The Jennings Family

Husband, Dad, Papa, and Pastor Dennis Jennings

Author: Dennis Jennings (page 1 of 6)

My Worship

Joe Stowell writes in today’s devotional in Our Daily Bread:

I was delighted when a mutual friend gave my neighbor a Bible. But my neighbor told me she stopped reading it because she couldn’t understand why God would be so unfair as to reject Cain’s offering. “After all,” she said, “as a farmer, he simply brought to God what he had. Did God expect him to buy a different kind of sacrifice?” Sadly, she had missed the point.

It wasn’t that God didn’t like vegetables. Rather, He knew that Cain’s offering was masking an unrighteous attitude. Cain wasn’t fully committed to God, as expressed by the fact that he wasn’t living according to His ways.

I have been studying Malachi chapter one this week.  This chapter has much to say about worship that is acceptable to God.  God issues an indictment against the priests when He says to them that they had offered polluted sacrifices, and in doing so, they despised His name.  Rather than giving God that which He had clearly spelled out as acceptable (Numbers 28:3), they gave Him that which they would not give to a man to whom honor was due.  Malachi pointed out the insult to God when He asks:

And if ye offer the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? and if ye offer the lame and sick, is it not evil? offer it now unto thy governor; will he be pleased with thee, or accept thy person? saith the LORD of hosts. (Malachi 1:8)

Someone said that worship is “Giving God that which pleases Him in the way which pleases Him.”    These people were making a show of offering their worship to God, but there was no sincerity in it.  For if their worship had acceptable, the offerings they brought would have been acceptable.  It seems as though they were giving God their leftovers- that which they wouldn’t use for themselves.

I am looking today at my own worship of the Lord.  Am I giving Him my best, or does He get what’s “leftover” of my time, my talent or my treasure?  Then in my giving of those things to Him, is it out of obligation, or is it out of honor for the One who gave Himself to make it possible for me to be a member of His own family.  As His child, am I honoring my Heavenly Father?  That is my obligation as His child.

A son honoureth his father, and a servant his master: if then I be a father, where is mine honour? (Malachi 1:6a)

Lessons From Sorrow

This past week, two of our dear church families were touched by the passing of a loved one.  Both of these families are people of great faith.  Although I have been ministering to people in these circumstances for more than thirty years, it never ceases to amaze me how I can go to be a blessing to the bereaved, and leave as the one who has been blessed.  But, I shouldn’t be surprised when those who love the Lord have their faith intact during some of life’s most difficult days, for Paul said:

But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. (1Thessalonians 4:13)

Now let me say that sorrow can be good for us. It can expose forgotten or previously unrecognized areas about ourselves and our relationship with Christ.  Sorrow can help us get to know ourselves as never before.  It causes us to consider where we are in life, why we do what we do, and what the focus of our life really is.

Sorrow also helps us to clearly see what we believe about God and eternity.  It helps us to remember that God understands our sorrow.  Jesus, God in the flesh, is described as “a man of sorrows,” intimately acquainted with grief (Isaiah 53:3). Considering His sorrow and remembering His concern for our sorrow, we gain a better perspective about what God is trying to accomplish in us through our grief.

Sorrow is better than laughter: for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better. (Ecclesiastes 7:3)

A quote from the devotional magazine “Our Daily Bread” says, “Those who don’t let sorrow do its work, who deny it, trivialize it, or try to explain it away, remain shallow and indifferent. They never understand themselves or others very well. In fact……before God can use us very much, we must first learn to mourn.”

We are blessed when we learn from those who are mourning as well.  People who exhibit great faith in times of great sorrow encourage those around them.  I thank God for the lessons during our times of great sorrow.  You can read more about that in our family’s story here or by clicking on the “Family Info” link on the right side of this page.

Why Judas’ Feet?

We are in a Sunday morning sermon series I am calling “The Bible’s Biggest Losers.”  Last week we looked at how the priest and judge Eli lost his family because he knew their sin and refused to restrain them.   So far I have been amazed at the ongoing responses to this story from God’s Word.

This Sunday’s “Biggest Loser” is Judas.  As I am doing the prep work for this message, I am amazed at the picture that precedes his actual betrayal.  Before he went out to betray the Lord, Judas was the recipient of an act of unbelievable humility and grace -Jesus washed His feet!

We can speculate that each of the others who had enjoyed such close fellowship with Christ had some endearing trait – John, “the disciple whom Jesus loved;” Andrew, the one who brought others to Christ; Peter, who so boldly proclaimed, “Thou art the Christ.”  All were sinners, yet they believed.  But then there was Judas.  Why would Jesus wash the feet of the betrayer?  I am not sure there is a definitive answer, but there is something interesting in what Jesus said at the time:

Jesus saith to him, He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit: and ye are clean, but not all.  (11)  For he knew who should betray him; therefore said he, Ye are not all clean.
(John 13:10-11)

Would Jesus’ words, “ye are clean, but not all” cause all of the disciples to examine their own hearts, as is suggested by some commentators?  I am not sure, but that is certainly the effect it has on my heart.  I am considering how often I give in to temptation.  It is no surprise to the Lord.  Jesus knew it would happen, and He did more than humble Himself to wash my feet.  He humbled Himself and died on the cross for my sin (Philippians 2:8).

