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Faith & Patience

Quick fixes. From quick weight loss to 10-minute oil changes, our culture demands quick fixes. With a drive through lifestyle, many consider waiting for anything an inconvenience. Such impatience often bleeds into the attitude of people who are praying and believing God for a need in their life. In this microwave culture, people often regard God as uncaring or inattentive when their prayers seemingly go unanswered. Others, such as Job’s comforters charge that those who do not immediately possess God’s promises must have weak faith or even worse, sin in their life. However, the two virtues required for inheriting God’s promises are faith and patience (Hebrews 6:12).

The writer of Hebrews provided a definition of faith as “being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1). However, faith is not the quick fix of the Christian life. Certainly, the Bible contains stories of Jesus healing many people with his touch. However, often overlooked is the life of those people as they waited a lifetime for Jesus to come their way.

The balance of faith is patience. In fact, patience is a demonstration of faith as patience enables opportunity for God to demonstrate his power to those who couple faith with patience. For as faith and patience unite, people learn God’s life lessons and learn to trust God. As people unite faith and patience, God renews their strength so that their spirits soar like eagles and they are able to run the race of faith without growing weary (Isaiah 40:31). The coupling of faith with patience is the key to achieving God’s inheritance (Hebrews 6:12).
Have faith and patience.
Pastor Gary

Been There, Done That

Have you been there? You know that place in life in which nothing makes sense, nothing seems to work, everything seems to be falling apart, and heaven is silent? If you are not there now, chances are you have been there or may visit there in the future. It seems that this place, often called the wilderness, is part of everyone’s life cycle. That does not mean that the wilderness is welcomed or desired rather, more the opposite.
Wandering through the life wilderness does not mean that God has vanished or that all is lost. Good things come from wilderness experiences. For example, it was in the wilderness that Moses met God (Exodus 3). It was in the wilderness that the children of Israel experienced God’s provision (Exodus 16). It was in the wilderness that Jesus overcame Satan’s temptations (Luke 4).
Nothing is lost in the life wilderness; rather, life’s wilderness is a place from which you can emerge stronger, wiser, and full of God’s Spirit (Luke 14:4). Do not allow the spiritual aridness of the wilderness to breed doubt, to cause feelings of God-forsakenness, or to hinder diligent determination. You are not alone in the life wilderness. It is a been there done that place. Instead, hold fast to what is true. God exists and he promised never to leave you or forsake you (Hebrews 11:6; 13:5). Knowing the truth about the wilderness will enable you to emerge victorious!
Hang in there!
Pastor Gary

Comfortable in Chains

A visitor to India noticed a chain staked to the ground was able to hold a full-grown adult elephant. It was obvious to the visitor that the elephant was strong enough to pull the stake out of the ground to achieve freedom. Out of curiosity, the visitor inquired of the elephant trainer how such a small chain could hold such a large elephant. The trainer explained that from the birth of the elephant, they periodically chained the elephant to the stake. As an infant elephant, the chain was strong enough to hold the animal in place. As an adult elephant, the chain was not strong enough to hold the animal in place; however, because the elephant grew accustomed to the limitation of the chain, it never tried to escape.
It is easy to become comfortable in chains. Such chains will keep you from achieving God’s greatest potential in life. Chains of addiction, chains of fear, chains of loneliness, chains of inadequacy, chains of failure, chains of success, or whatever other chain that might bind you. Like the elephant, it is easy to become comfortable in chains, accustomed to limitations, whether self-imposed or imposed by others.
What is holding you back today? Are you comfortable in chains? Jesus Christ conquered the grave so that everyone can break free from life’s chains. Jesus said, “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36). Identify your chains and ask Jesus to help you to break free today!

Opportunities

Recently a friend of mine posted a message from a pastor in the Middle East who is living in the midst of the unrest. He wrote, “we cannot witness to people unless we also witness their struggles.”

How true! Jesus entered into the suffering of humanity to become the perfect high priest who sympathizes with our weaknesses. Are the servants greater than the Master? No. Thus, with Jesus as our example, we must engage in the sufferings of those we hope to lead to Christ for we cannot point the way to Christ looking down into the valley of despair from a mountain of privilege. Rather, Christ may lead us into the same valley of despair in order to provide us the opportunity to meet others in that valley that we might, lead those in the valley to Christ.

The Apostle Paul used every station in life to witness to those with whom he came into contact. Whether a prison in Philippi (Acts 16:22-37), the philosophical crowd in Athens (Acts 17:16-34), or before kings (Acts 26:1-32).

Prayer – Lord remind us that every day, every opportunity, and every meeting is an opportunity to witness to others the life changing power of Jesus.

Take a Mulligan

I like to play at golf. Note playing at golf and playing golf are two different things. I determine a good golf game by the number of balls I lose. One of the things I learned early in my golf experience was the mulligan. A mulligan is a do-over. For hackers like me, a mulligan is a friend. Slice the ball off the drive into the trees. Take a mulligan. Hit the ball into the water. Go ahead and take a mulligan. Who’s counting anyway?

