2014 (Archived)


December 2014

Dear Lanes Chapel Family,

Well… I guess I live in a land of ideal expectations. 

As the years pass, more and more I am saddened by the commercialism of Christmas and how it encroaches on Thanksgiving.  I have long felt that we as a nation need to spend more time being thankful for what we have before we start asking for more.  Although I understand “Black Friday,” I am not a huge fan.  I have never understood the fascination of going to a store at 4 in the morning. 

In my naiveté, I assumed all of this started in my lifetime.  I assumed that prior to my life that everyone did take the whole Thanksgiving weekend to be thankful and then gear up for Christmas starting soon that next week.  Boy – was I ever wrong.

Late Wednesday, Thanksgiving Eve, I was watching a program on the history of Thanksgiving when the narrator began to tell about the first Thanksgiving Day parades.  The first parade was in 1920 in Philadelphia and was sponsored by Gimbels Department Stores.  The first Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade was soon after in 1924, and was actually called Macy’s Christmas Parade.  A Christmas parade on Thanksgiving Day!  Both were started in an effort to kick of the Christmas shopping season.  AND THIS WAS IN 1924!  This consumerism reaches almost 100 years ago!  BAH!

I guess, though… I shouldn’t be surprised.  Because of our sinful natures we have always been prone to covetousness, to want more.  To see this played out as a nation, though, is very disheartening for me.  It leaves me feeling very unsettled.  So what am I to do?

First, I have to remind myself to not depend upon “the world” to point to the wonder and beauty of true meaning of Christmas – Jesus Christ, the son of God, came into the world and was born the son of a poor carpenter and his wife.  “The world” is going to continue to overlook the importance of giving thanks all while extolling the virtues of more and more stuff.

Second, I have to be even more diligent to hang on to the wonder of the manger on my own and recall the two-fold message of the angels who proclaimed the birth of the King.  “Glory to God” and “peace to men.”  To soothe my unsettled spirit I must remember that I will find peace only through my savior, Jesus Christ.

I should not be shocked that the nation has been looking past Thanksgiving for a long time now.  I should remember that man will continue to be driven by his sin nature.  I should know the only place I can find true peace is through Jesus Christ.

So this year I will do my best to move through the season with that message on my heart, “Peace to men.”  I pray I can live in that peace and that you can, too.

Glory to God and Peace to Men,

Jeff

 


November 2014

Dear Church Family:

Now that Halloween has passed and November is here, retailers will begin to pelt us with a constant barrage of Christmas, Christmas, Christmas.  Yes, I know they have already started Christmas advertising with catalogs in the mail and decorations in the store, but November 1st seems to be the whistle, blowing the beginning of a full-court press.  Everywhere we turn we see and hear, “Buy more!  Buy bigger!  Buy better!” 

Please don’t get me wrong.  I love Christmas.  I love gift giving and receiving.  I love the lights and the decorations.  Like Charlie Brown though, I just get exasperated by the commercialism.  After Halloween, I just have to brace myself when I consider all of the “holiday” ornaments and “holiday” lights that are for sale to put on “holiday” trees under which are placed “holiday” gifts wrapped in “holiday” paper.  This frustrates me because the retailers leave Jesus out of the equation.

The other thing that frustrates me is that because all of this starts right after Halloween, commercially, there is little thought given to Thanksgiving.  We are never given the chance nor are we encouraged to say, “Thank you;” to stop and think, “What am I truly thankful for this year?  How has God blessed me?”  We run right by the turkey and dressing to get to the tree and the gifts.

So, this year, I am going to do something to instill Thanksgiving into my mind.  Built on the model of A Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp, each day leading up to Thanksgiving I am going to stop and think of five things for which I am thankful; each one different than those before.  I will do this because being thankful for the gifts I have now is far more important than looking toward the new things I’d like to have in the future.  This will help me keep my mind and my heart fixed upon the giver of every good and perfect gift, God Almighty himself.

Will you try this with me?  Each day stop and thank God for five things.  Encourage your children to do the same.  Maybe each night you can take turns and go around the dinner table asking, “What are you thankful for today?”  Let us not race to Christmas.  Let us not get bogged down in the commercialism.  Let us first keep our hearts full of gratitude by practicing thanksgiving this Thanksgiving.

