“Come, follow me, Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.”
“In the life of a saint there is this amazing wellspring of original life all the time; the Spirit of God is a well of water springing up, perennially fresh. The saint realizes that it is God who engineers circumstances, consequently there is no whine, but a reckless abandon to Jesus.” --- Oswald Chambers
The ‘actualities’ of life, those circumstances of the present moment randomly appearing out of the chaos of life, are the direct by-product of the ‘engineering God’, who creates circumstances in which your ‘follow Me’ must take place. You will be tempted in your ‘following Him’ to ignore the ‘actualities’ of your circumstances, attributing those ‘actualities to random chaos’, conditions resulting from ‘something’, ‘anything’ but the hand of God, rendering this ‘present moment’ void of meaning and purpose, destined to be merely endureduntil calmer fishing conditions appear. However, every present moment has been precisely engineered, ushering in perennially fresh moments for the Spirit of God.
Jesus is very clear about the intention of the engineered random chaos that God has orchestrated in your ever-present moment. Your random actualities, engineered with the precision of the master engineer, arising out of the chaos, are nothing more, nothing less, than the creation of the perfect storm in which the fishing of men can best take place.
Your false assumption,
The flash of insight arrives yet again, fishing for menrarely occurs in calm waters.
Instead, it is the perfect stormthat prepares both the fishermanand the fish.
So Jesus said to Peter, “Come.” So Peter got down out of the boat”….Matt. 14:29
Romans 12:2: “Do not be conformed to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
Too many people, walking across the chasm into new life in Christ, miss the path just a little. Not understanding that this is a relationship where we walk daily with Jesus, they try to change their lives by their own efforts. They conform, no longer to the world, but to the higher standards of the church. The problem is that this is still conformity, which is NOT what we are called to. We are called to surrender to Christ, to let Him take control and change us from the inside out. It is conformity itself which must be put to death, in favor of transformation of the inner person, and this is achieved only by surrender to Christ.
Colossians 3:2: “Set your minds on things above, not on things that are on earth.”
II Corinthians 5:17 is a favorite verse for many people: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold the new is come.” That sounds so good. “The old has passed away, the new is come.” Doesn’t that mean my old habits are gone? My old ways of thinking? My old sin patterns? Unfortunately, no. I have heard that 80% of all we do, we do by habit. And if it takes 21 days to develop a new habit, then another 90 to solidify it…well, you get the picture. I don’t know about anyone else, but I came to Christ with more than one bad habit! Changing into a person fit for heaven has been, for me, a fifty-year process. And I’m not done yet. I must daily “set (my) mind on things above.” Otherwise, I slide right back to where I need not be.
Christ-centeredness is a lot of work. Jesus died on the cross to give us new life. We must daily take up our cross if we are to live that new life in holiness and truth.
God bless you!
In the last few weeks, the Lord has led me to reexamine the roots of my faith. These were born in 12 Step recovery in 1983 and began to mature there. Later they were followed by baptism and discipleship in a Bible believing church. I have been reviewing my relationship with my Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ, and developing a deepened understanding of my walk with Him who called me from darkness. According to 2 Chronicles 7:14, I need to heighten my personal prayer life, identify and turn from any wicked ways, and trust in His power to see me and my family through the darkening times growing in our land. The principals involved in the 12 Steps continue to be used by the Holy Spirit to guide and direct me according to the Father’s will and plan for my life – when I’m willing to listen obediently. Paul challenges us in 2 Corinthians 13:5 ESV to “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? —unless indeed you fail to meet the test!” We are given guidelines by which to examine ourselves in Galatians 5:16-26. Here we are given a comparison and contrast of the deeds of the flesh (a person’s sin nature) and the fruit resulting from the presence, guidance and empowerment of the Holy Spirit in the Christian’s life. I’ve recognized I still have a few things I need to be working on. While the Holy Spirit is working with/on us, let me leave you with the blessing the LORD instructed Moses to have Aaron and his sons say to the people of Israel in Numbers 6:24-26 ESV:
“The Lord bless you and keep you;
25 the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
26 the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.”
Shalom, Pastor Bill
Making Waves: A pondering by Holly Woodbridge
Ephesians 5:15 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. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. 18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
When you drop a pebble in a puddle, it ripples. Whether the pebble is beautiful and shiny or scratched and gunky, it makes waves.
