Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Which World?

“"But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.
"Woe to you who are full now, for you shall be hungry.
"Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep.
"Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.”
‭‭Luke‬ ‭6:24-26‬ ‭ESV‬‬

As I was reading this tonight it struck me that God's challenge to us is to live for a different world other than the one we see with our eyes. We have a tendency to become obsessed with the seen and lose sight of the unseen, so to speak. We work for financial comfort, for the fulfilling of our appetites, and to entertain ourselves. It dominates our thinking 10 hours a day. The challenge to our hearts is to broaden our focus to the things of the kingdom.

Some people are concerned about being " so heavenly minded that they're no earthly good". But it seems Jesus was more concerned that we would be so earthly minded that we would be no heavenly good.

Friday, July 21, 2017

All Night Long

“One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God.”
‭‭Luke‬ ‭6:12‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Jesus prayed all night long. That is a simple statement of historical fact but it is revealing too. The. More I meditated upon that simple statement the more I recognized some insights into prayer.

1. Jesus heard and followed the voice of God in his daily assignment. Minute by minute Jesus listened to the voice of God, God revealed hidden thoughts of Pharisees hearts, the spiritual motivations of potential followers, and various other things. Yet it seems that Jesus still needed extended time in the presence of God! Why do we feel that past ministry success exempts us from extended prayer times?

2. Prayer, for Jesus, required a withdrawal from the press of life. Ministry was draining and without a retreat to the mountainside the cry of the crowds and the needs of the multitude would have pressed Jesus into service and work rather than devotion and renewal. Why do we think that these times of retreat are optional for us?

3. Big decisions call for time in the presence of God. As the Lord is picking out followers for disciples, he needs divine wisdom. It seems he must have really had to persevere to hear God on these disciples. Some decisions are so important that praying all night seems reasonable even for the Son of God. Why do we think it completely reasonable to expect eternal and deeply spiritual results from decisions that we have made with little or no prayer?

Prayer should be simple and trusting, not depending on vain repetitions, full of faith in God's answering heart, and yet there are times when the best of us must pray all night long! When was the last time you did without sleep while you pursued the presence of God?

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Lest You Forget

“When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you. Be careful that you do not forget the Lord your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day.”
‭‭Deuteronomy‬ ‭8:10-11

"Summertime and the living is easy...". So goes the song. Summer life gets busy quick. Have you found yourself running from barbecue to graduation party to wedding to family gathering? Life becomes filled with the busyness of connections and celebrations. It is easy to let 'mission creep' steal your momentum, your priorities go askew, and your spiritual disciplines become undisciplined. Everyone battles it.

Moses records God's warning to all the redeemed Israelites. Celebrate the freedom and blessing that God has provided but be careful in comfort...don't forget the God who brought you into this wide space of blessing. In all, your ease and satisfaction, watch and be careful to remember your God for there is danger in the forgetting.

In our Summertime adventures we must guard against complacency in our prayer lives, laziness in worship attendance, undisciplined spiritual habits such as Bible reading, devotions, sharing Christ with the lost. Don't forget to support the ministries of the Word of God, especially, your local church home. (Summers are hard on the budget of most churches I know of). In short, remember...remember the God who brought you to this place of blessing.

 We would do well to remember that spiritual life has no coasting. It goes against the flow of this world. To cease to move forward is to drift backwards. The wrong direction for those called to change the world one life at a time.

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Under the Umbrella

“Then the Lord will create over all of Mount Zion and over those who assemble there a cloud of smoke by day and a glow of flaming fire by night; over everything the glory will be a canopy. It will be a shelter and shade from the heat of the day, and a refuge and hiding place from the storm and rain.”
‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭4:5-6‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Isaiah prophecies in these verses of an end time revitalization of Israel. There will be a cleansing followed by this glorious glory cloud over God's people. The canopy of God's glory is worth considering here for a moment.

The canopy is for the washed. It takes a great cleansing by the Spirit of judgment and the Spirit of fire to purge the impurity from the people of God. There is no use for the canopy in the hearts of those who do not seek to be cleansed.

The canopy of the glory of God will be a shelter. The harshness of the day is mitigated by the glory of God over his people. This allows them strength to endure and great security knowing that the Almighty has a covering over them.

Finally the canopy is God's provided refuge. no longer shall the people of God be caught unprotected in the harshest elements. They have a refuge to run to, protection provided, an umbrella of grace.

Today, we thank God for Jesus' covering blood. It cleanses and redeems, empowers and protects. It is our shelter and our provided,refuge. Only let us seek the refuge of the Lord's grace. Amen

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Passionless Love?

