Partnership in the Gospel

[Prayer of the Day for Sun, Sept 16, 2018, based on the preaching text from Phil. 1:3-11]

Holy God,
Through Your grace
You have called us to salvation
through faith in Jesus Christ.
Through Your Holy Spirit
You empower us to serve in Your kingdom.
Through Your Son, Jesus Christ,
You knit us together as a holy Church.
May we, together, work to advance the Gospel;
lifting one another up
and bearing one another’s burdens.
To You be the glory, through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.

The Pastor -|–

Light in the World

14 Do all things without grumbling or disputing, 15 that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,
[Philippians 2:14–15 (ESV)]

It seems to me that many in the Church need to take these words of Paul to heart. Too Christians spend way too much time fighting and complaining about the stupidest things or whining and complaining about this and that politician. They do this all the while as this “crooked and twisted” generation is watching and thinking, “why do I need to listen to them?“. Or worse yet, this “crooked and twisted” generation doesn’t even notice the Church because it looks like everything/one else. What would it look like, though, if the Church kept the main thing the main thing and actually were “lights in the world“; proclaiming the Gospel and working out their faith with fear and trembling. What if the Church was actually holy; set apart, different from the world? What if the Church actually sought transformation through the Gospel instead of conforming to the world around them.

Hey there, Church, if you are trying to advance the Kingdom of God, stop trying to look and act like the world. Stop trying to please the world by conforming to them. Be a light in the world; lights among a crooked and twisted generation. Remember whose you are and live a life worthy of the Gospel. It’s time to grow up, Church, and be who you are suppose to be.

Rant done…now back to your regularly scheduled programming…

The Pastor -|—

Don’t be Shaken; be Stirred (Psalm 16:7-8)

There are times, like the apostle Paul in Philippians 1:23, that I want to hasten my departure from this world in order to be with the Lord (and not in a suicidal way). There are times I just want to be done with the anti-Christian rhetoric that seems to be growing. There are times I just want to be done with stories of ISIS reigning terror on many people. There are times I just want to be done with politicians who don’t get it; who don’t care or understand the concept of freedom OF religion and instead hold to the concept of freedom FROM religion. There are times that I just want to throw my hands up in the air and say,

“Lord, come and take me home. Come, and establish your kingdom in this world. Come, and begin your eternal reign.

Yes, that would be nice, to be with the Lord; away from sin and death and persecution. But then there is the other side of me (like Paul in Philippians 1:24) that says I need to remain here for the benefit of others. And when I think about that I am overwhelmed.

Who am I to think that I can be a benefit to anyone?
Who am I to think that I have anything to offer?
Who am I to think that I can make a difference?

I bless the Lord who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me. I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. [Psalm 16:7-8]

It is NOT you who can do anything but the Lord who gives counsel.

Last night I posted some verses from Proverbs 16 about committing everything to the Lord. This came after a church council meeting as we are discussing and exploring who we are, what we believe and where God is calling us to go. It’s a daunting task to consider this, and therefore one that needs to be committed to the Lord because it is the Lord who will give us counsel.

And as I consider my role in this messed up world, once again, it is the Lord who gives counsel and therefore I shall not be shaken. This doesn’t change my desire to be with the Lord, but these verses do give me hope that God is still doing something through me, and the Lord is doing something through you.

I believe the day will come when I will be with the Lord; praising and worshiping him forever, but it is just not now. Apparently God believes it is to someone’s benefit that I remain. And therefore, unlike James Bond, I DON’T want to be shaken but rather stirred (to action). And with the Lord, giving counsel, this will indeed be the case.

Lord God, may my faith not shaken by what goes on around me but rather stirred to glorify Your holy name. Give me counsel, oh Lord, and lead me in paths of righteousness. Give me counsel, oh Lord, and strengthen me. Give me counsel, oh Lord, and grant me wisdom. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

The Pastor -|—

Being content

I can do all things through him who strengthens me. [Philippians 4:13]

Earlier in this chapter, the apostle Paul talks about having learned the secret to being content in any and every situation. He says that he knows how to be brought low and to abound; how to face hunger and how to face plenty. No matter what, Paul is content.

What a gift.

But what strikes me about this text is not the statement about being content with very little or nothing, but rather being content with plenty. It seems like a no-brainer that one would be content with plenty but it is the source of the contentment that is at issue. For some, being content is wrapped up in the stuff and people they have in their lives. Their contentment might be through their life situation: job, status, position. They may look around themselves and say “Ahhhh…this is good” But often times, people like that are like the rich fool who tears down his barns to build bigger ones (Luke 12:16-21). Contentment in this sense only looks inward and not to others but more importantly, it is not sustainable.

