Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Pastor's Ponderings, December 26, 2018

Let Us Obey God With Excellence

Over the past few weeks, my wife and I were blessed to witness a couple of outstanding Christmas performances. We saw Handel’s Messiah at the University of Michigan and the Glory of Christmas at Northridge church. We marveled at the artists who had perfected their craft and performed with excellence.  It was obvious that they had spent hours practicing and they seemed to perform effortlessly.

Have you ever stopped to think about your own life? The life that we lead is also a performance. Not for people, but for God. He is observing who we really are and what we are doing with our talents, time, and treasure. Just as we expect artists to perform with excellence, God also expects excellence from his children.  A good example in the Bible was the prophet Daniel whom received a promotion from the king over his entire kingdom because of his excellent qualities (Daniel 6:3). 

The Bible says that we can do everything that God expects us to do and He gives us the strength to accomplish it (Philippians 4:13). He says that in spite of the temptations of the world, He would always give us a way to escape sin (1 Corinthians 10:13). Even when we begin to doubt ourselves, we can remember that we are victors because He lives in us (1 John 4:4).

As we head into the New Year, our God expects us to allow Him to live in us, move in us and be our God (2 Corinthians 6:16).  He is not looking for excuses, poor performances, half steps, rationalizing, or just trying to get by.  He expects us to grow to become the mature body of Him who is the Head of the Church (Ephesians 4:15).  We are to do our work for God and not just for people (Colossians 3:23). He is not coming back after a body of believers that are procrastinating, blaming others or saying that they will be obedient when they get around to it, perhaps next year and perhaps never.

If actors, athletes, academics, and artists can perform their work so that the world is amazed, we in the body of Christ should come up to His standard because we are to be just like Christ in this world (1 John 4:17).  This year, let us make Him pleased with our work. Let us endeavor to be more disciplined in His word, let us practice kindness and consideration for others, and let us stay in His presence by praying and saying His word in our hearts. This coming year, let us perform with excellence in everything that God has given us to do.

Daniel 6:3
New International Version (NIV)
Now Daniel so distinguished himself among the administrators and the satraps by his exceptional qualities that the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom

Philippians 4:13
New International Version (NIV)
13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

1 Corinthians 10:13
New International Version (NIV)
13 No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.

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.

2 Corinthians 6:16
New International Version (NIV)
16 What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.

Ephesians 4:15
New International Version (NIV)
15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.

Colossians 3:23 
New Living Translation (NLT)
23 Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.

1 John 4:17
New International Version (NIV)
17 This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Pastor's Ponderings, December 17, 2018

We are blessed to have a guest author for this weeks Pastor’s Ponderings, Dr. Malika Fair.

Giving Up Vs. Giving It Over

Life can get stressful and often times we feel like giving up. We want to give up on that colleague that continues to undermine us at work...that boss that doesn’t seem to recognize our accomplishments...the relationship with a family member or friend that seems impossible to repair. We feel like giving up on ever being ahead in our finances, ever being well in our mind or bodies, or ever experiencing romantic love. We feel like we can’t help but give up on our children for refusing to listen to wise counsel, our spouse for mistreating us, or society for making us feel invisible. The list can go on and on, but we have an alternative to giving up, we can give it over.

The Bible says that we are to cast our cares upon God for He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7). He says that we will have troubles in this world, but we are to take heart because He has overcome the world (John 16:33). God will give us strength when we are too tired to go on (Isaiah 40:31), and reassure us that He is with us always (Deuteronomy 31:6) We aren’t supposed to worry about anything, but pray about everything (Philippians 4:6). We have a choice - we can burden our minds and bodies with countless challenges that we all face or we can give it to the One who can handle it much better.

We have to remember that He knows what he is doing and has it all planned out. He plans to take care of us, not abandon us, and give us a great future (Ephesians 3:20-21). We don’t have to wait until we get to heaven to experience His goodness and love. He wants us to have peace and joy while we are living on this earth (Psalm 27:13-14).

