Monday, March 27, 2017

Pastor's Ponderings, March 27, 2017

Despair or Hope?

Although Americans had been having longer and longer life expectancies, researchers, Anne Case and Angus Deaton, found that the mortality rate had been rising dramatically between 1999 and 2013 among white Americans, ages 45 to 54. It seems that “a lack of steady, well-paying jobs for whites without college degrees has caused pain, distress and social dysfunction to build up over time. These deaths of despair have been accompanied by reduced labor force participation, reduced marriage rates, increases in reports of poor health and poor mental health. Clearly, life may not seem great no matter your race, social economic status, gender, age, or ethnicity.

Yet, in an article in the Scientific American, The United States is the envy of the world for its conspicuous consumption of worldly goods.  Although America is only 5% of the world’s population, it consumes “one-third of the world’s paper, a quarter of the world’s oil, 23 percent of the coal, 27 percent of the aluminum, and 19 percent of the copper.”  In spite of all of the control of resources in the United States, there is still deadly despair.

The Bible talks about the end times when men’s hearts will fail them because of fear (Luke 21:26).  However, no matter what group that you may find yourself in today, the Bible says there is hope for your future. Even though sickness, fear, and anxiety may attack, we must remember that no weapon that is formed against us shall prosper (Isaiah 54:17).  We may be hearing bad news and scary statistics for our group, but we must remember that we have a blessed hope for the future when we live godly lives (Titus 2:12-13). We do not have to focus on the sadness, fear, and worry that may plague us; we have an inheritance in God’s kingdom of light (Colossians 1:12). God will dispatch His angels to keep tabs on us (Psalm 91:10, 11).

This week, do not let fear of the future, worry about the present, or regret about past bad lifestyle choices cause you to lose hope in Christ.  This is not to say that we can live any kind of life that we want without consequences, but we can look expectantly to God who is in control of our lives. We can rejoice knowing that our God has us in His hands.  Thank God for the researchers and their analyses, but we can choose to believe the report of the Lord that we have the victory in every area of our lives when we put our trust in Him.

Luke 21:26
New International Version (NIV)
26 People will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken.

Isaiah 54:17
New International Version (NIV)
17 no weapon forged against you will prevail, and you will refute every tongue that accuses you. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and this is their vindication from me,” declares the Lord.

Titus 2:12-13
New International Version (NIV)
12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age,
13 while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ,

Colossians 1:12
New International Version (NIV)
12 and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light.

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;

Monday, March 20, 2017

Pastor's Ponderings, March 20, 2017

Don’t Let People Define or Confine you

“A father and son are in a horrible car crash that kills the dad. The son is rushed to the hospital; just as he’s about to go under the knife, the surgeon says, “I can’t operate—that boy is my son! Explain.”  Most people do not guess that it is his mother.

This old riddle was featured in Rich Barlow’s January 2014 article in BU Today entitled BU Research: A Riddle Reveals Depth of Gender Bias. Dr. Deborah Belle, a College of Arts & Sciences psychology professor at Boston University, explained we have “gender schemas—generalizations that help us explain our complex world.” It seems obvious that many of us have other schemas as well such as racial bias, ethnicity preference, age preconceptions, or nationality favoritism that gives us a skewed view of the world. 

As limiting and prejudicial as those schemas can be, the evil one has tried to push other mental patterns that can prevent us from having the life that God wants us to have. The devil may push a constant thought that diabetes runs in your family so you are likely to get it.  But, God says that you are healed (Isaiah 53:5). Everyone in that family is crazy so no doubt that family member is going to have mental problems.  But, God says they have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16). Most people in that neighborhood are criminals so we cannot visit that part of town. But, God says wherever you go; He will surround you with His angels (Psalm 91:11).

What schemas have you used that prevent you from seeing others as God sees them?  What limitations have you placed on yourself so that you cannot be all that God wants you to be? God says that all of His creation was very good (Genesis 1:31). When we are in Christ, we are a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17).  The Bible says we are not to dwell on the past, but He is making us brand new (Isaiah 43:18, 19).  We do not have to limit ourselves to this world’s categories because we have a renewed mind (Romans 12:2).  We don’t have to limit ourselves to how the world perceives us because we have been made the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21).

When the world tries to box you up in one category or another and limit you to how they see you or even how you see yourself, we must remember that it does not matter our gender, race, ethnicity, age or nationality, God says that we are very good.

Isaiah 53:5
New International Version (NIV)
But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.

1 Corinthians 2:16
New International Version (NIV)
16 for, “Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.

Psalm 91:11
New International Version (NIV)
11 For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways;

Genesis 1:31
New International Version (NIV)
31 God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.

