Monday, March 30, 2020

Top Ten Most Beautiful Phrases in the English Language

I love language.  I'm a huge fan.  Words are beautiful.  They are glorious. So I decided I would make this list of the top ten most beautiful phrases in the English language.  This is of course highly subjective, but perhaps you'll agree on some of these gorgeous phrases. 

10. Cellar Door - often regarded as the most beautiful phrase in the English language. I'll include it here for good measure. It reminds me of course of the classic time travel movie Donnie Darko. It rolls off the tongue.  It's smooth. It evokes mystery and intrigue.  It makes you wonder what's behind the door. And just what might be in the cellar? Perhaps another world, or a parallel reality?

9. In a Mirror Darkly - A classic phrase from the New Testament, which inspired Philip K. Dick to write his novel 'A Scanner Darkly' which explored the idea of what technology and cameras really saw, and how it could be perceived.  The phase "in a mirror darkly" takes me to a dark room in which I stand, and clouds surround my head, and I'm looking into a mirror, trying to see out a window, and I can only see a glint of light on the mirror, but the longer I look, the more I see...

8. Halcyon Digest - This is the name of a 2010 album by one of my favorite bands Deerhunter.  The phrase is spectacular.  I just repeat it to myself from time to time 10 years later still, because it's so delicious.  Halcyon digest.  Say it out loud.  Halcyon's definition: "denoting a period of time in the past that was idyllically happy and peaceful." Digest, a summary of materials.  But when you put them together, it gives this impression of nostalgia, a time that glows in the memory, whether justly or unjustly.  Go back and live it and it may have been a nightmare or rather dull, but something about it lasts forever and makes it glow as eternal.  So it's amazing and part of it never ends, because we access it from time to time, and it's power remains, even grows over time. 

7. Apple Orchard - Another tart and yet sweet phase. Something seems mystical about the orchard, I'm not sure why.  Maybe it was growing up reading about Johnny Appleseed, or maybe it's the creation saga, of the apple on the tree and the first temptation. Who knows why! For me it also brings to mind a beautiful track by TV on the Radio called "Tonight" which describes an orchard as a mindscape one explores in which memories reside. 

6. Time-Space Continuum - Of course I love anything sci-fi related. Time, space, and the entire continuum of time and space.  It expresses a universe of meaning, and calls our attention to the reality of time, like looking at the water when one is the fish.  Time is the pond, we are the fish, and I like to look at the time, the space, and the expanse of it.  

5. Spiritual Epiphany - Epiphany glows for me from an episode of Battlestar Galactica oddly enough. Epiphany also a great track by Bear McCreary. An epiphany suggests a change moment when one goes from the worm to the butterfly. Everything changes.  Spirit and epiphany, add them together and they delight with hope, mystery, fire, and change. 

4. Temporal Paradox - This phrase brings to mind Salvador Dali, or Star Trek, or Stephen Hawking. For me it also brings to mind G.K. Chesterton the famous British philosopher who was regarded as the "king of paradox" with his books like The Everlasting Man, Heretics, and my favorite, Orthodoxy. He was referred by this title because of his ability to explain how so many things in life prove to be paradoxes.  

3. Ethereal Realm - Celestial, space, heavens, ethereal rolls off the tongue. Realm as well, rolls off the tongue.  Ethereal realm suggests perhaps medieval nights, fantasy lands, elves and ogres, and the arena of ideas, of parallel dimensions and of places beyond our perception.  These two words together are somehow subdued, yet powerful, they roll by so quickly they seem to disappear. Much is the same with parallel dimensions and space time paradoxes. If we experience them, we may forget, or we may have never existed in the first place.  

2. Aurora Borealis - I remember mom and dad pulling over at the edge of town in a farmers field to look up in the night sky at the northern lights.  Aurora Borealis brings to mind mystery, and stars and the moon, and the galaxy.  But it also brings to mind a song from the Foo Fighter's third album "There is Nothing Left to Lose." Aurora is Dave Grohl's hometown and he repeatedly declares in the song, despite his homesickness, "I remember Aurora." So for me, it brings to mind the longing for home. 

1. Mystic Meadow - It seems to glow golden and bright.  A beautiful place in the country, one might say (I'm referencing a Boards of Canada song.)  Forests, trees, mysterious creatures, backset on a search for meaning.  Mystery, spirit, meaning, truth, and the meadow state, the state of being in a beautiful, peaceful place, that's what it brings to mind for me.  

Honorable mention: Sequoia, The Eternal Jerusalem, Majestic Melancholy, Rose of Sharon, Lily of the Valley, Kingdom of Heaven, Revelation of Truth, Resilience, High Charity, Melodious, Transitional Phase, Time Travel, Defiance, Retrospect, Mountains beyond mountains, Post-Apocalyptic Nightmare Society, Age Old Shadow Civilization, Fortune favors the Bold, City of Ember, Shadowplay, The Twilight of the Human Race, Sentry, Mystery, Young Effectuals, I could go on and on...

Monday, March 23, 2020

Hope is Greater than Fear in the COVID-19 Crisis!

Hope is greater than fear today, brothers and sisters! Hope, and not fear. I don’t know about you, but I’ve felt the anxiety lately. Just being locked up at home, can’t go to the gym, can’t go to fosters or books and beans, or go out to eat, or get my nails done, well maybe not the last one. But its kind of suffocating to just sit at home wondering what’s going to happen next.

I want to share this scripture for you today, “Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, he will come with vengeance; with divine retribution he will come to save you.”

From Jeremiah 17:7-8

7 “But blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him.

8 They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.”

Anxiety is not a proper response to this situation. Concern and compassion is the proper response. Don’t be afraid. But have trust in God. Have faith in God. Decide that your God is with you. Complete that in your mind.

And honestly I don’t feel anxious really, but I almost feel like I can feel the anxiety of the community around me. And I kinda feel like its just a climate of anxiety right now.

A lot of people in the world today rely on their own abilities and talents, fundamentally. It’s about them, their ability to hold on, and their ability to control and manipulate events to their advantage. That is the way of the world. And that is the way a lot of people live. Me vs. everything else.

And if that is your approach to life, you will be anxious and afraid,because it’s all up to you to not get sick.

As believers that is not how we approach life. It’s not up to me and how I can force events go my way. Ultimately my world is run by God.

Did God send the covid-19 virus? I don’t believe that. God allowed it to happen. He doesn’t jump in and prevent these things from happening. But He does help and guide and protect his church through these kind of storms. And we can have faith in the struggle.

And maybe this time of quarantine and isolation is a time God is calling us back to himself. Maybe He is saying, America, Michigan, Owosso, you’ve relied on your own strength and your own wealth and your own morality too long. And look how useless your own strength and wealth and morality is in the face of even something as simple as a virus like covid-19? Look how all your power is useless against it. “

We’ve lived for so long in the united states, in Michigan, relying not on God but on money, and psychology, and medical science, and modern technology. But life is about much more than those things. None of those things are bad. But when we rely on those things above God, we’ve gone down a road that leads nowhere good. And many have a faith in that, that those things will get them through the storms of life. But they won’t.

Only God is enough to get us through these dark times. And in quarantine and isolation I think we all start to realize that. No amount of scrolling through social media, or videogames, or frantically reading news articles or watching tv satisfies us. We just kind of quietly sit there as emptiness takes over in our souls. And we feel the meaninglessness of these things, and the fear that these things can’t really save us or help us.

So that’s why we have to use this time right now to turn back to God. Pick up that Bible and read it for a while. Get down on the floor and cry out to Jesus Christ for help during this struggle. Visit Youtube or sermon index and listen to some sermon messages. Go on or the you version app and read or listen to an audio Bible. View some Christian movies on Netflix or Hulu. Take some time to explore faith in Christ.

Because we all need a savior. Believe me, this corona virus is not the worst thing that could happen in this world. And indeed in the end times, in the future at some time, much worse things will happen. And when those times come, we will want to make sure that our sins are washed away by the blood of Jesus.

So I want to tell you a bit about that right now. So let me just ask you some questions:

1. Have you ever put something first in your life ahead of God? That’s what the Bible calls a sin. And you will be held accountable to that standard by God on judgment day.

2. Have you ever used God’s name as a cuss word? Or shouted it when you were angry? Again, that’s a sin.

3. Have you ever failed to treat your mom and dad with respect and love?

4. Have you ever committed adultery?

5. Have you ever hated someone, which is murder in the heart?

6. Ever stolen something?

7. Were you ever jealous of someone who had something you didn’t have?

These are God’s eternal laws. And if you’ve broken any of them, you are under judgment. Which means, if you were to die today, you would be brought before God, he would judge you as having sinned against heaven and your fellow humans, and you would be sent to a place of darkness, fire, and sorrow forever!

