Garland Of Grace – 09.12.21

Busting Teeth and Breaking Limbs; Thoughts on the Vengeance Prayers within the Psalter

“Blessed shall he be who takes your little ones and dashes them against the rock!” – Psalm 137:9

Positioned throughout the Psalter are prayers described as “imprecatory prayers.” Imprecatory prayers are known for being very raw as the Psalmists cry out the Lord, wishing ill upon their enemies and asking God to execute judgement. These prayers are marked with a very blatant, vindictive tone. Some of these prayers include requests for God to bust out the teeth of enemies (Psalm 58:6), wishing that the wicked would experience broken limbs (Psalm 10:15), praying that their adversaries would be trapped in their own pride (Psalm 59:12), and ensnared by their own nets (Psalm 141:10). In the imprecatory prayer above, the Psalmist desires for the heads of his enemies’ children be dashed upon the rocks! 

But how do we see these prayers through the lenses of morality? Are they acceptable prayers to God? Can they be prayed in the right spirit and with a clean heart? Is God glorified when violent vindictive prayers are uttered by His people? And if a man after God’s own heart like David prayed this way, can we do the same? To be sure, these are questions that have been asked throughout the history of Christendom. 

But before we answer if we can pray imprecatory prayers, let’s consider why they are prayed in the first place. In imprecatory prayers the psalmists yearn for three primary things. First, they emphasize a strong desire to defend God’s name and character. The common thread is a sincere passion for God’s glory.  No matter the circumstance or situation, they are always zealously prayed for the sole purpose of making God’s name known among the nations. Closely tied into this truth is a second common thread within imprecatory prayers; they are always a call for God to execute righteousness and judgment.  Righteousness and judgment are both attributes of God, and God’s people should yearn for his attributes to always be manifested, even if it calls for their enemies to suffer. The Old Testament makes it very clear that anyone who opposes the people of God are opposed to God himself. And so imprecatory prayers express a desire to see the enemies of God’s people suffer as they have made the people of God suffer. Third and finally, they express a desire for God the defend his people. When praying these prayers, the writers never attempted to take matters into their own hands by trying to bring vengeance upon their adversaries. Rather, they knew and understood that vengeance was the Lord’s doing. Centuries later, the apostle Paul would express this truth as he wrote to the church at Rome and said, “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Romans 12:17-19).

So do believers today have permission to pray imprecatory prayers? The answer is yes, as long as our ultimate desire is for God’s glory and God’s will.  Yet, if we pray these prayers with wrong motives and do so in the heat of the moment, we just might miss the point of imprecatory prayers altogether. Dr. John Tweeddale, professor of theology at Reformation Bible college writes, “As Christians, we long for God’s kingdom to come. We yearn for His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. Praying the imprecatory psalms is not a call to arms but a call to faith. We lift our voices, not our swords, as we pray for God either to convert or curse the enemies of Christ and His kingdom.”

– Pastor Eric

Garland Of Grace – 08.13.21

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The Beauty of Bread, Beverage and Labor

“I know that there is nothing better for them than to rejoice and to do good in one’s lifetime; moreover, that every man who eats and drinks sees good in all his labor—it is the gift of God.” – Ecclesiastes 3:12-13

One of the common themes in Ecclesiastes is the importance of “seizing the day,” or what we might describe as “making the most of every opportunity.” Ecclesiastes was penned by King Solomon, one of the wisest men to ever live.  And so in our verse above, how does Solomon suggest one might seize the day?

In effort to magnify the value of “seizing the day,” Solomon stresses the importance of enjoying the simple things of life such as eating and drinking. But to fully grasp what he is saying, we must understand that the term “eating and drinking” in ancient culture was frequently used as a general reference to daily life and was not limited only to the acts of eating and drinking (although it included these actions). In essence, Solomon is saying that since life is short, one would be wise to slow down and enjoy each and every daily activity.

But with that said, let’s do reflect upon actual food and beverage for just a moment. God in His sovereignty could have only given man bread and water for sustenance. But out of His providential care, God graciously created a buffet of food options for mankind to enjoy. He has also given man a wellspring of options to quench thirst; for every drop of water, wine, and milk is a satisfying drink from the fountain of God’s grace. These things should be enjoyed while there is time before the sun sets upon life. Since the mysteries of life are beyond man’s understanding, and since nothing is gained from worry, the daily gifts of food and drink from God should be enjoyed in the present. Yet man cannot eat and drink with joy until the food and drink he consumes is seen as a gift from God.

