Monday, November 20, 2017

Pastor's Ponderings, November 20, 2017

Do Unto Others As You Would Have Them Do Unto You

A heart-breaking article in the May 31, 2016 issue of the New York Times by Rick Gladstone was entitled “Modern Slavery Estimated to Trap 45 Million People Worldwide.” The article reported that modern slavery has been defined as, “human trafficking, forced labor, bondage from indebtedness, forced or servile marriage or commercial sexual exploitation.”  The article goes on to indicate that a human rights group reported this figure “…was 28 percent more than its last estimate two years ago.”

Are we so concerned about our paycheck, our families, our personal sadness and pain that we forget about those victims and their victimizers?  As we vigorously shop for Christmas bargains, do we think about those who are forced into labor and suffer under the indebtedness bondage? Are we concerned about the migrant worker who is sexually abused or the 32-year-old woman working four jobs who died in her car from gas fumes? Do we care about the waiters and waitresses who rely on our tips and then tip them minimally or not at all because they forgot to refresh our water glass or brightly smile at our incessant demands?

The Bible says that the way we treat people we may consider “less than us” is actually how we are treating Jesus.  Treat the needy kindly and you are treating Jesus kindly, treat the needy badly and we are treating Jesus badly and God will reward you accordingly (Matthew 25:31-33, 41-46).  Let us think of Jesus whenever we deal with our brothers, sisters, and all of the strangers in the world. Let us do unto others as we would have them do unto us (Luke 6:31).

Matthew 25:31-33, 41-46
New International Version (NIV)
31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne.
32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.
33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.
42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink,
43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

Luke 6:31
New International Version (NIV)
31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Pastor's Ponderings, November 13, 2017

Trust God And Be Free From Your Lion’s Den

The classic story of the prophet Daniel in the lion’s den is a powerful depiction describing how trusting God will result in victory in your life.  Daniel’s enemies had tricked King Darius into signing an edict condemning anyone who prayed to any other god than Darius (Daniel 6:6, 7). However, Daniel totally trusted God, prayed anyway, and enjoyed a peaceful night in the lion’s den. It ended up with his enemies and their families being destroyed (Daniel 6:23, 24).

God wants us to know that we should simply be calm and He will fight our battles (Exodus 14:14).  He will make those enemies that have plotted against you become your footstool (Psalm 110:1).  In spite of scary news of various diseases on the rise, health disparities increasing, wage stagnation, depression, and fear abounding, God still declares that He will set us high above all nations of the earth (Deuteronomy 26:19).  He said that He would even prepare a meal for us while our enemies are watching (Psalm 23:5).

Daniel never lost his trust in God.  This week, let us remember that in spite of craziness, fear, uncertainty and anxiety surrounding us, it does not matter.  We have the privilege of trusting the true and living God who always causes us to have the ultimate victory.  Let us trust God as He leads us victorious out of our lion’s den.

Daniel 6:6, 7
New International Version (NIV)
6 So these administrators and satraps went as a group to the king and said: “May King Darius live forever!
7 The royal administrators, prefects, satraps, advisers and governors have all agreed that the king should issue an edict and enforce the decree that anyone who prays to any god or human being during the next thirty days, except to you, Your Majesty, shall be thrown into the lions’ den.

Daniel 6:23, 24
New International Version (NIV)
23 The king was overjoyed and gave orders to lift Daniel out of the den. And when Daniel was lifted from the den, no wound was found on him, because he had trusted in his God.
24 At the king’s command, the men who had falsely accused Daniel were brought in and thrown into the lions’ den, along with their wives and children. And before they reached the floor of the den, the lions overpowered them and crushed all their bones.

Exodus 14:14
New Living Translation (NLT)
14 The LORD himself will fight for you. Just stay calm."

Psalm 110:1
New International Version (NIV)
1 The Lord says to my lord: “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.

Deuteronomy 26:19
New International Version (NIV)
19 He has declared that he will set you in praise, fame and honor high above all the nations he has made and that you will be a people holy to the Lord your God, as he promised.

Psalm 23:5
New International Version (NIV)
5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Pastor's Ponderings, November 6, 2017

Don’t Look Back; Look Forward To Jesus

One of the sad stories of the bible was in Genesis where Lot’s wife was warned not to look back to the imminent destruction of Sodom. She ignored the warnings, looked back and was turned to salt (Genesis 19:15, 25, 26). What did she see?  What was she looking for in the past that was so more important than where she was going?  It may have been her friends, valuable possessions, or even memorable places.  However, what was in her past destroyed her future.

The Bible makes it clear that once you begin to work for God, looking back makes one ineligible for His kingdom (Luke 9:62). We should cease from defining our lives on what we did, but instead we should redefine our lives based on what we can do. We have to realize the futility of driving down the street only looking in the rearview mirror. The Apostle Paul testified that he forgot those things that were behind him and pressed to the mark of the high calling in Christ (Philippians 3:13-14). He encouraged us to therefore fix our eyes upon Jesus (Hebrews 12:2).

Today, our God has a great future where our destiny lies (1 Corinthians 2:9). That does not mean that we cannot learn from our past, but we must know that our greatest victory begins whenever we decide to finally throw off the confining hand of the past and embrace the wings of our future with Jesus.

