Friday, 7/3/20 – Tough Question: God, Time, and Eternity?

God, Time, and Eternity?

photo of woman looking upwards

An illustration I find helpful in grasping this idea of God’s interaction upon our limitations of time and space is this… Imagine a two-dimensional world. It has height and width, but no depth. It’s inhabitants can move left, right, up and down, but the concept of going around something is impossible for them to grasp.

Now imagine that in this 2-D world there is a right angle triangle,

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In this 2-D world it would only be possible to roll this triangle forward, or pull it backward.

You would need to climb over it to get past it: it would be impossible –inconceivable– for you to walk around it.

But imagine the astonishment of the inhabitants of this 2-D world if one day they discovered this triangle flipped!

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This would be beyond their comprehension. The triangle would need to have been acted upon by something outside the limitations of their 2-D world. The triangle would have been picked up and turned over by a hand that had reached in from a 3-D realm. The realities of 2-D, height and width, still respected, but a 3rd dimension of depth had also come into play.

man wearing a jacket sitting on brown wooden crate

This is the dilemma we are up against when we begin to ask questions of time and eternity. How can predestination, free-will, and foreknowledge be reconciled. How can Jesus be “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Rev. 13:8)? If I pray about an unknown outcome which occurred two hours earlier can my prayer be effective?

Our questions arise because we cannot yet see beyond the constraints of linear time. But God sees all things.

Questions of free will and foreknowledge, of prayers and their influence, of cause and effect often find their answer in this present mystery to us of time and eternity.

mountain beside body of water with aurora borealis

The fact of God being incomprehensible to us should not disturb us, in fact, it should give us great confidence. If you or I could wrap our teeny heads around the Creator of the universe and Sustainer of all things, the one Who called light and space and time into being, the One Who dwells in unapproachable light in the high and holy heavens, He who cast Lucifer from His Presence, has angel hosts who do His bidding, and Who is Author and Finisher of all things including our salvation – if we could get our puny minds around such a One as Him, well… the very thought is ludicrous.

In dealing with such concepts and questions as these Faith is far superior to Intellect — and Faith is exactly what God asks of us.

question mark on yellow background

Press on…

Got a question? Use the Contact page and send It to me. We’ll search the Word for God’s answer.

Thursday, 7/2/20 – Discipleship – The Bible

The Bible

20200701_091945This past Thursday, June 24 Christian actor Denzel Washington was interviewed on Instagram Live by Brooklyn Pastor A.R Bernard of Christian Cultural Center.

“After all is said and done,” Denzel concluded, “I want to be in that number! I just want to be in that number when the saints go marching in. I want more than anything else in my life to be in that number.”

coronavirus

As the two chatted, each from their separate locations, they mentioned the impact the Covid-19 pandemic has had on all the citizens of the planet. How physical distancing and self-isolation have forced humanity — all of humanity — to consider their need for God. Though some just became all the more frantic, many paused to, as scripture has long enjoined, “Be still, and know that I am God” (Ps. 46:10).

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In the interview Denzel testified to the meaninglessness of temporal accomplishments, worldly wealth and fleeting fame. What really matters is our relationship with God and the legacy of faith which we leave. Nothing temporal will go with us into eternity.

The Word of God is also eternal. By this I obviously do not mean our physical Bibles, but the eternal Word of God which is “forever… settled in heaven” (Psalm 119:89).

Isaiah pronounced “The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever.” (Isaiah 40:8). David sang “Every one of Your righteous ordinances is everlasting.” (Psalm 119:160). In all three of the synoptic gospels Jesus taught “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.” (Matt. 24:35, Mark 13:31, Luke 21:33). Peter echoed “But the word of the Lord endures forever.” (1 Peter 1:25).

earth space universe globe

The spoken Word of God was implemental in creation: “And God said…” (Gen. 1:3, 6, 9, 14, 20, 24), and It was the stated Word of God that Satan challenged: “Did God really say…” (Gen. 3:1). It is the Word of God that was made flesh in Christ and walked among us:

The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14).

It is the Word of God that will keep us from sin:

I have hidden your Word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” (Ps. 119:11). (See also Matt. 4:1-11)

And it is the Word of God to which you can cling is these days of turbulence.

For the Word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to Whom we must give account.” (Heb. 4:12-13).

bible book business christian

In the back of one of our discipleship resource books there are lists of various scriptures to help the believer stay focussed amid a variety of trials. Similar resources exist online and in scripture tracts and in many Study Bibles. The Word of God is foundational. Get to know it, and Him, well, as Paul urged young Timothy,

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of truth.” (2 Tim. 2:15).