Solomon then refers to joyous labor. He says that pleasure should be found in work. This might be somewhat surprising considering the other themes surrounding labor within the book. After all, in other portions of Ecclesiastes, he paints labor in the bleakest of terms. Man’s labor under the sun is described as vain, monotonous, useless, continuous, tedious, restless, strenuous, unrewarding, undone and even completely forgotten. Man labors in effort to obtain wealth, leave a name, leave an inheritance, and have a sense of security. Man even toils for gain and profit – Yet Solomon says that all of it is in vain since everyone eventually dies. So why would here in our text refer the pleasure of work?  He did so because he understood that from an earthly viewpoint of life under the sun, the labors of man do seem tedious, mundane, and fruitless. Yet a life lived rich towards God and for God’s glory would see life beyond the sun – from the horizontal to the vertical, from temporal to the eternal. This is why he gave this exhortation to find joy in toil. Labor is to be rejoiced over, and enjoyment and pleasure should be found in it.

The idea of joy in our labor was echoed centuries later by the Apostle Paul when he gave instructions to the believers at Colossae “Whatever you do, do you work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve” (Colossians 3:23-24). Paul also encouraged the Corinthians in a similar fashion when he said that they should be abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that their toil is not in vain in the Lord. (1 Corinthians 15:58). For Paul, labor was to be seen through the lenses of the gospel, and Christ made all the difference. And so both King Solomon and Paul addressed the beauty of joyous labor.

Oh that we would find joy in our daily living – our eating and drinking so to speak – even finding joy in our labor.  Ponder these things today and give God glory in all things!

– Pastor Eric

Garland Of Grace – 07.09.21

An Attitude of Gratitude

“Giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” – Colossians 1:12-14

With a heart overflowing with thanksgiving, the apostle Paul writes to the church at Colossae, reminding them of all the rich blessings they have in being a child of God.  In his opening prayer for the Colossian church, he specifically mentions four things they should celebrate pertaining to their salvation; four things that should cause every believer to be filled with an attitude of gratitude.    

First, God has qualified us.  – Prior to conversion, we were dead in our trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1), and in an unqualified position with God. Our sins separated us from God (Isaiah 59:2) and we were spiritually bankrupt. We were “in the red” so to speak. But Christ paid our sin debt, bringing our spiritual bank account in right standing (Colossians 2:13-14), thus qualifying us and giving us direct access to God the Father. Because of this, we are able “to share in the inheritance of the saint so light.”  And so by being qualified, we are now made acceptable before God. To be sure, we are in no way worthy of such qualification; for there is nothing pertaining to our own merit or standing that qualifies us to share in this gift of spiritual inheritance (Ephesians 2:8-10). We are unworthy, but by the grace of God we are qualified by the righteousness of his Son Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Second, God has delivered us.  – The child of God has been graciously rescued from the domain of darkness and has been set free from the bondage of sin. Just as God delivered the nation of Israel from the heavy and oppressing hand of the Egyptians (Exodus 12-14), he has provided the way of escape for us from our adversary the devil through his Son Jesus. We need deliverance, and we cannot save ourselves.  Jesus came to rescue the perishing, and He is the only means of escape (Hebrews 2:3). 

Third, God has transferred us.  – We are no longer slaves to sin (Romans 6:1-7) but are now children of God. It is by his grace, the That He has transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved son.  This transfer moved us from darkness to light (John 8:12). To transfer means to move from one place to another. A monetary transfer involves a move from one account to another. A college athlete who enters the transfer portal is looking to make a move to another team. And so when Paul says that God has, “transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son,” he is saying that our allegiance and citizenship has gone from the kingdom of darkness and the devil to the kingdom of light and the Son of God (Philippians 3:20).  

