Sermon Notes for February 28, 2021
James on Selfishness
James 4:1-10 (NIV Version)
February 28, 2021
Bottom Line: Grace-infused humility overcomes selfishness.
· The hard truth is we are dangerously selfish.
· Our selfishness causes conflict with one another.
· Our selfishness causes conflict with God.
· Even in our selfishness, God gives us grace.
· How should we respond to grace?
○ Submit to God
○ Resist the devil
○ Draw near to God
○ Seek purity
○ Humble ourselves
James on Selfishness
James 4:1-10 (NIV Version)
February 28, 2021
Bottom Line: Grace-infused humility overcomes selfishness.
· The hard truth is we are dangerously _______________________.
· Our selfishness causes _______________ with one ________________.
· Our selfishness causes ___________________ with _______________.
· Even in our selfishness, God gives us ______________________.
· How should we respond to grace?
○ ____________________________ to God
○ ____________________________ the devil
○ ____________________________ near to God
○ Seek ____________________________
○ ___________________________ ourselves
Here are the sermon notes for those of you who like to follow along with the sermon from home. Be sure to watch for the notes every Saturday morning. There are notes with the blanks for you to fill in and also notes with the answers for those of you that don't like to fill in blanks. These can be printed off.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7, ESV
Wednesday is food box delivery day in Montara. What a privilege it is to be part of a team that is delivering food to people in challenged living conditions! And on Thursday we get to go back and take sack lunches for the children to have over the weekend.
Unfortunately, one Tuesday night we were challenged ourselves. One car wasn’t running right, and the second, which was sitting on a flat, wouldn’t start because of the cold weather. My husband had said he didn’t know how we were going to make our deliveries, so I did the wifely thing and took up the worry for myself. I went to bed that Tuesday night exhausted, and lay awake trying to figure it all out. I ran all kinds of scenarios through my tired brain, until the Lord spoke to me directly: “Those are tomorrow’s worries. Let’s worry about them tomorrow.” By accepting that admonition, I went right to sleep.
Philippians 4 shows us that if we can learn to pray instead of worry, God answers right away. Maybe not in the way we expected or wanted, but He does answer, with His “…peace which surpasses all understanding.” The problem may still be there, but the worry is gone.
Well, on Wednesday everything worked out just fine. The food got delivered, the cars got fixed, and we experienced some unexpected blessings along the way. At the end of the day we had a new testimony and were praising God for His goodness. Amen!
We’ve had a lot of snow, lately, and I for one am glad to see that it’s gotten a little warmer. Did you know that God compares his word to snow, also? In Isaiah 55:10-11, God says “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”
Snow, when it falls, is clean, pure, dazzlingly bright, and beautiful. But then people walk through it, drive through it, and play in it. Before too long, that pure, white snow can become a disgusting, gray slush, and don’t even get me started on the yellow snow. As followers of Christ, we are not only tasked with carrying God’s word to those that need it (see the Great Commission in Matthew 28:16-20), we are also tasked with keeping that message pure! James 1:27 says “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”
Our lifestyle will impact our message, because actions always speak louder than words. What does your snow look like?
God had Other Plans: A pondering via Holly Woodbridge
8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
If you have walked with Jesus for very long, you know this verse is true. God has a way of working out His purposes despite us. It seems even when we give our best efforts we still need Him to get us where we should be. Aren’t you thankful for our gracious God who leads us along. He is a good good Shepherd.
This post on Facebook from Greg Martin yesterday reminds us how very true this verse is….. you may want to grab a tissue.
“I’m on the side of the road crying...I have to tell you why.
Thursday I posted we’d be taking full skids of bottled water to Dallas, TX to help everyone without clean water after the winter storms this week. I invited you all to join me, and buy water. And holy cow, did y’all come through! So much so that we were scheduled to deliver 5 skids of water today, and then multiple follow-up deliveries shortly after. Probably 100 of you helped buy water...it was insane. I’m so grateful for all of you.
But that’s not why I’m crying.
Katie, Kevin, and I left at 5am yesterday morning to go to DRAW’s Jackson, MS campus. We picked up the 5 skids on the way, and left early this morning to deliver the water to World Vision’s warehouse in Dallas, TX. With the weight of the water in the trailer, we could tell the tires were struggling to hold, but we hoped for the best. A couple hours ago, about 90 min from Dallas, one of the trailer tires blew out. We pulled off immediately to figure what to do next.
But that’s not why I’m crying.
