Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Life & Godliness

2 Peter 1:1-9 Simon Peter, a bondservant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who have obtained like precious faith with us by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ: Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue,  by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins.

Pastor Phil launched into a new Sunday Sermon series this week based upon various Bible passages to focus us on Christian growth and life application for the abundant life Jesus promised, not in perfection, but in perfecting in the process of sanctification. Here are my notes and thoughts. The apostle Peter is an example to us all because he bumbled, fumbled, stumbled sometimes in his walk yet was brought upright and used mightily by the Lord. From doubting Jesus in Matthew 14 - “Lord, save me”, to denying Jesus in Matthew 26 - “I do not know the man.”, to then identify Jesus in Matthew 16 - “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Peter speaks to us. Peter was martyred on the cross in Rome, but historian Clement of Alexandria in his book “The Stromata” – Book 7, records “Peter, on seeing his wife led to death, rejoiced on account of her call and conveyance home.” She was crucified before him, yet his trust was in the Lord. Peter knew that he was going to be executed when he wrote this letter to the church to give his last words to them. What about you? If you knew that you were going to die, what would you tell your friends? It is the goal of every Christian to be a disciple to others, as a witness for Christ and His gospel. If those around us, within our sphere of influence, were to die today, are we certain that they’d go to Heaven? The Lord has put righteousness, holiness and godliness of faith into our hearts that we may give it out. Romans 10:17 So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. Do we read the living Word to hear the voice of God speak to our heart? Hear God through His Word, through the indwelling Holy Spirit and through anointed teachers.

2 Peter 1:10-16  Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. For this reason I will not be negligent to remind you always of these things, though you know and are established in the present truth. Yes, I think it is right, as long as I am in this tent, to stir you up by reminding you, knowing that shortly I must put off my tent, just as our Lord Jesus Christ showed me.  Moreover I will be careful to ensure that you always have a reminder of these things after my decease. For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty.

These things are ours, when we make them ours in an attitude of dependence upon the Lord. It is a revelation to realize that we need His help and see His work in our heart. Then we cry out: “I need you Lord Jesus!” We can willfully give Him our life and serve Him for life. A bond Servant for Jesus Christ is a servant by choice, in obedience, out of love. We have a free will to follow Christ, but why would we? Ephesians 2:8-9For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”  Remember that Jesus paid a debt that He did not owe, because we owed a debt that we could not pay. When we know the grace is God’s love, and that knowledge is a personal relationship with Him, then we can say the words of Philippians 4:13I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Obedience in moral excellence lies in love; love of God and “loving your neighbor as yourself”. So love like the Lord and make “right” choices; not by following set steps or 613 laws, but with a virtuous heart in relationship, leaning on the promises of God and partaking in the Divine nature. But what relationship do you have with someone that you never visit or spend time with? Put relationship into action and what it grows strong in your faith. Escape that which is “wrong” in the easy of the Lord, by choosing to not allow them into your eye-gate to the mind. Come to the conclusion to take every thought captive and pray about them. 

2 Corinthians 10:5We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”

Pray for wisdom from above and peace that passes all understanding will a heart that is in God’s will. There are a lot of challenges in life, but we have been set free in Christ. Before we put on the spiritual armor of God, put on Jesus daily – taking up your cross, dying to sin and following the Lord of all – because though we’ve taken off the old man and renewed in the spirit of our mind (Ephesians 4:21-23), this side of heaven, we have the old suit hanging in the closet of our sin nature in our fleshly desires. How does that love of God manifest itself in our life? How can I apply godliness to life today? Walk in the Spirit, stay in the Word, and keep your eyes upon the Lord.

In Christ, Brian

Always pray to have ...

1 Thessalonians 5:17 “pray without ceasing

There is a lot to pray about always. 
In Christ, Brian

Monday, February 24, 2014

The Wallet

Uncle Jimmy sent this touching story that I thought that I'd share. It been said that "love stories" pull at the strings of our heart. So often amazing and unexplainable things happen that get chalked up as coincidences. But we know better. God is always active in our lives. He makes the seemingly impossible possible.

Read this touching story of God bringing a couple back together after more than 60 years.

