The Comfort of Christ

Paul was deeply concerned about the church in Corinth. The church was being infiltrated by those who opposed Paul and tried to get the Corinthians to think of him badly, that he was wrong, and possibly corrupt.  Paul was traveling through Macedonia, which is where he planted churches in Philippi and Thessalonica. But his heart was on Corinth. But when the fears became too real, God sent Titus from Corinth,with the announcement that the church was doing well, and were following the preaching of Paul, and not those who opposed him. Here is how Paul describes his feelings at the time: “In fact, when we came into Macedonia, we had no rest. Instead, we were troubled in every way; conflicts on the outside, fears inside. But God, who comforts the humble, comforted us by the arrival of Titus, and not only by his arrival, but also by the comfort he received from you. He told us about your deep longings, your sorrow, and your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced even more.” 2 Corinthians 7:5-7  Have you ever felt fear that your life as a believer in Christ was all in vain? Have you had fears that no one would take you seriously? Even though I think we all have those times, I would ask that you think of the answers to prayer that God provided you, the comfort that you needed for such a time as what you were going through.  If you are going through those kinds of times right now, please don’t despair, for God will send an encourager to let you know that your life, your testimony, your actions, are not in vain. Nothing will return void that you place out there for the cause of Christ. You have an anointing from the Lord that although might bring some fears, will also bring blessings and comfort. At the very beginning of this second letter to the Corinthians, Paul writes: “Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort. He comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any kind of affliction, through the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” 1:3-4  We all have gone through or will go through times of fear, times of uncertainty, when even our faith might be shaken, if that were possible. But during those times, look up, look around you, for our Lord will bring a comfort to you through someone or something. From Pastor Andy

I’m a duck

“Your heart must not be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if not, I would have told you. I am going away to prepare a place for you. If I go away and prepare a place for you, I will come back and receive you to Myself, so that where I am you may be also. You know the way to where I am going.” John 14: 1-4

This week is the first week I have been teaching on my own to a group of individuals who are significantly more experienced that I am in our industry. As an instructor, representing my agency, I need to project a confident and knowledgeable presentation. On the outside I know that this is what the students are seeing! But … on the inside … another story! I am a duck!!! You probably know the analogy of the duck where on top of the water it seems to glide effortlessly across with little effort! But underneath the water line, that duck’s legs are paddling and churning as hard as it can!

My wife and I have been praying and I know she is lifting me up to the Lord when we are not together which is a great comfort! I was reading a devotional by Pastor Andy Anderson where he was telling the story of a pilot who successfully ejected from his aircraft and then later in life (post POW) met the man who packed his parachute. Pastor Andy concluded with this:

“Now faith is the reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen.”  11:1  Is your life an example of the PROOF  that you trust our Lord? If you do, you will not experience fear. You will not try to always be in control, for you know that He who is in us, is the One packing our parachute. He is the One controlling the instruments that guide our lives. He is faithful, even when we don’t think of Him. But today, and at the start of this New Year, let’s take a moment and think about Him who has never failed us yet.  Let’s honor Him who has never left us, and every time we land on our feet, it is because He has been the One who packed the parachute.  Trust, then live out that trust, by being comforted in every way, and in every day.

Thank you Father for packing my ‘chute every day! Even when I allow (or sometimes cause) my mind and body to FREAK OUT … You are the calm, the steady rock! All glory to You!

Celebrate

At the start of this holiday we celebrated the coming to earth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, and willingly died for our sins. He did this so that we can be in the attendance of our Heavenly Father, free from condemnation, free from guilt and shame, and free from fear of what the future holds, which for those without Christ is death, and forever weeping and gnashing of teeth.  So this is the time to think about what Jesus means to you, your family, and friends. This is a time of giving, not receiving, at time of reflection on the blessings that God has continually poured out on us, even when we don’t see them. So with that, I want to leave you for this next two weeks, with a declaration. It is my prayer that each of you have a very blessed and special Christmas with family and friends. Celebrate how you will, but remember the very reason for your celebration. The world wants to turn this time of year into a secular holiday with no religious meaning to it whatsoever. They can try all they want, but this holiday is but for one reason, and that’s to celebrate the greatest gift of all time. The giving of God to the earth of a plan of salvation. A gift that cost Him dearly, as He would give His own Son for the ransom of many. So let’s go to Scripture today in 1 John and read our declaration:
“What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have observed and have touched with our hands, concerning the Word of life – that life was revealed, and we have seen it and we testify and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us- what we have seen and heard we also declare to you, so that you may have fellowship along with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. We are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.”  1 John 1:1-6   I know that there are lots of fears these days about the things that are going on in our country, and that we feel persecution is increasing, and what will the future be for our children and grandchildren.  But let’s draw strength from the Holy Spirit who comforts us in those times of fear and anxiety. Let’s remember the truth of Jesus, who tells us that He will never leave or forsake us. Let’s take our eyes off of what the world is doing and fix them on Jesus. Let’s go to Scripture to see the hope in those words like Hebrews 12:3-5 “For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, so that you won’t grow weary and lose heart. In struggling against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And you have forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons: My son, do not take the Lord’s discipline lightly or faint when you are reproved by Him, for the Lord disciplines the one He loves and punishes every son He receives.”  It’s a time for lifting our voices up in praise, and celebrate the fact that God cares so much for us, that He would go to the extremes that He has to keep us to Himself. These are times of praise and drawing closer to Him, not farther away, so go ahead draw close to Him and He will draw close to you. Honor Him with your worship and with prayer. Let’s let Him know how much we love Him and give Him the honor He deserves. Pastor Andy

