Monday, April 30, 2018

Pastor's Ponderings, April 30, 2018

God’s Joy Defeats Every Sorrow

In the 1994 movie, the Lion King, the character Scar says to his captured mouse, “Life's not fair, is it? You see, I... well, I shall never be king. And you... shall never see the light of another day. Adieu.” While his tone and delivery were quite amusing, this sentiment about life’s fairness often times feels true. Many of us have endured great challenges in life. We have lost loved ones or have suffered chronic illnesses. Some of us have experienced loss of employment, painful divorce, sudden onset of diseases, or crippling depression. Still others have suffered feeling of helplessness, hopelessness, anxiety and despair. 

When we turn to the Bible, we recall King David’s troubles.  He faced a great battlefield defeat and loss of his family. In addition, he faced death from his own soldiers, but he encouraged himself (1 Samuel 30:6). We can thank God because He tells us not to be dejected and sad because the joy of the Lord is our strength (Nehemiah 8:10). Terrible things may surround us, but God promises that He will lift up our head in victory over our enemies and we will sing songs of victory (Psalm 27:6). When we have come through our trials and tribulations, we are assured that we will be victorious (Job 23:10).

The Bible says that those who love God will have a lot of trouble, but God will eventually deliver them from all (Psalm 34:19) For those who feel depressed when remembering their past, know that God has a great future for them.  For those who get upset hearing about the political world, remember that God is still in charge of everything.  For those who think their night will never end, remember your tears may endure for a time, but God’s joy is coming in your morning (Psalm 30:5b)!  

1 Samuel 30:6
New International Version (NIV)
David was greatly distressed because the men were talking of stoning him; each one was bitter in spirit because of his sons and daughters. But David found strength in the Lord his God.

Nehemiah 8:10
New International Version (NIV)
10 Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

Psalm 27:6
New International Version (NIV)
Then my head will be exalted above the enemies who surround me; at his sacred tent I will sacrifice with shouts of joy; I will sing and make music to the Lord.

Job 23:10
New International Version (NIV)
10 But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold.

Psalm 34:19
New International Version (NIV)
19 The righteous person may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all;

Psalm 30:5b
New International Version (NIV)
5 …weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Pastor's Ponderings, April 25, 2018

Let Us Pray God’s Blessings For Our Children

Recently, our family saw my grandson, Ethan Dennis Clay, playing his cello with a talented group of high schoolers.  Having played a cello over fifty years ago, it was wonderful to see how God has blessed my progeny. Sadly, most of the news of young black men is replete with violence, unfulfilled dreams, and deprivation while surrounded by a society that works to systematically stifle their progress. It is so great to see a talented, intelligent, and hard-working young man aiming towards his goal of excellence.  

His performance is even more remarkable considering a April 24, 2018 Huffington Post article by Rebecca Klein entitled, “New Federal Data Shows How Black Students Are Getting Pushed Out Of School.” The article indicates, “Indeed, even more than in years past, the latest figures show that a growing number of black students are disproportionately subject to school-based arrests and referrals to police.” My grandson has been blessed to do well in school, but according to this article, “Black students are also disproportionately suspended and expelled. At the same time, the data shows that high schools dominated by black and Latino students have less access to high-level STEM coursework, compared to all high schools.”

But the Bible says that no weapon that is formed against us shall succeed (Isaiah 54:17).  It goes on to say that no evil shall happen to us or attack our homes (Psalm 91:10-11). Our family has been praying for our progeny for years.  We have believed the word of God concerning our children both biological and those who we call our spiritual children (Proverbs 11:21).  The Bible says that when we are in agreement with the word of God concerning His promises to us that He would bless our requests (Matthew 18:19). Our parents and grandparents prayed for our offspring long before our progeny were even imagined. Clearly God has given unusual opportunities to the children our family.  They have been very blessed in their endeavors and have vastly outperformed our efforts.   Of course we have had heartbreak, since even the righteous have afflictions and troubles, but God has been faithful to give us all that we need (Philippians 4:19).

Our families face many challenges in a quickly changing world with seemingly insurmountable obstacles, unforeseen attacks on our children, and low societal expectations of their success. Let us continually keep praying those effective prayers. Let us praise our God and believe that He has a great plan for our children and us to give us hope and a glorious future (Jeremiah 29:11).

Isaiah 54:17
New International Version (NIV)
17no 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.

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;

Proverbs 11:21
New Life Version (NLV)
21 Know for sure that the sinful man will not go without being punished, but the children of those who are right with God will be saved.

Matthew 18:19
New International Version (NIV)
19“Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven

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

Jeremiah 29:11
New Life Version (NLV)
11 For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord, ‘plans for well-being and not for trouble, to give you a future and a hope.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Pastor's Ponderings, April 16, 2018

Be Confident In God

While reading the newspapers, surfing the internet, listening to the radio and watching television, one cannot help but notice that there are many things to worry about such as nuclear war, homelessness, job loss, and air and water pollution. In addition, there is the perceived possibility of being hurt simply for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Some of us may be worried about things in our personal lives such as a failing marriage, a health scare or a child in crisis.

