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Christianity is about dying

Christianity is about dying

Jesus came to give his life as a ransom for sinners. He went to calvary to die my death- His death dealt with my sin and sins. As a believer and follower of Christ, Galatians 2:20 tells me to follow Him- dying to self, fleshly desires so Christ would reign through the Holy Spirit in me.

All other religions Baha’i Islam Hindu Buddha it appears is directed to eliminate the problem either through their death or to negate them through mind elimination

Christianity is about restoration of relationships with God, man and creation

The cross dealt with sin and sins to erase the strife and source of separation from God whereas In Other religions the goal is to gratify, satisfy or actualize oneself

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Covid-19 sheep

covid- 19

With the return back to the church buildings is there more interest in taking care of the church- pastor – or the sheep? The time during the virus appeared to be more about keeping the sheep/church giving and corralled. The hurry about coming back to the building is corralling- sheep thrive in the open pastures under the care of the shepherd. For there the sheep are “organic church” not hemmed up sheep. The concern should be for the health and welfare of the sheep/people not to re-corral the sheep again. The church has thrived being let loose during this virus, why are we in such a hurry to pen them up again?

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How then shall we live?

I was going to post a blog with my take on the corona virus- I discovered that I really don’t know what my take is on it. I’m distraught about the global impact it has had and lives affected and infected by it.

Many say it was caused by a blunder in the laboratory others say an attempt by God to get our attention. Who’s attention? The worlds or the Churches? I’ve even heard that this is Gods way of getting old churches to move toward more modern relevant services.

I don’t know how this will all turn out in the end. All I know is what I’m going through as a believer in Jesus Christ. I could easily make myself frenzied by concluding this is the end of the world. This wouldn’t help – I still would have unanswered questions.

I see the worse in humanity as it binge buys for fear of not having – that or driven by the media hype. So what will I do? Encourage those around me and try to be a calming spirit to those in fear.

I’m going to keep believing and trusting in Gods plan as it unfolds. Many saints have gone before me/ pray many after me as well. The saints before me are the testimony I need to be found faithful in my day so that those that come after me will likewise have someone to point them to Jesus and give testimonies of the grace and mercy of our Sovereign Lord. All this to say Jesus is Lord. Romans 8:31-39

Who can separate us from the love of God? nothing absolutely Nothing!!

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20/20 corrected Vision

 

As we are on the cusp of a new year and a new decade, many things come to mind that will or could happen over the next year or ten years. The Church is going through a difficult time, as is most of the World. How we look at the next 12 months, we will have a pending decision on an impeachment of President Trump and a national election. The world will get through the year regardless. But as we look from the vantage point of the Church and our Lord Jesus, we have a different perspective. It is imperative that we see with the eyes of God!

I was talking with Pastor Richard Scott the other day about the new year; and it came to mind that it is 2020. I started playing around with the idea of 20/20 vision and the myriad of issues with getting corrected vision. In this time of the Church and world events, I began to think about how to get a proper perspective on all that is happening in our world. Vision problems can occur rapidly or degrade over a lifetime. Sometimes a person may not even realize that their eyesight has gotten worse until there is a vision evaluation. As we look forward to a New Year of ministry; we are all challenged on what that might look like.
If we the Church are to fulfill our Great Commission, then we are going to need Good Vision to see clearly what needs to be done and how to accomplish it. Primarily I believe there needs to be a greater thrust towards evangelism from our local churches. I know so much is being said and done about “making disciples;” and rightly so. But our task begins with sharing the Gospel with the Lost. So, if we are to have “20/20 ministerial vision,” we will mostly likely need to have our “vision corrected.”
Some of the problems with vision from the scripture are listed below. I give these as suggestions for reflection and application as needed. You may even want to use this topic as a series for your church as you set forth ministry objectives for 2020.
1. Beam in your eye, speck in your brothers – Matthew 7:4
2. Without a Vision the people perish – Proverbs 29:18
3. Blind Bartimaeus story – Mark 10:46-52
4. The Eye is the window to the soul – Matthew 6:22-24
5. Blind Guides – Matthew 23:24
6. Blind leading the Blind – Matthew 15:14
When we think about almost all of us wear glasses or something to correct our vision. Sometimes the problem might be cataracts, astigmatism, near or far sightedness; cornea or macular degeneration, to name a few hinderances. These problems are normally corrected through surgery [Lasik], glasses or lenses.
What about our spiritual eyes? How do we view our current reality? What does 2020 hold for you? Just another year of slugging through ministry? There is an old saying looking through “rose-colored” glasses; to see things as we want instead of how they really appear. I think the worse condition would be to have complete loss of vision; being blinded intentionally [turning a blind eye to things] or unintentionally. In our full schedules we all can be suspect to “missing the forest for the trees.”
Before we get too far into the new year; we all could benefit from an introspection of our views about culture, church, ministry and personal lives. I’m not sure how each of you will receive these thoughts, but for me, I know that I must get a 20/20 focus for God’s plans for His Kingdom.
There are many distractions today to cause us to be out of focus. Let’s all strive for singleness of mind – Jeremiah 32:29! We all need a fresh Vision from God!
Oh, don’t forget Jeremiah Winter Bible Study January 12th -15th at Family Unity 6:30-8pm nightly. Refreshments provided. Call Caroline and sign-up.
Blessings for a Great and prosperous New Year!
Bro. Jim

