Putting Others First

I always love to read the story of the good Samaritan. It is a story, not only filled with what is right to do, but it points to the heart of many of us during times in our lives when we are called to be merciful. For your reference, I will put the story here: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho and fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him, beat him up, and fled, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down that road.  When he saw him, he passed by on the other side. In the same way, a Levite, when he arrived at the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan on his journey came up to him, and when he saw the man, he had compassion. He went over to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on olive oil and wine. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him. When I come back I’ll reimburse you for whatever extra you spend.’  Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?’ “The one who showed mercy to him, he said.”  Then Jesus told him, ‘Go and do the same.'”  Luke 10:30-37   I think most of us would be quick to jump in and say, “Yes!” I would be like the Samaritan.  But would we? Oftentimes we think it is the Pastor’s job, and will call the church to tell him that someone needs help.  We’re quick to point out the need, but walk on the other side of the road. If the person injured is not like us, we might not want to get involved, and call the police to come take care of it. Or we will call an ambulance and leave the scene. But in Jesus’ story, He did not say the Samaritan went to the authorities to have them go get the man. He took care of him. His mercy was the kind directed by the Lord, and filled the Samaritan with compassion and care for another human being.  He didn’t think about the many things he had to accomplish that day, He didn’t think about not having enough money to pay for helping this man. His only thought was on mercy.  Can we honestly say we have THIS kind of mercy?  How many times will we tell someone that they can call if they ever need us, only to hope they don’t call.  The church is a good place to start showing the mercy of the Lord to others.  If we can’t do it there, how can we do it in our everyday journey?  Of course we don’t want our wives and daughters stopping by the road to help a person because of the way of the world. But what if the calling to help was from the Lord.  Would He not provide? Would He not protect?  We often find a hundred excuses why we wouldn’t be able to help another, and no reasons as to why we should, because the only reason to do this is mercy.  To be like Christ is to be merciful like Him, to love like Him, and to be selfless like Him, and to think of others first. Then we will understand what it is like to be like Christ. Pastor Andy

God Established Relationship

I recently watched a sermon on Colossians by one of our favorite preachers/teachers, Alistair Begg, Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio. I would like to share a summary of the message here.

Colossians 1:

V.2 – To the saints and faithful brothers[a] in Christ at Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father.

 Paul and Timothy are writing this to the “saints and faithful brothers” who in today’s vernacular are the Christians and their blessing on/to them is the grace and peace of God our Father! I would love to see this style of greeting resurrected in current day writing! Could you imagine opening an email and seeing this type of greeting to you!

V.6 – in talking about the “word of truth, the gospel”, Paul and Timothy write, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth.” The gospel has to be spoke or “preached” in order to be heard, but also it has to be understood! Arguments or “apologetics” are insufficient, although not unnecessary.  How many times have you read a particular scripture only to have it come to life “all of a sudden” the hundredth time you read it! Only God can make clear what was once unclear!

v.10- so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.  Paul and Timothy pray their outward life would match God’s directives! The Family of God (big family) and our own personal families should look the same as is reflected in this verse! The challenge is not in our ability to articulate what we believe, but the ability to live in a way that those around us wonder what it is about us that is so different!

v.12 – giving thanks[d] to the Father, who has qualified you[e] to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. One can only be qualified by God the Father and only based on Jesus who is our ultimate example; not based on education, race, gender or any other human characteristic.

v.13 – He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son. We have been delivered from where we once were to the very presence of Jesus, NOT to be a member of or hold a certain position in a church.

V.18 – And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. Matthew 19:4 – “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female” The Lord establishes the whole concept of marriage! This institution is permanent and universal. What God has established by creation will not be destroyed by mane! Light shines in the darkness and darkness cannot put it out! We cannot expect the non-believing culture to honor the marriage bond if they do not know its origin … which is creation?

