In Christ Alone

My wife and I recently received a 2-disc program called, The American Gospel, through a ministry we love and trust! I highly recommend it and found it online as well at americangospel.com. I have included a trailer below as well.

A pastor friend of mine, Pastor Andy, recently wrote,

“What seems to be happening today is a culture that brings the world into the church. What I mean by that is that we develop a set of thinking that is more worldly and bring those habits and thoughts into the local churches, instead of standing firm in the culture of faith that we are called to in Christ Jesus. That brings with it political arguments, social arguments, and individual thinking arguments, instead of all being focused on the truth that Jesus lays out before us in Scripture. Listen to this part of Scripture: “The law, then, was our guardian until Christ, so that we could be justified by faith. But since that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ like a garment.  There is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, heirs  according to the promise.”  Galatians 3:26-29  As ONE in Christ we have found that culture of faith that enables us to stand up to anything the world throws at us, and not change, not lose that faith that keeps us unified and one in Christ. But in many cases we have adopted the culture of the world, where self-centered thinking, prejudices, and factions have erupted within the body of believers. Instead of being united on the tenants of faith in Christ, we are united only to those who think like us, and we develop objections to those who don’t think like us. Can’t we all see that this is a ploy of Satan to get those within the body to divide?”

This “bringing today’s culture into the church” has watered down the gospel and, particularly in America, made way for what’s been called the “prosperity gospel” or “the word of faith movement” which is being used to promote this materialistic, name-it-claim-it idea; making the Lord Jesus into basically a genie you call on when you need something!

We must get away from the idea that being a Christian is Jesus plus (+) … something else! Jesus plus anything is less than Jesus alone! Jesus IS the gospel! Pastor Alistair Begg (Parkside Church and Truth For Life) states:

“Jesus is Himself the gospel, the good news…
in the old testament He is predicted, in the gospels
He is revealed, in the acts He is preached, in the epistles
He is explained, and in the book of Revelation
He’s expected.”

We have to get back to Jesus first and only! Luke 10:27 states, “He answered, “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” We have to keep this in order … God first and everything else after!

You Can’t Change That

My wife and I were in high school through the 80’s and still love a lot of the music from that era. I didn’t become a Christian until I was an adult, so it is interesting to listen to some of the songs I loved back then. There are times when I am singing away and realize that the lyrics are no longer consistent with my current beliefs! We recently found the Ray Parker Jr. station on Pandora that plays a lot of the music we liked from back then. Again, juxtaposing a lot of his songs with Christian beliefs … the just don’t jive! But, I woke up the other morning with one of his songs playing in my head, “You Can’t Change That”! You just started singing it, didn’t you!!! LOL The words of that song played in my head, and to be honest I sang some of them! Thankfully, I was the only one home to hear that!!!

As I thought about the words of the song, I was reminded of a few things that I have been listening to and reading about the Lord.

  • Hebrews 13:8 – Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever. Jesus and His love for us is not fickle like we are, but has been, is and will be true and present.
  • Deuteronomy 31:6 – Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” Although we at times turn away from Him, He never will. I am just so amazed and love it when I am reminded that while I was sleeping and as soon as I open my eyes, the Lord is there with new mercies ready for the day ahead!
  • Ephesians 3:17-18 – so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ. I truly do not believe that we will ever be able to fully understand how much God REALLY loves us! I tell my kids that even when they have done something contrary to how we raised them that I love them and that they will never understand how much I love them until they have kids of their own! Then I usually remind them that I don’t have any grandkids yet to help them understand this!!!

Some of the words to that Ray Parker Jr. song are:

  • There’s nothing you can do or say
    I thought about this for many a day
    And my mind’s made up to feel this way
    And you can’t change that
  • You can change your telephone number
    And you can change your address too
    But you can’t stop me from loving you
    No, you can’t change that, no, no
  • You can change the color of your hair
    And you can change the clothes you wear
    But you’ll never change the way I care
    No, you can’t change that

Now I have always heard that there will be no claw marks leading to the gates of Heaven … meaning God isn’t going to drag you … but, I believe he will pursue you and love you beyond anything we can measure! Quit running if you are and don’t worry that you have done too much to grieve Him.

