Sunday, November 25, 2018

Statement of Faith

In my last blog post I talked a bit about the Statement of Faith document that I wrote in preparation for my ordination.  I stated in that post that I would publish this writing as a blog post, and so here it is.  As previously warned, this is long.  I encourage my readers to take time with this, and come back to it if something stands out to you.  

In publishing this paper, my hope is that it might help you to think about these various topics, and how they apply to your faith.  There may be something in here that you've not given much thought too at all, and perhaps it might spark something in you that leads you to dig into the Word of God more.  At any rate, I hope that this is of some help and blessing to someone that chooses to read through this writing.  May God bless you and keep you always...













Statement of Beliefs 

The Bible (Bibliology) 

I believe that the Bible is God’s perfect word, inerrant and infallible, and God’s revelation of Himself to man. I believe God accomplished this through a Plenary Verbal Inspiration of His Word. Plenary means the complete work, the absolute totality of His Word, was inspired by God. God did not give an outline or the over-arching concepts to the writers, and then allow them to fill in the gaps. In this context Verbal means that every word, every sentence, every punctuation mark. The complete work, word for word, was chosen and given to the various bible writers. Inspiration is defined as “God Breathed” in this context. Therefore, through Plenary Verbal Inspiration, God breathed His Word, completely, word for word, idea for idea, sentence by sentence, to the writers that He chose (Psalm 119:89). I believe the Bible is inerrant and infallible. God’s Word is without error or contradiction. Those who hold that there are contradictions in the Bible have an errant understanding of the scripture at hand.

I believe that the Bible remains with us today and is perfectly preserved through the guiding and protecting hand of God. In 1 Peter 1:12 we learn that God revealed information to some bible writers that was not intended for them but for those who would follow, “To them it was revealed that, not to themselves, but to us they were ministering the things which now have been reported to you through those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things which angels desire to look into.” We also see in history that time and again man attacked the church and the very Word of God, and yet it remains with us to this day.

God (Theology)

I believe in the existence of the one and only living God. I believe He is holy, righteous, and sovereign.  He is the creator of everything and sustains everything through His power (Genesis 1:1). God’s attributes can be organized into two primary categories – natural and moral. I believe God’s natural attributes include His eternity, immutability, omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence. God’s moral attributes include His goodness, justice, love, wisdom, and holiness. As creator, I believe in the literal description of the creation event. God’s work in creating was completed in six days.

I believe that in God, we have a triune God. The God-head is represented by God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. These three equal persons makeup the entirety of God, and this trinity is shown throughout the bible, in both the Old and New Testaments. In Genesis 1:26 where God says “Let us make man in our image…”, the God-head is speaking about what would be His most precious creation. In Psalm 110:1, David writes of God the Father and God the Son respectfully, when he says “The LORD said unto my Lord, sit thou at my right hand.”. An example from the New Testament that clearly refers to the trinity is found in 1 John 5:7 where he writes “For there are three that bear witness in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one.”

I believe that God is both transcendent and immanent. By transcendent, God is above and beyond all of the creation. God exists outside of what we see and comprehend. God has surpassed all of creation and exists even outside of creation. At the same time God is also immanent, which means that He is with us. The Bible tells us that He indwells the contrite and the humble (Isaiah 57:15). This means that all the while that God is outside, above, and beyond us all, He is also with us, accessible, and near to those who are humble and contrite in heart. 

Jesus Christ (Christology) 

I believe that Jesus Christ is God. He is God the Son, Creator, and Savior (Micah 5:2; John 1:1, Luke 2:11). I believe that God the Son, Jesus Christ, descended from heaven to be born of a virgin according to prophecy (Isaiah 7:14, Isaiah 9:6, Isaiah 11:1; Luke 1:31, Luke 2:7), lived fully and completely as a man (Matt 1:1; Philippians 2:8), yet all the while being fully and completely God (John 10:30).

I believe that at the appointed time, Jesus Christ gave His life up as a perfect sacrifice for the sins of all mankind on Calvary’s cross (Mark 8:31; Luke 24:7). I believe that Jesus Christ was buried in a borrowed tomb, and on the third day He was restored to life and rose again (Luke 24:46), and was placed at the Father’s right hand (Mark 16:19; Luke 24:51; 1 Peter 3:22). I believe that Jesus Christ now holds the role of Great High Priest (Hebrews 4:14), making intercession for and providing resurrection and eternal life to all who would believe on Him and accept Him as Savior and Lord.

I believe Christ died as a substitute for sinners (Isaiah 53:5), and that His completed work is a perfect example of expiation and propitiation (Romans 3:25; 1 John 2:2). The prefix “ex” in expiation means “out of” or “from”. Therefore, expiation has to do with removing something or taking something away. In the biblical context it is the taking away of guilt through the payment of a penalty. The prefix “pro” in propitiation means “for”, therefore propitiation in the biblical context is bringing about a change in God’s attitude. Expiation is the act that results in the change of God’s disposition toward us. Christ’s work of expiation completed on the cross, results in propitiation, which is that God’s anger and wrath for sin is turned away and appeased.

I believe that the entire Bible is the story of Jesus Christ, and that the reader can find Christ in every book of the Bible. He is the Messiah as it was foretold by prophecy; He was presented as King of the Jews but rejected; He is equal with God and yet humbled Himself even to the point of death (Philippians 2:8). I believe that one day every knee will bow and every tongue proclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord (Philippians 2:10-11). 

