Monday, October 26, 2015

Pastor's Ponderings, October 26, 2015

Yes, I Will Keep My Hope Up!

We have all heard the discouraging warning, “Don't put your hopes up too high. Don't expect too much, because the higher you are, the deeper you might fall."  The reasoning behind this disheartening saying is that we should not expect much in our future because there is a good chance that it will not work out very good and it also may be very bad.

It is sad that people will hear that disheartening saying and reduce their expectations that great things can occur in their lives.  While many are not surprised that others can run successful businesses, complete multiple degrees, have good marriages, or write great books, it is not their lot in life.  They are doomed to meander about drifting hither and yon but never living life to the fullest.

The Bible says that God created the universe by faith (Hebrews 11:3). That faith is the material of things that are “hoped for” and it is the sign of things that we cannot see (Hebrews 11:1).  We cannot please God unless we have faith (Hebrews 11:6) and we cannot have the faith unless we can base it on hope, which is the expectation that good is about to happen.  David said it best when he said that he knew that God is for him (Psalm 56:9)!  If God is for us, He is more than the whole world against us (Romans 8:31).  Therefore I can hope that good things are going to happen to me sooner or later, but they will happen.

This week, let us remember what Reverend Jesse Jackson from Operation Push says, “Keep hope alive!”  Never expect the worst, always expect that all things are working together for your good.  Let us go forth hopefully in Christ!

Hebrews 11:3
New International Version (NIV)
By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.

Hebrews 11:1
King James Version (KJV)
11 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

Hebrews 11:6
New International Version (NIV)
And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

Psalm 56:9
New International Version (NIV)
Then my enemies will turn back when I call for help. By this I will know that God is for me.

Romans 8:31
New International Version (NIV)
31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

Monday, October 19, 2015

Pastor's Ponderings, October 19, 2015

God Is Looking For Prodigals

In the Bible, the parable of the prodigal or wasteful son is about a young man who demands his inheritance and then promptly squanders it in a foreign land.  Falling on hard times, he has a change of mind, and decides to return home.  He had recognized the error of his ways and simply sought to be a servant in his father’s home.  But when he returned home, repenting of his misdeeds, his father chose to restore him to his place and to celebrate his return (Luke 15:20-23).

Like that young man, many of us think that we are beyond redemption.  We conclude that we have made too many mistakes, destroyed too many relationships, and God has given up on us.  We can see no way to have a relationship with God because we feel we are unworthy of His love. As a result, many come to the sad conclusion like the character, Nick Romano, from the 1947 book “Knock On Any Door” by the African-American novelist Willard Motley who said, “Live fast, die young and have a good-looking corpse!”

However, like the father in the parable, God does not want any of us to be destroyed (2 Peter 3:9).  He wants us all to return to our place in Him. He has many rooms in heaven and wants us to be with Him eternally (John 14:2-3).  We must know that God is not in heaven trying to find ways to keep us out, but He joyfully wants us in heaven with Him (Luke 15:7). 

This week let us remember that God gave His Son, Jesus, because He loved the whole sinful world, not just the righteous folks, but especially that prodigal.  Therefore, let us receive His love, His forgiveness, and then love and obey Him fully.

Luke 15:20-23
20 So he got up and went to his father.
" But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.
21 "The son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.  I am no longer worthy to be called your son.'
22 "But the father said to his servants, 'Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.
23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let's have a feast and celebrate." 

2 Peter 3:9
New International Version (NIV)
9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

John 14:2-3
New International Version (NIV)
2 My Father's house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?
3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.

Luke 15:7
New International Version (NIV)
7 I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Pastor's Ponderings, October 12, 2015

Our Future In Christ Is Great!

What do you do when you have preached your last sermon, completed your last presentation, sung your last song, or written your last book?  The time for making the donuts has long past and it is time for settling the accounts and closing the books on life. 

These are the times of regret, recriminations, and some rejoicing.  The woulda, coulda, shouda moments crowd the present and make the past seem more relevant than the present.  What did it all mean?  High school graduation, college classes, first job, marriage, children, health challenges, and then contemplation of the end game, went by in a blur. 

The book of Ecclesiastes puts all of our busy activities into perspective (Ecclesiastes 3:1-3).  There is a specific time for all of the things in our lives. We spend our time on projects and tasks, goals and objectives, ends and means, but finally death comes to all even though we may be wise or foolish (Ecclesiastes 2:15-16).  This seems to be a rather pessimistic view of life, but this books ends upon a rather positive note.

Life can be summarized simply.  Our whole duty in life is to fear God and keep His commandments (Ecclesiastes 12:13).  Because we know what our charge in life is, we can accomplish this task joyfully.  We know that He has a great finale for those who love God in this life and we will have a triumphant entrance into eternal life to live with Jesus forever (John 14:3)  Although you may have a to-do list a mile long, remember that only what you do for Christ will count in the end.  Let's rejoice in knowing our purpose and promise!

Ecclesiastes 3:1-3
New International Version (NIV)
1 There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:
2 a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot,
3 a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build!

Ecclesiastes 2:15-16
New International Version (NIV)
15 Then I said to myself, "The fate of the fool will overtake me also.  What then do I gain by being wise?"  I said to myself, "This too is meaningless,"
16 For the wise, like the fool, will not be long remembered; the days have already come when both have been forgotten.  Like the fool, the wise too must die!

Ecclesiastes 12:13
New International Version  (NIV)
13 Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter; Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind.

John 14:3
New Living Translation
13 When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Pastor's Ponderings, October 5, 2015

Rafiki: The question is, who... are you?

Rafiki was a mandrill in Disney's 1994 animated feature film, “The Lion King.”  He asked the main character, “Who are you?”  This is the question that we have to ask ourselves when the world attempts to define who we are.  We have to agree with what God says and not what the world says. We must say, “I am what God says I am.  I am made in His image. I am strengthened with Him and not limited by my resources, other people, my past, my thoughts, my failures, or my successes.  I am designed for greatness and excellence.  I am not a prisoner or a servant, but an heir and friend of the King. I am chosen and not rejected. I am blessed not cursed. I am rich and prosperous, not poor and failing.  I am healthy, not sickly.”

I recently officiated the wedding celebration of my middle daughter. In attendance were several stellar high achieving professionals. While speaking with many of them, I noticed that they were able to confidently articulate their goals, not boasting, but they were clear eyed and focused.  They had not allowed their past successes to limit their future possibilities, nor their past mistakes to defeat their future goals.

I gleaned some important truths from this group. God wants the entire body of Christ to know who they are. We must have a sense of purpose forgetting those things that are behind us and pressing onward to fulfill our purpose in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:13, 14).

We limit ourselves when we say, “I can't.”  When we decide that we are destined to fail, we are not recognizing that we are tapped into God’s Almighty power (Philippians 4:13).  He has unlimited wisdom and unmatched resources. We have been sold a bill of goods and accepted the believable lie to limit ourselves, our potential, and the Almighty God.

The Bible warns us not to base our decisions upon our own understanding of the facts (Proverbs 3:5-6).  We ought to be seeing the invisible, doing the impossible and infinitely expanding our territory with the power and direction of an infinite God.  But how?  Don’t let your own understanding guide you.  Ask God for His wisdom and He will show you His path of success (James 1:5).

This week, let us praise and thank God for who He is, what He is doing and how He sees us.  Let us continue to study and obey His word so we can truly know who we are in Christ.

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.

Philippians 4:13
New International Version (NIV)
13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

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.

New International Version (NIV)
5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.