Phil. 4:6; John 14:13-14 Pray first, Not last!

What are the things that burden and discourage us….that steal our joy?…our peace? Is it personal sufferings; adversities come in many different forms.

There are certainly no shortage of things to worry about – government/worldwide issues, financial issues, family, relationship issues, health issues…And each of these categories can be sub-categorized into a plethora of smaller details with which we can easily burden ourselves with worry for things over which we hold no control.

I once saw a cartoon that read, “They said it couldn’t be done…so, I didn’t even try!”

The point is not that ‘adversities, sufferings, discouragements are always going to happen and there’s nothing we can do about it, so don’t even bother to try’. The problem” is fixable. The “way” you’re trying to fix it is wrong. See, Jesus said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Mt. 19:26

When we encounter discouragement, adversity, suffering, we have to stop thinking of “ourselves” as the first “problem fixer” to go to.

Philippians 4:6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

Unfortunately, our heavenly Father has become a “last resort” to many a believer, who has tried everything in his/her human toolbox to fix the problem their way first. They’ve laid awake endless nights trying to figure out how the issue could be rectified when simply turning it over to the Lord was the right answer from the beginning. We need to take it to the Lord in prayer!

In an internet article titled, 7 Reasons Our Prayers are “Unanswered”, the #1 reason given for why prayers go seemingly “unanswered” is, “We Don’t Ask”. You really can’t blame God for not answering a prayer that was never prayedright? James 4:2b You do not have, because you do not ask God. 3When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

If it’s Jesus you seek, God’s will that is of primary importance, your prayers will be answered.

Luke 11:9 “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and it will be opened to you. There is so much that we all spend time worrying about, that daily robs us of our joy, that could be claimed “victories for the Kingdom”, if blood-washed believers would daily take it to the Lord in prayer! 

Wednesday, March 13th, is exactly 40 days prior to resurrection Sunday; the day we all recognize and celebrate the most important event in history! This year, our focus, and the focus of our sermon series leading up to Easter weekend, is “40 Days of Prayer Leading to Resurrection”. We will begin with that Wednesday evening service/message and each Lord’s day up and through Resurrection Sunday will focus upon different aspects of prayer. All along the journey we will be encouraging one another to be in fervent prayer over particular areas of concern; things of our own volition, we know we are incapable of changing, but by God’s will and not our own, and through the power of Jesus’ name, all things are possible. What things can we lift before the thrown of God as we approach the foot of Calvary? Church growth? Government/Our Nation’s issues? Personal devotion? Forgiveness? Spiritual Revival throughout the Nation/World? There’s still a few week’s left, if you have idea’s, write them down and slip them into our box in the entryway just outside the sanctuary!

The beautiful old hymn says it best:

O, what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear,

All because we do not carry Everything to God in prayer!  

Have we trials and temptations? Is there trouble anywhere?

We should never be discouraged, Take it to the Lord in prayer.

Can we find a friend so faithful Who will all our sorrows share?

Jesus knows our every weakness, Take it to the Lord in prayer!

What a friend we have in Jesus! Let’s make Him our first resource, not our last resort!

In the meantime, talk it up, put it on your calendars! Wednesday, March 13th, 6:00 p.m. – bring your friends, your neighbors, your neighbors you wish were your friends! And let’s be a praying force here in Barryton, MI that will make a difference throughout Michigan and the world!

John 14:13-14 13And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father.14You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.

 

In Christ,

 

Rick

Jeremiah 3:14 ‘Till Death Do Us Part’

‘Till death do us part…’  No month of the year puts us more in the mindset for loving, romantic relationships than February, because February is the month in which we celebrate Valentine’s Day. And because statistics tell us it is also the second most popular day for a proposal of marriage. When we think of marriage, we have to think of love as well. A marriage without love would be a car without an engine; a human life without a heart or lungs. This love that exists between these two individuals is a pretty incredible thing. It’s a sacrificial love, a love that perhaps for the first time, is choosing beyond itself to fully commit, fully submit to another.

When such a choice, between a man and a woman, is mutually made to “commit and submit” to another as life partners, this is what is rightly referred to as “monogamy”, and this is what God, in His word, has ordained. This love was not “fallen into”, nor is it a static love that will be the same 5, 10, of 50 years from now as it is right now. It’s not a love that depends upon appearance or health or wealth, rather it’s a love that you choose to demonstrate and act on. It’s an act of the mind as much as an act of the heart. Agape’ love. C.S. Lewis called it “gift love”.