2 Thessalonians 2:7 – For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way. The mystery of lawlessness is at work all around us and at its most basic form is the opposition of Biblical views. We are in ANOTHER period in history where it seems lawlessness is almost unsurmountable … BUT GOD!!!

Our relationship with God is:

  1. There by creation
  2. Disrupted by sin
  3. Restored by Grace … only in Jesus

Jesus obeyed where Adam failed and Jesus took divine judgement that Adam (and we) deserve!

God is good … all the time and all the time … God is good!!!

Not An Option

I sat down this morning to write about Praise today based on notes I took in church on Sunday, but before I did I read an email from Pastor Alistair Begg from Parkside Church near Cleveland, Ohio. Pastor Begg encapsulated what I was going to say so much better, I felt that I would just share his writings here instead. A couple of points, from Psalm 22, I was going to specifically make were:

  • It doesn’t matter what is going on with us, God is due our worship
  • We don’t worship because of what He is going to do, but only because He is worthy

From Pastor Begg:

Psalm 66:2 – Sing the glory of his name; make his praise glorious.

It is not left to our own option whether or not we will praise God. Praise is God’s most righteous due, and every Christian, as the recipient of His grace, is bound to praise God from day to day.

It is true that we have no authoritative text for daily praise; we have no commandment prescribing certain hours of song and thanksgiving: But the law written upon the heart teaches us that it is right to praise God; and the unwritten mandate comes to us with as much force as if it had been recorded on the tables of stone or handed to us from the top of thundering Sinai.

Yes, it is the Christian’s duty to praise God. It is not only a pleasurable exercise, but it is the absolute obligation of his life. Those of you who are always mourning should not think that you are guiltless in this respect or imagine that you can discharge your duty to God without songs of praise. You are bound by the bonds of His love to bless His name as long as you live, and His praise should continually be in your mouth, for you are blessed in order that you may bless Him—“the people whom I formed for myself that they might declare my praise”;1 and if you do not praise God, you are not bringing forth the fruit that He has a right to expect from you.

Do not let your harp hang on the willows, but take it down and strum with a grateful heart, bringing out its loudest music. Arise and declare His praise. With every morning’s dawn, lift up your notes of thanksgiving, and let every setting sun be followed with your song. Surround the earth with your praises; circle it with an atmosphere of melody, and God Himself will listen from heaven and accept your music.

E’en so I love Thee, and will love,
And in Thy praise will sing,
Because Thou art my loving God,
And my redeeming King.

1) Isaiah 43:21

Walking in Humility

There has been a lot of upset football fans over the new “Taunting” rules being incorporated into this season. It seems that most feel they are overly restrictive or, at least, not being applied in a uniform and consistent manner. Some have said this brings us to the NFL or No Fun League!

I helped coach a youth football team for 8–10-year-olds. It was very evident from the very first practice those who were influenced by some of the more braggadocios players they see on TV. I have always hated a lot of the antics the players do on Sundays and even Saturdays in college football to some degree. The victory dances don’t really bother me too much until someone adds something inappropriate to their celebration. The high-stepping and flipping into the endzone or spiking the ball have become almost commonplace, but the one that really gets to me is when a player makes a great tackle or stop of the other team and then stands over the other player flexing (and I am sure cursing) him! I really believe that I would not handle that well if I was the one being stood over! Probably one of the MANY reasons I wouldn’t make it into the NFL!

I always encouraged our young players to wrap-up and tackle hard … football is a violent sport by design … but I always told our players that once they planted their opponent into the field to then offer them a hand and help them up! Hit ‘em as hard as you can ensuring you have completed your job, but then show grace and offer your hand in assistance!

