"Pastorette Sermonette" is taken from our weekly Sunday bulletin. Use these words of wisdom and sometimes funny stories to encourage you throughout your week.
|Posted on March 7, 2011 at 2:56 PM||comments (11)|
"For the Kingdom of God is ... living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit." Romans 14:17 (NLT)
With each passing year I grow ever more convinced that the life of faith is a life characterized by peace and joy. Sure it's a life of goodness as well, that's practically a no-brainer. Ask anyone what religion or Christianity specifically is about, and you're likely to hear, "Being good." But being good is not the sum total of it. In fact, simply being good—doing what is morally right—absent of a peaceful trust in God and a joyful appreciation of Him can become legalism. And few things upset Jesus more than the legalism of the religious leaders of His day.
Legalism is living a life of rules with little room for the very thing Jesus affords us: grace. It's characterized by self-striving. We can easily overlook the fact that no matter what rules we happen to keep - or fail to keep - God provides His people with grace, mercy, forgiveness, peace and joy. Some may say that if I am experiencing more peace and joy it's because I'm being increasingly good. That it's because I'm being obedient and doing all the right things—praying more, trusting God more, walking in a manner worthy of my calling, and so forth. Well, yes. And, no.
I've come to realize that I have no real right to extra peace or happiness just because I pause to talk with God. I have no entitlement to contentment or joy just because I submit to His commands. I pray and obey simply because God is God, and I am not. He is the creator of my life. He holds the patent. And I'm created for His pleasure. Yet in His gracious, extravagant kindness, He has made it so that when I pray rather than worry, I experience peace. When I gratefully accept what He has given me, and do not wish and whine for more, I find contentment. When I give away what I have, so often I get joy in return. And when I look steadily on Him all these blessings come into view.
Hannah Whitall Smith writes:
"This blessed life must not be looked upon in any sense as an attainment but as an obtainment. We cannot earn it; we cannot climb up to it; we cannot win it; we can do nothing but ask for it and receive it. It is the gift of God in Christ Jesus. And where a thing is a gift, the only course left for the receiver is to take it and thank the giver."
Simply because He is good, peace, contentment and joy are available to us regardless of our position, possessions, performance or circumstances. It's His loving kindness and the empowerment of His Spirit that makes living in the kingdom of God a life of goodness, peace and joy. And that is a blessed life -a gift. It's what life in the Kingdom looks like. Let's share that gift by introducing others to its Source. Thank the Lord for the grace affords you. We so desperately need it, and also need to appreciate it. He has blanketed each one of us in the blessing of His presence and guides us in His perfect will for our lives. Pray that you will walk in goodness, peace and joy today, in Jesus' Name, Amen.
|Posted on March 7, 2011 at 2:54 PM||comments (0)|
" ... his sheep follow him because they know his voice."
Imagine if Jesus walked into your church this week. Would you recognize Him? When I was younger, I would have said "yes," believing He would wear a flowing white robe and look just like the painting on my Sunday school wall. Now, I'm pretty sure He'd blend in.
But what would He wear? Some might say Jesus would show up in a coat and tie. Others would insist He'd wear a polo shirt and khakis. I think He could show up in a t-shirt and jeans, depending on what others were wearing. He seemed to be quite comfortable in whatever crowd He joined.
The question is academic, because the Bible says it will be obvious when Jesus returns (read Jesus' own words in Matthew 24:23-27). Yet the question has value because it guides me to the place of longing to know Jesus so well I'd recognize Him no matter what He looked like or wore.
It is possible to know someone you've never met. We begin to know Jesus by reading the Bible. Read the New Testament - both the stories of Jesus' life and teachings, and of those who built His church after His resurrection. But if we close the Bible, set it on the bedside table, and did nothing more - we would have a knowledge about Jesus.
But we need to know Jesus personally. Seek to understand what Jesus thinks about certain things. His opinions and values are important. Reading His words, try to sense His heart. Developing intimacy with Jesus takes practice and honesty, just like it does in any intimate relationship.
We can get to know Him when we spend time seeking Him. In your longing to know Jesus, He will continue to reveal Himself more. Our key verse today is John 10:4. Jesus was warning the religious leaders of the day about those who would lead people far from the truth. Jesus, however, loved the people, and cared for them tenderly, as a shepherd cares for his sheep. Jesus said speaking of Himself, "... his sheep follow him because they know his voice."