Holy Spirit (Pneumatology) 

I believe in God the Holy Spirit as the third and yet equal member of the trinity (Zechariah 4:6). He is truly God and is a real person. I believe the Holy Spirit was part of the creation and works to sustain man and the rest of the creation. I believe the Holy Spirit indwells believers, taking up residence within their bodies at the moment of conversion.

I believe the ministry of the Holy Spirit is focused on both believers and unbelievers. His ministry to believers is that of comforter and helper (John 14:16). He convicts believers of sin and righteousness. His ministry to unbelievers is also that of conviction of sin, and He reveals Christ to the heart (John 16:8).

I believe that the Holy Spirit is responsible for the giving of spiritual gifts to believers for service in the church, and that He also appoints the place of service for all Christians (1 Corinthians 12). 

Man (Anthropology) 

I believe that man is a created being, created in the image of God as stated in scripture (Genesis 1:27). I believe that every man has sinned and fallen short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23), and that men now exist in a fallen and separated state from God.

I believe, as it is stated in Romans 10:13, that whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. This means that salvation is available to everyone. The concept of the “elect” is simply that whoever accepts is “the elect”. There is no predestination or pre-selected population of those who are allowed to be saved. In contrast, God’s omniscience shows us that He knows who will and will not accept Christ’s sacrifice. However, each person is personally responsible for their acceptance or rejection of salvation. God does not send anyone to hell, but people chose to go there in rejection of this gift of salvation.

I believe that like God’s triune nature, man also has a triune nature in that he has a body, soul, and spirit. Man’s body relates back to the chemical components that exist in the earth which are part of the body. The soul speaks to man’s ability to be self-aware and self-conscious, whereas man’s spirit allows him to be aware of God (Hebrews 4:12). Without a living spirit, man would be completely unaware of God.

I believe that man was created to be an eternal being (Genesis 2:7), and that after physical death, conscious existence will continue either in the eternal presence of God or in eternal separation in torment and punishment under God’s wrath (Luke 16:22-24). 

Sin (Hamartiology) 

I believe that sin is non-conformity to the will of God, which leads to physical and spiritual death and eternal separation from God in a physical hell. One day hell will deliver its inhabitants up for final judgment and ultimately into the lake of fire for all eternity (Revelation 20:14-15; Revelation 21:8).

I believe that sin first began with Lucifer when he chose to rebel against God. We can see this fact as described in Isaiah 14:12-15, where the prophet says “How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, you who weakened the nations! For you have said in your heart: ‘I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation on the farthest sides of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High.’ Yet you shall be brought down to Sheol, to the lowest depths of the Pit.”

However, when people are discussing the concept of original sin, they are talking about the effect and consequences of sin upon human kind that started in the Garden of Eden with the fall of man. Romans 5:12-14 teaches us that the sin first committed by Adam has been passed down to all the subsequent generations of mankind, regardless of the presence of the law or not.

I believe that belief in the Lord Jesus Christ is God’s one and only remedy for our sin problem (John 14:6). Acceptance of His sacrifice on Calvary’s cross, acknowledging His sovereignty and lordship over our lives, and humbly asking for His forgiveness, mercy, and grace is the only way to have our sin removed and cast as far as the east is from the west. 

Salvation (Soteriology) 

I believe that salvation is truly a gift that is given freely to each believer. No amount of work or service can earn a person salvation, as we read in Ephesians 2:8-9 “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”

I believe in Eternal Security, in that salvation is an eternal gift, and once received cannot be lost. This is a work of God, not man. Eternal security is a result of God keeping man, not man maintaining his own salvation. As we read in Jude 24, “Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy,”

I believe evidence of salvation in a believer is found through repentance, regeneration, sanctification, and justification. Repentance is the turning away from sin and dedicating oneself to the amendment of one’s life. Regeneration in biblical context is the passing from death to life, that in Christ the believer has died to sin and is now reborn into life through Christ. Sanctification is to be set apart or made separate. In being sanctified, we are separated from the rest of the human population that remains lost, and are placed into a new fellowship and existence as part of God’s family and church. Justification is a legal term, in which God declares the guilty sinner to be righteous and free from guilt. All of the sins of the sinner are blotted out, wiped away by the blood of Christ. Christ’s payment is imputed to our account when we accept His sacrifice, and the requirements of the law and the price of sin are finished and fulfilled (2 Corinthians 5:21; Romans 10:4). Once we are declared righteous, the Bible teaches that we are robed in Christ’s righteousness and we are just like Christ. 

Church (Ecclesiology) 

I believe that God has called believers to congregate as the church, which is the body of Christ. Whereas the church is the body, Christ is the head of the church and in this role He is the Great High Priest and ultimate church leader that all are accountable too. The purpose of the church is to reveal and glorify God, to minister and purify believers, and the preach and teach the Gospel. Hebrews 10:25 teaches “not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.”

I believe there are two ordinances of the church, the Lord’s Supper and Baptism by immersion. The Lord’s Supper is a memorial activity in which believers remember the death and sacrifice by the Lord Jesus Christ. Baptism comes from the Greek word baptizo, and means to immerse or put into. In baptism the believer unifies with Christ in that he dies to sin and is reborn into a new life of obedience and worship. 

Angels (Angelology) 

I believe in the existence of angels. Angles are created beings, apparently created before man, which are spirit beings that are self-aware as well as God-aware. Angels are described in male terms only, and do not reproduce. Angels are currently higher than man, but once the end times come will find themselves ruled by glorified believers. Angels that remain faithful to God are messengers and worshipers (Hebrews 1:14).

