Friday, January 31, 2020

So that times of refreshing may come

Read  Acts 3:11-23

Most of you know what it is to put in a hard day’s work or play 4 quarters of a football or basketball game where you really left it all on the field or the court.  You are sweaty and sometimes dirty or even blood stained, but even having expended everything you have in the day’s work or the athletic competition, you feel so much better after a good shower.  You feel refreshed.

Once upon a time I took a company of Marine reservists from Des Moines Iowa to 29 Palms California, which if you didn’t know is in the middle of nowhere in the Mojave Desert.  Our last weekend training with these reservists was in May.  We went to Wisconsin for live fire, something we were limited at doing in Des Moines.  We got snowed on at that last training session.

A couple weeks later, we flew these guys out for two weeks in the Mojave Desert—from freezing to 120 degrees for most days.  After a week, most were exhausted.  There was still a week of training left that included a battalion-sized live-fire exercise.

So, in the middle of the training on a day where we had an afternoon of maintenance, we maintained the Marines.  We took them to the swimming pool for a couple of hours.  It refreshed them enough to continue their training and the grueling exercise that was to come.

I have said before that we are designed with rest in mind.  Rest is not only essential but refreshing and lets us live to the full.

You heard the story read this morning.  Peter and John were heading to the temple.  A beggar in the temple courts wanted money and the two apostles caught this man off guard.  What they said went beyond the beggar’s expectations.

Silver and gold I have none—translation:  I don’t have any money to give you.

But what I do have I will give to you.  In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, get up and walk.  These two apostles helped him to his feet and the next thing you knew the man was walking and jumping and praising the Lord. 

This caught everyone’s attention.  They all knew that this was the long-time beggar at the gate called Beautiful.  Elsewhere in scripture we see people thinking that the healed man was someone different from the one afflicted.
Not here.  People recognized him and were amazed.

This man continued with Peter and John into the Temple area, and Peter had the awareness to know he had people’s attention.  So, he asked, “Why are you surprised?”

This comes about through God and through the line of people you know—Abraham, Issacs, and Jacob.  We didn’t do this.  God did!

You should have seen it coming but you were blind.  You killed the Messiah.  You had a chance to save his life when he was before Pilate, but you chose to release a murderer instead.

We know that you acted in ignorance and that what happened had to happen to fulfill the prophecy of God and your part in this was that the Christ might suffer.  He did.

He died.
He rose again.
We are witnesses.

By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has completely healed him, as you can all see.

So, Peter caught everyone up on what has transpired, but next came a call to action.  It was a call to repentance.

You might not have known what was happening—the truth be told the apostles were often in the dark until they received the Holy Spirit, but Peter left out that part—there was much done in ignorance, but now that you do know, it is time to repent.

You need to repent of your sin.  You need to acknowledge Jesus as the Christ.  You need to receive him as your Savior and Lord.

This won’t happen because he is still walking the earth.  This will happen because you repent of your sin and know him to be the One promised Messiah.

Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.

You know the truth.  You know the consequences for rejecting the truth.  Now is the time to repent and receive Jesus as your Lord.

This wipes away your sin and does something else that we often overlook.  It brings times of refreshing.  We often think of salvation when we think of the blood of Jesus wiping away our sins.   Our debt is paid.  The Kingdom of Heaven has been given to us.

But let us not forget refreshing.  Like the shower after the hard and dirty days work or the sports contest that left you exhausted, the shower brings a time of refreshing.

Repentance and discipleship bring us times of refreshing.  Rest brings us refreshing. We become refreshed so we can live to the full.

Have you ever seen someone who gets burned out?  Maybe it’s the job or taking care of someone or even serving in the church.  People burn out.

Repentance, confession, and rest bring us to refreshment not burn out. 

As in just about everything we can think of that God has told us, it’s for our own good.

There’s a saying going around that has manifested itself in several memes.  It says:  When you are tired, rest, don’t quit.

