Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Good morning -

The hand of a parent is powerful and life-changing. A parent's hand can lovingly caress or harshly discipline. As every parent knows, the proper balance between caressing and correcting is crucial to the well-being of a child.

Our Father's hand administers that perfect balance:

"As I live," declares the Lord GOD, "surely with a mighty hand and with an outstretched arm and with wrath poured out, I shall be king over you. I will bring you out from the peoples and gather you from the lands where you are scattered, with a mighty hand and with an outstretched arm and with wrath poured out" (Ezekiel 20:33-34)

Through might, correction, and compassion the Lord YAHWEH promised the people of Israel deliverance amidst judgment. Although His wrath was poured out in judgment because of their willful disobedience, the promise of His mercy and deliverance was in no way diminished. Faithful to His covenant promise, the Lord YAHWEH resolves to be King over them.

The Father's purposes extend to us through Jesus the Messiah. With a mighty hand and outstretched arm and wrath poured out on our enemies, His plan to be our King is on track. Though at times we might be faithless, He remains faithful to His covenant to be King. His Kingdom purposes prevail!

In the face of danger and threats, the early church raised their voices in prayer to the one true God to again stretch out His hand and do what He alone could do:

"And now, Lord, take note of their threats, and grant that Your bond-servants may speak Your word with all confidence, while You extend Your hand to heal, and signs and wonders take place through the name of Your holy servant Jesus." (Acts 4:29-30)

When the Kingdom purposes for the Church were threatened, rather than shrink back in fear the early disciples sought boldness in speech as well as the outstretched hand of God to to perform healing,signs and wonders through the name of Jesus. Their prayers received an immediate answer (Acts 4:31)

Our Father extends His arm and His mighty hand to help and strengthen His children today. Whether we need the disciplining hand of correction or a gentle caress, His hand is extended to us today. Rejoice and be comforted in His ever-present helping hand.

Pastor Steve

Friday, July 27, 2007

Good morning -

God needs better PR. He too often is mistaken as an angry, vengeful God ready to mete out wrath at the slightest misstep. Granted, he is a holy God who ultimately demands punishment for wickedness, but He is patiently loving and merciful. Consider what He says about Himself:

"Do I have any pleasure in the death of the wicked," declares the Lord GOD, "rather than that he should turn from his ways and live?" (Ezekiel 18:23)

"For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies," declares the Lord GOD. "Therefore, repent and live." (Ezekiel 18:32)

Judgment and punishment are necessities but not pleasures for our Creator. His greatest desire is that we change our minds and lives and pursue the better path that He sets before us.
To "repent and live" is ultimately to respond to the call of God's Son, our Lord Jesus. He would have us change our minds and reorient our lives around God's great purpose, the kingdom of God:

"Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel." (Mark 1:14-15)

The reality of God's greatest plan is realized in His Son. The Kingdom begins with the appearance of the King; it becomes both "now" and "later". To change our minds and be open to the possibility of the present "mystery phase" of the Kingdom as we await the future fulfillment of it is to step into an amazing realm. Eternity begins to break through into the present; the incredible power that will be the norm in the future kingdom begins to flow down into our lives today. We begin to experience the life of the Age to Come now!

To be sure, there WILL be a future day of judgment and a destructive lake of fire for the wicked, but God's gracious kingdom invitation continues to be extended at the present moment. It is our great privilege to choose - and choose again - to live within the realm of God's great plan. Changing our thinking and reorienting our lives around God's great purpose, realized in Christ, is the pathway to incredible joy and blessings.

May the Kingdom realm be yours in abundance today.

Pastor Steve

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Good morning -

I think I could have limited success counterfeiting. I discovered the potential when I found pictures of U.S. paper currency on the Internet and then printed a very convincing copy of a one thousand dollar bill on the color laser printer that I have. If I had the right kind of paper, no ethics, and no fear of the law, I possibly could fund a "missionary trip" to Hawaii or a Caribbean island.

