Hope

As we near the season of Advent I wanted to touch on the subject of hope. Hope represents the first theme of Advent. I want to encourage you to read 1st Peter 1:3-9, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead (1st Peter 1:3). The dominant theme found throughout this letter from Peter is that there is a hope. It is a radical hope. I am not talking about throwing caution to the wind and hoping that everything turns out alright. In the world that so often does pass as hope. I am talking about the hope we have in Christ.

For the Christian our hope does not rest on humankind, but on God and God alone. This hope rests upon the living God who is known by His loving deeds. The God who raised Christ from the dead and gave Him glory, so that our faith and hope can be in Him. Christ is the only One who offers us this hope which is incorruptible and undefiled and will never fade away. Society is abounded with beauty, with courage, and intellectualism, but it is a world without hope. There are those who are economically and politically well situated but still live lives devoid of satisfaction.

Old age is faced with fear; peoples lives are continually being threatened with misfortune and tragedy. To everyone who has ever been overwhelmed by such a frustrating sense of despair and meaninglessness; God has opened up the true destiny of life, for those who believe, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. No doubt history’s greatest miracle. The hope produced by the resurrection is a living and active reality. It produces the life of hope in which the eternal power of God is at work. Our future is not merely in the hands of fate or destiny. It is in the hands of God. My intention is not to belittle the agony that life can bring. It’s not uncommon to become dejected about sickness or family problems that are sometimes overwhelming. If we let them, these things can bring us down.

But the Christian lives in hope, in confidence, trusting God that our future is firm and secure. We don’t fully know what life on this earth holds for us. It’s sure to be filled with its share of ups and downs. But this we know, through Jesus Christ we have real hope. It is this hope that keeps our troubles in perspective. The joy of heaven is forever and with that in mind we can endure anything. May God keep you and bless you and make His face to shine upon you, and remember, that Jesus is the reason for the season.

Pastor Tommy

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Three Rewards of Humility

“By humility and the fear of the Lord come riches, and honor, and life” (Proverbs 22:4).

Riches, honor, and life. These are the three rewards of humility. I would like to say first that there is nothing wrong with riches or being rich. Money is a tool and when we use it wisely it can generate great comfort and security. The danger is relying on that comfort and security instead of trusting God. We often think that reward should follow obedience immediately. But we should understand that we must be committed to the Lord for the long haul, understanding that God’s timing is perfect. If obedience and immediate reward were linked, then all good people would be rich and suffering would always be a sign of sin. Being good will not fatten your wallet and sometimes we suffer simply because we live in a fallen world.

The Bible is clear on the subject of trials and challenge. The trials in life are there so that we will grow. It is true that trials can be the consequences of bad decisions. But is also true, the adversity that God allows in our lives is for the purpose of shaping us. Blessing comes by enduring. Valuables do not sustain us. You are sustained by an established heart. Matthew 6:21 tells us that, “where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” That is what makes worldly wealth so dangerous; when it becomes the center of our lives it takes God’s rightful place.

The second reward of humility is honor. Perhaps you remember the story of Naaman in 2nd Kings 5. Naaman, even though he was a great man and a successful warrior, he was plagued with leprosy. The cure was simple. All he had to do was dip seven times in the Jordan River and he would be washed clean. You see, we often make things difficult. Naaman had proven himself in the heat of battle; he was a man that was used to getting great respect and honor. His pride thought that dipping in the muddy Jordan was beneath him and far too simple. He was a hero and expected nothing less than a hero’s cure. Humility will always challenge pride. But remember that God can use anything to accomplish His purpose. He does not need you, He is waiting for you.