Rest and being refreshed help us run our good race.  They help us keep the faith.  They help us when the world is beckoning us to throw in the towel.

Think about that.  When we sin, let’s confess and repent.  Let’s not only tell God about it, something he is already knows.  He already knows but has directed us to tell him, once again for our own good.

Let’s repent—turn away from and leave behind the thinking, doing, and relationship with the ways of this world that are sinful.  Let’s make that wholesale exchange.

Let’s rest.  Being a disciple is not easy but it is worth it.  If we are going to continue in our race of faith, we need to learn to rest.

And let’s rejoice in being refreshed.  Like a hot shower after a long day’s work or a swim in the pool in the middle of the desert, let’s receive the refreshment that comes with repentance.

We often talk about giving up a burden, but how often do we consider the times of refreshing that await us?

Let’s learn to repent, rest, and receive the refreshing of the Lord.


Thursday, January 30, 2020

Message for the service of Mary Faye Delp

We have come here today to worship God and celebrate the life of Mary Faye Delp. 

This has been a crazy week.  There have been a lot of people coming to see me needing help and I needed to be a lot of places.  There were a lot of things due at the end of this week which is the end of this month and a lot of places where I needed to be, and then Mary Faye passed, and I needed a message for today.

You have heard me say this before, I will miss her but her message was easy to prepare and is easy to deliver.  With all the certainty that the human mind can muster, I can say—we can say—she is with the Lord.

May Faye made this message easy for me.  Her life made this easy for me.  Now, come Sunday morning, I might still be playing catch up but today’s message comes so naturally.

Mary Faye did what we are commanded to do. She did what we long to do.  She lived a full life.  I don’t think that she ventured far from home, but she lived this life to the full and brought glory to God.

This service today is for you not her. She has been liberated from whatever ailed her in this life.  She is completely healed.  Her heartache for her husband who preceded her, is over.  I know she missed Junior.

It was tough to see Mary Faye this last year.  She was seldom awake and had very little energy when she was.  When she was awake, I doubt that she remembered my visit for long.

One time I went to visit her and she was in the bed but awake and she had this look that said this better be worth staying awake for.  She never said a word.

Now there were other visits where Sharman, and my mother, and even Libby came and though she couldn’t remember names, she recognized us and smiled with us.  Sometimes her questions left out 30 or 40 years of memory, but she enjoyed the visit. I can’t talk about Mary Faye and her time in the nursing home without mentioning Agnes.

Agnes was Mary Faye’s roommate for most of her time there. She was someone known to few people other than the family. I think Agnes just turned 100 and I hope that my mind is a sharp as hers if I make it to 70 or 80.

I first met Agnes when I came to visit Mary Faye and before I left as was my custom, prayed with her or for her depending on whether she was asleep or awake.  After I prayed for Mary Faye, Agnes said that she would like a prayer as well.  After than point, I would visit Mary Faye and Agnes. 

Sometimes Mary Faye would be asleep, so I just left a card or flowers or both.  I knew Agnes would fill her in when she awakened.  I know that Mary Faye missed Junior but Agnes filled part of that companionship void.

These last years were the toughest, but they were not the mainstay of her life.  I have only known her 20 years but they were a good twenty years.  I think back to just after we moved to Burns Flat.  We felt at home in this church and had been coming regularly.  At the same time my son, Christopher, was going full-fledged teenager.

I was ready to skin him alive.

The next Sunday—this is at the old church building; Mary Faye came up to me—we really had talked much up to that point—and she told me what a sweet boy Christopher was and how he had helped some visitors find the restroom and a seat in the congregation.

She saw a side of him in the middle of his teenage years that I had not yet seen.  She had eyes to see.

There are some things I heard over the past couple days that I did not know.  It came about putting together the obituary.  There was some discussion among all the things she had done in her life as a livelihood, as to whether to list her as a farmer or a farmer’s wife.

I will have to read the obituary again to see what was decided but in the course of this discussion what stuck with me was that she had her own tractor, and as I recall it was top of the line.