So this man and this woman, in their conscious choice of one another make vows to one another, promises to have and to hold, to love and to cherish, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health… of all the promises that can be made between the two of them, the main idea is the commitment of two lives to one another, “for as long as you both shall live.”

In this physical life, “as long as we both shall live”, is all any of us have to promise (Hebrews 9:27).  Jesus said in Matthew 22:30 in answer to the Sadducees questioning Him about marriage at the resurrection, 30 “At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.”  But Scripture always references the body of Christ, the Church, or in the Old Testament, when referring to Israel, it refers to God as a Husband and Israel as His bride.

 

Jeremiah 3:14 “Return, faithless people,” declares the Lord, “for I am your husband. I will choose you – one from a town and two from a clan – and bring you to Zion.

 

On earth God cares for and protects Israel as any affectionate husband would. He looks after them in spite of their unfaithfulness, and yet they bear the name of the people of the God of Israel, they share in His wealth, reap the benefit of His wisdom and guidance. He continues to treat them as a husband who wants only to spare His bride any grief or public disgrace (Mt. 1:19).

Charles Spurgeon says, “In heaven they marry not, but are as the angels of God; yet there is one marvelous exception to the rule, for in heaven Christ and His Church shall celebrate their joyous nuptials. This affinity as it is more lasting, so is it more near than earthly wedlock.”

 

In Christ,

Rick

Tools – The necessities for your Christian walk. – Article by, Mari-Anna Sta

Go and Stop being Vile! Job 40:4; John 8:1-11

Job was no fool. When you’re right, you’re right…and when you’re wrong, you’re wrong. When you stand before your father with cake crumbs all over your shirt and frosting smeared from earlobe to earlobe, and dad looks straight at you as says, “Will you deny that you’ve been into your mother’s cake?” [“Will the faultfinder contend with the Almighty?” Job 40:2]

Job’s reply? There would be no argument here. Not today. The NIV says, 4 “I am unworthy…”

King James puts it another way. 4 “Behold, I am vile.” I am guilty. I am sinful. I am not worthy of you. Rotten ole Job! Throw the book at him, Lord! Sinner!

Now hold on…hold on…HOLD ON! Just a minute! Isn’t there anything here that sounds just a little bit familiar? Do you know that there is not a single name in the entire Bible, nor outside of it, apart from Jesus Christ Himself, who couldn’t make that same statement apart from the blood of Jesus? Which, by the way, includes you and I. That same book could be thrown at all of us. James 2:13b says, “Mercy triumphs over judgment!”

In John 8, Jesus was teaching in the temple courts when the Pharisees and teachers of the law brought a woman in before Him who had been caught in the act of adultery. In an effort to trap Jesus in a no-win situation – if He ordered her to be stoned per the law of Moses, He violates Roman law (Jews were not allowed to carry out the death sentence), if didn’t order her stoned he’d be seen as not supporting Jewish law – they ask Jesus, 5“Teacher, the Law of Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?”

Jesus bent down and starts writing in the dirt with his finger. Pretty soon he stands up and says, 7“If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” Then he bent back down and resumed his doodling in the dirt.

This caveat seemed to put a bit of a twist in their trap. One by one, beginning with the older, I suspect, wiser ones dropped their stones and walked away until all that was left was Jesus and the woman. Jesus stands up and asks her, 10“Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

11“No one, sir,” she said.

“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.

Go now and leave your life of “unworthiness”, of “vile-ness”. Mercy triumphed over judgement. And that’s what Jesus prefers for any of us. It’s what He offers to any of us. It’s us that chooses to continue in our life of depravity.

Another beautiful part of this story is that God loves us even while we’re still “vile” and “unworthy”, and “guilty”. Otherwise, how could we ever approach Him? Not only does He love us and permit our approaching Him, He calls us to Him! The apostle Paul could give pretty good testimony to the Lord’s pursuit while he was yet “vile”. Paul said in his letter to Timothy;

 1 Timothy 1:15-16 15“It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all. 16Yet for this reason I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life.”

 1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

And there lies the most beautiful part of the story. If it weren’t for Jesus’ sacrifice, once for all our sins, we would all be still standing “vile”, “unworthy”, and even worse, “guilty”, before our heavenly Father awaiting our just punishment.

