Pastor's Blog
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October 15, 2015, 10:37 AM

Is Your God Imprisoned?

It seems many people who claim to serve God do so as though He were an inmate at a prison.  Their only time spent with Him is once a week for an hour or so on “visiting day” at the place where He “resides.”  If something comes up that prevents them from keeping their appointment, the first few times they have a sense of remorse, regret, and sorrow.  After those initial absences, it becomes much easier to neglect their time with Him, yet it has no personal affect.  Like visiting an inmate at a prison, the whole process of spending time together can become viewed as too much of a hassle and not worth the effort. 

I honestly had never considered this analogy until this morning during my prayer time.  Have we imprisoned God?  Have we made worship little more than our “public visit with God?”  It seems most of us fail to realize how much God DESIRES to invest time with us.  He longs to develop a more intimate relationship with us, to touch us at the deepest part of our soul, and to provide us with the power we need to live a victorious life amidst the daily grind.  Intimacy comes only when we invest extended time one-on-one with God.  He can only empower us as we connect with Him at close range.  A once-per-week or a once-in-a-while visit with Him will never result in intimacy.  Worship is not just a Sunday event.  It is a daily occurrence in which we honor God, express our love and dependence on Him, allow Him to do whatever He sees needing to be done within us, and get with Him in a private setting where He gets all our attention.  He wants to lavish us with His love, but He cannot do that if we treat Him as though He is in prison. 

If we will free God to work in our lives by making Him the very hub of our life from which everything else radiates, WE are the ones who will be liberated!  Jesus said, “Whom the Son sets free is truly free!”  (John 8:36)  Live spiritually free by living in a daily, vibrant, dynamic relationship with God!




October 6, 2015, 9:46 AM

No Praise Days

Years ago I read a humorous story about a young couple who had three pre-school age children.  The wife/mother’s primary job was to stay home and care for the children.  Each day when the husband/father came home from work, his wife had a hot supper waiting for him in their nice, tidy house.  One day he arrived home to find things NOT as they normally were.  The house was wrecked; toys and clothing were strewn everywhere; the children were running and screaming wildly; there was no supper; and rather than meet him at the door with a smile and a kiss as usual, he found his exhausted wife collapsed in a chair.  He was so stunned by what he saw, it took several minutes before he could speak.  Finally he asked, “What happened here today?”  His wife calmly responded, “You know how you normally ask me, ‘What did you do today?’  Today, I DID NOT DO what I normally do each day!”  

Many of us do what we do behind-the-scenes without praise, commendation, or anyone noticing.  We simply do-what-needs-to-be-done.  Most of our days are “No Praise Days.”  It is nice on those rare occasions when someone notices our effort and recognizes us for our work.  It reminds us we are appreciated rather than “taken advantage of.”  1 Corinthians 10:31 gives us perspective when it says, “Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”  The work we do, whether in our vocation or whether in ministry, is to be done as a means of bringing God honor, as our way of pointing others to Him.  As a Christian, all of life is to be lived for God’s glory.  There is no “religious section” and “secular section” to life.  ALL of our life is His.  His praise is what we are to live for, NOT the attention or praise of the people around us.

When we have endured weeks or even months of “No Praise Days”, the temptation arises to feel as though no one appreciates what we do.  We have worked hard on a task, perhaps with little or no help, yet no one seems to notice our sacrifice.  If we are not careful, Satan will stir ill feelings and resentment within us.  The most effective safeguard against that is to invest daily time alone with God, because He will assure us He has seen our faithfulness.  He will provide His words of affirmation for a job well done.  If our lives are truly rooted in Him, His praise will suffice.  Knowing our human need, He will often move upon the hearts of others, pointing out to them what we have done, resulting in those folks thanking us for our efforts.

“No Praise Days” can be debilitating.  Today, take time to verbally thank those around you for their diligence in their work.  Take a moment to thank your doctor, your nurse, the cashier at the grocery store, the person behind the counter at the fast-food restaurant, others you may meet, for doing their job.  Your words may be the only praise they receive today.  God can use you to help that person avoid another “No Praise Day.” 

 

 




September 23, 2015, 2:26 PM

What Keeps You Out of Church?

What keeps us out of church reveals a great deal about our spiritual life and speaks volumes about our commitment to our local church.  I have heard all kinds of excuses for why people skip church.  Most of those excuses had no application in any other area of life.  To clarify what I mean, I have applied a few of the excuses I have heard to other contexts: 

1—There was a really good movie on late last night, one I have been wanting to see for months.  I stayed up and watched it, so I was not able to come to work yesterday.  I have not missed very many days of work, so the bosses won’t care.

2—My children had friends over and instead of sleeping, they talked and played all night.  Consequently, they were too tired to go to school.  I am sure they will not miss anything too important.

3—We are making an out-of-town visit to relatives next week, so we decided not to keep our doctors’ appointments.  I know it has been on the calendar for six-months, but we decided we needed to get ready for the trip.  Besides, we think our health is doing okay. 

4—I know I made a commitment to the civic organization to be at every meeting, but I just did not feel like going these last few times.  They can make it just fine without me.  They did not really expect me to keep my commitment anyway. 

Our employer, the school administration, our physician, and the civic organization would never accept the flimsy, weak excuses for our absence.  Why do people think God accepts our excuses?

 

I am one of those who was taught the importance of worship and weekly church attendance.  I was taught to be there every time the church doors were open!  We lived 25-miles from the church we attended.  There were countless times when my parents could have easily decided it was less strenuous for us to stay home rather than drive the one-hour round trip to church.  (We drove 100+ miles every Sunday, faithfully attending both the morning and the evening services.) I learned early in life the importance of worship and church attendance. 