I believe in the existence of evil/fallen angels. Satan (formally Lucifer) was one of three known arch-angels, who sinned against God when he allowed his pride to lead him into rebellion (Isaiah 14:12-15). Approximately one third of all angels followed Lucifer into rebellion, and fell with him from heaven (Revelation 12:4). These fallen angels now exist as evil spirit beings called demons. Satan and his demons are powerful beings, but they are not omnipotent, omniscient, or omnipresent.

I believe that Satan and his demons are actively engaged in spiritual battle against God and His followers. Satan and the demons will be judged in the end times and ultimately confined to the lake of fire for all eternity (Revelation 20:7-15). 

End Times (Eschatology) 

I believe in the second coming of Jesus Christ where He will establish a 1,000 year reign on earth (Revelation 20:1-6). Prior to the millennial rule there will be a period of tribulation that will last for 7 years.

I believe in the rapture of the church that will happen before the tribulation. In colloquial terms I believe in a “pre trib” rapture, meaning the rapture will happen first and then the tribulation will begin. While the tribulation begins on earth, the raptured church will experience the marriage supper of the lamb as described in Revelation 19:7 “Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.”

I believe that during the tribulation the anti Christ will be revealed and nations will be deceived and led into all sorts of sin and depravity. At the end of the tribulation, the Lord Jesus Christ will return to earth on a white horse (Revelation 19:11), and He will destroy the armies of the anti Christ and Satan. The church will return with Christ also riding white horses and dressed in white. After the nations armies are destroyed, the millennial reign will begin on earth, and the church will rule and reign along with Christ.

I believe at the end of the millennial reign, Satan will be loosed from his imprisonment for a time and will raise up a final army of deceived men to fight one final battle against God. At the end of this battle unbelievers, both alive and dead, will see the final judgment at the Great White Throne of judgment, after which they and Satan will be cast into the lake of fire for all eternity (Revelation 20:7-15). 

Conclusion

This statement of faith is written with the intention of clearly stating my beliefs as a believer and follower of Christ. As I move forward toward ordination and continue to follow my Lord and Savior, my hope and prayer is that He will continue to use me as He sees fit for the furtherance of His kingdom and to see His will done. I want to thank each of my teachers and mentors that have helped me and invested in me to this point in time. May God bless you and keep you in His tender mercies and grace always.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Next Steps...

Well its been a while since I've written a blog post, but now it seems like an appropriate time to share some thoughts.  When Donna and I were invited to join House of Agape Church, Pastor Bill and I set a plan in motion that culminated with an ordination service a little over a week ago.  The first step of the plan was for me to complete my Associates degree in Ministry, which was accomplished this past September.  I graduated with an A.S. in Ministry from Andersonville Theological Seminary.  I plan to continue my education with a B.S. in Ministry and then hopefully onto a Masters degree.  I will begin the B.S. program after the first of the year.  

The next step was to enter into a time of preparation for ordination.  This was basically a period of time that was used for prayer and to seek the Lord's guidance for the path that I am on and continue to follow.  I also took time to write a Statement of Faith document.  This paper follows a fairly standard format in which the candidate addresses the basics of the Christian faith in a series of "I believe" statements.  I found writing this paper to be beneficial and very satisfying because it helped me to organize my thoughts around what I believe in an logical manner.  For those of you who know me well, you know that I like things to be well organized and logical.  I plan to share this paper on this blog as a post of it's own.  I will caution the future reader, should you be interested, its a bit long (I know, shocker!).  But let me say this, it could have been a lot longer but I thought I'd leave that for the book...

This time of preparation was completed and then Saturday 11/3/18 an ordination council was held with Pastor Bill and three other pastors from area churches with whom I have served.  The next day, the ordination service was held during which these men of God recommended to the congregation that I be ordained into Gospel Ministry.  These men who I have served with, prayed with, and shed sweat and more than a few tears then stood around me and prayed for God's anointing, power, guidance, and provision over myself, my family, and my ministry for the rest of our lives.  

That part of the prayer really hit home - for the rest of my life.  Not that it was a surprise, but the weight of those words has settled on me over the past week.  For the rest of my life I will be in service to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  For the rest of my life, I have been set apart for His service in obedience to Him.  But in reality, its not just the rest of this life, but for the rest of eternity, I will serve Him.

How amazing is our God, that He chooses to pick out individuals from the mass of humanity to serve Him?  I thought about this fact - there are 7.7 Billion people on this planet currently, 7.7 BILLION, and Jesus picked me?!?  He picked me, out of all the others He had to pick from, and then He blessed me and equipped me for that service.  So humbling because I am so unworthy of this honor.  And yet in scripture we see that God uses all sorts of people for His service.  Men we see as giants of scripture and hero's of the bible, and yet we see their own humanity too.  Not that I would be so arrogant as to equate myself with these biblical hero's, but simply saying that God has used people from all walks of life to serve Him, and He still does.

I was given the opportunity to speak a bit during the ordination service, and I was not sure what exactly I should say during my time.  I was really nervous, more nervous than I have ever been when going up to speak.  But in the end I spoke about how God had called me to serve Him in obedience.  This concept of obedience has been very prevalent over the past year, it keeps coming up again and again.  Folks we have to remember that if God is repeating Himself, both in scripture and in our lives we need to pay attention.  He does not repeat Himself without reason.  God wants our obedience more than sacrifice, more than offerings, more than gifts.  He wants our obedience, because He has a plan for our lives.  As we read in Jeremiah 29:11 "For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope."