So when you hear someone say things like Job said, “Behold, I am vile.”, or “I am unworthy!”; or maybe like what Simon Peter said when he first met Jesus on their first fishing trip. After Jesus told them to cast their nets on the other side of the boat and they caught so many fish they filled the boat, Peter fell down at Jesus’ feet, saying, “Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!” Luke 5:8  The folks we know may not use the same words today. What you may hear is, ‘You just don’t understand the kind of life I’ve led, the things I’ve done.’

‘I’ve just done too many bad things in my life. God could never forgive me. He’d never hear my prayers.’

‘You don’t understand the things I’ve done!’

Here’s what we do understand:

 Romans 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…

 Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates His own love for us in this:

While we were still sinners,Christ died for us.

 Acts 2:21 And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.

What you did before is water over the dam. What you do now and forward is what matters.

“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”  John 8:11

 

In Christ,

Rick

Happy Fathers Day! Genesis 37

Happy (upcoming) Fathers Day! Unfortunately, the world we live in has produced many biological fathers, not all of which can be considered “Fathers” in the truest sense of the word. Certainly the children, the family, suffers when there is a lack of a father figure, but (1) a biological relationship does not a father make, and (2) the father not only cheats his children when he chooses not to participate in their lives; whether he realizes it or not, he cheats himself. Men, we have a God-given opportunity to lead, teach, nurture, love, encourage, protect…a piece of ourselves. We have an opportunity to watch them grow and we’ve got a front row seat from which to influence. Jody and I were blessed to have four wonderful children, 3 sons and a daughter; all good students and athletes. I was grateful for the chance to coach the boys in wrestling, baseball, and football, and spent many weekends in gyms for volleyball tournaments and track meets in support of all four of the kids. My children always said they listened for and could hear my voice above all the others, and that gave them inspiration. Dads, we have the ear of an impressionable child. What an awesome opportunity and responsibility! They’re teachable; teach them right.

Someone once said rather profoundly, “You only get one chance to make a first impression.” You can make a good “first impression”, or a bad “first impression”, but once it’s made, it’s made. There’s no rewind button. We have one childhood per child to teach them right. We have an opportunity to love them with all our ability…equally. Jesus gave us a model to follow for living life and for being a good father to our children, which after all is teaching them the best way to live life. We need to teach them to listen for the voice of instruction that comes from the Holy Spirit, to hear that voice above all the rest.

Romans 2:11 says, “For God does not show favoritism.” Neither can we, Dads. There were only two of us, my sister and I, growing up in our family. And there really was no favoritism issues. But it doesn’t require great numbers to favor one child over another. It only takes two. Favoritism breeds resentment, from which, if allowed to fester, comes contempt. A family that I knew of, also had but one son and one daughter. Both were adopted and, no doubt, were loved by their parents. However, as they grew older it became more and more evident that the father’s favorite was his son. The son was an honor student, popular in school, a good athlete…an easy target to dote over. But doting over the one became ignoring and borderline disrespect for the other. This favoritism continued into their adult lives as the daughter could seem to do nothing worthy of admiration in her father’s eyes. Resentment developed, not surprisingly, between the brother and sister, carrying into their adult lives where, even now, they have little if any relationship at all.

Sad stories at Fathers Day can be changed to glad stories if we learn from them. The Old Testament story of Jacob and his 12 sons demonstrates a thing or two about fatherhood and “what not to do”. It’s a story of how favoritism breeds resentment, contempt, and, in this case, personal guilt.

Jacob, the son of Isaac and grandson of Abraham, had 12 sons by three different women. Jacob favored Rachel above the rest and when she bore him two sons, Joseph and Benjamin, Jacob favored Joseph above all his sons (Gen 37:3).  And it was rather obvious to the brothers. The story in Genesis 37, makes evident three points of contention that takes resentment into contempt.

#1 – Joseph was his father’s eyes and ears in the field. Verse 2 tells us that Joseph was a bit of a tattle-tale. It was bad enough that he was Daddy’s favorite, but he runs back to tell Jacob everything they do.

#2 – Jacob exacerbated the situation by making Joseph a “richly ornamented robe” (v3).

#3 – Jacob’s attitude and actions made it no secret that Joseph was favored above the rest and this fueled their contempt, not for their father but for Joseph. They coveted their father’s love and affections.