Although we may be worried about what will happen in our country or in our homes, we must remember that Jesus had a plan for our lives even before we were born. Jesus knew us before we were formed in our mother’s wombs (Jeremiah 1:5) and established all of our days before a single day had passed for us (Psalm 139:16).  We can rejoice knowing that He did a wonderful job in designing us (Psalm 139:14). Not only did He make us, but also He gave us all spiritual blessings in Him. He chose us to be holy and without blame in Him and He adopted us to be His children because it pleased Him (Ephesians 1:3-5).

Knowing this, we can have full confidence in His goodness while we live (Psalm 27:13).  We may not be able to see it in our current circumstances, but we can be confident that He will complete His good work in us (Philippians 1:6).  There is no question that there are crazy, weird, scary, and deadly things around us, but since God is the light of our life, we don’t have to fear anything (Psalm 27:1, 3).  

We do not have to focus on a changing world or hopeless personal circumstances, but we can keep our eyes on an unchanging God. He has the whole world in His hands, so let us keep our confidence in God alone.  

Jeremiah 1:5
New International Version (NIV)
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.

Psalm 139:16
New International Version (NIV)
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

Psalm 139:14
New International Version (NIV)
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

Ephesians 1:3-5

New International Version (NIV)
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.
For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love
he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—

Psalm 27:13
New International Version (NIV)
13 I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.

Philippians 1:6
New International Version (NIV)
being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

Psalm 27:1, 3
New International Version (NIV)
The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid?
Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then I will be confident.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Pastor's Ponderings, April 9, 2018

Be Desperate For God

Michael Smith, a famous musician, wrote a song called, “Breathe” and some of the lyrics are, “This is the air I breathe…Your holy presence living in me. This is my daily bread…Your very word spoken to me. And I I'm desperate for you and I I'm lost without you.” When one is desperate, they are focused on something that they must have. What are you desperate for? What do you have to do just to exist?  For many of us it may be fame, fortune, riches, status, respect, or honor. 

The Bible would teach us that it is important not to be desperate for something, but desperate for someone and that is Jesus.  We are to seek Him first and everything that we need will be added to us (Matthew 6:31-33).  He says that He will supply all of our needs based on His own resources (Philippians 4:19). King David showed his own sense of urgency about needing God when He wrote that his soul pants and thirsts for God (Psalm 42:1, 2).  Our God knows what we need; even our secret needs that no one knows but Him and us. He simply wants to delight ourselves in Him and enjoy serving Him and He will satisfy those desires (Psalm 37:4).

This is not to try to relegate God to becoming our own celestial Santa Claus. We cannot expect Him to jump to our every idle thought, but He promised that He was able to do more than we can even think (Ephesians 3:20-21).  The world is desperate for ever-increasing amounts of stuff that will pass away, but we can be desperate for the God that is eternal and everlasting that those who love the Lord will have forever. Let us be desperate for Him!

Matthew 6:31-33
Amplified Bible (AMP)
31 Therefore do not worry or be anxious (perpetually uneasy, distracted), saying, ‘What are we going to eat?’ or ‘What are we going to drink?’ or ‘What are we going to wear?’ 
32 For the [pagan] Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; [but do not worry,] for your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 
33 But first and most importantly seek (aim at, strive after) His kingdom and His righteousness [His way of doing and being right—the attitude and character of God], and all these things will be given to you also.

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 42:1, 2
New International Version (NIV)
As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?

Psalm 37:4
Amplified Bible (AMP)
Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires and petitions of your heart.

Ephesians 3:20-21
New International Version (NIV)
20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,
21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Pastor's Ponderings, April 2, 2018

Happy Resurrection Day!

On April 1, 2018, Resurrection Sunday dawned heralding an international celebration of Jesus’ coming forth from a borrowed tomb to live forevermore and is now making intercession for a desperate, depressed, disappointed and distraught world.  For many, His promise of a better life may seem like a joke appropriate on April Fool’s Day. Why? On October 26, 2017, President Donald Trump declared the country's opioid crisis a "public health emergency". In 2016, there were 44,965 recorded suicides, up from 42,773 in 2014, according to the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics. Compared to 22 other high-income nations, the U.S. gun-related murder rate is 25 times higher.  The list of life challenges goes on and on.

Thank God for Jesus who has come that we can have the abundant life (John 10:10).  He desires that we prosper and be in health (3 John 2).  He asks us to simply cast all of our cares on Him because He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7).  The world is so confusing, decisions are difficult and the implications for mistakes can be catastrophic.  But He says to ask Him for His wisdom, His guidance, and to simply acknowledge Him and He will direct our path through life (Proverbs 3:5-6).

It is true that we have many problems in this world, but in the midst of life’s problems, Jesus says to take heart because He has overcome the world (John 16:33).  It is true that April 1, 2018 is April’s Fool’s Day, but God’s promises are no joke.  He is greater than your pain, anguish, loneliness, or despair.  Let Him be your Savior by asking Him to be your Lord.  When you obey Him, He will make your way prosperous and you will have good success in life (Joshua 1:8).  Happy Resurrection Day!

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.

3 John 2
King James Version (KJV)
2 Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.

1 Peter 5:7
New International Version (NIV)
7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

Proverbs 3:5-6
New International Version (NIV)
5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;
6 in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.

John 16:33
New International Version (NIV)
33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Joshua 1:8
New International Version (NIV)
8 Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.