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Saturday
Jun232018

March 2018

And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  - Mark 8:34 (ESV)

Discipleship is open to anyone – and everyone!  Jesus asks us to deliberately and decisively exercise our will; to place ourselves behind Him.  He is the leader – and we are the followers.  But Jesus doesn’t stop there.  His call is followed by three commands.

The first command:  let him deny himself.  It doesn’t seem to be a part of human DNA to deny ourselves.  In fact, it’s quite the opposite.  But Jesus compels us to thoroughly examine our lives, searching for and ridding ourselves of those things that would keep us from being a faithful and fruitful disciple.

The second command:  and take up his cross.  Self denial leads one to take up his cross.  We clearly see God’s purpose for our lives.  We readily embrace the self-giving sacrifice the cross represents.  We lift high the cross – the symbol of God’s Kingdom breaking into human history.  To take up one’s cross is to become a partner in the saving work of God throughout the world today.

The third command:  and follow me.  Self denial and taking up one’s cross has an objective – following Jesus – otherwise, they’re useless exercises of an empty and selfish spirituality.  This is the ultimate command, not to pattern our life after this world – but to pattern our life after the Lord.  Church, may we respond to the challenge of Following Jesus!

~ Pastor John

Saturday
Jun232018

February 2018

The headlines are heart-wrenching.  Prominent and powerful men use their position and influence to force sexual favors from women.  While a horrified world wonders how this could happen, a clear-minded church should wisely and boldly speak the truth found in God’s Word; a truth that’s strong medicine for the moral sickness of our day.

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her  - Ephesians 5:25 (ESV)

While this speaks specifically to marriage, I think it can also serve as a guide for relationships between men and women in general.  Why?  We see the word love and we’re thinking in our western mindset, “a feeling; sensuality or sexuality.”  But it’s not in this case.  The word Paul uses here is that of unconditional, “no-strings-attached” love.  This type of love works in any relationship.  Let’s start with the latter portion of the verse.  The love Christ has for His Church is a pure, self-giving love.  His love seeks the highest and best for His Church.  His love was such that He willingly gave His life for His “bride.”  And men, we are called commanded to emulate this love, not only in our marriage relationship, but also in our relationships with others, especially women.

From a worldly perspective, women are trophies to be conquered, prizes to be gained – mere objects, playthings to be possessed and changed or discarded at will.  This cultural claptrap is equated with “manliness” in our day.  What I would want the world to know is that Christ makes a radical difference in a man’s life, in the way a godly man treats women.  A man completely devoted to Christ will love (that’s agape love) women from a pure heart, seeing them as unique, precious, and valued creations of God.  Authentic Christian men are willing to lay down their lives to protect the honor and reputation of women.  True men of God will always seek the highest and the best for all women.  That’s something the world can never promise or could ever deliver on.  Men of God, it’s time to rise up and stand in the gap.

~ Pastor John

Saturday
Jun232018

January 2018

A New Year means a new series of messages.  And our over-arching theme which will guide us from now until Easter will be:  Following Jesus.

“Come, follow me,” Jesus said … At once they left their nets and followed him.  - Matthew 4:19-20 (NIV, abj)

On the surface, it seems Jesus is issuing an invitation to those first potential disciples.  When you delve into the original text, you discover that Jesus is using the language of command (an imperative).  I want you to understand, this isn’t a command like a drill sergeant gives – it’s a compelling, authoritative call.  Instead of commanding their attention, the words of Jesus capture their attention!  Our culture, our society is such that most people don’t want anyone telling them what to do.  But something within humanity will respond to a compelling call.  There’s something in our soul that answers when deep calls to deep (Psalm 42:7).

We see the result of Jesus’ call:  At once they left their nets and followed him.  There’s no hesitation on their part.  They recognize this other-worldly call and leave their very livelihood to follow Jesus.  And that word followed?  The basic meaning is that of “a road.”  In this place the word has the meaning of “to be in the same way.”  These men fully understand what Jesus means, and they willingly choose “to be in the same way” as the Lord!

Church, can you imagine what our personal lives would be like, what the witness of the Church would be like if we  embraced the call of Jesus, if we willingly chose “to be in the same way” as the Master?  Our lives and our world would be transformed beyond anything we could ask or imagine!

~ Pastor John

Saturday
Jun232018

December 2017

Can you believe it?  I saw a sign at a retail outlet today that said:  Just 35 shopping days to Christmas!  How did a year manage to go by so fast?  Oh, well.  Here we are at “the most wonderful time of the year.”  And what makes it wonderful for the world is not what makes it wonderful for you and me!  Wait – I see a connection with spiritual matters.  This time of year, the world is concerned with – a gift (or gifts -- the more, the better).  And people of faith are concerned with – the gift, Jesus!

Jesus is God’s gift to a needy world.  Jesus is God’s way of saying to corrupt and sinful humanity, “I still love you!”  Jesus – His name (Yeshua) means Yahweh is salvation.  Jesus was the Lamb “slain from the creation of the world” (Rev. 13:8).  And Jesus is “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29)!

Jesus freely surrendered His life on a rugged Roman cross.  He suffered, bled, and died in order to open up the way for a reconciled relationship with the Father.  And after His death, God brought Jesus back to life again!  His victory over death, hell, and the grave is our promise of victory over the very same!

And after Jesus ascended, He … is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us (Ro. 8:34).  There, Jesus waits.  And we wait.  We wait expectantly for the fulfillment of a specific promise:  This very Jesus who has been taken up from you into Heaven will come back in just the same way as you have seen him go (Acts 1:11).

I love the Advent season.  As we celebrate the coming of Christ our Savior, may we anticipate His coming again as conquering King.

“Surely I come quickly.” Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.  - Revelation 22:20b (KJ21)

 ~ Pastor John

Saturday
Jun232018

November 2017

This month, I want to do something different.  Instead of writing an article that is inspirational, I want to challenge us with an activity.  That activity is tied to our time of year, Thanksgiving.

Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind ...  - Psalm 107:8 (NIV)

These words are repeated verbatim in three more verses (vv. 15, 21, and 31) of Psalm 107.  I remember a professor at Bible College telling us, “If I repeat something, it must be important.”  Obviously, this repetition clamors for our attention -- and forms the basis for our activity.  Instead of being critical and ungrateful, a whiner or complainer, how about being thankful!  During the holiday season, I want to challenge you to think of and/or list the things you can be thankful for.  Here’s a sampling to get you started:

~ Thank God for being God – there is no Other!

~ Be thankful for God’s love, mercy, and grace.

~ Thank God for His holiness and desire that we be holy.

~ Let’s be thankful for Christ Jesus, our Savior.

~ Express thankfulness to God for His Holy Spirit.

~ Give thanks for God’s Word, the Bible.

~ Thank the Lord for His Church.

~ Tell God you’re thankful He provides for your needs.

I think you get the idea.  Let me encourage you to make this holiday season one to remember.  Be thankful!

~ Pastor John