Monday, January 28, 2019

Pastor's Pondering, January 28, 2019

Becoming A Force

In the Bible, the prophet Elijah spoke to the Ahab, the king of Israel and decreed that there would be a drought in the land (1 Kings 17:1).  This prophet dared to speak truth to the king that had been more evil than any of his predecessors (1 Kings 16:30).  When Ahab complained that the prophet had brought disaster by declaring a drought, Elijah concluded that it was the king’s fault due to his disobedience to God (1 Kings 18:16-18).

Today we are in crises.  There is climate change, increasing income inequality, bullying, savage gunplay, homelessness, illegal drug use and a host of other problems. We need those who love God to stand up, speak truth to power and say this is immoral or that is not right. We don’t need people making pronouncements who are primarily wedded to their political party, religious affiliation, or business organization.  We need more people who have a true relationship with God who are willing to say what God said. God said if His people would simply humble themselves, pray, and stop being evil, He would hear them, forgive them and heal the challenges that face the land (2 Chronicles 7:14). 

We don’t need leaders speaking the considered opinion of their board of directors. We do not need politicians who are attuned to the latest polls or talking heads mouthing the interests of their corporate bosses.  We need more people, like the prophet Elijah, who are hearing from the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords and who are willing to say things are wicked and that God is calling for people to return to Him, obey Him, and love Him.  

We need people who don’t necessarily have titles, but simply love God and are willing to challenge evil wherever they find it.  We can change the nation when we ask God what He wants rather than what some committee has decided.  We can change the world when we decide that we would rather obey God rather than man (Acts 5:29). People who love the Lord must become a force for Christ.  

1 Kings 17:1 
New International Version (NIV)
17 Now Elijah the Tishbite, from Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word.”

1 Kings 16:30
New International Version (NIV)
30 Ahab son of Omri did more evil in the eyes of the Lord than any of those before him

1 Kings 18:16-18
Amplified Bible (AMP)
16 So Obadiah went to meet Ahab and told him; and Ahab went to meet Elijah.
17 When Ahab saw Elijah, Ahab said to him, “Are you the one who is bringing disaster on Israel?”
18 Elijah said, “I have not brought disaster on Israel, but you and your father’s household have, by abandoning (rejecting) the commandments of the Lord and by following the Baals.

2 Chronicles 7:14
New International Version (NIV)
14 if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

Acts 5:29
New International Version (NIV)
29 Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than human beings!

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Pastor's Ponderings, January 22, 2019

Fulfilling The Vision For Your Life

On January 21, 2019, we celebrated Dr. Martin Luther King who received a vision for a life to come. In His Mountain Top Speech, he preached, “I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land.”

Dr. King could have lived a good life as a respected member of the clergy. He did not have to make waves; his inspirational sermons and brilliant homilies could have made him a leading member in the local society.  But he chose to fulfill the vision that God gave him and was assassinated for his beliefs. 

The Bible tells of another religious leader, Paul, who had a road to Damascus conversion.  He went from being a highly respected member of the religious community to being someone hated and marked for death.  At a trial for his life, Paul said he had decided to obey the vision from God (Acts 26:19).

In the book of Hebrews, many Christian patriots chose to disobey the Roman emperor, risk their lives, and live by their faith in Jesus because they saw their lives on a higher level. They had faith that God would fulfill His vision for them (Hebrews 11:13-17). God does not want us to live our lives in the mundane, mediocre, or middle of the road.  He wants us to live lives that reflect His greatness.  He came to earth so that we could have an abundant life (John 10:10b).

In life, perhaps one could have gotten by as a carpenter, but God wanted them to build skyscrapers. One could have been a rich pastor when God wanted their lives fulfilled as a missionary on a foreign field.  One may have done well as a well-known commercial artist when God wanted them to paint the next Mona Lisa. Should we continue getting by like we did in our previous years or should this year be life changing, powerful, and reflective of an extraordinary God?  