As I walked home one freezing day, I stumbled on a wallet someone had lost in the street. I picked it up and looked inside to find some identification so I could call the owner. But the wallet contained only three dollars and a crumpled letter that looked as if it had been in there for years.

The envelope was worn and the only thing that was legible on it was the return address. I started to open the letter, hoping to find some clue. Then I saw the dateline–1924. The letter had been written almost sixty years ago. It was written in a beautiful feminine handwriting on powder blue stationery with a little flower in the left-hand corner. It was a “Dear John” letter that told the recipient, whose name appeared to be Michael, that the writer could not see him any more because her mother forbade it. Even so, she wrote that she would always love him. It was signed, Hannah. It was a beautiful letter, but there was no way except for the name Michael, that the owner could be identified. Maybe if I called information, the operator could find a phone listing for the address on the envelope.

“Operator,” I began, “this is an unusual request. I’m trying to find the owner of a wallet that I found. Is there anyway you can tell me if there is a phone number for an address that was on an envelope in the wallet?”
She suggested I speak with her supervisor, who hesitated for a moment then said, “Well, there is a phone listing at that address, but I can’t give you the number.” She said, as a courtesy, she would call that number, explain my story and would ask them if they wanted her to connect me. I waited a few minutes and then she was back on the line. “I have a party who will speak with you.”

I asked the woman on the other end of the line if she knew anyone by the name of Hannah. She gasped, “Oh! We bought this house from a family who had a daughter named Hannah. But that was 30 years ago!” “Would you know where that family could be located now?” I asked.
“I remember that Hannah had to place her mother in a nursing home some years ago,” the woman said. “Maybe if you got in touch with them they might be able to track down the daughter.” She gave me the name of the nursing home and I called the number.
They told me the old lady had passed away some years ago but they did have a phone number for where they thought the daughter might be living. I thanked them and phoned. The woman who answered explained that Hannah herself was now living in a nursing home.

This whole thing was stupid, I thought to myself. Why was I making such a big deal over finding the owner of a wallet that had only three dollars and a letter that was almost 60 years old? Nevertheless, I called the nursing home in which Hannah was supposed to be living and the man who answered the phone told me, “Yes, Hannah is staying with us. “

Even though it was already 10pm, I asked if I could come by to see her. “Well,” he said hesitatingly, “if you want to take a chance, she might be in the day room watching television.”
I thanked him and drove over to the nursing home. The night nurse and a guard greeted me at the door. We went up to the third floor of the large building. In the day room, the nurse introduced me to Hannah. She was a sweet, silver-haired old timer with a warm smile and a twinkle in her eye. I told her about finding the wallet and showed her the letter.

The second she saw the powder blue envelope with that little flower on the left, she took a deep breath and said, “Young man, this letter was the last contact I ever had with Michael.” She looked away for a moment deep in thought and then said softly, “I loved him very much. But I was only 16 at the time and my mother felt I was too young. Oh, he was so handsome. He looked like Sean Connery, the actor.”

“Yes,” she continued. “Michael Goldstein was a wonderful person. If you should find him, tell him I think of him often. And,” she hesitated for a moment, almost biting her lip, “tell him I still love him. You know,”she said smiling as tears began to well up in her eyes, “I never did marry. I guess no one ever matched up to Michael…”
I thanked Hannah and said goodbye. I took the elevator to the first floor and as I stood by the door, the guard there asked, “Was the old lady able to help you?” I told him she had given me a lead. “At least I have a last name. But I think I’ll let it go for a while. I spent almost the whole day trying to find the owner of this wallet.”
I had taken out the wallet, which was a simple brown leather case with red lacing on the side. When the guard saw it, he said, “Hey, wait a minute! That’s Mr. Goldstein’s wallet. I’d know it anywhere with that bright red lacing. He’s always losing that wallet. I must have found it in the halls at least three times.”
“Who’s Mr. Goldstein?” I asked as my hand began to shake.

“He’s one of the old timers on the 8th floor. That’s Mike Goldstein’s wallet for sure. He must have lost it on one of his walks.” I thanked the guard and quickly ran back to the nurse’s office. I told her what the guard had said. We went back to the elevator and got on.