Like golf, sometimes in life, we need a do-over. The good news is that God offers mulligans. Words and deeds often result in life’s slices, hooks, worm-burners, and triple bogies. John wrote, “If you confess your sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). This is not to suggest that God expects us to live a life dependent upon mulligans. God expects us to learn from our mistakes, correct those mistakes, and move forward. However, when necessary, follow John’s directives, confess your sins to God, and receive his forgiveness. Oh, by the way, if you take mulligans, it is only proper that you give mulligans to those around you.

Play a good game this week. If necessary, take and give a mulligan.

Please note: I am writing in first person because I include myself in this personal observation and opinion. I do not direct this at any person or any specific group. Rather, I offer this opinion as a platform for thought and reflection in order to open our eyes to be transformational Christians.

         If we lived and put into practice the Word of God, would the world/church consider us radical or revolutionary because our actions, attitudes, and sacrifices?  Notice there is no distinction between world and church as the church is conformed to the world so that any distinction seems lost. The Church has embraced mediocrity, complacency, and a what-is-in-it-for-me posture in a consumer-driven mentality. Thus, we attend church rather than be the Church. We are self-centered rather than Christ centered. We do not serve. Instead, we sit, we listen, we complain, and we argue; but, we do not grow, we do not sacrifice, and we do not change.

        The world/church would consider us radical if we were living sacrifices. We would be revolutionary if we “did not love [our] lives so much so much as to shrink from death” (Rev 12:11). The world/church would consider us extremist if we would sell everything we had, bring it to the pastor so that we could share with those who were in need (Acts 32-37). Today, giving 10% to God is uncommon and considered sacrificial when it is given.

        The answer to our dilemma is the same answer to all humanity. We need to return to the Jesus of the Bible, rather than the Jesus that we have created to fit our comfort level. We need to return to the baptism with the Holy Spirit of Acts 2 rather than simple emotionalism. We need to live the Word, which in a world/church that is anti-Word would make us radicals.

        In order to do this, we must allow the Word of God, by the power of the Spirit, to transform our lives by renewing of our minds. This means we must set aside our current frames of reference (what we know) in order to allow God’s Word to speak to us as though for the first time. Then, determine to hear and to act on God’s Word. What we have accepted as normal Christianity is biblically abnormal. Thus, becoming a biblical Christian would make us radical Christians. I am not there. I am only recognizing the divergence and praying the Lord helps me to do what is necessary to become a biblical believer.

Land Markers

Land markers are useful while swimming near the beach to ensure you are not drifting away because of the pull of the current. The world’s currents can cause us to begin drifting in our relationship with the Lord. Therefore, it is important that we check biblical land markers to make certain we are not allowing the world’s current to pull us away from the Lord. I offer five land markers from God’s Word by which you can check yourself to determine if you are drifting in your relationship with the Lord.

  1. The land marker of loving God and our neighbor.  “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:31). “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31). Do not end the year without making peace with God and man.  
  2. The land marker of church attendance. “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Heb 10:25). “Zeal for your house consumes me” (Psalm 69:9). Make God’s house a priority not an option. 
  3. The land marker of prayer. “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). “Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always” (1 Chronicles 16:11). “I have sought your face with all my heart” (Psalms 119: 58). “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33). Determine to make prayer part of your life. Move from duty (I must pray) to discipline (I need to pray) to delight (I want to pray).  
  4. The land marker of God’s Word. “I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word” (Psalms 119:16). “I have considered my ways and have turned my steps to your statues. I will hasten and not delay to obey your commands” (Psalms 119:59-60). Hide God’s Word in your heart, make reading the Bible a priority in your life. 
  5. The land marker of giving. “Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine” (Proverbs 3:9-10).  “Bring the whole title into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this, says the Lord Almighty, and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it” (Malachi 3:10). God loves cheerful givers!

The great thing about looking up and seeing a land marker is that it lets you know you are where you are supposed to be. The great thing about looking up and seeing a land marker that is not where it is supposed to be is that it gives you an opportunity to return to the place you should be. Look at these land markers in relation to your life. Where are you standing?

God bless,

Pastor Gary

Above all else…

Jesus taught us that our words, thoughts, and actions flow from the abundance of our hearts (Luke 6:45). This begs the question, with what are we filling our hearts? The media in its various forms sows seeds that fill hearts with anger, bitterness, hatred, immorality, violence, deception, cursing, and many other destructive seeds. Solomon wrote, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life” (Proverbs 4:23).  We must establish boundaries of discipline in our lives with which we deter destructive seeds and promote the acceptance of good seed from God’s Word. The seeds we allow into our hearts become the foundation for the fruit we produce and the seed that we sow into the lives of others. Vigilantly guard your heart so that you become the wellspring of life to divine appointments and interruptions that God brings your way.

Keep the Change

Ghandi said that we must be the change we want to create in the world. Leadership and organizational studies indicate that the only constant is change. However, with all of the change in technology that takes place, the greatest change need is a change of heart. Changing traditions or procedures does not change people. If we will turn to the Lord, he has promised to give us a new heart and put a new spirit within us (Ezekiel 36:26). We can all use that change.

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