I walked into the gas station to ask if there was a tire shop close by. A patron at the gas station, a guy named Jack, asked what size the tires were. We walked to the trailer, he looked it over, and said he had two tires at his house we could have. He came back 10 minutes later, replaced two of the trailer tires, and fixed a piece of metal that was damaged when tire blew. We said thank you, and less than an hour after the tire blew, we were back on the road. I’ll never see Jack again, but he was a Good Samaritan today.
But that’s not why I’m crying.
Less than a mile after getting on the highway, another trailer tire popped. It turned out there was a hidden piece of metal that was rubbing the tire, one we couldn’t see before, and did it’s damage in less than 60 seconds. Dejected, we rolled off the very next exit, knowing it was nearly impossible to get the water to Dallas.
But that’s not why I’m crying.
I called the Dallas warehouse manager, explained the situation, and asked for any wisdom he might have. It seemed we were at a dead end. He said they had luckily gotten a half load of water an hour earlier, so they weren’t dependent on us. He said he’d make some calls.
Shortly after, he gave me Stacy’s name. Stacy oversees a ministry in Tyler, TX, about 25 min from where we were broken down. I called Stacy immediately, and asked if she might know of a few people who could pick up the water with their trucks/vans, and if she knew anyone who could use it.
Stacy paused, then said, “Wow”, slowly. She said that this morning, at their church service, they were having an intense prayer time. There is no one in the area with clean water, and they didn’t have anyone who had access to bottled water for a couple days. Their tiny church spent 10 minutes this morning praying that God would send a miracle, and provide for their community.
So a dozen trucks/vans from Tyler are heading our way now to pick up hundreds of cases of water. Stacy is overjoyed. I thought I knew where we were going today. Then God blew out our tire. We found someone to fix it, and he just went ahead and blew it out again.
Because we are right where we are supposed to be.
On the side of the road, crying.”
So, just keep serving Jesus. He will handle the rest and make sure you are right where you are supposed to be. It might even be in Topeka, Kansas.
POSSESSED – to have complete power over someone and be manifested through their speech and/or actions.
This was a topic that presented itself recently with one of my grandsons. I have the flexibility in my schedule that allows me to take grandkids to school and/or pick them up from school. During those times we talk about a variety of topics. On one of those occasions, as we were talking about how his day went, he confided in me that he had moments of sadness or fear for no apparent reason. I am sure many of us can relate to this because of the unsure times we currently find ourselves living. I shared with him that his Papa understood his feelings. He wanted to know how I could understand what he was feeling. I shared with him that it was normal and that his Papa had those feelings sometimes. He sat in disbelief for a moment that Papa would have those feelings and then responded that he has never seen that in me. He asked me why it didn’t show in my behavior. I shared with him that God has given us resources/tools that allow us not to be controlled by those feelings. Of course his question was, “what tools”? I shared with him that God has given us His Holy Word/Bible to guide us through those times that we may feel that way. I also shared with him that I have Holy Spirit living in me to; comfort me, encourage me and empower me. Another very long pause and then came the bombshell question that could only come from the mind of a child. “Papa, are you possessed”? I sat dumbfounded for a while at that question.
I recalled some of God’s words about Holy Spirit: “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom”.(2 Corinthians 3: 17), “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of Holy Spirit”.(Romans 15: 13), “And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever”.(John 14: 16)
After some reflection, I answered that yes I am possessed, possessed by Holy Spirit. Another dramatic pause from him, and then his response that brought tears of joy to his Papa’s eyes – “I want to be possessed by Holy Spirit”.
How about you during these trying times? Does Holy Spirit possess you? Does He have complete power over you? Does He manifest Himself through your speech and/or your actions?
Prayerfully Yours - Wally
Champions for Christ
Acts 20:24 But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.
Have you ever thought of yourself as a champion, a warrior for Christ, upholding the Word of God as we serve and comfort others “to testify to the gospel of the grace of God”?
We must never forget our faith and hope are built upon Christ; the cornerstone and foundation for our life and spiritual welfare, not only for ourselves but for our family, our community and all of God’s creation.
As warriors for the cause of Christ let us bring peace and comfort to others sharing God’s Word that he so loved the world, he gave up the life of His Son that through His Son who whoever believes in Him will not perish but have ever lasting life.
Let us not be ashamed to share the simple fact that we too, were once sinners who chose to simply believe in Christ, by which we are now cleansed and forgiven by his grace and love, just as others can. May we humbly carry the banner of salvation and restoration through Jesus Christ.