I prayed that Mr. Goldstein would be up. On the eighth floor, the floor nurse said, “I think he’s still in the day room. He likes to read at night. He’s a darling old man.”

We went to the only room that had any lights on and there was a man reading a book. The nurse went over to him and asked if he had lost his wallet. Mr. Goldstein looked up with surprise, put his hand in his back pocket and said, “Oh, it is missing!” This kind gentleman found a wallet and we wondered if it could be yours?” I handed Mr. Goldstein the wallet and the second he saw it, he smiled with relief and said, “Yes, that’s it! It must have dropped out of my pocket this afternoon. I want to give you a reward.”

“No, thank you,” I said. “But I have to tell you something. I read the letter in the hope of finding out who owned the wallet.” The smile on his face suddenly disappeared. “You read that letter?”
“Not only did I read it, I think I know where Hannah is.” He suddenly grew pale. “Hannah? You know where she is? How is she? Is she still as pretty as she was? Please, please tell me,” he begged. “She’s fine…just as pretty as when you knew her.” I said softly. The old man smiled with anticipation and asked, “Could you tell me where she is? I want to call her tomorrow.” He grabbed my hand and said, “You know something, mister, I was so in love with that girl that when that letter came, my life literally ended. I never married. I guess I've always loved her. “

“Mr. Goldstein,” I said, “Come with me.” We took the elevator down to the third floor. The hallways were darkened and only one or two little night-lights lit our way to the day room where Hannah was sitting alone watching the television. The nurse walked over to her.

“Hannah,” she said softly, pointing to Michael, who was waiting with me in the doorway. “Do you know this man?” She adjusted her glasses, looked for a moment, but didn’t say a word. Michael said softly, almost in a whisper, “Hannah, it’s Michael. Do you remember me?”

She gasped, “Michael! I don’t believe it! Michael! It’s you! My Michael!” He walked slowly towards her and they embraced. The nurse and I left with tears streaming down our faces. “See,” I said. “See how the Good Lord works! If it’s meant to be, it will be.”

About three weeks later I got a call at my office from the nursing home. “Can you break away on Sunday to attend a wedding? Michael and Hannah are going to tie the knot!” It was a beautiful wedding with all the people at the nursing home dressed up to join in the celebration. Hannah wore a light beige dress and looked beautiful. Michael wore a dark blue suit and stood tall. They made me their best man. The hospital gave them their own room and if you ever wanted to see a 76-year-old bride and a 79-year-old groom acting like two teenagers, you had to see this couple. A perfect ending for a love affair that had lasted nearly 60 years.

- Author Unknown

Saturday, February 22, 2014

What about Grandma and Grandpa?

John 17:20-23 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—  I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”

We’ve been reading a book together as a church body, which was being preached each week on the subject of each chapter, then discussing study questions about that chapter and the Sunday sermon at the Wednesday night mid-week Bible Study. But, it got to be “enough is enough” with the common-thread message that the author was trying to communicate that caused great concern. Thoughts like: Our vision didn’t fit into the box of the established religious institutions of the day. We didn’t do ministry like it had always been done. We walked away from the established church, and started something brand new; breaking the mold. We believed our generation would change the way the church did church. Not change the message. Change the methodology to reach a new generation. Don’t let the excuse of your dreams being too radical stop you. We challenged an established religious system that had been effective and in place for several generations, with an approach that would appeal to a new group of people. But what about the unity that Jesus prayed about in his “High Priestly Prayer”? (Above). As a church, by vote, with Pastor Phil’s request, we abandoned the series last night.

There has been much deep thought, mediation, and prayer on the future of the church. The question that the Lord has laid heavy upon my heart lately, and I’ve been discussing with many, is: "What about Grandma and Grandpa?” I wrote a post, a week or so ago, titled: “My Generation, which highlighted the five generations of people living today, which creates such generational diversity and a challenge as to how a multi-generational church can effectively disciple each of these age groups in a way that is spiritually fulfilling and that honors Christ in unity. Discussing this issue with my wife, it was not a real problem years ago of the traditional church (the established religious system that had been effective and in place for several generations) that families (Grandma and Grandpa, mom and dad, us and our kids) attended and accepted to worship God together, united. I read that the church today, in its visible manifestation, is probably more fragmented and fractured than at any time in church history. What changed? Where did the disunity begin and why is the traditional multi-generational church bad now? What made that author “walk away from the established church, and start something brand new; breaking the mold, believing that their generation would change the way the church did church.” What changed? What is different about the new generation? And what about Grandma and Grandpa?  