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!

Isaiah 43:18, 19
New International Version (NIV)
18 “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.
19 See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.

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.

2 Corinthians 5:21
New International Version (NIV)
21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Pastor's Ponderings, March 13, 2017

Will You Believe God’s Words or Man’s Opinions

“Who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes?”  This iconic quote attributed to the comedic giant, Groucho Marx, always brings a laugh.  However, every day we are seeing and hearing news reports that would demand that we should believe whatever we are told. In the fifties, we totally believed in the Marlboro cigarette man who told us it was cool to smoke.  In the sixties, we believed the hippies that argued it felt good to get high.  In the seventies, we were told to believe that free love had no lasting consequences. History has proven these beliefs were disastrous. What will you decide to believe today? 

The Bible asks who will believe that Jesus was wounded so that we could be healed (Isaiah 53:1, 5). Jesus told a suffering father that his demon-possessed son could be delivered, but he must believe it in order for deliverance to take place.  The father replied that he believed for healing but that his belief was mixed with unbelief (Mark 9:22-24). After Peter and John had healed a man who had been lame from birth, they explained to the amazed crowd that they must believe in Jesus and not in Peter and John for healing (Acts 3:6, 16).

Alternative facts, lies, opinions, scientific studies, learned scholars, gifted speakers, and powerful leaders daily besiege our beliefs with their current speeches.  They demand that what they are saying today is correct and we can ignore what was said previously.  Let us decide that we will hold onto and believe what God says to us.  He says that we are more than conquerors (Romans 8:37).  He says we are victorious through Him (1 Corinthians 15:57).  He says we have eternal life with Him.  Let us believe God’s word rather than man’s changing views and opinions.

Isaiah 53:1, 5
New International Version (NIV)
1 Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.

Mark 9:22-24
New International Version (NIV)
22 “It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”
23 “‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.”
24 Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

Acts 3:6, 16
New International Version (NIV)
Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.”
16 By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has completely healed him, as you can all see.

Romans 8:37
New King James Version (NKJV)
37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.

1 Corinthians 15:57
New International Version (NIV)
57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Pastor's Ponderings, March 6, 2017

Our God Takes Care of Our Good and Bad Times

What if you could go back in time and change history?  In the sixties, I enjoyed the cartoon character, Mr. Peabody, a genius-talking dog.  He had a Wayback Machine, which was used to transport him and his adopted human son, Sherman, back in time to visit important events in human history.  The theme of time travel is the subject of a number of current TV shows such as Time after Time, Making History, Timeless and even an updated movie in 2014 called Mr. Peabody & Sherman.

It would be great if we could jump in a time machine and correct our past mistakes.  We would not take that job, we would not have spoken so harshly to that important person, we would not have dated that person, and we never would have spent that money.  However, we can thank God that He can take our past mistakes and work them out for our good (Romans 8:28).  He can restore the years that we have wasted (Joel 2:25).  When we have been robbed of opportunities and resources by the devil, God promises that He would make the thief pay us back sevenfold (Proverbs 6:31).  Even when we have ruined our health due to terrible lifestyle choices, God can work miracles of healing and deliverance (Exodus 15:26).

It is comforting to know that we serve a God that sees our end from our beginning (Isaiah 46:10). He wants the very best for us even while He watches us make the wrong decisions time and time again.  Before mankind decided to disobey God in the Garden of Eden, He had already sacrificed His Son Jesus to pay the debt of sin (Revelation 13:8).  There is nothing that we have not messed up that He cannot fix up because He is the same God, today, yesterday, and forever. He can do anything but fail.

Thank God we don’t need to fix the past or change the future because we would probably still make bad choices. We serve a God that is in charge of everything.  Let us console ourselves with the knowledge that our God desires to always take good care of us (Ephesians 1:11-12).

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

Joel 2:25
New International Version (NIV)
25 “I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten—the great locust and the young locust, the other locusts and the locust swarm—my great army that I sent among you

Proverbs 6:31
New International Version (NIV)
31 Yet if he is caught, he must pay sevenfold, though it costs him all the wealth of his house.

Exodus 15:26
New International Version (NIV)
26 He said, “If you listen carefully to the Lord your God and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord, who heals you.”

Isaiah 46:10
New International Version (NIV)
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.’

Revelation 13:8
New International Version (NIV)
All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast—all whose names have not been written in the Lamb’s book of life, the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world.

Ephesians 1:11-12
New International Version (NIV)
11 In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will,
12 in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory