Receive with Thanksgiving

Here is a faithful saying, which is much needed in these times we live in. I know that some suffer from anxiety over the condition of our nation, and the state of the world in general. Yet, don’t we all know that these things must happen before the end comes? And even though we don’t know the time, we can see the things that are changing, just like the fig leaf, and how it changes, bringing a change to the season. But let me share with you some scripture that will comfort you, as well as cause you to remain alert during these times. Not to fear, but to recognize what is happening around us: “Now the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will depart from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and the teaching of demons, through the hypocrisy of liars whose consciences are seared. They forbid marriage and demand abstinence from foods that God created to be received with gratitude by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing should be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, since it is sanctified by the word of God and by prayer. If you point these things out to the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, nourished by the words of the faith and the good teaching that you have followed. But have nothing to do with irreverent and silly myths. Rather, train yourself in godliness,” 1 Timothy 4:1-7 So know that in these times you will see a movement away from the faith, and we do see this today, especially from the young who were raised in the faith. We need to bathe our young in prayer. But because the world not only rejects Christ, but those who follow Him are in the same category. (I praise God for that, for I want to be associated with Christ, regardless of the cost). But many who reject the faith have taken up replacement philosophy to fill the void that is left in the hearts of weak believers. Later, Paul would write to Timothy: “But you, man of God, run from these things, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness. Fight the good fight for the faith; take hold of eternal life that you were called to and have made a good confession about in the presence of many witnesses.” 6:11-12 We build shelters for when the approaching tornado comes, and just like that feel a confidence in the shelter. Let’s seek shelter in the arms of Jesus, for He is our shelter in times of trouble. He is the Rock on which we stand when the sand is causing us to sink. He is the Commander, when we have lost our way, and don’t know which way to go; He is the one who cares when we have lost all who might stand beside us. So take heart because with all that is going on in the world, and it looks bleak for the future, know that our Lord has not left us alone. He is aware of all that is going on around us, and at the right time, He will make it all right, His way! Have faith, even when your faith is faltering, for He will work with what you have. Seek the shelter of His mighty wings, and you will be at peace through all of this. Pastor Andy

Liberty

Let’s talk about Christian liberty! Because we are saved by grace through faith (Eph.2:8-9) we no longer have to live by laws. But aren’t there laws engraved on our hearts? What is permissible? Let’s see what Scripture says about this liberty: “Everything is permissible, but not everything is helpful. Everything is permissible, but not everything builds up. No one should seek his own good, but the good of the other person. Eat everything that is sold in the meat market, asking no questions for conscience sake, for the earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it. If one of the unbelievers invites you over and you want to go, eat everything that is set before you, without raising questions of conscience. But if someone says to you, “This is food offered to an idol, do not eat it,” out of consideration for the one who told you, and for conscience sake.” 1 Corinthians 10:23-28 So let’s unwrap this. Everything is fine for we no longer live by law, but by grace through faith. But we still have to think of the other person. We find in Romans 14 we are told: “So then, we must pursue what promotes peace and what builds up one another. Do not tear down God’s work because of food. Everything is clean, but it is wrong for a man to cause stumbling by what he eats. It is a noble thing not to eat meat, or drink wine, or do anything that makes your brother stumble. Do you have a conviction? Keep it to yourself before God. The man who does not condemn himself by what he approves is blessed.” Romans 14:19-22 So we are faced with what edifies another. Now if we go to a person’s place where they say specifically that what we are eating is an offering from some unknown god, then we need to respectfully NOT eat, and that should give us a good reason to have a dialogue about our faith. For today we don’t see a lot of that, but we do have people who are living with addictions, such as to alcohol. If we want to honor that person, do we really have to have wine in their presence? No, because we know that it is difficult for them because of their addiction. It’s placing the concerns and welfare of those we are with above our own. Is that not liberty? Of course it is, and it is a choice to honor another in that liberty. How about those who still live by the traditions of the Old Testament and do not eat pork. Would you serve pork to them if you invite them over? Would you make breakfast bacon for them, knowing that they do not eat it? Of course not! So Christian liberty has a lot of freedom to it, but it doesn’t negate the need for responsible understanding of another’s needs. So when we invite another over to eat, let’s find out what they like. Let’s find out if they have an aversion to certain types of food, not that we cannot eat or drink, but we want to honor their presence at our table with nothing that would either embarrass them or cause them to stumble. Paul would write to the Roman Church after that which I wrote above: “Therefore, accept one another, just as the Messiah also accepted you, to the glory of God.” Romans 15:7 Oh what a world this would be if we just put others before self. But in everything we do, let’s glorify our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, by our attitude and our behavior. Pastor Andy