Though I no longer wear the Royal Ranger Emblem on my sleeve, I wear it on my heart by which I am challenged to live out that Code the best I can, following these eight points, to be:
I like the way the Message Bible translates and concludes the issue of why we must be a Champion, a Warrior for Christ: And that about wraps it up. God is strong, and he wants you strong. So take everything the Master has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way. This is no weekend war that we’ll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels. (Ephesians 6:12 MSG)
Please join me, submitting yourselves to God, standing firm in our faith as warriors carrying the standard of the love and grace of Christ to a lost and hurting world.
And now I entrust you to God and the message of his grace that is able to build you up and give you an inheritance with all those he has set apart for himself. (Acts 20:32)
Sermon Notes for February 21, 2021
Know What You Are Pursuing
February 21, 2021
The One Thing: Wisdom is God’s hidden jewel.
· Your actions reveal your true self. James 3:13
· Truth eventually reveals itself. James 3:14
· Godly wisdom is seldom poured into a life, but rather it is dripped! James 3:15
· What follows a person reveals how they are approaching life. James 3:16
· Godly wisdom exudes a beacon of hope and help. James 3:17
· Wisdom’s investment will pay dividends. James 3:18
Sermon Notes with Blanks for February 21, 2021
Know What You Are Pursuing
February 21, 2021
The One Thing: Wisdom is God’s hidden jewel.
· Your ________________________ reveal your true self. James 3:13
· __________________________ eventually reveals itself. James 3:14
· Godly wisdom is seldom ______________________ into a life, but rather it is ___________________________________! James 3:15
· What __________________________ a person reveals how they are
_____________________________ life. James 3:16
· Godly wisdom exudes a __________________ of _____________ and
_________________. James 3:17
· Wisdom’s investment will pay ___________________________.
"I indeed..... but He"
“I indeed baptize you with water… but He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and fire.”
Have I ever come to a place in my experience where I can say –
Holy Ghost means.
When I repent,
John does not speak of the baptism of the Holy Ghost as an experience, but as a work performed by Jesus Christ.
I indeed was this and that; but He came, and a marvelous thing happened.
Yesterday was Ash Wednesday, the first day of the season called Lent. Our Pastors on the Kansas City District received a little message about Lent from our District Superintendent. I’d like to share that with you today.
“Lent is to Easter what Advent is to Christmas—a season of preparation. Lent lasts 40 days, not counting Sundays, and is marked by repentance and renewal. It is a special time for meditation, prayer, and recommitment to Christ-like discipleship.
Often people “give up” something for Lent. Fasting—the giving up of something we usually enjoy—is a key theme during the 40 days. To fast is to sacrifice something as a reminder of the supreme sacrifice Jesus made for us. Sometimes people give up meat, or chocolate, or soft drinks, or desserts. Some people fast from food for several days; others give up one big meal a week or do without between-meal snacks. Others give up watching television, or playing video games, or certain social activities. Still others determine to “give up” selfishness, or impatience, or anger.
Lent is not only a good time to “give up” something; it is also a good time to “take up” something. Take up a good habit. Take up a spiritual discipline. Take up some positive act that will help your neighbors. Don’t just “give up” something—“take up” something.
“If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself
and take up his cross daily, and follow me.” - Luke 9:23
Bless Every Home
Perhaps one of the practices you could “take up” during Lent is the daily practice of praying for your neighbors.
Every weekday, I (Dr. Estep) receive an early-morning email from “Bless Every Home,” inviting me to pray for five of my neighbors—their names and addresses appear in the email, along with a suggested prayer like this recent one:
Suggested prayer for yourself and your neighbors
Dear Lord, I pray that You would bring peace into the homes of this neighborhood. I pray that where there is discord, pain, or darkness - You would bring reconciliation, healing, and light. - Philippians 4:6-7
To become involved in Bless Every Home and see their significant resources, please check out their website: https://blesseveryhome.com
Imagine if you came to my home and I said, “Can I take your coat? Get you something to drink? Give you a pedicure?” Now, after asking me to repeat myself to make sure you’d heard correctly, you would probably wonder about that last one.
In our culture, it’s good manners to welcome someone by offering a beverage and to take their coat. In Jesus’ day, however, it was considered polite and good mannered to wash a guest’s feet.
And if you think you have stinky feet today, just imagine what it must have been like back then. With sandals or barefoot being the norm to get everywhere, I can only imagine the smell. Dirt, mud, dust, combined with sweat and more disgusting things. You can begin understand why washing a guest’s feet was an act of hospitality. Yet, because of the nature of the task, it was humiliating and therefore delegated to slaves and servants.
