On Coronavirus

By | Pastor's Blog | No Comments

I do not usually send out such writing multiple times a week. However, as I was prayerfully collecting my thoughts on paper, I was feeling the Spirit’s leading to send this to you.  Never, since the 911 Tragedy, have I sensed in our country such angst, a rapid amount of updated and changing information, as well as decisions affecting our culture. The reactions seem to be ranging from those disinterested to hyper-diligence to outright fear. What ought my response be as a Christian?

I believe the Lord calls us to walk in His wisdom while filled with His peace. We discover these words in James: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him” (James 1:5). James is addressing believers who lack wisdom in handling trials. Biblical wisdom is a God-given and God-centered discernment regarding the practical issues in life. As we gather information, we need to prayerfully come to God in order to act wisely. The good news is that He promises to give to those who ask.

When we see the world around us in upheaval, how do we gain our footing? Paul gives us some sound advice:

“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” (Phil 4:6-7).

Paul is echoing the teaching of Christ in the Sermon on the Mount (see: Matt 6:25-34) that believers are not to be anxious but are to entrust themselves into the hands of their loving heavenly Father, whose peace will guard them in Christ Jesus. It is the peace of God who guards the believer. Because God is sovereign and in control, Christians can entrust all their difficulties to Him. God rules over all creation, and He is wise and loving in all His ways.

I have to be honest. I do not know what the future hold. But, not to sound trite, I know who holds the future. So, I will take all the information I receive and take it to the Lord in prayer so that by the Spirit’s direction, I can walk in wisdom. I will choose to trust in God, allowing His peace to fill me. I will place myself, my family, and all else in the hands of my loving God in the hope that He will use me to bring His peace and wisdom to the chaos.

A couple hours ago, I attended the monthly Ontario County Health Coalition meeting. I left confident that our church leaders are taking the right precautions.  I also was encouraged by the chairperson’s final words. She said, “Be prepared, not scared!” I think that is a good summary of Scriptural teaching. Use wisdom and be prepared as you walk in God’s peace, and don’t be scared.

It is my joy to be found in Christ with each of you. I ask God to continue to fill each of us with His wisdom and peace. I ask Him to use us to bring His peace and wisdom to the chaos. He is my calm in the storm. I pray He is yours as well. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

Overcome Destructive Denial

By | Pastor's Blog | No Comments

When we are preoccupied with past hurts, unhealthy habits, and destructive hang-ups, God is not the center of our lives.  Our soul cries out in distress. Jesus calls us to a deeper life, one that goes beyond our own interests and desires.  Our Lord calls us to possess a soul that is well-cared-for. He calls us to have a soul with the capacity to enter into more than just the motions of faith.  This life is our connection to eternity and can help us see past the struggles of today.  This life has access to the kind of peace, gratitude, freedom, and blessing that comes only from divine intervention.

As we journey life’s path, however, we all too often lose our way and recognize, again and again, the need for a Savior, Who—in love and grace—has provided the way back to the path and the purpose laid out by God from the very beginning of humanity.  Pain and hardship are universal, but through faith in Christ, we find our hope, healing, and our serenity in God (see: John 16:33). There are steps we can take that lead us to the Lord, establishing His peace and power in our lives. One such step is overcoming destructive denial in our life.

Denial limits and robs us of living life in the fullness offered in Christ. The good news is that God calls us to partner with Him to defeat it. Denial is refusing to grant, admit, or believe. Denial leads us to think we don’t need God because we are in power and in control. Denial causes us to believe we’re okay the way we are. However, the prophet Jeremiah declares: “You can’t heal a wound by saying it’s not there” (Jer 6:14). Overcoming denial begins as we admit that we are powerless to overcome past hurts, unhealthy habits, and destructive hang-ups in our own strength. Paul writes in Romans: “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out” (Rom 7:18). Paul’s words seem hopeless. It is essential to look at this verse in context. Paul is speaking how we, in our own strength, are powerless to do the work that leads to wholeness and fullness of life. This is because apart from the operation of God’s grace in our lives, we are under the control of sin. But, therein lies the solution. Paul also writes:

“Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom 7:24-25).

