Friday, August 31, 2007

Good morning -

Do we influence or have we been influenced? I'm often reminded that Jesus declares us to be the salt of the earth, but I wonder which has the greater influence: us on the world or vice versa?
Daniel of the Old Testament was an outstanding youth at the time of his country's greatest calamity. The king of Babylon besieged Jerusalem and deported the best and brightest people. Daniel and three of his good friends were among them.

King Nebuchadnezzar selected the most intelligent and good-looking youth for his cultural immersion program. No doubt his thinking was that if leading youth were indoctrinated into the cultural system then others would follow; an effective strategy prevalent even today.

What Nebuchadnezzar didn't bargain for were youth who refused to be indoctrinated. They refused to defile themselves through food (Daniel 1:8-16), and they acquired cultural knowledge only as a tool to be used in the service of the one true God. It is especially interesting to note:

"As for these four youths, God gave them knowledge and intelligence in every branch of literature and wisdom; Daniel even understood all kinds of visions and dreams." (Daniel 1:17)

God gave them insight and understanding into the Babylonian culture, not that they might become Babylonians, but that they might be in a better position of influence and effectiveness. Their understanding never diverted them from their true allegiance, which was exactly opposite that which Nebuchadnezzar had sought.

God wants to use people who cannot be bought or indoctrinated by our present system. Familiarity with our culture must not be driven by our fascination with it, but by our heart's desire to be used by the Lord with it.

Perhaps the greatest struggle for every follower of Christ is to be in the world but not of it (John 17:15-16). The calling to influence is clear, but the reality of being influenced is equally clear.
We are students of our culture as well as students of God's word. The imperative is that our true love and allegiance never be compromised by the appealing glitter and glamour of this present system.

Remaining focused upon our true identity and mission is key to avoiding the influence of our culture. Remembering that we are citizens of the Kingdom of God and seeking that priority first (Matthew 6:33) is the best safeguard against indoctrination into our culture.

Striving to seek the Kingdom today while living in this present age,

Pastor Steve

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Good morning -

I'll bet I'm less confident that you, and less capable. That probably sounds like a completely backward way of bragging. Boasting and bragging generally focus on areas of real or imagined strength, not weakness. No one at school will be impressed with the assertive child who boasts, "I'm not as smart as you!", or, "Feel my muscles; I'm lots weaker than you!". Bragging about weakness makes little sense except from a spiritual standpoint:

"Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me--to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults,with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong." (2 Corinthians 12:7-10)

The Apostle Paul had plenty of bragging rights. He had some very impressive religious credentials as a Jewish leader, and probably had a whole wall full of awards and achievement certificates. He had a unique conversion experience with Jesus and dynamically experienced the power of God working signs and miracles through him. But the Lord provided Paul with something to counteract any tendency toward bragging; a "thorn in the flesh".

There has been plenty of speculation through the ages as to what Paul's thorn in the flesh was, but one thing is certain: it was something he didn't want and asked the Lord three times to remove it. The answer was always the same: "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness."

"power is perfected in weakness". Power is achieved through strength, not weakness, isn't it? The strong assert their strength as they push and shove and climb the ladder of success. The weak are the powerless.

The Lord's system is that of an "upside-down pyramid". Leading comes through serving. Greatness is found in emptiness. Power is manifested through weakness. As Jesus has said,

"whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant; and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all." (Mark 10:43-44)

Confidence and assertiveness have always been challenges for me. I admire confident, assertive people and often wish I had more of those qualities. But I'm reminded that my perceived weakness in these areas may be among my greatest strengths. If power is perfected in weakness then I must be a Samson!

Don't discount your weakness. The Lord's best work may very well be accomplished through it.

Pastor Steve

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Good morning -

It is a tale of two men. Both were nearly the same age; both were farmers. They had seen hard times; one man had inherited the family farm after his father's death during the Great Depression as the bank was about to foreclose. He stated that he had his faith and little else.

There were many similarities with these two men, but also some striking differences. Hardship drove one man to hoard and protect what he had; the other chose to be generous in spite of hardship. And those differences made all the difference. No matter how much the one man protected and kept, he never seemed to have enough. The generous man, however, had an abundance and gave still more from a grateful heart.

"he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed" (2 Corinthians 9:6-8)

It's a truth attested to by many faithful givers: you can't out give God. God gives, but in proportion to our giving - sparingly to the sparse giver and generously to the generous giver. Obligation and legalism in matters of giving is ineffective because God loves those who freely choose generosity. Those who choose generosity through faith never lack because God abundantly provides. To this I can personally testify.

