Monday, November 27, 2017

Pastor's Ponderings, November 27, 2017

God Is Our Grief Counselor

The last year and a half has been very challenging for our family.  My nephew, my son-in-law, my brother in law, a cousin, a friend, and our close financial consultant suddenly passed into eternity. There were so many tragic events that we had not really begun properly grieving for one before receiving another dreaded phone call about another.

My family received a great perspective about God’s comfort over the Thanksgiving Holiday. We visited the matriarch of my extended family who has buried two husbands, all four of her children, and just lost one of her few remaining grandchildren.  However, God has provided people to help her and she was beaming with joy when my family visited her. She is still thanking God for His goodness in her mourning because He is comforting her as He has promised in the Bible (Matthew 5:4).  The Lord has been a very present help as she went through all of her troubles with Him (Psalm 46:1).

Our Lord knows about our sorrow and records all of our tears (Psalm 56:8).   He promised to comfort us in our grief as we comfort others (Corinthians 1:3-4).  It is so hard to lose the presence of a loved one, but God wants us to know that He will supply all our needs according to His riches in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19).  We can have peace, joy, and every need met because He is our Shepherd and we will not want (Psalm 23:1).  Thank God for those wonderful counselors who help us grieve our losses, but we have the right to go to God and let Him comfort us like no one else can.

Matthew 5:4
New International Version (NIV)
4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

Psalm 46:1
New International Version (NIV)
1 God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.

Psalm 56:8
New Living Translation (NLT)
8 You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.

2 Corinthians 1:3-4
New International Version (NIV)
3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort,
4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.

Philippians 4:19
New International Version (NIV)
19 And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.

Psalm 23:1
New International Version (NIV)
1 The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Pastor's Ponderings, November 20, 2017

Do Unto Others As You Would Have Them Do Unto You

A heart-breaking article in the May 31, 2016 issue of the New York Times by Rick Gladstone was entitled “Modern Slavery Estimated to Trap 45 Million People Worldwide.” The article reported that modern slavery has been defined as, “human trafficking, forced labor, bondage from indebtedness, forced or servile marriage or commercial sexual exploitation.”  The article goes on to indicate that a human rights group reported this figure “…was 28 percent more than its last estimate two years ago.”

Are we so concerned about our paycheck, our families, our personal sadness and pain that we forget about those victims and their victimizers?  As we vigorously shop for Christmas bargains, do we think about those who are forced into labor and suffer under the indebtedness bondage? Are we concerned about the migrant worker who is sexually abused or the 32-year-old woman working four jobs who died in her car from gas fumes? Do we care about the waiters and waitresses who rely on our tips and then tip them minimally or not at all because they forgot to refresh our water glass or brightly smile at our incessant demands?

The Bible says that the way we treat people we may consider “less than us” is actually how we are treating Jesus.  Treat the needy kindly and you are treating Jesus kindly, treat the needy badly and we are treating Jesus badly and God will reward you accordingly (Matthew 25:31-33, 41-46).  Let us think of Jesus whenever we deal with our brothers, sisters, and all of the strangers in the world. Let us do unto others as we would have them do unto us (Luke 6:31).

Matthew 25:31-33, 41-46
New International Version (NIV)
31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne.
32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.
33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.
42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink,
43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

Luke 6:31
New International Version (NIV)
31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Pastor's Ponderings, November 13, 2017

Trust God And Be Free From Your Lion’s Den

The classic story of the prophet Daniel in the lion’s den is a powerful depiction describing how trusting God will result in victory in your life.  Daniel’s enemies had tricked King Darius into signing an edict condemning anyone who prayed to any other god than Darius (Daniel 6:6, 7). However, Daniel totally trusted God, prayed anyway, and enjoyed a peaceful night in the lion’s den. It ended up with his enemies and their families being destroyed (Daniel 6:23, 24).

God wants us to know that we should simply be calm and He will fight our battles (Exodus 14:14).  He will make those enemies that have plotted against you become your footstool (Psalm 110:1).  In spite of scary news of various diseases on the rise, health disparities increasing, wage stagnation, depression, and fear abounding, God still declares that He will set us high above all nations of the earth (Deuteronomy 26:19).  He said that He would even prepare a meal for us while our enemies are watching (Psalm 23:5).

Daniel never lost his trust in God.  This week, let us remember that in spite of craziness, fear, uncertainty and anxiety surrounding us, it does not matter.  We have the privilege of trusting the true and living God who always causes us to have the ultimate victory.  Let us trust God as He leads us victorious out of our lion’s den.

Daniel 6:6, 7
New International Version (NIV)
6 So these administrators and satraps went as a group to the king and said: “May King Darius live forever!
7 The royal administrators, prefects, satraps, advisers and governors have all agreed that the king should issue an edict and enforce the decree that anyone who prays to any god or human being during the next thirty days, except to you, Your Majesty, shall be thrown into the lions’ den.

Daniel 6:23, 24
New International Version (NIV)
23 The king was overjoyed and gave orders to lift Daniel out of the den. And when Daniel was lifted from the den, no wound was found on him, because he had trusted in his God.
24 At the king’s command, the men who had falsely accused Daniel were brought in and thrown into the lions’ den, along with their wives and children. And before they reached the floor of the den, the lions overpowered them and crushed all their bones.

Exodus 14:14
New Living Translation (NLT)
14 The LORD himself will fight for you. Just stay calm."

Psalm 110:1
New International Version (NIV)
1 The Lord says to my lord: “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.

Deuteronomy 26:19
New International Version (NIV)
19 He has declared that he will set you in praise, fame and honor high above all the nations he has made and that you will be a people holy to the Lord your God, as he promised.

Psalm 23:5
New International Version (NIV)
5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Pastor's Ponderings, November 6, 2017

Don’t Look Back; Look Forward To Jesus

One of the sad stories of the bible was in Genesis where Lot’s wife was warned not to look back to the imminent destruction of Sodom. She ignored the warnings, looked back and was turned to salt (Genesis 19:15, 25, 26). What did she see?  What was she looking for in the past that was so more important than where she was going?  It may have been her friends, valuable possessions, or even memorable places.  However, what was in her past destroyed her future.

The Bible makes it clear that once you begin to work for God, looking back makes one ineligible for His kingdom (Luke 9:62). We should cease from defining our lives on what we did, but instead we should redefine our lives based on what we can do. We have to realize the futility of driving down the street only looking in the rearview mirror. The Apostle Paul testified that he forgot those things that were behind him and pressed to the mark of the high calling in Christ (Philippians 3:13-14). He encouraged us to therefore fix our eyes upon Jesus (Hebrews 12:2).

Today, our God has a great future where our destiny lies (1 Corinthians 2:9). That does not mean that we cannot learn from our past, but we must know that our greatest victory begins whenever we decide to finally throw off the confining hand of the past and embrace the wings of our future with Jesus.

Genesis 19:15, 25, 26
New International Version (NIV)
15 With the coming of dawn, the angels urged Lot, saying, “Hurry! Take your wife and your two daughters who are here, or you will be swept away when the city is punished.”
25 Thus he overthrew those cities and the entire plain, destroying all those living in the cities—and also the vegetation in the land.
26 But Lot’s wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.

Luke 9:62
Amplified Bible (AMP)
62 But Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back [to the things left behind] is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Philippians 3:13-14
New International Version (NIV)
13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: 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.

Hebrews 12:2
New International Version (NIV)
2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

1 Corinthians 2:9
New International Version (NIV)
9 However, as it is written: “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived”—the things God has prepared for those who love him—