Pastor's Words for Living

What Season Is It?

Most of us aspire to live in the midst of an abundant harvest.  The neglected truth in many instances is that we want the harvest without preparing the soil, sowing the seed and cultivating the plants.  We would label a farmer who followed this methodology as not very smart.  Yet, we fret over the lack of spiritual fruit in our lives and churches while investing little or nothing in sowing and cultivating toward the harvest.

At the beginning of a new year it's a fitting time for us to make some new commitments rather than waste time developing resolutions that rarely produce lasting results.  It's time to invest ourselves in working the soil of our hearts, sowing the seeds of the gospel and cultivating the fields around our lives toward a bountiful harvest.  What should that look like in our lives?  Allow me to offer just a few simple ideas in this regard.

(1)  Let us sow seeds of appreciation.
      Actively look for ways and opportunities to be thankful.
      Practice giving expression to your gratitude.
(2)  Let us sow seeds of meditation.
      Follow a plan to read daily God's Word.
      Invest yourself in more indepth study of God's Word.
      Work at memorizing portions of Scripture.
      Engage in opportunities to share, discuss and apply Scripture in small group settings.
(3)  Let us sow seeds of participation.
      Identify ministry opportunities that fit with your abilities and passions.
      Take the step of faith to become involved in serving through such ministry opportunities.
      Stop looking for reasons to avoid engaging in personal missions and ministry opportunities.
(4)  Let us sow seeds of celebration.
      Determine to become more passionate as a worshiper of the Lord.
      Faithfully nuture genuine worship in your personal quiet time each day.
      Make regular weekly worship with the church body a priority.
      Enter His gates with singing and praise.

These are not the only seeds we should sow and nuture, but imagine the harvest if God's people really became serious in planting such seeds with joy and expectation.  What an incredible harvest would be in the making.  It's time to move beyond wishful thinking and enter a time of purposeful sowing.  It's sowing season!

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Kim Davis: Hero or Hypocrite?

The heart of this issue is a timeless challenge for God's people ... how do we reconcile obedience to the laws of the land, under the civil government ordained by God with laws that are directly opposed to God's law.
 
Daniel portrays this dilemma ... Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego instructed to worship the massive image of Nebuchadnezzar or be tossed in the fiery furnace ... Daniel blatantly defied decrees to worship only Nebuchadnezzar by simply continuing to pray to his God and was tossed in the Lions' den.
 
Paul encouraged Christians to submit to the government because it has it's authority granted by God.  Most of us would agree with Paul that we submit to the government until it requires us to do something that means disobeying God.  
 
In principle what Ms. Davis is doing is something we all should appreciate and defend.  It is clear that marriage has always been a union between one man and one woman.  Same-sex unions are an offense to the design and purpose of God.  She is following the law of God as superior to the laws made by man and she appears to be willing to face whatever consequences that action merits.  
 
The fact that she has her own flaws and failures is in no way a compromise to her stand in this instance.  It is not a valid argument to assert that she has been less than perfect in her personal life, therefore she is unable to take this stand now.  Everyone of us, including Judge Bunning, have transgressions in our lives but still have the opportunity and duty to stand for what is right over what is wrong.
 
Al Mohler has a good article on this subject that I believe can be helpful to all of us as we consider this unfolding drama.
 
 

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What Is The Difference Between Original Sin And Imputed Sin?

Original sin and imputed sin are important consequences of Adam's sin in the Garden of Eden.  A clear understanding of each and how they affect us is critical to grasping the gospel.  Take a look at this brief description offered by Matt Perman.  I believe you will find it helpful in bringing clarity to this issue.

http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/what-is-the-difference-between-original-sin-and-imputed-sin



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How Can I Be Sure God's Love Is Present And Working In My Life

From D. Martyn-Lloyd Jones – Ten Tests to apply and know for certain I know His love

1.  A loss of the sense that God is against me.
                  
2.  A loss of the fear of God … and a greater sense of His wonder and awe.
 
3.  There is a feeling and sense that is for me and that He loves me.
 
4.  There is a definite sense of sins forgiven.
 
5.  There is a sense of gratitude & thanksgiving.
 
6.  There is an increasing hatred of sin in my heart.
 
7.  There is a desire to please God & live a good life because of His grace in me.
 
8.  There is a desire to know Him better and to draw closer to Him.
 
9.  There is a regret that my love for Him is insufficient.
          
10.  I delight in hearing these things.
                

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Living the Gospel - Thrilled by the Work of His Hands

How will the gospel affect my life today?
 
Life is filled with contradictions.  One of the strangest is that life itself is nothing more than death on a daily basis.  In spite of our most determined efforts, everything drifts into a state of monotony and deadness.  Mankind works feverishly to counteract this phenomenon by filling his daily schedule with all sorts of tasks and activities.  He constantly feels the need to energize his actions in order to foster some idea of living to the fullest.  Yet, the freshest of plans and experiences begin immediately to fade, become stale and less interesting.  The best laid plans to thrill our souls quickly become empty and lifeless.
 