God dropped you and I into the puddle of humanity. We will make waves. The question is what kind of waves will we make. When I get angry or short with someone, they often pass that along to the next person they encounter. If I am cheerful and encouraging, that will more likely be passed on. If I continually exhibit wrong attitudes and words in front of my kids, they will likely pick it up. If I model generosity, they usually do the same. You are making waves.
The kids and I have been going through this Making Waves theme for the summer. We are learning that we can choose joy, choose kindness, choose patience, because we have been set free and we have the Holy Spirit to guide and strengthen us all along the way.
Our theme song is linked here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eLV93igPF0E
Now go make some waves for Jesus! You might even experience the joyful splash yourself!
Jim Cymbala is the Pastor of Brooklyn Tabernacle Church in New York City. Many people know him because of the amazing Choir ministry they have had there at their church in Brooklyn that has reached people all across the world for decades. There is, however, a much more substantial part of their ministry that is a shining beacon to the dark areas of that city that surrounds them. Often when I start losing a proper perspective on what ministry is really about, I think of the following story that Pastor Jim shares….
“It was Easter Sunday and I was so tired at the end of the day that I just went to the edge of the platform, pulled down my tie and sat down and draped my feet over the edge. It was a wonderful service with many people coming forward. The counselors were talking with these people.
As I was sitting there, I looked up the middle aisle, and there in about the third row was a man who looked about fifty, disheveled, filthy. He looked up at me rather sheepishly, as if saying, “Could I talk to you?” We have homeless people coming in all the time, asking for money or whatever. So as I sat there, I said to myself, though I am ashamed of it, “What a way to end a Sunday. I’ve had such a good time, preaching and ministering, and here’s a fellow probably wanting some money for more wine.”
He walked up. When he got within about five feet of me, I smelled a horrible smell like I’d never smelled in my life. It was so awful that when he got close, I would inhale by looking away, and then I’d talk to him, and then look away to inhale, because I couldn’t inhale facing him.
I asked him, “What’s your name?” “David.” “How long have you been on the street?” “Six years.” “How old are you?” “Thirty-two.” He looked fifty—hair matted, front teeth missing, wino, eyes slightly glazed. “Where did you sleep last night, David?” “Abandoned truck.”
I keep in my back pocket a money clip that also holds some credit cards. I fumbled to pick one out thinking, I’ll give him some money. I won’t even get a volunteer. They are all busy talking with others. Usually we don’t give money to people; we take them to get something to eat. I took the money out. David pushed his finger in front of me. He said, “I don’t want your money. I want this Jesus, the One you were talking about, because I’m not going to make it. I’m going to die on the street.”
I completely forgot about David, and I started to weep for myself. I was going to give a couple of dollars to someone God had sent to me. See how easy it is? I could make the excuse I was tired. There is no excuse. I was not seeing him the way God sees him. I was not feeling what God feels.
But oh, did that change! David just stood there. He didn’t know what was happening. I pleaded with God, “God, forgive me! Forgive me! Please forgive me. I am so sorry to represent You this way. I’m so sorry. Here I am with my message and my points, and You send somebody and I am not ready for it. Oh, God!”
Something came over me. Suddenly I started to weep deeper, and David began to weep. He fell against my chest as I was sitting there. He fell against my white shirt and tie, and I put my arms around him, and there we wept on each other. The smell of His person became a beautiful aroma. Here is what I thought the Lord made real to me: If you don’t love this smell, I can’t use you, because this is why I called you where you are. This is what you are about. You are about this smell.
Christ changed David’s life. He started memorizing portions of Scripture that were incredible. We got him a place to live. We hired him in the church to do maintenance, and we got his teeth fixed. He was a handsome man when he came out of the hospital. They detoxed him in 6 days.
He spent that Thanksgiving at my house. He also spent Christmas at my house. When we were exchanging presents, he pulled out a little thing, and he said, “This is for you.” It was a little white hanky. It was the only thing he could afford.
A year later, David got up and talked about his conversion to Christ. The minute he took the mic and began to speak, I said, “The man is a preacher.” This past Easter, we ordained David. He is an associate minister of a church over in New Jersey.
