Friday, September 28, 2007

Good morning -

It's an uncomfortable reality: prosperity is the enemy of spirituality. Blessings from our Creator potentially get in the way of our relationship with our Creator.

"I have been the LORD your God Since the land of Egypt; And you were not to know any god except Me, For there is no savior besides Me. I cared for you in the wilderness, In the land of drought. As they had their pasture, they became satisfied, And being satisfied, their heart became proud; Therefore they forgot Me." (Hosea 13:4-6)

To forget those who have helped us in the past is the ultimate act of ingratitude, and yet the Jewish nation had done exactly that. The One who brought them out of slavery in their darkest hour was the only One worthy of their unswerving devotion and love. And yet the seeds of evil sprang up out of the soil of blessing and satisfaction: "And being satisfied, their heart became proud; Therefore they forgot Me."

Satisfaction ... pride ... ingratitude. Amidst all the luxuries and modern marvels that pervade our lives is the inherent danger of pride; a sense that we have earned and deserve what we have. As we are puffed up with pride, we turn from the ultimate Giver of all good things.

I've seen some pretty lean times in life; mostly as a young pastor with a growing family. And yet I remember those times as being very rich spiritually. Those were times when I most had to walk by faith, and I was most keenly aware of my need for the Lord and His provision. I listened more closely for His voice; I waited for His presence.

As life has gone on, I've found myself more surrounded by material possessions and responsibilities. I'm more aware than ever that those things which we possess quickly possess us. Not only is a price paid but a price is demanded - maintenance and care and, potentially, our heart.

Sometimes I feel like a little child in front of a huge pile of toys - I see the wonderful gifts but, more than wanting to play with them, I just want to be with the One who freely gave all of them to me. I'm aware of my tendency to forget the Giver, but yet I yearn for the Giver more than the gift.

Again and again I return to the Lord's priority to "seek first the kingdom of God". The gifts given to us can be blessings to others when the Giver's priority and agenda is clearly in sight. Among the gifts given to share are not only possessions, but also rare truth and insights. These are gifts to be shared, not hoarded. If the gifts get in the way of the Giver's agenda, then the only alternative is that which Jesus our Lord proposed to the Rich Young Ruler.

Longing for the Giver more than the gift,

Pastor Steve

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Good morning -

There is nothing quite like the smell of a freshly-plowed field on a spring day. I grew up in the Midwest amidst some of the richest farmland anywhere, and in my mind I can still see and smell the rich, black soil freshly turned by a plow. The soil would later be disced and then planted, in anticipation of refreshing rains and eventually a bountiful crop.

"Sow with a view to righteousness, Reap in accordance with kindness; Break up your fallow ground, For it is time to seek the LORD Until He comes to rain righteousness on you." (Hosea 10:12)

Spiritually there are times when breaking up our unplowed ground is necessary. Our lives can become hardened and the word of God is unable to penetrate and bring forth productive growth. Apathy and sin harden our lives, and we need to be broken open for a fresh planting of God's Word.

Now is the time to break up our unplowed ground. Through humility and brokenness we are ready to receive God's word as we discipline ourselves through Bible reading and study. We read and study with "a view to righteousness"; not losing sight of the purpose of a lifestyle of faith and good works.

When we have plowed our unplowed ground, and sown God's word through Bible reading and study, we wait in faith for the Lord to "rain righteousness on you". The refreshing rain of His Spirit comes through the disciplines of Bible study and prayer. Jesus reminds us,

"But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come." (John 16:13)

Many people long for a dynamic experience through God's Holy Spirit, and seek it in a variety of ways. If the Spirit of God can rightly be called "the Spirit of truth", then there is an inseparable connection between that Spirit and God's word of truth. God's refreshing Spirit is vitally connected to His word. Therefore, the fullness of the Spirit is found through the discipline of Bible reading and study with a view of living what we learn.

It IS time to seek the Lord. We sometimes settle for so much less that what the Lord desires for us because we do not wholeheartedly seek Him. 'You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart." (Jeremiah 29:13)

May our search for the Lord today be as focused and energetic as if for the world's richest treasure - because it truly is!

Pastor Steve
Good morning -

It's a guy thing to not ask for directions, and I'm one of the worst. I can't count the number of times my wife has sat in the car in exasperation while I blindly drove on without a clue as to where we were. It's the ultimate humiliating experience to admit that we're lost and in need of direction.