The verse indicates a close connection, of knowing and trust, between the shepherd and the sheep. All it took was a word ... the sound of His voice ... and they knew it was Him.
If Jesus walked into the room, and we were faced the other way, would we need to turn around? Or would we recognize His voice? I hope we would smile and nod, saying, "Jesus is here!"
|Posted on October 7, 2010 at 12:32 PM||comments (1)|
"And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like the pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him." Matthew 6:7-8 (NIV)
Have you ever wondered what causes people to feel spiritually frustrated? Well, The two top reasons seem to be Bible study and prayer. Have you ever sat in church sweating because everyone else knew instantly how to get to every passage in the Bible the preacher referenced, But you weren’t even sure the book he mentioned is even in your Bible?And when you looked around, others seemed all wrapped up and excited in what this preacher man had to say. They'd shout loud, "Un-hunh's" and "Amens!" and you thought, “What was I missing?”
And then there was your prayer life. Or the lack there-of. It's not that you didn't want to pray but the whole concept of talking to God felt weird. Maybe you tried to copy the prayers of those who seemed like they knew they were doing more than talking to the air. But then you’d feel foolish for what you just said to the God of the Universe. "Dear Lord, take this food to the nourishment of my body. (Good so far.) And if you could change the molecular structure of these cheesy fries to be like carrot sticks that sure would be bomb-diggity." (Hunh?) You would never have said that!!!
Well, like the saying goes, "We've come a long way baby." Except that I'm pretty sure we all still trip up in finding certain passages in the Bible. And I'm pretty sure you might still hear someone (maybe even yourself) say bomb-diggity in their prayers. But according to what Jesus taught in Matthew 6:7, I think He's okay with that.
"And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like the pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him."
For me, sincerity and simplicity are two keys to unlocking spiritual frustration with both your Bible study and your prayers. Why do we make it all so complicated? In Colossians 4:2 we are instructed to, "Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful" (NIV). I am challenged by these words today. Do I get up from reading my Bible and praying and start intentionally watching for God? Do I sense His activity and remember to be thankful? Watchful and thankful are great words to ponder when we start trying to overcomplicate my time with Jesus.
I think a few honest moments spent with God reading His Word, sharing our heart, and listening for His instruction are quite perfect. I might even say they are bomb-diggity.
|Posted on October 1, 2010 at 8:29 AM||comments (0)|
Therefore tell the people: This is what the LORD Almighty says: 'Return to me,' declares the LORD Almighty, 'and I will return to you,' says the LORD Almighty." Zechariah 1:3 (NIV)
At first glance, this verse might seem like God is stand-offish and distant. Why do we have to make the first move? But actually, this verse depicts His great love for us. Like the prodigal's father, He waits patiently for our return. He doesn't find us, shake us and demand us to account for our whereabouts. Instead He scans the horizon for our return.
Hoping, but not forcing. Waiting, but not pressuring. Ultimately He gives us free will. We choose when and if we return. And when we do, He promises to return to us. He is a gentleman who doesn't force Himself upon us. God has to see us move of our own free will. That element of choice is intrinsic in His relationship to us.
Returning to God is a practice we will have to engage in over and over in life. The point is not how many times we return to Him, but that we make the effort to do so each time it is necessary. Perhaps you need to return to Him physically—recommitting to meeting with Him in church on a weekly basis. Perhaps you need to return to Him emotionally—determining to trust Him in a difficult time. Perhaps you need to return to Him spiritually—committing to regular prayer and time spent in His Word.
Whatever your return looks like, don't put it off any longer. And don't doubt that He will return to you. Don't believe lies that you are the exception or that you are asking too much of Him. His Word tells us differently. Hebrews 7:19 says, "...a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God" (NIV). God made the ultimate way for us to return—through His Son, whose death on the cross allowed us to approach the throne of grace with confidence (Hebrews 4:16). By Him we draw near to God. Not because we are worthy, but because He is.
God wants us to return to Him. He stands waiting with open arms, at the ready to return to us. When He sees us coming, He runs to meet us. "But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him" (Luke 15:20b, NIV). Are you ready to make that first move today?
|Posted on June 18, 2010 at 8:58 AM||comments (0)|
Have you ever coveted others' faith? Do you watch the spiritual "giants" and wonder why they were given a greater faith than you? It doesn’t seem fair. Even worse were the people with great faith who never seemed to have any type of adversity. Do you know the kind of people I'm describing?
