“We Won’t Do Life Alone Anymore!”

After reading a Barnabas Man blog entitled “The Worth of Trusted Friends”, one of the dear ladies in our Life Group responded with this email…“Great blog Rick! We have come to learn this truth on such a personal level. In the past, we went through life alone and thought we were doing good. We look back now realizing we have missed that aspect in our lives deeply. We cherish each person that God has brought into our lives and hope to live up to the Godly standard of friendship for each and every one of you! We are so blessed by everyone’s strengths and definitely by their prayers. We made it to Denver.  Before, our moves have been filled with an intense level of anxiety and uncertainty. We know, that because of our community, their prayers, their teachings, and their support, what could have been life altering stress became so much easier. We won’t do life alone anymore!”  She finished her email off quoting Hebrews 10:23-25, Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

Allow me to give you a bit of background on the above couple. They lived in Illinois; yet, got involved with Re:Engage in Rockwall, TX online via Zoom.  Their Group Leaders are alive with the Lord and understand the empowerment and accountability of community.  This couple became amazingly involved with four other couples and their group leaders.  A couple months back, they flew from Chicago to Dallas to be baptized giving testimony of their faith in Jesus.  Via Zoom, they have become involved in our Life Group community.  They are a part of us.

Let’s go back to the verses that she quoted above regarding community:

  • Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.”  This is base of every vibrant, authentic Christian community. 1 John 1:7 addresses community, “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.”  Jesus is in the midst of our fellowship with one another.  That my friend is “koinonia”.  Paul defines “koinonia” this way, “There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
  • Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another.”  There is no doubt it.  God wants you to become a participating member in “koinonia” community “encouraging one another.”

Don’t live life alone anymore! 

Read the signs

The following was written by Pastor Andy Anderson. As I read this, I was taken back to when I taught each of our kids to drive. I remember telling each of them as they started getting more comfortable out on the road that there would come a time when they would get “too comfortable” with their skills and make a mistake. I implored them to remain vigilant, turn down the radio and not allow distractions interfere with the job at hand – driving. I also implore them, myself and you to pay attention to the Lord’s leading! Read the signs!!!

“The Pharisees and Sadducees approached, and as a test asked Him to show them a sign from heaven. He answered them: ‘When evening comes you say, ‘It will be good weather because the sky is red. And in the morning, ‘Today will be stormy because the sky is red and threatening.’ You know how to read the appearance of the sky, but you can’t read the signs of the times. An evil and adulterous generation demands a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah. Then He left them and went away.” Matthew 16:1-4  There are a lot of things in this world that show us the signs of the times. There are signs for travel; signs that warn us of danger; signs that tell us to yield, and to stop. There are signs that give us direction, so that we are not floundering around not knowing what to do or where to go. There are the signs of nature, the activity of animals, and yes, even the perils of the river. But do we really see them?  Or do we get complacent and fail to see what is in front of us. We can learn from signs and follow them, and the greatest sign is the sign of our salvation and has already been given, and that is the presence of God in the flesh, who came to earth as a baby, and lived a sinless life. He went on to give His life as a ransom for the world’s sins, yet the world didn’t receive Him.  They wouldn’t believe the sign. The Pharisees kept asking, and refused to see the very sign of the miracles that were right in front of them. Yes, we can pride ourselves on knowing how to read nature, or being obedient to the signs of men, but why not the sign of Christ – the very presence of God with us. He doesn’t have to keep showing us more because of our hesitation to believe. He already has shown us plenty.  So Jesus says the only sign that will be given them is the Sign of Jonah, who willingly sacrificed himself for the crew of the ship. He allowed himself to be thrown overboard, to save them. Jesus allowed Himself to be crucified, and where Jonah spent three days in the belly of a fish, Jesus spent three days in the bowels of the earth, showing Himself to those who had perished, both those who held onto faith, and those who didn’t.  We can delight in the sign of what Jonah did, but something so much greater than Jonah was present when Jesus walked that hill, and let them drive nails in his hands and feet. That my friends is the sign of salvation. That is the sign that we need to keep us on the right road, the straight road, the road that leads to eternity, and no other sign is needed. Either believe or be like the Pharisees who needed just one more sign, because they were too blind to see the one right in front of them.

Is Your Mind “Stayed” on Him?