I know, this is amazing and scary news. Maybe we didn’t even realize that we were considered accountable to these laws. But now that you know, and you’ve seen your guilt, let me tell you about what God did to remedy this situation.

God came as Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ is Lord, so God came, 2000 years ago, and he lived a perfect life. And then he allowed himself to be sent to the cross by evil people. And on the cross he was perfect, yet he took your sin, and paid the penalty for you. So that if you believe in Jesus Christ and follow Him your whole life, then you’ll be born again, and you’ll become a whole new person.

You will essentially become the person you were always meant to be. That’s what happened for me.

Once we realize and believe in Jesus, our sins are paid for, by what Jesus did on the cross. That is God’s arrangement for you, to deal with your sins. They are removed and put on Jesus on the cross. And Jesus said yes to that arrangement. Jesus died once for all for sin, and then he reclaimed His life.

Jesus is alive right now. Which is why I talk to Him and pray to Him and how he continues to help me and deliver me.

So if you will choose to believe in Jesus, then your sins are washed away, and you are born again. Of course you must also repent, which means turn away, from your old sins of the past, and live differently. Sometimes that’s the hard part for people, they don’t want to give up their sins they do right now.

But believe me it’s worth it. And remember, all of us will stand before God on judgment day, and have to answer for how we lived. Do you want tobe judged n that day by the ten commandments? Or be judged on Jesus Christ being your savior.
On that day I want to be able to say, Lord, I did sin, but I have a savior, Jesus Christ, who came into the court room, and said, I’ll take the penalty for those sins instead of Justin! And on that day God will say very well,that is the arrangement I set up, therefore come into paradise, into the news heaven, and new earth, a perfect earth, in a new city called “The New Jerusalem” or “the new city of God.” That is our destiny everybody. That is the meaning of life. To enter into the gates of new Jerusalem. Where there will be no more sickness, no more covid virus, no more social isolation, or sin, or temptation. You are destined to go there, and to live there forever, and never die. But if you refuse God, and reject Jesus, there is another place, of darkness, sorrow, and pain where you will be sent. So choose life today, choose jesus, so that you and your family may live. Live forever.

Blessings during this Corona virus lockdown. Please pray and pray and fast and pray, and read the word, and stand firm, and DO NOT BE AFRAID! Amen!

Monday, March 16, 2020

At the Foot of the Cross We Have All We Need

God has given each of us all that we need, in Jesus Christ, in his death, and resurrection, in His Spirit, and His presence with us on the roads of life, that we have all divine power. We have everything we need through the knowledge of Him, who called each of us by His glory and goodness.

That’s where we begin today, at the foot of the cross. Can you see Jesus there? Can you see him, with his hands and feet pierced? Can you see the Son of God offered up for you? Many have tried to imagine it. Some have tried to paint it. One such person was the famed painter Rembrandt.

If you were to look at Rembrandt's painting of The Three Crosses, your attention would be drawn first to the center cross on which Jesus died. Then as you would look at the crowd gathered around the foot of that cross, you'd be impressed by the various facial expressions and actions of the people involved in the awful crime of crucifying the Son of God. Finally, your eyes would drift to the edge of the painting and catch sight of another figure, almost hidden in the shadows. Art critics say this is a representation of Rembrandt himself, for he recognized that by his sins he helped nail Jesus to the cross. -Source Unknown.

It wasn’t just a far off event for Rembrandt, it was personal. He was not just an observer. Indeed, we are not just far off observers, of a historical event, the crucifixion of Jesus. It’s more than that. We serve a living savior, a God though he has died for our sins, he currently lives, and is active in our lives. He speaks to us, in our personal prayer times, he speaks to us in our study of scripture. He speaks to us when we slow down long enough to listen. He speaks during life group, during bible study. He speaks through our friends and family. He speaks when we gather for services on Sundays.

We all once delighted in evil, brothers and sisters. We served ourselves. We lived for the world. We lived for money, for pleasure, and for our own enjoyment above all else. But now we serve something greater. We serve a great cause, the cause of the salvation of the world.

Yes in our day and age many reject God, and don’t want anything to do with Jesus. But still Jesus holds out his hand to this lost world. He is very patient with us. He was very patient with me. Holding out his hand for years. But what matters is now I have taken his hand and walk hand in hand with him, and you’ve done the same. You’ve received Jesus Christ as your savior, and thus God has become your Heavenly Father.

It reminds me of the famous story of John Newton, the man who wrote “Amazing Grace.” Did you know that he used to be captain of a slave ship? Yet Christ took hold of His life, and so he became a completely different person. He wrote this poem… listen carefully to the words as I read it to you:

“In evil long I took delight,
Unawed by shame or fear,
Till a new object struck my sight,
And stopp'd my wild career:
I saw One hanging on a Tree
In agonies and blood,
Who fix'd His languid eyes on me.
As near His Cross I stood.

Sure never till my latest breath,
Can I forget that look:
It seem'd to charge me with His death,
Though not a word He spoke:
My conscience felt and own'd the guilt,
And plunged me in despair:
I saw my sins His Blood had spilt,
And help'd to nail Him there.

Alas! I knew not what I did!
But now my tears are vain:
Where shall my trembling soul be hid?
For I the Lord have slain!

A second look He gave, which said,
"I freely all forgive;
This blood is for thy ransom paid;
I die that thou may'st live."

Thus, while His death my sin displays
In all its blackest hue,
Such is the mystery of grace,
It seals my pardon too.
With pleasing grief, and mournful joy,
My spirit now if fill'd,
That I should such a life destroy,
Yet live by Him I kill'd!”

John Newton, 1725-1807.

Jesus died for you. Jesus died for me. Jesus was willing to do this for us. He paid our debt of sin by doing this. Each of us, added to the weight on his shoulders, so that the weight on our shoulders could be lifted. I recall how light I felt when I first got saved not so long ago. The weight on me, all that guilt and shame was gone. Gone away. I was free.

It didn’t just disappear into thin air. That isn’t justice. That isn’t how God made things to be. That awful weight of sin, all that I had freely committed went onto Jesus Christ. He took it for me, and deleted it on the cross. And if you truly believe in Jesus and follow Him and serve Him, then the same must be true for you.

Anyone can say "Yes Jesus died for the sins of the world.” Agreeing to that is not Christianity. But has it become personal for you? Have you personally said to Jesus, you have died for my sins. I believe in you. You are my savior. Not just today. Everyday. Tomorrow, and always? That is our foundation. If we don’t have Christ as savior, friend, Lord, and king then we have nothing.

Jump to verse 4 and it says, “He has given us very great and precious promises, so that through them you may share in the divine nature, escaping the corruption that is in the world because of evil desire.”

Have you ever heard of the term grafting? It’s a medical term. Often when, for example, a patient is badly burned, they will take skin from a healthy part of their body and “graft” it onto that area. And it will help heal and bring life to that area of the skin.

One might say that God grafted Jesus Christ onto us, washing away our burnt remains, because we are now dead and buried in Christ. And we have been grafted with “the divine nature.” It says. That very essence of Christ’s perfection, placed upon us.

And so we also see this imagine of escape. It almost would make you picture yourself, like the Israelites fleeing from Egypt, as God’s judgments fell upon Pharoah. Or as if you were fleeing Sodom and Gomorroh as fire and sulfur rained down onto that city.

It’s like Christ is rescuing us from a doomed city and leading us to a new place. We’ve escaped the evil of the world. But the condition of escape is that we do have Christ.

And if we do have Christ, then we have all we need to live a godly life. And that is what our scripture today is referring to. It declares, here is Christ, in you, thus, you have what you need to live a godly life. And here’s how it works. It says: verse 5 “For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with goodness, goodness with knowledge, 6 knowledge with self-control, self-control with endurance, endurance with godliness, 7 godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.”

Does it say receive Christ, and then do whatever you want? Nope.

Does it say receive Christ then be lazy? No.

IT says “Make every effort, toward these virtues. Pursue God. Get to work for God’s glory and kingdom. Do great things for God. Change the world, in Christ. That’s what the early church did, they changed the world. That’s what Jesus did. He changed the world.

And that starts in us with faith. Then goodness. Then knowledge. And of course, self control. Endurance. Godliness. Brotherly affection. And the ultimate virtue, love. Are you seeing these personality traits developing in you as a Christian? You should be. And you should be working toward them, actively.

I’ll direct you to verses 9 through 11. It says, “The person who lacks these things is blind and shortsighted and has forgotten the cleansing from his past sins. 10 Therefore, brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election, because if you do these things you will never stumble. 11 For in this way, entry into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be richly provided for you.”

So it’s saying, if you lack these virtues, these blessings of love, endurance, and faith and so on, you’ve forgotten your cleansing, you’ve lost your way. And we see that with some Christians, they lose their way, and fall away. But instead, we should make every effort it says to confirm our calling, because if we live according to these virtues, we won’t stumble into sin. We’ll walk rightly with Christ. Thus our entry into paradise will be secure.