The problem with the counterfeit is that it appears close enough to the real thing to be deceptive. I could possibly print smaller-denomination bills and pass them off as the real thing to a less-than-discerning store clerk. If, however, I opted to make my counterfeit money from red construction paper with hand-written numbers and pictures, no one would be convinced. For the counterfeit to be effective it must be a convincing substitute for the real thing.

God reserves strong words for counterfeit prophets:

"Then the word of the LORD came to me saying, "Son of man, prophesy against the prophets of Israel who prophesy, and say to those who prophesy from their own inspiration, 'Listen to the word of the LORD! 'Thus says the Lord GOD, "Woe to the foolish prophets who are following their own spirit and have seen nothing ... Therefore, thus says the Lord GOD, "Because you have spoken falsehood and seen a lie, therefore behold, I am against you," declares the Lord GOD." (Ezekiel 13:1-3,8)

I remember a movie from several years ago about a charlatan traveling evangelist. He became very unsettled while in the presence of a genuine young spiritual man. He commented that the only real threat to someone like himself was the presence of the the real thing.

The Apostle Paul was deeply concerned about the dangers of deception that the young church in Ephesus faced. He said,

"I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them." (Acts 20:29-30)

The threat of deception - without and within - was very real, but Paul's confidence was in the protection of truth:

"For I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose of God." (Acts 20:27)

The surest way to avoid deception is to fall in love with truth. A life saturated with study and obedience to the word of God is a life safeguarded against deception. From this position of strength it is possible to discern those who truly have "a word from the Lord" from those who who "prophesy from their own inspiration"

May the joy and love of God's truth be your safeguard today.

Pastor Steve

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Good morning -

I remember the first heart transplant. It took place on my birthday several years ago. A man with a badly diseased heart was given a fresh, healthy one. The procedure was considered successful even though the patient died a few days later. Medical advances since have allowed numerous people to live relatively normal lives with transplanted healthy hearts beating in their chests.

You and I once suffered from a serious heart condition. It was serious enough to be terminal if drastic measures were not taken. Nothing less than a transplant would save us, and that's exactly the procedure performed on us:

"And I will give them one heart, and put a new spirit within them. And I will take the heart of stone out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in My statutes and keep My ordinances and do them. Then they will be My people, and I shall be their God." (Ezekiel 11:19-20)

We hear plenty today about the harmful effects of cholesterol on our heart and arteries. Over time cholesterol builds up and restricts our arteries and the vital flow of blood. Sin has the tendency to do basically the same to us spiritually. Over time the habitual practice of sin has a calcifying effect on our hearts; it diminishes spiritual sensitivity to the point of eventually causing us to be totally unresponsive. Nothing less than a heart transplant will save us.

The promise of God through Ezekiel has been accomplished through the life and sacrifice of Jesus our Lord. The most radical procedure of all was performed on us so that we might have new life. We have been saved from the certainty of death and given abundant, vibrant new life.

Heart by-pass procedures are routinely performed these days because of our dietary practices, but the benefits are often short-lived because lifestyle changes are not made. Radical surgery is ineffective if lifestyle changes are not made.

It is a great spiritual tragedy when the benefits of a heart transplant are diminished through the habitual practice of sin. This practice will eventually lead to death (Hebrews 10:26-27). Lifestyle changes must accompany the heart transplant that we have received.

All of us are prone to our favorite sin. There is a sinful practice that we each are especially vulnerable to, and that is the arena of our great personal spiritual battle. It is imperative that we master that habit by the Spirit of God if we are to avoid rendering the work of Christ in us ineffective.

I'm thankful for my new heart in Christ, and I seek to appreciate it by doing battle with sin through the Spirit. I know that I will not completely avoid sin today, but mastering the practice of sin is possible. The new heart within provides the life and power to overcome.

Rejoicing in spiritual life through the beating of my new heart,

Pastor Steve

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Good morning -

What does it take to really get your attention? Bold newspaper headlines? An outrageous and absurd TV commercial? Bizarre behavior by someone?