Psalm 25:4&5 records an intimate, humbling prayer from David, Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all day long.”  I pray for each one of us that this is the prayer of our heart daily.  David totally yields his heart to God and permits Him to “make me…lead me…teach me your ways, your paths, and your truth.”  Why? “For you are my God; for you I wait all day long.

God promises that if we hunger and thirst for Him, He will bless us.  “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (Matthew 5:6).  If we sincerely and persistently seek Him, we “shall be satisfied.”

Matthew says it this way, But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (6:33).  Then, he tells us in verse 6:34 to “not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.  Keep your eyes on Him in the “moment by moments” of life.  Then, in verse 7:7, he says for us “keep asking and it shall be given you, keep seeking and you shall find, keep knocking and the door shall be opened to you.”

Isaiah 26:3&4 echoes Matthew’s thoughts, “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Trust in the Lord forever (moment by moment), for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.”  If you are like me, you are either rehashing your past in your minds or worried about your future.  Your mind is seldom “stayed” on Him.

Hunger and thirst for Him and trust Him in the “now’s” of life keeping your mind “stayed” on Him. YOU WILL BE SATISFIED!

The Worth of Trusted Friends

A wise man develops a small number of people who become close, intimate friends with whom he can be authentic and transparent even to the deepest levels of his life.  Notice what Proverbs says about friends:

  • 17:17, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”  You are not on a performance basis with true friendship but are always accepted.
  • 18:24, “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”  A friend is much more than a companion.  Don’t mistake a companion for a friend.  You will be disappointed.  Friendship takes time and effort to develop as well as compassion, kindness, patience, faithfulness, and forgiveness.
  • 22:11, “He who loves purity of heart, and whose speech is gracious, will have the king as his friend.”  These are the qualities of a true, dear friend of character.
  • 27:6, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.”  Candor and honesty are foundational to friendship.  Don’t be confused with and misinterpret superficial emotions.  Again, when the rowing gets rough, times are tough and money is lean, you will be disappointed with acquaintances. Friends do not coddle when you are wrong.  Trusted friends “Speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15). They speak straightforwardly without a judgmental attitude willing to ruffle some feathers when their words are not initially well received.
  • 18:1, cautions us not to isolate ourselves.  We need friends to help keep us on the straight and narrow path.  “Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment.”  Our lives will not be lived fruitfully alone without trusted friends.

If you don’t have close friends, intentionally look at your neighbors, at the parents of your children’s friends or join a Life Group (small group) at your local church.  Don’t forget, you have to be friendly, vulnerable and willing to invest the time and effort to develop friendships.  Ask God for friends.  It is worth it!!  I remember the jingle that our kids sang as children.  It is laden with truth, Make new friends but keep the old; One is silver and the other is gold!” 

Are You Climbing the Wrong Ladder?

A number of Pam and my friends have worked their tails off setting aside money and investments for retirement and security to the detriment of their spiritual life.  Often, the result of their journey is that they found themselves incompatible with their spouse who had developed different dreams.  Frequently, they are no longer living with their original spouse which then creates the complication of seamlessly integrating an additional spouse and his/her kids and even step grandchildren.  My observations are that folks who have treasured the world of things and prestige often end up disappointed living life out superficially. Many have climbed the wrong ladder to success.

Jesus ran into a prominent, wealthy businessman who had discovered that he had climbed the wrong ladder to success.  Mark 10:17-22 tells the story, 17 As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.’”  20 “Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.” 21 Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” 22 At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad because he had great wealth.  This well respected, religious man came to Jesus inquiring sincerely if the ladder he was climbing ensured his inheritance of eternal life.  Jesus listed a number of commandments that were important of which this rich man assured Christ that he had followed.  Here’s the problem. Jesus was able to penetrate deeply inside this man’s mind “discerning the thoughts and intents of his heart.”  He saw that this man’s heart worshipped at the altar of his wealth and prestige.  When lovingly challenged, this man treasured his things and “went away sadly.”  He had spent his life working very hard climbing the wrong ladder.

Paul is crystal clear in 1 Timothy 6, But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.

Please make sure that you are not climbing the wrong ladder!  It’s not too late to get refocused. 