Yet Jesus did this for his disciples. After the final meal with his friends, Jesus got down on his hands and knees to wash feet. The King of Kings washing dirty, stinky feet. Right before this his disciples had argued about power and who was the greatest. But he wanted to show them—in a very tangible and concrete way—how to be truly great: by serving others. He did the humbling, thankless, dirty job that no one likes to do. He loved others by sacrificing himself to meet their needs.
Today, we’re challenged to show others the love of Jesus. Find a way to “wash their feet.” Notice someone’s need and simply meet it.
Canyon de Chelly (pronounced de Shea) is located in Northeast Arizona. Since the beginning of the 11thcentury, during the most important times of their culture, the Anasazi Indians built dwellings in numerous locations in what is known as the River Valley.
One of the most popular and historic rock settlements and archaeological areas of the canyon is called the White House, thus named due to its stark bright appearance. To view this beautiful valley floor, one must follow a well-defined path to the bottom. The going down is neither treacherous nor difficult. When you arrive you are greeted by the magnificent beauty of Canyon de Chelly, the sacred territory of the Navajo Indians. Indeed it is one of those places that must be seen to be appreciated! The difficulty begins when your time in the valley ends. There is only one way out, and that is up!
What was an easy lark coming down becomes truly a difficult ascent. The trek is not for the faint hearted nor the one out of shape. Once you reach the top you know you are safe, exhausted and reaffirmed in the fact, it is easier to go down than it is to go up!
The easy way is not always the best way. If you are determined to take the easy way down, it almost always means you have to take the hard way back up!
Life can be difficult and hard at times, but what we learn in the hard times tends to always be a good teacher. Conversely, easy is often a trap! Easy can be a myth and a distraction. So today, don’t look for the easy way but rather look for the best way.
He who walks in integrity walks securely, but he who perverts his ways will be found out! Proverbs 10:9
As I read through scripture this morning, I was brought to the story of the lost axe head in 2 Kings 6:1-7
And the sons of the prophets said to Elisha, “See now, the place where we dwell with you is too small for us. Please, let us go to the Jordan, and let every man take a beam from there, and let us make there a place where we may dwell.”
So, he answered, “Go.”
Then one said, “Please consent to go with your servants.”
And he answered, “I will go.” So he went with them. And when they came to the Jordan, they cut down trees. But as one was cutting down a tree, the iron ax head fell into the water; and he cried out and said, “Alas, master! For it was borrowed.”
So the man of God said, “Where did it fall?” And he showed him the place. So, he cut off a stick, and threw it in there; and he made the iron float. Therefore he said, “Pick it up for yourself.” So, he reached out his hand and took it.
According to the notes in my Bible, this was an act of compassion to restore what the young man had lost as he had borrowed it. By a miracle from God a piece of wood brought the axe head back to the surface. What have we lost that we need God to bring to the surface? Maybe its hope, maybe it’s a desire to seek him, maybe it’s a passion for sharing the truth of who Jesus is, maybe its faith, maybe its love! Maybe it’s something we need God to remove from us. Maybe its pride, un-forgiveness or some other sin that goes unnoticed that God sees clearly that is keeping us from being filled with all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:19
The Israelites were set free from bondage following Moses into the wilderness. They must have been thinking that this was going to be easy but somehow the excitement of being set free turned into bitterness against God. Things did not go the way they had planned. Why? Because they lost hope, they lost faith, and the desire for God who set them free. Things became really rough and they turned away from the Lord and their hearts became hard.
“Do not harden your hearts, as in the rebellion,
As in the day of in the wilderness, Psalm 95:8
I was once asked in a survey “If you were stranded on as island with no hope of rescue, what is the one thing you would want to have with you?” My response was, “My Bible.” I have been around long enough that I know how to survive. I can provide food and I can find water, and provide shelter. I cannot survive without God; He is the one thing I have to have to get through the life I lead.
George Washington who led the beginning of this great nation and guided by the Holy Spirit appealed to heaven for all they had to go through. General Washington knew they had no chance against the more superior British Army. The men under Washington’s command even had a flag with those very words, "An Appeal to Heaven", on it to remind them of who would help them.
Do we need to find something we have lost? Have we lost our hope, desire, passion, faith, or love? We should appeal to heaven with cries from the very depths of our souls to the only one who can save this Nation. We must as individuals and as a church repent for our sins. He hears us and knows what we go through and will not leave us nor forsake us. I truly believe that if we do this God will hear us and show us something new.
Behold, I will do a new thing,
Now it shall spring forth;
Shall you not know it?
I will even make a road in the wilderness
And rivers in the desert. Isaiah 43:19
Have an amazing day!