Resentment had blossomed into all out contempt. Verse 4 says, “they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him.”  Being the second to the youngest, not only was Joseph the newly coronated favorite, but he had taken over the position that they had all once held. They felt ignored and rejected by their father. Contempt is to resentment what a tornado warning is to a tornado watch. With a tornado watch, conditions are right for a potential tornado to develop. A tornado warning indicates that one has been sighted, it’s just a matter of where it will touch down or if it will touch down. Resentment is living in the same town where explosives are sold. Contempt is living in a 12’x 14’ shed nearly full of explosives. It only takes a spark for disaster to strike.

Disaster came in the form of Joseph’s dreams that “he” would rise to prominence and rule over “them”.  They would all bow down to him (v5-9). They hated him all the more. So, when Jacob sent Joseph on his next assignment to check up on his brothers, “they saw him coming from a distance and plotted to kill him.” (v18) But for his brother Reuben’s sudden case of conscience, they would have killed him. Instead they took his coat and threw him in a cistern until a merchant caravan came by and they sold him to them. They took his coat and covered it with goat’s blood and told their father that Joseph had been eaten by a wild animal (v33).  As far as they were concerned, Joseph was dead. No more favorite.  Favoritism had completed its course.  Resentment, contempt, death.

The story seemed to have ended badly, from their perspective. But God had other plans. In Genesis 50:20 Joseph says to his brothers, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”

God uses all situations to accomplish His purposes. So, maybe you think you dropped the ball as a father. You figure you did a poor job, didn’t teach your children the right principles, you weren’t the best example to them growing up. All is not lost. You’re still their father. They’re still your children. God is in the rehab business. He can take what you messed up and make it shiny new. “Everything is possible for him who believes.” Mark 9:23

So, Dads, let’s make this Fathers Day a glad story. Become a Godly father. Our heavenly Father has given us such a perfect example to follow!

In Christ,

Rick

2 Corinthians 11:2 Godly Jealousy

You know how much Jesus loves you? He loves you so much that He can’t bear the thought that you would choose another and not Him! He loves you so much that He would die for you! Wait a minute…He DID DIE FOR YOU! That death on the cross that we just celebrated, was the price He paid; not for His sins, He didn’t have any sins! It was the price He paid, FOR YOUR SINS AND MINE. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6:19b-20 “You are not your own; 20you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.” If we claim the redemption He has provided through the shedding of His blood, we belong to Him, and He’s not sharing!

2 Corinthians 11:2  2I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him. The Lord is very jealous of your love. Why wouldn’t He be? He paid such a dear price for it. How could you think that you are your own, or worse yet, that you belong to the world? He has already proven that He would rather die than to see anything come between you and His love! God loved so much that, while we were still sinners, He died for us that we could be reconciled to Him, be one with Him, and have eternal life with Him. He has a burning desire for us! God is jealous when someone takes something that rightly belongs to Him and keeps it for themselves or gives it to another; i.e. His glory, praise, our time, worship. When we give worship or praise to false gods that is due God Almighty, we provoke God’s righteous jealousy.

Furthermore, He is jealous of our trust. The only one you need to put your trust in is Him. Is your trust being misdirected to your finances, or lack of them? Maybe we’re putting a little too much faith in the world’s advice, i.e. secular counseling, advice of non-Christians, etc. Or when we rely a little too heavily on our own wisdom the wisdom of a friend – or worst of all, start putting too much trust in works of our own apart from the blood of Jesus, His jealousy is greatly aroused, since He’s always been glad when we trust in Him.

God is always jealous of the company we keep. Anyone we care deeply about we care deeply about every aspect of their life, including how they spend their time. Certainly, there should be no none we fellowship with more than Jesus. No one has invested so greatly in our life as He. No one has died for us. No one loves us so and has such an active role in our everyday life, He is our lifeblood! When you compare communion with the world with that of abiding with Jesus daily is grievous to our Lord!

John 15:5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”

 

In Christ, Rick

Psalm 97:10 “Hate Evil”

Never hate. That’s what we taught our children as we raised them up. In fact, “hate” was a word we did our best to not allow into our vocabulary where it pertained to human beings. ‘We don’t ever hate another,’ we would always tell our four children. Hate is the strongest form of disdain or contempt when used with regard to other people. On the contrary, God’s word is very clear that we’re to love one another, even those who don’t love us and treat us poorly.

Mt. 5:43-44 43“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy,’ 44But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…”

Psalm 45:7 says, “You love righteousness and hate wickedness.”