Memorial Day

While many will use this holiday today as an opportunity to spend time with family on outdoor sports and picnics, I pray we, and they, will not forget the purpose of the day. It is Memorial Day, the day we celebrate our freedom that came with the highest cost possible, the life of the one who fought for it. There are hundreds of thousands of graves and crosses, spread out over the world, of men and women who died fighting for freedom. What we do today is possible because of the courage of those who came before us. There will be parades in honor of those fallen during wars, and rightly so because they deserve honor, but I want to use this opportunity to remind us all of the One who deserves the most honor because of the freedom that He willingly gave us. While most men who fight in battle, go into battle knowing that they may die, but very few go into battle to explicitly give their lives for the benefit of others. We all serve knowing what the cost could be, but we fight to win, not to lose. But there is One who came to this earth to die for you and me. He came knowing that by dying, He would save all those who call on Him, who honor Him, not just on one day of the year, but every day of the year. But this One who came to fight the greatest battle of all time is not through, and will fight again for us, because His fight is against evil. We will fight with Him on that day, and I, for one, am proud to be a willing participant in this Army, the Army of the Lord. Jesus said,”I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired man, since he is not the shepherd and doesn’t own the sheep, leaves them and runs away when he sees a wolf coming. The wolf snatches and scatters them. This happens because he is a hired man and doesn’t care about the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know My own sheep, and they know Me, as the Father knows Me, and I know the Father. I lay down My life for the sheep.” “My sheep hear My voice. I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish – ever! No one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all. No one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.” John 10: 11-15, 27-30 It is right that we set aside a day to honor those who have paid the ultimate price. I will honor them today, and remember the names etched in my heart: Harley Cowen, Mike Havranek, George Landy, and others known for a moment but the names have escaped me. I will honor their memory. And I will honor the One who saved my life, and my soul from death – Jesus. He is my Good Shepherd, my Commander, and I know His voice, and He knows mine. I know that He has prepared a place for me, and all who call on His name and believe in Him. He would say, “Greater love has no man, than to lay down his life for a friend. I would like to think that I have the courage to do that, but have been called instead to raise the flag of remembrance to all who fought wars, and who still fight today, and will pay the price on this day for the freedom we have. Let’s not forget them. Let’s not forget about Jesus, the One who taught us to lay down our lives for a friend. I thank Him today for the people in my life that I know are true friends all because of the One who taught me to care like He cares, and to give like He gives, and to love like He loves. May your Memorial Day be special today. Please take a moment to remember, then listen and you will hear the voice of the Shepherd, still comforting us in our time of need. Pastor Andy

Faith Scale

If you could put your faith level and the degree in which you follow Jesus on a scale graph, where would that sit compared to the things of the world that we live in 24/7? Is Jesus an afterthought most of the time, or is He the primary source of Who you go to every day? Is He the One who rates highest on your importance scale? I know many will say yes, but do you say yes with your heart, or just with your mouth. But remember, this is my journey, and I write to invite you to experience all that I experience every day. The thoughts that enter my head; the things that occupy my time. The things I share are not designed to be aimed at you, but are a compilation of that which either convicts my heart every day, or instructs me through the Spirit, when I am able to listen. I see before me a graph of importance, and I am ashamed that Jesus does not sit alone at the top some of the time. The conviction that I sense is that the world still tries to take control of my life. Ultimately, I am pulled back to Christ, not because I am strong, but because I am weak, and get to the point of surrender, and turn over my life once again to the Spirit of the Lord, who I want to guide me and to Whom I put my trust in. But if I am honest with my heart, there are many things that try to compete for my attention every day. There is conviction that reveals to me that at times I put self before the Lord, and do what I want, instead of what He wills. I stand confident in my faith, but does the deception of the world cause me to let faith slip into a lower level on my scale, and convince my mind that I am spiritual enough. What is that anyway? I desire to start every day with Jesus, and for the most part I do, knowing that I am compelled to make this journey until I reach the end. Yet, the truths that are revealed to me about myself, are many, and it seems the closer I get to Jesus, the clearer I see the deceptions and the thoughts that occupy my head. The Spirit moves me to Romans 7 where I read about the apostle Paul who was on his own journey, and he writes: “So now I am no longer the one doing it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my flesh. For the desire to do what is good is with me, but there is no ability to do it. For I do not do the good that I want to do, but I practice the evil that I do not want to do. Now if I do what I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but it is the sin that lives in me. So I discover this principle: When I want to do what is good, evil is with me. For in my inner self I joyfully agree with God’s law. But I see a different law in the parts of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and taking me prisoner to the law of sin in the parts of my body. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this dying body/ I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with my mind I myself am a slave to the law of God, but with my flesh, to the law of sin.” Romans 7: 17-25 I am moved to surrender daily knowing that this battle that rages within each of us rages daily and will continue through the whole journey. We are to be watchful, knowing that evil is right there with us. The worst thing we can do is deny its presence, for when we acknowledge it, we can then surrender it to the Lord, for cleansing, and for strength to once again get back on the path of His planning, not ours. He understands our weakness and our attraction to the things of the world, and He has given us His Spirit to guide us through the times of trials and the pull of the flesh. So I look at my meter once again, and I realize that even though things of the world keep nagging at me, the love that is there for my Lord and Savior will always be the prime importance behind my journey. He will be the One guiding; He will be the One correcting my steps; He will be the One forgiving when I step too far off the path. And He continues to love me even when I fail. For that, I am drawn just a little closer to Him today than yesterday, and I long for the tomorrows that will take me closer still. I know each of us have a journey to make, and if you don’t please feel free to walk this journey with me, as we get closer and closer to the Lord and the end of our destination. Pastor Andy

Metaphor or Literal?

The Book of Jonah intrigues me. Some may call it a metaphor, but I believe it literal. For what distance will God go to get our attention? With Jonah, it started with a simple command, “Get up! Go!” Jonah didn’t seem to pay attention to the “why” God wanted him to go to Nineveh, only that he didn’t want to do it. He was afraid! So he did what many of us would do in such a situation, he ran from the Lord. Interesting, that Jonah was a worshiper of Yahweh, but he thought he could hide from Him. When he realized that God had found him (He always knew where he was), he knew what also had to be done. Here is the scriptural account: “Then the Lord hurled a violent wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose on the sea that the ship threatened to break apart. The sailors were afraid, and each cried out to his god.” (8) “Then they said to him, ‘Tell us who is to blame for this trouble we’re in. What is your business and where are you from? What is your country and what people are you from?’ He answered them, ‘I’m a Hebrew. I worship Yahweh, the God of the heavens, who made the sea and the dry land.’ Then the men were even more afraid and said to him, ‘What is this you’ve done?’ The men knew he was fleeing from the Lord’s presence, because he had told them. So they said to him, ‘What should we do to you to calm this sea that’s against us? For the sea was getting worse.’ He answered them, “Pick me up and throw me into the sea so it may quiet down for you, for I know that I’m to blame for this violent storm that is against you.” Jonah 1:4-5,8-12 Many things happened with this event. Even though Jonah initially felt fear, he confessed his belief in God, the Maker of the sea and dry land. When he realized that he was the cause of the storm, he had them throw him overboard. They didn’t want to, but in the end, knew that was the only way they would be saved. That day, “The men feared the Lord even more, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows.” 1:16 They turned to God, when the sea immediately became calm when they threw Jonah overboard. They believed in the God that Jonah worshiped. God spared Jonah, but taught him a lesson for his lack of faith in trusting Him with what He had asked him to do, “Go to Nineveh.” When Jonah was swallowed by the huge fish, he was alive and prayed to God and surrendered to fulfill what God requested of him. So God caused the fish to vomit out Jonah on dry land. The rest of the story is how Jonah proclaimed God’s message to the Ninevites, who heard the message and repented of their ways and sins and God showed His mercy on Nineveh. Jonah learned a lesson that day that still is for us today: God still will go to extremes to enable us to get His message to those He loves and wants to change; God is forgiving even when we try to run from Him; God has the willingness to use us even when we don’t think we would be right for the job, for we fear entering into something unknown. The end result of obedience touches many more lives. “The men of the ship were changed, along with the people of Nineveh, and even along with Jonah, after he got over himself, and just trusted God. So many times God wants to use us for something that may not make sense right away to us, and He wants us to be obedient even when we don’t understand His reasoning. We often try to hide from God, maybe not in the hold of a ship, but in the recesses of our own mind, trying to convince ourselves that God is not asking anything from us, when we know in our hearts that He is. But know this: God pursues us in a love relationship that will take us places where we may not want to go, but it brings glory to Him. He has us doing things we may not want to do, but it will be for His glory and our blessing. Let’s not be like Jonah, and immediately react to fear instead of faith. Let’s trust the Lord, even when we are afraid, and then step out in faith anyway. That is called courage, reacting to faith in the face of fear. So don’t look at the storm around you, think of why you are in it, and see what God has in mind for you. Pastor Andy

Royal Blood

Did you know you have royal blood in you?  You weren’t born with it, but you were reborn with it. God chose you before the beginning of time to be His people, but He only wanted people who wanted to be with Him. He chose the human race to be His children, but many in the human race rejected His choosing.  We are told in Scripture: “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His possession, so that you may proclaim the praises of the One who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. Dear friends, I urge you as strangers and temporary residents to abstain from fleshly desires that war against you. Conduct yourselves honorably among the Gentiles, so that in a case where they speak against you as those who do what is evil, they will, by observing your good works, glorify God on the day of visitation.” 1 Peter 2:9-12   Paul would tell the church at Ephesus: “For He chose us in Him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless in His sight.  In love He predestined us to be adopted through Jesus Christ for Himself, according to His favor and will,”  Ephesians 1:4-5   His choosing of us doesn’t mean that we don’t have a free will to reject that choosing. For those however, who accepted the grace He poured out, became His children, adopted through Christ our Lord.  Even though the world might not think of you as a royal priesthood, you are what God has enabled you to be, a holy people. This also does not mean that we don’t struggle with sin, but even though we will struggle with sin as long as we live in this flesh, we still belong to God, adopted out of a world of chaos, and given the ability to live differently from the world, even while being in the world. But we are strangers here, temporary citizens, and our true home is with Him in eternity. Let’s not let the unknown of eternity sway us from our confidence that we are destined for a place far above what we live in at this time. Even though we might love where we are, you can only imagine what heaven is like when it is so much more glorious than here. So let’s not lose heart; let’s keep our heads up and our eyes focused on Christ. He will return to get us or we will leave this flesh at some point and meet Him. Either way, we will be with the Lord, all because we are a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His possession. We have obtained the mercy that we didn’t once know, but now know. So let’s proclaim the praises of Him who called us out of darkness, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, who made it all possible. Enjoy your day, because you are loved, and you are called. Pastor Andy

