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Archive for July, 2013

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OK, first let me state a couple of things….

– I’m a couple of days behind the curve on this one
– I like Kirk Cameron on his own, not too big of a fan of him and Ray Comfort together
– I know several people who may see this post and start blowing up the comments just because Kirk Cameron’s name and you don’t like his conservative beliefs
– On the other side, some of you might want to blow this up because you feel we as Christians are under fire and our country is no longer a Christian nation
– For these reasons, I tend not to post things like this because publicly I am more interested in things like grace, salvation and  love and hate providing platforms for ugliness …so please keep civil.

OK – that all said…..

I saw an article today saying that Facebook and You Tube had blocked any posting of the preview to Kirk Cameron’s new film because it was “abusive, unsafe, and spammy”. My first thought was either it was a fake story or Kirk Cameron had gone off the deep end. It appears it was neither.

(At this point, a campaign brought a change to this and it is now available on both. However, I was curious how bad the preview was to start all this. You can see it above.)

It is pretty hard not to see that this banning on the film’s trailer as anything less than targeted discrimination. I have seen so much worse on both Facebook and YouTube that you have to wonder what they were thinking. The challenge is defining the target since I have also seen a ton of Christian videos on both so there’s not a war on Christians per say through the two mediums on a large-scale. It’s perplexing on why they choose this one to ban.

I could go on about that with observations and speculation but don’t really care to. The simple fact is if you deem this as prejudice against Christians, you may be right but it’s not the main point of the post believe it or not. (Not to mention, Christ told us not to be surprised when there is persecution and this is an example of “persecution light” in comparison to what our brothers and sisters around the world face.)

I just want to get the word out on the film itself in my little corner of the world. I won’t judge it until I see it like others on both sides might do. However, I do want to see it for the following reasons….

– Again, I like Kirk Cameron when he’s on his own
– I think this is a vital topic he is attempting to tackle
– I do have a sense in me that if two of the largest media outlets tried to ban its message…. I want to get the message out there

If all works out, I think I’ll try to go see this one. Might even take a friend or two. Maybe I’ll see you there…….

Random thoughts on a Saturday morning….

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I have explored in the last couple posts the fact that God calls His children (those who have accepted Jesus as Leader and Forgiver and who follow His way of living instead of the world’s ways) to live in freedom. We have seen that through salvation, we are released from the bondage of this world. The truth is being locked back up by guilt, stress, or fear are not His desire for us yet somehow we keep falling back into the trap.

The simple fact is this world will try to suck us back in. Satan will try to rob from the grace and deliverance that is ours in the Lord. On certain days, it can just be overwhelming.

Today’s Psalm invites us to see how David dealt with such a time. It gives a real time experience of one of the heroes of the faith and how he modeled to get “refocused”.

Here’s the Psalm….

Psalm 10

“Why, O Lord, do you stand far away?
Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?

In arrogance the wicked hotly pursue the poor;
let them be caught in the schemes that they have devised.
For the wicked boasts of the desires of his soul,
and the one greedy for gain curses and renounces the Lord.
In the pride of his face the wicked does not seek him;
all his thoughts are, “There is no God.”
His ways prosper at all times;
your judgments are on high, out of his sight;
as for all his foes, he puffs at them.
He says in his heart, “I shall not be moved;
throughout all generations I shall not meet adversity.”
His mouth is filled with cursing and deceit and oppression;
under his tongue are mischief and iniquity.
He sits in ambush in the villages;
in hiding places he murders the innocent.
His eyes stealthily watch for the helpless;
    he lurks in ambush like a lion in his thicket;
he lurks that he may seize the poor;
he seizes the poor when he draws him into his net.
10 The helpless are crushed, sink down,
and fall by his might.
11 He says in his heart, “God has forgotten,
he has hidden his face, he will never see it.”

12 Arise, O Lord; O God, lift up your hand;
forget not the afflicted.
13 Why does the wicked renounce God
and say in his heart, “You will not call to account”?
14 But you do see, for you note mischief and vexation,
that you may take it into your hands;
to you the helpless commits himself;
you have been the helper of the fatherless.
15 Break the arm of the wicked and evildoer;
call his wickedness to account till you find none.