God has a plan for each of us if we will but follow and obey Him.  Not everyone will be called to be a pastor, the bible teaches us in 1 Corinthians chapter 12 that God provides all sorts of gifts and callings to those who are His - teachers and preachers, pastors and prophets.  We must remember that no matter the "how" of our service, we must never forget the "who" and the "what" of our callings.  Pastor Tim's advice to me during the ordination council resonates loudly in my mind even now.  He said, "Never forget Who it was that called you into ministry."  The "who" is God, and the "what" is to serve in obedience.

And so that is where I will leave this post.  Keep a look out for some following posts.  I'm taking the next two months off from Seminary work to focus on writing (and some training for day job/programmer stuff), so I do expect to post more to the blog over the next several weeks.   I hope and pray that our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will keep you in His everlasting mercy and grace.  And as always, thanks for reading...





Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Be the Light...

Matthew 5:14-16 (NKJV)
“You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

This morning was interesting to say the least.  As I drove into work and approached my exit from the highway, I saw a woman pulled off into the breakdown lane with a flat tire.  She had pulled the spare tire out, but was looking rather helplessly at the tire still on the car.  Unfortunately I did not fully understand her predicament until I had already entered the off ramp, which was not a safe place for me to pull over and stop.  So, I continued off the ramp, returned on the highway the other direction, down one exit, turned around again, and then returned to help her with the tire.

Now before I go any further, let me stop and say that I'm not sharing this with you because I did a good deed - I've already had people tell me once I got to work that "you did your good deed for the day" to which I say thanks.  However, the fact of the matter is that God is not the least-wise impressed with my good deeds.  When compared to Christ's work on Calvary's cross, my good works are nothing but dirty rags, or in today's specific case dirty pants from crawling around on the ground  changing a flat tire...

The reason I share this today is because God is so very Great!  How so?  Because in this simple action of taking some time to help someone out, He gave me the opportunity to praise Him and give some encouragement to a believer.  The fact is this person is a Christian, but she is struggling with her faith as she is surrounded by the lost.  Trying to live a life that is God-honoring is hard by itself, but when confronted and surrounded by the world and worldly people on a constant basis, it's even more difficult.  Pastor Bill preached on this very point not long ago, where he said "It's easy to sin - it comes naturally.  But the hardest thing I've ever done is to walk with and follow God."

And so, during this time spent fixing the tire I was able to share with her two things.  First, once we are saved and "In Christ", we are no longer of this world.  Certainly we are in this world, but we are no longer of it - we are set aside, separated.  We live to a different code, a different moral ethic that is governed by the inerrant Word of God.  We serve a perfect God, and what we do and how we serve others in reality is service unto God.  But at the same time we are separated from the world.  Insulated you might say, from the cold and desolation of the world.  How well we are insulated from the negative affects of the world is directly related to how closely we are walking with the Lord.

The second thing I shared with her was the scripture above - Jesus spoke these words - He called us the "light of the world".  For some people, simply hearing the word does not seem to be enough.  I truly wish it were enough for them to hear, but for some they need to see.  They need to see what it is to have this Jesus as Lord and Savior in one's life; they need to see Christ through men and women who follow and serve Him.  But that is ok, Jesus spoke of this in this very passage.  He said, "Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lamp stand, and it gives light to all who are in the house."  Friends when we become the light of the world, the lost and hopeless can't but see Christ in us.  They see His peace and His provision, they see His power and His protection.  And most of all they can see His love through us.  

Today, God allowed me to be the light for another sister in Christ who is trying to figure out how to be the light.  We can all draw something from this experience.  People will say that their relationship with the Lord is personal and private, and it is true that we should have a very personal relationship with God and we should seek to have private one on one time with the Lord, absolutely.  But the fact that we have this relationship should not be private - it should be shouted from the roof tops!  Don't hide your light under a basket today, but shine into this lost and broken world.  Shine your light today - and give all the praise and glory that comes from it to God because He is worthy and deserves it all!  

I pray this post will be a blessing to someone, and as always may our Father in heaven keep you in His everlasting grace and mercy always.  Thanks for reading...





Sunday, February 11, 2018

So Very Blessed...

What a day today was!  I have to admit that I was a good bit nervous as I had an important announcement to make at church today, but we started off with baptisms.  We baptized 10 people today at Grace Chapel!  My wife, Donna, decided that she wanted to rededicate herself and her life to the Lord, and given the announcement that we would be making today, she wanted to be sure to be baptized at Grace Chapel this day.  Pastor Ray told me mid-week to be prepared with a change of clothes this morning, but what I didn't realize was that he was going to allow me to baptize my wife on my own.  Whereas it is an honor to baptize anyone and everyone who steps forward with believer's baptism, to baptize my own wife was that much more a blessing. 

We then had an amazing service!  We had a guest band come and lead us in worship, and then Pastor Ray delivered a powerful message.  I knew Ray would deliver, because last night he sent a message to the men of the church that the enemy was bringing whatever he could to thwart his preparation and prayer time for today’s message.  Many men prayed last night, and testified to each other through text and instant message our prayers and support for each other.  We lifted up Ray to the Lord, and praised the mighty name of our Lord Jesus who is the victor in all battles!  And so a wonderful message on the Gospel, this simple message of the Gospel that changes so many lives, was given.  The message was received and hearts were touched.  The alters were full – full of people praying for themselves and for loved ones; full of people praying for their church, praying for their families, praying for each other.

At the end of service, Pastor Ray invited me to step forward and address the congregation.  He knew what I had to tell these good people; this church that had invited my family in when we had no church home and no church family.  He knew that I would l be telling this family that we would be stepping out in faith and obedience to our Lord, and moving to another ministry.  For some weeks we have been in discussion and a lot of prayer about this move with Pastor Ray and Emily, as well as Pastor Bill and Robyn of House of Agape.  You see, I had been offered and accepted a leadership role as Interim Associate Pastor at House of Agape in Rock Hill, SC.  I am on schedule to complete my Associates Degree in Ministry later this spring, after which I will be ordained.