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Kill The Mole!

Mountains and Mole Hills
In ministry pastors and ministers are encouraged, almost challenged to make sure they don’t lose perspective of what is most important. Clichés such as “Don’t sweat the small stuff; and everything is small stuff.” Another one would be “Keep the Main thing the Main thing.” These all sound well as long as everything is going well. When a revitalizer or minister finds himself in a negative environment it is difficult to remember that we were “suppose to drain the pool; all the while fighting the alligators!”
While I lived in Illinois, I encountered a nemesis, really a pest! It seems that my aggravation would come from a little creature called a Mole! I would wake up in the morning and stroll around our two acres and notice these ugly places where the ground had been bulged; better known as Mole Runs. I then would try to set traps and various other means in an attempt to catch this little varmint. I found that if you wait long enough, the little critter will move and then I would pounce on its slightest twitch of the ground with a shovel to dig it up and expose it to the bright sun! Needless to say, the mole usually escaped my tenacious tactics to rid my lawn of these pests.
I say all that to give an illustration in ministry about making a mountain out of a Mole Hill! Yes, I have dug up great mounds of dirt to try and get rid of a pesky little rodent. If one is not careful you can actually do more damage than the mole does.
When there is a negative environment within the church, we have a couple of options. You could approach it with vigor and relentlessness to rid yourself and the church of the problem – but in the meantime do more damage than good. Like my mole problem, I had to understand that my issue was not the damaged lawn, but that which lie under the surface. Too many times we get so focused on the negative “surface” that we fail to take into account there is something bigger at work. Again, “Don’t make a mountain out of a Mole Hill.”
In dealing with a problem, first Identify what the real problem is, don’t assume you know what the cause of the conflict is all about. We do not wrestle against flesh and blood [Ephesians6:10-18]. We often attribute the cause of our frustration is what we see; yet often it what’s we don’t see below the surface at work. In Church Revitalization it is imperative that proper diagnosis be made. If there is misidentification of the SOURCE of the problem, you are going to waste effort and resources fighting against the wrong culprit. Identification of the ROOT is necessary, for if we just treat the surface animal; the animal will have the ability to come back and repeat the destruction and havoc it did previously.
Secondly, Simplify the issue. We just make circumstances and personal issues bigger than they really are. I may think that my lawn is overrun with Moles and that the entire yard of grass will be destroyed. Now, there is a possibility of a lot of damage when a negative conflict arises – but the revitalizer must make sure He isn’t the one making the mess. Simplifying an issue often takes time and further investigation. For example, I had to talk to other people who had moles – yes there are people that are battling the same pesky varmints we are fighting! How did they deal with them? Do I focus on eliminating the Moles and thus dig up my own yard trying to get them; or can I eliminate them by taking away what is attracting them to my yard. Moles eat grubs; get rid of the grubs and the Moles will move to another area – Oh, yeah, your neighbors won’t like you – but you will be free from the pests. Now that really isn’t very Christian is it – because all we did was pass our problem off to another “church”, so we really didn’t deal with the problem, we just made it NOT OUR PROBLEM anymore. To work through a negative situation, break it down into simple stated facts. Deal with what you know, not what you have been told. Make the problem manageable. Eliminate the ‘We and they; Us and them” language. Once you identify the various parts of the problem, simplify each prong and address the necessary action to resolve it. Which brings me to the third point -Rectify the problem.
Rectify is used in electricity. A rectifier is used to change an alternating current [A/C] into a Direct Current. [D/C] A lot of tools and other electrical equipment uses D/C, not A/C. It is rectified [changed] so that the power is useable. I think you get the point, if there is a problem environment, CHANGE the problem to a positive. By rectifying a problem use turn the negative into a positive; which then can be useful in Kingdom work. How do you go about rectifying a problem? Know what you are dealing with up front; know what you need as a result or resource; then take leadership and managerial steps to switch the unusable into the useable. Obviously, one will have to experiment at times to get the best out of a bad situation. Rectifying takes more work that eliminating the problem. We all have people that have great skills and talents, but often seem like a pest or worse an adversary when you and I try to do the work of the ministry. Don’t shove the problem off to another church; deal with what you have been given. As a point – you may be the one that needs to be rectified!
Finally, after taking the bull by the horns so to speak, you then can move to a Glorify position. God sends us people to be used for His kingdom. Our struggle often is we don’t know how to use what we have been given. I did find out that the pesky Mole was good for the yard, it aeriated it and ate all the grubs that would destroy my lawn. In conflict, there is the possibility that God meant it for Good what we thought was bad. I was a pastor for 22 years; there were many times that I would erupt over a small issue. I could explode inside with rage about how someone was unwilling to accept that I knew what I was doing – “Work with me here” seemed to be my lament. Scripture tells us that “Iron Sharpens Iron;” could it be that we have become dull and the Lord needed to send a sharpener? In the end by dealing with a negative situation, God gets the Glory. Neglecting or refusing to address the problem will only increase our frustration and desire to “Kill the Mole.”