She had her own tractor!

We shared a common interest in gardening, but the only tractor I had was a 5 horse power rototiller.   She had her own tractor.

Today, you see families with several tractors and pieces of farm equipment, but back in her day, having your own tractor was surely unique.

I learned some other things that I had never known.  Evidently on a trip to Oklahoma City for the Women of Faith conference while traveling in the church van, Mary Faye put on lingerie show.  She had purchased a new bra and took off her shirt and shared the new purchase with those aboard.

I’m not sure what the other folks on I-40 had to say about the ladies in the Cumberland Presbyterian Church van, but I was interested to hear the story for the first time just a few days ago.

Once we moved to this church building, we started a First Light service.  It’s a contemporary service that we hold at 9 am.  Sunday school is at 10.  Junior and Mary Faye were always early for Sunday school.  I think Junior dropped Mary Faye at the door and gave her a head start to the classroom.

I couldn’t keep up with this once we started the 9 o’clock service because I was in the service.  The girls who sang today were often leading music during the service. 

I faced them while we sang and really wasn’t aware of much going on behind me.  Sometimes in the middle of singing about God’s love and mercy, one of the girls would point a finger at one of her kids sitting up close.

All in one breath she could go from My Jesus, My Savior to You better act right all said without words but at the end of a pointing finger and then back to Lord there is none like you.

Sometimes one of the kids who received the pointing finger would be directly in front of me.  I straightened up too just in case.

I tell you this because on one Sunday morning we were singing something which was pretty familiar, but I will tell you we still needed our song leaders, and all the girls just started cracking up.  They tried to recompose themselves but couldn’t.  Eventually, they did get us all on track again but when the service was over, I had to ask them what that was all about.

It seems that in the middle of the song, Mary Faye had been walking down the hall and they could see her through the back doors.  It was a typical site as she was on her way to Sunday school class, but on this particular morning, she stopped and did a little dance to go with our song.

I don’t know if she had a walker or cane or was still mobile enough that she didn’t need either, but the dance was enough to catch the girls off guard.  They could go from one line of a song to a quick admonishment of someone sitting up front and never miss a note, but the Mary Faye Shuffle was more than they could handle.

I guess I should be thankful she did do it in the middle of the sermon.  When I lose my train of thought, I just catch the next train, so we could have been there a while.  I guess a sermon is harder to dance to.

And since I brought up a walker and cane, I will tell you that she knew how to deliver a message across a room just by the gestures that went with that stick.

Some of you may not remember, but a long time ago, I think 2007 Mary Faye preached for us.  She was supposed to preach twice that year but the ice kept her home for one of them.  I don’t remember the title but I know she spoke of love and had done her research and spoke what God had placed on her heart.

She had her own tractor and preached her own sermon.  How many of you ladies can lay claim to that?

Mary Faye and I had a few conversations over the years.  We didn’t talk about anything life shattering, but all that time she was making an assessment of me.

One day while we were in the fellowship hall, she signaled for me to come over to her table.  I wasn’t sure what she needed but I came over and she spoke to me words that I hold dear to my heart.

I have received medal and awards for various things in my life, but those words might just be my lifetime achievement award.  “I think I have finally met my match in ornery.”

One thing I knew about the Delp family was that they all gathered for dinner at Junior and Mary Faye’s house.  Most of us here do something similar on an occasional basis, but this was done on a regular basis and was a hallmark of the family.  I understand that there was some good fried chicken served at these meals among other things likewise prepared and received in thanksgiving.

Her family is blessed to have shared this time together so often.

I have proceeded thus far without a single scripture, but some of you know what is coming.

In the tenth verse of the tenth chapter of John’s gospel, Jesus speaks these words.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

Mary Faye would have nothing to do with the thief but she had everything to do with living this life to the full.  I remember one girl who would come Wednesday nights just to get a hug from and enjoy the meal with Mary Faye.

Mary Faye understood the fullness of life.  She didn’t travel much but she gave much.  She was usually close to home, but Jesus was closer in her heart.