A far more serious situation is to be spiritually lost and unwilling to seek direction. The Lord eagerly desires to give direction and purpose when we humbly seek Him:

"Come, let us return to the LORD. For He has torn us, but He will heal us; He has wounded us, but He will bandage us. He will revive us after two days; He will raise us up on the third day, That we may live before Him. So let us know, let us press on to know the LORD. His going forth is as certain as the dawn; And He will come to us like the rain, Like the spring rain watering the earth." (Hosea 6:1-3)

When we've lost our way spiritually the Lord sometimes injures us in order to heal us. A crisis or calamity may come into our life in order to get our attention and to focus our need for spiritual direction. Though the difficulties may make us weak or cause us to faint, "He will revive us after two days; He will raise us up on the third day". Perhaps the reference to raising us up on the third day is a reference to Christ's resurrection on the third day and the power and victory that is ours through that great event.

"So let us know, let us press on to know the LORD". Is there any greater need than for us to truly know our Maker and Lord? No pursuit is more important, and to "press on" toward it is worthy of our best energies. His desire for intimate fellowship with us is assured and "He will come to us like the rain, Like the spring rain watering the earth."

Life comes through rain. Sometimes rain comes in storms that inflict damage, but ultimately the rain refreshes and nourishes. The refreshing life of God is available to us through life's storms and so it is imperative that we press on to know Him.

To know the Lord is to know His purposes and plans. Rich, refreshing nourishment is found in His word, the practice of prayer, and honest, meaningful connection with members of the body of Christ.

Seek the Lord through the various means in which He can be found. Look to Him for the direction and re-direction that you need.

It may be a guy thing not to ask for driving directions, but it's a spiritual thing to seek divine direction when they way is hidden or unclear.

Humbly seeking His directions today,

Pastor Steve

Friday, September 21, 2007

Good morning -

He took her back in spite of her promiscuous lifestyle. God specifically directed the prophet Hosea to take back his adulterous wife:

"Then the LORD said to me, "Go again, love a woman who is loved by her husband, yet an adulteress, even as the LORD loves the sons of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love raisin cakes." So I bought her for myself for fifteen shekels of silver and a homer and a half of barley. Then I said to her, "You shall stay with me for many days. You shall not play the harlot, nor shall you have a man; so I will also be toward you." For the sons of Israel will remain for many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or sacred pillar and without ephod or household idols. Afterward the sons of Israel will return and seek the LORD their God and David their king; and they will come trembling to the LORD and to His goodness in the last days." (Hosea 3:1-5)

Adultery is a biblically-sanctioned basis for divorce. Marriage is potentially destroyed when adultery occurs and the offended spouse is rightfully released from the marriage vows if he or she chooses. To seek reconciliation and healing is a sheer act of grace.

Gomer, Hosea's prostitute wife, had been unfaithful and the marriage had been dissolved. Yet God instructed Hosea to buy her back and remarry her, not just for the sake of their marriage, but as an object lesson for the people of Israel. The lesson was crystal-clear: Israel had been unfaithful to God even as Gomer had been unfaithful to Hosea. God had every right to divorce Israel and be free of the covenant arrangement He had made with them, but instead the remarriage of Gomer and Hosea represented God's supernatural forgiveness and grace.

We are Hosea's adulterous wife: "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). None are immune to lusting after the pleasures and treasures of this age, and all have adulterously indulged in various ways. But through Christ we have each been reconciled back to God in spite of our adultery: "For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly ... But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:6,8)

If we are thankful for our saved "marriage" with God, the best prevention against future adultery is to focus on the desires and priorities of our "Spouse". That's one of many reason why it is so to important to "seek first the kingdom of God". Loving our spouse is the key to a healthy and lasting marriage, and loving the Lord is the key to a lasting and healthy spiritual marriage: `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 you fall deeply in love with the One who loves you enough to be faithful in spite of your unfaithfulness.

Pastor Steve

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Good morning -

The preacher married a prostitute. That's the kind of news that makes tabloid headlines but it happened to be a God-inspired object lesson:

The word of Yahweh which came to Hosea the son of Beeri, during the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, and during the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel. When the LORD first spoke through Hosea, the LORD said to Hosea, "Go, take to yourself a wife of harlotry and have children of harlotry; for the land commits flagrant harlotry, forsaking the LORD." (Hosea 1:1-2)

The people of Israel had persistently been unfaithful to God and had turned to idol worship as well as every imaginable form of wicked behavior. God chose the marriage of a prophet to a prostitute as an object lesson to illustrate the reality of Israel's behavior and to attempt to bring about repentance and spiritual renewal.