As Christians we are called to be humble … not weak … and doing for others benefit instead of our own! The Bible tells us this concerning humility: “He told a parable to those who were invited, when He noticed how they would choose the best places for themselves: When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, don’t recline at the best place, because a more distinguished person than you may have been invited by your host. The one who invited both of you may come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this man,’ and then in humiliation, you will proceed to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and recline in the lowest place, so that when the one who invited you comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher.’ You will then be honored in the presence of all the other guests. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”  Luke 14: 7-11 Gayle Sayers, Tim Tebow and Drew Brees are the top three on the list of “Most Humble NFL Players!” I knew about Tebow and Brees’ declarations of faith but knew little of Sayers. In an article discussing him it was noted:

“Sayers wrote a book entitled I Am Third, in which he told the remarkable story of his friendship with Brian Piccolo. The title in itself shows how humble Sayers was, as it means God is first and his family is second. (My emphasis)

The book had such an amazing story that they created a movie about it called Brian’s Song. The movie showed how Sayers’ good friend, Piccolo, was fighting off terminal cancer as he turned pro and battled Sayers for the starting tailback position.

Piccolo and Sayers became best friends and pushed one another to be the best that they could be. When Sayers accepted the NFL’s Most Courageous Player award, he talked about his good friend Piccolo.

‘I love Brian Piccolo, and I’d like all of you to love him,’ Sayers said.  ‘When you hit your knees to pray tonight, please ask God to love him, too.'”

I would love to see more of this in football, both collegiate and professional, and … well … in the rest of the world too! Let’s show the world true humility and in doing so point them to the humblest servant our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

Here is an example: Chiefs Offensive Lineman Stefen Wisniewski Shares His Faith at Super Bowl Opening Night – YouTube

Psalm 85

In the last 12-months, like so many others, we have experienced the deaths of family members, friends and neighbors as well as various injuries and illnesses as well as family members estranged from one another. When we thought we were finally going to get past the dreaded 2020, 2021 didn’t hold back from unleashing some torment of its own!

I was reading in Psalms 85. Many times, when we experience difficulties in our lives, we get caught up or stuck responding to God as the middle of that chapter says, “Will you be angry with us forever?  Will you prolong your anger through all generations? Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you?” It is easy to slip into a negative spiral from this point. Interestingly, the verses before and after these two say, 4Restore us again, God our Savior,
and put away your displeasure toward us. 7Show us your unfailing love, Lord, and grant us your salvation.

This Psalm was written after the Jews came out of Babylon. The Blue Letter Bible helps shed light on the meanings of some of the literary examples and comparisons made in this passage:

“Interpreters are generally of the opinion that this psalm was penned after the return of the Jews out of their captivity in Babylon, when they still remained under some tokens of God’s displeasure, which they here pray for the removal of. And nothing appears to the contrary, but that it might be penned then, as well as Ps. 137. They are the public interests that lie near the psalmist’s heart here, and the psalm is penned for the great congregation. The church was here in a deluge; above were clouds, below were waves; every thing was dark and dismal. The church is like Noah in the ark, between life and death, between hope and fear; being so,

  • I. Here is the dove sent forth in prayer. The petitions are against sin and wrath (v. 4) and for mercy and grace (v. 7). The pleas are taken from former favours (v. 1-3) and present distresses (v. 5, 6).
  • II. Here is the dove returning with an olive branch of peace and good tidings; the psalmist expects her return (v. 8) and then recounts the favours to God’s Israel which by the spirit of prophecy he gave assurance of to others, and by the spirit of faith he took the assurance of to himself (v. 9-13).

In singing this psalm we may be assisted in our prayers to God both for his church in general and for the land of our nativity in particular. The former part will be of use to direct our desires, the latter to encourage our faith and hope in those prayers.”

So, as this once nebulous Covid has now hit much closer to home and we have experienced it’s torment personally, I pray we would always look up and be faithful in our devotion to Christ and seek His righteousness as He provides His direction for our footsteps:

11 Faithfulness springs forth from the earth,
    and righteousness looks down from heaven.
12 The Lord will indeed give what is good,
    and our land will yield its harvest.
13 Righteousness goes before him
    and prepares the way for his steps.