Our Creator's primary objective is for us to know who He is. His attention-getting tactics are far less subtle than that of the media, but His objective is getting our attention nevertheless. He simple wants us to know that He is the Lord YHWH.

God's message through the prophet Ezekiel was one of impending judgment because of sin and disobedience. It often makes for alarming and depressing reading, but the message of judgment is really only the tip of the iceberg; it's ultimately about returning to God and knowing Him. Notice this recurring theme:

"you will know that I am the LORD (Ezekiel 6:7) ... Then they will know that I am the LORD (Ezekiel 6:10) ... Then you will know that I am the LORD (Ezekiel 6:13) ... thus they will know that I am the LORD (Ezekiel 6:14) ... And they will know that I am the LORD (Ezekiel 7:27) ... So they will know that I am the LORD (Ezekiel 12:15) ... and may know that I am the LORD (Ezekiel 12:16).

Get the idea? Our Father wants His people to know that He is the Lord YHWH. As a holy God He demands holiness from His people but ultimately His heart is for a deep personal relationship. He wants us to know Him even as He knows us.

I'm often reminded that God chose to walk with the first man, Adam, in the Garden of Eden in the cool of the day (Genesis 3). That scene is a picture of what God desires of us - a close, personal relationship. Sin is a major deterrent to that relationship, but Jesus - through His sacrifice - has provided the means for an unbroken, intimate relationship.

A deep, personal relationship with our Father is literally the wellspring of life and total well-being. Jesus reminds us that the priority of our love for and relationship with the Father is at the absolute top of the priority list:

"`YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.' "This is the great and foremost commandment." (Matthew 22:37-38)

May the joy and life that springs from intimately knowing your Father be yours in abundance today.

Pastor Steve

Friday, July 20, 2007

Good morning -

Truth can be bittersweet. Insight into God's plan and word is an incredible privilege, but with privilege comes responsibility. Understanding and insight involves response and action.

Ezekiel the prophet was privileged to have an encounter with the living God, but the encounter involved a difficult response:

"Now you, son of man, listen to what I am speaking to you; do not be rebellious like that rebellious house. Open your mouth and eat what I am giving you." Then I looked, and behold, a hand was extended to me; and lo, a scroll was in it." (Ezekiel 2:8-9)

"Then He said to me, "Son of man, eat what you find; eat this scroll, and go, speak to the house of Israel." So I opened my mouth, and He fed me this scroll. He said to me, "Son of man, feed your stomach and fill your body with this scroll which I am giving you." Then I ate it, and it was sweet as honey in my mouth." (Ezekiel 3:1-3)

There is sweetness in receiving God's word but potential bitterness when we are called to take it to disobedient people in need of corrective action. Few people enjoy having sinful habits and behavior pointed out!

We're reminded of all that God's word is capable of in 2 Timothy 3:16-17: "All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work."

A major role of God's word is to point out the error of our ways and prescribe corrective measures necessary for a life of complete obedience. We want the results but often don't enjoy the painful process of getting there. Unfortunately, we can't have the one without the other.

God's word is a sharp, two-edged sword (Hebrews 4:12), cleanly dividing and separating the responsive from the resistant. The responsive are willing to undergo painful surgery in order to achieve spiritual health; the resistant reject the message and, in many cases, the messenger as well.

May we each be fully responsive to God's word today, regardless of whether it brings sweet instruction or unpleasant correction. Ultimately it brings the best that our Father has for each of us.

Seeking to submit to the Sword,

Pastor Steve

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Good morning -

There is nothing quite as exciting as hearing a secret. Revealed secrets shed light on things we did not previously understand; events and behavior begin to make sense. A revealed secret explains the unexplainable and provides us with a great "aha!" moment.

"Behold, I tell you a mystery ..." (1 Corinthians 15:51). The truth is out in the open: a generation of believers will immediately be transported from mortality to immortality and will bypass death. It will happen "in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed." (! Corinthians 15:52). Faster than you can blink your eye, at the blowing of the last trumpet of judgment (Revelation 11:15-18), this amazing transformation will take place. In an instant, time will give way to eternity.

