Monday, March 25, 2019

Pastor's Ponderings, March 25, 2019

We Are Free In Christ

Ron Reagan, the son of the late President Ronald Reagan, recently introduced a commercial where he asked for support of an organization called Freedom From Religion Foundation and joked that he was not afraid of burning in hell. Also, John Kenneth Galbraith, one of the most widely read economists in the middle of the twentieth century in the United States, wrote about a group of people “engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness." This quote explains much of human striving since the beginning of time.  Man seeks support and justification for rebellion against God’s holy commandments and the freedom to do whatever he wants to do while not recognizing the influence, power and captivity of Satan.

In spite of our protestations of personal innocence and moral superiority, the Bible says that all mankind is born in sin and shaped in iniquity (Psalm 51:5).  We are prisoners of a world system that keeps us bound up in habits that hurt us, steal our resources, and destroys our purpose in life.

We like to think that we are good, our motivations are appropriate and our actions are justified.  At the same time, we will conclude that others are evil with terrible motivations and that is why they do bad things. However, we must come to ourselves and realize that all of us have disobeyed God and have not lived up to His standards (Romans 3:23).  King David in the Bible begged God to give him a clean heart and Jeremiah, the prophet, declared that our hearts are wicked (Psalm 51:10, Jeremiah 17:9).

Our challenge has been that while we may want to do the right thing and obey God in our spirit, we notice that we have an inner nature that is at work in us and leading us inexorably to sin (Romans 7:21-23).  We simply are slaves to sin. However, when we make Jesus the Lord of our life, we can avoid the hell that Ron Reagan joked about and we don’t have to justify the selfishness that John Kenneth Galbraith wrote about.  When God is our Lord, He calls us redeemed, righteous, and religious (Romans 8:1, 2; 1 Corinthians 1:30).

In spite of our past rebellion against God, in spite of our continual issues in life, we have a Risen Saviour who is not ashamed to call us His brothers and sisters (Hebrews 2:11).  He loves us and wants us to live with Him eternally. We don’t have to justify our behavior because God has already justified or made us righteous us in Him (1 Corinthians 1:30). We can celebrate not freedom from religion or our moral superiority, but freedom in Christ because whom the Son has set free is free indeed (John 8:36).

Psalm 51:5 New International Version (NIV)
Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.

Romans 3:23
New International Version (NIV)
23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

Psalm 51:10
New International Version (NIV)
10 Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

Jeremiah 17:9
New International Version (NIV)
The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?

Romans 7:21-23 New International Version (NIV)
21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 
22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 
23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 

Romans 8:1, 2
New International Version (NIV)
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,
because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.

1 Corinthians 1:30 
New International Version (NIV)
30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.

Hebrews 2:11
New International Version (NIV)
11 Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters.

John 8:36
New International Version (NIV)
36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Pastor's Ponderings, March 18, 2019

God Wants Christians To Unify Against Evil

Last week in New Zealand, our world heard about another individual who decided to destroy innocent people. In 2018, there was a vicious attack on a Pittsburgh synagogue and in 2015 the senseless murders in a church in Charleston.  We were still mourning the loss of young lives in Sandy Hook in 2012 when the 2016 Orlando nightclub shooting occurred.  The discouraging list goes on and on. After each event, we hear the unhelpful response of “thoughts and prayers.”  One may ask what are they thinking and to whom are they praying.

How should those who love the Lord respond to these massacres?  We have to recognize that there is a common enemy behind them that is motivating them to kill and destroy (John 10:10a).  It is not just demented individuals.  We do not fight against people in spite of their evil acts, but against the powerful demonic forces behind them (Ephesians 6:12). Those who love the Lord do not have to cower behind meaningless platitudes and comfortable slogans, but we have mighty spiritual weapons to defeat the devil and his hordes such as the Name of Jesus (2 Corinthians 10:4).  

In the Bible, God tells His children what we must do if we are to rid our land of this scourge of violence. He said if His own people who are called by His name would humble themselves, seek His face, and turn from their personal wicked ways, He would hear our prayers, forgive our sins, and He would heal our land (2 Chronicles 7:14).  We have to know that our enemy, the devil, is not going down easily, but we know that He is already defeated (Romans 16:20). Our victory over evil may take time, but we must start.

Let us begin to come together as the body of Christ, forget about our minor differences, our doctrinal disputes, and our cacophony of arguments separating Baptists, Pentecostals, Apostolics, Non-Denominationals, Methodists and all of those who love the Lord. Let us really listen to God.  The Bible says that where two or three are gathered together in His name, He is right there in our midst (Matthew 18:20).  We can then petition, make intercession, cry out, fast, and pray. We can defeat this pestilence and let the peace of God rule (Colossians 3:15). Let us agree with God’s word and victoriously stand together against evil and overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21).