Exodus 20:12  Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.

Where did the disunity begin and why? As I wrote before that, others and I have noticed that there is today a sense of exclusiveness that seems to lose respect for the other age groups, as the focus is on “my generation” with a rejection of traditional ways and doctrine. I grew up taught to respect my elders. I spoke to Pastor Kyle and he said that the word “honor” came to mind immediately. Have we lost “honoring” of Grandma and Grandpa? Pastor Kyle told me that at pastor conferences which he has attended over the last several years, the buzz phrase has been “reach the next generation” in the worship services, but he realized immediately that the church needs to reach everyone that walks through that church door. This "reach the next generation" mentality and associated church direction has seemed to have created "division" within the church body and put Grandma and Grandpa on the shelf – essentially abandoned, unnoticed and excluded - and in doing so "dishonored".

1 Corinthians 12:12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.

What does "honor" and "unity" in a multi-generational church look like in ministry of one body of many different parts (generations, personalities and gifted talents) today? That is expanding my vision for unity of the church and “ministry to all”, including Grandma and Grandpa with honor, respect, and dignity. After all, isn't this a family ... the family of God? These are my thoughts on my heart, and I'm finding that they are on the hearts of many others. One in Christ; nobody left behind. As Pastor Kyle said: “Honor” and reach all in unity. Love God and love others.

Ephesians 6:1-3 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise -  “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”

In Christ, Brian

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Do You Want To Be Made Well

John 5:1-8 After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew, Bethesda, having five porches. In these lay a great multitude of sick people, blind, lame, paralyzed, waiting for the moving of the water. For an angel went down at a certain time into the pool and stirred up the water; then whoever stepped in first, after the stirring of the water, was made well of whatever disease he had. Now a certain man was there who had an infirmity thirty-eight years.  When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he already had been in that condition a long time, He said to him, Do you want to be made well?” The sick man answered Him, “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; but while I am coming, another steps down before me.” Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your bed and walk.”

Pastor Phil and his wife were traveling this weekend to see family, so Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Chaplin, Pastor Mike Reed graciously stepping in on short notice to lead our Sunday Worship and preach a thought-provoking Sermon on the above Bible passage. I deeply appreciate the lending of a Christian brotherly hand to the call and swift response in our time of need. Here are my notes and thoughts on Pastor Mike’s message.

During Jesus’ three and a half year ministry on earth, he healed literally thousands of sick, injured and handicapped people. The Lord healed everyone who came to Him and refused nobody. One such miraculous healing by Jesus is recorded at the pool of Bethesda in Jerusalem. But this one was different, because the man healed did not go looking for Jesus. Many of us today were not looking for Jesus either. The story doesn't tell what the infirmity was that afflicted the man for 38 years, laying at the side of the healing pool. That was not the issue.

Now here’s an interesting question: Do you think that maybe he didn’t want to get well? When Jesus asked this man if he wanted to be made well, he didn’t say “yes”. Do you know other people today who do not want to get well?  There are lots of reasons why some folks don’t want be healed (physically, mentally or spiritually). Here are a couple: (1) Some get used to their condition and do not know any other way. (2) Some hang onto them because they have become comfortable with them and the hurting.  In this man’s case, Jesus wanted this man out of his past and into another, new area. Notice also, Jesus didn’t say that the water would heal him and help him in. It wasn’t about some miracle water. And at what point was he healed … when Jesus said, “get up and walk” or when the man stood up? Jesus wants to see what we will do. When we respond to Jesus, then miracles happen. Romans 10:17 says: So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Faith comes through hearing the Word of God. Titus 1:1b-3 proclaims “according to the faith of God’s elect and the acknowledgment of the truth which accords with godliness, in hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began, but has in due time manifested His word through preaching, which was committed to me according to the commandment of God our Savior.” Church preaching and Bible Studies are critical for our faith.

