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 | Wednesday Weekly Blog |

The Promises of God 9/18/13

This year of preaching has been the most rewarding year of preaching that I have ever done.  We have been looking at the words of Christ, but we have been looking at them in the context in which He spoke them; in the context of Jesus Jewish-ness.  Each Sunday we’ve looked at the background, specifically the Old Testament, to gain the context of the words Christ spoke; the reason that He used specific words and phrases; the Hebrew meaning.  And we have only just scratched the surface.  Over the last three weeks we have been studying the Feasts of the Lord, specifically the Fall Feasts.  The Feast of Trumpets, the Jewish New Year, Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement and finally last Sunday and this one as well, Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles.  I have learned more in the last 9 months about God and His love for us, about what He did, what He does and what He is doing than I think I have learned in the previous 55 years.  God has opened His Word to me and it is more fresh and alive than it has ever been before.  Three men, Bob Appleby, Bob Livesay and Jerry Wright have given me pages and pages of material, helping me to understand the Hebrew meaning, the Jewish thinking and the scriptures in ways that I believe God has intended all along.

In light of all of this, and perhaps especially in light of the last 3 weeks and studying the Feasts of the Lord, (and by the way, they are the Feasts of the Lord and not the Feasts of the Jews; look in Leviticus 23) my devotional reading has been especially rich.  In my devotional reading lately I have been reading in Genesis and in the last few days specifically the call of Abram (Abraham) by God.  Listen to the promises of God to this man.

The LORD said to Abram, ‘Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.  I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.  I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.’”  Then, just a few verses later, after Abram had traveled to the place that God led him and he sees the land that would become The Promised Land, God again comes to Abram:  “The LORD appeared to Abram and said, ‘To your offspring I will give this land.’  So he built an altar there to the LORD who had appeared to him”  (Genesis 12:1-3, 7).

Move forward in the New Testament to Hebrews 11, the Faith Hall of Fame!  Beginning in 11:8, By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.  By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise.  For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.  And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she considered him faithful who had made the promise.”  Move on just a few verses and it says, “All these people were still living by faith when they died.  They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth.”  Move on a few more verses:  By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. . . .  Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.”  Now move to the end of the chapter:  “These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect”  (Hebrews 11:8-11, 13, 17, 19, 39-40, emphasis mine).

Abram (Abraham) left everything that was familiar, by faith.  The promises that he received from God he received by faith because, as the writer of Hebrews tells us, he never did receive the things promised, he only received them by faith!  In fact, none of those mentioned in the Faith Hall of Fame received the promises of God while they were living BECAUSE “. . . God had planned something better FOR US so that only together with US would they be made perfect.”

Some of us are struggling with life, with the situations that we find ourselves in.  Some of us are in circumstances that are not of our own making and we wonder from time to time if God has forgotten us or if we have somehow missed it.  Some of us have “made our own bed” so-to-speak, but we have asked for forgiveness and we have repented, sometimes more than once, and we are just waiting for God to step in and “make things right.”  What else do we have to do to find relief?

Abram DID NOT earn God’s grace.  Over and over the scriptures tell us that it was “by faith.”  You and I are not going to earn God’s grace, His favor or His promises; it will only come “by faith!”  And you may not see it here, while you are alive.  That’s hard for us, especially here.  We have grown up with the idea that if we work hard and do what is right we’ll be rewarded.  But when God doesn’t “reward” us the way that we think we ought to be rewarded, we grow weary, we start doubting and we wonder what’s wrong with us or what’s wrong with God.  I want to remind you this morning to remember Abram.

Can you “receive” the promises of God even if you don’t see them?  Can you see them and welcome them “from a distance” admitting that you are a foreigner, that you are a stranger on this earth?  This isn’t home folks.  For the Christian, THIS ISN’T HOME!  I am NOT saying that we just have to endure this place while we’re here; I believe that we are called to live here and make a difference.  But THIS ISN’T HOME!

I remember hearing a story about a couple who had served as missionaries most all of their adult life.  They had labored without fanfare, without much recognition, without most people knowing who they ever were.  Finally, as they neared the end of their missionary career, they made plans to return to the United States.  They booked passage on a ship and as this was many years ago it took several weeks for them to make the trip here.  After they had been on the ship for a couple of days they noticed that the President of the United States was also on board this ship; Teddy Roosevelt.  He had been on a safari and was returning home from that trip.

