Monday, July 30, 2012

Secure Fear

Recently I taught from a passage in Luke and mentioned that when the scripture says, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of all knowledge" from Proverbs, it is talking about a "fear" that is much more about respect, honor, and a willingness to yield our will to the "way" of the Lord.

Jesus had said, "don't fear the one who can destroy the body"...speaking of Kings, rulers, those in authority - even the Pharisees who would eventually see that he is put to death on the cross.  Rather he said, "fear the one who has the power to put the body, soul and spirit in hell..."  That is a fear that is real.  It is a recognition that our lives are ultimately held in His will and it is wise to remember that.

In all of this, I see Secure Fear...
Jesus said,
John 6:37 (NIV)
37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.

Charles Spurgeon - over 140 years ago - spoke of this:

"No limit is set to the duration of this promise. It does not merely say, "I will not cast out a sinner at his first coming," but, "I will in no wise cast out." The original reads, "I will not, not cast out," or "I will never, never cast out." The text means, that Christ will not at first reject a believer; and that as He will not do it at first, so He will not to the last.
But suppose the believer sins after coming? "If any man sin we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous." But suppose that believers backslide? "I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely: for Mine anger is turned away from him." But believers may fall under temptation! "God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it." But the believer may fall into sin as David did! Yes, but He will "Purge them with hyssop, and they shall be clean; He will wash them and they shall be whiter than snow"; "From all their iniquities will I cleanse them."

"Once in Christ, in Christ for ever,
Nothing from His love can sever."

"I give unto My sheep," saith He, "eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand." What sayest thou to this, O trembling feeble mind? Is not this a precious mercy, that coming to Christ, thou dost not come to One who will treat thee well for a little while, and then send thee about thy business, but He will receive thee and make thee His bride, and thou shalt be His for ever? Receive no longer the spirit of bondage again to fear, but the spirit of adoption whereby thou shalt cry, Abba, Father! Oh! the grace of these words: "I will in no wise cast out."

Peace to You

Monday, July 16, 2012

How to Pray Today

It's a Monday, middle of summer, hot, dry, and relatively quiet here.  We need Rain badly, but there many other needs also.

This is not just a theological blog today...it's more of a pastoral one.
I awoke this morning with a "heavy" sense of needs out there among people in our fellowship, and with friends.
Kim's surgery is still to occur today...let's pray all goes well there.
Rick has surgery coming up that will be much more major than before...and Oh Lord, please let this be the last one he needs.
Harley is a long ways away fighting for our country and needs angels to watch over and his heart to be for God in all that he does.  Pray for Doug and Heather too.
Courtney is well on her journey...Ireland still I think...and Rob and Sue are at home...let's keep praying
Linda Fischer's dad and his recovery needs...
Keith Gundlach is still in the hospital...
Wally's sister's needs, and Wally's own physical needs.
Scott and Lona in a major building project while trying to keep crops alive and growing in drought...anybody know how to say "stress"?
A stranger on a street passed out...bloody...and Betty being a "neighbor" as Jesus described it.

And I can't tell you of others who didn't speak up but could have...including myself!

We're a small church fellowship, how can there be so many needs among so few????

Let's read this and think:  Romans 8:18-30 (NIV) 
18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.
19 The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed.
20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope
21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.
22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.
23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.
24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has?
25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.
26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.
27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will.
28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.
30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. 


Words from Paul leap out of the page:
Sufferings...

Frustration...
liberated from it's bondage to decay...
creation groaning...
we ourselves...groan inwardly

The Spirit helps us in our weakness...
We don't know what we ought to pray for...
The Spirit intercedes for the saints (that's us)...

We KNOW that in all things God works for the good...
God foreknew
He Predestined for us to be conformed to the likeness of his Son
He called
He justified
He will glorify.

It's always been a comfort to me to know that this life is not the end....all those he foreknows end up glorified!  Think about that.

One more thing:  I also awoke with a great sense of awareness of what our friends Dave and Karen are doing in terms of ministry.  We had the privilege of listening to Karen yesterday as she shared in our fellowship, what God has been leading them to do.  I hope you heard her heart as she shared, "We feel a deep connection to you all." 


I have known these two for over twenty years.  I have seen the journey God has led them on.  When I first met with Dave in the early '90's, he was  a student in Dairy Science.  Karen was a Vet student.  They were young believers, newly married, and zealous to want to learn and grow.  I watched Dave go through graduation, take a job at a major Ag company, and gradually recognize that his future lay in serving God in ministry.
Now 22 years later, a couple with a lot of experience, a Dairy Science background, and the opportunity to work among a people who have largely only known of Christians in a negative way.  It's a match made in heaven!

PRAYER...this is how we work for God...we do it together as a people who carry the needs and burdens of  people for the sake of God's Kingdom.

Peace

Monday, July 9, 2012

Binding and Loosing

I awoke this morning thinking about praying for healing for several people.  Our church's worship on Sunday morning takes time to allow people to ask for prayer...most do not.  Some do.  When someone asks for prayer, I take it seriously.  It's my chief role as a Pastor - to guide our fellowship towards a relational prayer as community before God.
I often imagine coming before the Father with Jesus to ask for things.  It is a good way to imagine since it keeps me from trivializing things.  By "trivializing", I don't mean small things.  There are many small things to ask God for.  But trivial things are usually very self-orienting.  They usually are things that have to do with my own personal comfort and desires.  I don't think it's wrong to ask God for rain, for safety, for success in endeavors...but it is quite a different thing to ask for my team to get a touchdown, or a win.

In reading the Desert Fathers this summer I realize the importance of "community" in prayer.  Jesus' words on this come from Matthew 18:18-20 (NIV) 
18 "I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.
19 "Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven.
20 For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them."


