What Others Say

Mr. Tinsley, thank you for your well-written and insightful article about Luther.
I shared it with my children during family worship. It lifted us up.
Warmly, Kari.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Resurrection Faith

Not long ago I preached the funeral of a woman I have known for forty-five years. By the time she ended her long battle with breast cancer she was in her mid-fifties.

When I first met her, she was a little girl.  I still remember her innocent blue eyes as a child.  I watched her grow through childhood and into her teen years.  When she was a young adult, she was lured down painful and destructive paths refusing to heed the warnings of those who loved her. I prayed for her, along with others and she fell deeper into addiction to drugs and alcohol. She gave her first born up for adoption and eventually served a sentence in prison.

But somewhere along the way, whether in prison or afterward, she came to faith in Jesus Christ. Like the woman who pressed through the crowd, she touched the hem of His garment. As Jesus said to another woman so many years ago, He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you whole.” 

In the last decade I saw her reunited with her first-born whom she gave up in her youth. She was reconciled with her family who surrounded her in love.  God brought a good man into her life who, like her, was a recovering alcoholic.

She often shared with me her testimony of faith and what God had done in her life.  She still wasn’t perfect. She still had issues. But she was different. God was healing her on the inside.

The week before she died, we visited.  Family and friends gathered around her, comforting her, praying for her and loving her.  On Wednesday of that week, she drew her last breath.

Once again, I thought of her as that innocent blue-eyed girl I first knew. It reminded me of Jesus’ visit to the home of a mother and father whose twelve-year-old daughter had died.  The house was surrounded by people who were weeping. But Jesus entered the child’s bedroom with her parents and spoke these gentle words to her.  “Little girl, I say to you, get up!”   She immediately breathed, opened her eyes and got up.   

This is the faith we believe as followers of Christ.  We make mistakes.  We may wander far from God.  We may cause pain to ourselves and others.  But He seeks us out.  He never lets us go.  He reconciles, redeems and, in the day of our death, He raises us up!
 

Monday, March 23, 2015

The Promise of Palm Sunday

Next Sunday is Palm Sunday, the day we remember Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem a week before he was arrested, crucified and raised from the dead three days later.

Jesus descended the Mount of Olives seated on a donkey as men, women and children shouted and sang knowing that, by this act, Jesus had proclaimed himself to be the longed for Messiah.   They all knew the prophecy: “Rejoice greatly, daughter Zion!  Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” (Zechariah 9:9). After crossing the Kidron Valley, He entered Jerusalem through the eastern gate. 

Around the world Christians will gather to celebrate this historic event.  Last year over 2,000 children took part in a procession in St. Petersburg, Russia; Christian youth waved palm branches in northern Iraq; believers gathered for services in Beijing, Shenzhen and Wenzhou, China; Christians danced in Palm Sunday processions in Zambia, Nigeria and Ghana.  Hundreds of millions around the world will gather for worship and remembrance.

Four weeks ago I stood at the spot where Palm Sunday took place.  From the Mount of Olives, where He began his journey astride the donkey, I could see the sealed up eastern gates of ancient Jerusalem. Our Jewish guide told us that the Muslim occupation had sealed up the gates to prevent the Jewish Messiah from entering. 

With my friends, I read Ezekiel 44:2, “This gate is to remain shut. It must not be opened; no one may enter through it. It is to remain shut because the Lord, the God of Israel, has entered through it.”  I was reminded that Jesus, fulfilling all Messianic prophecy, had already entered.

Jesus predicted what would happen.  He would be crucified and raised from the dead.  There would be wars and rumors of wars, earthquakes and famines.  Evil would continue to increase.   “Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.  And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.” (Matthew 24)

He promised that when He returns He will judge the earth, all evil will be abolished and He will establish a new heaven and a new earth where men will dwell in peace with one another and with God.  (Revelation 21).  


Like those who lined his route two thousand years ago, this Palm Sunday believers from around the world will raise their voices to proclaim Jesus Christ as the Messiah, the King.  As they do so, they not only look back to that historic day when Jesus first entered Jerusalem.  They look forward to a day when He will return. 

Monday, March 16, 2015

What Are You Worried About?

The world gives us plenty to worry about. 

Some worry about the stock market.  Two weeks ago stocks plummeted giving rise to fears of another recession and wide-spread layoffs. Radio Shack announced it was bankrupt and Target laid off 1,700 at its headquarters in Minneapolis.  A week later the market rebounded.  Who knows what the report will be by the time you read this column? 

Students worry about tests, assignments and grades. Recent graduates worry about looming student loans.  Parents worry about making ends meet, raising their children and sending their kids to college.