Realistically, sometimes people don’t get healed. God’s answer to our prayer requests for healing can either be (1) Yes, (2) No; I have a better idea, or (3) Wait for a “yes” or “no”. Our human perspective of death is that it is the worst case scenario. But to God, death is being in the presence with the Lord, with a new body in heaven. We are looking forward to meeting the Lord, but not the process of death. To Jesus’ followers, the crucifixion of Christ was the end of their hope, but after His resurrection, it means salvation from that greatest day on earth. Yes, sometimes God has a better idea, so we should pray that His Will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Remember, Jesus’ flock knows His voice and follows Him. The Good Shepherd sometimes has to teach a rebellious sheep of His to depend on Him. Sheep tend to wander and get lost; are we not inclined to pray more when we are ill or have troubles in life? We have to know Jesus. Tomorrow is not guaranteed, so if we were to die today, where will we be one second after? Your and me heart will stop one day, but will we wake up in heaven? Blessed assurance is blessed insurance, because with the Savior of the world, Heaven is in the benefits plan of the child of God. But here and now, the Good Shepherd lays down His life for His sheep … Jesus cares.

John 17:17Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.”

God puts us into ministry positions here. And, though every one of us is called to ministry, we have to respond. Those who do not know the Lord and have “saving” faith in Jesus Christ will have live life to its full and experience eternity in Hell. Is this what we want for them and is that truly compassion? Like the man at the pool of Bethesda, the Lord Jesus wants to see what we will do. You and I have people in our lives that will only listen to us, to heat that God’s love is constant, perfect and never-ending. That man, sick for 38 years, is like a lot of people we know. Invite them here with you to church next Sunday and/or a Bible Study during the week. Churches grow by teaching the Word of God. God doesn’t save us to be undercover “Secret Agents” for Christ. Ask: “Can I pray for you?” Even when rejected, they know that you care. They know that you love them with the love of God through Christ Jesus. We are living proof that God can use anybody. Jesus is asking all those lost, sick and dying in sin, Do you want to be made well?” 

In Christ, Brian

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Chaplain

Our Reverend Phillip Smith has a label of “Chaplin” for the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Jail system. Where did the name come from? 

The story is told about St. Martin of Tours in France, a compassionate fourth century soldier, who encountered a shivering beggar on a cold winter night. Having no money in his purse, this soldier took off his cloak and slashed it with his sword to give half of it to the beggar. Later that night he saw a vision in which Jesus Christ was wearing the half-cloak. As a result of this experience he became a Christian and was baptized. Ultimately he left the army to devote his life to the church. In time he became the patron saint of the French kings of the Middle Ages. St. Martin’s cloak (cappella) was carried into battle by the kings as a banner signifying ‘the presence of God.’ But since the cappella was a sacred relic of the church, a priest went along as custodian. This keeper of the cloak, or cappellanus, also tended the king’s religious needs, and from his office was derived that of ‘chaplain.’ The depository for the cloak became the “chapel,” the place of worship.  

 As a child of God, we have God’s name upon us, which covers our needs. Covered by the cloak of the atoning blood of the blessed Redeemer Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior for salvation, Covered by the cloak of God’s grace and love, and covered by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. God bless the Chaplain.

In Christ, Brian

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Change My Label – Part 2

Isaiah 62:2The Gentiles shall see your righteousness, and all kings your glory.
You shall be called by a new name, which the mouth of the Lord will name.”

God knew that Jacob first had to admit what the label was. God understood the power of confession. Until we are willing to admit who we are, we can never become who He wants us to be. Admit who we are so that God can change us from the inside out and with it, our label. God’s name has been the same forever! His label has never changed. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. We can trust in that fact with all our hearts. Jacob wrestled with God and God changed Jacob at the deepest level. It was only after God changed the label over his life that God knew Jacob, now Israel, was ready to be blessed. Only after we allow God to change our label can we fully experience the blessing and favor of God. True believers seriously study the Bible to know and understand what God, to know God more and allow Him to change the labels upon us. We come to God at the foot of the cross saying: “I cannot do this anymore or any longer!” Not by works of righteousness, but broken. The moment when you send everything else ahead. All your talent, your ability, your charisma, your personality, everything, and you get alone with God and you wrestle and hold on until he breaks your hip. This is the moment when you’ll go one way or the other. The hardest prayer is for our hearts to be broken, so that God can change us. Look at my life Lord, break it and change my name.