Fourth, God has redeemed us.  – We have been purchased, bought with a price. And thus God has redeemed us, providing the beautiful blessing of forgiveness of sins. Redemption is a precious word within the vocabulary of the Christian faith. Because God has redeemed us, we are no longer slaves but sons (Galatians 4:7); we are no longer strangers and aliens but part of God’s family (Ephesians 2:19); we are no longer dead in our sins but alive in Christ (Ephesians 2:5). Through this redemption, God has reconciled himself to us (Romans 5:10), and we enjoy the rich benefits of being his child.

Ponder these theological truths today, and be thankful for the wonderful blessings of being a child of God!

– Pastor Eric

Garland Of Grace – 02.21.21

Total Depravity and a Tomato; A Story from Halloween 1985

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” – Jeremiah 17:9

I clearly remember an event that took place on Halloween night when I was nine. I snuck over to a neighbor’s house for the sole purpose of doing something wrong. It was the home of a boy in the neighborhood; the neighborhood bully. I wanted to get back at him by pegging his house with a tomato. After all, it was Halloween night;  the perfect night for such an act. Thinking about it now after all these years, it seems juvenile; and it was. But what sticks out to me is the wellspring of thoughts and emotions I had as I committed the act. To this day, I clearly remember grabbing a tomato out of the refrigerator and  sneaking out of my house to complete the mission. I recall the path I took to his house, eventually hiding behind some shrubbery in his side yard. It was a thrill to sneak around the neighborhood when I should have been at home getting ready for bed. I quietly walked closer to his front door making sure I did not get too close. With a rush of adrenaline, I hurled the tomato at the door.  I was so nervous, that I did not even linger around to see where the tomato landed. Instead, I ran back to my house, not stopping until I was back in my own yard. To be sure, it was an intense moment. I felt I had been with Jem and Scout in “To Kill A Mockingbird” harassing the family of Boo Radley.  But really sticks out to me is how liberating it felt to be bad. I enjoyed sinning. I also felt as if I had had the last laugh when I came to the neighborhood bully. For me, this snapshot from my childhood reveals two truths about the human heart.

The heart of man finds pleasure in sin. When thinking back on the event, I am struck with how much enjoyment I found in committing the crime. I relished in the act, and though my behavior was dark and stained with sin, I found my actions to be as delicious to me as the tomato itself. This says much about the human condition; for it is in our nature to go against the grain of what is right, pure and holy.  When we are born, we are naturally at odds with God because we are born with a sin nature (Romans 8:7-8). This is why people are naturally drawn to sin. You do not have to teach an infant to fuss or a child misbehave. The blueprint for sin is imbedded within our hearts since birth, as we inherited our sin nature from Adam (Romans 5:12). It felt good to not be where I was supposed to be (2 Samuel 11:1-2). In that moment I found pleasure in the sin of throwing the tomato (Hebrews 11:25) and it felt good to act in such a way that was inappropriate. And why Halloween night? Would I have done the same thing if it had any other night? Was there something about Halloween that made my actions more permissible? And what about the revenge in my heart towards my neighbor and the pride I felt in thinking that somehow I got the last laugh? John Calvin was right when he described the human heart as a factory of idols. 

The heart of man can only be changed by God. This story from my life took place before my personal conversion to Christ. Seven years later, God saved me as He opened up my heart to the gospel (Acts 16:14) This is not to suggest that the wrestling match with sin had ended. But the difference after conversion was my response to sin. Prior to conversion, I loved sin. After conversion, I loathe sin. When God saves, He reorients our hearts to Him, transforming us into His likeness. We have been reconciled to Him (2 Corinthians 5:18) and are no longer enemies of God and lovers of evil (2 Timothy 3:2). 

Has God changed your heart? If not, call upon him today with a sincere heart and He will save you (Romans 6:23).

– Pastor Eric

Garland Of Grace – 11.22.20

Be Still and Don’t Waste Your Quarantine

“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” – Ephesians 5:15-16 ESV

The Apostle Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus and challenged the believers to “redeem the time” because the days were evil. But what did he mean by “redeeming the time?” Well, if something is redeemed, it is purchased or bought back. This is what the Lord Jesus did for his people through his sacrificial death on the cross; he purchased them by paying the price for their sins. And so when Paul says to redeem the time, it is as if he is saying “Buy your time back and take hold of it. Seize every minute God has given you and do so by his grace and for his glory.”