My love and gratitude for the people of Grace Chapel is immeasurable.  This church took us in when we had no church home, gave us a place, and accepted us.  They loved on my wife and daughter when they needed it most, and we were so very blessed to be part of Grace Chapel’s first year in existence.  But as with many things, the Lord will move us to where He wants us in His time and when He chooses.  It is up to us to pay attention to such things, and be obedient.  And so I read to the congregation a letter that I wrote explaining these things.  There were many handshakes, hugs, congratulations, and more than a few tears. 

And then after a quiet afternoon where we had lunch and then some time to rest and reflect on the morning’s events, we went to House of Agape this evening to help serve.  Donna and I arrived at the church first, and Pastor Bill and Robyn followed shortly after as well as the family that would be serving the meal.  People began to arrive by ones and twos, and before long it was time to make the pickup run in the bus.  I drove over to the Rock Hill Library where we make the pickup, and my soul there was a line formed just waiting on me!  We packed that bus full, and when we got back to the church, there were even more people there that has arrived on their own.  Tonight we served 41 people!  41 people came out to have body and soul fed tonight at House of Agape, praise God!

Pastor Bill was on fire tonight  – nothing like a full house to preach too that will get the spirit going and tonight the Holy Spirit was in the house, and was the topic of the message too!  Just as Pastor Ray delivered a Word earlier today, Pastor Bill delivered tonight.  And just like earlier today, the message was received and hearts were touched.  We served some familiar faces tonight, and quite a few new faces as well.  People were blessed, and God’s name was praised.

And that is where I will leave this post.  What a day today was – a day that none other than the Lord Himself could have prescribed.  I am so very blessed to have people in my life who love and care for my family and myself.  I am so very blessed to have men of God who invested in me over these past few years which has resulted in my being in a place to take another step of faith and to serve in a larger role.  I am so very blessed to have a supportive wife who stands with me, even in hard decisions and in things that take us out of our comfort zone. 

Most of all I am so very blessed to have a God who would think so much of me to save me from my sin, to pay off my debt that I can never afford, to call me to Himself, and then to include me in His ministry.  He called me to be a pastor some years ago, and today that is reality.  I thank God for of His many blessings in my life, I thank Him for His gift of salvation, I thank Him for His son and my Savior, Christ Jesus.  May You Father God get all of the glory and all of the honor from what is to come as we step forward in faith and obedience to You, Amen!



Monday, September 4, 2017

Never alone, Forever loved...

was so very blessed to receive a Facebook message from my Aunt Mary a couple weeks or so ago.  In her message she mentioned this ongoing blog series on our favorite/most impactful scriptures.  She recalled a passage in a Psalm that helped her during a hard time but did not remember exactly where it was located.  After a while she was able to find it and sent it to me. 

Psalm 57:1-3 (NKJV)
Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me!
For my soul trusts in You;
And in the shadow of Your wings I will make my refuge,
Until these calamities have passed by.
I will cry out to God Most High,
To God who performs all things for me.
He shall send from heaven and save me;
He reproaches the one who would swallow me up.
God shall send forth His mercy and His truth.

What I am about to say, I've said in both written and spoken form many times.  However it bears repeating again because frankly we need to be reminded of this fact frequently.  God loves you and He will never turn His back on you, ever.

God's word reminds us time and time again that He is forever faithful to us and will never forsake us.  David reminds us in this Psalm that we should trust in Him, and seek shelter from our troubles and afflictions under His care.  Far too often we rely on ourselves and look to ourselves to solve our problems and heal our wounds.  When we choose to turn toward ourselves, we turn away from God.  But God remains faithful to us, His mercy and grace are forever available to us when we return to Him.  Constantly He whispers to us, come home child.  

In thinking about this scripture and God's love and patience with us, I am reminded that my mom also sent a scripture reference for this series which is:

1 Corinthians 13:4-7(NKJV)
Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

My pastor preached on this scripture recently, and I love the way he did so because it really exposed the true meaning of this text.  Pastor Ray preached this scripture from the King James version of the bible.  The translation I quoted above is the New King James which is my typical daily read and study translation.  As with most modern bible translations the word Love is used whereas in the King James the word is Charity.  You see, the English language in modern times has been watered down.  In ancient times languages had and used more words to describe different things and concepts, and now we find that the same word is used for multiple things.  

Take for example the word love.  I love my wife, I love pasta, and I love the New York Yankees when they are playing well, but those are three very different things (although some of you might think I love Donna and spaghetti equally considering my waistline).

In the original Greek language from which this text was translated, the word used in this scripture is Agape.  Agape defined is: 

"love: the highest form of love, charity; the love of God for man and of man for God.".

In other words, agape, or charity, is a perfect love, a godly love that God has for us constantly and demonstrates toward us continually.  Our concept of the word charity is the idea of giving something without any expectation of remuneration.  He gives us grace and mercy over and over, knowing that come the next day we will need more grace and mercy, and the next day, and the next day.  Every day that we climb out of the bed and put our feet on the floor, we will need His grace.  And every day He will give it when we seek it from Him.  

God's love for us is perfect.  It will withstand all things - you can not do anything to make Him love you less.  Yes there are consequences for our actions both before salvation and afterward.  He is a just and holy God, and He will judge sin as He must.  He will chastise those He loves, sometimes gently and sometimes more forcefully.  However, His grace and mercy endure forever.