Psalm 97:10 says, “Let those who love the Lord hate evil,”

While we are instructed to love one another, as believers, as redeemed recipients of the “new life”, cleansed free of sin by the shed blood of Jesus, we are also instructed to “hate (that’s right, “hate”) evil”.  As Solomon says in Eccl. 3:1,8, 1“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: 8a time to love and a time to hate…”

And why not? If ever there was anything worthy of hatred, it is evil. Evil, the source of sin is, always has been, your greatest enemy. What terrible harm it has brought you. If it only had its way with you, you would be eternally separate from God and His wonderful grace that has in fact saved you. In those years before you came to Christ, sin had you blind to the beauty of the Lord and His love for you. Evil had you convinced that the things of God were foolishness, and made you deaf to His calling. Sin made your conscience numb to a sense of wrong. Evil turned your thinking inward to where all that was important to you was self-satisfaction and insatiable pride. There was no compassion for others – only for what would benefit you.

Oh, what a wretched excuse for humanity you were and what a path of destruction “evil” was leading you along before Jesus came to your rescue! Were it not for the saving grace, for the amazing love of Jesus, oh how lost you, me, all of us would be! We were on a raft headed out to sea, thinking we were going in the right direction, not caring that we were doomed to death, when along came Jesus and saved us; turned us toward shore, and guided us to safety.

1 Corinthians 6:11 And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

And don’t think the battle is over! Evil, sin, is still out there, lurking, ready to pounce…

1 Peter 5:8 Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

Therefore, “hate evil”, Christians. Don’t get apathetic. Evil can make itself look like just another part of the landscape. When the majority of our society is evil, then evil appears pretty normal…pretty acceptable.

What is worthy of our hatred is that from which Christ saved us, lest we ever, foolishly, apathetically, stumble back into its grasp again.

Romans 12:9 Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.

 

In Christ,

Rick

Glorify and Honor God –

  “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”  Matthew 6:33

Whom have I in heaven but you?  And earth has nothing I desire besides you. Psalm 73:25

Ah, our sweet, wonderful summertime is fading into our rearview mirrors and now autumn is upon us. It’s not like all the beauty of Summer is vanished, as fall certainly has its virtues albeit a bit more crisp in temperature. The colors of God’s creation will soon be upon us like an artist’s canvas and the crops that spent the summer growing are now ready for harvest. We’ll exchange longer daylight hours for earlier evenings and harvest moons, lemonade for apple cider, and baseball afternoons for football Friday nights. Even though anniversaries occur throughout the entire year, it always seems like June, July, and August are particularly so. My wife Jody and I celebrated our 35th anniversary this past July and three of our four children were married in June and July. Several couples here in the Barryton church have celebrated 50 years and more of marriage together! What terrific examples of what God has intended for the marriage relationship! It’s a demonstration of love and commitment to one another. But to love and commitment must also be added devotion and honor, in order for two individuals to abandon their own individual pursuits and ambitions in favor of the needs and ambitions of each other, as the “two become one” (Eph 5:31-33). The inward becomes outward. What better description of the Kingdom of God, the body of Christ, than this outward caring for another as we would care for ourselves (Mt. 23:39), or as Paul describes in Ephesians 5, 25Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her… 28…husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies.

Not long ago I was feeling convicted that my prayer life was not as it should be. As can often happen when we question why a relationship is not working as it should, or isn’t quite as you expect it to be, the answer is no further away than the mirror. “Hey, what’s wrong? You never come over to see me anymore.” To which the reply comes, “I’ve been home. Why don’t you come to see me?” Clearly, the problem was mine, not God’s. None the less, God was making me aware of my negligence. But this revealed to me yet another problem. When I would make myself pray it seemed legalistic and hollow. My prayers seemed to always consist of a list of needs (or wants, mostly my own) and a few boilerplate thank-you’s. I really wanted to spend quality time with God in prayer but we just didn’t have that much to talk about. Certainly God wants us to lift up one another in prayer and He wants us to come to Him with all our problems, questions, and needs, but I wanted our time together to draw us closer; to build on our relationship. See, just as in the marriage relationship – our relationship with God takes love, commitment, devotion, and honor.