She loved God and studied his word.  She loved her family which included this church body.  She loved to smile.

I must share one more story before we wrap up.  I know that there are some hearing challenges in the Delp family.  I found out Tuesday that Mary Faye had thrown her hearing aids away.

I share a perspective from the pulpit that most have not seen.  I do try to practice viable speaking skills during the sermon.  That is I do try to make eye contact with as many people as is feasible.  If I look at someone too long it can make them uneasy, especially if I am talking about repentance or confession, but I do try to engage the congregation.

During any sermon when both Junior and Mary Faye were here and I looked across the congregation, if I looked at Junior first, I had to wonder what I had said to give him that look or if he was just constipated, or both.  It was a look that you did not want to dwell on.

So if I caught myself looking at Junior, I would quickly look at Mary Faye.  She was always smiling.  I don’t know if either one could hear me, but I would much rather look at Mary Faye if I wanted to maintain my train of thought.

I will tell you that by the end of the sermon—that’s normally when I wrap up the discipleship challenge and move to an affirmation of God’s love for us—they would both be smiling.  I don’t know if they could hear me, but they were smiling.

What else can I say about Mary Faye?

She has run the good race.

She has fought the good fight.

She has kept the faith.

There is now in store for her a crown of righteousness.

She would not want me to stop there, for there is also in store for you a crown of righteousness as a disciple of Jesus Christ.

I think that most in her family already know that, but if anyone here does not, stay and talk with someone who does, and come to know the Lord, Jesus Christ.

There is a whole big celebration in heaven when one sinner comes home, and if that person happens to be you, know that Mary Faye and Junior will be a part of that celebration.

I don’t know what all she knows now.  It’s incomprehensible.  I don’t know if she is witness to this service.  She is in the presence of the Lord and our time here is just a passing instant to her.

But I believe that she would be smiling right now knowing that her service included and concluded with an invitation to know the Lord.  So, if you do not know Jesus as Lord, talk to me or another believer and don’t go to bed tonight in the same condition.

Mary Faye has run the good race, fought the good fight, and kept the faith.  There is now in store for her a crown of righteousness.

My prayer and I think hers as well is that you come to know the joy and peace and love and fullness of life that she knew during her life among us.

Friday, January 24, 2020

Our Doctor Makes House Calls

We have proceeded topically for a couple years now.  We started with love, peace, rest, and faith.  We continued with truth, thanksgiving, and mercy.  Along the way we tacked the Parables of Jesus, Paul’s letters, the book of James, and even considered the church reformed and constantly reforming. We even did a few years of the lectionary.

If you managed to make it to the First Light service, we ventured into gifts—including the Gifts of the Spirit, Leviticus, Hebrews, many of Paul’s letters, Psalms, Proverbs,  and some other shorter examinations.

We have touched on other areas.  Trust, obey, and love as we consider our response to grace and contemplation of heaven and hell.

We consider that without love, we are just noise makers.  Love is very important and we find love working in just about every area we have examined, but today, I ask you to consider repentance.  Without repentance, most of what I preach and you study is just academic. 

We know about truth and mercy and thanksgiving.  We have read the commandments.  We want to be known by our love, but without repentance it all just remains in the realm of theory.  We don’t let go of this world long enough to put the words of our Master into practice.

Last week we looked at fruit worthy of repentance, but as we further engage this topic of repentance, I ask you to establish firmly in your mind the necessity of repentance.

Without repentance, we are trying to live as citizens of two kingdoms.  We can’t proclaim Jesus is Lord and have dual citizenship in the kingdom of the world at the same time.

I have worked with drug addicts and alcoholics and hopefully helped in some way as they struggled to overcome addiction and destructive thinking.  Each substance has its own properties when it comes to quitting.  Some produce constant and increasing cravings.  Some just result in incredible withdrawal pains.

Of all of the substances that I know of, it is not drugs or alcohol but tobacco that holds on to its prey most vigorously.  Quitting tobacco is one of the toughest things that I have witnessed in my life. 