Life is a matter of investment choices. We will all invest whatever resources we have - time, money, and energy. The key is to invest wisely. No one would choose to invest money in a lending institution with a record of financial loss; where 10 percent of customers' money is lost and never found. And yet many people unwittingly and unknowingly invest heavily in things of this age that are destined for destruction at the coming of the Lord. Sadly, members of the family of God are among those unwise investors.

Shrewd stock investors look for obscure up-and-coming companies to invest in, knowing that they stand to greatly multiply their investments. The safest and wisest investment of all is in the up-and-coming Age To Come. Those who "seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness" (Matthew 6:33) can expect a phenomenal return on investment.

Those who have an eye on retirement invest regularly in a retirement plan. They tend to present duties and obligations but carefully and quietly invest in the future. So it needs to be with every disciple of Jesus: we need to tend to today's obligations and duties but also carefully invest in the Kingdom of God.

Living today while investing in Tomorrow,

Pastor Steve

Friday, August 24, 2007

Good morning -

Who doesn't like new stuff? There's nothing quite like the smell of a new car (not that I've ever owned one), or the feel of new clothes, or the thrill of a new electronic device or appliance. We are a culture addicted to new things, which explains our vast collective credit card debt. But, it doesn't have to cost us a dime to have that "new feel" on a daily basis:

"Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come." (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Imagine being able to turn your car in at the end of the day every day and get a brand new one the next morning! That would certainly make the daily drive to work much more fun. In essence, we get a "brand-new car" start in Christ every day. Yesterday's dents, transmission problems and engine issues are gone; we start fresh each day.

"Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God." (2 Corinthians 5:18-20)

It's important to give credit where credit is due. God our Father is our ultimate Savior. He essentially "made the car" that Christ bought for us. God has reconciled us to Himself through His Son, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation as His ambassadors.

I once remember hearing of a men's Sunday School class that chose the name, "Ambassadors for Christ". It's a title rich with meaning. An ambassador is a government representative in another land, favorably representing the laws and customs of his homeland. So it is with us in Christ: our allegiance and citizenship is with the government of God as we live in this present age, and our mission is to favorably represent the standards and customs of the government to which we ultimately belong. As ambassadors, we appeal through word and lifestyle for others to join the greatest government of all. That appeal is made by God through His Son Jesus.

Rejoice today in the newness of God through Christ, and may you find ultimate purpose and meaning through your role as an ambassador of the Kingdom of God.

Pastor Steve

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Good morning -

It's a common wedding ritual. The bride wears a veil until the bride and groom kiss after the official pronouncement. I've found some personal amusement in thinking that another woman could theoretically substitute for the bride and it would be too late by the time the groom discovered her true identity (somewhat like the story of Rachel & Leah in Genesis).

The veil obscures the bride's face (and vice versa). The lifting of the veil near the end of the wedding ceremony represents the unobscured new relationship between husband and wife.

This imagery of a veil serves as a significant illustration in Paul's letter to the church at Corinth. He says,

"we ... are not like Moses, who used to put a veil over his face so that the sons of Israel would not look intently at the end of what was fading away. But their minds were hardened; for until this very day at the reading of the old covenant the same veil remains unlifted, because it is removed in Christ. But to this day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their heart; but whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit." (2 Corinthians 3:12-18)

Numerous people have commented on the difficulty of understanding the Bible. There are certainly difficult texts to understand but the Bible as a whole is literally an open book through Jesus. The purpose and meaning of the Old Testament in particular is a great mystery if one does not see its fulfillment through Christ. The Sermon On the Mount (Matthew 5-7) is where we most clearly see what Jesus has done in fulfilling the old covenant.

"whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away". Through Christ the veil is lifted and all can be clearly seen and understood. With unveiled faces we are given the opportunity, through Jesus, to see the glory of the Father even as we are being transformed into that glory ourselves. What an incredible, liberating privilege!

The key that unlocks all of the Bible is Jesus. it is only through personal knowledge of him and his mission that any of the Bible makes sense. That is why salvation is found in "the things concerning the kingdom and the name of Jesus Christ" (Acts 8:12). Without an intimate knowledge of the man and his mission we read the Bible as with a veil covering our faces.

Rejoicing today in the liberating, unveiled view of the plan of God through Christ,

Pastor Steve

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Good morning -

Forest Gump was right. Life is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you're going to get. As someone else has said, the future is like someone with their hands behind their back; you don't know if you'll be given a bouquet or thrown a brick.