Isaiah – 41:13-14,17-20 says, “ 13 For I am the Lord your God,
who holds your right hand,
who says to you, ‘Do not fear,
I will help you.
14 Do not fear, you worm Jacob,
you men[d] of Israel.
I will help you’—
this is the Lord’s declaration.
Your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel.

17 The poor and the needy seek water, but there is none;
their tongues are parched with thirst.
I will answer them.
I am the Lord, the God of Israel. I will not abandon them.
18 I will open rivers on the barren heights,
and springs in the middle of the plains.
I will turn the desert into a pool
and dry land into springs.
19 I will plant cedars,
acacias, myrtles, and olive trees in the wilderness.
I will put juniper trees,
elms, and cypress trees together in the desert,
20 so that all may see and know,
consider and understand,
that the hand of the Lord has done this,
the Holy One of Israel has created it.”

That’s what I believe God is doing here. And there can be no mistake that God is bringing about the rebirth and revival of this church in Owosso. God is doing a new thing here. And if you’re here, he is calling you to be part of it. What a great honor we have to be called by God.

-Psalm 107:33-43 says, “33 He turns rivers into desert,
springs into thirsty ground,
34 and fruitful land into salty wasteland,
because of the wickedness of its inhabitants.
35 He turns a desert into a pool,
dry land into springs.
36 He causes the hungry to settle there,
and they establish a city where they can live.
37 They sow fields and plant vineyards
that yield a fruitful harvest.
38 He blesses them, and they multiply greatly;
he does not let their livestock decrease.

39 When they are diminished and are humbled
by cruel oppression and sorrow,
40 he pours contempt on nobles
and makes them wander in a trackless wasteland.
41 But he lifts the needy out of their suffering
and makes their families multiply like flocks.
42 The upright see it and rejoice,
and all injustice shuts its mouth.

43 Let whoever is wise pay attention to these things
and consider the Lord’s acts of faithful love.”

So we must remember, it is Him, and Him alone ,doing this in us, and in this community.

We cannot do it alone. He is the one who turns a barren desert into a lush river, and a glorious bastion, and fortress of victory over the darkness. So it shall be again, if we will fight hard, and be holy, and live for Jesus. That is our part in all this. To be faithful. A fortress can become abandoned over time. A church can die over time. A church can be reformed over time. A fortress can be rebuilt and strengthened once again. A river can turn to a desert, and a desert can be turned back to a river. Not by us, but by the Lord.

In conclusion today, it says in our scripture, verses 12-15 “12 Therefore I will always remind you about these things, even though you know them and are established in the truth you now have. 13 I think it is right, as long as I am in this bodily tent, to wake you up with a reminder, 14 since I know that I will soon lay aside my tent, as our Lord Jesus Christ has indeed made clear to me. 15 And I will also make every effort so that you are able to recall these things at any time after my departure.” And I say the same to you today, it’s my duty to remind you of these things. Live them out. Practice them. Focus on Jesus Christ. And live for Him. 

Thursday, March 12, 2020

An End Times Army Rising Up

I'm a soldier. And as a soldier my job is to obey the orders of my commanding officer. My commanding officer is the Lord Jesus Christ. And he has commanded me in the great commission: To make disciples of all nations with the living gospel of His life, death, and resurrection. Then Jesus was lifted to heaven. And he promised to return. I believe he will do just that. And he'll ask for a report on what I did while he was away. As a soldier, my job is to fulfill my orders, under penalty of death. To fail to carry out his command is to be in breach of my orders, and there is no choice, in this army, there is only do and die.

We are all soldiers in God's army. We have our mission, to conquer this world for Christ. So that is what we must do, and that is what we will do. God has only just begun to move this army to mission, to work, to sacrifice.

I believe in God's army. I believe in an army on fire for the gospel of Christ. I believe in an army centered on discipleship, on living a deeper Christian life. I believe in an excited, energized army, an army that dares to believe in great moves of God. God has not finished with this army, indeed, He has only just begun his work in this army of God.

Our mission is to preach the gospel and develop in our people the effects of salvation; discipline, passion, humility, spiritual power, and holiness of life. We can do this mighty work through our weapons of righteousness, placed before us in the word of God. We've great zeal in us for gospel proclamation.

“Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel.”

Remember what Jesus Christ our Lord has done church. Remember what he has done and tremble. Remember what he has done, to be crucified for our sins. Remember how he has conquered death. And remember that Jesus Christ is alive right now. And His return is imminent.

11 Here is a trustworthy saying:

If we died with him,

we will also live with him;

12 if we endure,

we will also reign with him.

If we disown him,

he will also disown us;

13 if we are faithless,

he remains faithful,

for he cannot disown himself.”

Have you died my friends, to yourself, your desires and wants? Do you serve Jesus first?

Are you fully committed to endure until the last day?

Are you watching for Jesus Christ each day, eagerly awaiting His return?

Are you aware brothers and sisters, that if you disown him, he will disown you?

Are you filled with faith and trust in God? Do you know that he remains faithful, even why our faith fails us?

We see a world, and a country in great struggle and in great peril. We see a world that needs Jesus so badly. And we’ve got to carry that message.

These are perilous times brothers and sisters. We live in a time of lukewarm teachings in the church. We live in a time of false teachers. We live a time of self-satisfaction. Me first, then maybe Jesus. And that is a false gospel. So we have to be just that much more careful to hold closely to the word of truth. We’ve got to love the word of God, and understand it intimately. In the books of the Bible we find the heart of God, and His love and justice. God’s word, His truth spreads through the godly. But false teachings spread jut as rapidly, like gangrene spreads, corrupting the tissue around it. So we must be careful what teachers we are listening to. And we must be very careful to test everything against the word of God. Because these are times of great deception.

But our scripture today said, “Nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness.”

That is the divide between the true church and the false church friends. That is the divide between the sheep (who hear his voice) and the goats (who do what they want first). The Lord knows his sheep, and they follow Him. The goats don’t follow Him, they follow their own desires. And everyone who knows Jesus also turns away from wickedness. That is another hallmark of the true church. They live in holiness. They have repented and turned away from their past sins, while the false church continues to live in their sins, defiant to their God who calls them to holiness.

Be the true church brothers and sisters, put God first, and live out holiness. Because I believe that though the times are dark, and things seem desperate, this will be our finest hour. These dark times are when the light of Christ shines the clearest. These are the times that great heroes of the faith are rising up to proclaim the resurrection of Jesus. We live in a time brothers and sisters that I believe are ripe for revival, for great awakening. We live in a world increasingly hungry for the truth. And they’re not getting it out there in the world or in the universities or in the public school classrooms.

We live in a time when people are so busy, so run ragged with our high tech high speed society. And people are increasingly burnt out, and they can find no joy in the petty pleasures of life. They can’t find meaning in the post-modern philosophies of our day and age. They can’t find satisfaction in the drugs, the bars, the pride of wealth or status, or worldly success. The world, our country is ripe for revival. Great awakening is needed. And we have the remedy.

But I know what your thinking. I really do. I often think the same thing. The world is crumbling. There is so much corruption, so much poverty, human trafficking, oppression, persecution, immorality, lies, abortion, corruption, and brokenness in this world. There are so many multiplying evils, what possible difference could we make? And doesn't it seem like the body of Christ has fallen asleep? Doesn't it seem like there is so little hope left?

Yes indeed. There are great difficulties ahead. But it's at just such times like these, when everything seems to be crumbling, that God loves to work to generate massive transformation! It's at times like these that we'll know through and through, bones to bones, that it was only by God's power, by Christ's efficacy that we could ever persevere forward into such darkness. We'll know that it wasn't of us, and our cleverness, but that it was by God's reality penetrating our reality, by God's miraculous designs and mercies in time and space that the tide finally turned!

It wasn't us. It was never us. And we could never do it alone. It's humbling to realize that God alone is the one who justifies, and God alone is the one who brings about real hope and real lasting change. No man can do this, but only God almighty himself. And we as humans love to try so hard to do it ourselves, to show God that we don't need him, but every time humanity fails, under the weight of darkness, and God must swoop in to show His glory and our need for Him.

Humanity wanted a world without God. That is the fall. And this is the fall. Here it is. This is the world without God. But in fact even now God still intervenes, refusing to allow our fatal destructions to be final, He still continues to hold out his hand to us and pull us from the muck and mire. He breaks our chains of sin. He pours out His love to us, and wipes the tears from our eyes as He sets us in a spacious golden valley, suits us up with his armor, his uniform, the blue, the red, and the shield, and the sword, and breastplate of Christ's righteousness, girded up in His truth, and ready for battle.