 


October 2014

Recently, my heart and mind has been distracted by the news of the day. Most likely, we're all experiencing this. Internationally, we witness the rise of Islamic terrorist organizations that are bent on world domination. They long to kill anyone who does not agree with them. They have one form of negotiation: "Do it our way or be killed." They are especially taken with the desires to kill all Christians. I hear talks of how they might even be stationed on the Texas-Mexico border with plans to slowly infiltrate our country in order to attack us. And again, we are faced with the possibility of sending our armed forces into battle in the Middle East to quell this threat.

When I see this, in an effort to achieve some relief from this bad news, I turn over to the various sports stations. I hope that by watching sports I can escape – even just briefly – the onslaught of discouraging news. However, I am faced with more troubling tales. Domestic abuse and violence in the form of spouse abuse and possible child abuse fill the headlines. More athletes – collegiate and professional – are arrested or suspended for various substance abuse allegations.

Ugh! I can't even avoid the bad news in those venues that exist to be an escape mechanism. All of this disheartens me and it can depress me. What am I to do? Where can I go? How can I handle another day of all of this and still survive?

Well... the first and best thing I can do is remind myself who I am and Whose I am. I am a child of The King. I am a ransomed, saved, and redeemed member of the priesthood of all believers. I am a victor over death, not a victim of death's cold dark sting. I am a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ. I am a member of the household of God, the pillar and support of the truth. (1 Timothy 3:15) I do not need to fear anything for the Lord God Almighty has conquered all.

He, as the Almighty Sovereign Powerful Creator of the Universe, the Great I AM, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End, the Alpha and the Omega has everything well under control. Yes, the waters roar and foam, the mountains quake and fall into the heart of the sea, but the Lord is still our refuge and strength and an ever present help in a time of trouble. (from Psalm 46) If the Lord can conquer death, there is nothing he cannot do!

Admittedly, I do not know why he allows what he allows. I could never answer the questions "Why does ISIS grow" or "Why do men become animals and strike the most defenseless – women and children?" I will never know nor understand that. I could never fathom why these things are permitted to go on around us, striking fear daily into our hearts.

But I do know that in the end, The Lamb wins. The Lamb of God, the Lord Jesus Christ will sit on his throne in final victory. It is then that he will set all things right. In that day – and it might be tomorrow or it might be many days or even years from now – He will set all things right. In that day there will be no more tears or crying or pain. There will be no more death or mourning. The old order of things (what we experience today) will pass away and Jesus will make all things new. (from Rev. 21:4ff) What a great day of rejoicing that will be!

So, for now, I just keep my eyes on Christ and remember that He is in control. He has not abdicated His throne. He has not turned His gaze away. He still rules. He is in charge and in control. He is my strength, my shield, and my song. I pray you can keep the faith as I do. Keep looking to Christ!

In Christ,

Jeff

 


September 2014

Now that Labor Day is here, we will soon begin to see a barrage of TV ads extolling the virtues of every political candidate under the sun.  Well… actually… it seems like we rarely see that.  We mostly see and hear about the candidates’ opponents and what the other person has said or done or not said or not done.  It’s a mud-slinging festival.  They drag each other through the muck and the mire leaving personal destruction in their wake.  I don’t know why anyone would ever want to be a politician specifically for that reason – the campaign.  Yes, it is a high calling to serve others in a public office, but the personal price for getting there is very high.

There is another task that is a high calling, but the cost of getting there might not be the issue.  The issue might be the life one must live to even be considered to fill that office or to maintain the position.  And that is the office of being a “church overseer” as Paul calls it in 1 Timothy 3.  Some consider a church overseer to be the pastor of the church, while I expand that understanding out to anyone who is in church leadership – be it on staff as a paid professional or as one who volunteers to lead a church ministry team.

A few of the words that Paul uses to describe an “overseer” are: above reproach, temperate, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, gentle, peaceable, and free from the love of money.  An overseer “manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity.”  The church leader “must have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he will not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.”  Paul continues on with describing another leader, a deacon, who must be dignified, not fond of sordid gain, beyond reproach, and not a gossiper.  All of these descriptors are very stringent requirements.  Each is a challenge to uphold. 

After reading this and being in church leadership myself, I wonder why anyone would aspire to that calling.  But then… I could do nothing else, for I know that God has called me to such a post as this. 

In the light of knowing my heart as I do and my drive to fulfill God’s call on my life, I then have to reevaluate those men and women who run for public office.  Maybe they aspire for that post because they know it is a task to which God has called them.  (My sincere hope is that these individuals are Christians and they have prayerfully considered God’s will.)  They know the journey to come when they step forward and “put their hat in the ring.”  They are aware of the challenges that lie ahead, yet they could do nothing else.

