Proud or Honest?

Luke 1: 53 ” He has filled the hungry with good things; And sent away the rich empty- handed.

Pride is an American institution.  We have self-made men.  We have stars.  We have prima donnas.  We have divas.  We are the wealthiest nation on earth.  We put those who look good on camera into the spotlight and make them our role models.  We lift up the athlete, the actor, and the musician up on pedestals for everyone to marvel at.  We ignore the many faithful teachers, nurses, mothers, and sanitation workers.  Yet, where would we be without these folks?  Yes, pride is an American institution.

I wonder if we have given real thought into the many times that God has specifically singled out the proud person for criticism in His Word.  Even during the first Christmas God’s opinion of the proud is clear.  God picked a poor Jewish woman to carry His Son.  He picked a poor Jewish carpenter to be Jesus’ step-dad.  He picked shepherds (not the upper class by any stretch of the imagination) to be the first strangers to visit the new King.  In fact, the only people of any substance to be involved in the blessed event were foreigners who would not have been well respected in Israel.

Mary said something interesting in her song of praise when she and Elizabeth spent some time together before the birth of their babies.  She said that God “has filled the hungry with good things.” and, “has sent away the rich empty-handed.”  That makes me think about how often I come to God truly admitting my hunger.  Do I really admit how much I need Him?  Or do I come with my pride and say, “I’m okay.  I just need a little of God today.”  What a joke!  I don’t need a little of God.  I need as much of God as He is willing to give me.  I am wretched, naked, and blind.  I need His healing.  I need His strength.  I am in desperate need of nothing less than all of Him!  Yet, do I keep propping myself up in my unwillingness to be honest about my need?

What about you?  Does humility or pride mark how you approach God?  Do you admit your neediness to Him?  He fills the hungry with good things while He sends the rich away empty-handed.  Does the thought of that fill you with gratitude or resentment?  If you are rich are you asking, “Why doesn’t He receive me too?”  Maybe that’s the point.

Something to think about,

Pastor John

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Are You Ready

Mark 13:37 What I say to you I say to all, ‘ Be on the alert!

Are you ready for Jesus to come back?  No, I am not asking if your bags are packed.  Nor am I asking if your affairs are in order.  Here’s what I am asking, “Is your soul ready for Jesus to return?”  When Jesus taught about His return He didn’t focus on the details that we see in the book of Revelation.  He didn’t focus on the spectacular or the sensational.  He focused on the people.  He tells people what to do when persecution comes.  He lets us know that all we have to do is remain faithful.

Being ready for the return of Christ is not about what we know (the intricacies of end times theology, the progression of God’s judgments).  It is about trust.  Do we trust that Jesus will truly return?  Do we trust what Jesus has taught us?  Do we let both of those things give us courage?  Courage to do right.  Courage to follow when all reason says it is foolish.  Isn’t that the power that trust gives us?  Because we believe, we stand.  William Tyndale said, “For if God be on our side, what matter maketh it who be against us, be they bishops, cardinals, popes, or whatsoever names they will?” Did you hear that?  What does it matter who opposes us if God is on our side?  That is the glory of trust!

So, what about us?  Do we live in that trust?  What is stopping us?  What is stopping you?

Something to think about,

Pastor John

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So Many Blessings, So Little Time

1 John 3:17  But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?

Why do good things happen to people?  That’s not the usual question, is it?  Usually we ask the opposite – why do bad things happen to people?  However, we should be asking the same question of our blessings.  We should be asking why is God blessing us at this time and place.

Before we start asking the question, let’s make sure that we aren’t asking out of guilt.  That isn’t the point.  This isn’t about feeling guilty about our blessings.  It is about using those blessings for the reason they are given.

So, why have you been blessed?  We know that we are given spiritual gifts by God to bless the body of Christ. The Scripture above tells us another reason that we have been blessed: to bless others.  So, are we doing that or are we using our blessing to just bless ourselves?

A final reason we find ourselves in a time of blessing is the same reason that we are sometimes tested – to prepare us for what may come next.  We are told in God’s Word that we should, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.” (James 1:2-3)

Funny thing about blessings… they too are a type of trial.  They tempt us to be apathetic.  They tempt us to trust the blessing rather than God.  They even tempt us to want the blessing instead of God.  So, is it any surprise that we should use our blessings for the same thing that we should use our trials?  We should use them to prepare.  We should be preparing to be God’s clear witnesses.  We should be preparing for times of persecution and discouragement.  We should be preparing for other temptations that wage war on our souls.

So, what are you using your blessings for?  Are you asking the question?  Why have you been blessed?

Something to think about,

Pastor John

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Devotion… Do We Live It

Luke 16:10  “He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much.

This verse catches me in every context I read it.  In Luke 16, Jesus is illustrating how lost people know how to use money better to get what they want than believers.  Instead of using money to bring glory to God, we get distracted and start chasing the same things that lost people do.  In Luke 19 it is an admonition to use whatever you have (whether it is small or large) to do God’s will.

The question I face is – Am I faithful in small things?  That is the true test of devotion, isn’t it?  True devotion is found in the small daily choices we make.  In human relationships, it is these small daily choices which show our family and friends that we love them.  The same is true with God.  As we daily make little choices (having a time with God, considering His plans for our day, choosing kindness and the gospel in our expressions to others, etc.) we live in the reality of our devotion.  

So, are we faithful in the little things?  What will you and I try to be more faithful in today?  Will it be how we speak to those we live with?  Will it be in intentionally planting the seeds of the gospel with someone we encounter or rub shoulders with?  Will it be in how we entertain ourselves tonight?  How will our devotion to God show itself today?