So I turned to Matthew 6, where Jesus is teaching about prayer, and I read through the Lord’s Prayer. Now, I realize this is no magical, approved set of words, ‘the official prayer’ to be used if you ‘really want God to listen’, but Jesus’ prayer models for us a reverent, non-selfish, petition to God. It begins with first things first, priority #1: give honor to God. Before anything else, God is addressed, “Our Father, who is in heaven, hallowed (holy) is your name…” Then, the first request, or petition, is that God’s purposes, His will, be accomplished. At first I thought, “What if His will is not the same as my will?” But then it occurred to me; I’m the one with the problem. I need to get my will in line with God’s will, not the other way around. Because God’s will is perfect, and it always has my best interest at heart. So if I desire God’s will to “be done on earth as it is in heaven”, that is what’s best for me. It’s a matter of priority; putting God and His interest first; loving Him; glorifying Him; honoring Him, because He first loved me.

But it’s not a pay-back deal. ‘You did something good for me, so I need to do something just as good for you.’ Let’s face it. Any amount of love, or glory, we might be able to conjure up is going to fall embarrassingly short of what He deserves from us. What’s the perfect gift for the guy who has everything? Technically, nothing. So how do we glorify God. . . adequately? Technically, you can’t. We glorify God through honoring Him. Now honoring God is not one of those, ‘did we, or did we not, adequately honor God’ things. You either honor God or you don’t, through various means, not the least of which is placing Him first in all aspects of our lives; “priority”.

Some time back, I preached a message on “Honoring Christ”, in which I identified three key areas where we can honor Christ in our lives:

  1. We can honor Christ through obedience. Jesus said, 15“If you love me, you will obey what I command.” John 14:15
  2. We honor Christ by glorifying His name. 14”Sacrifice thank offerings to God, fulfill your vows to the Most High, 15and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me.” Psalm 50:14-15
  3. We give honor to the Lord when we trust His perfect judgment. Paul says in his letter to Timothy, “…because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.” 1 Timothy 1:12

These are by no means an exhaustive list of “ways in which we honor Christ”. We also honor Him with our prayers, with our thanksgiving, our tithes and offerings. We can honor with our integrity. We can honor Christ by, in every way, trying to be like Him. However, the pattern that we see demonstrated is that God, our father, our creator, our redeemer, our Lord must be the pinnacle of our affections. He will not play second fiddle to anyone or anything. We must place our relationship with God above all else. So ask yourself daily, ‘Is there anything in my life that I desire more than Jesus?’  Do you ever find yourself being prompted to pray about something, or for someone, and it’s so fresh at the time you just want to stop what you’re doing and pray? But, you’re kinda busy at the moment, so you tell God (in so many words), ‘Let me finish what I’m doing, and I’ll get back to you on that.’  I have. I’ve had times when I was driving down the road alone, and I so much felt that God “wanted to talk” and I thought, ‘Lord. As soon as this inning is over on the radio, I’ll shut it off and we’ll talk.’ Or, ‘Just let me finish checking my emails, or reading the sports, or watching a program on t.v……’; you fill in the blank. Here’s the bottom line; if the relationship is important to you, if it carries great value, it must be of highest priority. It must be honored.

Train Up A Child – They’re Worth It! Proverbs 22:6

 

It has been my privilege over the past three years, to serve on the board of trustees for the Rock Lake Christian Association. My relationship with the camp extends back far beyond those three years as it impacted the life and Christian upbringing of my wife Jody, all four of our children, and now we’re beginning to experience the fruits of such an impact upon yet a third generation in our family as the first two of our grandchildren are experiencing camp at Rock Lake.  This year was Benjamin’s first taste of camp (Kindergarten) as he and his Dad spent an overnighter. Ben had a wonderful time, met some new friends and learned about Jesus in a camp environment.

Brooklyn, a second grader, stayed three days and nights – with no parents! This was Brooklyn’s second year at Rock Lake, so she was (in her mind) a seasoned pro! She also met some new friends and took to camp like a fish to water! But the thing that thrilled my heart more than anything else was this: on Tuesday night, after coming home from camp, about bedtime (for her) I got a phone call from Ryan, her Dad. He told me what a wonderful time Brooklyn had at camp, but what he’d actually called about was, before bedtime, Brooklyn wanted him to read her the story of the lost sheep. That was one of the stories they learned about at camp and she particularly liked it. Ryan knew it was in Matthew but wasn’t sure exactly where to find it. So we come to the conclusion she was talking about the Matthew 18 parable of the lost sheep, also in Luke 15. So he hung up and read her the story. Later he called back and told me how excited she was about the things she had learned at camp. Brooklyn is an exceptional reader for a second grader. She has a children’s bible with lots of pictures and narratives written in story form, but it seems that Brooklyn came home with the request for a Bible, “a real Bible with chapters and verses…like yours…”. She wanted an Adventure Bible, like the ones they had at camp.