Night after Christmas

As I was reading this morning, I came across this by Chuck Swindoll:

I’ve decided that during the holiday season we should change the mall’s name to “maul.” I’ve never seen such mayhem — kids running, parents screaming, people impatiently standing in long lines — all to the music of “Joy to the World” in the background. Good grief! The irony of it all seemed somewhat humorous. (But not really.)

And if you decide to head to the “maul” the night afterChristmas, you’ll see more of the same chaos — a rush of returns in exchange for even…more…stuff.

So in honor of those days after Christmas, I’ve decided to try my hand at rewriting Clement Clarke Moore’s Christmas classic. Here she goes. (Ahem.)

‘Twas the night after Christmas, when all through the house,
Every creature was searching (both me and my spouse),
The stockings, the drawers, we looked everywhere,
In hopes the receipts for our gifts would be there.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the house to see what was the matter.
When, what to my wondering eyes should I see,
But my neighbor, too searching, his trash on the street.

More rapid than eagles he looked, but in vain,
And he shouted his creditors, and called them by name:
“On VISA! On MASTERCARD! On DISCOVER, I’m appalled!
I’ve thrown cash away! Cash away! Cash away — all!”

He’d splurged once again; he knew it too well,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself.
And then, in a twinkling, I heard in my head,
A gentle reminder from what he had said.

I, too, was as guilty, from my head to my foot,
My conscience was tarnished like ashes and soot;
I focused, this season, on presents and things,
And not on my family, my friends, and my King.

I spoke not a word, but went straight to my work,
Ran into my house (I’d been such a jerk!),
Right up to my wife I came with a hug,
And kissed all my kids, right there on the rug.

“The night after Christmas is better,” said I,
“Than never recalling in Christmas is Christ!
The best of all gifts, which to us has been given,
Is Jesus, who died for our sins…and is risen!”

A country divided?

Why are we so divided in America? I searched my own heart to see if my thoughts are self -centered, because I don’t want to be a part of division. Yet, my heart tells me that there will be division, and this is what is called for in Scripture, so why do I think that it should not come in my lifetime. It’s sad for me to think that so much evil can still exist, even when the country is doing better than it has ever done before, in many years. But let me remind you of a  time with the Apostle Paul. He was in Rome and under house arrest, and was allowed to have visitors. It was not long before he was martyred.  He spoke with anyone who would come to see him concerning the faith that he had. Many people came to see him to hear what he had to say.  Remember this when you read this. He was talking to those of the Jewish faith. ( Your ancestors) The Bible says, “Disagreeing among themselves, they began to leave after Paul made one statement: The Holy Spirit correctly spoke through the prophet Isaiah to your ancestors when He said, Go to these people and say: You will listen and listen, yet never understand; and you will look and look, yet never perceive For the hearts of these people have grown callous, their ears are hard of hearing, and they have shut their eyes; otherwise they might see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, understand with their heart, and be converted, and I would heal them.” Acts 28: 25-27   I know that I will stand in front of Jesus to give account for what I believe, and the Holy Spirit within me gives me peace about what I hear. I know that there are even some Christians who disagree with me, yet everyone of us will have to stand in front of Jesus and be held accountable. It’s all about do we believe in a free society; do we believe that God is our Heavenly Father, and that He sent Jesus to us to teach us and to save us from the path we are going on? Yet so many, just like scripture says, will not listen. They want what is free to them; they want to be fed by the work of others, and be taken care of by the strength of others, while they do nothing. They want a society that takes care of them instead of living in a society where everybody contributes, everybody gives, everybody has the freedom to speak and believe what they believe.  It is not enough that our God-given rights are being taken away, but I don’t despair, because no one can take away my ability to believe, no one can take away my ability to speak as long as I have breath. No one can take away the hope that is in my heart. No one can dictate what to believe, and nobody can take away this faith that will keep us all. But we must fight for this right.  I remember the millions of Jews and Christians who were imprisoned by those who hated what they stood for, and we called it the holocaust. Some will not even believe this happened, but it did. We are supposed to learn from history, so that it isn’t repeated, yet many will still try to repeat the evil that existed throughout our history, for the sake of evil itself. But we are not ignorant. We have Jesus! We are led by the Holy Spirit of God, and when God is for us, who can be against us. So my brothers and sisters, if you believe, keep the faith, that God will deliver us, even through the fire. He has proved it time and time again when evil tried to get the upper hand.  And He will prove it again. For those who call themselves Christian, yet want to be taken care of by government, please search your heart, it’s not too late. But the time is drawing closer. from Pastor Andy