Therefore, as we draw nearer to Election Day over the next two months, rather than turn the channel as I am prone to do when campaign commercials come one, I will do my best to leave them on (maybe on mute) and then pray for the candidates – whether I agree with them or not.  I will pray for them that God’s will be done through them – or even in spite of them.  I ask that you pray for them, too.

I also ask you to pray for me and every other leader in our church – both paid and volunteer, that we can achieve the high task to which God has called us.  It is very high calling indeed.  Pray that we can fulfill that calling and be above reproach and successful in avoiding the snares of the devil.  We need your prayers.  The Church needs your prayers.  The Kingdom of God needs your prayers.

In Christ,

Jeff

 


August 2014

Dear Friends,
As I have told you before and as I will continue to tell you throughout my ministry, I love the Bible.  It is filled with wonderful stories, poems, songs, and instructions. It is the best book for understanding the human condition.  It contains everything we need to know for our salvation.  It is God’s holy, inspired word.  It is true and can be trusted.  
Some of it is very straight forward and easy to understand.  “Do not lie.”  “Do not steal.”  “God is love.”  Other times though, it’s not easy trying to know exactly what the writer meant.  “…do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.”  (Ephesians 4:30)  How do you grieve the Holy Spirit?“And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.”  (Luke 12:10)  I don’t know what blaspheming the Holy Spirit is exactly, but I sure don’t want to do it.“And the dragon stood on the shore of the sea. And I saw a beast coming out of the sea. He had ten horns and seven heads, with ten crowns on his horns, and on each head a blasphemous name.”  (Revelation 13:1)  I’m not sure what that is, but it certainly sounds scary.
A challenge comes, too, when we read something that seems straightforward to us, but we interpret and implement it differently from person to person and church to church.  For example, that holds true for 1 Timothy 2:9-15.  It is one that is completely ignored or might be enforced to the extreme.I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.  A woman should learn in quietness and full submission.  I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.  For Adam was formed first, then Eve.  And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner.  But women will be saved through childbearing--if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.
Quite honestly, when I read this passage, I can see why some people ignore it.  It’s a hard teaching.  I also know how other people apply this to the extreme to the point that it becomes oppressive to women.  So where are we to come down on this matter?  How does this apply to us?
Well… first, I will encourage you to do some cultural and 

historical study.  Where was Timothy when Paul wrote this letter?  What was going on around them?  How did pagan women dress and why did they dress that way?  How did Christian women start to dress when they found freedom in Christ and why?  How did women behave in church when the 1st century church began?  Understanding all of these topics will shed some light on the passage.  I encourage you to further study.

But without that, by just reading it as it stands, how can we understand this passage for ourselves in our own lives?  And not just the women, but for the men, too?  I believe it comes down to this:  when we look at Paul’s instructions, the greater truths that are timeless and span all genders deal with dress, actions, and words.

Your Dress:  Is the way you dress glorifying to God?  Does it contribute to your Christian witness and accentuate a Godly countenance, or does it detract from it?  As a husband and father of two daughters, I know it can be a challenge to find modest clothing, but it’s worth the battle to maintain a consistent witness. 

Your Actions:  In your actions, how do you model Christian behavior?  How do you show the love of Christ to others?

Your Words:  When you speak, what are you saying that edifies and builds-up others?  How do you tear them down?  What words of love and peace do you speak?  What seeds of discord do you sew?  Do people fear what you will say next?

The greater contextual lessons in the passage from Paul are these three things: dress, actions, and words.  Yes, we can get bogged down in women’s braided hair, jewelry, and silence, but the true message reaches out and spans the test of time.  How do we glorify God in all that we do?  Are we pointing to him and his greatness?  Does our life reflect our salvation?  Just something to think about.

Blessings,

Rev. D. Jeff Gage

Senior Pastor

 


July 2014

Dear Lanes Chapel Family,

Prayer is one of the most amazing aspects of the Christian life. Through prayer, we can communicate with the creator of the universe, the Lover of Our Souls, the Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ. Through prayer, we can lay our burdens down with moaning, crying, and sighing. We can praise God for who he is. We can thank him for what he does. We can tell him our problems and ask him to help us solve them. We can also just sit and be silent. Prayer is such a wonderful, vital part of who we are and what we do as Christians.