Just about everyone who smokes or dips or otherwise uses this substance knows that it kills them.  In the duty-free shop in Mexico, about one-quarter to one-third of the cigarette carton has a message that says THESE THINGS KILL YOU.

There’s no subtle reminder that tobacco may cause cancer.  The message is these things kill you.  I looked at the price of cigarettes in what was supposed to be bargain shopping and thought those things would kill my bank account.

I’m not on a rant against smoking.  I don’t need to be.  Everyone knows that those things kill you.  And because everyone knows that, everyone has quit, right?

Most people who have tried to quit smoking will tell you that it is easy to do.  They have done it a hundred times.

It is often an exercise in shooting yourself in the foot, then admiring your marksmanship. 

When you try to quit and fail yet again, you begin to rationalize.  I’m not long for this world anyway.  Sometimes my cigarettes are the only friends I have.  I need them to get me through the day.  You can’t understand.

It is often shooting yourself in the foot and then reloading for further target practice.

Being in the grips of addiction is sickening.  It is illness.  Bad decisions may have led people to this illness but it is illness nonetheless.  We try hard to keep our kids from picking up the habit, but so many succumb to it anyway.

They need help, but we are talking about more than smoking or using drugs.

The world has its hooks in us.  Greed, lust, coveting, vulgarity, irreverence, narcissism, self-pity, and hatred own us more than we realize.  The patterns of the world seem so natural to us.  It’s the world we live in.  It is the world that we grew up in.  It seems natural.

The world first and God somewhere down the line seems natural.  We know we should quit smoking.  We know we should not put the patterns of the world before the ways of God, yet here we are struggling to keep God and his kingdom and his righteousness first.

We know that it’s not God’s way but it is so hard to give up this relationship that we have with the world.  It is so hard to turn away from and leave behind the ways of the world that we know so well.

We need help.  We need a doctor, a physician.  We need Jesus.

We say that Jesus is Lord.  We say that we have turned away from the ways of the world and yet the more we look at ourselves, the more we see the hold the world has on us.

We would like to think that when we repented and professed Jesus is Lord, that all of that worldly attachment was severed once and for all.  It should have been, but seldom do we make a clean-cut break away from the ways of the world.

We still need a doctor.  We still need help.

We talk about being a new creaturea new creation; yet, the old one still has a hold on us in many ways.  The illness of the world still persists.  We still need a doctor.

The Pharisees saw no need for a doctor; yet a tax collector named Levi knew he was sick.  He knew he needed help.  He knew the Physician when he met him.  He left everything and followed Jesus.

A tax collector didn’t have many friends.  He was often despised by those around him.  He surely had associates and colleagues that had likewise been disowned by the good people, but what he really had was his money—the commissions or percentages that he kept out of what he collected. 

So, when Levi left that, he could expect no sympathy from his fellow tax collectors.  In fact, most were probably glad to see him gone.  That would mean more revenue for them.

Levi left his comfort zone behind.  Levi left his income behind.  Levi left everything to follow Jesus.  He turned away from his life as he knew it and left it behind to follow Jesus.

Levi—you know him better as Matthew—put together a feast for Jesus.  Levi invited a bunch of his acquaintances—I won’t use the word friends—who also needed a doctor.

We need a doctor!  By the blood of Jesus we have been healed but we still need a doctor.  Repenting of our sin is not a one-time event. 

Professing Jesus as Lord changed us in an instant and we passed from death to life, but leaving sin and the ways of the world behind is as tough as quitting smoking, maybe even tougher.

What shall we say then, shall we go on sinning because it’s just too hard to quit and grace will abound even more.

No, we must be transformed by the renewing of our mind.  We are saved from the penalty for sin which is death, but while we live in these vessels of flesh, we still need a doctor.

So what are we to do?  How do we transition?  How can we be transformed?

We begin with the renewing of the mind but we must move beyond the academic into practice.  But how?