Paul writes about inward sinfulness as a fatal disease. It threatens to usher us into eternal death. We want to do what is right, but continue to do what is wrong, straying back to old patterns, entrapped again by past hurts, and all other kinds of hang-ups. Is there a cure? Yes! The remedy, our deliverance, is provided through Jesus Christ our Lord. We can be delivered from the control of sin, the destructive results of past hurts, and harmful habits. When we accept Christ as our Lord and Savior, we enter into peace with God that is rooted in the precious love of God.

Defeating denial comes first, through the work of salvation. This is where we receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Then, secondly, through the Spirit-empowered work of sanctification where we are set apart for God, where His Spirit is at work, making a believer more and more like Christ in character. First, we are set free, then comes the work of God, leading us to walk in freedom.

How do we partner with God to defeat denial? We must admit there is a God, and we are not Him. We must acknowledge and accept that we are powerless to control and manage the hurts and sin in our life, but that God is both all-powerful, capable, and willing to bring freedom. It is because we cannot fix ourselves that Jesus came to die for our sins and be resurrected for our salvation. Denial is defeated as we admit our weakness and come to Christ, opening ourselves up to the Spirit’s work.

It is my honor to walk in Christ’s freedom with all who believe. Let’s, in a spirit of openness, acknowledge our hurts, habits, and hang-ups admitting we need God and that He is capable and willing to defeat destructive denial in our lives. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

I Must Give the Lord My First Fruits

By | Pastor's Blog | No Comments

This is my final week of a journey I began four weeks ago exploring in my Monday writings the topic of Keys to A Blessed Life. Jesus taught us to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matt 6:33). Simply put, place God’s kingdom first, and the Lord will take care of us. Now there is a fundamental choice everyone makes when they first come to Christ, and that is placing Him as Lord of our life. Every day after that, a believer’s life either reinforces that decision or denies it. What we will discover is that this is not mostly an issue that is material or physical, but spiritual and God’s Word holds the keys to a genuinely blessed life.

The final key I am exploring, to having a blessed life, is that I must give the Lord my first fruits. God’s owning everything ought to be translated in our personal actions, in giving and living. Many believers begin the journey of discovering the keys to living a blessed life with this key, but I would suggest that until we understand the previous three, this final key is a sizable leap. Often teaching on first fruits is reduced to a mere message on the stewardship of personal belongings and income. Yes, this is part of it, but at its core, it’s a spiritual issue allowing a believer to live in empowered freedom and kingdom impact rather than living enslaved by our old walk and ways before coming to Christ.

No doubt, growing in Christ increases a believer’s generosity. However, generosity is the giving of our time, talent, treasure, and testimony. Once we understand that God owns everything, we will never really give to God again. Why? Because He already owns what we falsely believe is ours. What we will do is return to God a portion of what He has given us to steward as caretakers of what is really His (see: 1 Chron 29:14).

This principle of first fruits (giving God the first and best of what we have) and giving back to God has been exemplified since the second generation of humans. Cain and Abel both gave back to God what had been given to them. What is interesting is that Cain and Abel had no Old Testament Law regulating such actions. This came generations later. What we discover is that from the beginning, God had put in place the practice of returning to Him a portion of what He had provided. Immediately in Genesis, after we are told of The Fall, we discover teaching on returning first fruits to God. Since the sin of selfishness had entered the world through The Fall, God introduced a practice of giving to counter greed. You see, we need to give back to maintain spiritual healthiness.

When we give back to God a portion of what He has given us, our first fruits, it acknowledges that God owns everything. This principle is found throughout the whole of the Bible. This was so important that Jesus stated plainly:

“Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matt 6:21).

Throughout Scripture, the “heart” refers to the center of one’s being, involving one’s emotions, reason, and will. Jesus is teaching that your giving will reveal your heart and that your heart will follow your treasure.

People have tried for generations to measure spirituality. But, the truth be told there are not many tangible ways to do so. Giving can be an actual measure. However, you can give back to God and not love Him. But, you cannot truly love God and not give back to Him.

In Paul’s second letter to believers in Corinth, we are presented with an example of a right first fruits mentality. He writes to the Corinthians about the extravagant love and generosity of Macedonian believers. Paul declares:

“In a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints— and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us” (2 Cor 8:2-5).

God’s extravagant love was manifest in the Macedonians, giving even though they had little. What surprised Paul was that the Macedonians also gave themselves first to the Lord and then to Paul and his companions. This giving was not just in money, it was a true gift of their time, talent, treasure, and testimony in service to the Lord first, then to others. They had little but gave much out of love and for the Lord’s glory.