Submit to the Word’s incisive blade, rest on its promises, be nourished by its life-giving bread and grow strong as you move from its milk to its meat.

Press on…

View the 33 min. interview with Denzel Washington here.

Are you interested in being discipled one-on-one in the fundamentals of new life in Christ? Use the Contact page and we’ll get you started.

Wednesday, 7/1/20 – Pressing on…

Your Real Conversation

man with hand on temple looking at laptop

Yesterday I closed my blog with a question born of C.S. Lewis’ thoughts on encountering the Living God. Lewis had posed “…There comes a moment when people who have been dabbling in religion… suddenly draw back. Supposing we really found Him?… Worse still, supposing He had found us!

And so I asked, “Will you find Him, or will He find you?”

slim asian woman with coffee near big green potted plant

Well I didn’t quite catch your answer to that – Of course, how could I? You are out there all real and everything and I… I am just some text in cyberspace now. In fact the real me is by now quite possibly out and about not at all mindful of this current conversation. And I pray there is a very real conversation taking place just now. Not a conversation between you and this uncertain conglomerate of digital data you currently perceive as “words” on a “page.” But a conversation nonetheless taking place now in your head between you and the Living God.

man in red polo shirt sitting near chalkboard

You see, He is very much real in this your very real moment – whatever that ol’ boy John McLean is doing at this moment. Because you see the power of words is to lay down ideas… to make them portable so to speak, and then at any time when you read them they call to your mind again the thoughts the author thought and wanted very much to share with you… or the next person for that matter.

photo of woman looking upwards

And the thoughts you are now thinking about the question “Will you find Him, or will He find you?” are thoughts the Holy Spirit of God can now use to speak to as you set your mind upon them. For as Paul told the Athenians and as Elder Don posed to us this past Sunday, it matters not how you feel about it… God is ever present… you need only “feel after Him” that is “reach out for Him” because “He is not far from any one of us.” (Acts 17:27).

What this “feeling out” and “reaching after” really is, is simply you deciding you want Him… and then keeping on with it… engaging with Him in that little dialogue in your head right now. That is your real conversation. Not me. Just call me.. Elihu.

“But we are not of those who draw back unto perdition, but of those who believe, to the saving of the soul.” (Heb. 10:39).

Press on…

To hear Elder Don’s Sunday message, go to the Facebook page of Lincoln Baptist Church, or link to the livestream from the church website.

Tuesday, 6/30/20 – Pressing on…

Found and Found out?

20191106_065207If you know me at all you will know you don’t need to be around me long before I start quoting C.S. Lewis. And Elder Don’s message this past Sunday soon got me reflecting on Lewis’ words on encountering the Living God…

It is always shocking to meet life where we thought we were alone. “Look out!” we cry, “it’s alive.” And therefore this is the very point at which so many draw back—I would have done so myself if I could—and proceed no further with Christianity. An “impersonal God”—well and good. A subjective God of beauty, truth and goodness, inside our own heads—better still. A formless life- force surging through us, a vast power which we can tap—best of all. But God Himself, alive, pulling at the other end of the cord, perhaps approaching at an infinite speed, the hunter, king, husband—that is quite another matter. There comes a moment when the children who have been playing at burglars hush suddenly: was that a real footstep in the hall? There comes a moment when people who have been dabbling in religion (“Man’s search for God”) suddenly draw back. Supposing we really found Him? We never meant it to come to that! Worse still, supposing He had found us! – C.S. Lewis, Miracles

It takes a humbled, broken heart to experience God in this way, and if its not humbled and broken already the Lord has His ways of making it so:

● With King Hezekiah it was a deathbed realization (2 Kings 20:1-11).
● For Nebuchadnezzar it was a seven year season in the wilds. (Dan. 4:28-37).
● For Thomas it was Christ’s nail-scarred hands (John 20:24-29).
● For Saul it was that instant itself of direct revelation (Acts 9:1-19).

And for you?

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When Paul reasoned with the Greeks he told them God was not in their statues and idols, but God was their Creator and He is everywhere waiting for people to simply “seek him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from any one of us.” (Acts 17:27).

Jesus said, “Seek and you will find.” (Matt. 7:7-8).

Jeremiah proclaimed, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jer. 29:13).

Often we do not find God because we do not want to be found. We do not want our sin exposed. We know that if we are found by God we will also be found out! But that day will come. It comes to us all – eventually.

Will you, as C.S. Lewis writes, “suddenly draw back?” Or will you seek Him now? Will you find Him, or will He find you?