God loves you … And You Can’t Change That!

Deception

Deception comes in all forms. In the world we can be deceived by a spouse, a family member, or a friend.  We can even be deceived by a stranger knowing how to exploit money out of those that are trusting. We get bombarded daily with phone calls of deception from those wanting to get information from us, so that they can steal identities, and/or talk us into something we neither need or want. In the Christian circles we know that the devil is very good at deception. He deceived Eve at the beginning of our world. He still deceives and is the master deceiver of all times. Most of the time we view his deception as something sinister and we should be able to identify it before we are deceived, but I want you to listen to this story about Jesus when He was being questioned by some Sadducees: “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies, leaves his wife behind, and leaves no child, his brother should take the wife and produce offspring for his brother. There were seven brothers. The first took a wife, and dying, left no offspring. The second also took her, and he died, leaving no offspring. And the third likewise. So the seven left no offspring. Last of all, the woman died too. In the resurrection, when they rise, whose wife will she be, since the seven had married her? Jesus told them, ‘Are you not deceived because you don’t know the Scriptures or the power of God? For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage but are like angels in heaven. Now concerning the dead being raised – haven’t you read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the burning bush, how God spoke to him: I am the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob? He is not God of the dead but of the living. You are badly deceived.” Mark 12: 19-27  It’s easy to be led astray by the adversary’s deception, when we want to believe something that is not true. And it starts within us. So the way to combat deception is to stay away from trying to formulate all that the word says, into what we want it to say, instead of taking it for what it is – God’s word, and not ours. If another tells us something, they might not even realize they are spreading deception, so all things should be weighed against what Scripture says, and what we are being told by the Holy Spirit. Notice how Jesus used Scripture to answer the deception. and we should also. So the next time you hear something that doesn’t quite sit well with your heart, search the Scriptures, pray about it, and if necessary seek out godly men and women you trust to get their opinion on it before you act on it or spread it as something true even though you have never heard about it before. Let’s not be deceived! There is too much deception already in the world without us being an innocent party to more, especially of the brotherhood. P. Andy

Be Who You Are Called To Be

Have you ever had a friend who was not a believer? Perhaps a relative that you have been ministering to, but they just won’t listen. And to make matters worse, they are upset at you because you won’t be like them.  It’s not a question to let you be what and who you are, but unless you are like them, they don’t want to have anything to do with you. But you, because you love them, want to be in their lives. You stay keeping a low profile, not making waves, and not being allowed to express your faith, so you remain quiet all the time you are with them.  Well, listen to what Scripture tells us about these kinds of relationships: “Do not be mismatched with unbelievers. For what partnership is there between righteousness and lawlessness?  Or what fellowship does light have with darkness? What agreement does Christ have with Belial? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever?  And what agreement does God’s sanctuary have with idols? For we are the sanctuary of the living God, as God said: I will dwell among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be My people. Therefore, come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord; do not touch any unclean thing, and I will welcome you. I will be a Father to you, and you will be sons and daughters to Me, says the Lord Almighty. “ 2 Corinthians 6:14-18 Now that doesn’t mean that we don’t love them, and will help them if they need help, but to continually give up our life as a beacon of light so that we don’t offend is not scriptural.  But we do it all the time. So how do we love someone, a friend or family member, while they are engaged in sinful activity, and be the beacon of light to them. It’s fine if they accept your presence without trying to change you. But you must be careful that you do not become like them in putting your light under a basket because you don’t want to offend. The life of a believer is an offense to the unbeliever.  Always will be! But we can be around them and be a light to them if they will accept us as we are, just as we accept them. We don’t have to be hammering the gospel down their throats every time we meet, but being a light is one of love and kindness. That’s what they don’t necessarily like. But there is nothing wrong with the fellowship if you are allowed to be who you are meant to be, because then you are working in the mission field, and the mission field may be your own family. We are never to NOT be lights for the nations, but when that light is required to be shut down if you want to remain, that’s when you must take a stand. Just as you are not to constantly condemn a sinner, while you are in their midst, let God do that work through the Holy Spirit, and then they will see your good works and perhaps will be challenged, and perhaps you will have been allowed to lead just one more into the kingdom of heaven. But if they accept you stay with them and be the missionary you are called to be.  But if they will not accept you unless you stop speaking truth, or unless you stop praying, then you should consider the scripture above. Listen to what 1 Corinthians says: “Do not be deceived: Bad company corrupts good morals.” 15:33  Remember to be kind, to be the character of the One you follow, and show love that lasts, not one that will be easily put away so that you can be politically correct. Pastor Andy

