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Hope

One Wed. nite at church we did bible study on Faith. Faith is defined it as trusting, being carried by and convicted by convicted truth. That faith says “jump”; it says I can’t but God can. The natural next phase I believe should be a look at hope.The bible has a lot to say about hope as it did faith. Modern day English or Americanized hope is defined by Wikipedia as “a modern optimistic mindset based on a positive outcome related to event and circumstances in ones life.” That is a huge mouthful.

Psychology says hope germinates or comes to life when there is crisis and that crisis opens us up to creative possibilities – basically hopeful people are like the little engine that could – “I think I can…I think I can”.hope

We can learn a lot from these descriptions but the truth is that they really don’t describe biblical hope. Biblical hope is deeply grounded and rooted in faith – hope and faith are so closely related that they can’t seem to be separated. It’s not just faith, but faith in God; It’s not just hope, but hope in God.

In modern terms hope is filled with doubt. “I hope it rains”. “I hope I get a raise”. In either of these statements there is a lack of confidence that these things will happen – no assurance. We don’t really believe it is going to rain. We don’t really think that we are getting that raise. So in modern times we hope but our hope is filled with doubt.

Take a look at a great Psalm that talks to us about hope – Psalm 42:5Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance.

Before we go any further let me ask you this, Is there cause for hope in your life? Is there reason for you to hope? And is that hope worth waiting for?

This single verse we see the Psalmist speaking to his own soul – preaching to his own soul saying, “Why are you downcast?” Downcast literally means bent over; doubled over as in pain or discouraged. Why are you sad and restless? Does that describe you? Why is there so much noise, discouragement and sadness? Why is there so much noise in your spirit?

He doesn’t give in to this feeling of depression but challenges his feelings. Look what he says, ”Hope in God”. Stay close to God. Stay the course of faith. God always comes through now and always. He always comes through. Hope in God – Elohim – Supreme God and Creator…over rulers and judges and angels, every living thing, every inanimate object is under the control of God.

The psalmist preaches to himself and is in danger of slipping into disbelief. He doesn’t feel full of praise at that moment. Yet he still manages to point his soul to the hope and confidence that we have in God. In good times and in bad, I will praise Him.

Spurgen said, “Hope is like the sun, as we journey towards it, it casts the shadow of our burden behind it.” Hope is not found in us or them or things but always found in the Living God.

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When a new church shows up

I have been sitting on this one a while…

I am the pastor of a small church that was planted 3 years ago starting in my living room. When a new church or a new pastor shows up. we want to know as much as we can about them. Since its QuickTimeinception we have seen God’s hand move in different ways than we would have expected, growth to happen in places that brought great joy to our lives and constantly reminded that I ain’t about me.

I was recently asked about our church, The Well,  by a woman at Walmart. She asks me, “So what do ya’ll believe?” I found that to be a little strange and I don’t know if I will ever get used to hearing that question. The pat answer would be “The Bible”. But I could tell by her probing voice that she needed much more. My response was…

We believe that Jesus still saves

That Hell is still hot

That sin still destroys lives

That churches are filled with imperfect people that are in desperate need of God’s grace and forgiveness

We believe that while the culture rules, the family is attacked, weakened and all but destroyed.

We believe that God’s not dead, He calls us out of darkness into His marvelous light and that making disciples is job one.

There was about 15 seconds of silence. Then she broke silence with, “Alright then…(in my best southern voice). I sure hope that she makes it to the church sometime soon.

Charleston – a response

It is terribly sad to turn on the news virtually everyday and see what new horrific deeds have happened while myself and my family were sleeping. Beheading’s, mindless killing and destruction in Baltimore, sex trafficking even the murder of unsuspecting people in the House of God attempting to learn a better way to live their lives in a wicked world. There are so many emotions that have gone through my mind during the tragic past few days that I can hardly contain myself. This senseless killing should never have happened and yet as difficult this pill is to swallow, there is no reason to think that this type of hate and violence won’t.

As you are reading there will be some that will and have already thought,”You are nuts”. Maybe. What I will say in this brief message will not be heard, understood or even considered by many if not most. So let me just throw this out to ALL of the news outlets and politicians out there, “We can not eradicate evil.” We can’t do it. All this talk about the why these things happen. Is it fatherless homes? Is it gun laws or the lack there of? Is it poor education? Is it drugs? I say no. These things certainly contribute to bad things happening but they are merely symptoms of a much bigger disease.

Warning…I am going to use scripture to show what’s going on in an attempt to help any believers that are distraught and confused and hopefully encourage any non believers to at least to put away any thinking that the bible is a bunch of fairy tales and at least look at the wisdom in this book. The world that we live since sin entered the world has been violent – the first murder where Cain killed his brother Able and from that has continued to spiral downward and get progressively worse. In Gen. 6:11 we read, “God saw that the earth had become corrupt and was filled with violence.