Just as Dr. King, Paul, and the Christian patriots saw that their lives could be extraordinary, we should go to God and ask Him what should we really be doing this year. Life does not have to be ordinary. Our lives can change ourselves and everything around us.  Let us fulfill God’s vision for our lives.

Acts 26:19
New International Version (NIV)
19“So then, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the vision from heaven.

Hebrews 11:13-17
New International Version (NIV)
13 All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. 
14 People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. 
15 If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. 
16 Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.

John 10:10b
Amplified Bible (AMP)
10… I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance [to the full, till it overflows].

Monday, January 14, 2019

Pastor's Ponderings, January 14, 2019

We Can Freely Receive God’s Benefits

Ms. Alia al-Hathloul wrote an opinion piece in the January 13, 2019, New York Times entitled, “My Sister Is in a Saudi Prison. Will Mike Pompeo Stay Silent?”  She wrote, “Loujain al-Hathloul, is my sister. She has worked relentlessly to earn Saudi women the right to drive.”   However, when her family saw her in captivity, “She said she had been held in solitary confinement, beaten, waterboarded, given electric shocks, sexually harassed and threatened with rape and murder. My parents then saw that her thighs were blackened by bruises.”  She was trying to gain the right to drive.  It is painful to know that some Saudi women are denied even that benefit. 

The Bible speaks of another being that wants to take away our rights and benefits. We are in a battle with evil (Ephesians 6:12). God has given us peace, joy, health, finances (2 Peter 1:3, 4), but the devil wants to take away every good thing that God has given us including our lives (John 10:10).  Every day, God loads us with things that help us such as wisdom and a sense of well-being (Psalm 68:19).  He wants us to prosper and be in good health (3 John 2). The devil attempts to stop us from reaching our potential (2 Timothy 2:25-26).  Just like Ms. al-Hathloul is fighting for her right to drive, we must fight as well and tell the Devil that God has given us all blessings and a place of acceptance with Him (Ephesians 1:3, 6). 

The Devil is fighting for our souls; he wants us to join him in hellish dimensions. Jesus came into the world to destroy the evil works of the devil (1 John 3:8).  Those who love God must fight against the devil by proclaiming the authority of Jesus Christ over every area of lives such as our offspring, our neighborhoods and even our world.  We do this by obeying and believing in Him.

Let us remember to pray for the many Loujain al-Hathlouls of the world who are suffering under uncaring governments. Let us also remember to pray for those who are outside of the plan of salvation who are unable to get the benefits of being a follower of Christ.  Let us be grateful for our freedom in Christ. We can receive His good relationships, goodwill, happiness, health, and prosperity that He has for us.  

Ephesians 6:12
New International Version (NIV)
12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

2 Peter 1:3, 4
New International Version (NIV)
His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 
Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

John 10:10
New International Version (NIV)
10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

Psalm 68:19
King James Version (KJV)
19 Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us with benefits, even the God of our salvation. Selah.

3 John 2
New International Version (NIV)
Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well.

2 Timothy 2:25-26
New International Version (NIV)
25 Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, 
26 and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.

Ephesians 1: 3, 6
King James Version (KJV)
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:
To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved

1 John 3:8
New International Version (NIV)
The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Pastor's Ponderings, January 7, 2019

Let Us Keep On Moving

"The secret to keeping moving is keeping moving" is a quote by Dick Van Dyke. I can still see him dancing about when I saw him on television. He recently appeared in the 2018 Mary Poppins movie remake and exhibited remarkable physical agility. Much of what he did would have been difficult for many who were less than half of his age. 

We must keep moving. The evil one does not want us moving towards any goal.  The Bible tells us to press towards Jesus (Philippians 3:13-14).  The evil one wants us to give up, throw in the towel, give the adversary the victory, turn tail and run.  No matter what God has assigned for us to do, the evil one uses discouragement, depression and anything else he can use to prevent us from reaching our goal.  