In recent days, I have been pondering this exhortation from our friend Paul. As many of you know, I have been in quarantine after exposure to COVID 19 (I am tremendously thankful that I have yet to show any symptoms). The situation is not ideal or preferred, but it is a situation permitted by God. And so while in this season quarantine, how can I “redeem the time?”

Be Still and Listen – It would have been easy for me to spend much of my quarantine distracted by the endless noise of social media, news networks and radio podcasts. But there are seasons to simply be quiet, and for me, this has been one of those seasons. Quarantine has been an opportune time to turn down the noise and redeem the time for His glory. Dear child of God, you can be rest assured that the roaring silence of God’s presence will overwhelm you if  you are willing to listen. Just ask the prophet Elijah (1 Kings 19:9-18).

Be Still and See –  This year we have all asked ourselves, “What in the world is God doing?” I have asked this question throughout the entire year, especially during quarantine. And it’s certainly a valid question; for no one has ever experienced a year like 2020. From a global pandemic to social upheaval and political unrest, it has been a year for the history books. With all of the chaos swirling around us, it is easy to feel as if the world is falling apart. Yet we must find comfort in knowing God is sovereignly in control. Instead of complaining about current events, we must rest in his providential care and look for his fingerprints upon this particular chapter of human history. To be sure, God is up to something; but it just might be that he is orchestrating world events beyond our scope of reasoning. Moses told the people of God at the Red Sea to simply be still and see what the Lord was about to do (Exodus 14:13). Oh that we would heed the same advice!

Be Still and Know – Finally, I have redeemed the time by diving into the book of Isaiah, and quietly gleaning wisdom from the writings of John Flavel (1627–1691) and Jeremiah Burroughs (1600–1646). The hot chocolate has been sweet, the ink in my journal has been fresh, and the flicker of the flame has been comforting. I have also saturated myself in the Greek New Testament by studying vocabulary, grammatical rules, and aorist indicative paradigms. Why do I spend my quarantine doing these things?  I do so to know God in a greater and deeper way. God has ordained this study routine in my life for such a time as this (Esther 4:14) and it has been the perfect time for me to simply be still and know that He is God (Psalm 46:10). 

I pray God protects you from COVID 19. But it just might be that God does permit a season of quarantine in your life, whether in sickness or in health. If that is the case, be still before God and don’t waste your quarantine!

– Pastor Eric

Garland Of Grace – 04.25.20


Coronavirus Reflections

COVID 19 has been a learning experience to say the least.  I want to briefly share with you a few life observations that have come to my mind.

To begin with, we have all been reminded of our fragility. People have a tendency to see themselves as invincible. The coronavirus has been a reality check, reminding people of all seasons and walks of life that the human body is frail and is continually susceptible to sickness and disease.

Secondly, we have a lot less control over life’s situations than we think we do.  Whether we admit it or not, we often live our lives as if we are steering the ship.  Obviously we are not, and God will permit speed bumps on the road of life to help us face reality.  We are truly helpless people dependent on the one true sovereign God who controls all things.

Third, sickness is not a respecter of persons.  The COVID 19 pandemic is a worldwide global event effecting all races and nationalities.  This truth reminds us of our equality.

Fourth, the church is not a building.  I know this is somewhat cliché, yet it is true. Even though churches have dismissed organized gatherings  during COVID 19, they have stayed connected though various means of social media and technology. Church buildings may be empty but the heart of the church has been full.

Fifth, the coronavirus has been a priority check. It has helped us see what really matters.  Sure; jobs can be lost, the stock market can be in shambles, and social gatherings can be cancelled. But what really matters are the people around us; people who we love, cherish and value.  Who can put a price tag on our loved ones?

Sixth, we really have it pretty good.  Because of technological advances in the medical field, the severity of the coronavirus has paled in comparison to the Spanish flu of 1918 or the Black Plague of the 14th century.   To be sure, other countries have had it worse than we have here in the United States, and in no way do I want to diminish the difficulties our global neighbors have faced. But the truth is, to have faced COVID 19 where and when we have has been a tremendous blessing.