The Apostle Paul said something very similar: "For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ." (2 Corinthians 1:5)

To identify with the man of sorrows is to experience His sorrow, but thankfully He also offers us comfort in abundance. I've heard numerous testimonies of comfort and strength from faithful saints who walked through the valley of the shadow of death. The sufferings were painfully real, but so was abundant comfort.

Our sufferings are designed to be used to comfort others as is our comfort, according to Paul:

"But if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; or if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which is effective in the patient enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer; and our hope for you is firmly grounded, knowing that as you are sharers of our sufferings, so also you are sharers of our comfort." (2 Corinthians 1:6-7)

The strength that we are given in our times of affliction shine as a bright testimony to other believers, as does the comfort we receive during such times. That which we experience is not so much for our own good as for the good of the family of God. No one truly lives just for themselves.

If we do not see our lives and our experiences from the perspective of our connection to the rest of the body of Christ we have not properly "framed" our lives. Our truest identity and purpose is found within Christ's church.

The hardships that are an inevitable part of life often cause us to ask, "why?", or "why me?". Perhaps the answer that makes the most sense is, "for the good of the body of Christ." Others find strength as they see us find strength; others are comforted even as we are comforted.

Life is a "box of chocolate" mix of sorrow and comfort. Divorced from a genuine connection to the body of believers, our sorrow is especially painful and our comfort is hollow. Through a vital connection with others, however, a greater purpose is evident even as the Lord's comfort and strength comes to us through them.

May you find ultimate purpose and meaning in your Christian life today through you connection with His body.

Pastor Steve

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Good morning -

If they can find water then there is a basis for life. That's the premise of our space exploration to places such as Mars. Without water there is no possibility of life.

Ezekiel was shown the temple of God in great detail, and lastly was shown a river of water flowing out from it:

"Then he brought me back to the door of the house; and behold, water was flowing from under the threshold of the house toward the east, for the house faced east. And the water was flowing down from under, from the right side of the house, from south of the altar ... By the river on its bank, on one side and on the other, will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither and their fruit will not fail. They will bear every month because their water flows from the sanctuary, and their fruit will be for food and their leaves for healing." (Ezekiel 47:1,12)

A similar picture is found in Revelation 22:1-2:

"Then he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb, in the middle of its street. On either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations."

Without water there is no possibility of life. I live in an arid desert climate where water is scarce. Were it not for irrigation there is little that could survive and grow. Generations ago settlers wisely developed a system of open canals to bring precious life-giving water to a region that could not otherwise support life.

The river of life flows out from the throne of God and from the Lamb. Jesus declared, "whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life." (John 4:14)

Without water there is no possibility of life. Except that the living waters spring up in our lives, we have no life; we are as dead as the hot, dry desert.

The waters of baptism are a very real promise of the well of water within that springs up to eternal life. Our outer washing represents the inner transformation that is ever nourished and refreshed by living waters.

May you be continually refreshed today by the clear, cool water of life within that eventually springs up to life at its fullest in the coming Kingdom.

Pastor Steve

Friday, August 17, 2007

Good morning -

If we build it He will come. It may sound like a famous line from the movie, "Field of Dream", but it instead applies to God and His dwelling place.

A detailed description of God's temple is found in Ezekiel 40-44, complete with specific measurements. Whether this is the description of a future temple or one from the past, the important lesson is that God is meticulous about the details concerning His dwelling place.

God no longer takes up residence in holy places but in holy people. At the moment of Jesus' death on the cross the curtain at the entrance to the most holy place in the temple was ripped apart (Matthew 27:51), dramatically representing a change in access to the presence of the Most Holy One. Jesus' sacrifice provided the means for the presence of God to dwell with people rather than places. The Apostle Paul summarized it well when he said,

"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)

Imperfect as we are, Jesus has satisfied God's meticulous requirements for us to become the temple of God. Mortals have now become the brick and mortar temple!

We ARE the temple of God. Is there any other truth that gives basis for healthy self-esteem and an optimistic outlook? It is also truth that provides powerful motivation for godly living. Would we dare subject the temple of God to immoral behavior, dishonest speech and hateful actions?