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Are you ready

While many of us believe that we are in the end times, I wonder how many of us are truly ready for the end times? What I mean by ready is that if the Lord would return today, would we want Him to wait just a minute for some undone project, or wait for us to check on that loved one just one more time? We know that Scripture tells us: “But Jesus said to him, ‘No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God” Luke 9:62 But isn’t it almost like you can’t help it, unfinished things just seem to take precedent when faced with an immediate decision. But even though we wait impatiently, for the Lord, He is giving us time to get right with Him. Here is what Scripture also tells us: “Therefore, brothers, be patient until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth and is patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. You also must be patient. Strengthen your hearts, because the Lord’s coming is near. Brothers, do not complain about one another, so that you will not be judged. Look, the judge stands at the door! Brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the Lord’s name as an example of suffering and patience. See, we count as blessed those who have endured. You have heard of Job’s endurance and have seen the outcome from the Lord. The Lord is very compassionate and merciful.” James 5:7-11 The Lord has been patient with us concerning His return, but let’s not be lulled into thinking that it won’t be in our lifetime. It could be today, or even tomorrow, or next week. It might be 50 years. But let’s take a lesson from the Israelites who became complacent when they hadn’t heard from God for a while. They forgot and were lulled into some other type of action such as worship of idols. We have been becoming more complacent in this generation. But now we see things happening in the spiritual realm; we see changes happening between those who believe, and those who do not. We think it might be the advent of the return of Christ. There is nothing wrong with that thinking if it brings us back to the focus we are supposed to have in Him. The question is, Can we change from our complacent behavior in time for His appearance? We will not be given the opportunity to go back and finish that one more thing when that happens. We will not be able to ask the Lord to let us complete one more project here on earth. If we do that, we are putting the things of earth ahead of our love and trust in Christ. Our focus needs to be on Him, our trust completely in Him. While we wait, we are patient, but aware; we are focused completely on Him while we live in this present time. We do not let the distractions of the world cause us to become complacent, but daily live for Him returning, even today. Let’s trust Him and let our trust fully rest in His care of us, not in complacency that He will pack up for us when He returns, but He wants to find us ready, not to take the things of the world, but to gladly leave all things, and follow Him.

Surrender Daily

Is there anything out there that causes you to stray in your thinking? Do you look at others with envy? Do your eyes take you to places and visuals that you ought not go? Do your feet cause you to travel to places you shouldn’t be at? And if you know this, what are those places? Does your hand cause you to take that which you didn’t earn, or was not yours? You may ask why I write such things because we don’t live like that. I write these things because Scripture tells us the very same thing. When Jesus gives instruction to His disciples, He gives instruction as to how believers must behave, not the world. When the disciples were arguing about who was greater, Jesus interrupted them, and asked what they were arguing about. They wouldn’t tell Him, but He knew, and He called them together and He took a child and brought the child before them. He told them that if anyone wanted to be great, they must be a servant to all, then He told them about the child: “Whoever welcomes one little child such as this in My name welcomes Me. And whoever welcomes Me does not welcome Me, but Him who sent Me.” Mark 9:37 They didn’t quite understand about “In My name,” and questioned Him about that. But He wasn’t done with the child, even though they might have appeared to talk around the child. Jesus then told them: “But whoever causes the downfall of one of these little ones who believe in Me – it would be better for him if a heavy millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea. And if your hand causes your downfall, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than to have two hands and go to hell – the unquenchable fire, where, Their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched. And if your foot causes your downfall, cut it off, it is better for you to enter life lame than to have two feet and be thrown into hell- the unquenchable fire, Their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.” Mark 9:42-46 Jesus continues a third time with the eye, but then he quotes Isaiah 66:24 a third time. And I wonder why Jesus was so adamant with quoting Isaiah that He repeated the quote 3 times? Did He literally mean for those who caused the child, who believed in Him, to stumble, that they would be dealt with more severely? What I believe Jesus is warning us is that Hell is real. There is no mistaking that those who feel that hell is not really a place, need to change their thinking, for it is a place where there is also no death, but continued torment. “Their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.” We must remember something as believers: Heaven is for real, and we are destined to go there if we believe. And if we believe, we have eternal life, but for those who don’t believe, they will also have a life after this physical body is destroyed, and that life will be in eternal torment. What a sobering comment. Jesus was not playing games with His disciples, but wanted them to understand that saying we live as a Christian, but continue to do things that do not glorify God, we have to think hard about whether we are honestly a Christian. I know we will continue to sin at times, but that sin should never cause us to feel comfortable in it, but as our hearts are convicted in that sin, we repent, and turn once again to Jesus. Our eternal place is out there, the question is whether it is eternal life in Christ, or eternal torment in hell. Do you have someone who you love who is not a believer? Love them enough to tell them about Jesus, and tell them the consequences of their decisions also. For Jesus came to seek and to save that which was lost. That which was destined for eternal torment and separation from God. I can’t begin to tell you how much I am compelled to write these things, and they poke at my heart just as much as yours. For I am constantly aware of the times I fail Jesus, and although I know my salvation is secure, It’s only because I am brought back to the place of repentance once again, knowing with all my heart that the decision is still mine, but the power to keep me on track rests with Jesus and my willingness to surrender all to Him – daily. Ps. Andy

