Monday, September 18, 2017

Pastor's Ponderings, September 18, 2017

Let Us Live and Not Die

Chester Charles Bennington was a forty one year old American singer and songwriter who sung for various rock bands, but hung himself on July 20, 2017.  It is a true statement that money will not buy happiness when the “.HEAVY” website notes that he was worth $25 million when he died.  We have a suicide crises in our country that is confirmed by the New York Times article, April 22, 2016, headlined, “U.S. Suicide Rate Surges To A 30 Year High.”  The article went on to say that there were, “increases in every age group except older adults.”  This is agonizing for this blog’s author, but it brings to light the quote by Henry David Thoreau, “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.”

We cannot know the depression, desperation, disappointment or despair that leads one to this final act, but the Bible says, in spite of the world’s challenges, we should trust in the Lord with all of our hearts and not rely on our own understanding (Proverbs 3:5, 6).  Some may try to blame those who commit suicide, but many are simultaneously deflecting from their own suicidal ideations when times got black and there was no way out.  Thank God that Jesus gives us the way out of every trap in our lives because He is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6). 

While you may not know your neighbor’s sad thoughts, now is the time to let them know that God loves them, died for them, does not want them to die, but to live eternally with Him (John 3:16). He wants us to know that God wants us to live for His glory (Psalm 118:17).

This week, share a smile, give a hug, and impart an uplifting word to those around you.  It may be that God has led you to someone to help lift the depression, assuage some disappointment, or comfort some loss that can lead them to hold on until things get better.  Let us live and help someone else live to the glory of God.

Proverbs 3:5, 6
New International Version (NIV)
5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;
6 in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.

John 14:6
New International Version (NIV)
6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

John 3:16
New International Version (NIV)
16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Psalm 118:17
New International Version (NIV)
17 I will not die but live, and will proclaim what the Lord has done.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Pastor's Ponderings, September 11, 2017

Abiding In God’s Protection

The September 10th, 2017 article in the New York Times entitled “Hurricane Irma: ‘A Low Howl,’ ‘Tearing Through the Trees,’ ‘Like Waiting for a Monster” had excerpts from correspondents writing of “Powerful tree-bending winds tearing through South Miami”, and “streets are flooding and quickly becoming impassable.”  Since the ending of August 2017, North America has been hit with hurricanes, wildfires, earthquakes and tornadoes.  There have been many huge fires ripping through our forests.  Lives have been lost due to these terrifying events.

The Bible gives us comfort during these disturbing times.  God says that although trouble comes, we are responsible to not let our hearts be troubled.  Those who love and believe the Lord can trust confidently in His divine protection (John 14:1).  The phrase “fear not” appears over eighty times in the scripture.  The Bible says that God will keep you in perfect peace when you trust Him (Isaiah 26:3).  Many are running to shelters as they should, but God wants us to know that we should dwell in His secret place in Him (Psalm 91:1, 2). 

Although, this is a challenging time, those who love the Lord can share the Good News that God is in charge.  This is not to say those who love the Lord will escape all of the destruction, but God said that He would go through it with us (Psalm 23:4).  During this and future challenging moments, let us abide in Him by faith knowing that He will keep, comfort, and cover us.

John 14:1
Amplified Bible (AMP)
14 “Do not let your heart be troubled (afraid, cowardly). Believe [confidently] in God and trust in Him, [have faith, hold on to it, rely on it, keep going and] believe also in Me.

Isaiah 26:3
New International Version (NIV)
3 You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.

Psalm 91:1, 2
New International Version (NIV)
1 Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
2 I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”

Psalm 23:4
New International Version (NIV)
4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Pastor's Ponderings, September 5, 2017

Living Life Without Bitterness

On October 24, 1974, a man sexually assaulted and robbed a student at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan. The victim identified 19-year-old Edward George Carter. His trial, lasting one day, was replete problems such as serology tests exonerating him, the defendant already in custody when the attack occurred, and a woefully inadequate legal defense.  He served 35 years of a life sentence before the charges were finally dismissed.  On August 16, 2017, he received $1.7 million under a new Michigan law compensating him for his years in prison.

In his shoes, many would be bitter that most of their productive years were stolen from them.  But the Bible says that we must forgive those that sin against us because if we do not, the Father will not forgive our sins (Matthew 6:14-15).  The Bible says we are to bear with each other and forgive each other for their grievances (Colossians 3:13).  Going beyond forgiveness, Jesus,  who never did any sin, asked for forgiveness for those who tormented, mocked, and beat him (Luke 23:34).

Mr. Carter was freed in 2010 and seven years later finally received some compensation for opportunities missed, relationships destroyed, and dreams dashed. We do not know about His relationship to Christ, but his lawyer testified that he chose to live his life without bitterness.  In spite of the hurtful words, evil deeds, and disappointing circumstances that we may find ourselves in today, let us also turn away from bitterness or resentment and turn our hearts to Jesus who will keep us in His perfect peace (Isaiah 26:3).  

Matthew 6:14-15
New International Version (NIV)
14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.
15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

Colossians 3:13
New International Version (NIV)
13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you

Luke 23:34
New International Version (NIV)
34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.

Isaiah 26:3
New Living Translation (NLT)
3 You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!

Monday, August 28, 2017

Pastor's Ponderings, August 28, 2017

God Pardons All of Our Sins

On August 27, 2017, Kevin Liptak, Daniella Diaz and Sophie Tatum from CNN wrote that the U.S. President pardoned Sheriff Joe Arpaio who had recently been convicted of criminal contempt of court. This presidential decision has stirred a great deal of controversy.  No matter which side of the argument one may support, no one questions presidential authority to pardon anyone.  That decree demonstrates some of the awesome power and authority of an American president.

While this act was noteworthy, the Bible indicates that God has already done something infinitely greater. Because of His love, He pardoned the whole world from the penalty of sin (Romans 5:8). All of us are guilty of disobedience against Him, but God loved us so much that He gave Jesus to die for our sin so that we all could be saved (Romans 3:23-24). When Jesus went to the cross, He paid the ultimate price for our sins and took them away (Colossians 2:14).  He pardoned us and we gained eternal life so we do not have to die and go to hell (John 5:24).  This does not mean that we don’t have to do anything.  We have to actually accept His pardon. We do that by asking for His forgiveness for our sins, repenting of our sins, and believing that God has raised Jesus from the dead (Romans 10:9, 10).

We thank God that He forgave us so that we do not have to suffer the penalty of sin.  As we obey Him and walk with Him, we learn to overcome the power of sin.  When we leave this earth and live with God eternally, we will no longer have to suffer the presence of sin.  Thank God for His divine pardon. Now we are free from slavery to sin and free to serve and obey Him.

Romans 5:8
New International Version (NIV)
8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us

Romans 3:23-24
New International Version (NIV)
23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

Colossians 2:14
New International Version (NIV)
14 having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross.

John 5:24
New International Version (NIV)
24 “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.

Romans 10:9-10
New International Version (NIV)
9 If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.