And I was so close to saying, “Here, take this; I’m a busy preacher.”
I wish I could say I have learned my ministry lesson about this. In the spirit of true confession, I find myself re-learning it over and over. We obviously have a job to do here at Wanamaker whether we are clergy or laity. It is easy to get caught up in the machine of ministry. We can get so full of ourselves and lose sight of keeping the main thing…the main thing.
I think it is important to thank the Lord for sending others our way. The reality is we need them as much as they need us. Matthew 25 reminds us that in the presence of the one who needs a cup of cold water we see the face of Christ. John Wesley would claim that only as we consistently find ourselves in the presence of the needy and downtrodden will the Church truly be sanctified. May we never stop seeing the ones that God sends our way as His precious children no matter how busy or tired we become.
PAIN OF A SPLINTER
Have you ever had a teeny tiny splinter in your foot; so small a splinter you can hardly see it? And yet when you try to remove it, it can be enough to make a grown man wince with pain or even cry. I recall when my daughter had a little sticker in her foot that needed to be removed. She would scream and yell at the top of her voice; even before you touched her foot. She yelled so loud that a close friend four houses away heard her screaming and came running to see what was wrong. To this day both of my daughters will cringe and say NO, if I offer to remove a splinter or sticker from their foot or hand, because they know I will complete the task (I can dig it).
I’m so thankful that Christ completed the task for us. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)
His sufferings were much greater than just a mere splinter, but rather from a spear and old crude nails which left their evidence as Christ urged Thomas to “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.” (John 20:27)
Now if we are afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effective for enduring the same sufferings which we also suffer. Or if we are comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation. (2 Corinthians 1:6)
Just as you and I face irritations in life that poke and jab at our flesh, our spirit, our will to do what is right, Paul faced the same issues of which he called them “a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.”
So, when we suffer from the splinters of life, may way we place our faith and trust in Jesus as our Savior, our Lord, and the one who holds the tweezers to both remove the splinters of life from us, and or remove us from the splinters of life into his eternal kingdom. But, in the interim, may we face each situation with the affirmation of Paul: Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 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 12:9-10)
Yours in Christ,
Rev. Jerry Schmid
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.(Romans 8:1)
A few years ago, when my wife and I were looking at buying a house, we came across one that was a significant fixer-upper. It sat vacant for some time, decaying and falling further into disrepair. When we viewed the house, we could tell it was only one step away from being condemned by the city and torn down. Perhaps you've seen a house like that. It looks a little haunted, with boarded up windows and a sinking foundation. These sites are sad remnants of their former glory, when they were new, strong, and beautiful. When my wife and I were looking at properties, we knew that no matter how hard I worked, this home was beyond repair.
Sometimes we treat others like an old house that has fallen into disrepair. We look at the product of their lives and say something like, "There's no way." Or, "They're too far gone." Or, "They'll never change." But our God is a master builder. God always sees through the disrepair and damage and still chooses to rebuild. He gives every opportunity to begin the hard, sometimes long and painful work of rebuilding. And friends, this is good news! Through faith in Christ, God forgives us, loves, and brings us new life. What's old has passed away. He's doing a new thing in each of us.
God refused to leave you in your condemned state when you came to him. The same is true to everyone around us. So, let's keep introducing people to Christ!
As Jesus stood before Pilate to answer the charge, “Are you a King?” note both Jesus’ answer and Pilate’s response.
“Pilate therefore said to Him, so, you are a king?”
Jesus answered, “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice.” Pilate said to Him, “What is truth?”
Reflect with me for a moment; Jesus says He came into the world to bear witness (testify) to the truth. He then qualifies His statement with these words, “Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice.”
In contrast, Pilate seems to speak for our culture today when he asks, “What is truth?”
Socrates searched for it, Einstein longed for it, Leonardo DE Vinci attempted to paint it and Isaac Newton looked for it through the lens of mathematical equations.
Jesus gave us the answer to “What is truth?” He said, “I am the way the truth and the light.”
Today, if you are struggling with Pilate’s question, you will find your answer in Jesus. Seventy eight times in the gospels Jesus says, “I tell you the truth.” His written word is truth. Truth is a reality, yet our culture and our tendency is to look for a viable alternative.
Put your faith in His truth, remembering, faith is believing the promises of God!