More tomorrow…

To hear Elder Don’s Sunday message, go to the Facebook page of Lincoln Baptist Church, or link to the livestream from the church website.

Monday, 6/29/20 – Pressing on…

Fearful Revelation

Revelation is always a difficult thing to preach. In fact, it is very probably impossible. The best a preacher can do is perhaps to take the role of Elihu whom we read about in Job.

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Job, as many of you know, was a man “blameless and upright.” One who “feared God and shunned evil.” (Job 1:1). Job became a proving ground for a great cosmic showdown between the Lord Almighty and Satan. Satan had dared make the accusation before God that the only reason Job served God was that God had blessed Job with wealth and progeny. ‘Okay,’ said the Lord. ‘If you think that just go ahead and test him. I will allow you to and you will see that Job’s devotion is much more than that. Job is a man of true integrity.’ (Or something like that!)

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And Satan did so. In short order he took everything from Job including his health. Worse than that Job’s wife only criticized him and urged him to give up and die (Job 2:9). Then, on top of it all, Satan sent along three discouragers to further accuse and try to misguide Job.

But after these three had done their worst and Job had ended his replies, then spoke Elihu. Elihu, a youth, had been listening all this time, letting those older speak first, but now he had the floor. Elihu had complaints against everyone: the three friends, but also Job. But what Elihu did in the end was direct Job’s attention upward… to God.

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“God is bigger than all this,” Elihu essentially says (32:12). “Look up to the heavens and see…” (35:5). “God does no wrong” (c. f. 34:10). “God owes us nothing! He can do as He pleases.” Then Elihu begins to describe the greatness of God: “He unleashes His lightning… God’s Voice thunders… He commands the snow and directs the winds, He is “beyond our reach and exalted in power…” (ch. 37).

Then in chapter 38 God speaks!

Elihu had turned Job’s attention to a segue, away from the hubbub of religious philosophical debate and to open his heart to hear from God. The final words are from God, and they are not comforting…

“Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorant words? Brace yourself like a man, because I have some questions for you, and you must answer them. Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell me, if you know so much.” (38:2-4, NLT).

For the next four chapters God goes on. Job is experiencing a revelation and is rightly terrified. But revelation, Job finds, answers all his prior questions.

“Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.” (42:3, 5-6).

Revelation is what we all need — our eyes too need to see God, and when we do we will fear, and we will most certainly be changed.

More tomorrow…

To hear Elder Don’s Sunday message, go to the Facebook page of Lincoln Baptist Church, or link to the livestream from the church website.

Friday, 6/26/20 – Friday Tough Question

To Whom should we pray?

happy father and son

My son can come to me anytime and ask my help. I like it best when he comes to me and says, “Dad… can you help me with this…?” He could come to me and say, “John… can you help me with this…?” or, “Pastor/Elder McLean… can you help me with this…?” But I like “Dad” the best. I prefer “Dad” because it acknowledges and affirms our relationship. I am his Father. As an offspring he is like me, and he can become more like me as we interact in relationship.

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Paul cited the words of the Cilician philosopher Aratus, “We are His offspring,” and applied them to Jehovah God and the Greeks to whom he was speaking (Acts 17:28). Believers on the Lord Jesus Christ are “born again” into a special son/daughter-ship in God’s family: “born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” (John 1:13). In Hebrews we read, “Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters” (Heb. 2:11).

I will still hear my son’s request if he addresses me as “John” or “Pastor/Elder,” but if he were to ask my preference I’d tell him “Dad.”

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Now the Trinity is not just a matter of three roles like my admittedly weak example above. Scripture teaches that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three Persons – three Persons yet One God. It should not disturb us that wrapping our minds around this is very difficult. In fact it is very likely impossible. But far more disturbing I think it would be if it our puny mortal minds could encompass the very nature and composition of God!

Interestingly there is no instance in scripture of believers praying to the Holy Spirit. As we study the Spirit’s role we see His ministry is largely in drawing men and women to Christ (John 16:8). He leads us into Truth (John 15:26; 16:13). He intercedes for the believer and helps them in their praying (Rom. 8:26-27), but our prayers are addressed to God the Father or Christ Jesus the Living Word made flesh. Christ too, like a lawyer, intercedes for us and as such we may rightly bring our pleas to Him.

Whomever of the GodHead you address the important thing is that you pray. As Paul enjoins,

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4:6-7)

Press on…

Got a question? Use the Contact page and send It to me. We’ll search the Word for God’s answer.

