Monday, December 29, 2014

Pastor's Ponderings, December 29, 2014

Yes, We Will Keep Our New Year's Resolutions

This is the last Pastor’s Ponderings for 2014 and hopefully you are as eager as I am to begin 2015.    What are your plans for next year? While many are aiming to meet new milestones in life, some of us are just trying to stop doing the things that we know we shouldn't be doing. We will vow to stop our secret sins, bad habits, or continued indiscretions.

Unfortunately, by the time the next blog is released, many of us will have already broken our New Year’s resolutions. What can we do this year to make our plans stick? How can we learn to be more resolute in 2015 than we were in 2014?

The Bible shows us that we can change our lives for the better.  However, we cannot depend upon ourselves to live the life God wants for us. We must depend upon Jesus who loves us (John 8:38-39). Jesus promised to help us from stumbling and falling away from our commitments (Jude 1:24). Every time an opportunity to mess up presents itself, God promised that He would give us an open door to escape (1 Corinthians 10:13).   

Your challenge could be over eating, substance abuse, procrastination, or even complaining. But whatever you are struggling with - you are not alone! God is with you and if you depend on him, He can keep you from falling back into those habits.

This year end when we are planning our New Year’s resolutions, let us turn to God who, because He loves us, can keep us from stumbling once again and can deliver us from any temptation.

Happy New Year In Christ!

Romans 8:38-39
New International Version (NIV)
38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,
39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Jude 1:24
New International Version (NIV)
24 To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy—

1 Corinthians 10:13
New International Version (NIV)
13 No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Pastor's Ponderings, December 22, 2014

The movie, “Ghostbusters” just celebrated its 30th anniversary. One of the hilarious lyrics from the title song was, “we ain’t afraid of no ghosts.”  Although that sentiment is amusing, many of us are afraid of a variety of things or people.  Recently a movie studio cancelled the premier of a multi-million dollar movie because of threats from an Internet hacker.  My quick perusal of the Internet produced almost two hundred fears from Ablutophobia – fear of bathing, washing, or cleaning to Zoophobia – fear of animals.  We live in a world of fear.

We hear of killings, torturing, kidnappings, theft and a litany of man’s inhumanity to man.  It is not uncommon to fear for the safety of your children or loved ones. Often we are afraid that we cannot trust anyone or anything for fear they may harm us.

But the Bible clearly tells us not to fear because our God is greater than anything that we could fear (1 John 4:4).  If He is for us, He is more than the whole world against us (Romans 8:31).  He tells that although we may go through a place of challenges, He is with us and He will never leave us Psalm 23:4).

As we go through the holiday season, we must remember that we do not get fear from God but love and a disciplined mind; we need only fear or respect Him (2 Timothy 1:7, Psalm 103:17).  Therefore, let us fearlessly go about our daily tasks because He is with us. We can boldly state, “we ain’t afraid of no ghosts” or anything else because we are God’s children and He will always protect us (Psalm 118:6).

1 John 4:4
New International Version (NIV)
You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.

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?

Psalm 23:4
New International Version (NIV)
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.

2 Timothy 1:7
English Standard Version (ESV)
for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

Psalm 103:17
New International Version (NIV)
17 But from everlasting to everlasting the LORD's love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children's children—

Psalm 118:6
New International Version (NIV)
The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?

Monday, December 15, 2014

Pastor's Ponderings, December 15, 2014

Thank God for Sweet Sleep

When we cannot sleep, it can really hurt our lives. A recent article in The Independent paper reported that Sleep 'cleans' the brain by flushing out toxins.  It went on to indicate that our brain…uses the time we spend asleep to remove all the waste that builds up when we are awake, much like a "garbage removal system", the US based scientists found.  But sadly, a recent article in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine said approximately 30% of a variety of adult samples drawn from different countries report one or more of the symptoms of insomnia or disturbed sleep.

Unfortunately, many of us do suffer from insomnia or disturbed sleep. When we lie down to sleep, our mind is often concerned about the problems we are facing right now and our worries about the future. Sometimes we can't even go to sleep at a decent hour because we are constantly checking our various social media sites to see how many 'likes' we've received on our latest profile picture. Some of us eat so late at night that we are too full and too hyper to even close our eyes for a little while. 

Sleep disturbances are not a new thing and were even mentioned in Biblical days. When Job tried to sleep, all he could do was toss and turn the entire night (Job 7:4).  David also knew about suffering when he should have been sleeping (Psalm 6:6).  Even if you can afford to purchase a comfortable mattress, Solomon wrote a good night’s rest is not something that even the rich are guaranteed (Ecclesiastes 5:12).

At some point in our lives we all may have difficulty sleeping for a variety of reasons. It is important, however, to know that God desires us to have "sweet sleep" (Proverbs 3:24) and to sleep peacefully (Psalm 4:8). Perhaps scientists are just now figuring out the majesty of His creation around the biology of sleep.

You may take a good nights sleep for granted or have been pleading for healing in that area. Just remember that God desires that we are in good health and sleep is a necessary part of being healthy.  Let's ask God to receive the sleep that is from Him.

Job 7:4
New International Version (NIV)
When I lie down I think, ‘How long before I get up?’ The night drags on, and I toss and turn until dawn.

Psalm 6:6
New International Version (NIV)
6 1 am worn out from my groaning. All night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears.