And so if we take these two scriptures together, we can see that God will not forsake us or leave us alone to suffer in this world, because His love for us, His charity for us, His agape for us is perfect.  We can trust in God and seek shelter beneath His mighty wings, because He does not think evil of us, but rejoices in our attempt to draw closer to Him and to seek the truth that is His word.  We can cry out to Him who is the Most High God and be saved, because He has already delivered us from our sin through the redeeming blood of His son and our savior Jesus Christ.  

I hope and pray this post will be of some comfort or help to those who need a word of encouragement today.  I don't think that we can ever be reminded enough of the nature or the depth of love that God has for each one of us that He calls son or daughter.  May God bless you and keep you always in His everlasting kindness and mercy, and as always thanks for reading...




Saturday, July 29, 2017

A New Life...(part 2)

Before I begin this post, I'll ask this simple question which will be answered at the end of the post. 

What do you get when you have a beautiful afternoon in a wonderful campground in Hershey, PA, and the wife and daughter are off at Hershey Park, and you stay back at the campsite to dog-sit, and decide to write a blog post?  Answer is at the end of this post (don't cheat and skip to the end)...

In part one of this post you may remember that the favorite/most impactful scripture was Ephesians 4:31-32, as suggested by my brother Marv.  As a brief recap of part 1, I rewound in chapter 4 a bit to show that in this chapter Paul was showing us how we are to live as Christians now that we have this new life in Jesus Christ by way of contrast with who we were previously.  We saw that salvation is a trans-formative event in our lives, and through this salvation we change from the person we were before to the person God intended for us to be all along.  At the end of the post we reviewed verses 20 through 24, where Paul gives us a wonderful depiction of our ability to now put aside the person we were before like a set of dirty clothes, and put on the new garment of the person we are now. 
 
So let's continue in Ephesians chapter 4, verses 25 through 30:
 

 Ephesians 4:25-30 (NKJV)
Therefore, putting away lying, “Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,” for we are members of one another.  “Be angry, and do not sin”: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil.  Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need.  Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.  And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.

In these passages Paul is giving us an outline for how we are to conduct ourselves as the new creations we have become.  We must not lie to each other, nor to anyone else.  Christians should always seek the truth and be truthful.  We are all members of one body - the body of Christ.  A physical body only functions well when all of its parts are communicating well.  Speaking the truth is a matter of trust, and just as the brain must "trust" that the rest of the body is communicating injury, sickness, or danger correctly, so to with the body of Christ.  People are led to exaggeration and small "white" lies that are "not harmful" but make their position or situation look better all too often.  The problem is that little lies become big lies over time.  Lying becomes a habit and when caught in enough lies, a person is labeled untrustworthy.  Some people lie so much, they begin to believe their own falsehoods because the reality of their deception and the hurt is causes is too much for them to face, and so they continue to lie.

Paul tells us that it is acceptable to be angry, but we are not to sin.  In other words, there is a right time and a right reason for our anger, but it must not be due to selfish or prideful reasons.  We must not act out in retribution; revenge is not for Christians to seek.  And when we are angered rightfully, we must look to God to help us release this anger so that it does not poison our spirit.  Anger that is not dealt with, anger that is not relieved, is nothing short of poison.  Left to fester, it will destroy our spirit, rob us of our joy, and draw us away from God.  This is Satan's playground.  The enemy's goal is to keep us from growing in our faith, to reduce our effectiveness as Christians, and to distract us with things of this world that we will make more important than our relationship with God.  Anger left unresolved is an open doorway for the enemy to plant seeds of doubt and dissatisfaction.   

The next passage speaks on the importance of working and not stealing.  Christians are to work, and we are to want to work.  In fact, Paul wrote of this very thing in his second letter to the Thessalonians.

2 Thessalonians 3:10 (NKJV)
For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat.


I thank God every day for the career He has given me and the company that He has placed me with to work.  In my industry (IT/Database Programming), it is common that a person will stay at one company anywhere from 18 months to 3 years, and then move on to the next position.  I have been with my company for almost 18 years, it will be 18 years in October.  Now to many others in my industry I am considered complacent and a dinosaur with no ambition to move up and out.  And to that I say THHHPT! I have a great job, working with a great team of people who like me consider it to be much more than a job.  We are a team and in many ways an extended family.  I have been supported in my ministry work and on missions trips, and recently my company invested in me by sending me for training in a new software package.

I tell you this because as Christians we are supposed to want to work, and we are supposed to give our absolute best at work.  When we do a great job, that brings honor to God.  Who do you think gave you that job anyway?  We need to remember that everything, I mean everything belongs to God.  That includes us, all of our possessions, our very lives.  And yes, the places we work too.  If we do a good job and the company recognizes us for that, also know that God recognizes that good work too. 

We are not to steal or swindle.  Last year I built a deck on my house.  At one point I went to the store and bought a bunch of lumber.  I did some quick math in my head as to the final cost of the lumber as I approached the checkout counter, but when the cashier rang everything up the number was significantly less than what I expected.  I just chocked it up to my inability to do math in my head, which is true I am terrible.  But when I got home and unloaded the truck it continued to bother me so I compared the items to the receipt, and I found that they had missed many of the items.  In fact I owed the store about $170 for the items that were not charged.  I immediately went back to the store and showed them the mistake, and here is the sad part.  Because, the clerk was so taken aback with my honesty.  He must have thanked me 3 times for being honest, and the person next to him was looking at me like I had lost my mind because I could have "gotten away" with all that material. 

