“And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.” Colossians 2:13-14
In recent years I have had the privilege to do some traveling especially when it involved going overseas. But with that comes the arduous task of packing for the trip, which I find very nerve racking… In fact anything involving luggage puts me in a bit of a dither.
First comes deciding what to pack, did I pack everything I need? Did I pack too much, or too little? What’s the weather going to be like, do I need to pack a jacket, or a swimming suit? For the most part I generally over-pack and second guess myself every step of the way.
And then comes the adventure with the luggage at the airport… the inspections, the weighing, the wondering if my suit case is over the weight limit and are we going to meet up at the same destination at the end of the flight?
But the most nerve racking is waiting for my bag to appear on the carousel at the end of the flight. The longer I have to wait the more concerned I become that my luggage may have gotten lost…but then it tumbles down the ramp and we reunite and all is well.
Over packing and lost baggage are two major concerns when it comes to traveling, except if our destination is to the Cross of Jesus Christ.
During the Lenten season as we reflect on the passion of Christ and the journey He took to the cross, we realize when he struggled up the hill called Calvary He was carrying all our baggage with Him. Our baggage includes all our sins, our hang-ups, our fears and much more, and when it is given to Jesus on the cross… it is lost to us. It will never tumble down the carousel into our possession ever again.
So when it comes to packing for the cross, we need to make sure we over-pack, and we can expect for all our baggage to be lost forever… and that’s a good thing.
…And I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. Revelation 21:2
Okay… I’ll admit it I’m a sucker for romance. I love a good romantic tale that hooks me from the beginning, and keeps me hoping throughout the story that the star crossed lovers will overcome all their trials and find themselves in each other’s arms at the end, living happily ever after… I know… it’s corny, but like I said I’m a sucker for romance.
Quite often the stories follow the same formula. Two people discover one another, and the tension builds as they question their feelings, and after a while they discover they were destined for each other and the spark of love is ignited. Inevitably conflicts arise to test their love, and we hold on tight and hope that these two have it in themselves to overcome adversity and hold onto their love no matter the trials… and we are satisfied when Love wins in the end.
Some would say that only happens in books and stories, and reality is something different altogether. That may be so…but the truth is that love is tested and developed through adversity. Questions will arise and doubts will creep in, and hardships will come to only strengthen our resolve to Love, if that is our desire.
Right now we find ourselves, as the church of Jesus Christ, in the middle of our own love story with the Lamb of God. It did not end when we gave our life to Christ, it was only the beginning. Throughout our story we have and will endure conflicts and adversity, doubts and questions, victories and failures, great joy and great sorrow, tragedies and triumphs. But this story for us as His Bride does have a Happily-ever-after ending. Our love for Him may have its growing pains, but the love that Jesus has for us is sure and true and without question.
Our Happy ending comes with the promise that Jesus is coming again and will take us home to be with Him for eternity;
“…I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” John 14:3
This is my kind of Love story… like I said I’m a sucker for a great romance.
“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1: 14
When I was a single father with not much income to speak of, innovation and improvisation became the “Go to” tools in the Tool Box of my life… especially at Christmas time.
The expenses of Christmas can add up. Besides the buying of gifts, there’s the tree, ornaments, lights, food, and wrapping paper. With all of this, innovation becomes a single father’s best friend… It also helps if you have some helpers. My help came in the form of my three young daughters.
One year during the holidays I somehow got a hold of several large rolls of brown paper about two feet wide. These would become the foundation for my Christmas wrapping paper. The next weekend my girls were scheduled to be with me. When we arrived at my apartment, I told the girls to take off their shoes and socks before I opened the door. With lots of giggles and excitement they promptly did as I instructed.
When I opened the door to my apartment they saw the brown paper stretched out on the floor leading to the bathroom and a tub filled part way with water. Right by the door as we entered were bowls filled with red, green, and blue paint. I asked the girls to dip their feet into the paint and walk on the brown paper to the bath room and into the tub. They made several trips… and in the end we had very festive, custom made paper in which to wrap our Christmas treasures in.
Of course not all the paint stayed on the paper… but isn’t that what security deposits are for? It also took a while to get all the paint out of the tub. It was totally worth it though to experience my daughters’ joy as they walked up and down the paper in red, green, and blue feet, and seeing their unique colorful, little footprints in three different sizes emblazoned on the plain brown paper… Priceless.
One can say Christmas has always been about footprints. It’s when God came to us wearing the tiny foot prints of a baby in a manger… And when Jesus walked on the plain drab surface of this world, the Glory of God shone in every step He took, and life on this earth would never be the same again because of those footprints… Priceless.
“This is God’s Message, the God who made earth, made it livable and lasting, known everywhere as God: ‘Call to me and I will answer you. I’ll tell you marvelous and wondrous things that you could never figure out on your own.’… Jeremiah 33:2-3
When I was a young youth pastor in Pasadena, a member of our church came into my office and gave me a marvelous gift. He started off by telling me that he was a man who loved to read, and that he loved books, he also told me that he didn’t think young people read enough books… and he looked straight at me without smiling with an expression that suggested to me that maybe he thought I was one of those illiterate youth.
And then he said “I want you to go to the bookstore at Fuller Seminary and pick out as many books as you would personally like and I want to pay for them.” I was speechless. No one ever gave me a gift like that. He continued without humor as I remained silent with my mouth open, “And I don’t want you to even think about keeping it under a certain amount. I want you to have every book you want to read. I will cover the entire cost no matter what it is.” Then to emphasize his point even more, his eyes narrowed almost in anger and pointed his finger and said “Do not short change yourself. Get every book you want.” I thanked him for the gift and did exactly as I was instructed to do.