If you ever get to know a person with obvious great faith, whether in your church, your community, or in a ministry, it can be one of the best things you can do to increase your own faith. The first thing you will learn is that people with great faith got it from their abundance of trials, not from their lack of trials. Trusting God in one trouble gave them courage to trust Him in another. Before they knew it, they had developed great faith in God. Great faith didn't happen overnight; it was a process.
Through the course of trusting God, we discover several things about great faith. First, it leads to great undertakings. Take the Gentile woman with a demon-possessed daughter found in Matthew 15. She cried out for Jesus to heal her daughter, but she received no response.
This action on Christ's part can seem confusing. Therefore, it is important to know that this woman was not only a Gentile, but was of Canaanite descent. The Canaanites were an immoral people God had commanded Israel to completely destroy during their invasion of Canaan under the command of Joshua. Israel did not fully obey God's order and some Canaanites survived the invasion. This woman was their descendant. Nonetheless, this didn't stop her from appealing to Jesus for mercy and help. Annoyed by her attempts, the disciples urged Jesus to send her away. She was a nuisance to them, but to Jesus the woman was an example of great faith. She was determined to do whatever was necessary to get what she needed.
Great faith also brings about great expectations. Yet we often don't expect great results from our labors and prayers. This is because we lack faith. This was not true of the Gentile woman. She expected the Savior to heal her daughter. That's not all. Great faith awakens great earnestness. This woman didn't play by the rules so to speak. She didn't care what others thought about her actions. Crying, she fell at the feet of Jesus and worshiped Him. this is the same kind of earnestness we see in others with great faith as well. They pray with persistence until God moves.
Great faith conquers great difficulties. The woman kept on pursuing Jesus even though He reminded her of her position as a Gentile, not a Jew. Christ responded to her begging, "It is not right to take the children's bread and toss it to their dogs" (vs.26). In other words, why should He give her, a Gentile, what He had come to give the Jews?
Her answer to that was to agree with Him, "Yes, Lord." And then throw herself on His mercy again by adding, "...even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table" (vs. 27). She understood that even one morsel of God's power was more than enough to heal her daughter. Pleased with her faith, Jesus commended her.
Finally, great faith achieves great victories. Jesus rewarded the woman's faith by healing her daughter. Our difficulties can be overcome by expressing great faith in Christ's mercy and love, which provide for our needs. Great faith isn't given to some and not to others. It’s free for all of us. It is a choice we make to trust and pursue God even when at first there appears to be no response.
If your current circumstance calls for great faith, don’t give up! Persist in prayer until you see the Lord at work in your life. Seek His will in this area so that you may be more than a conquer. Victory is already yours because you trust in Him! That’s great faith!
|Posted on June 10, 2010 at 8:54 AM||comments (0)|
A lot of people want to know what the will of God is for their life. Usually it's a question we ask while agonizing over a certain decision we're facing - Should I go to this college, or that one? Should I accept or decline this offer? Should I move or stay put?
There aren't any verses in the Bible that answer these questions. Scripture is clear about God's will when facing a temptation to sin, but not so much in the "neutral" decisions in life - like choosing between two equally good choices.
Nancy Leigh DeMoss writes, "...when you go to the Scripture for insight on the will of God, you don't find a lot about things to do, places to go, or people to meet. That's because God's will is not so much a place, a job, or a specific mate, as it is a heart and a lifestyle." She is correct. And some verses nestled in 1 Thessalonians plainly reveal what those heart and lifestyle choices look like: "Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus".
It's easy to read a verse like that - glossing through it with a general feeling of positive agreement - and not really digest the truth of what it says. So let's break it down. Praying continually and giving thanks are specific actions we can begin today - we can do right now - to position ourselves inside of God's will. Praying our way through our days keeps us continually in touch with God, in synch with Him. When our heart and mind is in synch with God's, we're more open to His leading. The Holy Spirit has access to our thoughts. So prayer is necessary for the person seeking to operate in God's will. It doesn't take hour-long prayer sessions four times a day. Just keep God at the forefront of your mind and keep talking to Him as your day unfolds.