Here’s my answer.  It is by no means comprehensive, but it will put us on the right track.

·       Trust
·       Obey
·       Love

We must trust in the Lord with all of our heart even when our own understanding tells us otherwise.  We must know with certainty that we have victory in the blood of Jesus.  It’s a done deal.  He did it all.  It is not ours to undo.  We must understand that we belong wholly to God.  We are citizens of the Kingdom of God.

We must follow the Doctor’s orders.  We must put the words of our Master into practice.  We must be a good patient. The world wants us to relapse. Our sins are forgiven but our lives hang in the balance as we live by the words that proceed from the mouth of God or by the wisdom of the world.  Why live sickly lives when the Physician has cured us?  Why would we buy more cigarettes when we already quit?

And we must do it all with love.  We are not the only ones in need of a physician.  We must invite people to come and know the Lord.  This is true health care for all, bringing everyone we know to the Doctor.

It all starts for us with repentance.  Then we receive Jesus as our Lord.  Then the treatment begins.  We know we are healed yet we must live out this healing process.

So, do not be discouraged when we struggle.  We will struggle. 
Do not give up even when you have a setback.  The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.  Jesus knows what it is to live in a body of flesh.

And know that our Doctor makes house calls.  God stepped out of heaven and humbled himself to live as a man, a man that we know as Jesus, so that we could be healed.  He came not only for us so that we might be saved, but he came to us—right in the middle of a world of sinners—so that we might be healed.  Jesus said, Surely I am with you always, even to the end of the age.

When I think of Levi the tax collector, I think that Jesus might have been the only friend he ever had.  Jesus might have been the only person that he knew other than on a transactional basis.

Jesus might have been the only person who cared for him since he left home however many years before.

He might have been the only person who loved him as an adult.

He was likely the only person to invest in him, and what an investment it would be to learn as a disciple of the Master.

Jesus was the only one who ever sought to heal him.  As a tax collector, he was not someone that anyone wanted to see well.

We have repented.  We have been saved.  We seek the lordship of Christ Jesus.

Now let’s be healed.  Do not return to the ways of the world no matter how familiar and comfortable they may be.

Our salvation is completely from God and it is eternal.  Our repentance is for all eternity as well.  We remained fixed on Jesus and will not return to the place from which we came.

We repent and are saved by grace.

Now let’s repent and be healed.


Saturday, January 18, 2020

Fruit worthy of repentance

Complying with rules is one thing.  Producing fruit is another.  Fruit is a product of something, often a plant or tree.  We have heard the fruit of the womb, meaning offspring. 

We can think of the Fruit of the Spirit as what comes of living by the Spirit that is within us.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.  Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.  Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.

John the Baptizer noted the presence of the religious leaders, specifically noted are the Pharisees and Sadducees, and he called them out.  You bunch of snakes!

Who gave you a heads up that the wrath of God is looming over you?

The Pharisees and Sadducees had not come to John to repent and be baptized.  They wanted to see what was drawing people all the way out to the Jordan River. Surely the news of what John was doing had reached far beyond his limited place of ministry.

John knew who had come to see him.  These were the upper crust of the religious society that prevailed over the Hebrew people.  The Romans were their political masters, but these self-righteous men would use God’s rules to enslave his people far more than the requirements of the godless regime that governed them.

They were to have been the shepherds of Israel, but they did a terrible job of pastoring the people entrusted to them.  What did they have to worry about?  They were the top tier of the Sons of Abraham Club.

John boldly addressed these men who were used to getting the grand treatment, being given the best seats at events, and who otherwise considered their status more than their mission.  He charged them to produce fruit worthy of repentance.

Not only do you need to repent, your actions should demonstrate that you have.

To repent is to turn away from and leave behind something.  In this case, it is to turn away from a godless lifestyle and leave it all behind—not only the rules of the world to include rules of the world masquerading as religion, but the thinking and status afforded by playing by the rules of the world.