The day the came in to New York City arrived and they got their meager belongings together and went out on deck.  As the ship pulled into the harbor there were banners all around, a band and a parade and thousands and thousands of people there to welcome the President home.  This couple had to wait until the President and his party had disembarked before they could get off.  When they did finally make it off there was no one there to welcome them.  The Mission Board that had sent them wasn’t there; they didn’t have any family left alive so no one personally to greet them; there was no one.  As they made their way through the ticker tape that was now lying on the ground from the President’s parade, as they left the dock and made their way to a tiny, run-down apartment where they would spend the rest of their lives, the man began to weep uncontrollably.  His wife tried to console him but he couldn’t be consoled.  Finally, through the sobs, he looked up at her and bitterly began to ask if it had been worth it.  They had given their lives to take the message of God to people across the ocean, sacrificed their lives, their family and all material possessions and now here they had come home and no one was there to greet them but thousands of people were there to greet the President of the United States who was returning from a safari. 

He finally quit crying and with a look of resolve and anger said that he was going into his room to blast God and ask Him if anything they had done was worth it.  His wife was worried, concerned and almost afraid because she had never seen her husband this discouraged and down.  He was in the bedroom for hours and as she waited she worried and wondered what would happen. 

After several hours her husband came out of the bedroom with a look of peace and serenity she had never seen before.  She asked him what had happened and this is what he said. 

“I went into that bedroom and poured out my anger at God.  We had given our lives, sacrificed our family, left everything and everyone to go and work for Him and this was how He treated them?  They had no children, there was no family left and not even the Board that had sent them overseas was there to welcome them back home.  To top it off the President had been on that ship and when he had come home from a safari there had been thousands of people to welcome him home.  Where was the justice in this?  Where was God in this?  Why had no one been here, NO ONE, to welcome them home!”  And then he stopped and smiled at her and this is what he said. 

“After I had yelled all of that in anger to God I had nothing left to say.  I lay exhausted on the floor crying and feeling like I was all alone, and then I heard God say to me, ‘Oh, but you’re not home yet!’”

You aren’t home yet.  You haven’t yet seen the promises and you might not, here on this earth.  But, you’re not home yet, so could I encourage you to receive the promises nonetheless.  God IS as good as His word and He has “planned something better for us . . .”

I love Him and you!

Rick

Upcoming Activities

Today, Wednesday September 18 – Join us for dinner tonight here at the church at 5:00 o’clock.  Teen and children’s activities as normal and our Hispanic Bible study and our Prayer Group will both meet at 6 o’clock!

Sunday September 22 – We will finish our look at the Feasts of the Lord in both of our morning worship services.  We will have a potluck celebration following the second worship service so bring your dinner with you and let’s share a meal together.  Our Hispanic group meets at 4:00 each Sunday afternoon.

Sunday September 29 – Pastor Marco will be preaching in both morning worship services on the 29th – Come out and support and love them!

On Sunday evening the 29th we will join with Christians across Lincoln County to celebrate the Lord’s Supper.  We will meet at Gateway Church of Christ to share with other believers in this incredible celebration!

 



Obedience to & Deep Experiences with God 9/11/13

Okay, we’ve been talking about the Spirit of God revealing God’s purpose for us to us.  Over and over Henry Blackaby, in his book What the Spirit is Saying to the Churches, has told us that adjusting our lives to God’s purpose is key.  Listen once more to what he says to us.

“For any church, being on mission with God—hearing Him, believing Him, adjusting to Him—requires the cultivation of a thorough disposition of obedience.  The Christ who lived His life in complete obedience is fully present in us, and He will enable our obedience.  He will not fail to put our lives—individually and collectively—into the middle of His purpose.”

We know that Christ lived His life in complete obedience to the Father!  Not only is it an incredible example for us but Blackaby hits on something that intrigues me very much: He will “enable our obedience.”  Now I don’t think that means that He makes us be obedient, I think the next sentence in that paragraph shows us what that is:  He puts us SMACK DAB in the middle of His purpose!  In other words, when we are obedient to Him and we live in that disposition of obedience, He will give us the opportunity to work for His purpose!  God is working with us in His plan; He’s allowing us to be a part of His plan and purpose.  God will work through us!  What a privilege.