Be Sharp

I’m finding there are some essentials when you live in the woods. Among those essentials is one that I find is right up there at the top, and that is a sharp blade. I need to keep my chain saw blade sharp, or it won’t cut. I need to keep my machete blade sharp or it won’t do the job I need it to. Why I need a machete, I will leave for another Journey. Let’s just say it has to do with what I call, “wait-a-minute vines.” I have found all this out the hard way, and that is I let my blades go dull. When we let them go dull, they are not that productive. And not only that, with a dull blade, I have to work harder to get something cut. I also realize that the same thing applies to my spiritual life. The word of God says, “For the word of God is living and effective and sharper than any double-edged sword, penetrating as far as the separation of soul and spirit, joints and marrow. It is able to judge the ideas and the thoughts of the heart. No creature is hidden from Him, but all things are naked and exposed to the eyes of Him to whom we must give an account.” Hebrews 4:12-13 I use the phrase, “I feel this within the depths of my soul, within every fibre of my being.” That’s when I know that the Spirit is speaking to me, for I feel the effects of His communication deep within me. That’s the word! That’s the truth speaking to my heart, either telling me something that I should be doing, or something that I shouldn’t be doing. When I don’t go to the word every day, I get dulled, and it seems to take so much more energy to get things done, and my strength falters quickly. That voice of the Spirit, the One who lives in me, and wants me to trust Him with all that I am, and all that I have, comes to my heart every time I open the word of God! Pastor Andy

Effective Prayer

What is effective prayer? We always say, “I’ll pray for you,’ but then does the person get well? Does their circumstance change?  What did we pray for?  For instance, listen to the words of Scripture as you read them with me: “Is anyone among you suffering? He should pray. Is anyone cheerful? He should sing praises. Is anyone among you sick? He should call for the elders of the church, and they should pray over him after anointing him with olive oil in the name of the Lord.  The prayer of faith will save the sick person, and the Lord will restore him to health; if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The urgent request of a righteous person is very powerful in its effect. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours; yet he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the land. Then he prayed again, and the sky gave rain and the land produced its fruit.”  James 5:13-18  I didn’t even want to write about this today, but the Spirit compelled me to. Do we have a lack of faith when we pray and a sick one doesn’t get well? I know I have had to deal with that over the loss of a loved one that I prayed earnestly for, yet did not get well, did not get her health restored.  I don’t want the gift of healing as some would say they have, but I want the faith that is strong enough, like Elijah, or like the Centurion, who asked Jesus to just say the word and his servant would be healed. I believe the Spirit distributes gifts as He sees fit, and if a gift makes you closer to Jesus, then yes, I want it. But I know that my goal is to have that “RIGHT” relationship with Jesus.  I believe in Him and His ability to heal, to change, to fix the broken, and to right the wrong. But I also know in my heart that wanting to stay here is not the primary goal of the believer.  Yes, I have had some urgent requests, that I have cried out to the Lord for, and even though it seemed like He was silent, I know He wasn’t. It was just that He wanted me to trust Him, regardless of the outcome I was hoping for.  So is it a lack of faith that keeps us from having the desired outcome that we prayed for in the first place? I know this is a big issue for many believers, and you are probably one who has felt the result of unanswered prayers.  Or at least they seemed to be unanswered.  But were they?  Does your prayers draw you closer to Jesus, or farther apart from Him when they seem to be unanswered?  Do you spend time wondering when Jesus is going to respond to your request for change?  Do you tell others that their lack of results when they pray is because their faith is not strong enough? Why do we need physicians if our faith is strong enough?  Why do we irrigate if our faith is strong enough?  Bring on the rain Jesus! But in the end, what I can conclude is that I have faith, but His ways are so much higher than mine, and my true request is for His will, not mine. I will accept the giving and the taking away, just as Job did, and I will trust in the Lord with all my heart, regardless of whether my wants are satisfied, for it’s my wants that I truly desire to change, and be replaced by trust, and His wants for me. Pastor Andy, Journey