For Paul it is not about material possessions or health or status. It’s not about what this world says is important. For Paul, what is important is faith in Jesus. For…

it is through faith in Jesus that helps us see that we already have everything.

And…

it is through faith in Jesus that helps us see that everything we have is nothing with him.

The “all things” from these words of Paul includes contentment, for true contentment CAN NOT be found outside of faith in Jesus. That is why some of the poorest Christians in the world are some of the most joyful. Contentment is wrapped up in their faith in Jesus and their hope of the resurrection. They know that they already have everything they need and that they are nothing without Jesus.

I can be content in God for He strengthens me; gives me hope; provides for me and loves me.

So remove your eyes from what you have and don’t have and focus on the cross. See a Savior that died and rose FOR YOU. Give thanks for the forgiveness that Jesus offers through that sacrifice. Cling to the promise of everlasting life. Bask in the love of God. Be content with this, for faith in Jesus is indeed everything you truly need.

May God open your eyes to see what Jesus has done for you. May the Holy Spirit create and strengthen faith within you. May true joy exude from the very fabric of your being. And, of course, may you be totally at peace; being content with your life.

Praise be God!

The Pastor -|—

Shut up and be at peace

do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. [Philippians 4:6-7]

When I get anxious about something it is usually because I am worried about the outcome or worried about my performance in a certain situation as I face unknown and uncontrollable circumstances.  Sometimes it is a very busy schedule as I wonder how I will get everything done and/or will things get done well. At  times, I worry about expectations from others and myself.

And when I really get anxious, my chest begins to hurt. Sometimes this pain causes more anxiety, but generally I consider this chest pain (heartburn) a gift from God. It’s a little alarm system that God has equipped me with to remind me to calm down, shut up and pray. And with Lent coming up, I anticipate that alarm going off (as it usually does) so hopefully I am paying attention to what I am writing now.

Oh God, I believe, help my unbelief.

The apostle Paul tells the church in Philippi not to worry about anything but rather tell God about it and then trust that everything is under control. This does not mean you become lazy but rather trust that you are not alone. Trust that God will give you what you need and the strength to do it. But most of all, let that trust be a source of peace for you; something that will guard your mind and heart from Satan’s attacks.

A lot of worry and anxiousness stems from a mistrust of God (unless you are dealing with a medical anxiety disorder of some sort). When you get anxious and worry you are saying that God is not big enough or strong enough to handle the situation.

REALLY? Not big enough or strong enough?

Seems silly to think such a thing but this is really what is going on; seeing a problem and thinking it is bigger than it really is or thinking that nothing can help you. Instead, we need to remember that we have a bigger God. This reminds me of something I have seen passed around on social media; a quote that says:

Don’t tell God how big your problems are but tell your problems how big your God is.

I like that except that you should tell God how big those problems are and as you do so remember how big your God is and be at peace. Never believe problems are bigger or stronger than God. And as you are at peace, laugh at Satan and say, “nice try”.

When you become anxious; shut up and listen; shut up and remember; shut up and be at peace. God has overcome this world through Jesus Christ and thus, through faith in Jesus Christ, victory is yours.

So be at peace as you face this day head on with the knowledge that you have a big God going with you.

May God be praised in all you say and do. And may people see your faith being lived out as you face everyday problems and challenges.

Praise be to God!

The Pastor -|—

Morning devotions ~ Don’t be lazy

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. [Matthew 7:21]

Dear Christian, it is a dangerous thing to be so secure in your salvation that you become complacent. It is a dangerous thing to think you can coast through life without “working out your salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2). It is a dangerous thing to think that the Christian life is a spectator sport. For if this is what you are doing, then you don’t know Jesus.

May you not find yourself in a position where the door is being shut in your face because you traveled down the wrong road. I imagine (because I can’t say for certain since I am not God) many a “Christian” have lived a “secure” life because they have “put their time in” or because they thought they were already through the door and then found themselves being rejected by the one they through they were following, because they really did not know Jesus. That is a terrifying thing to think about.

Instead, O Christian, work out your salvation with fear and trembling (as the apostle Paul so eloquently says).  See your salvation through faith in Jesus as a wonderful gift and then seek to do the will of God. Search him out and listen. Listen and then do. Do and rejoice. Rejoice and glorify God.

When you truly know your Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and what he has done for you, then you are not going to want to sit on the sidelines. When you realize what salvation truly means you are going to want to “get into the game” in order to glorify God and share with others this awesome God.

So dear Christian, don’t be lazy. When you say, Lord, Lord” actually mean it. Get to know the real Jesus and work out your gift of salvation with fear and trembling.

Praise be to God, always and forever. Amen

The Pastor -|—