Christ is the standard

“For Moses writes about the righteousness that is from the law; The one who does these things will live by them.  But the righteousness that comes from faith speaks like this: Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will go up to heaven?’ that is, to bring Christ down or, ‘Who will go down into the abyss?’ that is to bring Christ up from the dead. On the contrary, what does it say? The message is near you, in your mouth and in your heart. This is the message of faith that we proclaim: If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. One believes with the heart, resulting in righteousness, and one confesses with the mouth, resulting in salvation. Now the Scripture says, ‘Everyone who believes on Him will not be put to shame,’ for there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, since the same Lord of all is rich to all who call on Him. For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Romans 10:5-13  This is a wonderful message to answer those who have the tendency to judge. For if a person believes in Jesus, but has a little different way of living, we have this tendency to judge them. In other words, to bring the righteousness by works into play, thinking of the “right” things they are doing, or the “wrong” things they are doing.  That is not the righteousness of the heart brought about through belief in Him. For the message is clear, and the message is being taught us and confirmed to us through the Holy Spirit and the Word.  If you believe in your heart that Jesus was raised from the dead, and God did this, and if you confess your faith in Christ verbally, you will be saved. This is because verbal confession  is what comes from the heart. We don’t have to be evaluators of whether people are living “Christian” lives, for if we do, on what basis are we judging them against?  But if someone makes a confession, who are we to think  that they might not be truly saved, or that they might be. The point of the matter is confession and belief.  Truly this confession and belief changes a person and that person’s life becomes different than what it was before. But oftentimes we are harshest on those who profess Jesus but don’t fit our mold of what that looks like, for it doesn’t look like us. It’s time to start looking at the heart of the individual instead of the actions by which they behave. Remember Jesus is still working on all of us to sanctify us, to grow us into what we all will be in Christ.  This is not an endorsement to live however we want to live, but it is a warning for all believers to not be so hard on people whose faith might not be as strong, but who confess Christ as Lord and Savior. Let’s concentrate on our faith, and our growth, and let the message of the heart ring out to everyone we meet, then even some will deny us for we will make them uncomfortable with our testimony. But testimony without judgment is faith in action. So let’s get active for Christ, not by doing, but by living our lives as true believers, focused on Christ, and transforming our lives to be more like Him. Pastor Andy

Carrying Each Other’s Burdens

Galatians 6 “1 If someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently… Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ.”

Bible scholar J.B. Phillips translates this passage, “1Even if a man should be detected in some sin, my brothers, the spiritual ones among you should quietly set him back on the right path, not with any feeling of superiority but being yourselves on guard against temptation. Carry each other’s burdens and so live out the law of Christ.”

As stated in both of the translations above, restoration must always start with someone who “lives by the Spirit.” Earlier in chapter 5 of Galatians, Paul the Apostle explains why by contrasting the acts of the flesh vs. the fruit of the Spirit. “19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: impurity, hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy and the like.”  Acts of the flesh do not restore.  They tear down.

On the other hand, genuine, sustainable restoration is produced by the Holy Spirit,22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control.”

Always begin restoration “in the Spirit.”

Paul says to restore gently.”  J.B. Phillips translates this, “quietly set (the wrong doer) back on the right path.”  These are wonderful descriptions of what true restoration, healing looks like.

Verse 2 says for the restorer to Carry each other’s burdens.”  We lessen the load by helping carry the burden.  As readers of this passage, we respond by describing this action as “wonderful, Godly, the real deal, need more of this, this kind of action will change the world.”  However, in real life, carrying a burden is very difficult and most likely “tough, tedious, time-consuming, frustrating, selfless, costly, even hurtful.”  Hence, the reason that restoration must be done in the Spirit.  This kind of effort with a gracious attitude flows from the heart of Jesus alone.

Finally, the biblical passage says the action of restoration “fulfills the law of Christ.”  What is the law of Christ?   Matthew 22 tells us, 37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Let’s carry one another burdens in the Spirit of Jesus.  We are operating smack in the center of His heart when we do.  And, our world, our family, our friends change little-by-little when we do.  Living this out “preaches much louder” than our talk.

Due Time Zone

As frustrating as it seemingly may be, God does things in His time not ours.  He speeds us up sometimes, and other times slows us down.  The Lord may want to get our attention and says to us, “Be still, and know that I am God.” Another time, He will tell us to “run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” The speed that God moves is according to His will and is called “Due Time Zone.”

