The Church’s One Foundation

I am reminded that struggles for the church to be reminded of her identity, and purpose in the world are not new.  Each generation must be reminded of God’s saving mercies, and the unity that defines us as the Body of Christ in the world and the Bride of Christ as we are called home.  Samuel Stone was confronting a church leader who did not believe in several foundational doctrines of faith.  This hymn was written in the 1860’s and almost 160 years later the heresies and doubts have changed, but truth has not.  I love this hymn it is scriptural and has stood the test of time because it has proclaimed the timeless truth of God.  Let me share the words with you now, and let it serve as a reminder of the timeless truth of God.

 “The Church’s One Foundation” 

by Samuel J. Stone, 1839-1900

  1. The Church’s one foundation
    Is Jesus Christ, her Lord;
    She is His new creation
    By water and the Word.
    From heaven He came and sought her
    To be His holy bride;
    With His own blood He bought her,
    And for her life He died.
  2. Elect from every nation,
    Yet one o’er all the earth,
    Her charter of salvation
    One Lord, one faith, one birth.
    One holy name she blesses,
    Partakes one holy food,
    And to one hope she presses,
    With every grace endued.
  3. The Church shall never perish!
    Her dear Lord, to defend,
    To guide, sustain, and cherish,
    Is with her to the end.
    Though there be those that hate her.
    False sons within her pale,
    Against both foe and traitor
    She ever shall prevail.
  4. Though with a scornful wonder
    Men see her sore oppressed,
    By schisms rent asunder,
    By heresies distressed,
    Yet saints their watch are keeping;
    Their cry goes up, “How long?”
    And soon the night of weeping
    Shall be the morn of song.
  5. Mid toil and tribulation
    And tumult of her war
    She waits the consummation
    Of peace forevermore,
    Til with the vision glorious
    Her longing eyes are blest
    And the great Church victorious
    Shall be the Church at rest.

The Lutheran Hymnal
Hymn #473
Text: Eph. 2:20
Author: Samuel J. Stone, 1866, cento
Composer: Samuel S. Wesley, 1864
Tune: “Aurelia”

A Living Example

Billy Graham’s died today.  I hesitate to say that because he is more alive than he has ever been in heaven with Jesus.  Was Billy Graham perfect?  No, no man except Christ was perfect and He was also God.  What are some things we might could from Billy Graham’s faith and indeed his life?  I am sure this is not an exhaustive list, it will give each of us the opportunity to reflect and consider the impact of the Gospel in the heart of one who has given their lives to it.

Billy came to saving faith in Jesus Christ at the age of sixteen.  A few years later when he was about nineteen.  He preached his first sermon.  God used Evangelist Mordecai Ham to in a series of revival meetings to bring Billy and others to faith in Jesus.  As Billy grew in his faith he too began to share his faith with others.  He would later go on to speak to people in 185 different countries and territories sharing the gospel with millions of people over 80 years.

He met with and advised every President going back to Harry S. Truman except for our current President (because of his health).  His name has been one that has been an example of living rightly and keeping his name out of controversy.  What can we learn from a man who has been a testimony to our Lord Jesus Christ?

My first question was, “was Billy Graham perfect?”  No, he was not a perfect example, but as Mike Breen points out we are “living examples.”  I believe Billy was a living example.  He would often deflect any glory to point people to the glory of God in Christ Jesus.  Keeping our focus on Christ and giving Christ the glory.  I remember seeing an interview with Woody Allen years ago and he was telling him about sin and salvation.  Woody begins to respond with the question, “so you’re telling me that I am a sinner…”  Billy quickly, and gently corrects “No I am not telling you that, God is through God’s Word, the Bible.”  We won’t be a perfect example either, but we can be living examples to those around us and point them to God’s Son, God’s Word, and God’s Glory.

He met with people of all levels of society, including Presidents and world leaders.  He didn’t make a distinction about whether to meet with them based on their political affiliation or station in life.  There are many today, that vilify the political party they do not feel represents them or their beliefs.  God places people in our path to share His message it may not always be the people that we would choose.  Will we be faithful to have gentle and honest discussions with others no matter they political persuasion, differing views, or station in life?

Be who you are in Christ and be faithful to what He called you to whether little or much.  Billy was a gifted man, but God used Billy’s faithfulness to magnify those gifts.  His strength of character allowed people to trust him and that allowed him to have a greater impact.  You or I may not have the same gifts as Billy Graham, but our faithfulness to Christ, our willingness to be a living example, and to love people where they are and not where we hope they will be can help us to have an impact for the Kingdom of God in the world today.