Over the years I've talked with a number of couples whose marriages were rocked by unfaithfulness. One thing was common with each couple: unfaithfulness didn't just suddenly happen; it resulted from years of neglect and erosion in areas of communication and intimacy.

Spiritual unfaithfulness works much the same way: it comes about through gradual erosion in areas of prayer and Bible study. Jesus warned the church at Ephesus: "I have this against you, that you have left your first love." (Revelation 2:4). They didn't just leave their first love overnight; they gradually moved away.

Reality is that our spiritual lives will ebb and flow; none are immune to 'ups' and 'downs'. The real problem is when we lose our desire for fellowship with the Lord in prayer and through Bible study. Feelings follow actions. When we commit to discipline ourselves to practice prayer and Bible study feelings will eventually follow.

I'm reminded of the lyrics of a song that plead, "Oh Lord, please light the fire that once burned bright and clear. Replace the lamp of my first love that burns with holy fear." Sometimes the fire within dims and needs to be rekindled. Joy is sometimes absent from the disciplines that once brought joy and life to us spiritually. We cry out, as King David did, "Restore to me the joy of Your salvation" (Psalm 51:12).

God instructed Hosea to marry a prostitute in an effort to get the attention of His wayward people. He cares enough to take drastic measures to bring His people back to Himself.

If we've been unfaithful to the Lord and allowed our heart to become attached to something or someone else, be assured that He wants us back and is actively reaching out to us. The motivation to return is that the heart of the One who loves us most yearns for us more than we will ever know.

Pastor Steve

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Good morning -

We imitate those whom we respect. I often think that I'm a composite of people I've admired because I've imitated certain traits and qualities in them.

None are better at imitating than children. Its been said that children imitate their parents in spite of parents' best efforts to teach them otherwise. Children aren't terribly discerning; they imitate both good and bad qualities in their parents.

As children of God, we are encouraged to imitate our Father: "Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children" (Ephesians 5:1)

To imitate our Father is to walk the walk of love, as is modeled by the sacrificial life of Jesus our Lord (Ephesians 5:2). To imitate God means, out of necessity, that certain qualities will be absent from our lives:

"But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints; and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience." (Ephesians 5:3-6)

It is interesting that thankfulness is named as the remedy for "anti-God" qualities in our lives. Is it possible that we indulge our sinful nature because of a lack of thankfulness? Perhaps we are most prone to sinful behavior when we take God's grace through Christ for granted.

The war within us is unceasing. That which we once were has a strong pull and is always in conflict with the Spirit nature within. Although the war is ultimately won so long as we remain in Christ, there are daily battles that are won and lost. The key is to "walk as children of Light ... trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord." (Ephesians 5:9-10)

Amidst everything we say, we ultimately are what we DO. It is inescapable; we walk in a particular direction. We either walk the world's path or the Lord's.

May the Lord's path be especially appealing today as you seek to discover that which pleases Him.

Pastor Steve

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Good morning -

Our God is too small, or at least our idea of Him. Whatever we can comprehend of Him is miniscule compared to the reality of Him and what He can do. Concerning the infinite possibilities that exist through our Father, the apostle Paul said,

"Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen." (Ephesians 3:20-21)

I can dream up some pretty incredible things that my God can do, but my imagination falls far short of His reality. Whenever I have sought specific things from Him that I thought would be beneficial in service and ministry, He has supplied more than I asked. I remember persistently praying a few years ago for a particular piece of video equipment that would advance our video ministry. He supplied not one unit but three, and a large library of expensive video tapes that were also needed! If these were given "according to my faith" (Matthew 9:29), imagine what could have been done through abundant faith.

With confidence in God's capacity to provide far beyond imagination, Paul sought from Him in prayer what every church and believer needs:

"For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God." (Ephesians 3:14-19)

Paul asked that all believers would receive strengthening power derived from Christ dwelling within, so that we might be firmly established in love and thus be able to understand the fullest extent of the love of Christ that surpasses the limitations of knowledge. In so doing we would be empowered with all the fullness of God within. An impossible task? Not to the God who "is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think".

Our God is too small, but He need not be. When we pray Paul's prayer for ourselves and others our capacity to comprehend Him grows. As the supernatural presence of Christ within grows, He reveals the Father to us, as He promised:

"All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him." (Matthew 11:27)

May today be an adventure in more fully discovering the fullness that we are designed to discover.

Pastor Steve

Friday, September 14, 2007

Good morning -

It's a contemporary song with a great biblical truth: "You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains; You raise me up, to walk on stormy seas; I am strong, when I am on your shoulders; You raise me up... To more than I can be."