To repent was to be a part of a wholesale exchange—body, mind, soul, and spirit.  Everything was left behind and exchanged for the ways of God.

This would have been a hard sell for the Pharisees and Sadducees.  They were the enforcers of the rules upon others.  They wrote the administrative law if you will. 

Do you know that our national legislature has written very little of our law?  They write more than enough and make the verbiage and syntax confusing and voluminous, but it is the administrative agencies that draft and implement most of our law and regulations. 

We don’t even get to vote for or against the people who write these laws.  There’s something to think on in the week to come, just in case you are running short of things to contemplate this week.

It’s all done with good intentions, or so that was the original intent.  Administrative law filled in the gaps in the law that was legislated.

So too the Pharisees and Sadducees filled in the gaps and noted exceptions and in so doing essentially embalmed the Law of God given through Moses.  These men surely did not come to see John so they could repent.  They came in self-interest.

We like it when the Pharisees and Sadducees get their comeuppance, but John’s command to them should hit us center mass as well.  Produce fruit worthy of repentance.

Produce fruit, not commentary or armchair quarterbacking.  Get on the playing field and do something productive.  And that’s your dose of mixed metaphor for today.

Our lives should demonstrate that we follow the one true God.  We don’t do things to receive acknowledgement from men but to please God.

Some will see that we do good and that we follow God.  Later in his gospel, Matthew notes that this brings glory to God, but we are little concerned about what the world thinks about us.

We produce fruit in keeping with repentance and this pleases God.  John was offering a baptism of repentance, but he said that this is just the beginning.  One is coming after me who is much greater and more powerful than me and he will baptize with the Holy Spirit.

So, what is fruit in keeping with repentance?

The first and foremost is receiving Jesus not only as our Savior but as Lord as well.  Jesus is Lord!  We outwardly signify his lordship with baptism. 

It’s not Jesus and the Sooners or the Cowboys or our political party.  Jesus is Lord.  It’s not Jesus and this committee or that doctrine.  Jesus is Lord.  We have not really repented until we come to grips with this simple statement.

Repentance must not only include that which we turn away from but that which or whom we turn to and follow.  Our first fruit of repentance is receiving Jesus as Lord.

Turning away from evil and seeking good is noble.  It is a form of repentance.  I will turn away from the bad and seek the good.  It is noble but not sufficient.  We must seek after the Lord.

Just trying to be a good person is not enough!  That sounds critical of those seeking good.  It might be but it’s honest.  When we turn away from evil and seek good, we are still our own master.  We are doing this because it’s how we see things.  We are our own lord.  We get to be the Pharisee.

We become susceptible to sitting on the sidelines and criticizing those who are following Jesus.  The first fruit of our repentance must be to receive Jesus as our Lord.
Jesus is Lord!

Everything after that is our discipleship or the fullness of our salvation.  The rest of our fruit will come out of our discipleship.  That will include turning away from evil and seeking what is good.

It will include the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

It will include being the salt of the earth, that all may taste the goodness of God when they encounter us.

It will include being the light of the world, that people will see how we live and by such witness bring glory to God.

It will include embracing the ways of the Lord as our own.  It will be putting his words into practice.  It will be loving one another.  It will be being known by our love.

But it all starts with repentance.  We must be willing to give up the ways of this world—mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

Receiving the Lordship of Jesus is now a part of our identity.  His yoke is easy and his burden is light, but now it’s our yoke and our burden.

Producing fruit worthy of repentance is first turning away from the world and seeking God through Christ.  Then we live out our salvation in such a way as to bring glory to God.

Narrow is the way which we come to Christ but abundant are the ways in which we may live for him once he is Lord.

Here it is in Okiespeak:  You can’t straddle the fence.

Repent, put God first by making Jesus Lord of your life, then produce fruit worthy of this fantastic relationship.

We will do good and it will be to God’s glory.

We will love one another and it will be to the glory of God.

We will be known by our love and put a smile on God’s face.

Let this be a bumper crop year in producing fruit worthy of repentance!