A good mystery novel is hard to put down. A skilled writer draws us in to the plot and provides tantalizing details that make the book almost impossible to put down. The story builds to a crescendo until the great mystery is finally revealed and all makes sense.

The great mystery of God's plan to usher us from mortality to immortality is revealed, and it suddenly all makes sense. Now we're left to do something with this great mystery that we've discovered:

"Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord." (1 Corinthians 15:58)

A breakthrough insight or understanding is called a paradigm shift. In that moment, reality as we know it changes and new realities come into focus. So it is when the mystery of God is revealed: suddenly there is a new basis for rock-solid steadiness of faith and diligent service. A powerful motivation is introduced that affects the very core of our being.

It is thrilling for me to reflect these great words to you. On the basis of the revealed mystery, I challenge and encourage you to stand strong today in your faith; overflow in service and good works. Never lose sight of the fact that your faith and work are absolutely worthwhile and will be favorably remembered at the realization of the great mystery. Let the mystery be the motivation.

Standing and serving today because of the mystery,

Pastor Steve

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Good morning -

It's at least as great a need now as ever. The world needs more love.

Although there is probably no better-known Bible passage than 1 Corinthians 13, familiarity with it does not automatically translate into practice. Love is still the "more excellent way" (1 Corinthians 12:31), but sadly it is a lonely path in our world today.

Love is the sole distinguishing mark of followers of Jesus (John 13:35), but it will be in short supply at the time of the end ("Because lawlessness is increased, most people's love will grow cold." Matthew 24:12). Keeping the flame of love burning is a major challenge.

Without love all acts of service become meaningless:

"If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing." (1 Corinthians 13:1-3)

Love is not mushy sentimentality; it is the driving force behind truth, faith, endurance and hope ("rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things." 1 Corinthians 13:6-7). Without love truth become irrelevant and endurance, faith, and hope are diminished. Love truly is the passion that energizes our spiritual existence.

A loveless marriage is not really marriage, nor is a loveless Christian life really a Christian life. The essence of it all is love for God and others (Matthew 23:36-40). Without passionate love for our Father His truth becomes unimportant as do His promises. Love for the Father enables genuine love for others.

While love is the priority, I sometimes am troubled when I see the icy winds of indifference blowing in my own life. It's easy enough to love those who love me, but what about the lost and dying all around? Do I truly care about those who will not enter the Kingdom of God unless they undergo radical spiritual transformation? What would the compassion that can only be stirred by love cause me to do and say?

The world does need more love if true change is to occur. Love will open hearts to the rule of Christ, and will champion truth, endurance, faith and hope. It will make us the kinder, gentler people that the world desperately needs and wants.

Seeking the more excellent way today,

Pastor Steve

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Good morning -

It's like an incredible potluck dinner and everyone has something delicious to contribute. So it is with the church and individual spiritual gifts:

"to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good." (1 Corinthians 12:7)

Every believer has been given a supernatural ability to bring something to the church "potluck" to benefit all involved. That ability, according to the Apostle Paul, can come in a variety of forms:

"to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues." (1 Corinthians 12:8-10)

Whether you've been gifted to understand God's word, or apply it to daily living, or to trust Him, or to make others whole, or to speak the mind and counsel of God so that others are built up, or to discern motives, or to speak or interpret languages not learned, each is a God-given ability designed to make the church "potluck" a better meal for all involved. And it is the Spirit of God that orchestrates this extravagant potluck of service:

"But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills." (1 Corinthians 12:11)

Perhaps spiritual gifts and the body of Christ can better be described as an orchestra than a potluck dinner. Everyone has been given a special ability to play an instrument in an incredible symphonic performance. We've never practiced before but we've picked up an instrument and, to our great amazement, found that we play perfectly and beautifully. And our music blends perfectly with the many other instruments in the great Kingdom symphony as we participate in the performance of the ages. The more passionately we play, the better the performance, and the more people who join the symphony and contribute to an even greater performance.