Blackaby:  “Every church can expect God to take the initiative to tell them His assignment; once this is known, there must be an immediate response of obedience, trusting that He who is leading will sustain and enable the church to fulfill their task.”

Again, please look at that closely:  when we respond, immediately, we can trust that the One who is leading us WILL sustain and enable the church to fulfill our task.  That is POWERFUL family, that is so POWERFUL!  He gives us the task; He allows us to participate in His purpose and plan and THEN He gives us the strength and power to do what He’s asked us to do! 

Blackaby:  “We can also know with assurance that deep experiences with God will follow immediately upon our steps of obedience.  God will see to it.  Obedience to God unlocks the experience of His power.  It leads to our open-ended usefulness to God and to great blessing and far-reaching encouragement to His people.”

I love this:  “deep experiences with God will follow . . . God will see to it.” (Emphasis mine)  But look, keep reading, don’t stop just thinking that God wants to bless us or give us some good feelings . . . “It leads to our open-ended usefulness to God . . . and far-reaching encouragement to His people.”  He blesses us to use us and when He uses us it is going to bless and encourage people.  We get a blessing too but that isn’t the stopping point; we are blessed to be used, to be blessed to be used, to be blessed to be used, to be blessed to be used . . . do you get it?  GOD WILL SEE TO IT!

Okay, so we have to determine what it is that God has called us to do, then we have to be obedient to do it and when we do He is going to supply what we need.  HE IS GOING TO SUPPLY WHAT WE NEED TO DO WHAT HE HAS ASKED US TO DO.  (Did you see that?)  When we do that, deep experiences with Him are going to follow and then He’ll use us more and He’ll bless us more and that’ll lead to other people getting blessed and then it starts over . . .

You know, I’m beginning to think that God is trying to tell me something here.  I’ve been harping at you over these last several weeks that we need to expect some great things from God, some miracles (dare I say it) from God, and as I’m sitting here writing this I think I haven’t been really expecting enough.  I think I’ve sold God short – I don’t want to do that and I don’t want you to do that.

I’m think that I need to be specific with God; there are some things that I believe God wants to do and I haven’t been asking Him specifically to do those things.  I apologize to you for that; I have asked God to forgive me and I’m about to start being a lot more specific!

I love you and I love Him!

Rick

Upcoming Activities

Today, Wednesday September 11 – We invite you to join us for dinner this evening at 5 and then for those not involved in teens or children’s activities we’ll have the Hispanic study at 6 and prayer in the sanctuary at 6 as well.

Sunday September 15 – We have our worship services at 8:45 and 10:30 and we’ll be looking at what Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles is about.  We’re going to take 2 weeks to look at this but I promise you it’s going to be eye opening and it will challenge us.  Our Hispanic Service is at 4:00 and anyone is welcome to attend; you don’t have to speak Spanish; you don’t have to understand Spanish; you just have to love people.

Sunday Adventure Club is also going to get together on Sunday at 3:00 at the White Mountain Complex for an afternoon of fun.  Talk to Lauren and Korey about the details or just come and be surprised!

Sunday September 22 – We are going to have a pot luck lunch immediately following the second service and EVERYONE is invited.  We’re going to celebrate Sukkot, hear about the possibility of a trip to Israel; it’s going to be a great time and you’re going to be sad you missed it if you don’t come!  J

Sunday September 29 – Pastor Marco will be preaching in both services on this Sunday.  Plan on coming out and loving Marco and Betty on this Sunday!

Sunday evening September 29 Gateway Church of Christ is hosting a Community Communion Service at their place of worship.  What an INCREDIBLE opportunity to worship with the body of Christ – I hope you will be there!



He Waits for Our Response 9/4/13

“What I have said, that I will bring about; what I have planned, that I will do.”  Isaiah 46:11

We’ve spent the last two weeks looking at this passage and at Henry Blackaby’s words from his book What the Spirit is Saying to the Churches.  Let me give you the quote that I’ve used for those two weeks that challenges me incredibly:  ”The Spirit of God puts the people of God into the presence of God.  And in His presence, the Spirit reveals God’s purposes to the church He would use.  He then waits for our response.”