I was raised in a family that was Christian in name only. My father was an alcoholic, non-practicing Roman Catholic and mom a non-practicing Mormon. Both sides of the family rejected the other and my sister and I were left spiritually adrift.
As I matured I followed in the footsteps of at least 3 previous generations of Ritchey males leading me into alcoholism, abuse of other substances and a licentious lifestyle. This lifestyle led me into a skid row period that involved me sleeping in an old garage on a dirt alley. After several negative experiences with church I developed a hatred for organized religion but I still “kind of” believed in GOD. In September of 1983 I was out looking for something to hang myself with in that garage – I just wanted to end my abusive lifestyle. But GOD . . .
I know now that the great I AM met me in my despair, empowered me to overcome my resistance to a religious, spiritual life and when I heard the Gospel for the first time it was outside of a church setting. I was then led into a local church where I became baptized and discipled into a Biblical worldview. Shortly I was introduced to both rescue mission and preaching ministries – I have become a new creation in Christ with a calling (2 Cor. 5:17-19).
What in the world was I thinking??? Why didn’t someone tell me how hard it was to pack up a house that you have lived in for 45 years and move to a new location? I am finding that change is hard no matter how big or how small that change may be. The trouble with me is I start the “what if” games in my mind. What if this and what if that and if I do this then what about that????
I know in my heart that God has orchestrated all of this and He has all the “what if’s” figured out. I just have to lean hard on Him so that my anxiety level doesn’t get out of hand! Whew!
I listed my house on Monday and it went on the market on Tuesday. Had someone come look at it on Tuesday eveningand they made a full price offer on Wednesday morning! I was able to purchase a house from a lady in Downs, that’s where I will be moving to, even before it hit the market for a very low price. So I have no doubt that God has all this planned out. I just have to hang on as I fly through the doors He has opened!
Then I look around and there are boxes and boxes of “stuff” I haven’t touched in years! It is very mind boggling. As I have been going through things that have been in storage for years I have once again realized how much “stuff” we accumulate and stuff in boxes when we don’t know what else to do with it. Some stuff that are precious memories and some is just plain stuff!
As I think about this I can relate it to our spiritual walk. How many times do we just stuff things into areas of our heart that is just plain stuff because we really didn’t want to deal with it at the time? Hard feelings, hurts, bad experiences, anger, jealousy, precious memories, and the list goes on. You fill in the blanks! I really believe we all need to clean the “closets” of our heart and throw away any trash that doesn’t belong there, any hard feelings that are still hurting relationships, and any un-forgiveness that is hindering our spiritual growth. Maybe we need to carefully box up the precious memories and the precious moments that need to be saved and throw all the rest away! Some of the boxes in my store room have been there for years and I had forgotten what was even in them.
Sometimes it’s the same with our hearts! We have hard feelings towards someone or are angry at someone and we have forgotten why we are even angry or what happened to hurt the relationship. Sometimes it causes us to relive things and the “what if’s “start all over again! Going through the boxes can invoke feelings that come with stirring up old memories and some of those things I just tossed in the trash! Figured I hadn’t read those journals for 20 years so why stir up all those hurtful or dumb feelings now! So I just put them through the shredder without even opening them up! And you know it actually felt good! It was a part of my hurtful past that was under the blood of Jesus and because of that I could actually finally be rid of any old feelings that I forgot I had.
Perhaps maybe you have some of those same feelings and hurtful memories that you need to put through the shredder! All I know is that it has felt so good to finally be rid of all the junk and be able to declutter my life as I cleaned out my storeroom. It also gave me time to reflect on how good God has been to me over the years! And I was also able to praise Him for what He is doing in my life now and for the many doors He has opened and is going to open for me to minister in my new location. But best of all I can move without all the “stuff” that has been cluttering my life for years!
I remember accepting Christ when I was 6 years old (my parents will say I was younger than that even, but agree to disagree). I never had any reason to doubt my faith. At a revival event around the age of 10, I felt a very distinct call to the mission field, and knew beyond any shadow of a doubt that I would be serving God in Taiwan. At age 14 I got caught up a sinful lifestyle that plagues many men from their teens on, and my faith suffered for it. God got ahold of me again at age 17, and my call undeniably shifted. I began working at the local Homeless Shelter and again, I knew beyond any shadow of a doubt that I would be doing urban missions for the rest of my life. About 7 years later, I once again felt my calling shift, and began pursuing Church ministry as a pastor. I have now been doing pastoral ministry for as long as I was doing homeless outreach, and feel amazingly fulfilled, as one will when they’re pursuing their God-given calling.