Ecclesiastes 5:12
New International Version (NIV)
12 The sleep of a laborer is sweet, whether they eat little or much, but as for the rich, their abundance permits them no sleep,

Proverbs 3:24
New International Version (NIV)
24 When you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.

Psalm 4:8
New International Version (NIV)
8 In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, LORD, make me dwell in safety.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Pastor's Ponderings, December 8, 2014

Let Us Treasure Our Elders

The Mitchell-Brown Family was blessed to celebrate our 64th Annual Family Reunion in Atlanta this year over the Thanksgiving holiday.  We had a wonderful time enjoying the beautiful hotel, eating, laughing, visiting the local sites and recalling precious tidbits of information about our forebears. Sadly, for the first time, not one of the three surviving original planners was able to attend.

As I sat there, I could not help but think about the fantastic things our elders had accomplished. In spite of the lack of some opportunities and many challenges of the era, they prospered, lived complete lives, traveled internationally, received education and educated their children and prepaid the way for generations to follow their example. Their children have followed their example and have done similar things. I believe our family has been blessed because these elders and many of their parents and grandparents truly loved the Lord (Psalm 112:2). 

What was so wonderful about this reunion was the awesome trove of history that they had and which our remaining elders still keep.  We shared part of that history in our small group conversations and in our combined family meeting. Those who have passed on have taken that valuable history and wisdom with them that we can never capture again until we see them in heaven.

However, we live in a culture that does not treasure our elders.  We
tend to only visit on special occasions, or when we need them.  They may need to live in nursing homes or similar facilities and we forget to visit them or ignore them in their own homes. We may not live nearby, but we sometimes forget to make a quick call or send a card to remind them we love them.

In the Bible, God commands us to honor our parents (Deuteronomy 5:16). Recorded in the Ten Commandments, He demonstrates its importance by putting that commandment between honoring His day and the commandment not to murder.

This year, let us make certain that we do not let these golden moments with our elders slip away.  Let us glean their wisdom, value their contributions, and show them the respect, love and honour that they deserve (Proverbs 16:31). 

Psalm 112:2
New International Version (NIV)
Their children will be mighty in the land; the generation of the upright will be blessed.

Deuteronomy 5:16
New International Version (NIV)
16 “Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live long and that it may go well with you in the land the Lord your God is giving you.

Proverbs 16:31
New International Version (NIV)
31 Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained in the way of righteousness.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Pastor's Ponderings, December 1, 2014

Where Will You Be Spiritually in Five Years?

You may have heard a frequently quoted scripture, “Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it” (Habakkuk 2:2). New Year’s resolutions are around the corner and many of us will set goals for starting a business, remodeling a home, completing a physical training program, pursuing educational improvement, or other personal self-improvement projects.  During the process of setting new physical, financial, and educational goals, have you ever asked yourself, “Where will I be spiritually in five years?”  

Each of us is made up of three parts; a spirit, soul and body. Genesis 2:7 states that Man was created as a "living soul." The soul is the mind, emotions, and will.  While the natural body will cease at death, your spirit and soul will live on. In a world that focuses on material gains, consumer affluence, and ‘keeping up with the Joneses’, we must also think about our spiritual development over time.   

In the Bible, Paul criticizes his audience for remaining infants and not maturing enough to understand the difference between right and wrong (Hebrews 5:12-14). Paul went further and said he wanted believers to …progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him,  (Philippians 3:10).

Do you have a desire to increase your knowledge of who God is? Consider memorizing and meditating on scriptures related to the identity and character of God. Do you have a goal of fellowshipping with more believers? Consider joining a church that allows relationship building and serving in ministry. Do you desire to improve your prayer life? Consider starting a prayer plan and getting up earlier each day to complete it (Ephesians 6:18).

In order to fully reach our spiritual goals and objectives, we must also remove obstacles that will hamper our spiritual growth.  Paul suggests we get rid of all sin and weight that will slow us down and prevent us from reaching our goals (Hebrews 12:1). For some of us this might require us to reevaluate the people we associate with, the music we listen to, the words we speak, the business of our schedules, and the habits we ignore.  

As we approach the celebration of the birth of our Lord and Savior and the start of a New Year let us set a few spiritual goals and objectives, write it down, make a plan, remove obstacles and get a friend or family member to help keep you accountable. We all need to increase in our knowledge of God, strengthen our relationship with Him and grow into being just like Him (Ephesians 4:15).

Habakkuk 2:1-2
English Standard Version (ESV)
I will take my stand at my watchpost and station myself on the tower, and look out to see what he will say to me, and what I will answer concerning my complaint.
And the Lord answered me: “Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it.

Hebrews 5:12-14
New International Version (NIV)
12 In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food!
13 Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness.
14 But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.

Philippians 3:10
Amplified Bible (AMP)
10 [For my determined purpose is] that I may know Him [that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding the wonders of His Person more strongly and more clearly], and that I may in that same way come to know the power outflowing from His resurrection [which it exerts over believers], and that I may so share His sufferings as to be continually transformed [in spirit into His likeness even] to His death, [in the hope]

Hebrews 12:1
New International Version (NIV)
12 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,

Psalm 119:148
New International Version (NIV)
148 My eyes stay open through the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promises.

Ephesians 4:15
New International Version (NIV)
15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.