So as an army we march to the beat of a different drum. We march according to the orders of our great high commander Jesus Christ. We march according to His commands, and we are stewards of his kingdom until He returns. So we will fight. We must fight. There's no other choice. We will fight to bring the gospel to the lost on the streets of this world. We will fight in the streets, in the prisons, in the dope houses, along the red light districts, the brothel houses, the impoverished inner cities, the institutions, the houses of learning, the skidrows, the bars, the hospitals, the broken homes, and the darkest, dankest, most dismal places, where no light dwells, the great Light will shine and yes, we will fight! We will fight to the very last! We will fight in the fire and volley, we will fight! We'll never give up!

We'll return to the foundations and rally this army of God to new and greater heights than ever before. We're moving forward into a new time of blessings, a new time of energy and resolve, and a new time of revival, great awakening, and unprecedented Spiritual power. Glory to God in the highest heaven. He is with us. God is with us! We have nothing to fear. We are full of hope now, and full of life. Christ fills us. We are an end times army of God rising up to meet the challenges of our day

So we shall take the gospel out our doors and into the streets. We shall rally the church to holiness, to discipleship, to the true, real living out of this Christian faith. We must do so. There is no other choice. We've a great master to serve and we must serve Him so very well. And we will. I believe we will. I believe in you, because your the church, but more so I believe in Christ, whose church we are, and we shall not fail to be in this critical hour all he has called us to be.

Jesus is coming soon, and He must find us faithful, we've much work to do, so let us get to work, and do it for Christ. He is coming soon now. He will be along quickly. He will be here soon. Come Lord Jesus, come. May the grace of God in Christ be with all His people, His army forever, Amen.

Main Points: 
1. We are soldiers of Christ
2. The world is in crisis
3. We must win the world for Jesus.
4. False teaching is a serious issue we face
5. We must show ourselves faithful
6. Jesus Christ will return>The Resurrection>Jesus is alive
7. Until then we are His end times army

Sunday, March 8, 2020

Lord Build Me in Hope

“The school system in a large city had a program to help children keep up with their school work during stays in the city's hospitals. One day a teacher who was assigned to the program received a routine call asking her to visit a particular child. She took the child's name and room number and talked briefly with the child's regular class teacher. "We're studying nouns and adverbs in his class now," the regular teacher said, "and I'd be grateful if you could help him understand them so he doesn't fall too far behind."

The hospital program teacher went to see the boy that afternoon. No one had mentioned to her that the boy had been badly burned and was in great pain. Upset at the sight of the boy, she stammered as she told him, "I've been sent by your school to help you with nouns and adverbs." When she left she felt she hadn't accomplished much.

But the next day, a nurse asked her, "What did you do to that boy?" The teacher felt she must have done something wrong and began to apologize. "No, no," said the nurse. "You don't know what I mean. We've been worried about that little boy, but ever since yesterday, his whole attitude has changed. He's fighting back, responding to treatment. It's as though he's decided to live."

Two weeks later the boy explained that he had completely given up hope until the teacher arrived. Everything changed when he came to a simple realization. He expressed it this way: "They wouldn't send a teacher to work on nouns and adverbs with a dying boy, would they?"
Bits & Pieces, July 1991.

Let me ask you this question: Have you decided to live? Have you truly embraced your own life? Or have you lost hope? Life can be really hard sometimes. And crazy things happen. We wonder if we can keep going. But I’m telling you today that if you’re here, then it’s not over yet. You still have a chance. And you can still have hope.

Don’t give up. Believe that things can be different. Believe that God can change anything. Any addiction can be removed. Any pain can be healed. It’s not over yet. In fact you’re just getting started. Now is the time to have hope. And to embrace change.

Pray my friends. Cry out to God. Go into your quiet place, in the living, in the bedroom, and cry out to God. Let your tears speak your words. Our scripture today posed the question: Is anyone among you suffering? And it answers: Let him pray.

And then it says, “Is anyone among you cheerful?” Let them sing songs. Life isn’t always hard and painful either is it? There a good times too. There are happy times. There are joyous times. I remember growing up playing in the woods,and loving every minute of it.

Are you struggling? Then pray! Very simple. But how often do we forget to pray? We worry about it. We stress. We get angry. We complain about it to our friends. We go and try to force things to go our way. But we forget to pray! Prayer is powerful my friends. In fact the word of God says “pray at all times” and “pray without ceasing” and “don’t worry about anything, but pray about everything, making your requests known to God.”

Even Jesus our savior, when he was in the garden of Gethsemane, so afraid and miserable and stressed about going to the cross that he was sweating blood, what did he do in the garden? He prayed. If Jesus had to pray, how much more should we pray when we are in need?

Then verses 14 and 15 answer the question of sick and illness. It says, “ 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.”

That’s pretty powerful. If you are sick, you should have others pray for you. I often ask for prayer, sometimes I’ll ask people personally, text somebody, or I’ll even post on Facebook, here’s my prayer request, please pray! And tons of people will comment and pray for me.

But we also see this biblical practice of gathering the elders of the church, those who are in authority over the body, and then someone who is sick will gather with them, and they’ll anoint their head with oil, and pray for them, and they’ll be healed. And not only that, it says if they’ve committed sins, they’ll be forgiven. Something about the gathering of the body of Christ, brings about healing, which of course comes from the Lord himself, but God works through people. He works through us.

Now very often God will heal you when another prays for you. But sometimes he doesn’t heal us, when it’s not His will for us to be healed. I recall when it came out that Nabeel Qureshi had stage 4 cancer. A talented young apologist, with a wife and kids, about my age. At the time I prayed, and I fasted, and if you fast when you pray, it adds power to the prayer. But in any case, I fasted and prayed several different days. But God spoke to me one of the last times, and it was just clear that there was a block there. It was Nabeel’s time to return to Jesus. So sometimes we have some sort of ailment, and we’re supposed to have it. Sometimes it’s our time. But perhaps God is calling you to have another Christian or group of Christians pray for you today. Come see us about that.

Our scripture continues today: 16 [j]Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, [k]fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.”

And it gives this example of someone who prayed, and what they prayed for really it happened. It says,”Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. 18 And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit.”

There have been so many times that I’ve prayed, and then God answers the prayer. And there have been times when I’ve prayed and God says, nope. Not yet. Or he just say no, not at all. His will, not my will be done. I remember five years ago I was in my hometown of Wausau, Wisconsin and I was waiting to hear back about an internship with the salvation army. And I kept praying Lord, please, anywhere but upper Michigan. I did not want to go to upper Michigan. Guess what? I got the call, and she said, You’re going to Escanaba, Michigan. And I loved it there. To this day, I love that town so much. And the people there. God knows what he’s doing.

I prayed fervently that God would help me quit smoking. And a year later I was able to quit.

I remember I prayed for a car, when I was newly sober back in 2013, and I got a car.

I remember I was working on my bachelors degree at liberty university. And I had every single class done except for the minimum math requirement. And it seemed impossible. I was going to have to take 3 math classes just to get to the minimum requirement class. But you know what I did? I prayed. And prayed. And God somehow got me through it. I petitioned the degree board, to be able to take the final class, and I was able to pass it!

I remember I was attending new day church, way back in 2013, and I knew God was calling me to ministry. But where? I didn’t know. I prayed for a long time. Where do you want me to serve? And God was so silent. I was getting very frustrated. But then bam, The Salvation Army shelter in town had an opening, and a friend said I should apply. The rest is history.

I remember I prayed right before I would go to Chicago for training college. And I said Lord I can’t possibly do this. But you can make this possible. And I survived it all, graduated, and now I’m a lieutenant.

We’ve gotta look back at how God has been faithful guys. We so often look at all the things we don’t have, and we start to lose hope. We look at everything that hasn’t changed, but look at everything that has changed! Wow!

Imagine what God is going to do in the future, as long as we stay with him. We’re people that are prone to wander away. I don’t see most of you every Sunday and that worries me. Make your faith a bigger priority in your life. That’s my job as your pastor, to call you to real faith in Christ. Take it seriously, and put real work into it. Because salvation is real. Heaven and hell are both real places, and we are going to one of them. So please take this deathly seriously. Many of my friends tend to take Christianity lightly, at least from my perspective. I don’t take it lightly at all. I have fun, I enjoy life, but I also have a deadly earnestness about the faith. This is literally life and death for me, I almost died. I was dead, essentially, in the grave of addiction, and Chris called me out of that grave.

Reminds me of that Christian rock song, and it says, “I was buried beneath my shame
Who could carry that kind of weight?
It was my tomb
'Til I met You

I was breathing, but not alive
All my failures I tried to hide
It was my tomb
'Til I met You

You called my name
Then I ran out of that grave
Out of the darkness
Into Your glorious day”

Our scripture concludes today by saying, “19 Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, 20 let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save [l]a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins.” So my job as your minister is to call you from wandering, back to the truth, time and again. Don’t give up. Don’t fall away. Stay the course. Don’t give up. Keep praying. Keep studying the word. Keep seeking the face of God. And you will share in eternal life. Never give up. Keep fighting. Because there is great hope. Take heart and have hope. Because God is building us in hope. He is training us to always have hope, even in the darkest of circumstances. No more games with God though guys. No more games. No more living in sin. It’s time to live free or die. Have hope. Christ will set you free. Have hope. You will find healing. Have hope. There can be a brighter day. Have hope because Jesus Christ loves you. It’s true. 