Scriptures like Proverbs 6:17 and Isaiah 59:7-8 and many more scriptures speak of mans evil ways that lie, is proud and seeks the innocent to kill. There is a lack of peace and harmony among mankind because we have thrown away our moral compass – not lost it, as losing something suggests an accidental misplacing. We threw it out the window. Man has never liked being told what to do, even if it is for our protection. Just look at our children. No one has to teach a child to lie or disobey parent and truthfully, many times parents think that it is cute when a child says “NO” or uses explicit profanity. Just listen in the work place or the schools how people speak to and about each other. The more we push cultural humanism, the more wicked the world has become Why? Because we have as Romans 1:25 says, “traded the truth of God for lies“. We no longer accept or recognize truth but have create our own version of truth; one that suits our “modern” life styles.

In our pride, in our arrogance and in our achievements that we call progress, we have decided that we don’t need God anymore. We are smart. We have money. We have fame and fortune. We have technology at our finger tips. We have closed the door on our God and said, “We don’t want you”. We do this and shake our fist at heaven saying, “If we can’t have same sex marriage, we don’t want you God!” If we can’t have Kaitlyn Jenner’s, we don’t need God!” If we can’t do whatever we want that pleases us and brings immediate pleasure to our bodies then we give God the finger. We have created everything that we could ever want and while things SEEM great, for a while, there is something missing – a huge void. Knowing God

Pause Queue

 

Pause for just a second. Christians, we can call people out for sin. We can categorize sin into levels ranging from bad to worse. We can stand on our soap box and proudly claim our exemption. If that is you, then just go ahead and run for office somewhere. You will fit in just fine. We need to to love folks right where they are, in their sin because somebody loved you and me right where we were in ours and let the transforming power of God do the changing in peoples life. God always has His way and His plans can never be thwarted.

Will behavior modification remedy this worlds problems? Will stricter gun law reduce violence? Will a stronger military stop the bad guys? Doubtful. The problem is sin and sin can only be dealt with by the power of God. Will these things help? Sure, in the short term and I am not against them. But evil always raises its ugly head and when it does, it has gained momentum. History shows that the one thing that we have learned from history is we haven’t learned anything from history. By that I mean the historically (bible history) that if you keep pushing God out, garbage comes in.

Should things like Charleston killings happen? No. Beheadings? No. 911? No. Sex trafficking? No. Will they continue? Yes they will unfortunately…Until Jesus returns. He died to put and end to our enslavement to sin, and evil and twisted thinking but many choose the opposite way of life and the result in chaos, unrest and a lack of peace and they force this on others and the result many times is great loss of life, pain and suffering. My prayers go out to ALL people, of ALL races and ALL ways of life that that would find peace in the only place that true peace can be found – Jesus.

“I am not getting my needs met” – a response

I recently ran across an email suggesting some various articles that were supposed to be worthy of reading. (As a pastor of a small church plant I get a lot of these) The first article a saw was written by a 37 year old male blogger that refereed to himself as a “cis gendered male” in a separate blog. Now don’t read anything into that. I added that part because I had never heard the term before. The email pointed to a response to an article from Relevant Magazine titled “5 Really Bad Reasons to Leave Your Church“. The response was titled “5 Awesome Reasons to Leave Your Church” and the blogger/author said it all boiled down to one real reason, “My needs aren’t being met“.

This, I found, was a troubling statement. Never in over 2 decades of studying the scriptures have I found one passage that said that people should come, have come to the church/temple or the the Lord to have their needs met. I find this to be a growing problem within the church. As I refer to the church, please keep in mind what the church is first as the people of God; second, a body of believers that meet, eat, pray together and encourage one another. Now I’m not talking about people that came to Jesus in order to be healed. I am talking about people that come to the church, sit down and in a sense say “Gimme”.

This mentality is killing the church partially due to…the church not standing on TRUTH and picking little pieces of truth that they can fly a flag of protest on. TRUTH, not some truth, not a truth Madbut TRUTH. A huge problem is that people come in with their hands empty and hearts closed and want their hands to be fills (metaphorically – what can I get) and the heart is off limits (Metaphorically – I ain’t changing).

Why is this a problem? Should we not come to church to receive a message and learn from God? Well, that is what most pastors would hope. But consider this, Where is the sacrifice of praise? Where is the GIVING of ourselves? Where is the idea of GIVING ourselves wholly to a holy God? Most people want to come to church, get inspired, maybe their toes stepped on, shake a few hands, listen to some toons but give…? Give ourselves to God not take take take. It reminds me of a story I heard about a dad who reluctantly was convinced by his wife and 8 year old son to come to church instead of watch the football game. After arriving at the church and complaining about the crowd, the guy on the 2nd row that owed him 20 dollars, the singer that was off key, the offering plate was past. The dad squirmed as he thew in a $1 bill. All the way home the dad ranted about his experience at the church. Finally his son who was listening to every word piped up and said, “But it wasn’t bad for a dollar.”