Brothers and sisters, there is no getting away with things when you have accepted Christ.  There is no getting away with things if  you have not accepted Him either.  The difference is that if you have not accepted  Him you will be held accountable for all your misdeeds.  If  you have accepted Him, than you must act like Him!  His spirit lives inside of us and guides us to do what is right.  After a while we become familiar with His leadership and following Him becomes easier.  Then, when confronted by someone who is surprised at our doing what is right, it is a bit sorrowful.  How sad is it that we live in a world where acting correctly triggers amazement, disbelief, and even scorn.  The other employee of the store thought that I should have kept my mouth shut and stole the material, from his own place of employment!

Please believe me when I say I'm not telling you this to toot my own horn, and before you decide to respond with how good of a person I am, please don't.  I am a sinner, responsible for all sorts of indescribable sin.  However, I am saved by the grace of God through the sacrifice of His son Jesus Christ, who died on a cross so that I might be forgiven.  I have God the Holy Spirit living inside of me, guiding me to do what's right.  I fail more often than I succeed, but when I do something right I give the glory and thanks to God for leading me to do so.
 
The next part of this scripture speaks of slander and gossip.  When Paul says to let no corrupt word proceed from our mouths - this is slander and gossip.  If you get nothing else out of this post, please understand this - nothing good comes from gossip.  Absolutely nothing.  No one is helped by gossip, no one is strengthen through slander.  As Christians we are to speak that which helps others.  Edification - the instruction or improvement of a person morally or intellectually - that is what we are supposed to speak.  No one is helped by tearing another person down, even ourselves.  Are we truly strengthened or made more whole by tearing down another?  Of course not, speaking gossip and slander about another only shows the lack of self respect and compassion that we have for ourselves.  We morally convict ourselves when we attempt to improve our position or station in life by tearing down others.

So then lets wrap this post up with the scripture that was originally suggested, LOL.
 
Ephesians 4:31-32(NKJV)
Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice.  And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.

Paul specifies 5 "Do Not's" that we must put away from our old lives -

Bitterness - bitterness is the result of unresolved hurt or anger, regardless of whether forgiveness has been given.  Don't miss that - you can forgive someone of something, but if you don't really forgive or if you continue to harbor a grudge against them, bitterness will ensue.  What if God harbored a grudge against us, even after He forgave us of our sins? Can you imagine going to heaven and having souls looking over their shoulders for when God might remind them of the sins of their past?  Not very heavenly...  But that can never be, because the bible tells us that God is love, and therefore His love for us is perfect, and His forgiveness of us is complete.  He is not bitter toward us, and we need to learn to leave our bitterness behind as well.

Wrath - in other words rage.  Uncontrollable anger, anger that is without reason or boundary.  The Christian life is to be a life of self-control.  We must learn to control the temptations that lead us to sin, we must learn to control our tongue and our actions, and we must learn to control our temper in all things.  A raging lunatic is simply that, a raging lunatic.  How are we to help another, lift up another, support another, if we are known by our bad temper and our bouts of uncontrolled anger? 

Anger - this is not the righteous anger that we spoke of earlier, but sinful anger.  Anger out of spite, anger out of jealousy, anger out of envy.  These are to be put down.

Clamor - arguing, fighting verbally, being contrary and negative for no good reason, looking for a fight.  The Christian life should be a life filled with peace and joy.  Getting our way regardless of purpose or cost is not how we should live our lives.  So many times we find ourselves in arguments over things that are all but meaningless, and yet people will fight tooth and nail over these same issues. 

Evil Speaking - again gossip and slander.  God has spoken over and over against gossip in the bible.  Many scriptures speak against it, even calling it an abomination in God's eyes.  We are to speak that which builds people up, not what tears them down.

Finally Paul finishes with 3 "Dos":

Be Kind - friendly, gentle, generous.  In the book of Acts we read how the first church was planted and developed.  People sold their possessions and gave the money to the church to be used as was needed.  This book of the bible tells us that the people shared in everything, and that the church grew explosively.  People were kind to each other and friendly.  Many of Paul's letters close with words to great each other with a holy kiss.  We are to feel genuine affection for each other.  There is one man that I know who to this day will greet me with a big bear hug and a kiss on the cheek.  Its not weird, its not inappropriate in any way.  Pastor Bill has greeted me this way for years now, and its his way of saying hello after an absence and showing me kindness and friendship.

Be Tenderhearted - compassion, caring, selflessness.  We are to care for each other and to help bear each others burdens.  Being compassionate means that what hurts a friend, hurts us too.  We can empathize with others.  Sometimes it means that we just need to be quiet and listen.

Be Forgiving - And here is the hardest one - we need to forgive.  Even if the person who did us wrong does not ask for or want our forgiveness, we need to forgive anyway.  Forgiving someone means that we give up the right to be angry.  Today I am 46 years old, almost 47.  And if God blesses me to live another 47 years, I don't have one hour to spend on being hurt, angry, or bitter over what someone did or said to me.  But I do find myself dwelling on things just like that, and so I need to forgive those situations and those people, and to give up my right to be angry anymore.  By refusing to forgive, the only person we punish is ourselves.  Forgiving means we are released from the prison of hurt and bitterness, and free to pursue joy and to live more abundantly in our Lord Jesus Christ.

Well, in answer to our question of what do you get when you have a quiet afternoon in a beautiful campground and write a blog post, a really long blog post

Thanks to my big brother Marv for the suggested scripture, thanks to each of you who took time to read this novella, and thanks most of all to God for giving me the ability and desire to write these posts.  I pray God will bless you and keep you in His favor and mercy always...