They Saw Dead People

‘At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people. ‘

Matthew 27:51-53

I think it is amazing that as many times as I have read the above verses, God continues to make his word real and relevant. For whatever reason, I have never really paid attention to the last sentence above. Did you realize that there were “holy people” that were dead and buried, came out of the tomb and APPEARED to many people!!! What kind of POWER was released when Jesus “gave up his spirit?” Can you imagine sitting at home and having one of your dead relatives “appear”? How awesome is our God!

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Hebrews 4:12

I have gone through seasons where I voraciously devoured God’s word on a daily basis and times where I struggled to read once a week. I do not understand how I can know the very power of having the Holy Spirit live within me and make the decision not to want to know him more by not making a point to read His word! Could it be that the times we seem to pull away are the times where we am struggling? I have found, too, that the times I am doing very well, I lose focus where I seemingly do not “need” His guidance

So, how can we help ourselves read the Word and study it more? There are many helpful websites that suggest things like:

  1. Plan your study. Set aside a time and place to study. …
  2. Get a good study Bible. Choose a translation to use during your study. …
  3. Study the Bible with an attitude of prayer. …
  4. Pray …
  5. Focus on the New Testament first. …
  6. Consider reading John first. …
  7. Pick out topics to study.

I have found that reading a chapter in Proverbs (31 Chapters for 31 days/month) is a good way to keep track too! You Version also has many Bible studies that are searchable by topics, etc.

Father, I pray that we will always be open to you hear from you through your Word and your Holy Spirit. I pray that we would MAKE the time to spend with you knowing that your word never returns void and it is for your Glory and our good!

Dead Inside

I decided it was time to cut down this tree in my pasture.  It was kind of gnarly and didn’t produce many leaves in the spring.  The outside of the tree looked fine but something must have been wrong with it.  Some friends came over and we had a tree cutting party. When it was finally cut down, most of the tree had a hollow center filled with soft, dark paper-like substance. It was obviously infected by something, and was being eaten alive from the inside out. Over time, you could tell, even though the outside looked pretty good, the tree itself did not look good.  I was thinking about that tree this morning, and realized it is like many people today, who call themselves Christians.  We look pretty good on the outside, but what is going on inside, and what is going on inside will sooner or later, appear in some way on the outside.  Jesus would describe the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, and scribes this way: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which appear beautiful on the outside, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and every impurity. In the same way, on the outside you seem righteous to people, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” Matthew 23:27-28  Remember, Jesus was talking to “righteous” people, those who lived lives that they felt were godly and good, but they were mistaken. There is a lesson for all of us from my tree. What are we full of? Has the sins of the world crept in to start seeding itself in our hearts and minds, while we take up the stance of righteousness on the outside. Sooner or later, we will start to show the effects of what is going on inside, just like my tree.  So we start now, to clean out the inside! To confess to our Lord those things that have stayed hidden for so long. We confess to Him our inadequacy or failures to do the things He asks of us, even while He asks, and we pretend not to hear.  We become transparent, to show on the outside what is on the inside. That way, we can have others pray with us, pray for us, and earnestly seek the Lord to heal that which is growing inside.  I honestly believe it is NOT the totally pure who will finally seek favor from the Lord, but the broken and contrite. It is the one who honestly goes before the Lord showing on the outside what is unseen on the inside, for He knows already.  Is this perhaps you? We all, as believers, must look at ourselves instead of casting eyes on others, to look at their sin, while we have a plank in our own eyes. First we must take the plank out (confess the sin that disables us). Then when the inside is clean, we will be able to support and help our fellow man/woman with their planks. My fellow believers, now is the time to live a life of honesty and truth. Now is the time to open up our hearts, and cry out like the Psalmist: “God, create a clean heart for me and  renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not banish me from Your presence or take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore the joy of Your salvation to me, and give me a willing spirit. Then I will teach the rebellious Your ways, and sinners will return to You.” Psalm 51:10-12 Let’s pray for each other. from Pastor Andy