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Tuesday
Jul312018

August 2018

My wife and I participate in a study/prayer group.  Our last session prompted some discussion on the way home.  She made a comment, and her remark led me to say:  We must let go of the past, live in the present, and pray for the future.  Want to “unpack” this?

We must let go of the past …:  Why?  Because it’s past!  It’s done, finished.  There are no do-overs.  No amount of hand-wringing or soul-wrangling can change it.  The harmful, hurtful baggage of the past has the potential to weigh you down!  It can (and will) distract you from fulfilling God’s plan for your life.  Besides, a Christian has this promise:  forgiven things of the past are remembered no more (Jer. 31:34 and Heb. 8:12, 10:17)!  Embracing this spiritual reality allows us to move on in life – and to the next step.

… live in the present:  It’s been said “we live our lives crucified between two thieves – yesterday and tomorrow.”  What a powerful image!  Both the past and future has the potential to rob us of the present moment.  So, how do we go about living in the present?  Think of Jesus.  His singular focus on the kingdom of God (cf. Matthew 6:33) serves as an example.  Adopting His lifestyle keeps us in the eternal present, available and ready for whatever (or whoever) God’s will brings our way.  Boldly embrace the present!

… and pray for the future.  We may not know what the future holds, but we know Who holds the future – the Lord!  In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus challenged the people, saying, “Do not worry about tomorrow …” (the future).  In his writings, Paul said, “Don’t worry about anything (including the future) … pray about everything!”  Beloved,  we’re not praying to change the future – we’re praying to align ourselves with the ever-unfolding will of God.  So, we pray … we live … and we let go … all for the glory of God!

~ Pastor John

Sunday
Jul012018

July 2018

A year ago, my article concerned something the Spirit of God spoke into my spirit.  It went like this:

Son, if you want things to change, you’ve got to change.

And after a year, God is still reminding me of this truth, this necessity.  I’m still praying and seeking and asking God what exactly He means regarding this change.  It’s so much more than external circumstances.  It’s more than policy, programs, or procedures.  It goes beyond orders of service and ministry schedules.  And while all of these things may be subject to change, they are by no means the focus of change!  The hard truth about this kind of change comes from the fact that it concerns us – each of us -- personally … intimately … spiritually.

Son, if you want things to change, you’ve got to change.

I realize these words aren’t “word for word” scripture.  You can’t point to book, chapter, and verse.  But I believe these words capture the spirit of scripture.  For example, I think of John 3:3, where Jesus says to Nicodemus, You must be born again.  Nicodemus wrestled with the literal sense of Jesus’ words, wondering out loud how such a thing was possible!  It was an image, Jesus’ way of saying, “you’ve got to change, you, yourself, personally, because the kingdom is here!”  Another passage in the New Testament relevant to this issue is Acts 26:20.  In this verse, Paul says:  I began telling people that they should change their hearts and lives and turn to God and do things to show they really had changed.  Did you notice where the change starts, the progression?  Heartlivesactions.  A change takes place inside us, in our heart/soul, then it works its way to the outside, in our living.  I remember the words of the psalmist: Create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit within me (Psalm 51:10).  It seems like that verse could be the start – and heart -- of a sincere prayer, bringing vital and lasting change to one’s life and living.  So, to all His Sons and Daughters I say …

… if you want things to change, you’ve got to change.

And may it all be to His glory, Amen!

~ Pastor John

Saturday
Jun232018

June 2018

If it’s not already apparent, we’ve entered the “on ramp” that leads to summer, accelerating toward and eventually merging with our distinctive southern heat and humidity (doesn’t that just bless your heart)!  Oh, before you think I’m talking about the weather, think again.  While we’re considering “heat” and “hot,” I really want you to evaluate your spiritual experience.  I say this, because one of our songs for Pentecost Sunday was incredibly moving:

Set a fire down in my soul

That I can’t contain and I can’t control

I want more of You, God

I want more of You, God.

While anyone can sing these words and feel good about the sentiment that’s conveyed – who will have the courage not only to sing the lyrics, but make the words a passionate prayer – a deep-seated desire to be personally fulfilled in their life?  Who will call upon the God who “answers by fire” (1 Kings 18:24)?  Who will seek the baptism of Holy Spirit and fire that Christ brings (Mt. 3:11, Lk. 3:16)?  Who will submit their life to the God who is a “consuming fire” (Heb. 12:29)?  How we answer these questions affects not only each of us personally, but also our local church as well.  I pray God takes these lyrics and ignites a spiritual wildfire (a revival) in each of our lives and our churches!  Praise His name!

In closing, I leave you with these words from the Old Testament:  The fire that was started on the altar (of your heart -- my addition), must never be allowed to stop burning (Leviticus 6:12, ERV).

~ Pastor John

Saturday
Jun232018

May 2018

Prayer has increasingly been on my heart of late.  In fact, the Lord recently challenged me saying, “Son, you need to pursue a “Phd” – that’s Pray harder daily!  And believe me, this is one undertaking that will not be completed in this lifetime.  Graduation will only come with eternity.  Let me challenge you to think about prayer for a few moments.

I officiated at a graveside recently.  Entering the cemetery grounds, my attention was drawn to a bas-relief on the wall between the front gates.  The inscription said:  Prayer has wrought more things than any have ever dreamed of.  In one simple sentence, the reality and power of prayer is proclaimed; prayer being more effective than dreams.

Oswald Chambers says this of prayer:  Prayer does not fit us for the greater work; prayer is the greater work. 

I’m reminded of quotes attributed to John Wesley.  He said:  God does nothing but in answer to prayer; and … Prayer is where the action is. 

And we must include scripture …

… pray without ceasing … 1 Thessalonians 5:17

Continue steadfastly in prayer … Colossians 4:2

… be constant in prayer.  Romans 12:12

And [Jesus] told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.  Luke 18:1

Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray … Luke 11:1

Truly, Lord … Teach us to pray!

~ Pastor John

Saturday
Jun232018

April 2018

And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all.  - Acts 4:33 (ESV)

These words are an expressive microcosm of our faith, a concise description for the Christian life, and a powerful pattern for us to follow today.

As we consider this verse, the centerpiece would be:  the resurrection of the Lord Jesus.  Everything else revolves around and relates to this tremendous truth.  The reality of the resurrection animates and empowers believers.  Here are two observations:

Resurrection empowers our witness:  The word power attracts attention (the disciples especially)!  The power of God can be a means to advance our agendas.  His power can go a long way in helping us achieve our hopes and dreams.  But what is power really for?  In this verse, power is tied to testimony.  The power of God (the resurrection) enabled these men to boldly tell their world about the resurrected Christ.  To speak truth to the “big dogs” of the day required a courage that was other-worldly.  Church, things haven’t changed.  We need power in our day to challenge our world with the truth of the Risen Christ!

Resurrection results in an overflowing grace:  Don’t you love this phrase that characterizes the apostles as having great grace?  This trait of great grace is important for believers today.  Far too many Christians are lacking in this great grace -- and it shows!  So, where does this great grace come from?  It comes from faithfully and powerfully sharing the good news of our Risen Savior with our lost world.  An authentic and compelling testimony leads to a great and amazing grace!  Let’s spread the Word!

~ Pastor John