Terrorism stalks the news.  Al Qaeda has morphed into ISIS which has gone global recruiting teens and young adults from Europe and Australia.  The Boston bombing trial for Dzokhar Tsanaev is in full swing. Family members worry about sons and daughters, husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, who live in a violent world.

Some worry about their health. Many are dealing with cancer, heart disease, diabetes, strokes, injuries and the ravages of old age. Some worry about family members and friends who have become addicted to alcohol and drugs.

The list goes on.  There are lots of things to worry about.  Some big. Some small.

Worry can be a good thing.  Like physical pain, worry can serve as a signal that we need to take action for ourselves and the welfare of others. But worry can also debilitate. All of us experience circumstances beyond our control.  In such cases, worry can rob us of sleep, steal our energy and cripple our creativity. According to WebMD “Chronic worrying affects your daily life so much that it interferes with your appetite, lifestyle habits, relationships, sleep, and job performance.”

Jesus clearly wanted us to live our lives free from debilitating worry.

Jesus said, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?  Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin.  Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?  So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:25-34).

Monday, March 9, 2015

Changing The Rules

It is always important to know the rules in anything we do.  We have rules at school, rules at work and rules at home. We establish laws to govern traffic: speed limits, stop signs, turn lanes and signals.  We pass laws for family, marriage, commerce and civil conduct.  We spend billions of dollars to employ law enforcement officials, judges and lawyers to make sure the rules are obeyed.

We even have rules for play. Every sport has its rules with umpires and referees to insure that the rules are enforced.  We have added instant replay to make sure their rulings are fair and objective.  Still, arguments erupt and tempers flare when either side believes it has been unfairly judged.  As the final four heats up, we will watch red-faced basketball coaches frantically screaming from the sidelines at referees who miss calls.

Some rules are unwritten. We assume we know them from birth. They are common to every culture on earth.  They are simple rules:  love your family and your friends.  Do good things for them.  Love your country.  If someone hits you, hit them back.  Don’t break in line. Lend only to those who will pay you back with interest. Look out for “number one.”  Protect your property. Defend yourself. If someone wrongs you, get even.  Sometimes we follow these rules even when they conflict with the law.  They are the stuff of most movies and novels.  They are the rules by which we live our lives.

Jesus’ words sound strange when compared to our natural assumptions about how life is supposed to work. "But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. Whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other also; and whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from him either. Give to everyone who asks of you, and whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it back. Treat others the same way you want them to treat you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners in order to receive back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” (Luke 6:27-36).

Jesus changes all the rules.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Miracle of Life

My daughter was born the year I turned forty.  With two sons already thirteen and eight, we were not expecting another child.  In fact, the doctors told my wife and me that having more children was impossible.  But, the impossible happened.  The doctor’s first question was, “Do you want to terminate this pregnancy?”  We were stunned.  Such a consideration never entered our minds.  Nine months later we were given a beautiful little girl who has blessed our lives immeasurably. I often thought of the doctor’s question when I rocked her to sleep and felt the weight of her slumbering body slump against my shoulder. 

Our daughter is now grown. Six years ago I walked her down the aisle to give her away  to my son-in-law.  I then performed the wedding ceremony and danced with her, one of the highlights of my life. Three years later, they came home and excitedly told us they were expecting a baby, our fourth grandchild.  When they gave us the news of her pregnancy, her baby was no bigger than a small marble. We listened to the baby’s heartbeat and watched her dancing in the womb.  She now dances around the room with her little sister.

Before retirement, my wife worked with pregnant and parenting teens in the public schools.  She constantly sought to help them have a healthy pregnancy, healthy birth, learn how to become a good parent, and stay in school in order to have a future.  With children and grandchildren of our own and my wife’s occupation, you would think that the process of pregnancy and birth would have become commonplace. But it hasn’t.  In fact, it is quite the opposite.  The more I witness the miracle of life by which children are birthed into the world, the more I stand in awe. 

David expressed it best in Psalm 139:  “For you formed my inward parts; you wove me in my mother's womb. I will give thanks to you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; wonderful are your works, and my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth; Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; and in your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them.” To the prophet Jeremiah, God said, “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you.”  (Jeremiah 1:5).

Every birth, every child and every person is a miracle of God.  We are all more than mere flesh and blood, brain, bone and sinew.  We are made in His likeness, with the awesome freedom to choose good and evil, to bless others or to curse them. We have infinite possibilities and an immortal soul that will one day depart this mortal body. We are eternal beings living in a miraculous universe that astounds our senses.