Monday, June 27, 2016

Pastor's Ponderings, June 27, 2016

Let’s Not Exit God’s Union

On Thursday, June 23, 2016, the United Kingdom citizens voted to leave the European Union in the EU referendum.  But hours after the vote, one of the most goggled questions was "What is the European Union?" Apparently many citizens voted to give up something that was begun in November 1, 1993 even though they did not realize what it was or how it benefitted them. They had the benefits of the union for much of their lives, yet they decided to reject it in favor of freedom from it.  Yet “freedom from” is different from “freedom to.”   One may ask what can they do and what are the benefits when they are totally free?

There is another union that many want to be free from and that is a relationship with Christ. Some people don't think they want God or need His rules, His commandments, His protection, or His love.  They want to be free from God, but then what? Is there some other god that will never leave you or abandon you?  Is there some other entity that promised to supply all of your needs?

The God of the Bible has made many promises if we will obey Him (Deuteronomy 28:1, 2).  He says He will be with us through the end of time (Matthew 28:20).   We are told that we can joyfully and freely serve Him, but He wants a close relationship with us.  The prodigal son in the Bible wanted to be free of his father, but learned the hard way that he had more freedom obeying his father than when he rebelled against him (Luke 15:17, 18). 

No one knows how Britain's leaving the European Union will work out.  However, those who love the Lord have made the decision that being willing and obedient to God will greatly benefit us (Isaiah 1:19). We have decided to make Jesus our Lord. We don't want to know a life separate from Him. We remember that life wasn't so good before Jesus was our Lord and we really don't want to find out what separation from God will bring.

Let us continue to think about all His benefits, remembering that He takes care of us, loves us, and keeps us from the evil one.  Let us continually vote to remain in a close relationship with the Almighty and not forget that His goodness, mercy, and benefits towards us will follow us all of our lives (Psalms 23:6, Psalm 103:2, 5). 

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.
2 All these blessings will come on you and accompany you if you obey the Lord your God:

Matthew 28:20
New International Version (NIV)
20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

Luke 15:17, 18
New International Version (NIV)
17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death!
18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.

Isaiah 1:19
New International Version (NIV)
19 If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the good things of the land;

Psalms 23:6
King James Version (KJV)
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

Psalm 103:2, 5
New International Version (NIV)
2 Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits—
who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Pastor's Ponderings, June 20, 2016

Let’s Seek God’s Kingdom

We are coming to a pivotal moment in the political history of America, the November 8, 2016 election.  Depending upon who shows up to vote, our country could go into starkly different directions.  We can pontificate, argue, worry, or fall into deep depression because of the ramifications of this important choice or we can choose to recognize that we are just pilgrims passing through and don’t have all of our skin in this game.

When Pilate asked Our Saviour, Jesus Christ, about His kingdom, Jesus replied that His kingdom was not of this world (John 18:33, 36).  God’s kingdom is not like worldly kingdoms, but is full of peace, joy, love, and a never-ending communion with God (Romans 14:17). Therefore, Jesus advises us to look for His kingdom because He wants to give us not only the keys to His kingdom, but the whole kingdom as well (Luke 12:31-32, Matthew 16:19).  

While the election, politics, and international governmental policy questions are interesting and can be absorbing, those who love the Lord have to remember that we are in this world, but not of this world (John 17:16).  In the meantime, we should pray for our leaders, be informed citizens, vote, and make our choices known.  But we can take comfort because we are looking forward to one day enjoying God’s kingdom where He reigns throughout eternity. 

John 18:33, 36
New International Version (NIV)
33 Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”
36 Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”

Romans 14:17
New International Version (NIV)
17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit

Luke 12:31-32
New International Version (NIV)
31 But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.
32 “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.

Matthew 16:19
New International Version (NIV)
19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

John 17:16
New International Version (NIV)
16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Pastor's Ponderings, June 13, 2016

What Is Life All About?

In the 1966 film, Alfie, Dionne Warwick sang the moving lyrics, “What's it all about Alfie? Is it just for the moment we live? …As sure as I believe there's a heaven above, Alfie, I know there's something much more, something even non-believers can believe in.”  On Friday, June 10, 2016, a young singer was killed for no apparent reason and on Sunday, June 12, 2016, forty-nine people were killed in one of the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.  They joined joined over 7000 murder victims in 2016. Why? What is it all about? 

We strategize, hope, dream and execute our plans, but in the midst of our work, life happens.  The book of Ecclesiastes tells of King Solomon who comments that apparently life has no meaning (Ecclesiastes 1:1-3). He seems to ask the question, why bother? But at the end of the book, he suggests that we should focus on, think about, and remember the One who created us while we are young (Ecclesiastes 12:1). 

God gives us our life’s purpose and makes sense of it all. It is sad to think about this young singer, the fifty people killed while having fun, and the murderers who wasted their potential. Why did this happen? But no matter what we have done in life, good or evil, we have to conclude that we must reverentially fear and be in awe of our Creator and keep His commandments (Ecclesiastes 12:13, 14).  We have the privilege of knowing that when we need to know something, we can ask Him and one day He will settle all of our questions (1 Corinthians 13:12).

When the unexplainable things happen, when plans go awry, when it just did not work out the way we planned, we can rest in Him.  We can know that all knowledge, wisdom, and understanding is in Him and He will share with us what we need to know.

Ecclesiastes 1:1-3
New International Version (NIV)
The words of the Teacher, son of David, king in Jerusalem:
“Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.”
What do people gain from all their labors at which they toil under the sun?

Ecclesiastes 12:1
New International Version (NIV)
12 Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, “I find no pleasure in them”—

Ecclesiastes 12:13, 14
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.
14 For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.

1 Corinthians 13:12
Amplified Bible (AMP)
12 For now [in this time of imperfection] we see in a mirror dimly [a blurred reflection, a riddle, an enigma], but then [when the time of perfection comes we will see reality] face to face. Now I know in part [just in fragments], but then I will know fully, just as I have been fully known [by God].

Monday, June 6, 2016

Pastor's Ponderings, June 6, 2016

Let Us Purposely Seek God’s Word

In the May 27, 2016 edition of USA Today, an article indicated fifteen children in southwest China, between ages 6 and 15, scale a cliff about 2,625 feet high multiple times a month between their home and a school in Atuler village taking an hour and a half in their commute. Api Jiti, the head of the children's farming community, told Beijing News that "seven or eight" people have died during the climb. It is amazing how they are so dedicated to getting an education and turning away from illiteracy. 

Oh, what if those who love the Lord could be just as dedicated to hear a word from the Lord! When have you seen those who love the Lord eager to hear what God is saying?  God is looking for someone who will turn away from the world like these children are turning away from a lack of knowledge and looking to get His word in their lives (Revelation 2:29). 

God is looking for a people that are committed to learning about Him and His word (James 1:21).  These people long to taste His word knowing they can grow in their relationship to Him (1 Peter 2:2, 3). In the Bible, the apostle Paul wanted to know God so intimately that he could identify with His crucifixion and suffering (Philippians 3:10).

This week, let us strive to learn God’s word, stay before Him, press pass our drowsiness (yes, pastors get drowsy, too), and discipline our minds. Let us seek His word with a determined mind so that God can give us all of His hidden wisdom, direction, and blessings that He longs to share with us.

Revelation 2:29
New International Version (NIV)
12 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

James 1:21
New International Version (NIV)
21 Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.

1 Peter 2:2, 3
New International Version (NIV)
2 Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation,
now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.

Philippians 3:10
New International Version (NIV)
10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,