In years past, other children have come back from camp with similar experiences, some with stirred desire to be baptized, some simply renewed faith and a closer walk with Jesus. Each year I see so many of our kids going off to camp and coming back again renewed and invigorated! And so many of these kids would most likely not be able to go were it not for the generosity and compassion of this congregation. Every penny spent is a penny invested in these young lives, in the Kingdom of God. Every hour of effort encouraging, teaching, supporting is an investment in the future, in the Kingdom of God.

Somebody said, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” I have no idea who said it, but they’re right. That’s why those first, early impressions are so, so important. They’re what sets the crease, the imprint.

The things we’re taught early on in life have a chance to set in. Those things you were taught in kindergarten; ABC’s, spelling your name, saying “please” and “thank you”, and “excuse me”, those are things that have stuck with you throughout your life. You don’t have to stop and think about those things. They’re engrained in you. That’s why those childhood years are called “formative” years.

So when you see our youngsters come up front in the sanctuary with quivering knees and recite scripture verses they’ve committed to memory, to earn points for camp….or When you find yourself wondering if all that work that goes into VBS is worth it… or You start to wonder if any of those kids in Sunday school classes are getting anything at all out of it…. Seeds are being planted.  Training is underway. Kingdom work is being done! And it’s not going unnoticed! It’s ALL worth it!

Proverbs 22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.

(Thank You for Giving to the Lord by Ray Boltz)

I dreamed I went to heaven And you were there with me
We walked upon the streets of gold Beside the crystal sea
We heard the angels singing Then someone called your name
You turned and saw this young man And he was smiling as he came
And he said friend you may not know me now And then he said but wait
You used to teach my Sunday School When I was only eight
And every week you would say a prayer Before the class would start
And one day when you said that prayer I asked Jesus in my heart
CHORUS
Thank you for giving to the Lord I am a life that was changed
Thank you for giving to the Lord I am so glad you gave

In Christ, Rick

Fathers! Mow that lawn! Joshua 24:15

Oh how I do love springtime! I love the warmer weather. I love the birds singing. I love the trees budding out and the flowers coming up, and many of them blooming! Not so fond of the rapid growth of the grass in my yard though. But, that’s ok, it’s still springtime! After a week or two I’ll mow the lawn.

Fast forward two weeks. Man! My yard’s a mess! Sticks and tree branches layin all over, and the grass is out of control! This yardwork is going to be a nightmare! My yard’s never going to look nice like all the neighbor’s yards! Even when I mow it I’ve got piles of grass clippings everywhere!

The problem is a lack consistent discipline. It’s a little bit like the issue of discipleship. Whether it’s newly saved Christians, who are brothers and sisters in Christ, or those we are witnessing to in hopes of leading them to Lord, or those family members in our own household, we have been called to make disciples of all nations Mt. 28:19. Why? Because we need to share the gospel, for certain, but for those who already are Christians, they need someone to come alongside them; to mentor them, care for them, uphold them in adversity, teach them…disciple them.

Isn’t it interesting how similar “disciple” is, to “disci-pline”? And discipline needn’t take such a negative connotation. Discipline is really a very good thing. The dictionary defines it as ‘an activity or exercise to develop or improve a skill, training; a branch of instruction or learning.’ So to discipline is to improve, or to continue to do correctly; such as may bring to mind the influence and relationships of a father.

Just as that lawn, if ignored and allowed to simply take care of its self, will soon grow unsightly, too long to cut with a conventional lawnmower and with sticks and debris everywhere. In short, it needs to be cared for, disciplined, mentored. Left to fend for itself, chaos ensues. So goes the condition of any individual life, family, nation, church, school…where God is removed and righteousness is left to seek its own level. Even though we intend to do the good we know to be right, there are always forces seeking to prey on the weak and isolated.
1 Peter 5:8 Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

Fathers, if that yard of yours is growing out of control, and you’re complaining about it. Who’s responsible for the condition of that yard? You are. You tend to that grass regularly, keep the sticks picked up as you see them appear, clean up the trash when you see it – and you’ll have a fine looking yard that would appear to be taking care of itself. Same goes for your family. You’re given charge of the welfare of those young lives; the care, protection, provision, teaching, spiritual leadership during their most impressionable years. If you leave them to grow up on their own, Satan won’t hesitate to fill their minds with weeds and trash and sticks and rubbish. And you may find at some point that they’ve become like that lawn that just got out of hand.