Praise Him Anyway

There is a man who is doing the concrete work for the garage I am building.  It seems like he has a dark cloud following him around every day. Every day another piece of his equipment breaks and he has to stop what he is doing and fix it.  When I talk to him about it, he seems to let it just roll off him and doesn’t get upset. He just stops what he is doing, fixes the problem, then continues with the work. It’s hard for him to find helpers, so he does most of the work himself.  I have had to have a lot of patience with him because it takes him longer, with the equipment failures, and his working alone.  The man is a walking trial.  Last night I was thinking about him and the way he handles issues.  I have always lived such a fast-paced life, always making sure that things got done, and every contingency prepared for. I am not used to living each day with no plans for the “what if’s of life.” When those things happen, even though I can deal with them, they stress me out, because they have fallen outside of my plan for the day.  He and I  have had the opportunity to talk about the Lord a lot since he has started, and he is a believer. I wondered why the Lord allowed him to have so many trials, and what I could do to help him. Last night I realized that instead of helping him, he is helping me. You see, when my own plans don’t work out, or I do something that causes me delays, because of a mistake I made, I don’t take it like that.  I get angry with myself, and it ruins my day. Watching this man, makes me realize that we really have the opportunity to make the faith we have, genuine in the presence of the world. We can either fall apart when trials hit us, or we can use them to reveal the grace of God in every circumstance.  Peter would write: “Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. According to His great mercy, He has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and into an inheritance that is imperishable, uncorrupted, and unfading, kept in heaven for you. You are being protected by God’s power through faith for a salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.  You rejoice in this, though now for a short time you have had to struggle in various trials so that the genuineness of your faith – more  valuable than gold, which perishes though refined by fire – may result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter1:3-7 So Scripture tells me that these trials are for the genuineness of our faith and results in praise, glory and honor to Jesus.  I wonder if struggles in my life result in praise, honor and glory to God, for the sake of Christ?  What about you? Do deviations from your plans cause you strife and anxiety, or do they give you opportunity for revealing a faith that is genuine?  I wonder how many unbelievers have viewed me as a poor example of what Christians are supposed to be, or have they viewed me as a good example? You too, have the opportunity to be an example of Christ in a world falling apart with divisions and trials.  We are not to get caught up in the controversies of life, but rather, our hope and trust in Jesus, should make us stand out, not like the world stands out, but totally different from what the world does. That is the example of a believer.  I think this young man, has been sent to me from the Lord, to help me understand that things I have lived with for so long, behaviors I thought were Christ-like, aren’t necessarily glorifying God. I want to change that.  So I share this with you, because you might also have issues that although may make you think you are revealing Christ, especially during times of crisis, they do not bring glory to God. Let’s change that, by bringing our lives into the example of Christ, instead of trying to change the example of Christ into our image. Pastor Andy