Ephesians 2:1-6Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins. You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil—the commander of the powers in the unseen world. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God. All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else. But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus.

Are we holding back some inequity in our heart? It will all come to light. How long do we spend living with the list of our empty names and offenses, asking yourself these questions: “Who do we really deceive?”, “Who do you belong to?”, and “Who do you serve?” But if we choose to wrestle and let God change who we are at the core, God will (metaphorically) break your hip and you’ll forever walk differently. Fake it or walk with a limp; the choice is yours. We have to choose to let God change us at the core of our being. We have to choose to let God change our identity and let it be the catalyst to a new approach to everything we were and everything we do for the rest of our life. God wants to change who we are, not just what we do. God wants to change you and me at the deepest level --- the belief level. If you’re going to experience a label change, you must understand that it will require a supernatural work of God in your life. It takes a willingness on our part to wrestle with God. When you allow God to change the label over your life, it affects not only you but also every relationship in your life. God is looking for us to take the step towards Him and say, “Okay God, I’m ready. Change my label.” What name does God have for you; for His identity in you today?

In Christ, Brian

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Change My Label – Part 1

Genesis 25:24-26When her days to be delivered were fulfilled, behold, there were twins in her womb. Now the first came forth red, all over like a hairy garment; and they named him Esau. Afterward his brother came forth with his hand holding on to Esau’s heel, so his name was called Jacob; and Isaac was sixty years old when she gave birth to them.”

Pastor Phil continues in the Sunday Worship Sermon series “God of the Underdogs” and this weeks Bible character Jacob (which meaning literally “heal-catcher”, but also "to supplant”, “under-cutter, “usurper” or “deceiver”) and his name-change by God to Israel (which means “he will rule as God”). God is willing to change our label or name, if we wrestle with him. We need to be challenged Him. Do we realize that God wants to change our label?

As a child of God, we have God’s name upon us, which covers our needs. But, life is complicated and our society is quick to label anyone and everyone. We live in a world fixated on labels. Every one of us has been given labels at different points in life. Most of them are placed on us by others. Some are deliberate. Others are inadvertent. Some are positive, but some are negative, mean or demeaning, and some are downright evil. And for many of us, no matter how hard we try, we just can’t shake them. It is hard to get rid of those labels. Maybe you've played the other side. Ever labeled someone else? It might have been accidental or innocent, but I’m willing to bet each of us has been the giver of a label at some point. Never underestimate the power of a label. The labels we wear shape who we become. You know what it is to have a label placed on you and to have it define you.

Genesis 32:24-28Then Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When he saw that he had not prevailed against him, he touched the socket of his thigh; so the socket of Jacob’s thigh was dislocated while he wrestled with him. Then he said, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking.” But he said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” So he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob. He said, “Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel; for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed.”

Our Patriarch Jacob couldn't get past himself. He was trying to deceive and manipulate God. He was living up to the label placed on him. At the end of all his scheming and deceiving, Jacob knew deep down what he needed most was God. Because we serve a God who is bigger than any label that’s been placed on us, there’s hope for us. Even if there’s truth to our label. We must know that we serve a God who is able to remove the labels that have fixed themselves to our lives. Jacob was so desperate that he held on to God and would not let go. Are you willing to wrestle? Are we willing to do the hard work of pressing in to Him like we never have before? Are we willing to hold on to Him? It has to be Jesus, not us. Cry out to God to change your name, “Lord it has to be you! Change my label”. Are we finished with making excuses and walking in defeat and doubt and discouragement? Are we willing to lay down the security and comfort that lives inside labels of your past and take up the new label? 

Let's continue this tomorrow with part #2 of Change My Label.
In Christ, Brian

Thursday, February 13, 2014

It is Well with my Soul – Part 2

1 Corinthians 10:11-13 Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall. No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.