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Lord Build Me in Patience

7 “Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains. 8 You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near. 9 Don’t grumble against one another, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!

10 Brothers and sisters, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.

12 Above all, my brothers and sisters, do not swear—not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. All you need to say is a simple “Yes” or “No.” Otherwise you will be condemned.”

After reading this last night I felt as though the words were speaking directly to me. As if I had been cornered in a room and spoken directly to by the voice of God himself. This is a perfect time to talk about patience! We’re right on the edge of winter. It seems like there’s no escape from it. I’ve had a cough for like 2 months. There’s just a lot of waiting going on in my life. And I’m sure with all of us!

Be patient. That’s easier said than done isn’t it? Our first instinct is to complain along the way, isn’t it? That’s what happened when Moses led the Israelites into the wilderness. The people began to complain against God and against Moses. I think of the times that I’ve complained to God, about God, about the situations in my life that just won’t seem to change.

Do you ever feel stuck in life? Sometimes it feels like things just won’t change. We dream of them changing, we try to do work that will make them change, we try to force events to bring about change, we even pray, and pray everyday begging for change. But the months pass, and the years pass, and we wonder, when will something change?

How long have you been waiting my friends? What are you waiting for? What have you been praying for and fighting for, for years, and it hasn’t come yet? Maybe you’ve been praying for a family member to come to Christ, and it still hasn’t happened. Or have you been praying to meet that special someone, and it still hasn’t happened? Maybe you’re praying for children, or praying for the right job, or praying for your anxiety to finally disappear, or you’re praying to own a home, or a buy a car, or break free from depression, or come clean from cigarettes or alcohol, or maybe you’re just hoping that you would change.

I can tell you in my life… I’ve been praying for years for depression to go away. I’ve struggled for years with sleep apnea, serious sleep problems. I’ve prayed for over 7 years to meet the woman of my dreams, still waiting. I’ve prayed for years to lose weight, still kinda stuck. Still battling with lust in my life, and fighting to be free from that. Struggled with depression all my life, God has never taken it away. And on top of all that, I’ve had nagging sciatic nerve pain for over 3 weeks now. So I wait.

And we wait. And we wait. And wait and wait and wait. Be patient our scripture says. Until the Lord’s coming. And we get this excellent example of how to wait. Consider the farmer. Anyone in here ever been a farmer or work on a farm? The scripture says “. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains.” The farmer plants, in the Spring, and then they wait. And wait and wait, until August, September, October, and November, to finally harvest. I would not make a great farmer. I can’t wait that long to see the results of my work. I need to see it sooner than that.

So we should consider that example of waiting. Wait patiently, day after day, and week after week, month after month that farmer patiently waits for the crop. And first he plants and sees only dirt mounds. Then after weeks he sees buds popping up. And slowly, so slowly, over months he sees the crops begin to grow, until finally the harvest comes.

God calls us to be patiently waiting for the consummation of history as well. It’s been a long time since Jesus Christ walked on the Earth. Before Jesus Christ we had the Old Testament times, the times of Israel, when the goal was to follow the law, the ten commandments. And then Jesus came, and now we under the grace of Christ’s atoning sacrifice. We are in the “church age” for the last two thousand years. The growth and expansion of the church across the Earth, to today, where the church is about 2 billion people strong.

And the whole church worldwide, expressed in many denominations and groups, and buildings and differing theologicals points, is awaiting one event: The return of Jesus Christ. That’s right. Jesus Christ is alive right now, and we believe that he will return to rule over the entire Earth. So we are awaiting his return. And we are doing so with a great deal of patience. And it’s hard to wait. Waiting is very difficult. I know, I’m in several seasons of waiting in my life. I’m waiting on many prayers, and many blessings, waiting on healing, waiting on growth, waiting on transformation, waiting on deliverance from sin, from sleep problems, waiting for companionship. It is not easy to wait.

But take heart brothers and sisters, and stand firm. I love that phrase. It brings to mind an image of a soldier standing at his post, he’s got his uniform on. He’s clean shaved, he’s showered. He’s ready, and waiting, out there everyday at his guard position. And his eyes are always watching the horizon. He’s always watching for enemies, he’s always watching for changes. He’s standing firm. He’s not slumped over, getting drunk, or getting fat and passing out in the night. He’s up, alert, watching for the return of Jesus, and standing firm in the faith.

The Lord’s coming is near. I really believe we are in the end times of Revelation right now. And I fully expect to see the return of Jesus Christ with my own eyes. I’m watching for it everyday. And that goes to an observation of something we call “the signs of the times.” The fact that the Jews wandered the nations for two thousand years but after WWII they’ve been a nation again in the middle east. That was a huge fulfillment of prophecy. We see telecommunication, internet access, the uniting of nations, world commerce, all these things point us to the final days, to the time when Christ will return.

No one knows the exact date of Christ’s return, only god the Father knows that. But we should live as if it could be any day, today, tomorrow. Because we are not ignorant of the times we live in, we see the signs being fulfilled.

So we are waiting. And what does waiting bring about? It can bring about boredom. We start to grumble and complain. That’s why our scripture today said, “Don’t grumble against one another, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!”

And this is a call for us to recognize that if we are complaining to one another, and gossiping and hurting one another, God sees that it, and yes, if we live in those foolish ways, instead of in holiness, we will be judged by God for that. So we ought to live rightly, in reverence of God.

God is standing at the door. His return is immiment. So how then should we live?

So then we see in verse 10, James references our situation. We are waiting patiently in what? In suffering. And then it says “we count those blessed who persevered.” Do you know what that reminds me of? Benedict Arnold. Anyone know who I’m talking about? Most would know Benedict Arnold as a traitor. A traitor of the American revolution. But did you know he started off as a successful General under George Washington? He won some important victories. He was on doing very well. Had he made different choices we might’ve considered him a great hero of the revolutionary war. But he did not persevere. He became annoyed by his treatment by the other generals, and so he hatched a plan to betray the colonial forces. We regard those who persevered, not those who gave up along the way. We’ve got to have the long game in view, when we practice our Christian faith. Live it out, year after year.

And James gives us a fascinating example. The example of Job. You know when I was 20 years old and ended up in jail all I had was a Bible in solitary. And I read from Job. Job is a book about someone who suffered a great deal. And Job suffered patiently. He talked to God a lot in that book, speaking, arguing, wrestling with God in his situation. Job was patient. He waited. And eventually God restored all he had lost.

It says the Lord is full of compassion and mercy. That’s a very good and beautiful thing. God has mercy on us and great loving compassion for us. He is guiding us on the way we should go. But yes he does require us to wait for stuff. Wait for everything really. Waiting is really hard. I don’t enjoy waiting. I really don’t. It seems like a waste of time to me. But God is adjusting us through waiting. He’s building us. He’s building us in, patience.

Let’s pray.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Lord Build Me in Repentance

Glory to God our heavenly Father who has made all the things we see, and the things we don’t see, and the world in it’s majesty around us. He’s made the bright shining sun, and the moon at night, the stars in the sky, the trees, the forests, the rivers, and the valleys, to the mountains high and the oceans deep, God’s glory is manifest all around us.

Indeed God is great, and mighty in power. So far beyond us. And at the end of our lives, we will appear before the judgment throne of God and answer to this great God. So we ought to humble ourselves before God.

To this point in our lives many of us were living for ourselves, to satisfy our own selfish desires. But now that we know God is real and He will judge us, we ought to humble ourselves before God. Give yourself over to God now, and change the path of your life. Do things differently. Change your weekly routine. Change how you live.

Many of you have done this. You’ve set your heart and your desires in a new direction. You are reaching out for God and seeking Him. And as a result of your new faith, you’ve had to endure a series of battles and struggles. You’ve had to endure health problems, temptations, difficulties, chronic pain, being attacked by people you trusted, being mocked, losing jobs, and even being physically attacked. Why? Because your new faith is being tested and refined through the fires of difficulty.

Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. That’s what you’re doing, when you pray, and when you seek God, and when you fight through a temptation or a struggle. You’re resisting the evil one. And these trials are making you strong and more like Jesus. Satan will flee from you when you resist him.

Come close to God. Seek God and find God. That is a simple, yet profound thing. Spend time with God. Instead of sitting in front of the tv, shut it off, and read a chapter from James, or from John. Spend some time in prayer, each day, in quiet prayer, in a quiet room. And what’s amazing, is that when you earnestly seek God, you come close to God, and then wow, God comes close to you.