We are fooling ourselves. We muddle through with good intentions but come up short. It isn't that we really want to be hardened criminals, recalcitrant backsliders, or disobedient children, we are just that broken. We have let our faith become passionless love... is there even such a thing? Are we to assume that there are days when God loves us but isn't exactly crazy about us? Are we to think that real love just needs some time to oneself rather than living in full hearted, almost obsessive preoccupation? Are we to think that love is sacrificial but doesn't give a rat's bony behind about us personally? Why then would we think that our love for God should ever be passionless. What sacrifice stirs my emotions more than that of the Son dying for me? What romance is more gripping than the divine romance that woos my ever-playing-hard-to-get soul to Christ? Will I ever really give voice to a full throated love for Him?

David recognized this truth in himself and those around him when he wrote, “Teach me your way, Lord, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.”
‭‭(Psalm‬ ‭86:11‬ ‭NIV‬‬). We must not excuse our emotional distance from God, we must recognize it is a sign of division in our own heart. It isn't normal, or acceptable.

Father, forgive my distance and my disconnect. Let me be drawn to the cross... the bloody, wretched, loving cross. Let me catch the eyes of the Son, as he hangs there loving...suffering...bleeding...loving.
Let me be passionate for Him whose passion we praise.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Despised Things

“Then Jacob gave Esau some bread and some lentil stew. He ate and drank, and then got up and left. So Esau despised his birthright.”
‭‭Genesis‬ ‭25:34‬ ‭NIV‬‬

How often we "sell" our spiritual inheritance short of God's intended abundance. Esau gave way to impatience, the desires of flesh, and natural hungers. In so doing he "despised" his birthright. For the middle eastern mindset, it is not so much that he hated the gift of his birthright, only that in comparison to his PURSUIT of some stew it seemed to be despised.

Modern believers might say that they do not despise the promises of God, but in comparison to our PURSUITS of the things of the world we have sold short.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Why Wednesday?

Here at CLC we have a midweek service on Wednesday evenings. It is not the same as Sunday morning services. Sunday mornings we hope that there is information, inspiration, and importation in the various ministries that happen in our building. But Wednesday evenings are different. So, why Wednesdays?

Although it is often a significant time investment to attend Wednesday night services we think its worth it for the following reasons…

Programs for Children and Youth
The statistics are scary but our young people are being formed right in front of us. When parents come home from work in the evening they are often too tired to remember that their children are being shaped and molded by those people of influence in their lives. Children 2-5 spend an average of 32 hours a week in front of a TV. There is little doubt that they will be picking up the values that are being taught and presented as they are baptized into the philosophies of TV land. From primary grades on there is another 35 hours a week that are influencing and shaping our children. How can we ever imagine our children will pick up the values of our Christian homes by sending them to Children's Church for 1 ½ hours each week? Granted, the parents are supposed to be praying and demonstrating the Christian way of life for their children at home but even the best parent gets too weary to do a family devotion each night of the week. Wednesday nights at CLC has a program for every age. Ministry happens at each age level, reinforcing those timeless Christian truths and moral values that are ignored or, worse, countermanded in the schools. Of course, schedules demand that our kids need to be home for bed so we try to be ready to leave at 8:30 pm each Wednesday evening. Please consider your child's spiritual growth as you think about attending Wednesdays.

Discipleship for Adults
While the children and youth are learning at their level, we adults are spending time learning the Word. Wednesday nights is not simply another sermon. Each message is picked out with the idea that a teaching will be able to go a little deeper on Wednesday night. The teaching is preceded by a time of Worship, and usually there is a Going Deeper portion (on the Web) to further your study of the scriptures at home. Topics that have been recently addressed have been the Second Coming of Jesus, What the Bible says about sex, and the Heart of a Minister.These are three examples of teachings that wouldn’t have been able to be addressed as deeply except on a Wednesday night. Your spiritual growth is valuable too!

There is always a time for prayer over those issues that have sprung up in our lives. Crisis really doesn’t care what time of the day or night it is when it arrives. You can always find a brother or sister to pray with you during your time of need. Similarly, there is always a need for people like you to minister to the brothers and sisters around you. We need each other and we need to grow in knowledge and in the use of the spiritual gifts.

So we really hope that you will think about Wednesday’s and make a concerted effort to choose to come out. We know that schedules are challenging and getting dinner on the table can be a hassle too. But we think it is worth it… eternally.

Thursday, February 02, 2017

A Pastoral Response on the Refugees

In these days there are questions about the response of Christians to the plight of refugees. So much vocal angst and consternation over the change in US immigration policy fills the social spaces on our internet. Each side claiming love and common sense; each side pointing fingers of accusation against the other. There is no doubt that this political divide can and does impact the church of Jesus Christ with disunity and division.