We've been raised up to an amazing exalted position:

"But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus." (Ephesians 2:4-7)

In our greatest moment of gratitude, I'm sure that we aren't even close to fully appreciating what we have and what we will have in Christ. For reasons that will likely always mystify us, God loves us with unconditional and never-ending love and has raised us up through and with Jesus His Son. We've been given an honored seat in the presence of our Father, and He intends to spend all of eternity showing us the riches of His grace.

We often hear about famous movie celebrities adopting children for poverty-stricken countries. These children who would otherwise be destined for a life of suffering, hardship, poverty and early death are given wealth and privilege beyond their imagination. And so with us: aside of the grace of God in Christ, we would only live in the poverty of this hard and disappointing age.

He does raise us up. Although the trials and troubles of this age surround us, we've already been raised above them to victory and riches beyond measure in Christ. And to think that our Father will spend eternity showing us His wealth and favor is too amazing to imagine. We will enjoy the choicest food and drink at His table, and will be shown the riches of His creation and nature. In all of eternity on a renewed earth God will not exhaust the storehouse of His blessings and favor toward us. It is absolutely impossible to imagine.

Keep your exalted position in focus today, not matter what reality life presents to you. You and I are raised up and destined for so much more than this age has to offer. We are destined to receive and manage the vast riches of God as we administer His government in the coming Age.

Have a great day, privileged one,

Pastor Steve

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Good morning -

It was a mysterious power called the Force. The Star Wars movies often referenced a power that allegedly permeated all that existed and could only be utilized by those with skillful discipline and mastery. Perhaps the Force serves as a good illustration of the Spirit life available to believers.

The Apostle Paul writes, "But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh." (Galatians 5:16). Is it really possible to be so in step with the Spirit that we do not pursue our human agenda and desires? Apparently so.

To be in step with the Spirit we need to be willing to follow its lead. On a dance floor someone has to take the lead and their partner must be willing to follow. So also in the Spirit realm.
Here's the kicker: the Spirit will lead us to serve others. Paul says, "you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, "YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF." (Galatians 3:13-14)

Spirit-leading is always other-centered, not self-centered. The Spirit will always lead us to humbly serve others. Any leading contrary to that is either personally motivated or worse, but never Spirit-motivated.

Paul catalogs the "deeds of the flesh" and the "fruit of the Spirit" in Galatians 5:19-23. When I read the lists I'm somewhat relieved to see a general absence of the deeds of the flesh, but I'm troubled that I don't see the fruit of the Spirit in abundance. It's there, but not as abundantly. Much as I wish I could, I know I can't personally manufacture the fruit of the Spirit in my life. The only way for that fruit to be evident is to be in step with the Spirit and the Spirit will always lead to serve others, regardless of my preference or ideas about how it should lead.

The Spirit has a two-fold work: to lead and to teach. Jesus reminds us that, "the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you." (John 14:26). We only learn when we are willing to submit to the Spirit's teaching, and we only are able to manifest the fruit of the Spirit when we submit to its leading. The key word is "submit".

Luke is the Star Wars saga was told that he needed to learn the ways of the Force. Likewise, we need to learn the ways of the Spirit, not through self-assertion, but through humility and submission.

The Spirit of God is placed within each believer. Through discipline and humility we can become attuned to its inner presence and cultivate a vital inner sanctuary that becomes the springboard for service.

May the real Force be with you today,

Pastor Steve

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Good morning -

Most of us have probably dreamed that a rich relative would leave a substantial inheritance for us in their will. That dream is a reality:

"For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's descendants, heirs according to promise." (Galatians 3:26-29)

The basic provisions of the "will" are: (1) we are adopted into the family of God through faith in Jesus the Messiah; (2) through baptism we are literally clothed with Jesus' perfection; (3) perfect equality exists among all adopted family members; (4) Abraham's inheritance becomes our inheritance through Christ.

Abraham's inheritance - which is our inheritance - involves a vast family and land. Abraham's land has been the center of bitter fighting over the years even as it is today. That real estate is the tiny nation of Israel but it's much more than that - it's literally the entire earth, which Jesus has promised to Abraham's descendants (Matthew 5:5).

I'm fascinated by what we stand to inherit. We get far more than the sum total of all the best real estate deals ever made. The most exclusive neighborhoods and finest resort areas are all ours (of course the present owners don't know that yet!). That which so many invest in and wage war for is ultimately destined to be ours.