This kind of life is only exemplified in those who have decreased, while God has increased in their lives, allowing the Spirit a growing influence in the way they think, feel, and live. Such a life only comes when, in partnership with the Holy Spirit, they have undivided devotion to the Lord. Such Christians who understand that God owns everything, that they are only giving back to God what He already owns, will give with a first fruits mindset. In other words, a first fruit mindset is born out of giving yourself to God first. Our giving to the Lord is not because the Lord needs it. After all, it is already His. Our returning to the Lord a portion of what He has given us – our first fruits is for us. This key, along with the others, produces a life blessed with heavenly treasure, divine rest, and fulfillment as we know God and make Him known.

It is exciting to learn and walk in the Spirit in this blessed life with each of you. Let us encourage one another to keep these keys to a blessed life in mind. But, even more, let’s invite the Spirit of God to conform our lives to them. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

I Must Acknowledge God as the Owner

By | Pastor's Blog | No Comments

A few weeks ago, I began four weeks of Monday writings on the topic of Keys to A Blessed Life. Jesus taught us to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matt 6:33). Simply put, place God’s kingdom first, and the Lord will take care of us. Now there is a fundamental choice everyone makes when they first come to Christ, and that is placing Him as Lord of our life. Every day after that, a believer’s life either reinforces that decision or denies it. What we will discover is that this is not mostly an issue that is material or physical, but spiritual and God’s Word holds the keys to a genuinely blessed life.

The third key to a blessed life I will explore is that we must acknowledge God as the owner of everything. Only through recognizing this reality that God owns everything, including our very selves, are we released from the trapping of loving other things above Him. Only then can we live a life providing true fulfillment. You can go anywhere in the world, and owning something is important is almost everyone. Our very nation was, in part, founded on the desire to own land (a novel thought in the time of monarchs). However, as we study the Bible, we discover that actually, we don’t own anything. The gospel truth is that God owns everything. For instance, we read:

“The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein” (Ps 24:1).

Everything under heaven belongs to God (see: Job 41:11). The Lord is the creator and owner of all. Paul quotes Psalm 24:11 in 1 Corinthians 10:26 to explain that since God owns everything, there is profound freedom for the believer. Truth be told, there is a great deal of anxiety that often comes with owning things. Therefore, knowing that God owns everything presents the possibility of real peace and power. Peace in knowing that our God, who is sovereign, holds all things together in His own capable hands (see: Col 1:17). Power in that we can stop compartmentalizing what we believe belongs to God and what we believe is ours.

Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 4:7:

“For who do you know that really knows you, knows your heart? And even if they did, is there anything they would discover in you that you could take credit for? Isn’t everything you have and everything you are sheer gifts from God?”

Paul is reminding the Christians in Corinth that all their abilities, opportunities, and blessings are from God.  Once we walk in the truth that God is the owner of everything, the Spirit produces within us the fruit of humility and thanksgiving. The whole way we see our time, talent, treasure, and testimony changes. These are gifts from God, and by the power of His Spirit, we can live a blessed life characterized by fullness of heavenly treasure, divine rest, and fulfillment as we know Him and make Him known. As we allow God to increase in our lives and we decrease, allowing the Spirit to have a growing influence in our life…As we, in partnership with the Holy Spirit, have undivided devotion to our Lord…As we acknowledge God as the owner of everything, including our very selves, we reap profound spiritual benefits. As we live with open hands, not just acknowledging that God owns everything, but eagerly desiring His will to be done with all that we are and all that we have, the resources of heaven wash over us for His glory, our blessing, and the benefit of others.

It is a joy to acknowledge God as the owner of everything with each of you. The peace and power we receive when we do so is such a blessing. Let’s encourage one another to walk in the freedom of this truth. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

I Must Have an Undivided Devotion

By | Pastor's Blog | No Comments

Last week I started four weeks of Monday writings on the topic of Keys to A Blessed Life. Jesus taught us to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matt 6:33). Simply put, place God’s kingdom first, and the Lord will take care of us. When we put God’s kingdom first, then we will be blessed with heavenly treasure, divine rest, and fulfillment as we know Him and make Him known. Now there is a fundamental choice everyone makes when they first come to Christ, and that is placing Him as Lord of our life. Every day after that, a believer’s life either reinforces that decision or denies it. What we will discover is that this is not mostly an issue that is material or physical, but spiritual and God’s Word holds the keys to a genuinely blessed life.