My point in going over all this is that at 30 years old, I have felt three distinct calls. Does the fact that I am now pursuing a call as a pastor mean that the previous calls were invalid? I don’t believe so. As you are serving Christ in whatever capacity He has called you to, remember that we are called to be servants first and foremost. Don’t be afraid of change if it means serving God the way He needs you to.
The Who of Provision: A pondering by Holly Woodbridge
When Adam and Eve walked in the garden, God provided every meal.
When Israel faced a turbulent Red Sea, God provided a dry path.
When the widow had one last meal, God provided unending oil and flour
When we were dying in sin, lost and alone, God provided a Savior
There is NO time, no event, no experience, when that God does not provide.
My stroke and the recovery following can seem so long, frustrating, and even scary at times, but as I walk through those moments, again and again I am reminded:
When I am weak, He is strong,
When I fear, He assures,
When bills run high, His generosity abounds,
When I doubt, He gives hope,
When I stumble, He holds,
Even in death God provides eternal life. There is NOTHING that He cannot provide for. For if we look closer at all of these, HE is the provision.
And HE is always enough.
11 For the LORD God is a sun and shield;
the LORD bestows favor and honor.
No good thing does he withhold
from those who walk uprightly.
6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.
The other day Pastor Holmes was reading this passage during one of the recent funerals here at Wanamaker Woods. I have memorized this passage. I have written songs about his passage. I have even in my youth translated line by line this passage from the original language. All of a sudden in that sacred space, where people were encountering God in the midst of their grief, I felt like I was hearing this passage for the very first time. I know it has been a powerful passage for people reflecting on their faith in the midst of death. I also have come to know that it is a powerful passage to reflect on as we journey right now through life in this world.
This vision of the future is full of echoes of Eden; a river, the tree of life, God’s presence with humanity; but there are a few important differences too. Instead of a garden we have a garden city. Instead of the sun fueling life, God is the sole source of life and light. The curse of death has gone and instead of just two people seeing God face-to-face, the nations enjoy His presence. God’s story ends with an expansion of where it began; the whole of creation in perfect peace(shalom) with God and itself.
Do you ever wonder why God gives us these pictures of the end (or new beginnings depending on how you look at it) in the scriptures. They seem to function in two major ways for the people of God. Firstly, they function as promise. Even as we struggle in a world that is groaning beneath the weight of brokenness and mortality, John’s vision brings future hope into our daily present. When you are daily taking it on the chin, you can keep your chin up because in the end Jesus wins the battle.
It also functions as paradigm. Since this is the kind of world God is preparing for us, we live towards that vision now. The book of Revelation shows us that the destiny of the community of God’s people is to be fully inhabited by heaven. As a follower of Jesus, filled with His Spirit, I am a forerunner, a citizen of this future hope here and now. I carry the shalom of God into a troubled world that desperately needs it. I daily pray…Your Kingdom Come Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven, and then I go out and seek to be an answer to prayer.
This morning as you think about the tree of life, with healing leaves. Where does someone I know, need God’s healing emotionally, mentally, physically or relationally today?
This morning as you imagine the river flowing from God’s throne, bringing life everywhere it goes. Where in my community are we experiencing death and decay? Picturing God’s life-bringing action as a river flowing into this place or problem, I pray for it now.
Would you close with me in reciting the Lord’s prayer today?
‘Our Father in heaven,
Hallowed by Your name,
Your kingdom come
Your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven…’
Have you ever tried to change the weather from rain or snow in to the pleasant warmth of sun and breeze? How’d that work out for you? I like to call it “Weather Faith”; changing the weather into just exactly what we desire, rather than what it is or will be. As I tell my family, stop worrying over the weather, we’ll take what we get, like it or not.
Matthew 5:45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
If farming teaches anything, it teaches one simple rule, “Weather Faith”; you might as well be patient because God is in control of the weather. He is not a forecaster; He is the Master of it all.