Have you ever felt that? Maybe in worship and singing in dinner church, or during private prayer time, and you suddenly feel the presence of God. It shines in you. You feel Him. You sense Him. And you are amazed with His glory.

And it says, “Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world. 9 Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.”

And that is what I want to call you to do today, is call you to sorrow, sadness, and deep grief. We all do this to a certain extent in our lives, when we go struggles, when we have a breakup, or a big change happens in our lives. We grieve, feel pain, and struggle. We sit back in quiet rooms, and we ask big questions about life and ourselves.

For many of us, our loyalty is divided between God and the world. We live in an age of the church where so many Christians and churches are lukewarm. We’ve got one foot in the world, and one foot in Christianity. One foot with Jesus, one foot with the world.

Our scripture today said: “You adulterers! Don’t you realize that friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God? I say it again: If you want to be a friend of the world, you make yourself an enemy of God.”

What a scary thought, that if we make ourselves friends with the world, we also become enemies of God. But what does God mean when he says “friendship with the world.” Well, I think it means that you’ve set your heart on loving the things of this life. You love movies, you love your house, your car, your elaborate vacations, and you don’t really care that much about God, or the next world, or God’s commands. It’s like becoming comfortable in the world, and kind of ignoring passion and love for God.

Now there are things in this world that I really like. Coffee is one, I really like coffee. I’m also a big fan of apples, not sweet apples, but more tart apples, that have a bite to them. I enjoy certain kinds of movies, I really like art, and I really like finding rare and interesting music, bands, and deep music. That’s all fine. There are things in this world that we like, and really enjoy. But I’ll tell you this, I love God more than any of that. And I would give up all of that stuff to be with God, and live with God forever in paradise.

One pastor said it this way, I can’t remember who, but he said, keep a light grip on the things in this world. Because you’ll have to give all them up eventually.

And I think it was Billy Graham who said, “I’m a pilgrim, just passing through this world.” One Christian commenting about the life of a friend of his, said he didn’t keep many things, his home looked as if he could pack up and leave at any time. It was like he knew he was just passing through this world and headed for another one.

Does that make sense? Yes it does.

Our scripture today also said this, “Do you think the Scriptures have no meaning? They say that God is passionate that the spirit he has placed within us should be faithful to him.[b] 6 And he gives grace generously. As the Scriptures say,

“God opposes the proud
but gives grace to the humble.”

“Do you think the scripture have no meaning?” That is a question I would ask many Christians in this day and age. Because they don’t really seem to believe the scriptures. They believe slogans, like “once saved always saved.” They believe what preachers tell them, but they don’t really study the scriptures for themselves.

God is passionate that the spirit which he has placed within us should be faithful to him. That’s very interesting. God is indicating that we need to be obedient to Him if we expect to attain to paradise. “But pastor I can’t lose my salvation by being disobedient can I? I can’t lose my salvation by being a friend of the world can I?”

“Actually, yes you can. Sorry if that upsets the apple cart of protestant reformada theology but I go by what the Bible says, not by the doctrines of man demand. If something in the Bible upsets my theology, I let it be upset. I live by the Bible not the theology of man. That's sacrilege in protestant circles, to value the word over the protestant ideology, but I don't care. I'm accountable to God, not the opinion of protestant evangelicalism. So I'll trust God's word over any theological doctrine that papers over certain difficult scriptures.

But our scripture also says “And he gives grace generously. God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

If we make any mistake, if we mess up in any way, all we have to do is come to Jesus, ask for forgiveness, change our ways, and then he makes us clean again. That’s the great thing about Jesus Christ our savior. At any point in our Christian journey, if we screw up, make a mistake, get caught up in sin, all we have to do is come to Jesus, ask Him to help us get free from sin, and ask his forgiveness and boom, we’re clean again.

That brings us to this issue of repentance. It said in our scripture today, “9 Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.”

If we’re living in sins of the flesh, we need to get free from them. And this process is called repentance. That’s why I said earlier, find sadness, sorrow, and grief. That comes from God’s Holy Spirit inside us. We start to grieve over the sins we are struggling with. We keep thinking about it over and over. This needs to leave my life. I need to break free from it. And we feel the futility of trying to break free on our own. But then we’re reminded that if we cry out to God he will set us free and do the impossible. This process sometimes takes days, week, or months, of feeling this emptiness, this unsettled feeling about this sin in our lives. We feel in struggle about it. We feel sad. We feel empty and miserable about it. Then we realize, I can pray to God and express my sorrow to Him, and He will break every chain. We repent. And that sorrow drives us to break free, and that holy good feeling comes over us when we realize that God has now delivered us from that sin.

There may be times in the future when we feel tempted to sin in that way. There may be times when we have to grit our teeth and fight really hard against temptation. But slowly over time those temptations grow less and less powerful. And eventually, it’s a far off distant temptation, that barely even affects us. I’ve been free from alcohol for 7 years. In the first few months I would not even go near the alcohol aisle in the store. I was afraid. But now I can walk right past it, and it doesn’t bother me at all. The Holy Spirit has removed the power it used to have over me. Amen. Same with cigarettes, I quit 1 year after becoming a Christian. It was really hard. The struggle was insane. I was so tempted. I couldn’t be near people who were smoking. But eventually it’s power grew less and less until it was almost nothing.

Now, some try to play it both ways in the Christian walk. I’m gonna go to church on Sundays, and during the week I’m gonna have pre-marital sex, I’m gonna smoke, I’m gonna drink, I’m gonna do drugs, I’m gonna lie, steal, cheat, and gossip about people. But hey it’s fine I’m under God’s grace. No, it isn’t fine. No you aren’t OK. You are in great danger. And if Jesus returned today, which is possible, you would not go to paradise, you would go to hell. I’m sorry, I don’t want to hurt anyone's feelings, I’m not trying to scare you, but it’s my job to tell you without any bias what is the truth in the Bible. That’s the truth. You need to go through this process of sorrow over sin, conviction, and Holy Spirit empowered repentance.

This is the not so fun part of Christianity, repenting of sins you guys. It’s the tough part. But I want to tell you guys that it’s so worth it. The joy you find in the Lord, as you grow to look more and more like Him, is just amazing. And the truth is many of these sins suck the life out of us, they leave us feeling broken and miserable. When we’re finally free of them, we feel so much better. We feel so much closer to God. It’s amazing. It’s so worth it. Is it hard? Yes. Is it painful at times? Yes. Is it worth it? 100% yes. So worth it. The truth is deep down I desperately want God to change every part of me to be like Jesus. Just remember it’s not all gonna happen at once. This is a process that goes through our whole lives, month by month, and year by year. So embrace it. It’s good. It’s tough, but I love it. Amen.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Lord Build Me in Speech

Yiddish folklore offers a telling tale about our words. One such man had told so many malicious untruths about the local rabbi that, overcome by remorse, he begged the rabbi to forgive him. "And, Rabbi, tell me how I can make amends." The rabbi sighed, "Take two pillows, go to the public square and there cut the pillows open. Wave them in the air. Then come back." The rumormonger quickly went home, got two pillows and a knife, hastened to the square, cut the pillows open, waved them in the air and hastened back to the rabbi's chambers. "I did just what you said, Rabbi!" "Good." The rabbi smiled. "Now, to realize how much harm is done by gossip, go back to the square..." "And?" "And collect all your feathers."-From Hooray for Yiddish.

Words are powerful. We see this theme in James chapter 3 played out, but it’s also a theme strung through the entire book of James. Words are very powerful. They can do great good. I can encourage someone, and their spirits will be lifted. I can pray with someone, and those words will bring life. In fact, in the first book of the Bible, Genesis, we see that God spoke, and the world was made. That’s how powerful words are.

Words can do great good. Indeed, how many of us heard the gospel through spoken words, or someone reading the Bible to us. In fact one of the key ways that I got saved, was I watched this movie over and over called “The Life of Jesus” which was a word for word translation of the gospel of John. I must’ve watched that movie one hundred times, loaded up on drugs, and beer, and then one night it finally dawned on me, that Jesus could save me. And the rest is history.

That’s how powerful words and speech are! They can bring great life.

It can also bring great destruction. Think back in your life, to a time when you heard someone say something terrible about you. Maybe it was during middle school or high school. Maybe it was a bully teasing you. Maybe it was a teacher who didn’t like you. Maybe it was even a parent, mom or dad, or a family member, who said terrible things to you. And they probably did that because their parents said the same things to them.

I can recall even to this day, moments when someone said something so terrible it was ingrained on my memory for life. They say sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me. Well, that isn’t true. They don’t break skin or tear bone, but they burn inside.

I remember during basketball practice some guy asked me what was wrong with my chest, I have a concave on my chest, from my birth, and from that day on I was so ashamed of my body, and how I looked.