The second key to a blessed life I will explore is that we must have undivided devotion to the Lord. The challenge for every believer is to live above the distractions in life, giving God our undivided heart that results in an abundance of provisions and divine rest. When we give the Lord our undivided devotion out time, talent, treasure, and testimony are used for His glory.

Jesus taught that there is no way to have two masters:

“No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money” (Lk 16:13).

Notice that Jesus does not say “should not serve” but “cannot serve.” Christ-followers must make an either/or choice between serving God and anything else. Jesus even uses something that often masters us, money, as an example. “Money” is personified here in parallel with “God,” indicating how money can so easily take on an idolatrous place in one’s life. It doesn’t say that money is evil, but that it becomes hazardous to our spiritual welfare when it replaces God as master of our life. It would be acceptable to replace the word “money” with anything other than God in this verse. In other words, anything that rivals God in our life as master is harmful to us.

Even after committing to making God greater and ourselves less, we have to fight to live with an undivided devotion to the Lord. Every day the world, the flesh, and the devil tempt us into a divided devotion to God. The Lord has always asked us to reserve an only place for Him, living with undivided devotion to Him. When God institutes the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as a nation, He makes a covenant with them and through Moses shares ten commandments. At the top of the list, God sent a clear message:

“God spoke all these words, saying, ‘I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me’” (Ex 20:1-3).

God requires exclusive loyalty. As the one true God of heaven and earth, He cannot and will not allow for life to work when one’s heart has divided loyalty to Him. Nothing in a believer’s life is to be placed above or even in equal standing with God.

When Jesus was asked to choose one command out of all the commands in the Old Testament as the most important He without hesitation answered:

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mk 12:30).

The most important commandment is to love the Lord your God completely. The same faithful, covenant-keeping God from the Old Testament today asks the objects of His love to love Him with undivided devotion.

God asks for our undivided devotion because He deserves it, but also for our benefit (see: Jer 32:39). When we love God with undivided devotion, we discover a path that blesses us with a fullness of life and blesses others with an example to follow that will also bless them. There is no doubt that we ought to have undivided devotion to the Lord simply because He is worthy of it. However, this does not deny the truth that it is also for our benefit to do so. God knows that for life to work and for us to succeed, we need to be fully focused on one thing, and that thing or person is God. This is why one key to a blessed life is having an undivided devotion to the Lord.

It is wonderful to be found in Christ with each of you. Let us encourage one another to keep the main thing the main thing and devote ourselves fully to God and no one or anything else. This is a key to a blessed life, a life blessed with heavenly treasure, divine rest, and fulfillment as we know Him and make Him known. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

God Must Increase, I Must Decrease

By | Pastor's Blog | No Comments

Jesus taught us to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matt 6:33). Simply put, place God’s kingdom first, and the Lord will take care of us. Putting God’s kingdom first must be the rule of our life when ordering priorities. However, it would not be right to think that this is just another priority to fit onto our list of priorities, putting it at the top. Instead, in everything we do and everything we have (our time, talent, treasure, and testimony), we seek first the kingdom of God. What this verse calls us to is a commitment to find and to do the will of God by following the Spirit’s leading in all things. This commitment comes first. When we put God’s kingdom first, then we will be blessed with heavenly treasure, divine rest, and fulfillment as we know Him and make Him known. Over the next four weeks, I will be writing on keys to a blessed life by exploring the most fundamental choice everyone makes when they first come to Christ, and that is placing Him as Lord of our life. Every day after that, a believer’s life either reinforces that decision or denies it. What we will discover is that this is not mostly an issue that is material or physical, but spiritual and God’s Word holds the keys to a genuinely blessed life.

The first key to a blessed life I will explore is that God must increase, and I must decrease. This is an issue of surrender. We discover that when believers keep in step with the Holy Spirit, we experience a deeper dimension in our walk with God releasing the resources of heaven in our lives. Paul writes to the church in Rome:

“We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin” (Rom 6:6-7).