This I hope you understand is not about money but what WE give in terms of ourselves. We should be giving of ourselves to the work and ministry of the gospel message and less about taking. We need to start opening up our hearts to God’s truth. I believe that the only reason to leave your church should not be about the music, the style, the bible version that is used by the pastor but this…IF biblical truth is being taught or not. If the truth is subjected and twisted due to the culture, science or political pressure then I can’t be a part of the fellowship until such time as there is repentance. Now that being said, I have an obligation to go to the pastor, elders and leadership to point out any unscriptural error in teaching. First though, WE have to study the word ourselves – 2 Tim. 2:15 teaches us to study the word. When we study and search the truth, error can clearly be seen should it pop up. If the leadership’s truth is based on anything other than the truth of God’s Word or is based on the culture war and being PC, that’s a big problem. If repentance does not follow and I can’t sit under the leadership, I must break away from that fellowship.

For my Christian, believer, follower of Christ or however you refer to yourselves you will notice that this post is not chock full of scriptures and that is for this reason. For the believer, you already know that this message is right without putting 25 verses up here. You are called to be in the local church and its fellowship and to serve…period. But for the unbeliever or the skeptic, the bible won’t mean anything anyway. It is my hope that the unsure will read the conviction in these words and know that church isn’t perfect and neither are its people. But don’t focus on me or the guy down the road but focus on the life of Jesus that we should be striving to be like. I have a whole lot more to say on this subject but I am going to leave it where it is til another time. In closing remember that it is “Better to GIVE than RECEIVE”.

2nd Chance

2nd Chance2x2On the edge of the new year, people are planning all sorts of resolutions for weight loss, relationships, community and church involvement and the like As 2015 looms in front of us many have a plan for a Second Chance. The bible paints pictures for us of life lessons using things that we can all relate to then and now – pictures about fishermen, sheep and shepherds, fathers, even weather. In Jeremiah, God paints a vivid picture using a Potter and Clay.

 

The Lord gave another message to Jeremiah. He said,  “Go down to the potter’s shop, and I will speak to you there.” So I did as he told me and found the potter working at his wheel. But the jar he was making did not turn out as he had hoped, so he crushed it into a lump of clay again and started over. Then the Lord gave me this message: “O Israel, can I not do to you as this potter has done to his clay? As the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand – Jer. 18:1-6

This Potter creates useful vessels – cups, plates, jars and pots. These vessel honor the Potter and profit Him. It is a long process of preparing the clay for use which takes softening the dirt and straining of impurities – all of which ensures the flexibility and mold-ability of the clay. This process takes some time. The Potter takes worthless dirt and makes it into something amazing, useable and very valuable.

This is a picture of God’s work in our lives because in our original state when God found us we were a wreck wreck – unusable dirt. But God softens us and applies Him loving touch and gently molds us into vessels of honor and glory for Himself. During the process of molding us on Him Potter’s wheel, He always has His hands on us. He is always in contact. He can feel any impurities. He can feel any bumps. He can feel any and all imperfection and will lovingly smooth them out.

Are you completely surrendered to God today? Are you still holding the reins of your life? Is God your co-pilot? Or are you like clay in the hands of the potter?

If you are a vessel that has refused to surrender your life in part or completely now is the time. Come to Jesus today and place yourself into the hand of God and let Him work in and through your life.God loves you. He wants to take your life and make it into a thing of beauty for His glory. Will you come to Him?

The Search is over

The New York Times reported some of the top searches on Google through this year and particularly during the season of Christmas were concerning depression, diets, hate – paired with either mom, dad, husband or wife and not to be outdone, searches for porn. Google is projecting that after Christmas searches for divorce will go up and on Feb 14th…loneliness.

People are always searching, searching for answers; answers about the future, about their life and peace and hope and purpose and those searching are not limited to those in the 21st century. SEARCH1When Moses encountered God on the mountain he said, “Who shall I say sent me?” He was looking for some answers and God told him “I AM that I AM” and immediately Moses question was answered when the Creator of the universe said this is who I am – Sovereign Lord of all creation.

But what about those that have not seen a burning bush? When we search for God, what will we find? Who will we find? What is He like? Isaiah 9:6 tells us this…

“For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And He will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” – Is. 9:6

The search is OVER! The answer has been give to all of life’s question! And that answer lay 2000 years ago in a feeding trough. He was and is the hope for humanity. The answer to questions concerning Hunger, Poverty, Loneliness, Depression, yes even Ferguson. This child would bring something to the world that is needed by all and rejected by most. Where do we go when we need answers? Where do we look when we are in need of strength for the day? Where do we find peace? Do we have a father that loves us? True is we look for all this and more and come up with short term answers or just plain old empty hands because this rock we live on can’t produce the answer we need. The answer comes from the One that Created the Earth…and Heaven….and you.