Seventh, we must not waste the time we have time in isolation. If you are like me, you have seen very few people in person in recent weeks. But use this time of social distancing by drawing closer to God. Silence and solitude is a spiritual discipline that ought to be woven into the  fabric of the believers life.

Finally, COVID 19 has taught us the value of preparation. People have physically prepared for the coronavirus by stocking up on groceries and sundry items.  And rightly so.  There is something to be said about storing up and being prepared for difficult times that lie ahead (Genesis 41:35).  But physical preparation should cause us to think about spiritual preparation. Oh that people would spiritually prepare for eternity with the same level of concern, for the bridegroom cometh (Matthew 25:1-13).

As strange as it may sound, I am thankful for the last couple of months.  Ponder these truths, and may the Lord have preeminence in all things!

Pastor Eric

Garland Of Grace – 03.22.20


Prosperity or Pestilence; Fitting Coronavirus into a Biblical Worldview

“In the day of prosperity be joyful, and in the day of adversity consider: God has made the one as well as the other, so that man may not find out anything that will be after him.” – Ecclesiastes 7:14

In recent weeks, it has been overwhelming to witness the pandemonium surrounding the coronavirus outbreak. To be sure, COVID 19 must be taken seriously, and people are understandably filled with fear and uncertainty. But in these tumultuous times, how should the coronavirus fit into the believer’s Biblical worldview?  Here are a few thoughts gleaned from Ecclesiastes 7:14.

First, every day is handcrafted by God. Solomon describes God as the Creator of each day, whether it is a day marked with joy or a day stained with adversity. We should find rest in knowing the sovereign hand of God weaves both bright threads (days of prosperity) and dark threads (days of adversity) into our life tapestry. God creatively crafts every day with purpose, no matter the events that make up each day. This means God is in control even when the world seems out of control. And the world seems out of control does it not? Life as we know it has been drastically altered. Restaurants and businesses have closed their doors. Sporting events have postponed their seasons or cancelled altogether. Schools and colleges have cancelled the current semester. Airports and bus stations are empty. City streets look like a Hollywood depiction of a zombie apocalypse. State governors have ordered citizens to stay home while countries across the globe have closed borders. Churches have dismissed services. The stock market continues to fall as the death toll from COVID 19 continues to rise. People are encouraged to practice social distancing in effort to curtail the spread of the virus. It all seems surreal. But none of these events have taken God by surprise. We rest in God’s sovereignty knowing He has the whole world in His hands even when everything around us seems to be out of hand. And so in desperate times such as these, God’s people must live out the gospel of God motivated by faith rather than fear.

Secondly, seasons of adversity should bring our thoughts to God all the more. Solomon says days of adversity should orient our thoughts toward God. This is not to suggest that during seasons of joy our thoughts on God can be dialed down. Solomon is simply reminding us that life’s obstacles can be used as opportunities to draw us into deeper contemplation on the things of God.

Thirdly, our eternal security should overshadow the insecurity of the moment. Solomon says “so that man may not find out anything that will be after him.” It is a perplexing statement, but it was his poetic way of saying we do not know what each day will bring. Tomorrow might be a day of joy or it might be a day of catastrophe. We just do not know. The insecurity of the moment has been the primary thrust behind the panic surrounding COVID 19 pandemic. Supermarket shelves have been stripped bare as hordes of people have crammed their cupboards with items seen as essential for survival. Why; because we do not know what tomorrow will bring. True, we cannot know what will happen in light of the current circumstances, but as God’s people, we can have assurance of our eternal destiny. As we live out the gospel and point others to Christ during these unprecedented times, pray that people would spiritually prepare for eternity and put stock in the promises of God with the same sense of urgency as they have in physically preparing for the moment by stocking up on toilet paper!

Dear Christian friend, don’t waste the chapter of your life infected by the coronavirus.  See the virus in light of Scripture. Treasure each day (whether good or bad) as a gift from God, and dwell upon Him all the more during this season of adversity. Finally, though the insecurity of the moment can be overwhelming, find rest in your eternal security.