James 5:6-8 Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain. You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.
You can till the soil, plant the seed, but cannot supply the weather to make it grow. Likewise, you can prepare a person to know Christ, but only God can change their heart that by His Grace they receive salvation, then by their yielding to God in faith, can they grow and produce fruit.
Whatever you are longing to see come to fruition in your life or the lives of your family, try having a little “Weather Faith”; take it out of your hands and place it in the only one who can, the only one who is in total control of whatever Weather of life comes your way.
Romans 8:27-29 And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will. And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.
You are Chosen by God, have Weather Faith and allow God to do the rest!
Yours in Christ,
Rev. Jerry Schmid
THE EXCLUSIVENESS OF CHRIST
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
Is it not humiliating to be told that we must come to Jesus! Think of the things
we will not come to Jesus Christ about.
If you want to know how real you are, test yourself by these words - "Come to Me."
In every degree in which you are not real,
to do is to "come."
"Come to Me."When you hear these words you will know that something
must happen in you before you can come.
The Holy Spirit will show you what you have to do, anything at all that will put the axe at the root of the thing which is preventing you from getting through.
You will never get further until you are willing to do that one thing.
The Holy Spirit will locate the one impregnable thing in you,
While all the time God has stood with outstretched hands not only to take you,
but for you to take Him. Think of the invincible, unconquerable patience of Jesus saying,
"Come to Me."
I do not understand what I do... For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. (Romans 7:15,19)
I'm as human as the next guy. One minute I'm seeking God in prayer. The next minute I'm in a very unnecessary argument with my wife. I can worship passionately at church, only to criticize someone on the drive home. One day I'm very involved with my kids and helping around the house. The next day I'm too busy to notice them.
Many days I wonder if I'll ever get it right.
Not only is it hard to serve God fully when things are going my way; it's even harder to be faithful to him when things don't go my way. You likely know what I'm talking about. You try to get ahead financially, but then your car or the air conditioner or your dishwasher breaks down, and you slip even farther behind. You work as hard as you can to get promoted into your dream job, only to get passed over for that annoying person you can barely stand. More and more it seems that when you decide to live for God with all your heart, everything bad breaks loose in your life.
Which makes it really hard to do what you know you want to do. The more you fight to get things right, the more frustrated you become. That's why I think we must always remember this simple truth: Jesus has already won the battle for you. All you have to do is follow his lead.
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’
Our local church espouses four core values.
Know – God intimately
Grow – In community with others
Serve – With a ministry team
Share - In Christ’s mission
I have personally been pursuing what it means to know God intimately. It is apparent it is more than just having a relationship, although that is where the journey begins, it is about being in a relationship.
The term "being" implies not only a relationship, but also a commitment to the relationship. It implies a daily renewing and investment in the One you really want to know.
Matthew 7:21-23 has captured my attention in a big way. It emphasizes that we can say and do all the right things and yet miss the mark.
This reality has helped me to focus my efforts in not only knowing Christ, but also focus on Him knowing me!
My husband and I follow a cartoon strip called “Pickles,” heartily identifying with the elderly couple depicted there. The two race in and out of hilarious situations, always good for a laugh. In a recent series, however, they encountered a challenge common to man, and their way of dealing with it, while humorous, spotlighted the type of attitudes that tend to creep in when we let our guard down.
Earl and Opal had each lost an item belonging to the other. Being equally at fault, neither felt justified in being angry with their mate, but oh, how they wanted to! So their solution? Completely independently and unknown to each other, they embarked on a race to find the items they had lost, hoping to claim the “right” to be angry with their spouse.
I laughed through that entire series, and still find myself giggling when I think about it; it was just so human. And that’s exactly what it was – human! Certainly not godly.
It’s human to look at things from a negative perspective, and to resort to anger when our “rights” or our boundaries have been violated. That’s the sin nature rearing its ugly head. But God calls us to rise above the world’s way of thinking and look at things from His perspective. “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” I Thess. 5:18. “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” I Peter 5:8. There are dozens of other Scripture verses that focus on the same theme: choose to rise above. Take the high road! Challenges come; problems arise. But God’s will for us is NOT that we look around for someone to blame, or to claim our “right” to be angry. God’s will is that we look beyond the circumstances to the joy set before us and live a life of love.