As a kid, we prayed together as a family at meal times and I prayed at bed at night – generally until I fell asleep. In church, then as even now, I prayed with my head down and my hands folded in my lap. That is the general posture many of us assume when we pray. It keeps us still and from becoming distracted because we are looking around and doing other things. (At least that is what I was taught and that is what I teach my own children.)

As I have gotten older, though, and have studied prayer both in seminary and on my own, I have grown in my understanding of ways to pray. For me, most mornings, I pray best on my knees. It physically reminds me of my great need. On my knees, I am reminded that I depend upon My Maker for everything, he is so much greater than I, and it is best that I speak with him while bowing before him. At times, I have also fallen prostrate, flat on the floor before him. That can be a powerful experience. I can and do pray in several ways and each way of embodying prayer is valid.

You know, I wrote that we fold our hands to keep them still and to keep us from becoming distracted. That is not the only thing to do with them in prayer, though. Paul talks about that in 1 Timothy 2:8. He writes, "Therefore I want the men in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and dissension."

"Lifting up holy hands..."

At first glance, that might seem a bit odd, some guy sitting down to pray or even standing in the church to pray with his hands lifted. But then I consider what the lifting of holy hands might represent. Lifted hands, depending on their position, can show openness, invitation, surrender, supplication, or dependence. A raised hand can say, "Here I am. Send me." In conjunction with the eyes lifted to heaven, they can cry out, "Come Lord Jesus!" The hands are another way to embody the spirit of the prayer.

Have you ever prayed with lifted holy hands? Yes, you say you are surrendering. You try to convince yourself that you are open to whatever God has for you in your life. But have you put that truth into motion?

Why not lift your holy hands in prayer today? Show God and remind yourself just how much you depend upon him today.

Blessings to you all,

Jeff

 


June 2014

Dear Lanes Chapel Family, 

Growing up in Texas and eventually choosing to attend Texas A&M University, I heard a lot of Aggie jokes. They used to be everywhere to the point they were published in several volumes and sold throughout the state in bookstores and tourist traps. I know some Aggies don’t laugh at them. I do, though. I think they are funny. 

Did you hear about the Aggie who won a gold medal at the Olympics? 

He was so proud of the award that he decided to get it bronzed. 

Did you hear about the Aggie who got locked out of his car? 

He spent two hours trying to get his wife and kids out. 

Why can't Aggie farmers raise chickens? 

They plant the eggs too deep. 

There is something else or someone else that people make jokes about, and that is lawyers. I have heard a lot of them over time – not nearly as many Aggie jokes, but there are a bunch. For whatever reason, we joke about lawyers. We poke fun at the profession and the un-likability of many of them. We know some are unscrupulous so we take the chance to degrade the whole profession. The truth is, though, even if some of them are less than noble, we need lawyers. 

We need someone who knows how to handle the ins and outs of our legal system. We need someone who can decipher the “legalese” of paperwork and contracts. We need someone who can keep a level head while defending us when we have been accused of wrong doings. We need someone to act as our guide and help us circumnavigate our way through the courts. We need them to act as a mediator between us and what is sometimes and adversarial system. We could not effectively stand before a judge in a courtroom without one. 

Now… I am not going to equate lawyers with Jesus Christ, by any means, but they do give us a picture of what Christ does for us in our relationship with God, our Heavenly Father. Just as lawyers often act as our mediators, Jesus Christ is a mediator between God and us. He is our mediator. Paul talks about that in First Timothy 2:5-7. 

For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time. For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying) as a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth. 

As our mediator, Christ acts as our “’go-between.” He stands before God the Father on our behalf, as we could not stand before him in our sinfulness and guilt. He speaks in our interest, defending us, speaking for us, and even taking punishment for us. He is the one who acts as a ransom for our sins. We need Jesus Christ as our mediator. 

He knows how to stand before God. Christ, as our sinless sacrifice, can stand before him to plead our case. Our Heavenly Father cannot abide sin, so Christ goes before him for us. He intercedes for us. He defends us. He guides us. He is even the one who paid our fine that we could be free. Christ is our mediator. We need him to be the one who rises to speak for us and defend us. 

So, even though you might not have the best opinion of lawyers and even though you make jokes about them and their escapades, know that Christ is above all of them. Yes, he has a similar role in one case, but he is far above them in who he is and what he does. Let him – no, ask him to mediate on your behalf. 

Blessings to you all,

P.S. What's the problem with lawyer jokes? Lawyer's don't think they're funny, and no one else thinks they're jokes. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.)