The power of sin has been broken in those who have placed their faith in Christ. It is important to remember that it is not the strength of our faith, but the object of our faith that actually saves us. The Bible teaches us that we are saved by grace through faith in Christ Jesus and not by our own efforts or works. God loves, forgives, and saves us not because of who we are or what we do, but because of the finished work of Christ on the cross. We all were born into this world as sinners, ruled by sin. Sin’s rule was broken when Christians died with Christ, and are therefore no longer enslaved to sin. This does not mean that a believer never sins but that the tyranny, domination, and rule of sin have been defeated in them. This means that the normal trajectory of life for a Christ-follower ought to be becoming more and more like Christ. Therefore, I become less as Christ becomes greater in my life. Paul explains further:

“So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Rom 6:11).

“Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness” (Rom 6:13).

Christians must realize that the power of sin has been broken in their lives. The tension surfaces between what God has already accomplished and the responsibility of His people to obey. A Christian is still tempted by desires to sin and must not let those desires gain control. Therefore, each and every day, a believer is to give themselves to God. More God causes less of our old selves to be in play. Paul shares with the church in Galatia an essential step in practically seeing God become more and us less in our lives. He writes:

“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh” (Gal 5:16).

The only way to conquer the flesh (sinful desires of our old self before coming to Christ) is to yield to the Spirit. To “walk by the Spirit” implies both direction and empowerment. This occurs when we make decisions and choices according to the Holy Spirit’s guidance, following God’s Word, and acting with spiritual power that the Spirit supplies.

When we come to Christ, we are filled with the very Spirit of God whose mission is to make us holy (more like Christ). The Spirit resides in us completely. Our walk with Christ is never an issue of the Spirit being in us, but how much we surrender ourselves to the Spirit. This is why Billy Graham often said, “It is not how much of the Spirit we have, but how much the Spirit has of us.” To be full of the Spirit speaks of the Spirit’s full control and influence in our lives.

It is impossible for Christ to become greater in my life and not at the same time for me to become less. As I surrender myself more and more to God, feeding those things in my life that enable me to grow in Christ while starving those things that would only encourage me to walk contrary to the things of the Lord, I can live a genuinely blessed life. The resources of heaven are released in and through me for God’s glory, my blessing, and the benefit of others.

It is a blessing to be on mission with Christ with each of you. Let us be reminded of the newness of life we have in Christ. We are so privileged to be filled and led by the Spirit of God. Let us be found with God increasing in us as we decrease. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

Bless (Release)

By | Pastor's Blog | No Comments

The journey God calls us to take with Him is unique to every believer but has four common movements. Crosswinds have a strategy to help people through these movements. We, as Crosswinds, will faithfully REACH people with the love and message of Jesus Christ as they take the step to BELIEVE. We will RAISE them to follow Christ as they discover what it means to BELONG to Him and His church, as well as BECOME who they were created to be. We will RELEASE them to partner with God to BLESS others by advancing His kingdom.

As we look at the final movement of being released to bless others, what we are really speaking of is living sent lives. This concept of living sent, and blessing others is firmly established in Scripture. Listen to some of the last words Christ spoke to the disciples before ascending to heaven: “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you” (Jn 20:21). The encounter between Jesus and the disciples took place on the same day the tomb was found empty. He finds the disciples together, and it was good that the disciples stayed together. Jesus told them that when He departed, they must love one another, which assumes that they would stay together (see: Jn 15:17). He also prayed for their unity after their departure (see: Jn 17:11). This command was fulfilled, and prayer was answered, at least in the days immediately after His crucifixion.

Jesus might have gone anywhere and done anything after His resurrection, but He wanted to be with His people. He sought out His people. Not only does Jesus go to be with His disciples, but what He says is particularly noteworthy. First, Jesus says, “Peace be with you.” After their desertion of Jesus on the day of His crucifixion, the disciples probably expected words of rebuke or blame. Instead, Jesus brought a word of “peace,” reconciling “peace.” Jesus’ words, “Peace be with you,” is an assurance that there is no cause to fear, and that all is well: for they (see: Lk 24:36) were alarmed by His appearance.” Think about it. Jesus came to His fearful, faithless disciples, and stood among them, speaking a greeting of peace. What is the implication for each of us? At times we may not feel worthy, and we aren’t, but Christ still comes to each of us and desires us to have peace, peace with Him, and true God-given peace in our life. The resurrected Jesus brings peace.