Just try it for a day. Write down everything that you feel is “wrong with your life,” everything that vexes you and pray about it. Then leave it at His feet. When you feel sad or start to worry throughout the day remember that you gave it over to God that morning. There’s no need to worry about a problem that someone else has promised to solve. He’s a big God and He wants to take care of it for you.  Don’t give up, give it over to Him.

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

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.”

Isaiah 40:31 New International Version (NIV)
31 but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

Deuteronomy 31:6
New International Version (NIV)
Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Philippians 4:6
New International Version (NIV)
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

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.

Psalm 27:13-14
New International Version (NIV)
13 I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.
14 Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Pastor's Ponderings, December 10, 2018

Let Us Love One Another In Deed

I remember watching the 1966 movie, Alfie, and not really understanding what Michael Caine’s character was trying to say.  Recently, I read some of the title song’s lyrics, which said, “I believe in love, Alfie. Without true love we just exist, Alfie. Until you find the love you've missed, you're nothing, Alfie.”  Many of us will spend our years just existing and not understanding the power of and the necessity for love.  Many will get into relationships as if they were a zero sum game in which we will win only if the other loses.

The Bible tells us that we should not love merely in theory giving lip service to compassion, but in practice and in sincerity, because practical acts of love are more than words (1 John 3:17-18).  1 Corinthians 13 has been called the Love Chapter.  It states that in spite of people’s sacrifice, gifts of faith, or prophecy, there is no benefit without love (1 Corinthians 13:1-3).

Those who are full of God’s love are kind, patient, keep no record of wrongs, rejoice with the truth, protect, trust, always hope, and always persevere (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).  We will never produce this love on our own. We must ask God to come into our hearts so that we can love like He loves.  

We live in a world where real love is scorned and pretend love is praised. We know that because it soon passes away and reveals itself that it is not God’s love. The scripture in 1 Peter 4:8 begins with “Above all.”  What does God say is above all?  We are to love each other with His love because His love covers all of our challenges in life (1 Peter 4:8).  Let us endeavor to love each other with God’s love.

1 John 3:17-18
New International Version (NIV)
17 If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? 

18 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.

1 Corinthians 13:1-7
New International Version (NIV)
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 
If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 
If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 
It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

1 Peter 4:8
Amplified Bible (AMP)
Above all, have fervent and unfailing love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins [it overlooks unkindness and unselfishly seeks the best for others].

Monday, December 3, 2018

Pastor's Ponderings, December 3, 2018

Let Us Understand Other’s Feelings

Empathy--Mary T. Lathrap in 1895 wrote a poem entitled, “Judge Softly”.  The first paragraph reads, Pray, don’t find fault with the man that limps, or stumbles along the road. Unless you have worn the moccasins he wears, or stumbled beneath the same load. We live in a world that puts its personal needs above others.  People who are experiencing homelessness, physical sickness or mental health disease need not attempt to enter some of our safe homes. Those who are hungry and thirsty should go elsewhere. Or perhaps they are simply a check that we can write and feel we have accomplished all that is required. 

Many of us judge others without understanding how they got to where they are. We attribute other’s misfortune to poor decisions, but our success to our hard work and self-sacrifice.  We do not consider how blessed we are because God protected us from that one insane predator, that one spiked drink, that deadly party, those powerful addictive drugs or that malevolent teacher/preacher/ employer/spouse or relative.

We should exhibit a Godly concern for others. Not merely with the attitude of “There but for the grace of God go I," but Lord what would you have me do concerning this person that you have put in my path?  Would You have me to open my home, pray, share a Christian pamphlet, visit, talk with, smile, share a few dollars, or even acknowledge their existence?  

If Jesus were fleeing from a painful situation, would you tell Him to wait outside until you found it convenient to let Him in? In the Bible, Jesus will proclaim to the nations before Him that how they treated the outcast, they did it unto Him (Matthew 25:32-40).  

This week let us empathize with people in challenging situations. He accepted us and continues to accept us despite our many faults. Let us be concerned about others and try to understand their experience.

Matthew 25:32-40
New International Version (NIV)
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.
34“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 
35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 
36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 
38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 
39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?
40“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’