What we stand to inherit is worthy of our focus and energy. I personally want nothing to deter me from all that is potentially in my future. It would be a great tragedy if you and I neglected the terms of the will so as to eventually be excluded from it.

The reward is the motivation. The Apostle Paul said, "I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus." (Philippians 3:12)

Press on, Kingdom citizen. All the earth, a vast family, and immortality are ours if we continue in the faith. While the pursuits and priorities of the day are important, let nothing hinder pursuing that which matters more than all else.

Pastor Steve

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Good morning -

Assumptions can lead to trouble. If I invite you to visit me in my home and you assume that you know where I live, you're likely to waste a lot of time and mileage trying to get there. A precise address and an Internet map program will take the guesswork out of it.

A more dangerous assumption is that we all understand what the gospel is. Although "gospel" is a common word in the Bible, a wide assortment of answers would be given if we asked for a definition. Responses would range from "good news" to "the message of the Bible" to "Jesus died for us" to "the good news about the Kingdom". Assuming that we all understand the gospel is about the same as assuming that everyone knows where I live. Without a specific address you'll never find my home, and without a specific definition of the gospel we'll never find the real gospel.

The Apostle Paul was deeply concerned about a true understanding of the gospel. In writing to the churches in Galatia he said, "I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ." (Galatians 1:6-7)

Apparently these followers of Christ gave up on the original message they had received. They had deserted Creator God who had called them through the grace of Christ for a "different gospel", which is really an oxymoron - there is no such thing as "another gospel". They had traded the true gospel for what they assumed was the gospel. As Paul reveals in this letter to the Galatians, the real problem was that they had traded the gospel of grace for a so-called gospel of legalism. They assumed that lifestyle and good deeds were the MEANS to salvation rather than a product of it.

Before we point an accusing finger at these foolish Galatians, we need to consider just how easy it is to do as they did. We may not be tempted to offer animal sacrifices and perform ritualistic cleansings, but we may be in danger of believing too much in our own righteousness. It's easy to sit in church and believe that we've earned special favor and merit by our presence there. We can too easily see our service and giving as "points" on a reward scale. It can all become like a board game - the higher the points the further the progress.

Insight in itself is an act of grace. To understand that the biblical gospel is by definition, "the good news of the things concerning the kingdom and the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 8:12), is a divine act. If our Father did not reveal that specific definition and "address", we would be destined to wander aimlessly in search of the real thing. But we are privileged beyond measure to understand that this is the gospel of grace to which we are called. Every moment that we have on the path to the Kingdom is an act of sheer grace, made possible through the ultimate sacrifice of the Kingdom's King, Jesus the Messiah.

Enjoy the gospel of grace today. Rejoice not only in knowing the "address", but also in the warm fellowship with the Father and His Son and other believers that we find at the "home" located there.

Pastor Steve

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Good morning -

We've likely all heard the famous "I Have A Dream" speech by Martin Luther King. His dream was a well-crafted, conscious effort, but what about the dreams that come to our unconscious mind at night? Are they the product of our unbridled imagination or revelations from our Creator?

Without question, God communicated to and through Daniel of old in dreams. Two significant dreams are recorded in Daniel 7 & 8 in which a panorama of history is presented. Daniel is allowed to see four great political powers which eventually give way to the ultimate government of God. He describes this great final scene:

"I kept looking in the night visions, And behold, with the clouds of heaven One like a Son of Man was coming, And He came up to the Ancient of Days And was presented before Him. And to Him was given dominion, Glory and a kingdom, That all the peoples, nations and men of every language Might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion Which will not pass away; And His kingdom is one Which will not be destroyed." (Daniel 7:13-14)

There is no more thrilling scene in all the Bible than this one. God has specified a time when He will bring all earthly governments and powers to an end and will hand the authority of His kingdom over to His Son Jesus. Such was the truth that the early church declared:

"that He may send Jesus, the Christ appointed for you, whom heaven must receive until the period of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time." (Acts 3:20-21)

The Kingdom of God will be the last and truly lasting form of government on earth. It is not our destiny to escape the earthly scene in order to enter the Kingdom of God realm, but instead the Kingdom is connected with the earth, even as we are. We are transitioning into the Kingdom of God even as we await its full appearing.

Every two and four years the American people are confronted with a frenzy of political campaigning. Considerable money and effort is expended by candidates who aspire to be elected to public office. Against that backdrop less obvious forms of political activity are taking place. Would-be government leaders are preparing their lives and their candidacy and workers are being recruited. Such are the preparation for the coming Kingdom of God.