16 The Lord is king forever and ever;
the nations perish from his land.
17 O Lord, you hear the desire of the afflicted;
you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear
18 to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed,
so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more.”

You’ll notice I left the verse numbers in. This was on purpose to make the following easier to reference because I believe there is a pattern here from the man that God said was “after God’s own heart” that we can find freedom in.

Verses 1-11 – David calls out his concern with no holds barred. He knows God is a strong Father who can handle the load. He knows God is a caring Daddy who wants to hear his child’s heart. David unleashes the hurt, pain, and confusion of the unfair situation in front of him from his overwhelmed, human vantage point.

Verses 12 – 15 – David starts to refocus. He moves his attention off of the circumstances that are blurring his view to focus in on his Deliverer. He aims backs towards the One who has proven Himself faithful time and time again. He cries out for God to move as David also moves into the protection of his God.

Verses 16 – 18 – Here is the result of that refocusing…. PRAISE! There is no other way I can see to explain this last paragraph. David has moved from complaining about the circumstances to claiming the truths of the strength of his God! His perception has changed (even though the circumstances have not…yet) and He has a firm foundation of truth to stand strong on.

What are you going through today?

First, check yourself and make sure you are in a place of righteousness. If you are not a child of God through accepting Him as Leader and Forgiver in your life, that is the place to start to have his grace, mercy, and firm foundation. (Romans 10:9-10; John 3: 1-21)

If you find that your situation is the result of an area where you are not living in righteousness, get some forgiveness and change your ways to match God’s ways.

If you are living righteously, then it’s time to refocus like David did. It’s time to get into the Word and explore God’s promises. It’s time to dig into Christian community with people who will spur you on towards God. It’s time to have a talk with God like David did and let Him change your view.

Being blessed is having joy which is tied to your spirit walk in spite of your circumstances. Be blessed….

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Psalm 9: 1-2

“I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.I will be glad and exult in you; I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.”

How much of your prayer life (assuming you have a prayer life) focuses on thanksgiving and praise verses bringing your requests to the Lord?

Recently, we did a study at our church on the Lord’s prayer where Jesus told us how to pray as those who have accepted Jesus as Leader and Forgiver in our lives.. As we looked at the formula modeled, we found there is an invitation to many different areas of prayer but it was the praise part that was not just modeled twice in that prayer but also the way the prayer started and closed.

In this psalm of David, he covers many things in his prayer but I will be focusing on the power and importance of praise.

Praise of God’s Deliverance (Don’t be short minded. Remember what God has already brought you through.)

Psalm 9: 3-6

“When my enemies turn back,  they stumble and perish before your presence.For you have maintained my just cause; you have sat on the throne, giving righteous judgment.

You have rebuked the nations; you have made the wicked perish; you have blotted out their name forever and ever.The enemy came to an end in everlasting ruins; their cities you rooted out the very memory of them has perished.”

Praise of God’s Righteous Judgement

Psalm 9: 7-8

“But the Lord sits enthroned forever; he has established his throne for justice,and he judges the world with righteousness; he judges the peoples with uprightness.”

Praise for Faithfulness in Caring for Us in Times of Trouble

Psalm 9: 9-10

“The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you.”

Praise for the Wonderful Things He Does in His Love for you

Psalm 9: 11-12

“Sing praises to the Lord, who sits enthroned in Zion! Tell among the peoples his deeds!For he who avenges blood is mindful of them; he does not forget the cry of the afflicted.”

Praise for His Grace and Salvation

Psalm 9: 13-14

“Be gracious to me, O Lord! See my affliction from those who hate me, O you who lift me up from the gates of death,that I may recount all your praises, that in the gates of the daughter of Zion. I may rejoice in your salvation.”

God moves in so many areas of our lives yet the circumstances of this world seem to beg for our attention. It takes a conscious effort to decide to focus on the Truth instead of being swallowed up by the lies.

There are multiple reasons we should stop and worship God but one that should drive us to our knees the fastest is stated in verse 16 when David reminds us that “The Lord has made himself known“! He makes Himself known in your life but how heart crushing it must be to Him when we forget and continue to live in fear and stress. It has to be even more painful for Him than it is for us since we are designed to live in freedom through Christ.