Monday, July 24, 2017

A New Life... (part 1)

In reading through the scriptures presented for this series, I've found that there is one that dovetails very well with my previous post, "Renew your mind...".  This next scripture covers a lot of ground however, so much so that I will break this into two posts.  So let's get started with part one. 

The scripture that we will look at next is Ephesians 4:31-32, suggested by my big bro, Marv.  I was so excited to receive a scripture from him (in fact I got two!), and how awesome is it that this one follows up to the previous post so well?  

Ephesians 4:31-32 (NKJV):

Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.

In reality, this scripture is an application for Christians as we move forward in our walk with the Lord.  I encourage you to read all of Ephesians Chapter 4.  It is not very long, but this entire chapter is a wonderful summation of how we are to conduct ourselves as followers of Christ.  I would like to back up into Ephesians 4 however in this post, as this chapter contains some very important and relevant teaching for our lives.  We will cover this particular scripture in part two.


Salvation through the shed blood of Jesus Christ is a trans-formative event.  It amazes me how this concept, the idea of transformation, keeps coming up over and over again.  I've noted in the past where I've seen ideas or even scriptures being referenced repeatedly in different ways.  God speaks to us through repetition, and when He repeats himself through various methods (a sermon, a song on the radio, and perhaps a written post in a blog or some other online post for example) we need to take notice and pay attention.

We see this same concept of transformation in Ephesians Chapter 4.  If we rewind to verses 17 through 24, here we read Paul contrasting the nature of who we were before we knew Jesus to who we are after salvation.  Specifically, let's read verses 17 through 19:

Ephesians 4:17-19 (NKJV): 

This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. 

Look at some of the descriptions Paul has for the lost in this passage - futility of their mind, understanding darkened, alienated, ignorance that is in them, blindness of their heart, greedy.  
Strong stuff from the apostle Paul.  And yet, it describes every one of us before we knew Jesus.  Take a moment and honestly apply these descriptions to yourself and your life before you knew Jesus.  For myself, I can see every one of these descriptions as plain as day in my prior life.  Let's consider a couple of these specifically.

Futility of mind - this speaks to our carnal, earthly thoughts and desires.  Before we knew Christ, we were focused on things of this world.  If we didn't have "it" (whatever "it" is), we were trying to figure out how to get "it".  If we had "it", we were trying to figure out how to get whatever comes next.  Did you ever notice how no matter what you had, it was never good enough?  I think we still struggle with this even after we are saved, but I think it is lessened.  The closer we draw to Jesus, the further away we pull from the materialism of this world.

Ignorance that is in them - this is speaking of spiritual ignorance, lack of the knowledge of God.  We were ignorant of God, His ways, His Holiness and Righteousness.  We did not possess the knowledge that was needed to be reconciled to Him.  Also, many is the time that we see people willfully choosing to ignore God and His word.  Consider the words of the prophet Zechariah:

Zechariah 7:11-12 (NKJV)
But they refused to heed, shrugged their shoulders, and stopped their ears so that they could not hear.  Yes, they made their hearts like flint, refusing to hear the law and the words which the Lord of hosts had sent by His Spirit through the former prophets. Thus great wrath came from the Lord of hosts.

Ignorance is a dangerous thing, and when ignorance is willfully chosen by someone, it is even more dangerous.  Unfortunately, ignorance is not found in the lost alone, far from it.  Ignorant Christians abound in the church today.  Brothers and sisters, we are not allowed to pick and choose which parts of God's word we believe and accept, and which parts we leave out.  In life there are many things that you will find that are not so easily seen as black or white.  Certainly there is a lot of gray area in this mortal life.  

But not so with God and His word. Either God's word is true, all of it, or not.  Either God is truthful, or He is a liar.  I believe that He is not a liar, and I believe all of His word, all of it.  Cherry-picking what we like or don't like from God's word is very dangerous, especially if you have an influential personality and you have the ear of someone who can be influenced and does not know better.

Turning back to Ephesians 4 in verses 20 through 24, Paul now describes how we should live after we've received Christ:

Ephesians 4:20-24 (NKJV)
But you have not so learned Christ, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.

What a wonderful word from Paul is this not?  The old person that I used to be, the one who was ignorant of God, the man who was spiritually blind and corrupted by materialism and greed, I can put him off.  I can set him aside, and now embrace the new man who just so happens to be the man that God created me to be originally.

You see, when God looks at man He sees sin.  He sees corruption and sin and He will not abide by it.  We must remember that all the while that God is love, and is compassionate, and has unending grace and mercy, He is also just and sovereign.  His word says that He will judge sin and those who have sinned will be held accountable.  

However, this is where the grace and mercy come in so importantly, because even though He knows that human kind is sinful and completely undeserving of His grace, He made a way for us to have it none-the-less.  God made a way so that the true man that I was always intended to be could be reborn, and that way is through the acceptance of what Jesus did on Calvary's cross to take my place and my punishment.  

To strengthen this new man, I need to live an active Christian life.  This means I need to read God's word daily and I need to pray.  I need to surround myself with brothers and sisters in Christ who will love me and my family, support me, encourage me, and will also hold me accountable.  We are not intended to go through this Christian life alone, and this is one reason why God gave us the church.  The local church is our source of spiritual support, encouragement, growth, fellowship, and love.

So I will end part one of this post here.  Keep watching for part two, I'll write and post it soon as we will continue in Ephesians 4 and will cover verses 25 through 32.  I truly hope and pray that these posts have been of some benefit and encouragement to you, my readers.  

For me, it has been a wonderful blessing from God to share these few thoughts and observations  with you.  I pray that God's continued love, kindness, and mercy will be with you now and always.  Thanks for reading...