Monday, July 29, 2019

Pastor's Ponderings, July 29, 2019

God Does Everything For His Purposes and Our Good

The author, Shannon L. Alder, wrote,  “There are no coincidences in life. What person that wandered in and out of your life was there for some purpose, even if they caused you harm. Sometimes, it doesn’t make sense the short periods of time we get with people, or the outcomes from their choices. However, if you turn it over to God he promises that you will see the big picture in the hereafter. Nothing is too small to be a mistake.”

When you think about all of the people that you have met, your interactions with them and how they may have helped or hurt you, it all may seem to be unconnected to each other.  However, the Bible says that God is in charge of everything in life, no matter how small or large (Isaiah 46:9-10).

There is something reassuring knowing that our universe is not a random jumbled up mixture of serendipitous events (Matthew 10:29, 30). We can be extremely happy and confident knowing that the God of the universes is still concerned about our feelings, our concerns, and our problems (Romans 8:28). We don’t need to be discouraged because we don’t know what is going on in our lives.

He wants us to fulfill His higher purposes for us and He will send people into our lives, send us to places, and allow things to challenge us so that we can do what He wants us to do (Psalm 139:16).  He has the master plan because He is the master planner.

Today, let us go about our daily tasks prayerfully and humbly, but confidently and happily before Him knowing that He has everything under His divine control. 

Isaiah 46:9-10
New International Version (NIV)
Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me.
10 I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say, ‘My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.

Matthew 10:29, 30
New International Version (NIV) 
29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.
30 And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.

Romans 8:28
New International Version (NIV)
28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

Psalm 139:16
New International Version (NIV)
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

Monday, July 22, 2019

Pastor's Ponderings, July 22, 2019

As Eternity Approaches, Let Us Rejoice

It’s Almost Midnight is a song sung by Bishop Richard White, which has some powerful lyrics. “It’s almost midnight; the cry is about to be made. Behold the bridegroom cometh, have you any oil, are you saved? It’s almost midnight; the master is on his way, He just might come tomorrow. He just might come today.”  This moving song points to the importance of preparing for Jesus Christ’s return to earth for those who love Him  

Many people are overly concerned about their self-esteem, prosperity, health, wealth, and their physical and mental well-being rather than where their soul will spend in eternity. In spite of our success or failure in life, we are given one time to die and after that there is the Judgment (Hebrews 9:27).  

However, God wants us to know that there is good news for us.  He advises us to seek Him and His kingdom first and everything that we need will be added to us (Matthew 6:33).  If we obey His word, He will bless us (Deuteronomy 28:1, 2).  If we delight ourselves in Him, He will give us our heart’s desires (Psalm 37:4).  

He further advises us to set our affection upon things in heaven rather than things on the earth which shall soon pass away (Colossians 3:1, 2). Finally, if we lose something earthly that we hold dear because of God, He will bless us a hundredfold in this life and give us eternal life after we leave this earth (Mark 10:29, 30).

God wants us to enjoy our life’s journey when we put our full faith, confidence, and trust in Him.  He will lead, guide, and protect us in this life and He will have His angels to keep us in all of our ways (Psalms 91:10, 11).  But most importantly, we must remember to keep our eyes on the heavenly prize in Christ Jesus so that we can rejoice before Him throughout eternity (Philippians 3:13b-14).

Hebrews 9:27
New International Version (NIV)
27 Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment,

Matthew 6:33
New International Version (NIV)
33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

Deuteronomy 28:1, 2
New International Version (NIV)
If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations on earth. 
All these blessings will come on you and accompany you if you obey the Lord your God:

Psalm 37:4
New International Version (NIV)
Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Colossians 3:1, 2
New International Version (NIV)
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.
Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.

Mark 10:29, 30
New International Version (NIV)
29“Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel
30 will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life.

Psalm 91:10, 11
New International Version (NIV)
10 no harm will overtake you, no disaster will come near your tent.
11 For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways;

Philippians 3:13b, 14
New International Version (NIV)
13 …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.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Pastor's Ponderings, July 15, 2019

All Groups Become One In Christ

In the 1961 musical West Side Story, one of the classic songs was, “The Jet Song.”  Some of the lyrics were, “When you’re a Jet, you’re a Jet all the way, from your first cigarette to your last dyin’ day.” Much of today’s sentiments around political group identity seem to be gleaned from these divisive lyrics. Factions have dug in, battle lines have hardened, and former friends cannot even communicate across the vast wastelands of lies, obfuscations, deceptions, and slanted arguments.