Notice: Starting next Saturday, February 20th, we will be sending out sermon notes for those of you who like to follow along with the sermon from home. Be sure to watch for the notes every Saturday morning. There will be notes with the blanks for you to fill in and also notes with the answers for those of you that don't like to fill in blanks. These will be printable files for you to print off.
When I was new to recovery from my various addictions, the Lord led me into a traditional 12 Step recovery program before leading me more directly into His Church. There I was introduced to the concept that before I could properly work the 12 Steps I had to take the step before the first step. This involved entering into a relationship with truth. When the founder of that program wrote about this, he was not referring to the “cash register” variety of truth but to Biblical Truth (John 14:6). It is important to remember that the natural or unsaved man cannot understand the things of the Spirit of God . . . (1 Corinthians 2:14). Around the recovery tables we have seen many who just were not “getting it”. Too often this was because they wouldn’t or couldn’t stay away from their compulsive disorder(s). Many times, a person’s pride in or arrogance about their circumstance of life (i.e. education, profession, social status, religious convictions) stood in their way as well. Those who still suffered these maladies were often referred to as being “stuck on stupid.” From a past study of marijuana abuse by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA, Info & Facts 2009) this is referred to as possibly “functioning at a suboptimal intellectual level all the time.” Although the NIDA was focusing on daily marijuana abuse, I strongly suspect this refers to continuing abuse of other substances, other compulsive disorders. I believe this can also apply to Christians who continue to justify some sin(s) because it is pleasurable, profitable, convenient . . .. I also believe that sin is the ultimate addiction – we all have it and will continue to be affected by it (Romans 3:23). Unfortunately, it is all too easy (for me included) to see others as worse than ourselves and to deny, minimize and/or justify our own sin (see Luke 18:9-14, the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector).Many of us are sincerely seeking revival and the healing of our land. 2 Chronicles 7:14 clearly indicates this must begin with the GOD’s own people. As I continue the process of examining myself in the light of Truth (2 Corinthians 13:5) I recognize the job’s not done yet.
Shalom, Pastor Bill
In the first Lord of the Rings book, there is a very unusual, mysterious character named Tom Bombadil. He is described as being an entity of unknown origin and great power, but doesn’t feel any particular drive to assist Frodo and the team on their quest. People have argued over or what Bombadil may be or may represent, but he remains one of the most mysterious characters in the Lord of the Rings series. Tom Bombadil is an odd character to be sure, who is content to simply sing his songs and live within his little corner of the forest, unbothered by everything going on in the world around him.
Right now and for the last year or so, people have been surrounded by fear, chaos, and uncertainty, much like what we see in many heroic stories. In such a state, it’s easy to become overwhelmed, overcome by the surrounding chaos. However, Jesus, who Himself was no stranger to chaos and uncertainty, encouraged His followers in Mark 6:34: “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”
Don’t be afraid to be a Bombadil: know your power as a Child of God, and live through today. God is already in tomorrow.
Rev. Richard Clifford (Holly Woodbridge’s dad) Guest Contributor-
One of my life verses, and a favorite of many, is Jeremiah 29:11 where God says, “I know the plans I have for you, plans to help you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. We sometime miss what follows. Verse 13 continues God’s thought, “If you seek for Me you will find Me (that includes His plan,) when you seek for Me with all your heart.” This was written to God’s people who were exiles in Babylon. Not quite what they had planned.
The apostle Paul’s world was messed up too. In fact, he was in prison for being a Christian when he writes to his Philippians a plan to experience God’s plan and peace. “Don’t be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God, And the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts at all times.” My friends, that is still true even in this chaotic world.
The last of my junior year in high school, my mother got gloriously saved. (That is a story in itself) Four or five months later, I was coerced into going to a revival meeting with her. I ended up at an altar, somehow next to a backslider. He prayed for God’s forgiveness. I didn’t know how to pray, so I just said to God, “What that man says, do it for me too.”
My heart had been beating like a tap-hammer under God’s terrible conviction up ‘til that point. Then, suddenly, I felt a great peace in my heart. Oh, I needed lots of teaching, but the peace stayed.
With that peace, comes faith in God and His Word. That is why John Wesley could say, “Our people die well.” He means, with peace. And not just die well but live well. Yes, my friends, in the midst of this chaotic world, God’s people can enjoy the peace of Christ, which the world does not give, and the world cannot take away. Thank God for His love and peace.