Dinner with the IRS?

If an IRS official showed up at your doorstep with the news that you are being audited, would you invite him in to sit with you for dinner first?  Ok, maybe that’s an extreme question, but I think we all know the answer. These people are placed even lower than politicians, yet if you had a politician you knew was a little crooked, or who didn’t have the same platform that you do, would you invite him or her in to sit with you for a meal?  Now think of the tax collector in the time of the earthly walk of Christ. He was usually a swindler, collecting more than he was supposed to so that he could line his own pockets.  Scripture takes us to this time: 

“All the tax collectors and sinners were approaching to listen to Him. And the Pharisees and scribes were complaining, ‘This man welcomes sinners and eats with them!” So He told them this parable: What man among you, who has 100 sheep and loses one of them, does not leave the 99 in the open field and go after the lost one until he finds it? When he has found it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders, and coming home, he calls his friends and neighbors together, saying to them, “Rejoice with me, because I have found my lost sheep!” I tell you, in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 righteous people who don’t need repentance.” Luke 15:1-7 Now that you have read this scripture, which one are you? Are you Jesus looking for the one lost, or are you the Pharisee or scribe who doesn’t even want to associate with those you don’t particularly care for? Or are you the Tax Collector or sinner, having your heart pulled in a direction toward one who represents words of hope and wisdom? This morning, I think I am a little like the Pharisees, and a little like the Savior, but I realize I can’t be both. Either I will think like Jesus and love the lost, and will leave the 99 to find the one lost, or I will be like the Pharisee, and subtly not have anything to do with those who do not believe as I do. What a crazy place we find ourselves in! But before we become too harsh with ourselves, part of listening and learning, is having our own hearts open to the truth, for it is the truth that will bring us to freedom, and it is truth that will touch our hearts in a way that we will indeed leave the 99 to go look for the one lost. Jesus is teaching us a valuable lesson here, and this lesson is for those who feel they are lost; it is a lesson for those who desire to look for the lost, but the pressures of the world weigh down on them so much that they feel defeated before they even start. It’s like, “I need to find that one lost, but I can’t find him/her, so I am a failure, and I will stop looking.” It’s a lesson for those who look at the world and don’t see hurting people, but disgusting people. It’s a lesson for those who believe it’s their job to judge those who are lost, and not have anything to do with them. The only question that remains is, ‘Which one are we?” If the adversary is convincing you that the only way you can look for the one lost is to go overseas, and you can’t do that, he has won in your defeat. But there is something that we all need to understand. God will lead us to the lost. When we can’t find that one, God knows exactly where they are, and with a heart willing to walk toward that “tax collector, or that sinner” He will lead to the one He wants you to be Jesus to. And all you have to do is show up, stand up, and speak up, and He will do the rest. I remember so clearly that once I was the sinner, lost to the truth; I was the one with the scarlet letter, who was ashamed of showing myself to anyone, because I didn’t want to be exposed. I was the lost! And it was one who answered the call. He was one who I never would become buddies with, or even invite to my house for dinner, but he found me to be wandering looking for hope, and all he did was show up, speak up, and stand up for Jesus. And Jesus did the rest. So now I learn another lesson on this journey forward to eternity. Along the way, we will find people searching, but they might not even know what they are searching for, and if we keep too focused on our own journey, we might just miss that part of the journey that is God-directed, and wants us to grab hold of that one, to bring them on the journey with us. And doing so, all the angels in heaven rejoice and there is joy in heaven over one that we invited to accompany us, and they accepted the invitation. Pastor Andy