NOT by works but by grace

“Don’t be too quick to appoint anyone as an elder, and don’t share in the sins of others. Keep yourself pure. Don’t continue drinking only water, but use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses. Some people’s sins are obvious, going before them to judgment, but the sins of others surface later. Likewise, good works are obvious, and those that are not obvious cannot remain hidden.”  1 Timothy 5:22-25 These are more character molding hints to help us become the people we are to be as believers. We are told that some sins are obvious and some are not that obvious, yet they will become so with time. I read of a VA doctor who was sentenced to prison for a misdiagnosis. It started long before because he had an alcohol problem. Being a specialist, he ordered a drug that gave him an alcohol high but did not show up on alcohol screening tests. His sin was deceptiveness. His actions lead him to misdiagnosis. His work was found out because of his addiction. Some think they can hide their sins and are viewed as upstanding citizens but eventually they will be found out by their works.  Ephesians 2:10 tells us: “For we are His creation, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them.”  We know that salvation is NOT by works but by grace through faith, but as believers we have a behavior that needs to be evident so that people will see. Just because we are saved by grace and not works does not mean that we are free from behaving Christ-like. Jesus’ three years of ministry were filled with works because He wanted to be obedient to the Father. He wanted to show us how to walk in this world and how to behave in this world.  Our works will find us out, they will reveal the intentions of the heart sooner or later. So the encouragement today is to, NOT share in the sins of others. If you see believers doing something that your own heart says is wrong, it’s probably wrong, even though they claim they are Christian. Let’s keep our focus on Christ and not on other believers. Some will have you believe that you must be working, but working for self, to show God how righteous you are, is not faith, it’s works. Doing nothing, because you don’t want to let work interfere with your faith does nothing. But only faith that brings you to the place of sitting with the Savior, wanting to do for the sake of others; wanting to work because every cell in you compels you to do what is on your heart for the sake of the faith. That’s a heart prepared for good works.  Those kinds of works are for the right reason and are prepared by God in us who believe that we should walk in them.  So let’s stop looking at others to see whether we are in the faith. Let’s look at Christ and He will examine our heart and through the Holy Spirit either convict us to stop, or convince us to continue. We are His creation, not the creation of the church, or of men. Let’s make sure that our work is what God has given to us, and then, let’s get involved in it. Make sure you know WHY you do the things you do. Either it is for God or for the flesh, and the flesh is pretty deceptive. Pastor Andy

A New Day

Well today begins a new way of thinking in the nation, as an inauguration takes place, or a least a new way of governing for the past four years. But the thinking of individuals that are supposed to be united are still just as divided as they ever were. There is something good about a two party system, because there will always be plenty who challenge the status quo. Those who want things differently.  But a couple of things I would like to note this morning. There is really a three party system in place here in America, or at least should be. There is the Democratic party, the Republican party, and the Christians. Even though Christians closely align with one party more than another, some Christians remain divided also in their desire to see one part over the other. Here is the point I would like to make. We, as believers, are not to be a part of the world, we are not part of a “party”, but we are set aside from the world. We can partake of things of the nature of how our nation runs, and we should, but in the end, our allegiance is always to God first, not party first, or man first. We are to be followers of Christ. Listen to what Peter writes to the believers, the “temporary” residents on this earth: “Therefore, since Christ suffered in the flesh, equip yourselves also with the same resolve – because the one who suffered in the flesh has finished with sin – in order to live the remaining time in the flesh, no longer for human desires, but for God’s will. For there has already been enough time spent in doing what the pagans choose to do; carrying on in unrestrained behavior, evil desires, drunkenness, orgies, carousing, and lawless idolatry. So they are surprised that you don’t plunge with them into the same flood of wild living – and they slander you. They will give an account to the One who stands ready to judge the living and the dead. For this reason the gospel was also preached to those who are now dead, so that, although they might be judged by men in the fleshly realm, they might live by God in the spiritual realm.”  1 Peter 4: 1-6  We know that as long as we live in this body on earth, we struggle with sin.  We can put it to death in our minds and in our actions, even though it will be a constant battle all through this life.  The nation wants us to form with them on one side or the other, showing that we will be a part of one party or the other, but doesn’t that become a wonderful opportunity to stand for Christ? It’s not about joining with the world in the battle against what one side determines is right and the other wrong, but it’s a battle against good and evil, and we must stand for the good that comes from a pure heart. So even if we do sin, our hearts will be toward God and not a man. Let’s make sure our stand is for faith, for a way of life that will live out that faith in all we do. Perhaps we can then be an effective witness to all sides for the cause of Christ. Yes, we will probably be persecuted by both sides, but if we stand for what is good then we never have to waiver trying to figure out which side is good and what side is evil. Because in our hearts we know that the only good side is the side of Christ. That is a spiritual life, and a steadfast life in which we stand ready to be the people God made us to be fearless in faith, strong under the mighty control of our Lord and Savior Jesus, who knows full well that the battle is His, and not ours. Pastor Andy