In Matthew 6:25-33, Jesus Christ is teaching about not letting anxiety and fear dominate your life. The Phillips translation ends this passage by saying in verse 34, “Don’t worry at all then about tomorrow. Tomorrow can take care of itself! One day’s trouble is enough for one day.”
A lot can happen in one day! I believe this passage is a great stress-buster for handling life in today’s world. A lot of stress is caused by unfounded fears and anxieties (or maybe even real ones) that grip our hearts. I propose the solution our Lord offers us: Live one day at a time, trusting God.
Why? BECAUSE WE CAN’T CONTROL TOMORROW! Proverbs 27:1 says, “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring.”
It is very easy in this culture to put our faith in government, economy, social contacts, etc. – but our primary focus must be on GOD’s will and plan. Proverbs 16:9 says “The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.”
I’m not saying to not make plans; that would be foolish. But neither is it wise to get too attached to those plans. The best way is to have faith in GOD’s will, which will never let us down. We can only live this life one day at a time! Although I learned this principal long ago at traditional secular recovery meetings, the concept has been reinforced numerous times in my Biblical studies. I’ve been working at this for several decades now, not always successfully! But the more success I have in following this road, the more peace I experience in my day-to-day life. My prayer for you would be that you experience this peace also.
Shalom, Pastor Bill
60 Second Stories
After Jesus rose from the dead early on Sunday morning, the first person who saw him was Mary Magdalene, the woman from whom he had cast out seven demons. She went to the disciples, who were grieving and weeping, and told them what had happened. But when she told them that Jesus was alive and she had seen him, they didn’t believe her. Afterward he appeared in a different form to two of his followers who were walking from Jerusalem into the country. They rushed back to tell the others, but no one believed them. Still later he appeared to the eleven disciples as they were eating together. He rebuked them for their stubborn unbelief because they refused to believe those who had seen him after he had been raised from the dead. And then he told them, “Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone.
One of the 1stthings Jesus told his disciples after he rose from the dead was to Go into the world and preach the Gospel. It was also the last command He gave His disciples before ascending into Heaven. Sharing the Gospel is our mission as Christians. Sometimes we struggle with this task. This can be because of irrational fears we have about how people will react. We might not know how to share.
One of the best ways to share Jesus is with our own stories. Our stories don’t have to be long or elaborate. You don’t need a degree to know how to share your story. Here are a few questions that can help you share your story with others in 60 seconds or less.
Who is Jesus to you?
Has God ever given you hope in a dark time?
How has your life changed since you heard about Jesus?
Has God ever helped you grow in patience, kindness, or courage?
What gifts has God given you?
What prayer has God answered?
What are you learning about God right now?
No get out there and preach the Good News to everyone.
In Philippians 3, Paul talks about how we cannot rely on our own human strength to accomplish the work of Salvation. He spends verses 4-6 listing all the things he had accomplished, before saying that he counts them all as a loss for the sake of Christ in verse 7.
So many of us have this innate drive to accomplish something, and be recognized for it. We may not tell ourselves that’s what we’re doing, but we’re always chasing the better job, bigger house, or nicer car. Many of us transition that way of thinking into our faith as well. We accomplish things for the kingdom, but our motivation becomes one of a spiritual self-accomplishment.
Why do we do things for the kingdom? Not because they make us look good, but because God has asked us to take part in His mission with him. Paul wraps up his thought by saying this: “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:12-14)
Press on, brothers and sisters!
WHO’S IN CHARGE?: A Pondering by Holly Woodbridge
Imitating Christ’s Humility
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
he(Jesus) humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death--
even death on a cross!
9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
Who is in Charge? God
Who is Jesus obedient to? God
Who raises Jesus up? God
I Peter 5
2 Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; 3 not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. 4 And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.
5 In the same way, you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because,
“God opposes the proud
but shows favor to the humble.”
6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.
Who is in Charge? God
Who are we to be obedient to? God
Who raises us up? God
Jesus shows and Paul tells each of us how to live in these passages. We are called to submit to God, to serve, to put others needs ahead of our own, to live in humility.
Bosses, CEOs, Kings, teachers, even pastors, tell us how to live, work, and behave. However, Jesus didn’t just tell us how to live, He showed us.