The third reward of humility is life. Life, simply put, is awareness. It is a state of being and an existence. But what makes human life so valuable? We are made in the image of Almighty God. We were created for His purpose and every moment is a precious gift from God. Life is short no matter how long we live. James 4:14 reminds us that, “our lives are but just a vapor, here today and gone tomorrow.” That is why it is so important that we live our lives knowing that how we live them will effect our eternity. It is really ironic, the time that people spend securing their lives on earth but not giving much thought to what comes after. What are you holding near and dear to your heart? What is the Lord waiting for you to truly turn over to Him? Maybe it is a rocky marriage, or a strained relationship? Maybe it is bitterness or unforgiveness? Maybe it’s just the trust necessary to turn our greatest fears over to Him? May the Lord keep you and bless you and make His face to shine upon you.

Pastor Tommy

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Rest

I want to suggest in this post that we all need to learn how to experience rest. If all we needed was physical rest we can always take a nap. If we needed only emotional rest, we could just take a vacation. But where can we find spiritual rest? How can we obtain relief regarding the deepest issues of life at the deepest level of our heart? In Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus gives us three commands that lead to rest, real rest, peace and contentment that surpasses all understanding.

“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28).

Jesus regularly invited people to come to Him to meet their needs. It doesn’t matter how messy our lives are He simply says “come”. If we are hungry, if we are thirsty, if we want eternal life, we can come to Him. I am not talking about physical needs. I am talking about spiritual needs. When those needs are met we will experience peace and contentment that truly does surpass all of our understanding. Peace is not the absence of conflict, it is rest in the midst of conflict.

“Take My yoke” (Matt. 11:29).

Most of us understand a yoke to be a type of harness that connects a pair of oxen. But it can also mean submission to a teacher. The word yoke is used six times in the New Testament and there are two dominant figurative ideas. First, the yoke of rules and religion. I want to suggest that religion is man’s yoke. Second, the yoke of relationship. That is the yoke of Jesus. Jesus said that His yoke is easy. That means the it is well fitted. It is not about rules and religion. It is about a personal relationship with God through the finished work of Jesus that we can find true rest.

We experience rest when we first come to Jesus, second take His yoke, and thirdly, we learn from Him. Are you open to learn? It is in the place of coming to Him and taking His yoke that learning begins. It is the gentleness of Christ that draws us to Him with our cares and concerns. The hurting, the lost, and the weary were drawn to Jesus because He cared for them and met their needs. When you find His rest you discover that there is no need to fear what Jesus might do in your life. It is simple really, the more we learn about Him, the more we find rest in Him. If you are in a place where the things of life have left you tired and spent, I want to encourage you move toward Jesus, come as you are and lay that burden at His feet. May the Lord keep you and bless you and make His face to shine upon you.

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Independence Day

With all her faults, America is still the greatest nation on earth. There are some beautiful places on earth to live, but none guarantees your freedom like America. Freedom is what makes this country great. There is a real trend today for anti-Americanism and anti-patriotism. Organizations like the UN, are doing much to strip us of our sovereignty. Text book writers are relentless in their efforts to revise history. They want to undermine the character and integrity of our founding fathers.

They want us to believe that they were not motivated by principle but by property. Some teach that they were motivated by greed and the desire for wealth. The truth is, the men who signed the Declaration of Independence had far more to lose than to gain. Most were wealthy men already. 24 were lawyers, 9 were landowners or successful farmers, 11 were merchants, as well as physicians, ministers, politicians, and all but 2 who signed had families.

They were educated men of standing in their communities. They knew security and prosperity, but they felt there was something more important than security. Freedom. They also knew that the penalty for treason was death by hanging, yet they signed. It is said that John Hancock signed twice as large as everyone else, “Now his Majesty can read my name without his spectacles.” Stephen Hopkins, one of the oldest signers, his hands shook as he signed, is quoted as saying, “Gentlemen, my hand trembles, but my heart does not.”

We know from history that these men were pursued. Some were captured and tortured, and of course, many died. We need to understand when we look at the American Flag that the red stripes are bars of blood, paid with the price for you and I to be free. We see demonstrations all over the world, and here in America, of people burning the flag. I do not see that as freedom of speech, I see it as treason. But I also see this, true freedom. It is the very freedom that they are protesting that allows them to burn the flag, It is that very freedom that allows sports stars to turn their back on the flag during the National Anthem. that is the greatness of America, she is great for her freedoms.