Psalm 92:4 offers a powerful remedy.  “For you, O Lord, have made me glad by your work; at the works of your hands I sing for joy.”  The New Living Translation expresses it this way; “You thrill me, Lord, with all you have done for me!  I sing for joy because of what you have done.”  I would dare to quibble with the NLT in that the thrill is not just about what has been done for me personally, but all that He has done period.  However, “You thrill me,” is an incredible statement for those of us who are adopted into God’s family.  Everything that my heart longs for is simply to be thrilled.  That longing is fulfilled in the marvelous workings of God Himself.
 
How does it become reality in our daily lives?  It seems that this verse gives us the answer.  If the works of God’s hands fuel the thrill for our souls, then it stands to reason that we need to see and recognize His magnificent works.  Prayer that asks for God to reveal to us the infinite and powerful works of His hands.  His Word is overflowing with the evidence of His works.  They challenge us to be diligent in watching for His working hand in our daily lives. 
 
“You have multiplied, O Lord my God, your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us; none can compare with you!  I will proclaim and tell of them, yet they are more than can be told.”  - Psalm 40:5
 
Meditate upon the works of God’s hands evidenced in His word. 
Ponder prayerfully the many ways His works are being manifested around you daily.  Write them down in a journal or on some blank pages in your Bible. 
Express gratitude for all that the Lord is doing to glorify His great name. 
Ask Him to use His works to change and shape your heart according to His desires.
Be prepared to be thrilled!

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Living the Gospel - No other gods before God

How will the gospel affect my life today?
 
No other gods before God
 
It is easy for me to claim to follow Christ and still look to other gods for the practicalities of my daily life.  The gospel assures me that I need nothing or no one but Christ, yet I find myself leaning upon everything and everyone other than Christ.
 
Psalm 81:9, 10 says, “There shall be no strange god among you; you shall not bow down to a foreign god.  I am the Lord your God, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.  Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.”
 
The text points to God’s deliverance of Israel out of captivity in Egypt.  After the nation’s deliverance from bondage, it continued to stumble down forbidden paths and covet strange gods rather than remain faithful to God alone.  Not only did it happen to a nation, but it also occurs daily in every believer’s life.  Christ delivers us from our sin and condemnation, yet we continue to crave the gods of this world.
 
When I claim to believe the gospel and to follow Christ, but I trust in my own capabilities to deal with daily issues, I am essentially putting other gods before God.  The biggest challenge to the throne in my life is always the god, ‘me’.  Me craves the place of leadership and worship in my daily living.  So, how can I refrain from bowing down to me?  How can I guard my heart against looking to the little gods of this world and remain devoted to the Lord as God?

When I believe an action plan has presented itself in my life, I should continue to pray and deliberate before the Lord.  I should wait until He makes it clear the plan is His and the power I need to implement it must be His as well.  When I am walking the path He has revealed, I should continue to preach to myself that I cannot trust any wisdom or provision other than what comes from Him.  I must discipline my heart to want only the Lord’s glory and to celebrate only His glory.  If I am in line to receive the praise, the plan has become my plan and not His.

Lord, examine my life and expose the foreign gods that vie for my affections.  Weaken me that I may not be able to cling to them, but only fall into your arms of strength and provision.

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Living the Gospel - Boldness

How will the gospel affect my life today?
 
Boldness
 
We are living in challenging times.  Christians are facing immense persecution all around the world, and intolerance is growing even in our own nation.  Churches seem oblivious to what is happening.  They have willingly silenced the gospel in order to fill calendars and buildings with nominal Christians and even unbelievers.  It makes us feel better about ourselves to create our own fruitfulness even though it has no connection to holiness or Christ-likeness.  We’ve become complicit in the spiritual death of our culture and our churches.
 
We know that no one can destroy the Church because it belongs to Christ.  In fact, Christ determines what will happen in and through the Church.  “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”  (Matthew 16:18)  Still, the followers of Christ have a specific assignment to make a bold and clear proclamation of the gospel to the entire world.  It is not acceptable for us to be silent or even timid with the gospel.  We must become convicted and convinced that the true gospel is the power of God unto salvation for all people.  We must be willing to take up our responsibility to proclaim this amazing message to the entire world.
 
The Church at Jerusalem faced unique pressures after the ascension of Jesus.  Filled with the Holy Spirit, they were compelled to preach the death, burial and resurrection of Christ in the very place where He had been crucified only days before.  The powers that were responsible for the death of Jesus threatened the disciples in an attempt to silence their preaching, the Church gathered together and prayed.  Acts 4:23-31 describes the passionate pleas they made before God and His glorious response.  Verse 31 says that the place where they gathered was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.
 
As intolerance and oppression escalates against the followers of Christ, we must pursue the path of the Jerusalem church.  Let us pray with fervency and expectation that we be filled with the Holy Spirit and that we continue to speak the word of God with boldness.  Let us not be complicit in the silencing of the gospel.