God help us not to betray the One who loves us so!

What Do I Owe On Tax Day?

Tax Day – UGH!  I hate today.  Taxes seem to be a heavier and heavier burden each time I file and pay them.  But I will pay them, because the God’s word is clear about it:

Rom 13:7  Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.

I must tell you that since returning from Haiti a few days ago, I am once again thinking about how rich we who live in the US are compared to those living in third world countries.  The poorest among us receive food stamps, medical assistance, welfare, job training, etc.  These so-called social programs were initially intended to provide a safety net for families who fall on hard times, to give them a hand up.  Unfortunately, too many in our country take advantage of these programs as a way of life and made themselves dependent upon these government programs, which necessitates our taxes continuing to rise.  Instead of a hand up, they have conditioned to expect a hand-out.

When I was a child, there was a window of time when we ate welfare rice, butter, cheese, and peanut butter.  And we were thankful for it.  But my mom hated “to take a handout,” so she continued to work hard to better her situation so that she could provide for her children without being a burden on others.  To this day I admire her work ethic.  I learned much from her example.

Today, as I consider my own tax responsibility, I am both frustrated and thankful.  I am angry and frustrated that our government is so irresponsible with the taxes I pay, and yet they keep taking more.

I am amazed at how much I have.  The average Haitian lives day to day, working for today’s food for their family.  They will work today to bring water into their home – carried in buckets by hand across some distance -rather than through the convenience of piping it into their homes.  I walk into the bathroom, turn on a faucet and let the water run while I brush my teeth.  I go Sam’s and by a month’s worth of meat.  I am blessed beyond the wildest dreams of many on this planet.

And God will require an accounting for what I have received.  I am a debtor to the rest of the world because I have been blessed.  I am reminded of the Word of God that says:

1Jn 3:17-18  But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?  (18)  My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.

What I Saw In Haiti

Damaged and destroyed homes are everywhere.

More than two hundred years ago, the country now known as Haiti experienced a devastating earthquake.  In those days, the death and destruction, while significant, was no comparison to what took place just before 5 pm on January 12 of this year.  Thirty-three significant aftershocks followed.  Drive around Port Au Prince today and you will see huge piles of rubble in places that used to be homes. Not just in isolated areas, this type of devastation can be seen from just about any vantage point in the city.  According to the locals, each one of those piles of rubble could be the unintended burial place of people unable to get out before the structure collapsed.

No one remains untouched by the loss, even if their homes are still standing, for everyone knows someone who lost family and friends in the quake.  Their third world economy, weak at best and decimated by the earthquake, is just now returning to normal, such as it is.

Crossing open sewer with water for his family

But what is normal to Americans, who sometimes struggle to live from paycheck to paycheck, would be wealthy to the average Haitian family.  They live in tiny, poorly constructed homes made from inferior building products.  In fact, it is this the poor construction practices that caused so much devastation.   As one Haitian pastor explained, “We do what we can with what we have.  We would do better if we could, but we do not have the means to buy better materials.”  It is hard for us to understand a culture where people live from day to day working for their next meal, live next to open, running creeks of sewage, and build their homes by purchasing individual blocks or rebar as they can.   Little children, especially the girls, are taught to carry water first in plastic gallon jugs.  As they get older they graduate to carrying open five gallon buckets of water balanced on their heads for long distances, just to provide water for the daily needs of the family.

One of more than 400 tent cities in Port Au Prince

Since the earthquake, many of these people, who had so little to begin with, are now left living in sprawling tent cities that cover seemingly every open space in Port Au Prince.  The UN says there are some 400 such tent cities.  While these offer temporary shelter from the heat, most of the tents and tarps will last only weeks or a couple of months at best.  Then when the rains come, the misery intensifies.  Only God knows what will happen when the rains come.  Some talked openly of their concern for the upcoming hurricane season, which runs from June through November.  Then of course, people are scared about the next earthquake or aftershock.  Even the government has advised some not to sleep in their homes.

A church property next to an open sewer in one of the slum areas

But Haiti is not without hope.  Most of the missionaries agree that most people’s lives are about back to what they were before the earthquake.  The street vendors are out again.  While it is very slow, clean-up is progressing.  Most of it is being done by hand.  We spent four days in Haiti and saw only two pieces of heavy equipment only in one place-working on the presidential palace.  Evidence of relief work is seen from the tents to water supplies to medical clinics.

Beautiful kids are every-and they need Christ

And something wonderful is happening in Haiti amidst all of this.  The Word of God is prospering.  There is an army of Haitian pastors and Christians who are preaching the gospel – in some places it is going on every night- and people are coming to Christ in the voodoo dominated country.   In fact, though virtually every church building is damaged or destroyed, these pastors report that although many of them lost as many as half their church members in the disaster, their attendance is stronger than before the earthquakes.  As one pastor said, “Haitians are looking for answers, and they are finding them in Jesus Christ.”

Pray for the people of Haiti and for the pastors who are there sharing the gospel faithfully.  Our church is planning mission trips to make a difference.   Personally, I am still processing everything we saw.  In some ways, the only way I know how to pray is, “Lord, what will you have me to do about what I have seen?”

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