Monday, November 24, 2014

Pastor's Ponderings, November 24, 2014

An Ungrateful Generation

In 1977, Robert Ringer authored a book called, “Looking Out For Number One.”  He quotes, “… I am referring to the conscious effort to make rational decisions that lead to the greatest amount of happiness over the long term…” Much earlier in the 16th century there was a proverb that stated “Every man for himself and the Devil take the hindmost" which meant that those who lag behind would receive no help. In our generation, this philosophy has spawned countless books, videos and programs to help us focus our attention and energy on bringing benefits solely to ourselves.  Sadly, this “get ahead by any means necessary” mantra has permeated our society and has caused us to deemphasize our connection with God and each other.

The Bible describes this phenomenon in our society as a people who love themselves, pleasure, and money.  Our love is lacking with each other and God. We are proud and boastful and tear others down.  We cannot be trusted with others concerns and choose not to control ourselves (2 Timothy 3:1-4).  

Despite all of the blessings that God has given to us (Matthew 5:45), many of us are only concerned about our own happiness. We fail to be grateful to our Creator for giving us knowledge, fortuitous circumstances, a lawful society, resources, funding, and helpful sponsors. Instead, we often think it is all about what we have done and ourselves.

Thankfully, the Bible provides an alternative perspective. God wants us to love one another and be grateful for all that He has done for us (James 1:17).  He would much rather us love people (Romans 13:8) and use things rather than love things and use people.

In this Thanksgiving season, let us decide to be grateful for all that the Lord has given us and not think our blessings come from simply our own efforts. Let us be people who are not simply looking out for number one but are grateful for our blessings and our concerned about others because this pleases God (Hebrews 13:16).

In this Thanksgiving season, let’s remind ourselves to Look Out for The One, thank Him for all that He has given us, and thank God for the people in our lives that help us to reach our full potential.  During this season and beyond, let’s be a people who please God by being grateful for his blessings and show concern for others (Hebrews 13:16).

2 Timothy 3:1-4
New International Version (NIV)
But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good,
treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—.

Matthew 5:45
New International Version (NIV)
45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

James 1:17
New International Version (NIV)
17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

Romans 13:8
Amplified Bible (AMP)
Keep out of debt and owe no man anything, except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor [who practices loving others] has fulfilled the Law [relating to one’s fellowmen, meeting all its requirements].

Hebrews 13:16 
New International Version (NIV)
 And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Pastor's Ponderings, November 17, 2014

Up Jumped The Devil In The White Nightgown

Between 1940 and 1946, Louis Jordan performed an amusing song called, “Up Jumped the Devil” written by Johnny Lange.  One lyric says, “Up jumped the Devil in a white nightgown.” He said, ‘Son, why don’t you listen to me. Let me put you back up that apple tree. What you get your hands on belongs to you; whose going to miss an apple or two?’ ”  Here, the serpent in the Garden of Eden is seen as a rather mischievous fellow who simply doesn’t want to obey the rules.  God had told Adam that he could eat from any tree but one and that is the only tree that the serpent, knowing the consequences, tempted him to eat (Genesis 2:16-17).

Satan appears different ways in the Bible.  He pretends to be an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:4), a roaring lion (1 Peter 5:8), or the great dragon (Revelation 10:9).  But no matter how the devil shows himself, he has only one purpose and that is to destroy (John 10:10, 1 Peter 5:8).

Thankfully, God is infinitely more powerful than the devil or his followers. The devil may bring depression, worry, anxiety, doubt, unbelief or fear but our God is greater than anything that the devil has or seems to be (John 10:10). Therefore, we can rest assured knowing that the God that lives in us is greater than the devil who wants to destroy us (1 John 4:4).  

When we see the devil and his followers wreaking havoc throughout the world, let us remember that since God is on our side (Romans 8:31), we can defeat anything that the devil’s side has.  As believers, our first order of business must be to throw him out of our lives (Mark 16:17) no matter how many times he jumps up with or without a white nightgown.