This child left His heavenly throne and put on human flesh and lived right here with us and showed us the answer to life. He is Christ the Lord – the giver of wise counsel – the giver of strength that makes us over-comers (Thanks Mandisa) He is a Father that is a strong protector and provider; that is understanding and true, that will never leave us. He brings us peace – an inner peace that comforts in times of trouble and loss and daily struggles.

How is your peace level these days? Are you at peace with God? Have you made peace with Him? Have you answered the invitation given to all of mankind by the Prince of Peace – Come to me all who are weary and have burdens and I will give you rest – Matt. 11:28

Are you struggling this Christmas – struggling with gifts; searching for the right thing, unable to find the perfect gift? Try receiving the gift that God gives to the world thousands of years ago and still today – Jesus. We are all so far away from God at some point in our life but God made a way for us to be close to Him. He does all the work. We just need to trust Him…with our life. Trust him today and truly BECOME peace on Earth!

Jesus didn’t come so that we could give gifts on the 25th of Dec. He didn’t come that we could sing “Jingle Bells” and “Santa Claus is coming to Town”. He came to give us peace with God and He came to give us peace within ourselves. He stands at the ready offering His peace and wants to be a part of your life. Say YES to Him today. It’s the greatest gift you could ever receive.

Lord, It is my prayer that if someone reads this they will turn away from a life that doesn’t please you and put their hope and trust in you. Complete their life Lord as you fill them to overflowing with Your love! In Jesus name I pray – Amen.

Mercy

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! – Eph. 2:3-5

God paints some pretty awesome pictures for us in life. Some are viewed only as childish finger paintings that are stuck to the refrigerator and never again even noticed only to be discarded as meaningless. I believe that they are masterpieces. They are like DaVinci that cause us to “Ohhhh” and “Ahhh” as we marvel at the wonder of each stroke of the brush and wonder just what was going through the mind of the Creator.

One such painting that I had the humble privilege to observe was a picture of God’s great mercy? Our children occasionally leave things in our home where they are NOT supposed to be. Very simple, right? On this particular night it was something very simple and easily handled – an orange plastic cup. I had just returned from a bible study and was in the living room eating a Subway sandwich with lots of black olives and jalapenos. One of the children left it in the living roomhealth-care floor and was asked to pick it up and you would have thought that they were asked to walk on hot coals and before I knew it the tension in the room was thick coupled with some sassing and a confession that my child didn’t leave the cup in the floor and furthermore their cup was already in the sink. I had heard enough. I said, “Go look in the sink and tell me if you cup is in the sink.” My child ignored me, so I said it again. Again I am ignored. I am thinking, Wow, This child doesn’t know me very well.” NOW I said, “Get up and go look in the sink and come back and tell me if your cup is in the sink….NOW!” That go someone moving but the sassing continued as I was told that my request was “pointless.”

The next words to come from my mouth were “You are grounded”. This meant that the plans that my child had for the weekend were OUT! Now you are probably thinking, “OK, where is this amazing painting of God’s?” After this dreaded moment that no parent like happened and the room was still and silent and returned to try to choke down the rest of my dinner, our God began. I noticed a little boy sitting in the floor fidgeting – looking at me and the cup; then back to me and then the cup. He then jumped up, grabbed the cup himself, took it to the kitchen sink, came back back to the living room and sat down with a big smile on his face. I was shocked! Barely able to so much as raise my head much less swallow the bite that I had in my mouth. I had witnessed mercy. It was as though he was crying out “Mercy!” In the movie Braveheart as William Wallace is being tortured, the people began to cry out MERCY on his behalf. My 8 year old son wanted peace in our home. He wanted his father to show mercy to his sibling even if it meant that it was going to cost him. Is this a stretch? I don’t think so. Jesus used many real life lessons to teach us about the Father, Godliness and Holiness. He used everyday things like fishing, sheep and money to paint some pretty vivid pictures about God’s love, grace and yes, His mercy.

The scriptures teach us that God is RICH in His MERCY; abounding, filled with, overflowing with plenty to spare with mercy and He relentlessly seeks to reconcile with us. He is patient and wants to bridge the gap. That bridge is Jesus! Warren Wiersbe wrote, “Love is one of God’s intrinsic attributes but when love is related to the sinner, it becomes grace and mercy”. Punishment and correction should never be confused in administering discipline to those that we love. Punishment is for criminals for crimes that they have committed. Correction is restoring to a state of uprightness. In God’s mercy we don’t receive what we deserve. His grace affords us what we don’t deserve. So I was inclined to show mercy; I wanted to show mercy my child and to correct the behavior while attempting to preserve peace. God is God!