Why is it so important that we also give thanks in all circumstances? (Surely, it's not that God needs to hear "thank you" to feel appreciated.) Giving thanks helps us notice what we have to be joyful about. It also forces us to think about our God: His goodness. His faithfulness. His provision. His sacrifice. Giving thanks for our gifts includes the Giver in our thoughts. And it affords us a right view of Him - one that acknowledges He delights in caring for us, guiding us, and providing for us. That calms our oh-Lord-what-am-I-supposed-to-do worries. We need a right view of God in order to walk in His will.
This verse also instructs us to be joyful every day. That sounds like a hard one some days. But in my experience, praying and giving thanks with regularity goes a long way in developing a heart capable of joy in all circumstances. I want to point out that joy is a fruit of the Spirit. That means it is something produced by the Spirit of God in us. We can't totally produce or sustain it on our own apart from Him. So when we pray, we should pray for joy. And thank Him for supplying it.
The Bible states that it is God's will for you to pray, give Him thanks, and cultivate joy. So no matter which college you go to, no matter which job offer you accept, and whether you live here or there, be joyful, pray daily, and give thanks regularly. Could it be that if we focus on these things, the path will unfold before us? Or that He will work all out for good, no matter which choice we make? That means the pressure of making the exact right decision, or else entirely missing God's will, is off. And that's one thing we can give God thanks for today!
|Posted on May 20, 2010 at 2:18 PM||comments (5)|
Have you ever had an ah-ha moment? Recently I did as I was reading Acts 9. At first, the familiar story seemed dull. You know how it is when you've read or heard the same story over and over. Then a new revelation merged from the content. In my minds-eye I began to see the word "rejection," although it was not in written form. Perhaps I saw what I was feeling that day—rejected.
In this passage, Saul, a murderer, had just been transformed into Paul, a disciple of Christ. Even though Paul was a changed person, many rejected him because of his past reputation as a murderer. This was only the beginning of Paul's trouble. Throughout his ministry, Paul not only experienced rejection, but great suffering and harassment too. For a changed man, his adversity seemed unfair. Paul was devoted to serving Christ. He sacrificed his education, his life, and remained single so he could better serve the Lord. And yet, he was shipwrecked on several occasions, falsely accused, and thrown into prison more than once. Doesn't that seem odd for a man called of God? Wouldn't God's favor protect him from such adversity?
We can all relate to this in some way. For some, it could be an illness; for others, depression; Some of us have been rejected by family, friends, and co-workers. Others have been falsely accused. Some are imprisoned by finances, or blown around by the consequences of someone else's sin.
Whatever it is, it can cripple us to the point where we are simply unable to do life and ministry. We may even begin to feel rejected by God. We become confused, and can’t make sense of the “why”. Maybe you are serving God in more ways than you can count. Then, without warning, strong winds blow in. Clouds hang overhead and it begins to storm. Before you know it, you are "shipwrecked." We've all been there. It seems so unfair. You've tried to live right. You walk in obedience the best you can. You take God at His Word and trust in His promises. Shouldn't faith like this call for smooth sailing, instead of stormy, shipwrecking seas?
Isaiah 55:8 reminds us that God's ways are not our ways. His thoughts and plans are higher than ours; it's tough to figure God out when He doesn't play by our rules or have the same agenda we have. We forget that God sees a much bigger picture.
If we follow Paul's journey, we find God working through the rejection, the trials, the prison time, and the shipwrecks. God used these hardships to position Paul. Not for fame, but to increase the Kingdom of God. Paul witnessed to the Pharisees through his rejection and imprisonment. People saw God's power at work when Paul survived the storms, when the snake bite didn't kill him, and when the jail shook, opening the doors and loosing chains. The Lord used these difficulties so others would witness His power and believe. Paul allowed God to use him as a vessel. He didn't sit on the sidelines, full of self-pity and doubt. Instead, as Acts 16:22-31 tells us, after being stripped, beaten, severely flogged, thrown in the inner cell of a prison and his feet in stocks, Paul prayed and sang hymns to God. Others around him were listening. The power of God came in such a way, that the prison guard begged Paul to tell him, "What must I do to be saved?" He replied, "Believe in the Lord Jesus".
God doesn't waste our pain, our rejection or our "shipwrecks." He uses them to bring about His plan—to position us so that others can see His transforming power at work in our lives and believe in the living God. If that's true, and it is, then our challenge is to rise from the wreckage, like Paul, so that our lives will give testimony that draws others to the Master. Today I will no longer sit on the sidelines of life full of self-pity. I choose to rise, pray and praise, so that God can position me to shine for His glory, and so that others will believe.