus? Well there actually are some folks that will tell you, “All you have to do is have faith, Trust in God and pray hard and you will survive this virus.” Now although I have a very strong faith in God and trust in his to help us in many ways, I don’t think just praying alone will protect us from this virus.

Not a new problem

I was looking at a list yesterday of things that were suppose to kill off earth’s population in the past 30 years or so. So far it hasn’t happened, people are still living and God is still in control. Now whether or not this becomes a pandemic that kills off vast portions of the earth’s population or not I just can’t say and don’t spend a lot of times worrying about.

Will prayer be enough?

As I said, “I don’t think just praying alone will protect us from this virus”. I know God is on the side of the faithful, but I also know he expects something out of us also. I mean, if  you think all you have to do is pray hard enough, why do you bother washing your hands or wearing face masks, or avoiding large gatherings of people. Could it be that you realize the praying alone is not enough?

Example from Scripture 

I am reminded of the Israelites a couple thousand years ago. God brought them back to a Jerusalem that had been completely destroyed by foreign invaders. Both the city and the great wall that has surrounded it had been completely burned, destroyed, toppled over and torn down. The people were instructed to rebuild the city and the wall. God was on their side, he was watching over them, yet the neighboring kingdoms were threatening to come and kill them all. We read in Nehemiah 4:12-14:

But time after time Jews who were living among our enemies came to warn us of the plans our enemies were making against us. So I armed the people with swords, spears, and bows, and stationed them by clans behind the wall, wherever it was still unfinished. I saw that the people were worried, so I said to them and to their leaders and officials, “Don’t be afraid of our enemies. Remember how great and terrifying the Lord is, and fight for your relatives, your children, your wives, and your homes.”

God expects more of us!

My point is that all of the time in every area of our lives, God expects us to do more than just pray or have faith in him. He expects us to take responsibility for our lives and take action as needed to save ourselves and serve him better in the end. James reminds us of this in James 2:14, 17-20:

What use is it, my brothers, for a man to say that he has faith, if he does nothing? Will such a faith give him salvation? Even so faith without works is dead. But a man may say, You have faith and I have works; let me see your faith without your works, and I will make my faith clear to you by my works. You have the belief that God is one, and you do well: the evil spirits have the same belief, shaking with fear. Do you not see, O foolish man, that faith without works is of no use? (BBE)

Work and Prayer together is the key! 

So, yes, trust God and have faith, but be wise in defending yourself from this Corona Virus, wash your hands and all of the rest. But remember it takes both faith and works to please him as well as to survive any disaster.

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Reading God’s Word

Thus says the Lord!

I know it is a little past the first of January now, but I also know that some of you haven’t yet started reading God’s Word on a regular basis. I want to encourage you to think seriously about doing this.

There are many, many reading plans as well as bibles specifically designed to help Christians read their bible daily. My wife and I have been reading the bible through, (from cover to cover), each year for somewhere between 20 and 30 years now. So, I thought perhaps I might share some insights with you.

First, it never get’s old… each year when you read God’s Word afresh, you find new things that you never noticed before. Perhaps it is because of events that have taken place in your life or our world, but suddenly you see new lessons and stories that you may have read over quickly before, suddenly take on a new life.

Now having said that, there is a problem that I have and with which I have been struggling, (though it may not happen to you). I realized that reading the bible had become more something I check off my list of things to do and less about letting God speak to me. I rushed through my readings rather than savoring the time with God. It became more a thing to accomplish that a time of learning. Interestingly in talking with preacher friends I found that some had faced the same problem.

Having realized my weakness, I started looking for a way to make my bible reading more meaningful and more of a time of learning. For most all of these past years we have used
The Daily Bible in Chronological order,” compiled by F. LeGard Smith, (available on Kindle). It has small commentary sections mixed in with the daily readings and has been quite helpful. However, I decided I wanted more depth, so I decided to make a drastic change in my Bible reading/study time.