I remember when a friend and I went up for a pass in gym class, and I came down and accidentally landed on top of him. And he got hurt. It was an accident, but several of my enemies took the opportunity to attack me, making it seem like I did it on purpose. In fact they attacked me in the locker room later. And one cupped his hand and smashed it against my ear.

I remember something else. Something I did. There was a handicapped kid who was in a wheel chair. And we would go and make fun of him. And I participated in it. I made fun of him, in that hallway. And I regret it. Thankfully Jesus has forgiven that in me.

Maybe it’s easy to remember times when people did it to us. But how often have we been the guilty parties? We see someone we don’t like, so we spread rumors. We blast them in the community. People have done it to us here, spread rumors about us, and then people will leave the church, because they believe the rumors. Words, have, power.

Now what’s interesting is some of us don’t gossip or slander others or complain about others, but I know what you do do. You talk down to yourself. Your inner voice beats you up day and night. And that needs to stop. Some of the ways you talk to yourself, are ways you would never talk to your worst enemy. You need to speak to yourself, with the same love, and forgiveness and patience that you give others. When you let your inner voice go off shaming you, would you please stop, and ask yourself, would I talk to a friend like this? Then change that inner voice to encouragement, and reciting what God’s word says about you.

I am a child of God.

I’m redeemed by the blood.

My sins are gone, I’m holy in Christ.

God is my Father and he loves me.

That’s why it’s important to memorize little portions of scripture to repeat in our minds, or out loud, when we start having negative thoughts. When you start thinking, whats the point of life, I should just go sin, block that and say no, I am born again of the Spirit. I’m destined for paradise. I’m holy as God is holy. Change that internal dialogue.

Gossip is very tempting you guys. Even at training in Chicago, when I was at seminary, certain friends would gossip, and part of me loved to listen to it, to hear private things about people, and then laugh and mock them. But as soon as I left, I would feel upset with myself, so ashamed, and so convicted by the Holy Spirit. Gossip can seem fun at the time, but later we see the damage it does.

So here’s the rule I try to live by. And some of you have heard this from me. If I hear gossip or hear a conversation heading in that direction, I’ll just jump in and say, “That’s over, that issue has been dealt with, we’re gonna pray for them, and let’s move on.” Or simply, “Let’s not gossip, let’s talk about something else.” Cut that off. I don’t want to hear it. Let’s talk about something positive, something good.

But do you know what’s interesting about controlling or speech? Our scripture today said this: “We can make a large horse go wherever we want by means of a small bit in its mouth. 4 And a small rudder makes a huge ship turn wherever the pilot chooses to go, even though the winds are strong. 5 In the same way, the tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches.”

And in verse 2 it said, “2 Indeed, we all make many mistakes. For if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way.”

It’s interesting that it says if we can control what we say, we can control everything else about ourselves. So this is apparently the secret to learning self control. Learning to control our speech.

So when we talk about others, a friend or stranger, or another church, or even a political candidate, or local leader, we ought to consider the formula of Alan Redpath. During a time of difficulty in his ministry, he set up a formula for speaking of others or controversial issues:

“T--Is it true?
H--Is it helpful?
I--Is it inspiring?
N--Is it necessary?
K--Is it kind?

If what I am about to say does not pass those tests, I will keep my mouth shut! And it worked!”

I want to touch on one point just briefly about controlling the tongue and it’s in verse one of James 3. It says “not many of you should become teachers, because teachers will be judged more strictly.”

This verse makes me tremble before God. I know it by heart, James 3:1. I repeated it a lot during seminary to my fellow cadets. All of us will stand before God at the end of our lives and have to give an account, and answer for the decisions we made. And the things we said.

In fact Jesus himself said, “You must give an account on judgment day for every idle word you speak. –Matthew 12:36

So every person in this room will have to answer for our words. And we’ll be judged. But for me, a minister, and Zachary, who teaches Bible, and Lexy, and others in here who become Bible teachers or pastors or other ministry leaders, we will be judged more strictly. We will be judged by a higher standard. Because God called us to share his word, and if we didn’t do it right, or taught false doctrine, or only spoke on the feel good verses, we will be in a lot of trouble.

Jump down to James 3, verses 8 through 10 which say, “The tongue is restless and evil, full of deadly poison. 9 Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God. 10 And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth.”

And maybe that’s where you’re at right now. You’re learning to be encouraging. You’re using words to bless people and bless God. But then you’re also later on using words to curse others, and mock others, and using your words to complain and argue.That’s not good my friends. Let’s put those old ways aside, because they are dead and gone with our old selves. And let’s put on the new self in Christ Jesus, speaking good and not evil.

But I must confess brothers and sisters, I sinned in my words just recently. I was talking to a good friend of mine, and she shared with me about something terrible she did recently. And I spoke harshly to her about what she did. And she became very angry with me. And later I realized, I was right, but I was too harsh, and too mean spirited about it. So I apologized to her. And I also asked God’s forgiveness for what I’d done. And What’s what we’re supposed to do. James 3 says we all slip up in many ways. The point is that we recognize the mistake, we make it right, we get with God and ask forgiveness, and then we do better in the future.

In conclusion we see the final section of James 3, which my Bible titles “True Wisdom comes from God.” And really that’s what verses 1 through 12 were talking about, being wise with our words. And this section concludes with a call to live humbly, honorably, doing good works. And it says if you really understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honorable life. It challenges us to not live in bitter jealousy, or selfish amibition, or boasting, or lying, because those things are demonic. Evil.

Verse 17 & 18 say, “But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and the fruit of good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere. 18 And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness.”

The final passage says that we are to be called “peacemakers.” So it says that we’ll spend our lives going from place to place, planting seeds of peace in others lives, and then having planted those seeds, we will gather the harvest later on in life, of righteousness. Of a beautiful holy life. We’ll see those seeds that we planted across Owosso, across Durand and Caledonia and Corunna, and Perry, years later, we’ll see people who we helped, who we encouraged, and we’ll see how they helped others, and how those good deeds spread out everywhere, to more and more people until thousands of lives were affected by our actions of living lives of being peacemakers. What a glorious way to live, let’s all live that way, using our words to spread goodness and faith, and love and truth. Alwayss, because that will make the world a better place. Amen! Hallelujah! 

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Lord Build Me in Action

One night a house caught fire and a young boy was forced to flee to the roof. The father stood on the ground below with outstretched arms, calling to his son, "Jump! I'll catch you." He knew the boy had to jump to save his life. All the boy could see, however, was flame, smoke, and blackness. As can be imagined, he was afraid to leave the roof. His father kept yelling: "Jump! I will catch you." But the boy protested, "Daddy, I can't see you." The father replied, "But I can see you and that's all that matters."

The boy jumped, because he trusted his father. The Christian faith enables us to face life or meet death, not because we can see, but with the certainty that we are seen; not that we know all the answers, but that we are known.

Donner Atwood.

We live by faith in God. But what use is our faith if we don’t actively live it out? Just like the boy who is afraid, in the burning building, he can’t see his father below with his arms wide open, but he believes that he is there. He has faith that his dad is there even though he cant see. That’s kind of like our faith in God. We know God is here, active in our lives, we know he’s helping us, and guiding us. But what good is it for the boy to believe that his dad is there? The house is still on fire. The flames are close. He has faith, yes. But what needs to happen? The boy needs to take action. And maybe that’s the hardest part. He needs to jump off the house and into his father’s arms. And in the same way, our faith in God, is useless, empty, and dead unless it’s followed by action, by works.

As the founder of the salvation army said,” Faith and works should travel side by side, step answering to step, like the legs of men walking. First faith, and then works; and then faith again, and then works again -- until they can scarcely distinguish which is the one and which is the other.

William Booth in The Founder's Messages to Soldiers, Christianity Today, October 5, 1992, p. 48.

Our scripture today said,”14 What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? 15 Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, 16 and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do?”

In other words, “faith without works is dead.”

The scripture continues:19 You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God.[f] Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror. 20 How foolish! Can’t you see that faith without good deeds is useless?”

We’ve gotta live this out people. We’ve gotta really walk the walk. Otherwise we’re just playing games at church. And there’s no point to that. We’ve gotta go through the process, of being a Christian, we’ve gotta walk through the steps and really do it.

Do you want to go to heaven when you die, or hell when you die? Jesus came to save us from our sins, and give us new life. We will all have to stand before God at the end of our lives and he will either judge us by the ten commandments, and we’ll be guilty and be sent to hell forever. Or we’ll be judged according to the perfection of Jesus Christ, who is our savior, and we’ll be sent to paradise forever. It’s true, it’s real. Make your choice. Where is your future going to be? Let me share you with how we can walk the walk in action, so we do live like Jesus, and evade the torments of hell.