  • 1 Peter 5 (NIV) challenges you to Humble yourselves under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.  The Apostle Peter instructs how one lives in the “Due Time Zone.”  First, you must “humble yourself under God’s mighty hand.”  Each of us must submit to Him, His Word and His timing placing Him first.  Second, He teaches us that the proof of humility is “casting all your anxiety on Him.”  If you remain in control of your life and deal with the issues of life in your own strength, own wisdom and own discernment, you will never live in the Due Time Zone.  However, if you live in humility casting your cares on Him, in “due time,” He will lift you up.
  • Galatians 6 (ESV) exhorts us to “not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.  in the spiritual world, the Apostle Paul explains that whatever one sows, he will also reap.”  Many of us have sowed bad seeds and these seeds have sprouted and are now reaping problems in your life.  Some of these problems are very hurtful and complex.  We want Christ to remove these problems along with the resulting issues quickly.  However, that’s not how God works.  Paul encourages not to “grow weary of doing good, for in due season (Due Time Zone) we will reap (a good harvest) if we do not give up.”  Living in Due Time Zone means to patiently and steadfastly continue to sow the right seeds.  In Due Time you will reap an abundant harvest.

Be careful not to impatiently run out ahead of God or fearfully lag back living in your own “comfortable” or “fear bound” world and are unwilling to live in His timing.    Galatians 5 “25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.”  Walking in the Spirit is living in God’s Due Time Zone.  Here is the beautiful thing… Isaiah 26:3 declares,You (God) will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.”  Live in the Due Time Zone.

Pit Bull

I happened to see Armando Christian Pérez aka “Pit Bull”, popular rapper and singer, on a national newscast give an impassioned appeal for people of substance and/or skills to save Cuba, his family’s native land, from violence and potential obliteration. He appealed for people to “stand up, step up…wake up!” 

Thinking about this, isn’t this same impassioned plea that the Bible through Jesus and the Apostles has given us?  Looking at the condition of the world and the lack of response from His followers, he cries out to us “stand up, step up…wake up.

Stand up.  Jesus calls us to give our hearts wholly to Him…not partially but totally.  Jesus says it this way in Matthew 16:24-25, Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.”  Paul the Apostle pleads to us in Romans 12:1-2, “I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship not conforming to the pattern of this world but being transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

Step up.  Jesus calls for us in Matthew 28:19-20, Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”  Jesus empowers us to fulfill what He calls us to do.  Acts 1:8 declares, You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Wake up.  Ephesians 4:14-16 is clear, “’Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.’  Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.”

It’s time for all of us to get with it.  I make a plea, “Stand up, step up…wake up!” I have heard it said, “a few people make it happen, others watch it happen with most left to wonder what happened.”  Christ-followers, make it happen!

Be The Example

Many nominal Christians and those who don’t believe in Christ, will use the Bible as a way to prove their distorted points. They will say things like, ‘Look at the evil that God’s people did in the Old Testament.” or they will say to justify their own thinking that, “the Bible is filled with evil things.” While that may be true, what are the evil things that are done, that is recorded in Scripture for. Maybe this will help: ‘Now I want you to know brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. They all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from a spiritual rock that followed them, and that rock was Christ. But God was not pleased with most of them, for they were struck down in the wilderness. Now these things became examples for us, so that we will not desire evil things as they did.  Don’t be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and got up to play. Let us not commit sexual immorality some of them did, and in a single day 23,000 people fell dead. Let us not test Christ as some of them did and were destroyed by snakes. Nor should we complain as some of them did and were killed by the destroyer. Now these things happened to them as examples, and they were written as a warning to us, on whom the ends of the ages have come.” 1 Corinthians 10: 1-11  We have been given in Scripture, examples of what kind of behavior the Lord expects out of us, and what kind of behavior He detests. All given to us as a warning to take-a-look at our own behavior. Every time we read scripture, we ought to be thinking two things. How am I to live then; and how might I be living that is wrong. We all want to be examples for others and for our children.  I remember a long time ago there was this smoking ad that had a small boy following his dad around and trying to copy him in everything the dad did. Then they sat down by a tree and the father lit up a cigarette. The picture zoomed in on the boy then looking at the cigarette package, and the words came across the screen, “Like father, like son.”  I never forgot that, for that short commercial made me realize how my actions would very much be an example for my children to follow. I know that I wasn’t perfect, but I made a conscious decision long ago that my family was my first church, and If I ministered incorrectly to them, what would I be ministering to those outside of the family. You and I who have kids have been given much and instructed much in scripture about things we should do and things we should not do, and we have been given real examples of this, so think about what kind of example you are, then check that with what example the scriptures tell you to be and see how you measure up.  We all still might need to change a little. Pastor Andy