I have used “The Word in Life” study bible and enjoyed the bible studies mixed in with the text. However this year I decided to use one of my favorite commentator’s study books “The Daily Study Bible Commentary” set by William Barclay. (A very expensive set available on Kindle, but only individual books, but you can find it for free on line at http://studylight.org). If you consider this study, I have to warn you that I do not agree with some of the doctrinal views held by Barclay, but he is one of the best scholars I have ever read when it comes to giving the background and history regarding the bible texts. He is very wordy and the explanations are often lengthy, but if you want to better understand the cultural thinking of those who spoke and those who heard there is none better. He gives in depth studies of the Greek and Hebrew words, which can be rather dry, but if you want to add depth to your reading and study, he is a very good source.

I don’t care what plan or program you use, just do it… read your Bible, let God talk to you through His Word. You may be getting a late start, but that’s OK, you are on no one’s time table, God doesn’t care how you do it or how long it takes, He just wants you in his word. Paul writes, “And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God …” Ephesians 6:17.

 

book- have you ever wondered why?

 

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Remind Me…

Reaching Out to God

I saw a cartoon on Facebook this week that showed a man looking up to the sky and saying, “Speak to me God!.” The next scene showed God’s hand reaching down to earth holding a bible.

That is how God speaks to us today, through His written word. Paul even said that he wrote all that he did so that when we read it we can understand God’s message for us. (Ephesians 3:2-4).

In our daily bible reading my wife and I are now reading about the arrest, trial, death, burial and resurrection of Christ. God is speaking to us, reminding us once again of the greatest event that ever happened in human history.

This past Sunday in our worship service our brother Dennis led us in singing one of my favorite hymns titled, “Remind me dear Lord.” If you heard our congregation singing this hymn you would understand why we sing A Capella, (without musical accompaniment), because there is nothing sweeter than the human voice in praising God. Notice the words to this hymn though as they speak to our need to be reminded.

 

The things that I love and hold dear to my heart

Their just borrowed they’re not mine at all
Jesus only let me use them to brighten my life
So remind, me remind me dear Lord

Roll back the curtain of memory now and then
Show me where you brought me from
And where I could have been
Remember I’m human, and humans forget
So remind me, remind me dear Lord

Nothing good have I done to deserve God’s own Son
I’m not worthy of the scars in his hands
Yet he chose the road to Calvary to die in my stead
Why he loved me I can’t understand

Roll back the curtain of memory now and then
Show me where you brought me from
And where I could have been
Remember I’m human, and humans forget
So remind me, remind me dear Lord.”

Could it be that it’s time for you to be reminded of all that God has done for you? When is the last time you worshiped with your church family and praised him?

 

 

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You Can’t Get There From Here….

 

I was on a delivery run this past week and arrived at my destination at a huge power plant in Indiana. The guard looked at my delivery papers and said, “You can’t get there from here by yourself.” He had another guard lead me to the proper building in another vehicle.

Later in the week I delivered a shipment in Michigan. After delivering the load I turned on my trusty tablet with Google Maps and asked it to take me home and got a strange message. For the first time my display said, “I can’t find a route to that location from here.” I thought, “Wait a minute, I tell you to take me home everyday and have never had a problem.” I entered my location several times manually, but it I still received the same message. Thankfully, once I started driving again the problem corrected itself, but it started me thinking about the incident.

I felt a little bit like Dorthy from the Wizard of OZ. All she wanted was to go home and searched desperately for a way to go there.

Many of our world today are like that today, they want to go to that safe place where they can find rest, but don’t know how to get there. For some it is the problem of not really understanding that there is a place of rest.

We who are Christians understand what our true home is and where it is at, but the problem is that we would never have known that without something or someone to guide us. I will admit that I have occasionally taken a wrong turn on my travels because I thought I knew a better way than the map programs showed me. This is just the way some folks do when trying to get “home,” without following God’s map. Several times in the New Testament Jesus tells his disciples that he is, “the way,” and that he will provide directions to their waiting home. He even tells them he is going there to get things ready for their joining him. Jesus tells us the heart of the problem in Mark 12:24, “Jesus answered them, ‘How wrong you are! And do you know why? It is because you don’t know the Scriptures or God’s power.’