God instructed Ezekiel, "As for you, son of man, describe the temple to the house of Israel, that they may be ashamed of their iniquities; and let them measure the plan. If they are ashamed of all that they have done, make known to them the design of the house, its structure, its exits, its entrances, all its designs, all its statutes, and all its laws. And write it in their sight, so that they may observe its whole design and all its statutes and do them." (Ezekiel 43:10-11)

The purpose of the temple details in Ezekiel was to provide incentive for holy living. Such is the purpose in knowing that we are God's temple. With privilege comes responsibility.

May the glory of the Holy One shine brightly in and through you as your lifestyle is shaped by His inner presence.

Pastor Steve

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Good morning -

The pain is for our ultimate good; such is the design of divine discipline. A recurring theme in the Old Testament is God's punishment of Israel because of their sinful disobedience, but an equally prominent theme is His promise of restoration. Notice in Ezekiel 39:

"The nations will know that the house of Israel went into exile for their iniquity because they acted treacherously against Me, and I hid My face from them; so I gave them into the hand of their adversaries, and all of them fell by the sword. According to their uncleanness and according to their transgressions I dealt with them, and I hid My face from them.Therefore thus says the Lord GOD, "Now I will restore the fortunes of Jacob and have mercy on the whole house of Israel; and I will be jealous for My holy name ... Then they will know that I am the LORD their God because I made them go into exile among the nations, and then gathered them again to their own land; and I will leave none of them there any longer. I will not hide My face from them any longer, for I will have poured out My Spirit on the house of Israel," declares the Lord GOD. (Ezekiel 39:23-25, 28-29)

God's discipline is designed to be corrective, not punitive. As a loving parent He disciplines in order to bring those whom He loves back into His grace and abundant blessings. The design of His discipline is best described in Proverbs 3:11-12:

"My son, do not reject the discipline of the LORD Or loathe His reproof, For whom the LORD loves He reproves, Even as a father corrects the son in whom he delights."

Discipline makes only partial sense at best to a child. Pain or deprivation is the incentive for better behavior, but the motivation and purposes of the parents are unclear. Adulthood brings a clearer understanding and appreciation of the perspective of parental discipline.

From our vantage point as the children of God, the discipline of the Lord is sometimes unclear. In this age we are not fully aware of all the character issues in our lives that need to be shaped and molded to make us fit for the Kingdom of God. The challenging circumstances that we may be presently facing could be for the very purpose of shaping some aspect of our character according to the Lord's perfect plan. Although painful, those circumstances have the potential to yield perfected character.

If we believe that the Lord is totally good and that His purposes for us are for our absolute good, then we can trust His direction in our lives today.

Trusting today's circumstances to be used for His ultimate good,

Pastor Steve

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Good morning -

He is the God of rhetorical questions. When God asks questions it is for our benefit, not because of His lack of knowledge.

Ezekiel was confronted with a vision of a large valley of dry bones and asked, "Son of man, can these bones live?" (Ezekiel 37:3). Ezekiel wisely answered, "O Lord GOD, You know."

"O Lord GOD, You know" - it is this response that the Lord seeks when He questions. He questions so that we might consider what He can do.

God caused the dry bones to come together, and placed sinews, flesh and skin upon them as well as the breath of life in them. He explained the meaning of it all:

"Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel; behold, they say, 'Our bones are dried up and our hope has perished. We are completely cut off.'" (Ezekiel 37:11)

As a result of their sinful disobedience, the people of Israel were taken away into captivity and ceased to exist as a nation. They became as dead as dried-out bones; devoid of hope and a future. Yet God's vision vividly demonstrated to Ezekiel that God is well able to even bring about life from death.

There are times in life when hope seems to perish; circumstances seem as hopeless as a valley of dry bones. In those moments God's question comes to us so that we might consider what He can do. His question prompts our response: "O Lord GOD, You know".

The God of all possibilities can take the most hopeless circumstances and turn them into living realities. That message is reinforced time and time again through the miracles recorded in the Bible - the parting of the Red Sea, manna in the wilderness, water from a rock, meals from breadcrumbs, resurrection from death. The living God specializes in life from death.

Through faith today may you see beyond your personal valley of dry bones to the living reality that is possible only through the God of all possibilities.

Pastor Steve

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Good morning -

It was an inside job. The window had been left unlocked by someone at the Midweek service and they later returned to steal a new piece of sound equipment. Only someone with inside information would know where the equipment was and be able to efficiently access and steal it as they did.