Continuing Pastor Kyle’s sermon from where I left off.                                                                                    
(3) I can only take into eternity that which I sow. In Jesus’ parable of the Sower (Matthew 13, Mark 4 and Luke 8), the seed that was sown was the Word of God and the different soils where the condition of the human heart that receive the holy Word of God. We are not Bible editors, but Bible followers.                                               Matthew 6:21 and Luke 2:34  “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” This is the treasure principle. Luke 6:38Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure—pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return.” Do we give a teaspoon of our time, talents and tithe offering to Creator God Almighty, then desire and expect a shovel full of blessing in our lives from our Heavenly Father? Galatians 6:7Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.”

(4) Humility is easy to lose, so we need others to keep us on track on the straight and narrow road to the Promised Land. Ecclesiastes 4:9-12Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor.  For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up. Furthermore, if two lie down together they keep warm, but how can one be warm alone? And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart. Proverbs 15:33The fear of the Lord is the instruction for wisdom, and before honor comes humility.” Ephesians 4:1-3 Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Colossians 3:9-13Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil  practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge  according to the image of the One who created him— a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all. So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. 1 Peter 5:5bAll of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

 (5) Understand that hell is real and way too many of our friends and families are headed there if we don’t do something about it. Invite people to church. We were ever meant to live the Christian life alone. The gospel message is that we are saved from hell to eternity in heaven though Jesus Christ. The church setting provides evangelistic witness to Christ in the Word of God lived in open prayer, care, worship and fellowship. This life is short. James 4:13-14Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.” In a puff of smoke, everything can be gone. Every earthly thing in this life that we value can disappear. In light that Jesus and heaven are real, can we say: “It is well with my soul”?

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way, When sorrows like sea billows roll; Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say, It is well, it is well, with my soul. It is well, with my soul, It is well, it is well, with my soul. 
Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come, Let this blest assurance control, That Christ has regarded my helpless estate, And hath shed His own blood for my soul. My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought! My sin, not in part but the whole, is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more, Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul! For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live: If Jordan above me shall roll, no pang shall be mine, for in death as in life Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul. But, Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait, the sky, not the grave, is our goal; Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord! Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul! And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight, The clouds be rolled back as a scroll; The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend, Even so, it is well with my soul. Horatio G. Spafford 1873

In Christ, Brian

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

It is Well with my Soul – Part 1

2 Peter 3:2-7 I want you to recall the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets and the command given by our Lord and Savior through your apostles. Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens came into being and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.
With our neighborhood church in transition, I visited a sister church to see their service and hear the Sermon message for ideas to take back to ours. Here are my notes and thoughts on that message from Pastor Kyle titled “It Is Well”, based off the Horatio G. Spafford hymn. It is crystal clear that Heaven is real and in light of eternity, how are we to live before the face of God. There are two key points. (1) The type of life we are supposed to live in light of “heaven is real”. (2) It is well with my soul as we have comfort knowing Jesus.

2 Peter 3:8-10 But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare.

Jesus taught that the kingdom of heaven is here and now, but aspects of it are not complete in this fallen world as a result of sin. Don’t miss the point on living in light of heaven, that the choices and decisions that we make in this life, here and now, will echo through eternity. We need hearts wide open and honest, watching and waiting for Jesus’ return as a “welcoming committee”. There is a day coming when this world is temporary and ends, whether in a lifespan or Christ’s second coming. Every prior generation believed that they’d see Christ’s second coming to take them home. The Lord is not slow, but patient and we are more likely to die naturally or unnaturally (God forbid), yet we need to be awake, watching and prepared to greet Him should He arrive at any time – See Luke 12:35-40). In light of, one way or another this world passing away, what sort of people should we be? Have a light hand on the things of this world and a mind on things above and eternal, looking and living life through the window of Christ, Savior and Lord of the world.

2 Peter 3:11-13 Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.

There are five things that we should be doing in life while waiting on the Lord, (1) The outcome of a life on the highway to heaven is “hope” in the here and now. Do we see much hope or are we satisfied with less than the abundant life to the full that Jesus gives as our Good Shepherd. (John 10). When we put our hope in the temporal things of this world, then our hope is temporary. But, when we put our hope in eternal things then our hope is eternal. Life is more than getting by and more than just fine. The question is, “When did we lose our hope and start believing in less?” Jesus paid our way out of hell by His redeeming blood. Our justification hope is in His sacrifice on the cross for those who believe. Our salvation hope comes from heaven through the Lord. If you died today, where would you go? Do you and I have the eternal perspective of blessed assurance?