Although most of us likely have very little political experience, we are presently involved in the campaign of a lifetime. Unlikely as today's activities may seem, they are actually preparations for positions in the government to come. At the heart of these preparations is the urgent challenge to recruit citizens and workers for the coming government. This is the essence of the Great Commission.

Purpose determines direction. When we discover that kingdom preparation is our great purpose then we've made an important discovery as to how we should live. True energy and excitement is found within this incredible purpose, and that's what motivates me to write these thoughts to you each day. May boundless energy and excitement be yours today as you more fully grasp this great purpose for your life.

Pastor Steve

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Good morning -

I wonder what the message would be If God wrote to the President? That may sound like a politically-charged question, but it is not without precedent for God to directly write to a government leader:

"Suddenly the fingers of a man's hand emerged and began writing opposite the lampstand on the plaster of the wall of the king's palace, and the king saw the back of the hand that did the writing." (Daniel 5:5)

When God takes drastic measures to get a ruler's attention it is not usually good news that He has to convey. Belshazzar, the ancient Babylonian ruler, had desecrated sacred objects from God's temple and directed his worship to "the gods of gold and silver, of bronze, iron, wood and stone." (Daniel 5:4). God used Daniel to provide the interpretation of the message and to confront the king with the reality of his actions:

"you have exalted yourself against the Lord of heaven; and they have brought the vessels of His house before you, and you and your nobles, your wives and your concubines have been drinking wine from them; and you have praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood and stone, which do not see, hear or understand. But the God in whose hand are your life-breath and your ways, you have not glorified." (Daniel 5:23 - emphasis added)

Judgment was immediate for this arrogant ruler in that his kingdom was conquered and he was killed that very night. The ruler who replaced him, Darius the Mede, had a different perspective on the true God of gods:

"He is the living God and enduring forever, And His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed, And His dominion will be forever. He delivers and rescues and performs signs and wonders In heaven and on earth" (Daniel 6:26-27)

To acknowledge these truths about God and His kingdom and power is the ultimate wisdom, whether one is a ruler or a citizen. The true God reigns and has determined to ultimately bring an end to all human government and establish His perfect kingdom. Meanwhile, He delivers and rescues and performs signs and wonders to give evidence to His existence and plans.

I'm confident that God doesn't have to dramatically write on a wall to get our attention today. So long as we are faithful to read and heed what He has already written, and to rightfully acknowledge His position and plans, we can eagerly look forward to all that He has in store for us.

Rejoicing in the living, enduring God whose kingdom cannot be threatened or destroyed,

Pastor Steve

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Good morning -

The ultimate madness is self-sufficiency. Those with abundant resources and abilities are especially prone, but there is a God who is well able to remind us of just how weak and helpless we really are. Exhibit A is King Nebuchadnezzar of long ago:

"The king reflected and said, 'Is this not Babylon the great, which I myself have built as a royal residence by the might of my power and for the glory of my majesty?' While the word was in the king's mouth, a voice came from heaven, saying, 'King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is declared: sovereignty has been removed from you, and you will be driven away from mankind, and your dwelling place will be with the beasts of the field You will be given grass to eat like cattle, and seven periods of time will pass over you until you recognize that the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind and bestows it on whomever He wishes.' Immediately the word concerning Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled" (Daniel 4:30-33)

Whether we have the means to build a luxury castle or just a sand castle, we can believe too much in our own abilities. I enjoy woodworking but I sometimes struggle with the satisfaction I find in what I make. When I look at the finished product it is a struggle to balance an appreciation of God's ability through me with the belief that I made something with my own hands and abilities.

After Nebuchadnezzar's seven-year insanity over his self-sufficiency, he acknowledged the supremacy of Creator God:

"But at the end of that period, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever; For His dominion is an everlasting dominion, And His kingdom endures from generation to generation. All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, But He does according to His will in the host of heaven And among the inhabitants of earth; And no one can ward off His handOr say to Him, What have You done?' (Daniel 4:34-35)

It is extraordinary for a sovereign ruler to acknowledge One who is ultimately sovereign over him, but such was Nebuchadnezzar's confession. True insight led to the end of his insanity.

The advances and accomplishments that surround us mask the insanity of self-sufficiency that rules in the hearts and minds of so many people. It is a tremendous struggle to seek humility and acknowledge our dependency upon our Father when so many worship at the throne of self. Actively seeking the Lord's Kingdom priority daily ("Your kingdom come; Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven") still serves as the best antidote to self worship.

Seeking to overcome my insanity by focusing on His insight,

Pastor Steve