On a decidedly more positive note, it took an inside job to get us on the path to the kingdom of God. Only Someone with detailed inside information could pull off the job, and that's exactly what's been done:

"Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances. You will live in the land that I gave to your forefathers; so you will be My people, and I will be your God." (Ezekiel 36:25-28)

While Ezekiel's message applied primarily to the people of Israel, the application extends to us as well. God's "inside job" involves purification with water, redirected worship, a heart and mind "transplant", Spirit enablement for the purpose of obedience, hope of an inheritance, and adoption into God's family. That which we could never do ourselves has been done for us by our Creator.

The older I get the more aware I am of my Father's internal work in me. The cleansing that came through water baptism in 1973 opened a well of Spirit life that continues to provide refreshment and life daily. It has taken some time to recognize the inner voice of God through the Spirit but the voice is clearer now than it has ever been. The Spirit of the living God is actively working to keep my heart responsive to the teachings and directives of the Lord, and to remind me of Whose I am and where I'm headed.

My "inside job" is no more or less significant than yours; we each have undergone an amazing transformation. The purpose of it is to set us on the path to the kingdom of God. The kingdom, or the reign of God, has begun with the transformation and it continues today. As we daily pray, "Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven", the kingdom grows both within us and and in the world. As we await the visible fullness, which can only come at Jesus' appearing, we are directed by the internal Spirit to participate in kingdom plans and preparations today. We are called to serve as His "advance people", much like John the Baptist, as we prepare the way for greatest transformation that the world ever has or ever will see.

Enjoying and anticipating the transformation,

Pastor Steve

Friday, August 10, 2007

Good morning -

Knowledge requires responsibility. If I've just been informed by my doctor that I have a serious medical condition, then I need to act on that knowledge and pursue a course of treatment.

Knowledge of God's word requires a responsible response. The phrase, "observe to do" (Deuteronomy 5:32) implies that we read in order to heed. To fail to do what God's word says is the ultimate self-deception (James 1:22).

Ezekiel was an authentic prophet with an inspired word from the Lord. His reputation as a prophet was without dispute among the Jewish people, but that reputation did nothing to guarantee the necessary response to God's word through him. The train of judgment was racing full speed down the track toward the unresponsive people of God.

Notice God's words to Ezekiel:

"But as for you, son of man, your fellow citizens who talk about you by the walls and in the doorways of the houses, speak to one another, each to his brother, saying, ' Come now and hear what the message is which comes forth from the LORD.' "They come to you as people come, and sit before you as My people and hear your words, but they do not do them, for they do the lustful desires expressed by their mouth, and their heart goes after their gain. Behold, you are to them like a sensual song by one who has a beautiful voice and plays well on an instrument; for they hear your words but they do not practice them. So when it comes to pass--as surely it will--then they will know that a prophet has been in their midst." (Ezekiel 33:30-33)

Ezekiel was a household topic of conversation, and the people "came to church" to hear him preach God's word, but his message was disregarded because of sinful practices that took precedent. God's message was merely a pleasant-sounding song that was enjoyable to listen to but nothing more.

As a pastor I've heard, "Good message, pastor", more times than I can count, and I'm certain that most such comments were genuine. But I've often been tempted to respond, "why was it a good message?" The true test of a "good" message is not how well it sounded but what gets done with it in response. God's word always requires responsible response.

The times when Bible study mean the least are the times when I read without an eagerness to do what it says. To read without a desire to heed is to relegate the Living Word to the realm of empty philosophy. Real joy and life come from a zealous desire to "observe to do" (Deuteronomy 5:32).

May the Living Word direct your life and steps today.

Pastor Steve

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Good morning -

They are the most chilling words that we could ever hear or read: "I am against you" (Ezekiel 29:3). On numerous occasions the word of the Lord came to Ezekiel to convey these words to those who had incurred the wrath of God. What a terrifying prospect to face opposition from the Almighty One!

The good news is that through Jesus our Lord God's opposition is turned to favor towards us.

Romans 8:1 contains a tremendously encouraging truth: "Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." We later read in that same chapter: "If God is for us, who is against us?" (Romans 8:31).

Rather than being against us, God is actively working for us through Christ . Rather than His active opposition, we have the full resources of His support.

The favor of God ought to bring about favor with ourselves and with the members of the family of the Lord. I've encountered many godly believers who were incredibly down on themselves because they sensed the disfavor of God toward them (I've been there too). That personal sense of disfavor, unfortunately, can spill over into relationships with others member of the body of Christ. If we sense that God is against us it is very easy to be against one another.