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Living the Gospel - Contentment

How will the gospel affect my life today?
 
Contentment
 
Philippians 4:10-12 says, “I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me.  You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity.  Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.  I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound.  In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.”
 
The word content or contentment portrays the idea of being satisfied.  This temporal world offers no real satisfaction.  The more we have and the more we experience, the more we want.  Abundance actually fosters a net result of dissatisfaction.  It’s like a drug habit that requires more of the drug each usage to produce the same high.
 
The things of this world affect us spiritually much like drinking salt water affects us physically.  Sat water will never quench thirst.  In fact the kidneys must have more water to dilute the seawater in order to flush the salt from the body.  That extra water is pulled from the body and leads to dehydration.  Drinking salt water causes greater thirst and eventually will lead to death.
 
The same is true about the pleasures of this temporal world.  We experience them and they may feel good for the moment, but they always leave us wanting more and more.  They eventually lead us to spiritual deadness.
 
Contentment is being satisfied.  Real contentment is found only in Christ.  He supplies all that we truly need and He is always sufficient for all that we need.  The follower of Christ must focus upon this as a core truth and practice for living if he or she is to know contentment.  Keep the eyes off the enticing lures of this temporal existence and instead lock them on Christ alone.
 
How can we do this?

We can study the examples in Scripture.  Cain and Abel … Jacob and Esau … the two mothers quarreling over a child before King Solomon … Israel’s wilderness struggles, particularly the incident of the golden calf … the prodigal son … Daniel and his friends in Babylon … Paul’s friend Demas.  The Bible is filled with examples of this stark contrast between contentment and discontentment.

We can focus on the amazing promises that God has made to His followers.

We can saturate our minds and hearts with the Word and wisdom of God.

We can intentionally discipline ourselves.  Paul said that he buffeted his body to bring it into submission.  Scripture encourages a pattern of fasting and prayer that contributes to reigning in the desires of the flesh in order to prioritize the spiritual.

We can journal the countless ways God has protected us from our wants and provided for our needs that our hearts might be strengthened.

Lord, enable my heart to be filled with contentment in You every moment of this day.


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Living the Gospel - Patience

How will the gospel affect my life today?
 
Patience
 
I do not like patience.  Patience intimidates and irritates me.  If I am to have patience, I do not want to learn it, but receive it in full measure apart from experience.  And I prefer to have it now!
 
There may be no more glaring picture of flesh in me than impatience.  Impatience exposes my love for self and my lack of love for others.  Impatience also makes it clear that my talk of trusting in God, is more talk than truth.  Still, the Word of God tells me that patience is a genuine fruit of the Spirit and its absence from my life is not an option.  I need patience --- I need to live patiently as evidence of Christ’s presence in my life. 
 
Romans 12:12 is becoming one of my favorite verses.  It says, “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.”  This may be one of the best descriptions of the Christian life in the Bible.  It confesses that I can live daily, with gladness and joy because of my inheritance which includes dwelling in the incredible glory of God forever.  No matter what today holds for me, it is only temporary.  No matter how intense the discomfort or difficulty I am experiencing, there is coming for me an eternity of unspeakable beauty in the presence of God. 
 
Because of this certain glory that is soon to be revealed in its fullness, how difficult is it to be patient in this present tribulation?  The view from the storm is always challenging and makes us to feel hopeless.  But, when I put on the lenses of God’s promises --- the expectation of my future with Him, the present hardship appears as it really is, just a momentary affliction.
 
Be constant in prayer.  Here is the means for nurturing hope and patience in me --- prayer.  Prayer is a privilege, but it is also an investment.  It is a labor, though the fruit from it is sweet beyond description.  Prayer is the place where my heart is filled again with the joy of my hope in Christ.  Prayer is the place where my heart is lifted from the chaos of this present world and rooted in the glories of the world to come.  Hallelujah!

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Living the Gospel - Humility

How will the gospel affect my life today?
 
Humility
 
The daily temptation in our lives is to defend ourselves.  This means that in every situation we are looking for what serves us first and best.  It is proficiency in this area that the world admires and respects.  Being unable or willing to stand up for one’s self is failure in the eyes of the world.
 
Scripture makes it very clear that followers of Christ are to be humble.  James 4:6 says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”  First Peter 5:6-7 says, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you.”  Our present-day culture defines humility as weakness.  The true meaning of humility as used in Scripture is to be “God-reliant instead of self-reliant.”  We are humble as we learn to fully depend upon the Lord and not ourselves.
 
What does this mean in practical terms?  It means that I practice contentment in God’s purposes and plans.  It means that I do not resist the ways that He determines to carry out His purposes and plans in my life.  I do not stiffen my neck or attitudes toward Him.  That is, I do not grow resentful or bitter, but I rest in His provision to carry me through the circumstances He has ordained for my life and to trust that He will be glorified and I will be sanctified. 
 
Lord, empower me to live humbly today, comfortable in your strength and in your plans.  Make me to rest in Your perfection and my weakness.

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