-Rev. Richard Clifford (still having the time of his life serving Jesus at 90 years young)
Faithful Noah built an ark. We've themed nurseries after this adorable story with cute animals. In Genesis 8, the flood recedes. God shows his faithfulness to faithful Noah. But have you read Chapter 9? Noah is found drunk and naked in his tent. Faithful Noah, succumbing to the world's temptations? Yep. And then God gave up on him and he killed Noah off too. Oh wait, nope that's not how it went. God still chose Noah. And Noah still chose God. And his family line continued to bring us closer to the Savior who would crush the serpent in our lives.
A few chapters later (Genesis 11) Abram comes out of Noah's family line. Faithful Abram, who would as Abraham, father the nation of Israel, God's chosen people. God calls Abram in Genesis 12 and he faithfully goes. But then things get scary. A famine comes and he takes matters into his own hands. He sells his wife off as his sister and she is taken as the king's own wife. He walks off of the path God called him to, because he thought he knew best how to get to the end. It created havoc and heartbreak. But God did not leave Abram! God's promises remained. They all still came true, even though Abram royally messed everything up. God guided Abram back to his truth.
So what? What does this teach me? Sometimes I think this walk with Christ means I have to be perfect, that I must always get it right, and that if I don't, I have no faith. Sometimes I am afraid to take the next step because I can see all of the places I am going to fail. But that's not what God gave us his word to teach us. If you are afraid to take the next step in your faith walk with Jesus because you just aren't sure if you will get it right, you are in good company. Let me encourage you to give it a go. Take a step, even if it is tiny. Know that God's promises stand, even when we mess up. We aren't powerful enough to thwart God's plan. I'm so thankful that even when I'm not, He is faithful.
Amber De Haan
John 15:12-17 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other.
I remember when I was in grade school I dreaded Valentine’s day. Because I was I in foster care I didn’t always get all the things other kids got like the fancy boxes of valentines for the other kids in my class. I usually ended up making my own and I would make sure every one of my classmates got one even though I knew I would get very few, if any, in return. I carried that feeling of rejection from my fellow classmates all through my early school years.
It wasn’t until just before my junior year of high school that someone came into my life that had a way of making me feel special. Our first Valentine’s Day together Arnie gave me a black onyx necklace and a box of chocolates. The following Valentine’s Day he proposed to me at a Kona Kia Restaurant in Buena Park, California. My husband was so good about making me feel special especially on Valentine’s Day.
When I had kids of my own I always wanted to make sure they had the really nice cards to give to all their classmates and not just their friends and we would spend hours making the fancy Valentine boxes that always seemed to come home filled to the brim with notes from all their friends. I never wanted any kid to feel the rejection I always felt at Valentine’s Day.
I know for some Valentine’s Day can be a very lonely time of the year. Many times it’s a reminder that we no longer have that someone that used to make that day special. For me now, it’s a time of year that I have very fond memories of. Memories that come from sharing my love with someone special. I have boxes full of cards and reminders of those special days. Now it’s a day of sending love to those closest to me and those who need that special reassurance.
For some, it’s a sad reminder that that special person hasn’t come along yet. I raised 10 daughters and I can remember having some of my girls exuberant on Valentine’s Day and for some Valentine’s Day was the worst day of the year. Now that all my daughters are married or have that special person in their lives they all have come to realize that there really was that special person just for them. I know they didn’t think so many times as a teenager or young adult!
I think I have come to realize that Valentine’s Day has its special meaning but I don’t want it to just be a once a year occasion. Everyday should be like Valentine’s Day where we send our love to those around us. A card to a shut in, a letter to a friend that needs encouragement, a phone call to someone that might feel alone, a text message to let that person know you are thinking about them. I love it when I get those special reminders. It makes my day! I received two yesterday that just said “I love you!”
How about you? Is there someone that needs a special Valentine today? Maybe you can be that bright spot in their day. Let’s not get so busy, or so caught up in the “what might have been”, or in the loneliness of the hour to miss an opportunity to show our love to others!
Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other. John 15:14-17
SO, HOW ARE YOU REALLY DOING?
Some time ago in a ministry class the instructor challenged us to step way out of our comfort zone to survey complete strangers regarding their spiritual beliefs or lack thereof and what reinforced their beliefs. One of my fellow minister classmates seized the opportunity to venture into a busy mall seeking out individuals who might seem to be a bit off the grid as it were. Where better to start than in a video arcade center where he approached a young man dressed in black, with chains hanging all around his clothing. The minister began the conversation and after a few questions, the young man stopped him abruptly by asking “excuse me, but if you were not doing this survey as a requirement of your class would you even have stopped to talk to me in the first place”? Without an answer or even another word the young minister turned and walked away in the shame of the moment.