Genesis 2:16-17
New International Version (NIV)
16 And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden;
17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”

2 Corinthians 11:14
New International Version (NIV)
14 And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.

1 Peter 5:8
New International Version (NIV)
8 Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

Revelation 12:9
New International Version (NIV)
The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.

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.

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?

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.

Mark 16:17
English Standard Version (ESV)
17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons;

Monday, November 10, 2014

Pastor's Ponderings, November 10, 2014

What’s On Your Bucket List?

A cancer patient, Brittany Maynard recently made headlines when she decided to end her life after completing the last item on her bucket list, which was to visit the Grand Canyon. The term “bucket list” was popularized by the movie Bucket List where two men who were terminally ill decided to complete a list of things that were important to them before they died.

Many of us have different things that we want to do from the mundane to the fanciful: finally cleaning out the garage, climbing Mount Everest, or even visiting the moon. I also think about the things that I want to make certain that I get done. I’d like to get another degree, run a two-hour half marathon, introduce Jesus to more people, and write a history of our family among other things. But what should really be on our list before we leave the earth?

In the book of Ecclesiastes, it says that our main duty is to keep God’s commandments (Ecclesiastes 12:13).  What are God’s commandments?  When Jesus was asked this question, He answered that we should live our lives loving the Lord God most of all and loving our neighbors just like we love ourselves (Matthew 22:37-39).  In another passage, the Bible goes on to say that we simply must be merciful and just with one and another and to humble ourselves or submit to God (Micah 6:8).

I know that many of us have our bucket list of things that we want to do before we pass into eternity, but I believe that it is most important that we know what God wants us to do.  Getting that next degree, writing that book, starting that business, getting married or having children are important things to do but pleasing God is most important.  In the end, when we have completed His list, He can say, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21).

Let us be certain that we complete His most important items on our bucket list.

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.

Matthew 22:37-39
New International Version (NIV)
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’
38 This is the first and greatest commandment.
39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’

Micah 6:8
New International Version (NIV)
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

Matthew 25:21
King James Version (KJV)
21 His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Pastor's Ponderings, November 3, 2014

News Got You Down?

Recently in The Federalist, Sean Davis wrote, “Inflation is real. Stagnant wages are real. And the result is a lower standard of living for tens of millions of working American families.” Moreover in the Detroit Free Press, the writer suggested that not even the middle class could afford vacations, new vehicles, paying off debt, emergency or retirement savings, medical care or dental work.  If we internalize the message in these articles we might as well give up! 

Despite all of the dire economic predictions, the Bible tells us that God always gives us the victory (2 Corinthians 2:14).  We really do not have to worry about what the marketplace is doing, what the unemployment rate is this month, or which businesses are about to fail or succeed. We have to know that our financial success, and success in every other area of our life, is based only on God. It is His word that determines the world’s ups and downs (Psalm 75:6, 7; Isaiah 55:10, 11) and we must trust that He is in control.

While it may seem scary, terrifying, and anxiety producing, we should continue to pray for our political leaders and employers, and for our financial plans. We can rest in and rely on a loving God who will take care of us through these trying times. Therefore, when our neighbors are worrying or focusing on the latest bad news, let us look to Jesus who began and who matures our belief in Him (Hebrews 12:2).

2 Corinthians 2:14
Amplified Bible (AMP)
14 But thanks be to God, Who in Christ always leads us in triumph [as trophies of Christ’s victory] and through us spreads and makes evident the fragrance of the knowledge of God everywhere,

Psalm 75:6, 7
New International Version (NIV)
6 No one from the east or the west or from the desert can exalt themselves.
It is God who judges: He brings one down, he exalts another

Isaiah 55:10, 11
New International Version (NIV)
10 As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

Hebrews 12:2
Amplified Bible (AMP)
2 Looking away [from all that will distract] to Jesus, Who is the Leader and the Source of our faith [giving the first incentive for our belief] and is also its Finisher [bringing it to maturity and perfection]…