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Ethos and Exhaustion

Reading many of the Psalms one cannot but recognize that there are two worlds for the writers; the world of hurt and the world of the holy. What I mean by this is that the Psalms writers seem to “cry out” to the Lord routinely; but then resort back to praise for the Almighty. This isn’t strange, for we all find ourselves in an up and down type of living. One day we are lifted above all the circumstances and evils of the day, the next we are overwhelmed by it all. The crying out stems from the abuse or ill-treatment by the world against the writers. David wrote many of his Psalms based upon the attacks of King Saul and his armies that tried to destroy the “already anointed” next king of Israel. Familiar phrases like “incline your ear to my cry” or “I cry all day long” are repeated in these five Psalms 86-91. This has to be frustrating to seemingly live above the “junk” only to find that you get sucked back into it.

Ethos the heart ache or spirit of our humanity is very fragile. I guess I could also include the “Ego” or countenance of a person in this blog. Humanity is a very fragile spirit. It doesn’t take much for believers or unredeemed people to become “exhausted” with the constant barrage of the “ills of life.” The Psalms writers consistently ask the LORD to hear them, to answer them in their prayers and agonizing. This would seem to give the impression that the Lord God is far removed from His people – there are many who think that is what God did in creation; leaving us to our own devices and tactics to live out life without his interference or help. Nothing could be further from the truth!