Just Believe

“When they found Him on the other side of the sea, they said to Him, ‘Rabbi, when did You get here?’ Jesus answered, ‘I assure you: You are looking for Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate the loaves and were filled. Don’t work for the food that perishes but for the food that lasts for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal of approval on Him.’ ‘What can we do to perform the works of God?’ they asked. Jesus replied, ‘This is the work of God – that you believe in the One He has sent.’ “What sign then are You going to do so we may see and believe You?” they asked. ‘What are You going to perform? Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, just as it is written: He gave them bread from heaven to eat.” Jesus said to them, ‘I assure you: Moses didn’t give you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the real bread from heaven. For the bread of God is the One who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” John 6:25-33  Many of you think, or have even asked this question, “What can I do for You Jesus?” And we strive to find that niche, that thing, that place where we can be of some good use. But listen to the words of our Lord, as to what His work is: “THAT YOU BELIEVE IN THE ONE HE HAS SENT.”  It takes so much effort, yet, in reality very little effort to believe in Jesus. A child believes without having to prove his belief. And we  are to have a child-like faith that believes Jesus is our Lord. He is the One who was sent from heaven to be raised like a man, to endure the hardships of man, and yet be obedient to the Father. He did that so that He might become the sacrificial Lamb, who was without blemish. He would give Himself as the payment for our sins, and He asks nothing of us but to believe. But something happens to us when we honestly believe. We are filled with His Spirit, who guides us, and turns us around when we make wrong decisions. He fills us with peace for the obedience observed in persecution and trials. His presence never waivers. Yet we are the ones who waiver; we are the ones who wonder where He is because He has not kept us from the things we think we shouldn’t have to endure. But are we better than the Son? Shouldn’t we endure hardships and trials like Him?  Doing is not necessarily believing, but believing is being like the One we want to emulate, the One who gives us strength for the journey no matter where it takes us.  This is the work of God! Our hearts are filled with love and praise for being considered worthy of God’s love, and the assurance that He will keep us until that day, when we are together with Him. I long for that day, yet it will not occupy my mind, for the joy that is felt with every breath, allows us all one more opportunity to be a breath of life for another. This is the food that lasts for eternal life. Pastor Andy

Be ready and willing

I am going to share with you this morning a way to explain the gospels to others, especially those who do not know our Lord and Savior Jesus. It is not my own, but shared from Scripture, for I believe the Scripture is given to help us understand all truth, and to be able to share all truth. It happened when Paul was in Greece, and the men of Athens did not know about Jesus, and when they heard Paul talking, they called him a pseudo-intellectual. Perhaps they were humoring him when they wanted to hear more, so they took him to the place where he could speak to a larger number of those who claimed to be intellectuals.  Here is what he told them: “For as I was passing through and observing the objects of your worship, I even found an altar on which was inscribed: To an unknown God. Therefore, what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it – He is Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in shrines made by hands. Neither is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives everyone life and breath and all things. From one man He has made every nationality to live over the whole earth and has determined their appointed times and the boundaries of where they live. He did this so they might seek God, and perhaps they might reach out and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us. For in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’ Being God’s offspring then, we shouldn’t think that the divine nature is like gold or silver or stone, an image fashioned by human art and imagination, Therefore, having overlooked the times of ignorance, God now commands all people everywhere to repent, because He has set a day when He is going to judge the world in righteousness by the Man He has appointed. He has provided proof of this to everyone by raising HIm from the dead.” Acts 17: 23-31  It seems that everyone worships someone or something. It’s all a matter of what they choose. Some worship themselves and their own ability to think intellectually. They are like the Athenians, but at least they wanted to hear more. Some would ridicule him, some would get angry. Some would make the excuse that they would hear more later, and probably never show. But some believed!  We must know that our lives should be a living testimony of Jesus. We don’t have to wonder what to say, for others will ask us. But we do need to know how to reply when asked. That’s when we will either deny Christ by our silence, or admit who He is and have a conversation prompted by the Holy Spirit. People who evangelize are not necessarily smarter than you and that’s not why they are called. They are called because they are willing to be used, and not afraid to speak to others.  You may be afraid to speak to others, but are you willing to share one on one with another person who comes to you to ask you a question about your faith? If you are willing, you will be used by God to bring another to the throne of grace. You only have to share that which you know about Jesus. It doesn’t matter if it doesn’t make sense to others. It doesn’t matter if they reject you! It doesn’t matter if they say bad things about you or think you are out of your mind. There will always be one who is in the crowd wanting to know the truth, and they will open their hearts, and hear the truth, and you will be blessed because you shared what your heart believes. Don’t be afraid, for it will not be you speaking but the Spirit who lives in you. Then go and have a good time, making friends, and sharing the hope that exists within you. So many need to hear, for they have no hope, and you just might be the one the Lord uses to bring that person to Him. Pastor Andy