As I think about it now it was a marvelous and wondrous thing he did for me. It was something I could never do for myself. Because he went out of town shortly after and I moved away to take another position, I never saw him again, but his gift at the time was beyond my imagination.
I didn’t know it at the time but God was showing me a glimpse of Himself in the generosity of this man I barely knew. I only knew he was an older member of the church… But he blessed me anyway beyond what I knew. Jeremiah reminds us of who our God is and what He wants to do… He wants us to call on him, and He wants to show us things we have no comprehension of… in other words He wants to reach us beyond the limits of our imagination.
The generous man who gave me the books did not want me to attach a budget to his blessing. God will not be budgeted by those who call upon Him, neither does calling on Him mean we budget our time with him, because in prayer we have unlimited access to the glorious presence of God. We must not short change ourselves when it comes to God. Just as the Apostle Paul reminds us…
Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us… Ephesians 3:20
We must call upon Him… and wait for marvelous and wondrous things that do not yet know.
See, I am doing a new thing… Isaiah 43:19
God is doing something at the First Baptist Church of Palos Verdes. In the past few months we have seen the greatest influx of new people coming into our church since I have had the privilege of being Pastor.
Let me give you an example. When we began our Wednesday morning Bible Study our attendance was somewhere between 3 and 8, and we rejoiced when there were eight of us. Now we are crammed around that table in room 1 and a double figure number in Bible Study lately seems to be the norm. Numbers don’t mean a whole lot to me, but a dozen people excited about studying God’s word and experiencing the movement of the Holy Spirit does mean something to me.
Our new “Art and the Word” Bible study which began Tuesday September 24, had an attendance of 13, half of which were from outside our church family. Some of these new people have already crossed over to our regular Sunday morning worship and P3 on Wednesday nights.
Since the summer we have had over a dozen new people visit us on Sunday mornings… and come back. In speaking to many of them, they all seem to say the same thing “There is something very special here.” And there is. It is the Grace of God shining in the faces of a community of people who take the words of the Great Commandment, “Love one another, as I have loved you” very seriously.
God is doing a New Thing in this church. Lives are being touched and blessed. The best days of this church are truly ahead of us.
Upon my Grandfather’s death in December of 1979, my father wrote a loving and beautiful tribute to him entitled ‘He Just Slipped Away.’ Recently my Dad went home to be with Jesus … Now it’s my turn to honor him because in the early morning hours of August 13 my father… just slipped away.
As the old day faded into history, and the new day barely a promise…he just slipped away.
The one who was known in life as William Lowell Fairley, W. Lowell Fairley, Dr. Fairley, Rev. Fairley, Pastor Fairley, Lowell, Billy, Honey, Sweetie, Pop, Dad, Papa, and Grandpa…just slipped away.
His weary and weak body which carried him through life for 86 years took its last breath and his indomitable spirit, set free at last slipped away into the arms of his greatest treasure, the Lord he loved and served all his life.
He was a Lion in the pulpit who wielded words to describe the Christian Life as a Van Gogh wielded his brush to depict a Starry Night, with boldness and authority as one born to it. To many who heard him, his sermons were legendary and life changing with titles like, ‘A Gift in a Brown Paper Bag,’ ‘He Was Older than His Mother,’ ‘God’s Light and Power Company’ and ‘The Amazing Alabaster Box.’
As well as a Fisher of men he was a fisherman. He loved the natural world of God’s creation and all creatures in it great and small…but the sea and all its majesty and glory held a unique sway over him…as the two week family vacations at the beach every year would attest.
This devoted father of one daughter and two sons…just slipped away from us on August 13.
Over the years we watched him slip away from us a little at a time, as Alzheimer’s took its heavy toll. Eventually our names were gone but he knew we were people who loved him very much.
The greatest song in his life was Carol, his wife, partner, companion, lover and best friend for 63 years. When all his other words were gone and lost in a fog somewhere in his mind, ‘Carol’ continued on his lips to end.
I learned to love Jesus from this man who was my father. I spent the day with him before he died. I told him I loved him, and that I would miss him… I do, and I will… then at the beginning of a brand new day this husband, father, pastor and friend… just slipped away.
“…He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.” Psalm 1:3
I love planting a garden. No matter how much space is allotted for my garden in the different homes we have lived in, I am bound and determined to make it work.
Over the years I have found that the strip of ground on the side of the house where the trash containers are stored has been the most fruitful. I don’t know what it is about the close proximity to garbage that makes an abundant harvest of tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, corn, grapes, radishes, beans, snow peas, cilantro, parsley and basil. I am always pleasantly surprised by what I find out there.
This season my garden is in pots on my patio and it’s doing pretty well. As with my garbage gardens I enjoy going out several times a day and checking the progress of the seedlings, the height of the young plants, or to observe whether or not the young green tomatoes have started to blush with color. I thrill at every sprig that breaks its way through the soil, and every tiny piece of fruit that begins to swell on the vine.
I love finding the vegetables that have come to harvest almost in secret. I move a leaf and… ‘Surprise!’ there’s this big beautiful zucchini or tomato ready to be picked for dinner. Beautiful!
I know God loves His garden even more then I love mine. His garden is planted with the people He calls His church. They are nurtured, hopefully by His Word, and watered by the Holy Spirit. He is constantly checking on the progress of his garden, lovingly caring for it and watching over it to make sure the weeds are pulled and the pests are done away with. He is diligent in bringing His church, His garden to abundant fruitfulness… and he delights at every little ‘Surprise’ that makes its way into the sunshine of His face.
As I reflect on my own gardens over the years, I have to say I like the ones planted by the dumpsters the best. They were the most surprising to me… kind of like the First Baptist Church of Palos Verdes whose property runs alongside a city dump. I thank God every day for this little ‘Garden of Surprises.’