We all have a favorite restaurant, clothing store or vacation spot that when asked we are excited to tell others about, but quite possibly when the opportunity arises to proclaim the love of Christ, we wax cool. Christ proclaimed to you and I, not the Church, that we are to live His great Commission: “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature”Matthew 16:15. To say we are Christ followers but striving to live out the great commission is the sin of omission. Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin. James 4:17
Each day, we should seize the opportunity to live in faith, with the same love and boldness as Paul “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”. Philippians 4:13
When was the last time you told someone outside your Christian circle, “Jesus loves you”, “God Bless you” or even ask the real question “So, How are you really doing”? It’s easy to walk down the isles of the store passing individuals and saying “How are you doing” only to keep walking, never really expecting to receive an answer or likewise giving an answer. What might a stranger think if we responded “Praise the Lord I’m doing great”, or if they do not respond to your asking give them a response like “God Bless you, have a nice day”.
Christ was not afraid to address those who needed it most. Even from the Cross he addressed a thief, not just the crowd that was gathered, but even more so He addresses you and I as He spoke, shed his blood and gave up His life so that we could hear those precious words “Father Forgive Them”. Yes, He died that through Him we could have forgiveness, eternal life and be heirs to the kingdom of heaven.
So, what is your response? Ask yourself; how are you really doing. Turn to Christ with your response in faith ASKing for His response to you, SEEKing his grace, forgiveness, love and direction for your life. Go ahead, KNOCK on His door, His heart, right now. Then in the days and weeks ahead, please remember to step out in faith, in the strength of the Lord, and ask someone HOW ARE YOU REALLY DOING?
HOW SHALL I KNOW GOD’S TRUTH?
At the time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.” Matt. 11:25
In spiritual relationship we do not grow step by step;
Turn away for one second out of obedience, and darkness and death are at work at once.
All God's revelations are sealed until they are opened to us by obedience.
You will never get them open by philosophy or thinking.
Immediately when you obey,
yours straight away.
God will never reveal more truth about Himself until you have obeyed what you know already.
Let me say that again
God will never reveal more truth about Himself until you have obeyed what you know already.
It’s amazing to watch my kids and how polar opposite they are. One is high strung and wants to be known and be in control of EVERYTHING, the other, almost literally walks around all day “ho hum” shrugging his shoulders; however both are very busy and still into everything so quickly. They are both free spirits in their bare feet (or rain boots whichever the weather permits), running all over our yard playing in the mud and the dirt, riding their little jeep until the battery dies, climbing trees, looking for frogs and bugs hollering the whole way (ALL BOY!). I’m sure our neighbors think we have no control over our children and no idea how to parent.
I called my mom a while back and said, “I just don’t know what to do, I feel like all I say all day is ‘No, no don’t touch that, get down from there, you’re going to get hurt, please stop’….” Her advice to me was “If it’s not dangerous, let it go.” (In my mind I thought, “But it’s all potentially dangerous!” But I knew what she meant; don’t try to control their every move.) My high strung worry wart and I often have similar conversations with one another (maybe he gets it from me?).
When he’s worrying about something (“Mommy when you die will I…? What are we doing after nap time? After that? Tomorrow? The next day? Who am I going to marry?) I remind him, “Don’t worry about tomorrow, today has enough troubles of its own.” And every time I tell him that, I step on my own toes.
Some days I worry our family is going to end up on a Dr. Phil show. I worry about finances, the car breaking down, what to do about school for my kids, what I will make for dinner, when my parents get to a point that they can’t take care of themselves what are we going to do…the list goes on. I’m like the meme of the guy standing at the edge of the ocean with a mop and a bucket frantically trying to mop up the “mess”. The meme says “How you look trying to control things you can’t.” I have to take a step back, breathe deeply and remember, none of this is mine to control in the first place. I gave it to God a long time ago, why am I still trying to “mop” it up?
When the waters begin to creep up on you and you start to reach for that mop, give it back to Jesus.
“So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”Matthew 6:31-34
Giving it all to Jesus,
If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. (John 8:36)
It happens to all of us. We feel stuck. We wonder if we will ever change. We are given labels and we believe them. Sometimes we feel haunted by our past mistakes. It's a little word called regret. It’s those moments when our sins and habits begin to catch up with us.
But friends, no matter what you’ve done or failed to do—God’s power is big enough to change you. There is no sin too great for God’s grace. There is no habit too big for His healing. There is no label too strong for His love. Simply put: God’s power is bigger than your past.