John 10:10a
New International Version (NIV)
10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy;

Ephesians 6:12
New International Version (NIV)
12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

2 Corinthians 10:4
New International Version (NIV)
The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds

2 Chronicles 7:14
New International Version (NIV)
14 if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

Romans 16:20
New International Version (NIV)
20 The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.

Matthew 18:20
New International Version (NIV)
20 For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.

Colossians 3:15
New International Version (NIV)
15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.

Romans 12:21 New International Version (NIV)
21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Pastor's Ponderings, March 11, 2019

God Gives Us The Victory In Every Situation

One of my favorite childhood superheroes was Superman played by George Reeves.  When he was hurt in the 1956 episode, “The Big Freeze,” I was devastated. Imagine my pain when news came in 1959 that George Reeves had died.  It was disappointing to know that the man who was "Faster than a speeding bullet! More powerful than a locomotive! Able to leap tall buildings at a single bound!" "Yes, it's Superman- strange visitor from another planet who came to Earth with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men” was simply a man, no superhero, just a man.

In the Bible, we discover those who love the Lord are much more powerful than any mythical Superman.  At a child of God’s request, He made the sun to go backwards (2 Kings 20:9-11). The Bible says that we can do all things through Christ (Philippians 4:13). We know that since God is on our side, nothing or no one can defeat us (Romans 8:31).  

Bullets bounced off of Superman’s chest, but the Bible states that no weapon that is formed against those who obey God will prosper (Isaiah 54:17a). Superman could defeat some bad guys, but children of God have been given the ability to deal with bad bosses.  Super heroes cannot heal the sick, but the Bible says that believers will lay hands on the sick and they will recover in the Name of Jesus (Mark 16:18).

God gives us power to always defeat the enemies (2 Corinthians 2:14). Therefore we can conquer any challenges that may come our way, with God on our side. Mythical heroes usually travel alone, but God lets His angels surround us to protect and keep us wherever we go (Psalm 91:10-11). This is not to say that Christians are never defeated, but God promises us that He will always accompany us in spite of trying circumstances (Deuteronomy 31:6).  

This week may be challenging, but we don’t need to call for a superhero because the Greater One lives in us and He gives us power and He will be with you to guide you.  Remember all things are possible to those that believe (Mark 9:23) and God will give you the victory in every situation.

2 Kings 20:9-11
New International Version (NIV)
Isaiah answered, “This is the Lord’s sign to you that the Lord will do what he has promised: Shall the shadow go forward ten steps, or shall it go back ten steps?”
10 “It is a simple matter for the shadow to go forward ten steps,” said Hezekiah. “Rather, have it go back ten steps.”
11 Then the prophet Isaiah called on the Lord, and the Lord made the shadow go back the ten steps it had gone down on the stairway of Ahaz.

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

Romans 8:31
New International Version (NIV)
31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

Isaiah 54:17a
New International Version (NIV)
17 no weapon forged against you will prevail…

Mark 16:18
New International Version (NIV)
18 they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.”

2 Corinthians 2:14
King James Version (KJV)
14 Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place.

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;

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.”

Mark 9:23
King James Version (KJV)
23 Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Pastor's Ponderings, March 4, 2019

Worship God And No Other

Weight Watchers has produced a very upbeat television commercial, entitled '2019 Anthem' featuring Oprah Winfrey and Kate Hudson. However at the end, there is a startling demand. “On your knees; patiently, quietly, faithfully, worship me.” While we do not know Lizzo, the songwriter’s motivation, we do understand worship is an act of religious devotion usually directed towards a deity. 

In the Bible while tempting Jesus Christ in the wilderness, Satan gave Him one last opportunity to receive the wonders of the whole world.  He said all that Jesus had to do was to fall down to the ground and worship him. Jesus reminded him that man was to worship God alone (Matthew 4:8-10).  In the Old Testament, God warned the children of Israel that they would be destroyed if they bowed down and worshipped other gods because He is a jealous God (Deuteronomy 30:17-18, Exodus 34:14).

God desires to live among us, to be our God and our only source of blessings. We must not cooperate with the seductive sounds of satanic forces to look to other means (2 Corinthians 6:16). He wants us to see Him and adore Him and love Him because He maintains our very existence (Acts 17:28a).  He is the sole source of all of our blessings (Psalm 96:9). He has a heaven that awaits us and a hell that we can avoid. Let us worship the true and living God.

Matthew 4:8-10
New International Version (NIV)
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. 
“All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”
10 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’”

Deuteronomy 30:17-18
New International Version (NIV)
17 But if your heart turns away and you are not obedient, and if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship them, 
18 I declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed. You will not live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess

Exodus 34:14
New International Version (NIV)
14 Do not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God

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.

Acts 17:28a
New International Version (NIV)
28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being…

Psalm 96:9
New International Version (NIV)
Worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness; tremble before him, all the earth.