Binding and Loosing are elements of prayer.  A community bound together to believe in God's presence - "there I am with them" - is much more likely to engage in prayer together, rather than prayer apart.  

This is important to me as a Pastor.  The collection of believers together does not make for a community.  It could be as simple as realizing that married couples at times do not function as a married couple, but in actuality as merely two individuals who live together as married singles.  In that kind of a relationship - whether in a church, or marriage, or family, or business - egos rule, relationships are secondary to individual desires, wants and choices.  People are merely "together", but their self rules.  They are competing rather than complementing; they are living in the same space, but not joined in the same heart or desire.

It gives  you something to think about when Jesus says "if two of you...agree".  There can't be agreement when there is no desire or respect for community and the lifestyle of "together".

In a "MEGA" way we see that in our country right now.  We're beginning to hear about "blue" states and "red" states; about "battleground" states; and the division of classes and races.  It is not the recipe for a people acting together; but rather the realization that divisiveness fed by selfish interests rule the day.

SO... what can be done?  The church of which I speak of, or the marriages, or businesses, etc...would recognize and nourish real differences.  Instead of seeing them as a detriment they become a strength.  The strength of any community is not in being homogenous...where all the opinions and habits are of one source. That will only continue to further identify "US" over "THEM"...or "THOSE....."  

The ability to be a people who have "binding and loosing" authority will happen in marriage, in business, in church, in anything...when there is a commitment to trust, to work in commitment to each other...to check the egos and strive for Christ's presence more than individual winning.

Peace

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Freedom Choices

Hi all,
Happy Fourth of July.  By my rendering we are celebrating our 236 birthday!!!!  Not quite to Methuselah yet, but it's a good start.
I awoke this morning thinking about this Fourth of July and how we discover and really live in freedom.  Of course, there is no freedom outside of Christ.  I didn't say that, Jesus did.  John 8:34 (NIV) 
34 Jesus replied, "I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.
and just a verse or two later, he says,
John 8:36 (NIV)
36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

What God has done for us in Christ is bring us out of a place where the master of our souls is the Fallen nature...not to say we can't or won't sin; but Sin is not our Master, as long as we seek a life in Christ, and seek His Kingdom first in our lives.  Consider this:

Exodus 6:6 (NIV)
6 "Therefore, say to the Israelites: 'I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment.

Romans 6:18-23 (NIV)
18 You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.
19 I put this in human terms because you are weak in your natural selves. Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness.
20 When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness.
21 What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death!
22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.
23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.


My hearts desire is to live in such a way that the life of Jesus becomes more and more real in  each passing day.  I know that there is no perfection in me; but it doesn't mean that I can't be aware of Christ's life as each day comes along.  It's sort of like this:
We live in a land of freedom, but that freedom has come with a huge cost - the sacrifice of thousands upon thousands who both served and fought and died for that freedom to remain.  The founding fathers saw in our nation a place that they said was "a city set upon a hill", a biblical metaphor for the Psalmist portrayal of Jerusalem.
I don't believe that America is blessed above all other countries, and I don't believe that we are a Christian nation.  Our laws and government were put in place by people of moral conviction, and it's obvious that they had a strong Judeo-Christian ethic.


Freedom is not a religious exercise, it's a fundamental inward condition.

We are free because we walk out our lives as free people, not slaves.  But slavery is not an outward ball and chain as much as the inward disposition to claim our own ways and thereby set aside the superior wisdom and freedom of Christ.  I've seen free people in miserable conditions in the third world, and I've seen wealthy materialist people who are slaves to a miserable lifestyle of self.

We don't become free because we strive for individual selfish lives, but because we live our lives for a purpose much higher than ourselves.  We live for the eternity of God in Christ and the loveliness and freedom of his Kingdom.

Happy Fourth to you all,

Peace

Monday, July 2, 2012

Choices

Let's read slowly the passage from Romans 8 before I start on this continued idea of person and choices.
Romans 8:1-27 (NIV)
1 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,
2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.
3 For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man,
4 in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.
5 Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.
6 The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace;
7 the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so.
8 Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.
9 You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.
10 But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness.
11 And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.
12 Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation--but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it.
13 For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live,
14 because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.
15 For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, "Abba, Father."
16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children.
17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs--heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.
18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.
19 The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed.
20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope
21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.
22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.
23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.
24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has?
25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.
26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.
27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will.


Being a Christian in a society that has a "Judeo-Christian" heritage makes us aware of the past, but doesn't necessarily inform how we should live with present and future choices.   In my reading on the Desert Fathers I find myself thinking about the way in which they approached temptations, the world, the flesh, and also the reality of Satan.  They fled to the deserts - not just to get away from society - but to discover the interior motives behind their motives and attitudes.  They were very aware of the "flesh" aspects of their humanity.  While seeking to live a holy lifestyle, they had no illusions to their own perfection.  Each day highlighted the incompleteness of their persons.  In other words, as Paul says, "we have an obligation-but it is not to the sinful nature (flesh), to live according to it." And, the creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed....For the creation was subjected to frustration."


I went through this very thing last week.  On Wednesday afternoon, we were told that because of a snafu at the application level the closing on our house had to be delayed; and as I was getting that news, my son (who with my grandchildren were staying with us for a few days) came downstairs to tell me that the dog had just thrown up on the carpet!
Frustration!!!!
I walked away thinking, praying, and I found myself talking to God - "Lord why are YOU doing this?"
I heard the Lord in my spirit reply:  "Why do you start with Lord, why are you???"  It was a check in my mind about the truth...is God the one who does frustrating, painful things...the creation in frustration?  I think not.  The frustration of creation...delays, trouble, pain and suffering, drought!  These are not the "creation" of God, but rather the destructive consequences of the Fall.  Why start with "why God"?

I'll come back to this...

Peace