Jesus adds to “Peace be with you,” these words: “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” Jesus gives His followers, then and now, a mission to continue His work on this earth. This was the commission to do what Jesus had already prayed for in John 17:18 (remember Jesus’ high priestly prayer): “As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.” This means that both then and now, disciples are sent after the pattern of the Father’s sending of the Son. This means that Christ-followers are sent ones – missionaries, after the Latin verb “to send.” Every believer is called to live SENT LIVES. Jesus sends every believer into the world on mission. Jesus was sent to seek and save the lost (Lk 19:10). We are sent to do the same, sharing the love and message of Christ so that they, too, will be saved.

Practically speaking, I believe every believer ought to have a person pouring into his or her life. Every believer ought to have someone they are pouring into. And, every believer ought to have someone they are sharing the love and message of Christ with the hope they will come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. This is how those sent live.

It is my privilege to serve with each of you. Let me pose a few questions. What is your next step on your discipleship journey? Who is your one (who is pouring into you…who are you pouring into…who are you reaching out to with the love and message of Christ)? Are you willing to live a SENT life? Let’s encourage one another to take our next step in our discipleship journey as sent ones. Soli Deo Glory (Glory to God Alone)!

Become (Raise)

By | Pastor's Blog | No Comments

When we come to Christ, when we believe, we discover that we have a new position in Him. We belong to God and His church. The Christian’s believing and belonging ought to lead a Christ-follower to become like Christ. Christ-followers are called to commit themselves to help one another in this wonderful pursuit.

In Jesus’ high priestly prayer, recorded in John 17, we discover, in verses 13-19, that He makes two requests on His follower’s behalf. The first request that Jesus makes is that we become like Him, filled with joy (see: Jn 17:13-16).

Jesus had a life filled with joy. This is not to say that He did not also know sorrow and grief. But, there was a joy and a satisfaction in life that surpassed the joy of any other who ever lived. Think about it. Christ’s joy was rooted in unbroken fellowship with God His Father. Christ’s joy was the fruit of true faith and confidence in His Father. Christ’s joy came from seeing the great things God had done. Christ’s joy was never diminished by His own sin, for He had none. Christ’s joy was never lessened by allowing even the smallest foothold of the devil. Jesus was so concerned that we have joy that He prayed that we would be filled with it.

God’s purpose is to multiply joy in our lives, not subtract it. The world, the flesh, and the devil would tell us that God wants to rob us of joy, but God wants joy fulfilled in our lives. We must be careful not to fall into the trap of believing that something forbidden by God would ever bring fulfillment and joy in our life. The Holy Spirit uses the truth of the Bible, God’s Word, to transform us and bring us to a place where we are filled with joy,

The second request that Jesus makes is that we become like Him, sanctified (see: Jn 17:17-19). Sanctify means to be set apart for God and implies the work of the Holy Spirit, making a believer more and more like Christ in character. Jesus did not leave His disciples to “sanctify” themselves. He prayed for our sanctification.  Sanctification is a work of God in us and through us. More completely stated, Jesus prays: “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” – The dynamic behind sanctification is “truth.” This truth spoken of is the word of God read, heard, understood, and applied. The primary way the Holy Spirit sanctifies us if through the very word of God, the Bible. The 19th-century British preacher Charles Spurgeon explained:

“The more truth you believe, the more sanctified you will be. The operation of truth upon the mind is to separate a man from the world unto the service of God.”

Jesus consecrated Himself, offered Himself, as a sacrifice for our sin that His followers would share in His righteousness. We are made right with God in Christ. It is the work of the Holy Spirit to make us holy. We grow from one degree of Christlikeness to a greater degree as we walk with Him in obedience (see: 2 Cor 3:16-18). The sanctification Jesus had in mind here was not only personal holiness (though that is included), but also being set apart for God’s service and mission. We are called to share the love and message of Christ with others in the hope that they will come to faith in Him. We are no one’s savior, but we are called to point people to the Savior.

Jesus’ prayer was not wishful thinking. He confidently prayed knowing that the believer who partners with the Holy Spirit (the Holy Spirit being the senior partner in the relationship) will become more and more like Christ. Jesus desires for every believer to filled with Joy and be sanctified, becoming more like Him in character and partnering with Him in mission. Through His finished work on the cross and the Holy Spirit’s continual work in our lives, this is an actual reality.