Map Ohio Roads


Before I go on a delivery run I always take a look at a map so I will have an idea of the route I have to take to get where I am going. So here is the big question for you; How often do you look at the map God left for you to get you to your permanent home, your place of rest? Could it be that each of us need to do a little better?

Road to eternal rest

 

 

Is God mad at me?: Why is bad stuff happening to me? Did I do something to make God mad? Am I really a bad person? Why do bad things happen to godly people? by [Lawson, Russ]

MISSIONS: The Real Deal: Our life in the Kenya, Africa mission field by [Lawson, Russ, Lawson, Melody]

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When I get to heaven I’m going to ask…

How many times have you said, or heard someone else say, “When I get to heaven I’m going to ask…” Most likely we all have at least had that thought. But will it make any difference? Last night we were at a small group bible study and were looking at Mark 10:17-22. This is the scripture where the rich young ruler came and asked Jesus what he had to do to inherit eternal life.

Here is the problem that is revealed in this story. This man had a personal audience with Jesus. He asked a question that was on his heart, an important question that Jesus answered. The problem was that the man didn’t like the answer and in fact rejected the answer outright, In verse 22 we read, “But his face became sad at the saying, and he went away sorrowing: for he was one who had much property.”

Now here is the thing about this, If we won’t listen to Jesus now, what makes us think it will make a difference if we get a chance to ask him something in the future?

All throughout the scripture we are told that God spoke in the past through prophets and then through Jesus and his disciples. God had the word written down for us so that we can read and understand it ourselves. The apostle Paul wrote in Ephesians 3:4,Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ.” If we reject the word of God, The Bible, we have condemned ourselves by the choice we made. John wrote in 1 John 2:3-6, “And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.

So, if we can know God’s will right now and if we can choose to do his will or reject his will. It comes down to a responsibility that we bear personally. We have the ability to choose, we have the ability to know what God wants us to do without using the excuse of “someday when I get to heaven I’m going to ask…” What if you choose wrong the wrong direction or just put off making a decision at all? Would you be any different from the rich young ruler who rejected Christ’s instructions, “and went away sorrowing”, because he wasn’t willing to do what Jesus asked?

All of the important questions are answered in the bible, but the decision of whether or not to accept them is yours… how will you respond?

book- have you ever wondered why?

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God’s Filter

A Filter

The other night Melody and I were spending some time together watching an older movie. She commented that when ever they showed one of the older actresses they always used a filter to soften her looks so she would appear younger. She thought about it for a minute and said, “I need one of those filters.” Actually she doesn’t, but you understand that we all want to look good to others, don’t we.

There have been numerous songs, poems and articles written about having the ability to see with “the father’s eyes”. It’s the idea that we gain the ability to see others with God’s love and compassion, you might say, even to cherish them.

David explains God’s relationship with us in a very cool way in Psalm 17:8 (ESV) Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings”. While Zechariah tells us in Zechariah 2:8 (ESV), “For thus said the Lord of hosts, after his glory sent me to the nations who plundered you, for he who touches you touches the apple of his eye”.

We have the saying, “Love is blind,” and that’s what our relationship to God is about, isn’t it. God sees us through a filter, a special filter of love that is focused through Jesus Christ our Lord.

It doesn’t matter how dirty, how disheveled, how old we are, we will always be beautiful to him. My wife is just as beautiful today, (if not more so), as the day we met! Why, that’s what the filter of love does for us. Notice what the Apostle Paul says about us as Christians in relationship to God in Ephesians 5:25-27. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for it, that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the Word, that He might present it to Himself as the glorious church, without spot or wrinkle or any such things, but that it should be holy and without blemish.”

God’s filter is love! I need to understand this more in my life because I often don’t see myself or others around me through the filter of love as does God. My prayer is that I might do a better job of taking on this ability as demonstrated for us by our God. How about you?

MISSIONS: The Real Deal: Our life in the Kenya, Africa mission field by [Lawson, Russ, Lawson, Melody]

Newly revised release of our mission book.

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