The first step of faith is to know God. You can come to dinner church and hear about Jesus Christ over and over again. You hear it, you like it, you can tell there is power there, but you’re just observing it from the outside. We’re floating around the outside, saying yes God is real and I appreciate his ways.

But here’s where the change happens: Go from believing that God is real, to living with God inside you. You go from saying that God is there, to having God as your personal father.

Have you made a decision to receive Jesus Christ of Nazareth as your personal savior? It’s between you and Jesus. Nobody else. Embrace Jesus! How? Ask Jesus Christ of Nazareth to be your personal savior. Give your entire life to Jesus. Whisper in your heart, Jesus Christ I make you the Lord of my life. I give my life to you. You died for me personally on the cross. All my sins are nailed to the cross. You suffered and died for my lies, for my misery, for my emptiness. Jesus I am yours, and you are mine.

That’s the first step.

The 2nd step, is action. Joining a life group here at the citadel. Getting fed from the Bible each week. You learn to pray, to talk to God, to study the Bible, and to grow in holiness. We change. We see sins fall away. We develop relationships with other people here in the church. This is vital. This is huge, as far as action goes.

The third step is dive into discipleship groups. You go deeper with God. You begin to study theology, and spiritual disciplines. You begin to identify your spiritual gifts, and you begin to learn how to share Jesus with lost people out there. You learn to give and serve.

The fourth step, is serving brigade, you join teams, like the prayer team, like setup, like kitchen, evangelism, you practice your Christian faith by doing good works. You become a volunteer. You begin to use your gifts for God’s glory.

In a moment we’re going to give you an opportunity to respond to the message today, but first, we our scripture today concludes by sharing two examples of faith in action. It says:

“21 Don’t you remember that our ancestor Abraham was shown to be right with God by his actions when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see, his faith and his actions worked together. His actions made his faith complete. 23 And so it happened just as the Scriptures say: “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.”[g] He was even called the friend of God.[h] 24 So you see, we are shown to be right with God by what we do, not by faith alone.

25 Rahab the prostitute is another example. She was shown to be right with God by her actions when she hid those messengers and sent them safely away by a different road. 26 Just as the body is dead without breath,[i] so also faith is dead without good works.”

Faith is action my friends. God builds us through action, through us making decisions and then following through on them. Have you made a decision to grow in your faith? Now is the time to step out.

I’d like to invite Zach, Lexy, and Johnathon to go to your stations. You’ll notice that on our four pillars we have marked “Dinner Church, Small Groups, Discipleship, and Serving Brigade. These are steps 1 through 4. In a moment we’ll invite everyone to stand, and choose which step you are on.

If you’re at step 1, you come to dinner church regularly, great, then you’ll go and stand by the first pillar, and Johnathon will talk with you, and pray with you.

If you’re at step 2, you’re wanting to attend life groups, or you’ll already doing that, join Zach at the 2nd pillar, and he will share with you.

If you’re at step 3, discipleship and soldiering, or you want to move in that direction, join Lexy at the 3rd pillar.

And if you’re feeling God calling you to serve, to help, to put your gifts into practice, please join me at the 4th pillar. And we’ll talk and pray.

Everyone please stand, we’re gonna pray, and then please find the pillar that you’re at right now or you’d just like to learn more about.

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Lord Build Me in Obedience

"I've read that when Edward VI, the king of England in the 16th century, attended a worship service, he stood while the Word of God was read. He took notes during this time and later studied them with great care. Through the week he earnestly tried to apply them to his life. That's the kind of serious-minded response to truth the apostle James calls for in today's Scripture reading. A single revealed fact cherished in the heart and acted upon is more vital to our growth than a head filled with lofty ideas about God.

One step forward in obedience is worth years of study about it."

Chambers, Our Daily Bread, March 4, 1993.

22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.

Is it too much? Is it too hard? Sometimes when we read the Bible, we wonder, can it really be done? It seems like so much, it seems like such a high standard. I’ve wondered that at times.

But I’ll tell you this, it can be done, but it doesn’t happen all at once. It happens over years and years. So we have to be patient. But we also have to be dedicated to the process.

“One step forward in obedience is worth years of study about it.” It’s not enough to sit in church and learn about what the right things to do are.

We have to come the point where we say alright, how do I put this into practice? It’s time to fight those hard, hard battles with our faults and failings.

In verse 21 of our scripture today it says, “ 21 Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.”

Get rid of the filth in your life. Clear it out. That’s what James writes. Clear out the evil, and humbly accept the word planted in you. Many of you here have that word planted in your heart. God is at work. You’re feeling drawn to pray, to study the Bible, and to come to church. You’re feeling a discomfort in your heart with things in your life that are wrong. There is an upset in your heart, in your stomach, and you can feel it. That is called “conviction. “ Conviction is when God’s Holy Spirit which lives in our body, is telling us something we do is wrong.

We feel it when we smoke a cigarette, or we feel it when we swear, or when we lie to someone, when we tell someone we’re here, and we’re actually somewhere else. Or when our friend leaves the room, we steal something off their counter top. Or when we use a drug, or get drunk, or when we masturbate, or sleep around with people. We feel dirty. We feel the sin. And the Holy Spirit whispers to us: “Don’t do that. Put that away.”

We have free will, we have the choice to either stop, or continue. That is a sacred gift from God. But I challenge you today, don’t just listen in church, then go out during the week and do whatever you want.

Sincerely try to live it out. Sincerely try to live like Jesus each week.

In the book of James it says, “23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.”

So you’re starting your day, and you look in the mirror as you brush your teeth and get ready. And you tell yourself, “I’m a Christian, a follower of Jesus.” But then as you jump into your daily routine, you immediately forget that you’re a Christian.

You live selfishly. You lie. You steal. You gossip and slander people. You spread rumors. You yell at someone. You curse and yell at God.

You’ve forgotten who you are. You’re a Christian. How can we transfer this head knowledge, this Bible truth into our real everyday lives.

We can do that. By praying through the day, by whispering prayers in our minds during the day. We can do that by remembering the words of the Bible and storing them in our minds.

And pretty soon we will be swearing less, we will be less selfish and helping others more, we’ll be lying less, we’ll be gossiping less, and pretty soon those things will vanish entirely. But we have to remember who we are.

I am a Christian. Say it with me. I am a Christian.

So if we remember our face in the mirror, that I follow Jesus, then James says, “. 25 But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.”

If we diligently seek to follow God’s ways, his perfect law, then we will be blessed in all we do.

We see this truth, of not just hearing God’s word, but living it out in the middle paragraph, and then in the two paragraphs above and below it, we see a common theme connected to this:

Verses 26 and 27 say, “26 Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. 27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world”

And above in verse 19 it says, Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Sometimes it seems like some of us can be quick to speak and quick to get angry. That’s not what God commands of us. Be slow to speak. Be a listener. Be careful what you say.

The tongue, our words, can be so incredibly destructive. They can also be such a great blessing. Reign in your tongue. If your someone who gossips and spreads rumors, pray to God, and ask Him to help you stop. It can feel “fun” to talk gossip, and to swear, and cuss, but it’s so destructive, and it leads to pain and misery. So don’t do it. Shut that off. And ask God for help to do that.

Now this can be challenging. And as we begin to try to practice our faith, we’ll come upon setbacks. I remember being a new Christian, and thinking wow I’m a mess, I’m not doing this right. I was smoking, I was swearing, I was living in lust and watching movies and videos I shouldn’t have been watching. But here’s the thing guys. Don’t beat yourself up.

I’ll say that again, don’t beat yourself up.

God is patient with you. But don’t play games with God either. God does not play games with us. He loves us, but he knows how we truly are. So do your best to ask God for forgiveness after you sin, and declare before God, your desire to change, your repentance, of turning in a new direction.

There will be setbacks. But keep fighting, keep praying, and you’ll see month by month, and year by year, God slowly changing you.

It’s not over when we sin. Because the word says, “If we confess our sin, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” -I John 1:9.

God is our daddy, so run to Him when you make a mistake, and ask for His help and His forgiveness.

Let’s finish by looking briefly at the last verse, 27 which says, “27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”

So here James is giving us an example of how to live out what we believe. Serve others before we serve ourselves. Go visit the elderly in their homes, or in nursing homes, visit widows, go into the jail and share the gospel with prisoners, go and share God’s love with children at orphanages. Bring some bread and food to your neighbor, or go spend time with a friend in the hospital. Get out of yourself, and all that selfishness, and help somebody else. That is the hardest thing. We’re all so incredibly selfish sometimes, myself included, wow, so self-centered, everything about me and what I want, but instead God calls us to think of others and their needs and their souls.

So that’s our word for today, and its best summed up in this phrase “22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.”

Do what it says guys, that’s my battle too. It’s all our battles. Don’t just hear it, do what it says. And I find great joy from God in that. 

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