I know of any number of pastors who skip worship while on vacation.  They have their own set of lame excuses.  My question to them is, “So, why do you need a vacation AWAY FROM God?”   On our recent vacation, we were on-the-road early Sunday morning.  Although it was a travel-day and we were uncertain where we would be when 10:30 a.m. rolled around, we determined we were attending church somewhere.  Skipping church was not an option.  We found an evangelical church in a town where we had never been before and probably will never be again.  Our souls were uplifted and blessed by the church service!  God honored our faithfulness by directing us to a church He could use to encourage us! 

I challenge you to consider what causes you to miss church.  There ARE legitimate reasons for occassionally missing church, so serious illness is not what I am addressing.  We all must be careful that we do not allow ourselves to become careless in our church attendance.  The service we miss/skip may be the very one when God pours out His Spirit in the service…and we failed to receive what God had for us because of our excuses.  Determine to be faithful to God, to your local church, and to authentic worship!




September 3, 2015, 7:12 PM

TRANSFORMED!

Last Saturday, I attended the funeral of my 85-year-old aunt.  She lived in Indianapolis, Indiana, all her adult life.  Most of my memories of her are from my childhood.  Her second son was one-year older than me; one of her daughter’s was one-year younger than me; and another of her daughters was the same age as my sister.  My sister and I loved when they came to visit because we had a great time playing with our five-Indiana-cousins!  When they came to southeastern Missouri, they did not just arrive…they INVADED!  (I smile as I write those words, partly because the same can be said of my family of six.) 

My aunt was a very independent, strong-willed, confident, tough woman!  Her personality filled a room.  “Sports” was her god.  All of her children were involved in sports.  Her three-daughters excelled in a variety of athletics, with one of her daughters playing professional women’s basketball in Europe.  My mental photo of my aunt is that of a harsh, gruff, no-nonsense woman who had no time for God.

About 30-years ago, my aunt had a powerful encounter with the Living God!  Her life was radically transformed!  She saturated herself in the Bible, studying it as though it were the air she breathed.  Every time the church doors were open, she was there.  Her loud, brash, no-fear personality was also transformed and she became a bold, unashamed witness for Jesus Christ.  At every opportunity, she would tell people about the life-changing power of Christ.  My encounters with her after she accepted Christ were few.  When I was with her, she would talk about the Bible, but I honestly thought she was just doing that because I was “her preacher nephew.” 

As we sat in her Memorial Service listening to those whose lives had been touched by her, I honestly struggled to believe they were talking about my aunt.  The woman they repeatedly described was a dynamic, fearless, faith-filled, woman-of-God!  The person they kept speaking about was a person I would have loved to have spent time with.  My mind kept going back to my childhood memories of her when she was anything but a woman-of-God.  As I sat there, the Holy Spirit reminded me of the transformational power of Jesus Christ.  He is able, willing, and ready to transform the worst of sinners into the holiest of saints if they will just call on His Name, repent, then live for Him.  He had performed a life-changing work in my aunt!  Those closest to her saw it, experienced the reality of God's power in her life, and thanked God for her Christ-like influence.

My aunt’s Memorial Service was an amazing worship experience.  God came close.  He came close to me…reminding me He can still make the vilest sinner clean.  No matter how deep the sin, the blood of Christ goes deeper.  Praise God for salvation!  Praise God for His ability to do what no one else can do!   Praise God for the spiritual transformation He alone can bring that also transforms every facet of life!  




August 18, 2015, 6:18 PM

Trapped Inside The Fence


A few weeks ago, Peggy was in the kitchen when I heard a squeal-of-joy come from her.  She was looking out the kitchen window into our backyard where she saw a small deer walking around.  It was a very young fawn and still had its spots.  Peggy is an animal-lover, so she thinks almost all animals are "cute."  This time, I had to admit the fawn WAS adorable.  After our initial excitement at seeing the fawn, we soon began to question how it ever got into our backyard.  The gates were shut; it seemed the fence was too tall for this small deer to jump over; and the deer was much too big to fit under the fence.  We still do not know how it got into our yard.  

After walking around the backyard and finding no way out, the fawn simply laid down.  Before I left for the office, I decided I needed to open the gate and let the deer out.  When it saw me, it immediately ran!  It may have been small, but it was quite fast!  I watched with concern as it repeatedly tried to escape by running head-first into the fence.  I quickly made my way to the gate, opened it, then attempted to direct the frightened fawn through the gate.  It soon found its way out, then ran down the street to freedom.  

I have watched as adult deer have effortlessly jumped our backyard fence.  As Peggy and I talked about the fawn, we still are uncertain how it got into the backyard.  Was it running with bigger deer and upon seeing them jump the fence, it instinctively followed their example?  However it got there, it soon found itself trapped.  What began as a fun adventure quickly became a prison.  

That is exactly how SIN works.  The temptation comes innocently enough.  Maybe we are just going along with our friends, doing what they are doing.  Before long, we find ourselves trapped in a prison we cannot free ourselves from.  We know we are in a place we SHOULD NOT BE.  We desperately want to get free, but have no means of freeing ourselves.  There is One who has already made the way for every captive-to-sin to be set free.  Jesus Christ gave His life and paid the price to ransom us from Satan's power!  1 John 1:9 reminds us if we confess our sins to Him, He WILL forgive us!  Though our bad choices lead us to becoming trapped inside the fence of sin, Christ will set us free if we call on Him.


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