Don’t forget that a life of thanksgiving is also part of your witness to the world! When we live as victims, it kills our testimony but when we focus on worship, verse 11 reminds us to “Tell among the peoples his deeds!“.

There continues to be struggle in this life and your Daddy wants to hear from you on your requests. However, don’t forget to wrap them in praise. He has done so much for us already! Stand on His firm foundation!

Psalm 9: 19-20

“Arise, O Lord! Let not man prevail…  Let the nations know that they are but men!”

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First things first…. If you are not familiar with the “Coffee with Jesus” comics, you are missing out. You can see more of them by going here or here.

That said, I must admit, I didn’t really put a lot of thought into this one when it posted. However, this morning, I find it back on my mind as I compile several running thoughts in my head.

The church I pastor went through a lot of change in the 14-16 months. For about 7 years, we were always about 60 people and right now, we have a base of 120 or so. I know from a distance that doesn’t sound like much of a change but it has brought with it new challenges. (To see why we grew, go here).

One of the changes is the dreaded summer slump and it has been concerning and frustrating to me.

You see, when we were smaller, it was a very dedicated group of people who saw themselves as a connected unit (much like a home group). As a larger group, it’s easier to feel you come for a Sunday morning experience and if you don’t show up, people probably won’t notice. Then when you get to the summer, people load up their schedules with trips, relaxing, swimming pools, Cedar Point, and more while church slides down the list of priorities.  You start missing people and there is a distance felt. The fellowship struggles along. The Bible studies struggle along. The people who put in time and work to get the gatherings ready struggle a little with disappointment of how many are missing. (And yes…) The finances and tithing struggle as people put their focuses elsewhere, skip weeks, and hold back their tithe to pay for the summer fun.

Most recently, it was great to hear how well church went yesterday in my absence but disheartening to hear about half of our people were missing. By the way, dealing with “the pastor is out of town so this is a good week to skip” is a common problem we didn’t really have to deal with before but that I have noticed over the last year too).

Many of my pastor buddies tell me that is just how it goes. You get through the summer and then get back to jamming in the fall. To be honest, I don’t subscribe to that. There is nothing Biblical that supports that mentality and it feels like there must be ways to lead the church to keeping consistent and dedicated to Christian community and faithfulness. It’s really not all that hard to schedule that cookout for a Saturday instead of a Sunday. It’s a powerful testimony when you tell your family you can meet at the park at 1:00pm instead of noon because you have church.

At the same time, I know this is just the kind of thing I can over focus on and push too hard on. The frustration side of seeing what people can have and the group as a whole can have if we stay consistent can become a negative force instead of a caring one for me. I am still learning the balance.

That’s why this strip came back into my mind. It’s where the focus should be (at least for me this morning). Instead of being focused on the half that did not show up yesterday, I am THRILLED that half did! I got several texts and messages about how awesome it was. I am pumped to see Brent being used by God and how his hard work, study, and heart touched others. I am blessed with Mike taking the calling as Worship Coordinator and the team working together to lead us again in worship music. On finances… I know June was a tough month and I have no idea of yesterday’s collection… but I celebrate those who are being faithful (not to the church but to God through tithes and offerings) and through that, are blessing the ministry of the church and holding on the promises of God in their own life too! I am thankful for the children volunteers, the greeters, those who brought food and the computer operator who work behind the scenes for the ministry at hand!

Outside of yesterday, I am thankful for the leadership of Ginger and Carrie who worked on the groups for NT60 even if no one else came. I am thankful for those who are doing the reading for NT60 even though they could not go to the meetings. I am thankful for those volunteering to be elders, to be care givers and to Brenda for faithfully sending birthday cards each month. I am thankful for the visitors and the volunteers who are diving in, growing, and investing of themselves into the community.

I continue to pray for and reach out to those who could have so much more if they plugged in more but today, I am thankful for the hearts of so many who already are. I miss you guys and will see you soon!

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Psalm 3: 1-2

“O Lord, how many are my foes! Many are rising against me; many are saying of my soul, there is no salvation for him in God.”

Are you going through some tough times right now?