Psalm 124:8 Our help is in the name of the Lord, Who made heaven and earth.

(2) Obedience gives a glimpse of heaven in our lives today. By denying obedience to the Word of God, are we then saying that we can make our own heaven? Isn’t that just believing the devil’s original lie that we can be as gods? Disobeying the commands, laws, statues and teaching of the Lord is robbing God of His ability to bless our lives today, because God cannot bless sin. Sin is a pretty box with filthy, stinking garbage inside. We want the box but not the garbage. This side of heaven, temptation is with us every day. Endure it by walking in the Spirit, where God wants us to go; not our own ungodly way. Remember that God always gives us a way out. When you get to the fork in the road, the moment of decision between the paths of either right or wrong in the eyes of the Lord, choose the “right” path. 1 Corinthians 2:9 “Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered the heart of man, all that God has prepares for those who loves Him.”

This sermon by Pastor Kyle has great truth and application in our lives, but going to have to finish this expounding upon the Word, Will and Way of God on the next post.

In Christ, Brian

Sunday, February 9, 2014

My Generation

Matthew 28:18-20 Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

I read an interesting article the other day about how mainly four different generations are living together at this time in history. The Traditionals (born 1925-1943) living through World War II, Great Depression & Korean War, the Baby Boomers (1946-1964) living though Viet Nam and the new television era, Generation X (1965-1980) living through cable TV and the Gulf War and the Millennials (1981-1999) living growing up in the virtual world of electronics, social media and online everything. All create such generational diversity and a challenge as to how can the church effectively disciple each of these groups in a way that honors Christ? But in all actuality, “this generation” is all people alive on the earth at this moment.

Romans 3:21-24 Now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the  righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus.

I have noticed that there is today a sense of exclusiveness that seems to lose respect for the other age groups as the focus is on the dreams of what they call: “my generation”, with a rejection of older people and their ways. No blending or working together, but a “my way or the highway” attitude for the prior elder eras. I was talking to a 29 year old pastor Kyle this week, who agrees and he mentioned that entitlement has caused an out of balance culture that crosses the lines set "back-in-the-day". Every age has demographic differences, but one thing we all have in common is that the human condition is the same no matter when we were born. The wages of sin do not vary according to age. Therefore, whatever may be the particular challenges of presenting the gospel to each generation, they are overshadowed by the factors held in common with ever generation. So the task of the church is the same, regardless of age or generation differences: go out and make disciples of all nations, teaching them to obey all that Jesus has commanded.

Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The author wrote that “discipleship” is the process whereby we seek to teach others the Word of God. Not only to teach people the commandments, but to teach them to “observe” and “obey” all that He commanded. There is a world of difference between teaching someone everything the Lord commanded and teaching them to obey everything He commanded. One is through words and the other through a way of life. Teaching someone to obey God’s commands requires intentionality in the context of relationship throughout the span of a lifetime. Disciple literally means both follower and student of the Lord/Master. As we study how Jesus interacted with others in this fallen world, we learn what discipleship looks like; by what we hear Jesus teach and by what we see Jesus do. Then, as we seek to live obediently by God’s grace, we teach others.  Jesus' command in the Great Commission (above) was not "hands off, live and let live, nor live and let die", but "go make disciples". Shall we answer: "No Lord." We are not perfect, but as I wrote this before: even our struggles demonstrate to those around us that truly it is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone that we are saved … that all generations are saved from the wages of sin, to eternal life as a child of God. God made the family and all generations to work together here aligned with God's holy Word, Will and Way
for our common good and His glory. Children need godly parents and grandparents, and vice-versa. We're in this life, in this generation, together for a reason. Discipleship is for all ages and stages of life, with the unchanging Word of God. Not for "my generation", but for "regeneration" of all.

John 17:17Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.

In Christ, Brian