I'm inspired and encouraged by those who have found their musical instrument and are playing beautifully and harmoniously in the body of Christ. But those who haven't can step up to the table and select an instrument and try it out. It may require trying several instruments before finding the one that you can play the most beautifully, but once you find it, play it with all the passion and ability that God's Spirit within inspires.

Enjoying my participation in today's concert performance,

Pastor Steve

Monday, July 16, 2007

Good morning -

The purpose-driven life has become a very familiar phrase to most people these days. Finding an exciting and significant purpose is key to a fulfilling and effective life. Perhaps the most purpose-driven person we will ever encounter is the Apostle Paul. Listen to what he says:

"we endure all things so that we will cause no hindrance to the gospel of Christ." (1 Corinthians 9:12)

"I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some." (1 Corinthians 9:22)

"I do all things for the sake of the gospel" (1 Corinthians 9:23)

"I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit but the profit of the many, so that they may be saved." (1 Corinthians 10:33)

Paul's purpose could be summarized in the phrase, a Kingdom-driven life. He was absolutely consumed and obsessed with advancing the Kingdom gospel of Christ. His lifestyle and activities revolved around this all-important purpose; he pursued it with athletic discipline (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).

The opposite of a Kingdom-driven life is a life of idolatry. Paul warns, "Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written, "THE PEOPLE SAT DOWN TO EAT AND DRINK, AND STOOD UP TO PLAY." (1 Corinthians 10:7). If we are not kingdom-driven we by default bow down to the god of this world and indulge our appetites in the world's pleasures. It's the "law of mutually-exclusive love" that Jesus talked about: "You cannot serve God and wealth." (Matthew 6:24). We are either Kingdom-driven or in love with the world.

A Kingdom-driven purpose provides its own rewards. The more we pursue a Kingdom agenda the more fulfillment we find. Developing a hunger for God's word, intimacy with Him through prayer, fellowship with His people, and outward-focused activities designed to build bridges to the lost, the more fulfillment we find. Belonging to something much greater than ourselves is incredibly enriching and fulfilling.

May you today discover with greater clarity the joy of a kingdom-driven life.

Pastor Steve

Friday, July 13, 2007

Good morning -

"Gray areas" are troubling. The Bible is crystal-clear about things like murder and adultery, but what about occasionally drinking beer or a glass of wine? What about PG-13 and R-rated movies? There probably are as many opinions on such subjects as there are readers.

I wouldn't add "food offered to idols" to my list of gray areas, but this was a big deal in the days of the Apostle Paul. While it's not a pertinent issue today, the principles surrounding it have significant implications for our contemporary grey areas. In particular, Paul says,
"take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak." (1 Corinthians 8:9)

Grey areas become black and white issues when a weaker brother or sister is affected. My choice of movies or my position on social drinking may not bring me under God's judgment, but these things most certainly will if the exercise of conscience-free liberty causes someone else a spiritual problem. The greater good is the spiritual welfare of all members of the body of Christ.

Amidst these instructions Paul reminds us, "yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him." (1 Corinthians 8:6). Sharpening our focus and attention on the one true God and His Son, our Lord Jesus the Christ, is the best solution to the issue of gray areas. The closer we get to truth, the clearer such questionable issues become.

I'm concerned when a Christian's focus seems to be on minimal standards: When the focus is on gray areas that can be indulged in rather than growth in holiness, there is a serious problem. Zeal for our relationship with our Father and His Son, our Lord Jesus, put all areas in proper perspective.

I'll never pretend that I was an exemplary student in any school that I attended, but I excelled most in the classes for which I had an eager desire to learn the subject matter. That desire drove me to focus on how much I could learn rather than how little I could do and still pass the class. That mentality makes all the difference in our Christian lives as well.