Jesus in it all

People are really fickle! As I was reading this morningthrough Acts, I was once again struck by the courage of Paul and Barnabas, who were originally sent out by the Lord Himself to this mission journey that they were undertaking. They were in Antioch and were asked to say something in the synagogue, “if they had a word of encouragement.” Boy, did Paul ever! He spoke to them about their ancestors, and how God led them out of Egypt by His mighty arm. He talked about the 40 years they spent in the wilderness, and how the Lord destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan and had given the land to the Israelites. He gave them judges until they asked for a king, then God gave them Saul for about 40 years. After removing him, the Lord raised up David, whom He chose to carry out His will. Then Paul goes from David’s descendants, who brought the Savior to Israel. He talked about John paving the way for Jesus. Then he said this, which is so worthy this morning for all of us to hear: “Brothers, sons of Abraham’s race, and those among you who fear God, the message of this salvation has been sent to us. For the residents of Jerusalem and their rulers, since they did not recognize Him or the voices of the prophets that are read every Sabbath, have fulfilled their words by condemning Him. Though they found no grounds for the death penalty, they asked Pilate to have Him killed. When they had fulfilled all that had been written about Him, they took Him down from the tree and put Him in a tomb. But God raised Him from the dead, and He appeared for many days to those who came with Him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are now His witnesses to the people. And we ourselves proclaim to you the good news of the promise that was made to our ancestors. God has fulfilled this for us, their children, by raising up Jesus, as it is written in the second Psalm: You are my son; today I have become Your Father.” Since He raised Him from the dead, never to return to decay, He has spoken in this way, I will grant you the faithful covenant blessings made to David.” Acts 13:26-34 This is actually taking the message from the point that the Jews clearly understood what was happening, and gave the narrative of truth that belongs in their history. Many believed and wanted to hear from them the next Sabbath, but when the whole town assembled to hear the truth, some of the Jews present became very jealous and began to oppose Paul and Barnabas. This also was prophesied as Paul was sent to the Gentiles, and the Jews rejection opened the door for him to do that. It’s easy to see how things unfold when you have the opportunity and the ability to look in retrospect. Just as I can look back on these 40 years of following Christ, and I see clearly the Christ-led life that He planned for me. Who would have ever thought? Where and what circumstances did you come out of? Can you look back and see Jesus through it all. It may be hard sometimes to see His hand working on the daily basis, but when you put life in perspective, and look a little to your history, it’s not hard to see He was there all along. He is still there, and now we can turn our focus forward and see His activity today. Maybe if we look through the eyes of faith, we will see Him move through our lives molding, guiding, and making us into the people He wants us to be. And if we will understand it, He is in every breath we breathe, right here, right now. Pastor Andy

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