Thursday, 6/25/20 – Discipleship – Priorities

Word of God vs Personal Behaviour

bible blur book christian

I was listening to a message by Pastor Michael Brown the other day and was intrigued by his statement that we tend to interpret the Word of God through our behaviour rather than the other way around. If, for example, we are engaged in some activity contrary to the clear teaching of scripture (i.e. sin) we use rather clever mental gymnastics to interpret the Word of God in a way to justify our sinful behaviour.

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Let’s say a believer holds a sinful resentment in his heart against another believer who has in some way wronged him. Rather than take to heart the command to not let a root of bitterness grow within us, the command to not give the devil a foothold, the commands to foster unity, to be a peacemaker, to pray for those who mistreat us, and many other clear commands, the erring believer will accept his or her resentment as valid and seek to justify it by misusing scriptures, perhaps pointing to passages on shunning the unrepentant brother, or framing the resentment as righteous indignation.

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But the mature a believer will understand that the clear truth of the Word of God has first priority. Instead of interpreting scripture through one’s behaviour the maturing believer will interpret his or her behaviour through the Word of God. He will listen to and happily accept the convicting voice of the Holy Spirit and adjust his behaviour accordingly.

A believer with proper priorities will live by the Lord’s injunction “Seek first His kingdom and his righteousness” (Matt. 6:33). Not only because he knows it to be the right thing to do, but also because it is his heart’s greatest desire.

Press on…

Are you interested in being discipled one-on-one in the fundamentals of new life in Christ? Or, perhaps you would you like to begin this journey by comforting your path to Christ? — Use the Contact page and we’ll get you started.

Wednesday, 6/24/20 – Pressing on…

Pushing out those roots…

gray trunk green leaf tree beside body of water

A tree planted by streams of water does not need to push its roots far before nourishment is reached. But when a tree finds itself far indeed from this life-giving source that tree must push out its roots with all the more determination toward that life-giving flow.

In light of Pastor Andrew’s message this past Sunday I found it intriguing when earlier this week I received a ten point devotional about how a Christian can enhance his or her quiet time in the Presence of the Lord – i.e. how to encourage those “roots” to push on out when the soil gets dry and the pushing gets tough.

It’s always assuring when the Lord confirms His Word by such “coincidences.” We do well to take note of them. So I thought I would share some of these points with you today. (I may pick up on these further in my Facebook lesson this Saturday).

The first two points have to do with one’s spiritual preparation and are in my opinion the most important, the rest are more practical in nature.

Meet God in the Morning

20200623_062001Rev. Bishop Ralph Spaulding Cushman (1879-1960) wrote “The Secret,” a poem often referenced by its opening line “I Met God in the Morning.” It describes well the urgency to begin one’s day by first setting one’s mind and heart on Christ.

I met God in the morning
When my day was at its best,
And His presence came like sunrise,
Like a glory in my breast.

All day long the Presence lingered,
All day long He stayed with me,
And we sailed in perfect calmness
O’er a very troubled sea.

Other ships were blown and battered,
Other ships were sore distressed,
But the winds that seemed to drive them
Brought to us a peace and rest.

Then I thought of other mornings,
With a keen remorse of mind,
When I too had loosed the moorings,
With the Presence left behind.

So I think I know the secret,
Learned from many a troubled way:
You must seek Him in the morning
If you want Him through the day!

This was the practice of Jesus as Mark clearly records: “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” (Mark 1:35). In fact, as Luke tells us, Jesus often took other times to get away to be with the Father and pray, “But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” (Luke 5:16).

Wait for God before you begin to talk to Him!

woman in a colorful knitted shirt and gray headwear

We’d laugh if on his wedding day a groom were to say, “If I’m not there on time just start without me!” Yet, Christians often do this in their prayers. A holy silence ought to preface our praying. We must turn out hearts toward Him before we open our mouths to Him. Begin by perhaps reading scripture, offering praise, asking the Spirit to search your soul.

More than this we need also to stop at times to listen, or to just be silent… silent in the Presence of God. Is the Spirit speaking to your soul? Is a scripture leaping out at you?

Patience and perseverance are needed by root-pushing trees and patience and perseverance are needed by God-seeking saints. So push out those roots and…

Press on…

To hear Pastor Andrew’s Sunday message, go to the Facebook page of Lincoln Baptist Church, or link to the livestream from the church website.

Tuesday, 6/23/20 – Pressing on…

Elijah, the tree…

time lapse photo of river flowing on rocks

If you’ve been a follower of our streamed Sunday services on the Lincoln Baptist Church website or Facebook pages you might recall an opening welcome segment I did a few weeks ago. In it I likened our Covid-19 imposed self-isolation in our homes to Elijah’s Jehovah imposed self-isolation by the Kerith brook.