Will you tell others about the amazing grace that saved your life?  Will you live for him and not for yourself?  The Apostle Paul at one point says, “follow me as I follow Christ.” Don’t follow anyone who is not following Christ. There may never be another Billy Graham, but God has His faithful of today, and you are one.  God bless you my friends, as you seek to be living examples of Christ just like Billy.

Beauty for Ashes

This year Ash Wednesday falls on Valentine’s Day.  Ash Wednesday is the start to the season of Lent.  The ashes are the burnt remains of the previous year’s palm branches from Palm Sunday.  Ashes and Dues are symbolic in the Bible of the temporary nature of life.  “By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return,” Genesis 3:19.  Figures like Abraham and Job both acknowledge their humanity and mortality before an eternal God.  “There I retract, and I repent in dust and ashes,” Job 42:6.

The Palms celebrated the Triumphal Entry of Jesus.  The people who celebrated thought this was an establishment of an earthly kingdom and its leader would be Jesus.  It seems appropriate that the ashes of those hopes of something lasting are the symbol of our temporary lives.

”For God so loved the world,[a] that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.  John 3:16-17

Life is temporary but there is something that is lasting, God and His love for us.  On Valentine’s Day we celebrate love, but how much do we really know about the man St. Valentine.  St. Valentine was a Roman Priest during the reign of Emperor Claudius the Second.  The Emperor persecuted the church.  He also had an edict prohibiting the marriage of young people.  His reasoning was that young men with attachments or families would be less likely to fight hard and risk in battle, making them a liability.

Many in the secular culture of the day would have been polygamous and Valentine encouraged young couples to pursue Christian marriage and monogamy.  He would do so secretly because of the edict and still performed the marriage ceremonies.

He was eventually caught, imprisoned, and tortured for performing marriage ceremonies against the command of the Emperor.  He was executed beheading on February 14, 270 A.D. for performing Christian marriage.

What is the value of your life?  Although life here is temporary, love is eternal.  We cannot hold on to our life here forever so how will we invest it in others in love for the sake of that which is eternal?  Paul says, “so now faith, hope and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love,” 1 Corinthians 13:13.

“to grant to those who mourn in Zion—
to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit;
that they may be called oaks of righteousness,
the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified,” Isaiah 61:3

To trust the eternal love of God for us and for others will help us to invest our lives in the things that will last.  When we do, we trade the ashes of repentance and the dust of mortality for the beauty of righteousness and the light of His eternal glory.  Are you ready to trade?  Beauty awaits!!

Coming Up Roses

Early this year I’ve been thinking about what things change at the beginning of each new year.  What do we let go of and what do we keep?  Is it purposeful?  What is the purpose?

Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.

John 15:2 English Standard Version (ESV)

“Coming Up Roses”

For a rose to be beautiful and healthy it must be pruned.  Why?  It encourages new growth and bloom.  Doing so removes dead and diseased areas.  The goal is to open the center to the light and air.  How?  Look at the overall health, but begin at the base.  Prune to open the center to light and air.  Make sure it’s a clean cut, not ragged.  Remove all broken, dead, dying, or diseased wood.

What is the point?  If you expect your life to be “coming up roses,” then you must be willing to prune.  Why?  It encourages new growth and bloom in your life.  It removes dead and diseased areas of your life.  By remaining connected to that which is dead or diseased you are allowing that into your life physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

Look at overall health, but start at the base, the foundation, if what’s feeding you is not healthy you won’t be.  Prune, making clean cuts, not ragged.  Make a clean break with unhealthy areas or relationships in your life so you can be healthy physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

Prune to expose yourself to the light of Christ, and the breath of the Spirit.  Lastly, clear out hindrances and unhealthy habits.  Everything may not always “come up roses” in your life, but what does prune and care for it.  If we remain connected to things that produce death, it will be hard to live.

Instead of life “coming us roses,” death will have us “pushing up daisies.”  Take an inventory of your life.  Set as a goal exposure to the light of Christ and the breath of the Spirit.  Prune away that which produces death, disease, and unhealthiness that would hinder that exposure.  Life will not always be “coming up roses,” but where it does, care for the roses.  Caring for roses will keep us from pushing up daisies.  It will make us healthier physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

God bless you in 2018 as you prune.