Let’s encourage each other as followers of Christ to become more like the Lord. Further, may we assist one another to this end. I pray that each of us will be found with ever-increasing joy as well as being transformed more and more in Christ’s character and partnering with Him in mission. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

Belong (Raise)

By | Pastor's Blog | No Comments

Once a person takes the step to believe, they enter into a saving relationship through Jesus Christ that brings them into a position of belonging to God and His church. One of the many things that are common to every person throughout the world, no matter what culture a person finds herself in, is the need to belong. Our need for belonging is hard-wired in our DNA.

I realize that for most of us, our journey to belonging has entered us into some painful experiences. It has encouraged us to do some pretty crazy and shameful things. For this reason, some will find it challenging to open themselves up to belonging. Some have gone as far as to suppress the need to belong and try to convince themselves that they need no one. This is a protective mechanism meant to keep you from pain but will keep you from the profound blessing of walking with God and His people. The good news is that when we come to Christ, He empowers us to walk with Him. He leads us on our journey with Him down the path of embracing our belonging to Him as well as His people, the church.

Here is the simple truth: Believers belong to God and His church and are to be raised in understanding what this means. When we come to Christ, we are: redeemed, made a new creation, adopted as children of God, and heirs to God’s Kingdom and Kingdom Resources. Our new position in Christ is something that ought to draw us to Christ and cause us to embrace our belonging to Him and His church.

We gain a better understanding of this belonging to Christ and His church by exploring a prayer of Jesus recorded in the seventeenth chapter of John’s Gospel. In context, we are given a snapshot of the things that occurred in the Upper Room during the last hours He spent with His beloved friends, the Disciples, before being betrayed, unjustly tried, tortured, and crucified. In John 13, Jesus washes His Disciple’s feet and instituted the New Covenant in His blood. In John 14-16, He gives His disciples last-minute instructions and encouragement. In John 17, He prays His “high priestly prayer” over His disciples as well as overall of His disciples at all times. Then, Jesus went out to face the betrayal, rejection, and death for which He had come into the world.

Christ’s high priestly prayer is the only long, continuous prayer of Jesus recorded in the Gospels. It is so moving to realize that in these final hours before His passion, where He would die for the sins of us all, we, His followers, were on His heart. Jesus prays: “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word” (Jn 17:20). Jesus not only prayed for His Disciples there in the Upper Room, but he also had the heart and vision to pray beyond them. Jesus prayed for those who would come to faith by the testimony of these disciples. He prayed for us! Notice, Jesus made no distinction between those who had heard Him personally and those who had heard through others.

Then Jesus prays that “we may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (Jn 17:21). Jesus prays for unity among all believers, even as among the original Disciples. Jesus prayed that all believers might rise above their different backgrounds and understand their unity in Him.

Here is a good question: What makes unity so hard? Sin is the great dividing element. The perfectly holy (Christlike) would be perfectly united. The more like Christ believers are, the more they love their Lord and one another, the closer union they have with each other. Notice that the unity Christ prays over us is like that between God, the Son, and God the Father. If the Father is in Christ and Christ is in us, then the Father is in us. We are drawn into the very life of God, and the very life of God is love.

Amazingly, Christ prays, that Unity among God’s people helps the world to believe that the Father sent the Son. Think about it. Even as Christ prays for His Disciples in the Upper Room and includes us, all His followers, of all times, He looks beyond us to those who have yet to believe, which stands in need of the witness generated by the unity of His church. The Lord desires His church to be a place of belonging. When we believe in Christ for our salvation, not only do we belong to God but also we belong to His Church. God’s church is a place where those far from Christ can find salvation and loving acceptance – a place they were created to belong.

If we don’t believe we belong to God, we will profess we believe, but will then go about doing life as we always have without receiving the fullness of being His. If we don’t believe we belong to God’s church, we will profess we believe, but will then go about doing life on our own terms without benefit of community with others in unity with Christ. If we Don’t believe we belong to God and His church, it is not just each of us who misses out, but the world around us is without a witness Jesus prayed and offered them in His name. It is impossible to become all Christ has for us if we don’t learn and accept what it means to belong to Him and His church.