– Bills stacked up high and bill collectors calling?
– Your marriage or relationship is sinking fast?
– Loss of job or can’t find a job?
– Your child has walked away from you?
– Seems like everyone is conspiring against you?

King David in the Bible fully understands. His life was full of all kinds of ups and downs including one time towards the end of his life where his own son had turned against him. Absalom had rose up, gathered the nation around him, and declared himself king. He wanted his father dead and David fled the kingdom and was hiding in the wilderness.

In the midst of this season of threat and betrayal, David started his psalm by stating the issue at hand. The whole world was crushing in on him and he felt alone. There is a possibility that you feel that way today. However, David never stopped right there in the midst of despair. He made the choice to focus on what really matters.
(more…)

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tree-planted-by-stream

There continues to be a disconnect between people who claim to believe in Jesus and how they live. A great majority of those who claim to be Christians or run to God when a tragedy hits live their lives no differently than the world. Here’s some of the ways this manifests….

– Feel they don’t need to go to church to be a Christian (even though the Bible is quite clear we are created to be in community with one another)
– Goes to church but treats it as a social club on the weeks it’s convenient to go (even though Christian community is much deeper Biblcialy)
– Posting Bible verses on their Facebook page next to the latest pic of their drunken episode with buddies the night before
– Fighting for Christian family values while treating their own kids  with contempt
– Claiming to being victorious through Christ but holding a victim mentality where they act defeated and the world is unfair to them
– Praising God on Sunday with the same mouth that curses and uses His name in vain throughout the week
– Claim to be a Christian but never open the Bible to learn His ways and follow them (please don’t say what you think is in the Bible but only what you know from your own reading is in the Bible. There’s a lot of misinformation out there already.)
– Accept Christ as Leader and Forgiver in their own life and then have no interest in following our main purpose of leading others to the Lord, baptizing them, and growing together to be more like Christ.

Sound familiar? Might be time to take a look at what this life is suppose to look like. Let’s start now….

First, don’t read me wrong. We can not be righteous on our own account. The Bible tells us that none are “good” and all have fallen short of the glory of God.

However, it also says that anyone who accepts Jesus as Leader and Forgiver in their life by “confess(ing) with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead…” (Romans 10:9) and repenting (leaving the old ways of life and following Christ…. then you are saved.

But then what? Let’s look at some promises in Psalm 1…..

Psalm 1: 1-2

“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.”

Here’s what we were just talking about..

If you want to be blessed (joy that is not tied to your circumstances but to your spiritual walk so it is not a roller coaster ride), it is not found in acting like the world. It is found by delighting in the Word and living it! Do you have this in your life? When is the last time you picked up the Bible? When is the last time you sat under the counsel of others teaching the Word? Do you delight in it or is it a task? Do you live it or do you find it easier doing what “feels” right and then can’t figure out why life seems so unfair and off base?

Look at what the Bible promises happens for those who delight in the Word and live it…

Psalm 1: 3

“He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.”

Sounds good, doesn’t it? However, make sure you don’t misunderstand. This is not a verse that promises you money, a mansion, or a nice car. It does promise prosperity! God’s best for you! Not God’s best for the guy or lady beside you but God’s best for you!

I know several people who love the Lord, love His ways, and (get this) LIVE IT! Some have extra money and some don’t but they all have a stronger foundation that passes the circumstances and are blessed through the Lord. When the good days come or the bad, they have a firm foundation, a loving Christian community, and the respect of others for living what they believe, They are impacting the lives of others (including their families) and have a purpose. They are a tree planted by the water yielding fruit through the Lord. They are strong. they do not wither. They prosper. What about your life? There is a different path….

Psalm 1: 4-6

“The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away.

Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;for the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.”

The wicked is not only the horrible people you see on the nightly news that you hold at a distance. It is anyone who is not living the way mentioned in the Scripture above. Again, no one is perfect… trust me….. but Jesus is and living through Him is righteousness. However, living by the ways of the world is wickedness and it might be time to take a serious look at this.

Do you want your life to be blessed? What about your family? Your job? Your marriage? Your friendships?

It’s not hard but it does take a conscience choice and then some discipline.

Blessed is the one who does not follow the ways of the world but instead delights in the ways of the Lord and follows it both day and night. Be blessed.

 

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