 


May 2014

Dear Lanes Chapel Family, 

Recently, the movie Noah was released to much fanfare. That is because it featured a big-name star, Russell Crowe, and the studio also poured a lot of financial resources into the special effects and computer generated images. I admit I did not see the movie, so I cannot comment on the quality or the story. However I did see several reviews of it from other Christians. Some thought the movie was great and encouraged others to go see it. Others thought the movie was a waste of time and they encouraged us to boycott the movie. I don’t really have opinion either way. I will just let you make up your own mind. 

What I do have an opinion on is how we should prepare ourselves mentally and spiritually when we go see any movie that Hollywood releases that attempts to tell a Bible story. When you see one of these movies – from the classic The Ten Commandments to the newest Noah – read your Bible first before you go see the movie so that you know the true story. Do not depend upon Hollywood to tell you the true story. They have one purpose in releasing a movie – making money. They might tell a good story that is visually stunning with many embellishments, but it might not be Biblically accurate. Biblical accuracy should be our primary concern. 

Biblical accuracy is paramount because the Bible is God’s holy word. It is to be treasured and valued above all else. We must be very diligent in how well we know it and how closely Hollywood follows it. We need to know the story as God had it recorded and then use that as our standard for all other presentations of it. Also, we need to know the biblical accounts so that when our friends see these movies and make comments about them we can lovingly guide them to the Bible or tell them the true stories ourselves. 

Therefore, go see the movie if you like, just make sure you know the truth before you walk in. Remember, too, that Bible is the one true source for the story and any departure from the biblical account, even if it fits well into the movie might very well be a guess on the part of the movie maker. There is no harm in seeing the movie, just be certain of what the real story is. Once you learn the story, share it with others and don’t depend upon Hollywood to do that for you. 

And as Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert used to say, “I’ll be seeing you at the movies.” 

God Bless Y’all, 

Jeff Gage 

Senior Pastor 

 


April 2014

Dear Lanes Chapel Family, 

When I look at the calendar, I see it is April. Yes, that means the beauty of spring, wild flowers in bloom, Dog Woods bursting forth with color throughout the East Texas Piney Woods, Easter and the joy of the Resurrection, longer days, beautiful weather, and... TAX DAY. Ugh!

Yes, April 15th is here once again and our taxes are due. I'll admit, I normally grouse about this day just a little because I'm not a huge fan of paying taxes, but this year, I'm grousing a bit more. That's because my taxes went up this year. A self-employment tax cut that was instituted a few years ago expired this year. (Yes, in the eyes of the IRS, I'm considered to be self-employed. Weird, I know.) Therefore, I owe more. That did not sit well with me when I heard the news. I got very irritated with those who make these decisions.

Then... I sat down to write this article and read the scripture I had picked out long ago to highlight this month. I read Paul's words to Timothy in 1 Timothy 2:1-2.

1 First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, 2 for kings and all who are in authority...

Ooo, that hurts, Paul! Here I am grumbling in my mind and Paul tells Timothy (really me), to pray for all men; then he highlights "kings and all who are in authority." Yes, that includes those who govern our nation. To deepen the directive, I am even to be thankful for them. Wow, that's tough some days – especially when I have to write an extra check to the government. But that is our calling – to pray for everyone, even for the ones with whom we might not agree and for whom we did not vote.

Why are we to do this? Paul says, "So that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity." (v. 2b) We do this so that our lives will be tranquil, quiet, Godly, and dignified. We do it so that our lives will be full of peace, so that others will see something in us that will stand out from the rest of society. We do it because this kind of prayerful behavior and reaction is "good and acceptable in the sight of God." (v.3) We pray and offer thanksgiving because it pleases God.

So after reading that, I step back and pause a minute and realize that yes, I am citizen of the United States of America, so I do my part and pay my taxes. Greater still though, I am citizen of the Kingdom of God, ransomed, delivered, and redeemed by the blood and grace of Jesus Christ, so I do my part and pray for my leaders. I am thankful for their service and sacrifice. I pray God blesses them with wisdom, discernment, conviction, and protection.

Have you thanked God for these men? Have you prayed for them today? Why not lift them up now? Rep. Matt Schaefer, Sen. Kevin Eltife, Gov. Rick Perry, Rep. Louie Gohmert, Sen. John Cornyn, Sen. Ted Cruz, and Pres. Barak Obama.

Blessings to you all, 

D. Jeff Gage

 


March 2014

 

February 2014

 

January 2014