We’ve been looking at what our response is supposed to look like and, once again, we’ve begun by looking at what he says in that chapter.

Blackaby:  “3. Adjust to Him – unconditionally – In our lives and in our churches, in order to join in God’s revealed activity.  God has the right to require and to make these adjustments in us in order to conform us to Himself and to His will – regardless of how long the process takes.”

Do you really believe that God has the right to make “adjustments” in our lives so that we will be conformed to Himself and to His will?  And of course the remainder of that is hard for all of us . . . “regardless of how long the process takes.”  If we are really honest with ourselves, that is hard.  Most of us have grown up in America, the land of individual rights!  This is one of the BIGGEST challenges that we face as Christians.  We know it because we’ve talked about it, I’ve preached about it, we’re read it and we’ve heard it that when we come to Christ we give up our rights and we conform to His image.  HOWEVER, and this is big, practice all too often looks a whole lot different than what we know we ought to be doing.  We “know” what’s right, but we’ve been conditioned that “we have our rights” and it is hard to give them up . . . EVEN TO GOD!

I’d like to give you a secret formula that will work every time that you are having a problem submitting your rights to Christ; letting go of your wants and desires and trusting Him; finally and completely giving everything to Christ . . . I’d like to give you that secret formula, but the truth is, there isn’t a secret formula.  God didn’t create robots who simply “obey.”  He has given us our free will and He won’t take that away from us.  We have to decide that He is going to be Lord of our lives and that we are going to surrender to Him. 

In Romans 12:1-2, Paul put it this way:  “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.  Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

There is no secret formula, but there is some great advice there:  after we have “offered our bodies” we are to be “transformed by the renewing of [our] mind.”  So how do we have our mind renewed?  We spend time in His Word; we spend time in prayer; we find someone to hold us accountable and to love us and help us; we build patterns in our lives that are hard at first but become easier and easier, not because it is easy, but because we have developed patterns and habits that God will help us with.  And therein lies a GREAT key:  God will help us!  He has a lot invested in you:  He doesn’t want you to fail:  He wants to help you to succeed:  He wants you to trust Him to give you the power to be what He has called you to be.  It starts with allowing Him to make the adjustments that need to be made.  He knows what is best and He will help you to do it.

Blackaby:  “4. Obey Him – immediately and in faith, as He leads us.  He will then accomplish His purposes through us.”  Obey, it really is that simple.

Two young boys were out playing and as they played they were talking as young boys do. They were talking about what they liked; what they didn’t like; just stuff.  Somewhere in the conversation the talk turned to moms and the problems that little boys have with moms who want them to do things that sometimes little boys just don’t want to do.  One of the guys said, “I’ve learned how to make my mom happy all the time!”  The other little guy looked at him and said, “Tell me how you do that, I want to know so I won’t have any more arguments with my mom.”  The first little guy didn’t even look up from what he was playing with, he just kept on playing and said, “When she tells me what to do, I just do it.  I don’t argue, I don’t complain, I just do it.  I don’t get it but it just works!”

I’m here to tell you, it just works with God too!

Blackaby ends that paragraph with this statement:  “Any church willing to respond this way in their relationship with God will experience His mighty deeds through them to bring a lost world to Himself.”

I’ve asked you this now three weeks . . . will you let Him?  Will you and I trust God?  He is waiting on our response. 

Rick

Upcoming Activities

Today, Wednesday September 4 – We will have dinner here at the church at 5:00 o’clock and our teen and children’s activities will go on as normal.  We will no be having our prayer time in the sanctuary at 6:00 but we will go up to the Appleby’s for a Celebration of the Feast of Trumpets, Rosh Hashanah at 6:15.  If you don’t know the way to go just show up here for dinner or about 6 and we’ll go up from the church together.

Sunday September 8 – We will be looking at the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur, in both the 8:45 and 10:30 services on Sunday.  We have classes available at 9:30 and 10:30 and our Hispanic Service at 4:00.

Monday September 9 – Our Church Board will meet at 6:00 p.m. on Monday evening

September 22 – We will be celebrating the Feast of Tabernacles on September 22nd with a special potluck following the 10:30 service.