We have tremendous freedom in the Lord. Ultimately, we are free to zealously love our Father and His Son, our Lord Jesus, and to work for the greatest good of the people of God. May you find real joy today in passionately pursuing each of these vital relationships.

Pastor Steve

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Good morning -

Followers of Jesus are uniquely qualified to be hypocrites. No other people on the face of the earth struggle with the dual nature within that Christians struggle with. We are called to a high and holy standard but - let's face it - we often live and act very humanly.

If there is one group of Christians that we get to look at up close and personal, warts and all, it is the Christians at Corinth. A man is involved in an illicit affair with his father's wife (presumably not his mother!); believers are filing lawsuits and going to court against one another; and "upstanding church members" regularly employ the services of prostitutes. Absolutely outrageous behavior! But, before we look down our noses at these carnal Christians, we do well to consider if all is in order in our own houses. Perhaps (hopefully) none of us identify with the bizarre behavior of the Corinthians, but I doubt that any of us could stand up to full public scrutiny of our entire lifestyle. There are likely some sinful "skeletons in our closets".

A recurring theme with the Apostle Paul in light of such behavior is a reminder of who we are in Christ:"Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?" (1 Corinthians 3:16). He restates that same truth with an appeal to use our bodies in a God-honoring way: "do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body." (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

I respect the Bible as God's Word and treat it with honor because I associate it with God. It's ironic, then, that I can vent anger or harbor sinful thoughts and not equate the inconsistency of such thoughts and actions with my body as God's temple. Remembering the extravagantly high price that was paid to appropriate my body and convert it to the temple of God is a great deterrent to such thoughts and behavior.

There will always be a tension between our sinful nature and God's indwelling presence and Spirit this side of the Kingdom. The real problem comes when we choose to indulge our sinful nature and then cover it up with the disguise of spirituality. Our hypocrisy may successfully fool others, but ultimately we deceive ourselves if we play this game long enough and well enough.

I'm convinced that confession and accountability are effective antidotes to carnality and hypocrisy. It's important that we be reminded of our status as God's temple and all its implications, and reminding ourselves personally is not enough. We truly need others whom we trust to remind us as well as gently guide us into a lifestyle consistent with God's indwelling presence.

May you tap in to all the resources within and around you today to live the lifestyle of God's temple.

Pastor Steve

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Good morning -

It's a truth that I'll always have trouble wrapping my mind around. It is stated with profound simplicity, but the implications are worthy of a lifetime of investigation and exploration:

"Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?" (1 Corinthians 3:16)

It's been said that there are no longer holy places, only holy people. Through the sacrifice of Jesus animal sacrifices and temple and tabernacle worship rituals are completely fulfilled and abolished. No longer is God's point of contact through a place called the Holy of Holies, but now through the very presence of His Spirit within believers. You and I have become receptacles of His amazing presence!

I sometimes wonder, however, why I don't FEEL as though I am His temple. If I'm His temple, why are my motives sometimes questionable or impure? Why am I aware of the presence of my old sinful self amidst the very dwelling place of the One who is in complete opposition to those qualities?

As the temple of God and those who "house" the Spirit of God, we're reminded: "Do not quench the Spirit" (1 Thessalonians 5:19). The presence and Spirit of God within are a flame that can grow or diminish. We each can "kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands." (2 Timothy 1:6), or we can "quench the Spirit" (1 Thessalonians 5:19): the choice is ours. By keeping in step with the Spirit of God through obedience to its work the flame can grow into a blaze, or by allowing the old nature to flourish we can diminish the flame to a mere flicker - or worse.

Daily and moment by moment we have the choice as to the fuel we feed the flame. That which is in harmony with the Spirit is like gasoline causing the flame to blaze and roar. But that which is "anti-Spirit" is like green wood which diminishes the flame and, in the most extreme case, completely extinguishes it.