What’s amazing about God's power is that it is rooted in His love for you. God knows who you are no matter the label you give yourself, or the label others have given you. And because of God’s power rooted in love, what’s true about you now doesn’t have to be true about you tomorrow. You’re not attempting to “reinvent” yourself by striving to be some perfect person. Rather, God’s power transforms us to be uncovered by His image, redeemed through Christ. It’s only then that what once was no longer has to be. That is freedom.
The great news is, we have freedom in Christ to become who we were made to be.
The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the defense of my life; whom shall I dread? Psalm 27:1
There are two words, when used out of proper context or in a questionable setting, that have the power to rob a person of victorious confidence. Those words are, “What if”.
I don’t get the promotion?
I don’t pass the test?
I am not accepted?
My health fails?
I make the wrong decision?
My money runs out?
“What if?” is a question often based on fear. It is also a term which requires a bold answer. We are all aware when experience coincides with faith; we tend to be at our strongest. When difficulties arise and our faith is tested, experience has the ability to come alongside and say, “The God of yesterday is still the God of today.”
Though a host encamps against me, my heart will not fear; though war arises against me, in spite of this I shall be confident. Psalm 27:3
Your best days are ahead of you!
Do you ever feel like your life is in a rut? It’s as though everything you do is wrong, that it fails and there seems to be nothing you can do right? We continue as a church family to witness the loss of life sending us all into mourning for those who are close to the deceased. We have witnessed as a nation the change in leadership only to see what one would consider as evil come into power in our nation. It seems as though all we have known throughout our lives has disappeared leaving us with a hollow sense of hopelessness.
Growing up on a farm outside of Holton I grew up helping my Dad on the farm. One winter was particularly hard and feeding those cattle became a daunting task for sure. It would snow, then warm up, then freeze and melt some more. Everyday we drove the four wheel drive truck into the field to feed those cattle, they had to be fed. Everyday in the mud mixed with melting snow we made ruts, ruts that got so deep we would drag the bottom of the truck. It was no fun but it was something we had to go through and I have never forgotten that lesson of perseverance.
The name of the Lord is a strong tower;
The righteous run to it and are safe. Proverbs 18:10
It is a testing of faith for all of us right now, but remember we follow the Lord and not the world. It is a concern for us as we wonder what may lie ahead for us as a nation. For when you turn on the news, all that is wrong is right and all that is right is now wrong? For some I know this world has become almost unbearable. When life gets this way we continue to seek the Father, and the worries seem less instead of more. Let us be like Paul who endured many hardships in his many journeys and follow Christ.
Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:10
It is only through Christ do we have the strength to push forward, we must be on our knees crying out to the only one who can help us.
Going back to the cattle story, we did not lose one that year. We had a calf born early that we had to carry out to safety, spring came and things got better. Those cattle I am sure were happy to be taken care of for they relied on us to take care of them. We rely upon the Lord and in turn take care of each other.
The Lord is good,
A stronghold in the day of trouble;
And He knows those who trust in Him. Nahum 1:7
Have an amazing day! Marty
When Jesus was on trial before the Roman Governor, Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus gave this very important response, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” (John 18:37) The spiritual warfare that was escalating during this time appears to also be escalating for Christians today. In Ephesians 6:10-18 (the armor of God passage), the apostle Paul gives us some explanation about what is going on and what we should be doing about it. The devil has a hierarchy that is first apparent in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3). Today, his powers and principalities are still at work in governmental bodies around the world. The weaker the Lord’s forces are, the more obvious the works of those devilish forces become. I believe we are seeing the reality of this in the world right now. This is obviously not the first time this has happened in history (see John 14:6 cf. Matthew 11:28-30).Referring back to Ephesians 6, the full armor of GOD is all about our relationship with Jesus Christ. That the armor begins with the belt of TRUTH is not a coincidence. Jesus Christ is the ultimate manifestation of truth. He is truth and He came to reveal truth to us. Without a right relationship with truth, the rest of the armor cannot be as effective as it should be.Please remember Jesus’ instruction given to a lawyer about inheriting eternal life – love the LORD with all your heart, soul, strength and mind, and your neighbor as yourself (Luke 10:25-29). Looking at myself in the light of Truth, I recognize I have a lot of room for improvement. I’m very grateful I’m not saved by how good I am. I’m also very grateful for the power and presence of the Holy Spirit leading me into an ever-deepening relationship with my Lord Jesus Christ. That’s how I’m doing. How about you?Shalom, Pastor Bill
Notes from the Staff @The Woods