Genesis 19:15, 25, 26
New International Version (NIV)
15 With the coming of dawn, the angels urged Lot, saying, “Hurry! Take your wife and your two daughters who are here, or you will be swept away when the city is punished.”
25 Thus he overthrew those cities and the entire plain, destroying all those living in the cities—and also the vegetation in the land.
26 But Lot’s wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.

Luke 9:62
Amplified Bible (AMP)
62 But Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back [to the things left behind] is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Philippians 3:13-14
New International Version (NIV)
13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,
14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Hebrews 12:2
New International Version (NIV)
2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

1 Corinthians 2:9
New International Version (NIV)
9 However, as it is written: “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived”—the things God has prepared for those who love him—

Monday, October 30, 2017

Pastor's Ponderings, October 30, 2017

What Do You Do When You’ve Done All That You Can?

Many of us have struggled against challenging odds in life and are just hanging on by a thread.  Although we have given our all and we have done all that we know how to do, but it seems that it is not enough. Donnie McClurkin penned a song called “Stand.”  Some of the lyrics ask, “Tell me what do you give when you've given your all and it seems like you can't make it through? Well, you just stand when there's nothing left to do. You just stand; watch the Lord see you through. Yes, after you've done all you can, you just stand.” 

The Bible shares some answers when all hope is lost.  After David’s camp had been raided, his soldier’s families and goods were taken, and his men were ready to mutiny, he encouraged himself in the Lord (1 Samuel 30:6).  Paul, when facing execution, was victorious when said that he had fought the good fight, he had finished his race, kept the faith and was looking forward to his crown (2 Timothy 4:7-8).  When Moses had led the children of Israel into the Wilderness and there was no water, they rebelled against him, but Moses called on God who answered right on time (Exodus 17:3, 4). As the children of Israel were trapped by the Red Sea with the Egyptian Army behind them, God told Moses to stand still and to see His salvation (Exodus 14:13).  Paul told the Corinthians that they should not let anything move them but just continue to work for God (1 Corinthians 15:58).

But, there are many challenges while waiting such as hopelessness, helplessness, fear, anxiety and worry. And what we should we do while we are waiting?  We must first and foremost turn to our only source, God, and keep our minds firmly, fixated, and focused on Him. God wants someone who has come to the end of themselves and is about to give up in despair to simply wait upon Him (Psalm 27:14).  Although it may not look like it, He knows what He is thinking about us and He will work things out in our favor (Jeremiah 29:11).  What do you do when you have done all you can?  Just stand and wait for our God.

1 Samuel 30:6
King James Version (KJV)
6 And David was greatly distressed; for the people spake of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and for his daughters: but David encouraged himself in the LORD his God.

2 Timothy 4:7-8
New International Version (NIV)
7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
8 Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.

Exodus 17:3-4
New International Version (NIV)
3 But the people were thirsty for water there, and they grumbled against Moses. They said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to make us and our children and livestock die of thirst?”
4 Then Moses cried out to the Lord, “What am I to do with these people? They are almost ready to stone me.”

Exodus 14:13
New International Version (NIV)
13 Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again.

1 Corinthians 15:58
New International Version (NIV)
58 Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

Psalm 27:14
New International Version (NIV)
14 Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.

Jeremiah 29:11
New International Version (NIV)
11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Pastor's Ponderings, October 23, 2017

Desperate For God

An article in the Huffington post, October 22, 2017, by Dominique Mosbergen, was entitled, “74-Year-Old Man Walks The Streets With A Desperate Plea: ‘Need Kidney 4 Wife’. This loving husband was walking miles in a last ditch attempt to save his wife.  He displayed complete humility and seemed willing to do almost anything to save her. Are you that desperate for any of your relationships? If there is any relationship that we should display this level of dedication towards is our relationship with God.  Is He your last hope or are you considering other possible options? Are you willing to put aside your comfort, your playthings, or your entertainment in a do-or-die attempt to seek the face of God and His will for your life?  You have tried the rest; perhaps now you should try the best.

In the Bible, David understood this plea when he was in the desert (Psalm 63:1). You can see the longing and need that David felt when he wrote that he would be satisfied just to be a doorkeeper in God’s house so that he could be in the presence of the Lord (Psalm 84:10).  David did not stop there. His whole being, spirit, soul, and body yearned to be with God (Psalm 84:2). 

God is not looking for casual relationships with us. In another passage of scripture, Jesus says that the greatest commandment is to love the Lord with all of your heart soul and mind and to love your neighbors as yourself (Mark 12:30-31).  This is so appropriate since He loves us so much that He gave His Son to die for our sins (John 3:16).

Let us remember that whatever we need, we can get from God.  He is our source.  God wants us to seek Him with our whole heart and not be distracted by other false sources that will promise us the world, but deliver lies and disappointments.  He wants us to strive toward Him and to press toward the mark of the high calling in Christ (Philippians 3:14).  Let us strive desperately toward a close relationship with Him because He desires that relationship with us.

Psalm 63:1
New International Version (NIV)
1 You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water.

Psalm 84:10
New International Version (NIV)
10 Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere;
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked.

Psalm 84:2
New International Version (NIV)
2 My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.

Mark 12:30-31
New International Version (NIV)
30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’
31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

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

Philippians 3:14
New International Version (NIV)
14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.