But I don’t wanna!

Ever have one of your children say, “I don’t want to?”  That seems to be the stand of the testing child, and probably everyone goes through it at one time or another. But when they say that they don’t want to do something, it is something that is usually good for them or something that you want done, a law put down by you, so that they can learn obedience. But the nature in them wants to reject that ‘law’ and do what they want to do, which is usually play. Are we as adults any different? Listen to what Paul says to the church at Rome about this very thing: “Therefore, did what is good cause my death? Absolutely not! On the contrary, sin, in order to be recognized as sin, was producing death in me through what is good, so that through the commandment, sin might become sinful beyond measure. For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am made out of flesh, sold into sin’s power. For I do not understand what I am doing, because I do not practice what I want to, but I do what I hate. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree with the law that it is good. 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.”  Romans 7: 13-20 So we go back to the child who is rebelling against the orders of the parent. He doesn’t know why he does not want to be obedient, he just is, and it is the sin that exists within each of us. As adults we don’t want to do those things that we know are put in place for a reason, but we know that we are obedient if we do, but everything within us hates being obedient. That is the perfect example of the law being good, because it reveals the sin in us that wants us to reject that which is good. It has been going on since the garden, when Eve, who knew not to eat of the tree in the middle of the garden, was taken in by the serpent to eat it anyway. He convinced her that nothing would happen to her if she did, other than she would be like God. So she ate, and gave some to Adam, and immediately they were ashamed. They knew they had done wrong, so they tried to hide it. From that time on, sin was present in the individual. It’s in you and in me. We will have it happening in us until we die and receive a new body, for the sin that is in us will die. But what is the answer? Jesus, who came to be a sacrifice in our place for the sin that would keep us from being in the presence of God. Jesus became the substitute for us; paid the price, and as Paul would finish this part of his dialogue: “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.” 7:24-25 Thank You Jesus, for paying for that which I could not afford, to give me that which I cannot lose. Pastor Andy