 – Pastor Eric

Garland Of Grace – 02.12.20


Hold On To Your Harp for a Better Day

“By the waters of Babylon, there we sat down and wept, when we remembered Zion. On the willows there we hung up our lyres. For there our captors required of us songs, and our tormentors, mirth, saying, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion! How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land” – Psalm 137:1-4

Throughout the centuries, Psalm 137 has been prayed, recited, and memorized within both the Jewish and Christian religious communities. Because of its raw and authentic tone on the subjects of captivity and despair, the passage has been especially embraced by those facing seasons of difficulty and despair. Penned during the Babylonian exile, the Psalmist emotionally pulls back the curtain on the hearts of God’s people, and exposes the emotions felt by the Israelites during one of their darkest hours. As God’s people sat on the riverbank, they wept over their current circumstance, overwhelmed by the heavy hand of their Babylonian oppressors.

As they tearfully gathered at the riverbank, God’s people reflected upon better days. They hung their harps in the branches of the willows located on the riverbank, symbolizing their current season of despair. The Psalmist expresses the overwhelming pressure the people of God felt in that moment, as their captors required them to break out in song; songs about Zion. But singing simply to appease their pagan captives would be an expression of dishonor to the Lord. Besides, they felt as if there was very little to sing about. The joy usually associated with singing was absent from their hearts, making it impossible to sing with sincerity. In essence, the people of God had lost their song. Their passion was held captive as they themselves experienced captivity. They had lost their song because they had lost their joy. For them, singing to the Lord was not to be some perfunctory act void of emotions. Rather, it was to be a joyous act of worship marked by praise, exaltation, and sincerity of heart. Making matters worse, the songs of Zion were some of the deepest expressions of joy found in their songbook. It was ludicrous to imagine the possibility of singing the songs of Zion with joy. Discouragement weighed heavy upon the hearts of God’s people during their season of exile.

Yet no matter how devastating their circumstances were, they still held on to a glimmer of hope. This is expressed in Psalm 137:5-6 as the Psalmist passionately lamented and cried out to the Lord. “If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget its skill! Let my tongue stick to the roof of my mouth, if I do not remember you, if I do not set Jerusalem above my highest joy!” It would be easy in such unprecedented circumstances to abandon all thoughts of a future hope and forget God, yet there would be devastating repercussions in doing so. Because of this, the Psalmist did not want to be guilty of forgetting the Lord and his past provision, and was determined to express his faith in the Lord and keep his thoughts upon Him. Because of their current circumstances, the Israelites felt forgotten by God, yet they were determined not to forget Him. I think James Montgomery Boice got it right when he said, “they…did not break their harps in pieces or throw them in the stream. Instead they hung them in the poplars, presumably saving them for what would surely be a better day.”

It would be easy in your season of despair to lose all hope and give up. But God’s people in their darkest hour did not forfeit their hope and despairingly trash their musical instruments.  Instead, they only hung them in the willow branches; for they always held on to the hope that their season of darkness would one day end and their joyful song restored.

How about you?  How do you respond when you lose your song?  You can be rest assured there will be seasons in your life when you feel you have. But even in those moments, respond as God’s people did.  Hold on to your harp and hope for a better day.

 – Pastor Eric

Garland Of Grace – 10.27.19


Flowers for Sarah and the Messianic Secret

And He gave them orders not to tell anyone; but the more He ordered them, the more widely they continued to proclaim it. – Mark 7:36

Wednesday, January 25, 2006 is a day I will never forget. That was the day Sarah and I became parents. We were overwhelmed by the goodness of God as He blessed us with a beautiful baby girl we named Aubrey Adaline. The next morning, I planned to surprise Sarah with an order of fresh flowers delivered to her hospital room. After slipping away from the hospital “to run a few errands,” I stopped by the florist to place the order. With excitement, I shared with the florist (a total stranger) the joyous events that had transpired the previous evening.  I explained my desire to surprise my wife with a delivery of flowers to her hospital room. I placed the order and instructed the florist to call me on my cell phone if she had any questions. As I returned to the hospital and entered the room, Sarah said the florist had just called with a question about my order. I couldn’t believe it! The surprise was no longer a surprise. To this day I am still puzzled why the florist did not follow my specific instructions. Why would she attempt to track me down by calling the hospital and have the operator transfer the call to our room? That seems like a lot more work than simply calling me directly on my cell. When the flowers eventually arrived, Sarah graciously received them with much appreciation, but the flowers would have been much more meaningful if they had been a secret. I walked away from that situation realizing that some people struggle to follow instructions.