Father’s, it’s a tough enough job that we have teaching, protecting our families against the lies and evil of the world, when even our best efforts may and many times do fall short. Because, at the end of the day, our children all have a free will choice to make concerning Jesus. But their best chance at an informed decision comes through their upbringing by Godly parents, guided by their own heavenly Father.

This Father’s Day, think about this: Our Nation needs Godly leadership
Our Schools need Godly students
Our Students need Godly families
Our Families need Godly Fathers
Joshua 24:15 “…But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”

In Christ,
Rick

O Lord, you took up my case; you redeemed my life.  Lamentations 3:58

Sometimes it seems that the tunnel we’re traveling through has no end, just more and more darkness the further we go. But we’re encouraged to keep moving forward, it’ll get better. They say there’s light at the end of the tunnel, but no one’s seen it yet?! Press onward.

Oh the joy that redemption brings! That first sight of land after weeks at sea. It seemed as if you were lost forever, floundering on the waves, never to be rescued. But, then, far out on the horizon you thought you saw something. A tiny dark smudge? Then a bit later, a seagull flies past with a small branch in its beak, and there it was…hope, redemption!  It was almost like someone placed those defibrillator paddles across your chest and ZAPP!!… Clear … ZAPP!! And there’s life again where a few minutes ago there was only gloom and despair. Now there’s a spark.

Now, there’s something green popping up through the brown mud and dead grass. There’s a couple little daffodils showing off their colors and, now, some buds popping out on the trees. What seemed to be surely dead is now taking on signs of life! It seemed like winter had taken up permanent residence! Even when the calendar looked like springtime, one look outside told you otherwise. That tunnel was oh so long! But even with the April snow and ice, all it takes is to see a couple of Robins hopping around outside, or that first 50 degree day to remind us, “redemption draweth nigh”, and put joy in your heart! 

“And when he shakes his mane, we shall have spring again.” — Mr. Beaver in C. S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

Writing for the US Naval community publication THE LIGHTHOUSE, Lt. Baron Miller describes the Lenten season as our “exodus from winter”:

  1. S. Lewis’ Narnia is a magical land that is always cold. The White Witch has kept Narnia under her spell, creating a permanent season of snow, ice and death. It was “always winter and never Christmas” in Narnia. That was until Aslan came back to bring freedom and “shake his mane.”

Like Jesus, Aslan the lion king represents freedom from death’s snare and release into joy. When Aslan is on the move in Narnia, winter begins to melt and life comes into bloom.

Lt. Miller concludes, “For us in the real world, Lent is very similar. Lent means ‘springtime,’ and it marks our exodus from winter into the dawn of spring. For us as Christ followers, Lent reminds us that Jesus is on the move and the joyous season of spring is here. He will provide for us a ‘crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and the garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair’.

All of that, one may very well translate into the single action verb that is what a Savior does; “redemption”. God, speaking through Isaiah to Judah, warned them against relying on their own ways, trusting in Egypt and others rather than trusting in God. Isaiah 30:15 God says, “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it.

Isaiah’s prophecies to Judah warned them of the bitter long cold of winter that would eventually come their way because of their wicked obstinance. But Isaiah’s prophecies to Judah are not all doom and gloom. They will be redeemed. Spring will come.

In Isaiah 34 and 35, is one prophecy in which God professes judgement against the enemies of Judah, here represented by Edom, and then the flourishing redemption of the land; such a clear foreshadowing Israel’s redemption as a nation following their exile.

Isaiah 35:1-2   1The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom.
Like the crocus,
2 it will burst into bloom; it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy.
The glory of Lebanon will be given to it, the splendor of Carmel and Sharon;
they will see the glory of the Lord, the splendor of our God.

And when others see this blessed transformation, this metamorphosis; “crocus’ bursting into bloom” where was formerly a baron wilderness – it must be the glory of the Lord, the splendor of our God, that they see…that we see, and give our heartfelt gratitude for. Let us never, ever cease to praise Him for the redemption He has given us!

 

In Christ,

Rick