Something to think about,

Pastor John

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Young people rock!

1 Timothy 4:12  Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe.

Yesterday our students led us in worship.  It was an amazing declaration of God’s love.  They reminded us of how God’s hope is seen from Genesis through Revelation.

It got me thinking… Do they know that they are a powerful witness for Jesus?  Do they know how they affect, encourage, and challenge everyone in the body of Christ?   I know that much of our leadership is over 25.  We do that so that untested individuals aren’t given the burden of leadership before they are ready.  Yet, when our young people lead through volunteering to serve or volunteering to be a part of worship they affect the lives of other Christians in profound ways.

If you are a young person, don’t chafe because your community of faith wants to protect you from the heavy burdens that come with leading.  Instead, keep showing them your passion, humility, and willingness to shine for Jesus.  When you love and shine with joy, you keep proving to yourself and to your family of faith that your desire to follow Jesus is not a passing thing, but it is a permanent part of your life.

If you are an older person, open up ways that your young people can serve and share the love of Jesus.  You might encourage them to help in VBS.  You might invite them to read scripture, give their testimony, and help leading the singing time of your worship service.  The point is, encourage them to exercise their faith and rejoice when they respond.

Don’t let anyone think less of you just because you are young.  Don’t let anyone think less of the young just because they are young.  We are on this journey for Jesus together.  So, let’s walk together!

Something to think about,

Pastor John

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From a paycheck to a purpose

Colossians 3:23 Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.

What makes work meaningful for you?  Is it the paycheck?  Are you climbing the ladder?  Is that enough for you or do you need more?  What if you are retired?  Does getting out of bed in the morning excite you?  What about you stay at home moms?  Is your work meaningful to you?

There are two ways that work becomes meaningful.  I am not talking about work satisfying a need (like paying the bills or keeping us out of trouble).  For most of us, our occupation is a necessity.  However, God says that it can be more.  It doesn’t have to be just a job or a task.  It can be meaningful.  It can have deep purpose.  It can make us want to jump out of bed in the morning.

How?  How can being a button pusher be meaningful?  How can changing diapers be meaningful?  How can a dead end job be meaningful?  What about retirement?  How can it be meaningful?

Two ways our Scripture gives us today:

  1. Change who you are serving.  We get very focused on who sets our agenda everyday.  If that person is good or fun to work with, we can enjoy our work most days.  However, small children, cranky bosses, unappreciative  managers, and disrespectful coworkers can make it difficult to see the meaningful nature of our work.  God encourages us to make a boss change.  He encourages us to awake every morning to the reality that it is Jesus who we are serving.  It isn’t a person who will let you down and ignore your contributions.  It is the loving and giving Son of God who is your true boss.  I can work every day for a boss like that.  Can’t you?
  2. Change why you are serving.  Unless you can work at an occupation that has intrinsic value to you (you really believe in the product or service you are providing), it becomes easy for work to lack meaning.  However, if every day we see our work as an investment in eternity that changes it.  We aren’t just turning bolts or typing on keyboards.  We are investing in the future.  We are investing in people.  We are seeking to plant seeds in the lives of people for Jesus.  No, you don’t have to be a pastor to do this.  We all do it all the time.  Sometimes on purpose.  Sometimes by accident.  When we do it on purpose, it changes not only the people around us, but it also changes us.  It gives new worth to each day.

So, what about you?  Will you work for the same boss that you did yesterday, or will you now work for Jesus?  Will you just do the job and pursue the paycheck, or will you also reinvest in the future of those around you for Jesus’ sake?

Something to think about,

Pastor John

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Living By a Different Vision

Everyone has an idea of what they are capable of.  Sometimes it comes from training.  Our athletes, soldiers, and doctors have this idea.  They have been trained for a job.  It becomes second nature to them and they know that they can do it.  Their training has tested them.  Their training has also showed them that they can do what they need to in their field.  Sometimes our idea of what we are capable of comes from the encouragement of others.  A parent, a big brother or sister, or a respected family member or friend intentionally encourages us to see our potential they way they do.  At other times our idea of what we can do comes from our experiences.  We experience success or disappointment and we conclude that our abilities must reflect those experiences.  We believe our failures or the offhand comments that people make about our stumbles and agree that they must be right.

Yet, what do you do when the people or person who knows you best disagrees with your experiences?  What if the one who knows and loves you believes that you can do more and be more than your experience has taught you thus far?  Who will you believe?

This is the great challenge of daily living by faith with Jesus.  Our experiences so often teach us that sin always wins and that we cannot truly walk by faith.  They tell us that our actions and reactions are simply natural.  Yet, we hear Jesus call us to abide in Him. (John 15)  We are told that we can live by the Spirit rather than the flesh.  He tells us that we can have faith!

Now comes the hard part: who will we listen to?  Will we listen to our experiences or Jesus.  Which vision of our life will we embrace?  Will we embrace a natural vision where sin is inevitable?  Or will we embrace a supernatural vision where faith overcomes the flesh?

There is a choice here.  It is a choice of who will we believe. God puts it this way through the apostle, “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please…If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:16-17, 25)  Do you hear the choice? You can live by the Spirit.  You can live by the flesh.  If you believe in Jesus as your Savior, then the choice is truly before you.  Will you believe it?  Will you embrace Jesus’ vision for your life?

This is our challenge this week – Be transformed by Christ’s vision of man. Will you live by that different vision?

Something to think about,

Pastor John


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