The real issue is that which we respond to. Those of us who have had the Spirit within for some time now have grown accustomed to its promptings: "go here ... do this ... don't do that ... etc." When we resist the Spirit's promptings we diminish it such that it's harder to hear and respond to the next time. The cumulative effect of resisting the Spirit is that we eventually have the empty form of "religion" but are complete devoid of its power.

God's Spirit and presence within serve as an internal guidance system; a GPS unit of sorts. Through it we are prompted how to walk and where. By "locking on" to spiritual priorities, such as seeking first the kingdom and the fruit of the Spirit, we fan into flame the Spirit within.

Rejoice today in this marvelous truth: you are a temple of God and ... the Spirit of God dwells in you" Discover and explore the amazing implications for your life.

Enjoying the presence,

Pastor Steve

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Good morning -

It's a battle that you'll never clearly see but it is real nevertheless. It is the battle for our minds, and it's waged with the most sophisticated techniques and weapons ever devised. The wisdom of the world is engaged in a battle for our minds against the wisdom of God, but it is a battle that the Lord will ultimately win:


The ultimate trick that God has played on our enemy, and the world, is that He has cleverly disguised His wisdom to appear as foolishness:

"For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe." (1 Corinthians 1:21)

Nothing is more foolish than the message about the cross. Paul goes on to say:

"For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God." (1 Corinthians 1:22-24)

Few things are more absurd than the message of a coming world ruler who has been killed. His resurrection from the dead provides a powerful and logical solution to the problem of His death, but the fact that He was killed is a major stumbling block to many. And yet in the wisdom of God that message becomes the power of God for salvation to all who believe. That belief unleashes the power and wisdom of God that can not be received in any other way.

Because we have received the foolishness of God, we have become far wiser than the most learned person in the world. We then have the capacity to understand and share with others of that wisdom:

"Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words." (1 Corinthians 2:12-13)

May you enjoy the blessings today that come from freely understanding what God has given you, and in sharing that with others through Spirit-inspired words.

Living today in appreciation of insights through the Spirit,

Pastor Steve

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Good morning -

The brightest insights often come during the darkest hours. And perhaps those insights seem especially bright because they come against the dark backdrop of difficult circumstances. Such was the insight that came to Jeremiah against the backdrop of Israel's darkest hour:

"The LORD'S lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. "The LORD is my portion," says my soul, "Therefore I have hope in Him." The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, To the person who seeks Him. It is good that he waits silently For the salvation of the LORD. It is good for a man that he should bear The yoke in his youth." (Lamentations 3:22-27)

It is in our darkest moments that we most fully realize the unceasing lovingkindness and unfailing compassion of the Lord. In the dark times of difficulty new days easily invoke dread and fear, but it is in those times that we are most aware of the freshness of God's compassion and love. With keen realism we can declare, "Great is Your faithfulness!"

The Lord reserves His richest blessings for those who wait silently upon Him in the difficult days. It is when we come to the end of personal abilities, financial resources, and medical solutions that we stand ready to rely solely upon the Lord JHWH. As we wait in silence for the One who alone can help it is then that we find our greatest help and strength. And the earlier in life we learn these lessons, the better.

Adversity comes in many forms. Sometimes it comes in the obvious form of outward circumstances - health issues, financial hardships, family or marital problems. Sometimes adversity is hidden but just as real - depression, loneliness, self-doubt, anxiety. Whatever form it takes, Jeremiah's discovery remains true: our Father's lovingkindness and compassion are constants. Those who have waited silently in faith amidst the pain can strongly testify to this truth.

The most human reaction to any pain is to seek relief from it (our pill-filled medicine cabinets are ample evidence). Yet the very thing we often seek to escape is many times the pathway to our richest growth and blessings. There is a great commonality between God's people of faith and difficult circumstances (Hebrews 11). This particular path to spiritual strength and character is one that few desire or would choose.

The brightest insights do come during the darkest hours. Savor the bright insights if this is a personal dark hour, and don't let the brightness of good times hide the insights that shine so bright in the darkness.

Seeking to hold on to the insights regardless of the times,

Pastor Steve