In the passage above, Jesus gave instructions to a crowd after He had just healed a man who was both deaf and mute. He specifically told them not to talk about the miracle they had just witnessed. But instead of honoring His request, the people publicized what they saw.

Throughout the gospels there are moments when Jesus instructed people to keep quiet about His miraculous deeds (Matthew 16:20, Mark 1:43-45; 3:12; 5:43; 8:30; Luke 8:56; 9:21). In his book, “The Jesus I Never Knew” Phillip Yancy refers to this as “The Messianic Secret.” But have you ever wondered why? Similar to the story above, our Lord had His reasons. From our vantage point, it seems somewhat counterproductive to the mission of sharing the good news of the gospel. Why would our Lord want to stifle His message of grace, love, and healing? After all, back then “word of mouth” was the most effective form of social media. To understand the purpose behind this, we consider two possibilities. To begin with, Jesus’ time had not yet come (John 2:4; 7:6; 7:30; 8:20). Jesus was always about His Father’s business (Luke 2:49) and continually submitted to His Father’s will (Luke 22:42). He had an awareness of the timetable mapped out for Him by the Father.  When Jesus said that His time had not yet come, He was referring to the public manifestation of His Messiahship and the suffering He would eventually endure. A second reason is the fact that Jesus did not want people to follow Him for the wrong reason. The buzz surrounding Jesus’ miracles might lead someone to only follow Him so they can witness another miracle – as if He was a magician traveling the countryside with a bag full of tricks.  Yet Jesus wanted people to follow Him out of pure love and devotion. He wanted sincerity of heart. He had not been sent by the Father to entertain the masses; He had come to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10).

To this day, Sarah and I laugh about the florist who failed to follow instructions. Reflect upon these things, and know that our Lord always had His reasons for the instructions He gave!

 – Pastor Eric

Garland Of Grace – 08.30.19


Fingerprints and a Bucket of Paint; Words of Wisdom from a Deacon Named Kenny

“Behold, children are a gift of the Lord…” – Psalm 127:3

In recent months, God has blessed the Seventh Street family with  a tremendous increase of children  within our Children’s department. There have been multiple factors that have led to this. To begin with, our Vacation Bible School this summer was absolutely amazing! And through the various outreach opportunities surrounding our VBS ministry, we have been able to connect with a handful of families within our community. And because of our growing bus ministry, these children are now attending our services. Sadly, many of these children are arriving on Sunday mornings without breakfast. Because of this, we began meeting that need last Sunday by providing a meal for them as they start their day.

Undoubtedly, God has placed in our lap an overwhelming opportunity to show the love of Christ, teach the truth of the gospel, and see these children come to know Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior.   Yet many of these children are not accustomed to church worship services and are unaware of what is considered to be appropriate etiquette within God’s house.

God has called us to be faithful and patient in our efforts to steer these children to Jesus. Be patient. Don’t lose your cool. Don’t miss out on the opportunity given to us by God!  He has entrusted these children to our care. The question is, “How are we going to handle such an overwhelming responsibility?”

The first church I pastored was Wildersville Baptist Church, a  rural church off Interstate 40 half way between Memphis and Nashville.  One of our deacons was a man named Kenny Cavness. I believe Kenny had the right attitude when it came to children in God’s house.  He once told me a story about how years earlier a church member had complained to him about the “noisy children” and their dirty fingerprints left in the hallway. Kenny quickly responded by saying, “We need to be thankful that the fingerprints are on the wall!” Kenny’s point was simply this; church walls can easily be repainted, but having the children in God’s house is priceless. Kenny passed away in 2007. But his words have permanently shaped my philosophy of Children’s ministry.

Let’s not be prunes complaining about noise or bad behavior. Instead let’s do something about it by setting the right example and steering them in the right direction. Let’s show the love of Christ by sharing the gospel.  You never know what God might do.  He might just be calling you to invest your life into the lives of our children. We certainly could use your help! Finally, let us pray together for God to do amazing things in the life of Seventh Street Baptist Church!

 – Pastor Eric