New Year … Same God

“Haven’t I written for you thirty sayings about counsel and knowledge, in order to teach you true and reliable words, so that you may give a dependable report to those who sent you? Don’t rob a poor man because he is poor, and don’t crush the oppressed at the gate for the Lord will take up their case and will plunder those who plunder them. Don’t make friends with an angry man, and don’t be a companion of a hot-tempered man, or you will learn his ways and entangle yourself in a snare. Don’t be one of those who enter agreements, who put up security for loans. If you have no money to pay, even your bed will be taken from under you. Don’t move an ancient boundary marker that your fathers set up. Do you see a man skilled in his work? He will stand in the presence of kings. He will not stand in the presence of unknown men.”Proverbs 22:20-29 Good things to start off the New Year with. We are to treat others with respect, especially the poor and oppressed. The second verse in Proverbs 22 says, “The rich and poor have this in common: the Lord made them both.” So if the Lord is the creator, and He is, then why would we want to separate those who seem oppressed or poor? We should respect them, love them, and if there is a need there, to be there to help them in their need, by teaching and guiding, and whatever help the Lord puts on our hearts. We are not to make friends with someone who is angry. How true! I have heard it once said that if you put and mild man and an angry man in a room for a while, both will come out angry. Let’s be careful no to get tangled up in the ways of hot-tempered and angry people. Let’s only buy what we can afford. I know that not many can even get some necessities that they need unless they borrow, yet we must be careful to live within our means. We live in a society where even the poorest are richer than most of the people on earth. But let’s not get entangled in the pressure of debt, thinking that we need to have what everyone else has. It too, will be used up and we can’t take it with us. We are to be honest about property lines, and about everything that belongs to us, and that which does not belong to us. Let’s work for the sake of family, faith, and skill. Let’s be a people who may have to live in a way that will not bring us into failure because of our heavy debt. Let’s not practice how our country is practicing. Let’s give to the Lord out of the Love we have for Him, and give to others as the need exists, and the capability of our giving is with us. Let’s recognize that every day we stand in the presence of our Lord, and He is the One we are answerable to. He is the One who sees what we think we do in secret. He is the One who knows the intent of the heart behind every action we make. He is the One who listens to what comes out of our mouths, because what comes out of our mouths reveal the intents of the heart. Let’s make 2021 a year that regardless of how it is played out on the national or worldly front, it will be played out on the Godly front in our lives.

Trust and Know

“But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit – the Father will send Him in My name – will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have told you. Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Your heart must not be troubled or fearful. You have heard Me tell you, “I am going away and I am coming to you. If you loved Me, you would have rejoiced that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I. I have told you now before it happens so that when it does happen you may believe. John 14:26-29 I know that for some, 2021 will be their last on earth and their first in the Kingdom of God. For some we will be taken to the point of not thinking we are able to endure another day, but we will, you will. For we have this assurance that Jesus is with the Father as we speak, and He is totally aware of all that goes on with us. He is talking to His Holy Spirit, to lead us, guide us, and teach us all that He wants us to know, and to be at peace with whatever may be before us on this new journey we will start tomorrow called 2021. What a gift we have been given, if we are willing to receive it, is to have the peace of knowing that Jesus is right here, by the power of the Holy Spirit walking with us through whatever situation we are facing. That to me, is trust, and a special peace that passes all understanding. So think about this if you will: This next year may be better than this past year, and we hope so. This next year may be worse than this past year, and we hope not. But things will still happen, and there is only one thing that will keep us sane and safe throughout the year coming. TRUST! When you think you can’t take anymore – Trust! When you are sure that things can’t get any worse for our nation – Trust! Know that the Lord is near, for He has not moved away from you. The walk we walk is not about the walk of life in this world, but the walk of trust we dare to walk, when life gets in the way, and it surely will. The journey will be our education for eternity. I have had worse years than 2020, and may even have worse years in the future, but the condition of the walk does not depend on the trials in my life, but the trust that compels me onward. That same trust is in you too, and I pray that you and I will one day look back and say it was worth the trip for the view ahead will be one that we can’t even explain now, but we know through hope that it waits for those who trust. So let’s be thankful for the lessons learned in 2020, and let’s move on to 2021 and with a grateful heart knowing that our Lord will still be leading us, just as He always has. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding; think about Him in all your ways, and He will guide you on the right paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6

Pastor Andy

“When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.”
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭2:10-11‬ ‭NIV
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We are at that time of year again when we celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ! We will be giving each other gifts, going to special church services (or going to that one church service you go to each year) and generally having that Christmas spirit!

The one thing that strikes me the most each year and the one I can not ever seem to comprehend is that Jesus, fully God and Lord of all, chose to cone to earth as fully human. First of all, He knew what us humans were like and what the human experience would be! He understood what His mission would be and the resistance he would face! But most amazingly to me is … He knew the suffering and torment He would have to endure to take away my sins and make a way for me to be with Him in heaven one day … and yet He did it all!!! For the likes of me! In comparison, my limited, human understanding of love doesn’t allow me to grasp all of what He did, but I am so thankful to Him for loving me that much! Merry Christmas!!!