So, when I raise my hands in worship to my Savior, I should be just as ready to use these hands to welcome a newcomer or change a diaper in the nursery or deliver a meal to a housebound friend. Christ lived His whole life on earth in humility, in obedience. If my King does that, what should I be doing?
As I have learned to walk again since the stroke, and maybe soon run again, I am learning humility again. I may wobble, I may even fall down, but I choose to serve wobbly. I choose to live in humility. I choose to trust in my Lord, that He may raise me up in due time. Because HE is in charge of my life and all I have, all I am is His. What about you?
I consider everything a loss in comparison with the superior value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. I have lost everything for him, but what I lost I think of as sewer trash, so that I might gain Christ and be found in him. In Christ I have a righteousness that is not my own and that does not come from the Law but rather from the faithfulness of Christ. It is the righteousness of God that is based on faith. The righteousness that I have comes from knowing Christ, the power of his resurrection, and the participation in his sufferings. It includes being conformed to his death so that I may perhaps reach the goal of the resurrection of the dead.
Being a follower of Jesus is sort of strange if we are being honest. Think about it. What other organization's or club's sales pitch is, if you join us, not only do you get to consistently sacrifice of yourself but you are even called to be conformed to death with our founder! It doesn't sound that appealing on the surface, but billions of people have signed up for just that life.
Why would anyone do that? I think it is because, in God’s upside-down kingdom, gain is loss, and loss is gain. We find our greatest value not when we create gain for ourselves but when we give of ourselves, sacrificing and creating a Kingdom shaped world.
If you have ever been on a mission trip, helped someone else, or given of yourself for a greater cause, you know exactly what I am talking about. The idea of loss is gain may seem strange at first, but in God’s upside-down kingdom it makes perfect sense. The only real way to see is to take God at His word and give it a holy try. There are hosts of folk who have found it to be true. Hey, what have you got to lose???
I am so grateful that your ways are not our ways, God.
If it were up to me, I would just do for myself, look after myself, and care only for myself. I am so grateful that you save me from myself.
God, thank you for your call to sacrifice. In that sacrifice we find you.
“What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God Has Freely given us.” 1 Corinthians 2:12
Reality is Redemption, not my experience of Redemption;
Redemption has no meaning for me until it speaks the language of my conscious life.
When I am born again, the Spirit of God takes me right out of myself and my experiences,and identifies me with Jesus Christ.
If I am left with my experiences, my experiences have not been produced by Redemption.
The proof that they are produced by Redemption is that I am led out of myself all the time,I no longer pay any attention to my experiences as the ground of Reality, but only to the Reality which produced the experiences.
My experiences are not worth anything unless they keep me at the Source, Jesus Christ.
If you try to dam up the Holy Spirit in you to produce subjective experiences, you will find that He will burst all bounds and take you back again to the historic Christ.
“Never nourish an experience which has not God as its Source and faith in God as its result.”
If you do, your experience is anti-Christian, no matter what visions you may have had.
Faith that is sure of itself is not faith; faith that is sure of God is the only faith there is.
"You will call on me and come to me and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." (Jeremiah 29:12-13)
On occasion, I find myself having to state the obvious to my kids. For instance, the other day, one of my kids was looking for their shoes. Now, my kids' shoes are rarely put away. And for some strange reason, they never seem to be where they took them off last. So, when we are in a hurry to go somewhere, it's always quite frustrating when a child can't find their shoes. They "look" but can't find them. They search "everywhere" but still can't locate the missing shoes. Usually by the time a parent has to start looking, I find myself having to state the obvious: you have to actually use your eyes and look down on the floor for your shoes. Most of the time, the shoes were so close to them, the child just couldn't see them.
It's frustrating and inconvenient when we misplace something important to us. We have to retrace our steps, searching for the missing item in obvious places, then it always seems to be in some place we never expected. Here's something I've learned: you can never find it if you never start looking.
Sometimes we may feel like we've lost our faith, or that somehow God is no longer close to us. We feel powerless, untethered from our anchor. We get scared that we'll never be close to God again. But Jeremiah reminds us that all you have to do is call out to your Father. God is never far away. He's right here with you right now. When you seek Him with all your heart, you discover that he was there all along.
Notes from the Staff @The Woods