We are in a new year with a fresh renewal of our vision from God.  It has not been cancelled; we must still keep moving towards that vision.  We may be broke, sick, weary, and crawling over obstacles, but we have to keep moving. Victory is given to those who endure to the end (Matthew 24:13).  Those witnesses, who have gone before us, surround us and want us to succeed (Hebrews 12:1).

We have to know that we must not give the devil any advantages in our lives. We have to cede no territory to him or his plans. We must keep moving like David. When the giant Goliath challenged the shepherd boy David, he was not fearful like the rest of the Israelite Army, but ran to the battle (1 Samuel 17:43, 44, 48). 

Today, let us pick up our pace.  We will win if we do not give up. Let us keep moving, let us keep studying God’s word, let us keep praying, and let us keep on obeying God so that we can reach our destination.  God is waiting for us at our finish line.  He will never leave or abandon us (Deuteronomy 31:6).  He goes in front of us and behind us (Isaiah 52:12). Let us keep on moving toward Him.

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.

Matthew 24:13
New International Version (NIV)
13 but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.

Hebrews 12:1
New International Version (NIV)
12 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,

1 Samuel 17:43, 44, 48 
New International Version (NIV)
43 He said to David, “Am I a dog, that you come at me with sticks?” And the Philistine cursed David by his gods.          
44“Come here,” he said, “and I’ll give your flesh to the birds and the wild animals!”
48 As the Philistine moved closer to attack him, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet him.

Isaiah 52:12
New International Version (NIV)
12 But you will not leave in haste or go in flight; for the Lord will go before you, the God of Israel will be your rear guard.

Deuteronomy 31:6
New International Version (NIV)
Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Pastor's Ponderings, January 2, 2019

Complete Our Divine Assignment in 2019

Today is new day, a new month, and a fresh new year. Now is the time to write down our overall vision for what we want to accomplish in 2019.  First, the Bible tells us to write the vision and make it plain (Habakkuk 2:2-3).  We want to be able to see a clear path toward our finish line.   As we write our vision, we can pray for inspiration from God who guides us in His paths (Psalm 119:105). We have to establish our goals and objectives such as consistent prayer (1 Thessalonians 5:17), disciplined Bible study, or practicing loving others without expecting a reward.  David Ramsey suggests seven goal-setting categories that are spiritual, physical, intellectual, financial, social, family and career.

Next, we must count up the costs of reaching our goals (Luke 14:28).  We have to analyze the steps, the goals and objectives. What will it take to reach each task? We may not know what to do, but God declares we can get wisdom from Him (James 1:5).  We have to make an effort not to do something carelessly, inconsistently, or half-heartedly, but we have to research and study to work with divine excellence (2 Timothy 2:15).

Lastly, we must motivate ourselves to complete our tasks like David who encouraged himself after a tragedy (1 Samuel 30:6). We must look at our small beginnings as the start of a successful journey and know that God will light our path (Zechariah 4:10). As we go through this year we must keep our eyes on the prize (Philippians 3:13-14) and continually declare that we can do all things through the strength of God (Philippians 4:13).  We can declare continually that we will reach our goals since God will bring to maturity all of the vision that He has assigned us.  Let us fulfill God’s vision for our lives in 2019.

Habakkuk 2:2-3
New International Version (NIV)
Then the Lord replied: “Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it.
For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay.

1 Thessalonians 5:17
New International Version (NIV)
17 pray continually

Psalm 119:105
New International Version (NIV)
105 Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.

Luke 14:28
New International Version (NIV)
28 “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it?

James 1:5
New International Version (NIV)
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.

2 Timothy 2:15
New International Version (NIV)
15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.

1 Samuel 30:6
New International Version (NIV)
David was greatly distressed because the men were talking of stoning him; each one was bitter in spirit because of his sons and daughters. But David found strength in the Lord his God.

Zechariah 4:10
Amplified Bible (AMP)
10 Who [with reason] despises the day of small things (beginnings)?...

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.