Where does this conflict come from?  The Bible says that the infighting does not come from our external circumstances, but they originate in our inner sinful desires (James 4:1, 2).  We must turn our focus to God and away from this world system, which promotes ungodly desires. 

We have to remember that we are not of this or that group.  We are a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17) and we must continue to put away bitterness, rage, anger, brawling, slander and malice (Ephesians 4:31). We are in Christ and because God has already forgiven us, we turn from our various group differences and treat each other with kindness, tenderheartedness and forgiveness (Ephesians 4:32). Today, we are no longer “Jets;” we are one in Christ.

James 4:1, 2
New International Version (NIV)
What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? 
You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God.

2 Corinthians 5:17
New International Version (NIV)
17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!

Ephesians 4:31, 32
New International Version (NIV)
31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 
32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Monday, July 8, 2019

Pastor's Ponderings, July 8, 2019

Joy In The Midst of Pain

The following paragraphs were the introduction to the July 17, 2017, Pastor’s Pondering commemorating the Homegoing of my awesome son-in-law. Our hearts broken, dreams shattered, and our plans in disarray, but we knew that through it all we had to trust in Jesus.

On Thursday, July 6, 2017, my dear son in law, Yantee Neufville, the husband of my daughter, Malika, transitioned into eternity.  He impacted his family, friends, colleagues and anyone he met because he met no strangers. His love, humor, intellect, deep rich laughter, compassion, and zeal were only a few of his marvelous characteristics and he changed lives for the better wherever he went.  He has a great legacy and is sorely missed.

As Yantee demonstrated through his short life of savoring every day and his ability to laugh through joy and pain, we should be encouraged to do the same. 

Douglas Miller wrote, “My Soul Has Been Anchored In the Lord.” Some of the lyrics are, “Though the storms keep on raging in my life and sometimes it's hard to tell the night from day. Still that hope that lies within is reassured, as I keep my eyes upon the distant shore. I know He'll lead me safely to that blessed place He has prepared. But if the storms don't cease and if the winds keep on blowing, my soul has been anchored in the Lord.”

Perhaps you are experiencing the pains of life. Sometimes it is hard to realize that God will carry you through even the most difficult situations. You may be at risk of losing your job, your children might not be speaking to you, you don’t know if you can save your marriage, or the doctors have given you a scary diagnosis. Even during these seemingly hopeless situations, God is with you.

Nevertheless, even these things are working together for our good (Romans 8:28).  God wants us to know that He will give us the hope and future that He planned in our life (Jeremiah 29:11).  Therefore, during times of pain, let us rejoice in the Lord and know that we can be glad in Him (Psalm 118:24).

Romans 8:28
New International Version (NIV)
28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

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.

Psalm 118:24
King James Version (KJV)
24 This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.

Monday, July 1, 2019

Pastor's Ponderings, July 1, 2019

God’s Way is Love and Compassion

In the 1961 musical, “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying,” there is a catchy song entitled, “Brotherhood of Man.”  Some of the lyrics are, “A Benevolent Brotherhood of Man, a noble tie that binds all human hearts and minds into one Brotherhood of Man. Your lifelong membership is free; keep a givin' each brother all you can. Oh aren't you proud to be in that fraternity, the great big Brotherhood of Man?”

Unfortunately in our 7.7 billion-member brotherhood, there seems to be little benevolence with many wanting to take all they can.  News of worldwide horrors is our standard fare. Man’s inhumanity to man seems to be the coin of the realm.  Loving each other seems to be old-fashioned and success at any cost seems to be most important. My old college roommate’s saying was, “Win if you can, lose if you must, but always cheat.” 

In spite of that dismal view, the Bible says that we are to build each other up rather than taking each other down.  We are to be beneficial and helpers to one and another (Ephesians 4:29).  We should not allow hatred to smolder against each other.  The Bible says we should just get rid of bitterness, rage, anger, and slander (Ephesians 4:31).  We must not hold onto unforgiveness because God has already forgiven us (Ephesians 4:32).

Rather than following the world’s rules, which lead to pain, it is best that we live according to God’s rules.  The Message version of the Bible clarifies how we should live.  “But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives...things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people (Galatians 5:22-23).

This week, let us focus on what God wants us to do rather than allowing the world to conform us to its standards (Romans 12:2).  God’s way leads to peace, joy, and love.  Like Paul and the apostles, when choosing between the world and God, they said they would rather obey God (Acts 5:29).  Let us choose God’s way of affection and consideration.

Ephesians 4:29, 31-32 
New International Version (NIV)
29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 
31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.
32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Galatians 5:22-23
The Message (MSG)
22-23 But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.

Romans 12:2
New International Version (NIV)
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

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