I know that when my “spirit” is troubled it is hard to focus and function. The continuous grind of daily living does take it toll on us. I believe that is part of the reason the LORD God commanded that the Sabbath to be observed. The rest was of all creation, animal and man. In a “dog-eat dog world” where it seems that everyone is out for number one; so many are consumed by the evils nd the emotions of daily living. Our present culture proves this in that so many vices have been tried to ease the pain of life. The vices range from porn, drugs, illicit sex, euphoric experiences, multiple jobs, partners and the list goes on. All with out easing the frustration and pain of daily life.. Now, granted the Psalmist were being attacked, ridiculed and bad-mouthed. But if the evils of this life are found only in words against us; should we not rise above all of it? It is good that the writers to turn to the LORD for help. The LORD is our strength and ever-present help in time of need. He is our Rock, our fortress, deliverer and lover of our soul. We are the sheep of His pasture – our God empathizes with our hurts and pains. HE tells us “come to me all who are weak and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Rest – not a good nights sleep, but restored strength in the midst of harsh days. [Isaiah 40:31]

Trust the Lord with all your heart; lean not unto your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths. [Proverbs 3:5-6]

Do not be overcome with evil; but overcome evil with good – and none are good except God!

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Character of Christmas

Christmas 2017 – The theme for my Christmas sermons is the Character of Christmas. I will be using Isaiah 9:6-7 as my text. In these two verses we find the descriptive nature of Jesus Christ. There is something about His name – Phil 2:5-11; we know that His name is the name above all names. He earned His name, through obedience to the Father in Heaven in all things. It was the plan of the God-head to send The Son into the world in the form of man. While Jesus is completely human in all aspects like us; he retrained His deity. The Son never ceased to be God. Some would hold that Jesus didn’t “get” his divinity until He was baptized; I  am not of that opinion. I would agree that His baptism – anointed Him for His Earthly ministry. Jesus is the earthly name given the Son of God; Christ is His title and Savior is His work.

In Isaiah 9:6-7 we find these names: Wonderful Counselor, Almighty God; Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace. These names [titles] are descriptive of the work Christ will accomplish. When we look at the book of Isaiah itself we find a context of religion and society that is very similar to our own in 2017. There was great corruption both in the Church and in politics. The prophet Isaiah ministered during the reigns of four kings. The fifth king is to be believed to have sawed Isaiah in two pieces. There were both national and international worries. The great Assyrian armies to the North were gaining power, while Israel [Northern Kingdom] and Samaria were crumbling. Isaiah lived from 730BC – 660 BC approx. His ministry was to restore the nation back to God. In 722 BC Samaria already fallen, is joined by Israel. The Promise of a deliverer  – the Messiah had already been prophesied. Yet still there seemed to be no answer or relief. In fact the situation would get worse; much worse before it got better. In ever imaginable aspect the people and nation were in crisis. The same could be said for America. Just when I think I have heard the most absurd atrocity, someone exceeds my imagination. The people and prophets were looking for an answer, but the answer did not come as they hoped. The book of Isaiah is about the promise of hope in the midst of God’s judgment of His people. In our own land, I find that many Christians are hoping for some “relief” answer so they will not have to be subjected to the holiness and righteousness of God. News flash, if God did not spare His elect Israel from punishment and captivity, why would we think we should escape?

In our time, I find we are in much the same situation. The Church/Christians have failed – not all but as a whole from obeying God’s word. The church has sought comfort and ease when it should have been loudly objecting to the immorality of our land. There are 1000 churches that will close this year. They will close because the members would rather die that become repentant toward God for their apathetic living out of the gospel. Jeremiah preached to Judah, yet Judah refused to listen; ultimately they were led away into captivity. In our American churches we have turned a deaf ear to “what the Spirit speaks to the churches.”

Just as there was an answer for Israel, albeit 700 years later; there will be an answer for our world also. There was hope of a Savior, yet when the Savior came, Israel rejected Him. It was through their rejection that the Gentiles [me] got access to the Gospel. Israel had the prophets, the prophecies and the Promise in their day and missed Jesus. We have history, archeological data and the preserved Word of God; yet we reject Jesus much like Israel did.

The last part of Isaiah 9:7 says “on the throne of David and over His kingdom; to establish it and uphold it with justice and righteousness.” Jesus came bringing salvation, for man was already in crisis of sin – doomed to eternity in Hell, separated from God. But Jesus came and is coming again – He is our Hope, the Light in the Darkness. The Answer – Jesus has come and is coming again!

Instead of looking for a Crisis Answer, let us look to Christ who is the Answer.

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