Few truths are more liberating than the truth of God's favor toward us. This truth is the basis for healthy self-esteem as well as healthy relationships. As Kingdom citizens we have all the favor and resources needed to overcome obstacles and live the abundant life that Jesus has promised. Believing and living within that favor is the means of appropriating the power and reality of the Age to Come that is a compelling witness to unbelievers. This truth gives life and reality to the message we proclaim!

"If God is for us, who is against us?" We are assured that God IS for us, so the answer to this question provides us with unlimited possibilities, confidence and boldness.

May this liberating truth truly liberate you today.

Pastor Steve

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Good morning -

It would make for an unusual bumper sticker or T-shirt slogan: "Proud To Be Humble". Humility is a prized quality in the eyes of the Father while pride is the pathway to ruin.

Ezekiel twenty-eight contains a pronouncement of judgment on the ancient king of Tyre. There is puzzling description of the king, however, that seems to supersede this human ruler:

Behold, you are wiser than Daniel; There is no secret that is a match for you ... 'Thus says the Lord GOD, "You had the seal of perfection, Full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. You were in Eden, the garden of God ... You were on the holy mountain of God ... You were blameless in your ways From the day you were created Until unrighteousness was found in you ... Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty; You corrupted your wisdom by reason of your splendor." (Ezekiel 28:3,12,13,14,15,17)

Whether this description applies solely to the king of Tyre or beyond, the lesson is obvious and important: pride goes before a fall. As the writer of Proverbs was inspired to write, "A man's pride will bring him low, But a humble spirit will obtain honor." (Proverbs 29:23).

We'll not likely read about it in any book about leadership, but humility is truly the characteristic of an effective leader. Concerning Moses, one of the greatest leaders of all time, it is written: "Now the man Moses was very humble, more than any man who was on the face of the earth." (Numbers 12:3).

Perhaps the most absurd statement about leadership through humility, according to the standard of the world, was uttered by Jesus our Lord: "whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant; and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all." Mark 10:43-44). The way up is down; leadership is servant hood.

The tricky thing about humility is that it is such an elusive quality. As surely as we think we have achieved it we realize that we haven't. It's impossible to take pride in humility.

Perhaps no quality is so descriptive of Kingdom citizens as humility. Colossians 3:12 says, "So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience". The world will see the power and reality of the Kingdom when they see the body of Christ lovingly and humbly connected to each other. The example of the community of believers will give testimony to the validity of our message.

Seeking to be put down so that Christ and the Kingdom can be raised up,

Pastor Steve

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Good morning -

You would likely be skeptical if I started today's thoughts with these words: "And the word of the LORD came to me saying" (Ezekiel 25:1). Too many would-be prophets have stood up in our time with a "word from the Lord" and have proven to be anything but genuine. Their "word from the Lord" has been personally beneficial; usually financially.

I've long been intrigued by God's direct communication with the prophets. How exactly did He speak? How did the prophets know it was Him? What were they doing at the time? And, even more intriguing: does He communicate today as He did then?

I'll go on record as stating that if He's communicating verbally today I'm not on the receiving end. My yearning for a verbal word has mostly been met with silence, although I did have one instance when I believe I heard Him speak my name. And yet I am convinced that I have received a word from the Lord. In fact, after reading Ezekiel's depressing words of judgment and sensing that I had nothing to write today, I felt a strong inner prompting to write about Ezekiel 25:1. The word of the Lord came to me about the word of the Lord coming to us.

God's word has always been there. We're reminded in John 1, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God." (John 1:1-2). We're later told, "And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us" (John 1:14). God has fully expressed Himself through His Son, Jesus, in whom we have a living, vital relationship. In Jesus we literally have God's Word to us.

The Christian faith degenerates into dead religion if there is not the slightest possibility of real, living communication between ourselves and our Creator. Through Jesus that communication link is established. Jesus has "uplinked" us to the Father through the dynamic Holy Spirit and the possibility for His written and verbal word to speak to us has become very real. Just knowing that the desire of our Father is to reveal His word to us adds an exciting dimension to our daily existence. It's not a matter of "if" but "when" and "how".

Communication only takes place when a message is heard. We're bombarded daily by a whole spectrum of electronic communications at various frequencies but we only hear and see through proper equipment that is turned on and tuned in.

Our Father is actively seeking to communicate with us through Jesus our Lord. The challenge is for us to listen.

"So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts.' (2 Peter 1:19). The light truly turns on within as we attune ourselves to hear the Lord's message to us.

Seeking to be tuned in and turned on to today's messages,

Pastor Steve