Elijah appears for the first time in scripture in 1 Kings 17. Our introduction to him is quite abrupt.

“Now Elijah the Tishbite, from Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, ‘As the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word.’” (1 Kings 17:1).

adult aged beard elder

Elijah was to become one of the great prophets and miracle-workers of the Old Testament, but not yet. Here he just pops up and makes a proclamation of judgement to Israel’s godless King Ahab and then God sends him away for an extended period of isolation:

“Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah: ‘Leave here, turn eastward and hide in the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan. You will drink from the brook, and I have directed the ravens to supply you with food there.’

So he did what the Lord had told him. He went to the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan, and stayed there. The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning and bread and meat in the evening, and he drank from the brook.” (1 Kings 17:2-6).

Our Lord calls us too at times to such periods of “coming apart” (Mark 6:31). Perhaps you’ve heard the old saw “One must ‘come apart’ before one comes apart.” He calls us at times to extended seasons of separation from the daily hub-bub… from even our ministry… to rest by that river, to be nourished by it and do nothing… nothing but recuperate, and grow. In fact He calls us to this quite regularly… weekly… He has made it a commandment “

Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work… For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” (Exod. 20:8-11).

Psalm 1 is a most concise description of this “coming apart.” The psalm says of the one who regularly steps away from this world, and instead absorbs the truth and person of God:

“That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither— whatever they do prospers.” (Psalm 1:3).

man tattooed praying

Like Elijah we leave our labours, we get alone with God, receive nourishment from Him, and simply, purposefully rest. It is a good thing to do. It is what God Himself modelled following creation, it was the daily practice of Jesus Christ, and it is a command to all who will follow Him.

After this period of apartness God mightily used Elijah. Indeed all he did “prospered” and in the end God took him (2 Kings 2:11). Elijah took the time and obeyed God. He became like a “mighty tree” because of it, and God calls each believer to do the same — including you!

More tomorrow…

To hear Pastor Andrew’s Sunday message, go to the Facebook page of Lincoln Baptist Church, or link to the livestream from the church website.

Monday, 6/22/20 – Pressing on…

How to be a Big, Strong Tree

two girls doing school works

Think back to your childhood. Were you ever in an elementary school play? Were you too shy to raise your hand as they handed out the roles, or perhaps away sick that day? For whatever reason did you ever end up being cast with a brief walk-on part as perhaps ‘the sun’ or ‘the moon?’ Worse yet, was your star role stationary, like scenery? Perhaps you were the household dog, the knight’s steed, or worse yet you were cast as a tree?

Well take heart… Turns out a tree is a much nobler calling than you might imagine!

Psalm 1 has long been one of my most favorites. The psalm calls us to meditate while at the same time providing within itself much excellent fodder for such rumination.

worms eyeview of green trees

God’s creation is just shouting at us all sorts of deeper truths and applications of Himself, His Love and our purposes within His Creation. The psalmist writes that the one who meditates on the word and heart of God is like a tree well nourished by its proximity to streams of water. It is planted there. It is not going anywhere else, come rain, or flood, or wind, or snow. Neither heat of August nor frost of January will move it. From seed to it’s eventual decay it has laid its claim to stand.

“Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve…” challenged Joshua, “But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” (Josh. 24:15).

Put on the full armor of God,” urged Paul, “so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” (Eph. 6:13).

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Jesus drew a strong comparison of the gospel as seed: good seed, but falling upon many sorts of soil. Whether our ‘tree’ grows or not is determined by each one of us by the degree to which we allow the convicting Spirit to cultivate our soil. Those who will receive it, and nourish it, will flourish:

But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.” (Matt. 13:23).

Paul picks up the seed idea with the Corinthians…

“I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow.” (1 Cor. 3:6).

… the believers in Ephesus…

“And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ” (Eph. 3:17-18).

… and those in Colossae…

“Just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.” (Col. 2:6-7).

photo of roses on flower vase

Whenever my wife will be away for a few days I am commissioned, “Don’t forget to water the plants!” A house tour often ensues as she points out to me where each precious plant is located. Not one of them is to be missed.

What care our Lord takes also to provide for our nourishment. His ‘water’ is ever nearby. We must only receive it daily to become healthy and strong in our God. A haven for forest creatures, a nourisher of life, a shade to the weary.

So go ahead… be a tree… soak up that water daily — twice daily! Be the best whoppintree you can be!

More tomorrow…

To hear Pastor Andrew’s Sunday message, go to the Facebook page of Lincoln Baptist Church, or link to the livestream from the church website.