We must approach this dilemma on three levels. Firstly, each of us come as individual followers  of Jesus to the refugee. We are certain that God’s heart is for those who are genuinely sojourning to America for a refuge from persecution and hardship. God revealed his desire in the Old Testament as he was speaking to Israel’s theocracy, when he told us to embrace and be kind to the alien and stranger. As individual followers of Christ we must not allow distrust of those different than ourselves to guide our individual relationships. Hatred and prejudice are, of course, out of place in the heart of the believer in Jesus Christ. Each of us should reach out in kindness to those who have made the difficult journey to America. Embracing those of other ethnic and religious backgrounds is the first act of divine love an individual can take. Out of these friendships that develop come learning and appreciation, a good citizenry, and powerfully redemptive relationships.

We also come to this issue as a church gathered. We are embracing every color and background in the fellowship of the Son each week as we gather. Those of us here at CLC need only look around to see the vibrant assortment of people from many backgrounds. What ever the church does, we must remain openly redemptive toward those who are curious about our Savior. Churches can and should sponsor immigrant families into the neighborhood and work to Influence our citizenry with ESL classes and citizenship classes. We are called to reach those around us with the love of Christ. As we feed and cloth the needy and work to heal the hurting in our community we are extending the hand of Christ to all, teaching about our God.

There is a third way that American Christians respond to immigrants. That is through the policy of the government. While the government is tasked with securing and keeping Americans safe, it must balance both the individual moral mandates of the individuals with the obligations of the state. What I see argued so often on social media is a challenge to the governmental institutions. America is not a theocracy, nor do we ever want it to be such. Individual moral perspectives and mandates can influence but not drive the policy of governments because we live in a pluralistic society. Government is privy to information that we do not have, works under a mandate that neither individual Christians nor the Church have, and must balance immigration policy with border security.  As such we must challenge the status quo of the government with the proclamation of God’s heart for the alien and stranger but to do so with an understanding of the complexity of the mandate.

Oversimplifications, and often unbiblical statements, representing Christ by both extremes works violence against the Church of Jesus. Last year (2015) the Assemblies of God invested $211.1 million overseas. Each preaching point that is developed preaches the acceptance of a loving God and works to strengthen and reinforce local churches, families, and individuals. A person comes to the Lord Jesus in an Assemblies of God church every 20 seconds. A good deal of that investment in overseas mission work is with the poorest of the poor, in countries that are facing governmental destabilization. Some are in countries affected by the latest travel restrictions. Please saints, let us pray for the resolution of the problems of the poor, the refugee, and the immigrant. And may we also work for unity in the church and in America as well.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Pure Joy

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.”
‭‭James‬ ‭1:2-7‬ ‭NIV‬‬

It arrested me immediately as I read the first line of James 1. PURE JOY. Amazingly, the Scripture is admonishing us to identify pure joy as the outcome of trials. In my completely human estimation pure joy would be the result of being financially free or physically whole or in a great relationship with your life mate. I could see pure joy as the outcome of a fantastic dinner or an intimate romance. I could see pure joy as the result of complete and totally carefree life. But NOT trials, not the testing of my very belief system and my personal faith.

And yet I have experienced this very pure joy recently. It comes not in the perfection of the externals of my life, and not in the trouble free aspects of health or bodily comfort. It comes from something inside. A faith that quietly whispers to your spirit, "its going to be alright". To be honest the first time I really noticed it was in the throws of my stage 4 cancer diagnosis. (And I confess that just because the voice of the Spirit was whispering to me doesn't mean I always believed that voice!) I think that what happens is that you begin to be hopeful. Then you choose the pathway of perseverance. And the simple things begin to give you a pure and unadulterated joy.

Pure joy is the joy that comes in the moment. It is the joy that lingers when everything else has abandoned you. It is what is there when no one calls or writes. Pure joy is satisfying and simple. Pure joy is rudemental and foundational. Pure joy brings a confidence of soul, and a peace of mind. Pure joy is small and gentle. It is less belly laugh and more smirk. It is not situationally dependent, and not dependent upon the externals. Pure joy is the joy that lingers still... and still more.

Now that cancer is in my rear view mirror, I have made some adjustments to my life. Some vows to myself (and a few promises to God!) But they aren't major life altering things, just simple joys. One of those is written in my notes as "more sunrises and sunsets". I just am determined to find the joy in watching the sun open and close the days. It means something to me, these days. There aren't a lot of high pressure expectations there, just sunrise and sunset.

Maybe that's part of what happens. Our expectations of a trouble free life, a perfect relationship, a pain free existence get simply tuned to finding pure joy. If your facing a looming period of trial or temptation, I pray that pure joy will be found as you make your attitude adjustments.