Have you received Christ as your Lord and Savior? Do you believe? If you have not taken this step of faith, your journey begins there. If you have received Christ as your Lord and Savior, the next step is to learn and accept what it means to belong to Christ and His church. If you haven’t already won’t, you take that step? Let’s help one another learn what it means to belong to God and His church. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

Believe (Reach)

By | Pastor's Blog | No Comments

I like the term journey. God calls us on a journey to grow to maturity in Christ. Unfortunately, some believers chose to receive Christ as Savior, then only halfheartedly follow Him as Lord. Then, they wonder why the power and peace that God has promised is not manifest in their life. Perhaps it’s the unknowns of this spiritual journey that keep them from taking the next right step.

In Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, we read these words from Gandalf as he coaxes Frodo to go on a journey by borrowing these words from his Uncle Bilbo:

“It’s a dangerous business going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept up too.”

The truth is that life is a journey. We can either walk with Christ or on our own. We either follow in the Lord’s steps swept by His love and grace or take another path swept to places offering empty promises.

There’s no doubt that there is a uniqueness to each of our faith journeys. However, everyone’s walk with God ought to include at least four crucial steps. The first step is to BELIEVE. To begin a saving relationship with Jesus Christ, we must receive Him as our Lord and Savior. The second step is to learn what it means to BELONG. As we enter into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ, we now belong to God and His Church. The third step is to BECOME. To grow in our relationship with Christ, we need to discover what it means to mature in Him, becoming the person we have been created to be in Christ. The final step is BLESS. God calls us to partner with Him allowing His Spirit to use our blessings to bless others. In the journey, God calls us on with Him, we not only have this pathway, but believers are called to help others come to Christ and grow in Him as they REACHRAISE, and RELEASE others to fulfill their God-given destiny.

Let’s look at the first step on the journey. What does it mean to receive Christ as Lord and Savior (to believe)? Also, what is the believer’s part in this sacred work (to reach)? To answer these questions, let’s look at an encounter Jesus had with a man named Zacchaeus (see: Luke 19:1-10). Zacchaeus was a chief tax collector, despised by his fellow Jews for working for their Roman occupiers and making extra money by raising their taxes even higher than the Romans demanded and taking the extra for himself. He was a very wealthy man.

We discover that Zacchaeus deeply desires to see Jesus. So, he does two things very uncharacteristic for men of his day: he ran, and he climbed a tree. These were actions reserved mostly for children. I am reminded of Christ’s word that unless one becomes like a child, he cannot enter the kingdom of God (see: Lk 18:17).

Jesus invites Himself to Zacchaeus’ house. This excites Zacchaeus but causes the crowd to be outraged. How could Jesus go and fellowship with such a sinner? Somewhere in this interaction, Zacchaeus believes and accepts Christ as Lord and Savior. Aware of the crowd’s displeasure, Zacchaeus makes a commitment to give to the poor and give four times as much as he had stolen to the people in restitution. He is not saved by these actions but acts because he is saved. D.L. Moody is quoted as teaching that “restitution is good proof of a changed heart.” In the end, Jesus affirms that salvation has come to Zacchaeus. He also shares that His mission as Christ is to “seek and save the lost” (Lk 19:10).

What can we learn from this account about salvation (believing) and reaching others with the love and message of Christ? For starters, just like Zacchaeus, we are also sinful and need salvation in Christ (see: Rom 3:23 & 6:23). We are on equal footing before the cross. We also learn that God still rewards those who seek Him (see: Jer 29:13). Remember, we need to look no further than Christ for salvation. As we explore the account, we learn that Jesus desires to have a relationship with each of us, leading to salvation (see: 2 Peter 3:9). It is a staggering reality that the God of the universe desires to be in relationship with us. The account teaches us that in Christ, we can be made pure (see: 2 Cor 5:21). When we come to Christ for salvation, a great exchange takes place. Our sin is dealt with by Him, and His righteousness becomes ours. Lastly, we learn that when we come to Christ, His mission becomes ours (see: Jn 20:21). Christians, as partners with Christ, share His mission in seeing people reached by sharing His love and message in the hope that others too will believe.

It is an honor serving Christ with each of you. Let’s encourage one another to seek people with whom we can share the love and message of Christ. Let’s leave our turf and go to theirs in the hope that they too will come to know God and make Him known. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!