Romans 13 talks about government. It suggests that we pay for government. And that we pray for our government. We are to praise our government. That may sound difficult but, I believe that the USA is still the greatest nation on earth. We need a revival of good old-fashioned patriotism. We are to participate in government. I believe that it to be inconceivable that God would ordain government such as He has, and then tell His people to stay out of it. It is our Christian duty to get informed and vote. How can we pledge allegiance to the flag and then not take action?

We must persuade our government. Can we really make a difference? Yes. We are a Representative Republic. Which means that public policy is still shaped by public opinion. And there is only one way to affect public opinion. It is not done with billboards, radio, or TV, it is done by getting the Word of God into the hearts of the people. I thank God for political freedom, but more important is spiritual freedom. John 8:32 says, “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

I hope you have a wonderful 4th. May God keep you and bless you and make His face to shine upon you.

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Pentecost

As born again believers our lives should be impacted by Pentecost. We have been given all we need by the resurrection of Christ and the gift of the Holy Spirit. I believe that the greatest event in human history is undisputed. It is the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is the cornerstone of the arch of salvation.

If we remove it, the whole structure of the plan of salvation crumbles into dust. The Good News of the Gospel is that Christ died for our sins and that He rose again. The resurrection of Christ is proof that His death atoned for sin. The wages of one single sin is death. One sin brought the curse of death upon all mankind.

Think about that. If Jesus had paid for all the sins of mankind except one, He could not have risen, for one sin would have been enough to keep Him in the tomb. The proof that His sacrifice was complete, is that He rose from the dead. He had completely met redemption’s price. When He cried, “It is finished,” the work was fully done. God was satisfied and then proved the completeness of the work by raising Christ from the dead.

It does not stop there though. Because Christ did not remain in the tomb but conquered death by rising again, we can live in the joy of the full salvation provided by a risen, living, coming again Redeemer.

The circumstances in our lives will not change His ability to move in our lives. I don’t know where life has brought you today. I don’t know where the consequences of your choices has left you. But I do know that power of God through Jesus Christ can restore joy and peace in the midst of your circumstances. May God keep you and bless you and make His face to shine upon you. God bless you.

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Post Resurrection

We have just celebrated Resurrection Sunday and I hope that we are encouraged to trust Jesus, to believe in Jesus, and to have faith in Jesus. Because the substance of the Christian life and the evidence of the Christian walk is faith. So much of how God wants us to live as believers is in the arena of hope and the field of the unseen.

Maybe you think that your life is too messed up, or too far gone for God to do anything with it. You might even feel like God cannot save you. If you feel that way I want you to be encouraged. I am reminded of the thief on the cross. He was crucified along with Jesus. His life is coming to an end. He asked Jesus to remember him when He comes into His kingdom. Jesus assures him that today he will be with Him in Paradise (Luke 23:43). Your too late is not too late for God.

I want us to understand that Jesus wasn’t just raised from the dead and then just disappeared. He remained here on the earth for forty days. He fellowshipped with His disciples. He ate with them, met with them, and began to teach them how to live for Him and minister to lost and the hopeless.

There is a story in Luke 24 about a man named Cleopas. After the crucifixion he is bewildered. It seems that all hope is lost because Jesus has been put to death. He and his companion are heartbroken. As you read the story you realize that they are speaking in the past tense, “He was…”. In other words, all hope is lost because Jesus is no longer living.

The indication is that Jesus is no longer relevant to the present. We cannot allow for our experience of Jesus to be in the past. We must keep Him in front of us. We can all look back and remember exciting testimonies that we have heard, or even remember the places that Christ has intersected our lives. But what about now? Is Jesus a bright reality to us now? Are we always aware of His presence?

There will constantly be a great number of things , if we allow them, that will wrestle our attention away from God. Work, routine, ill health, the list goes on. Anyone of these things can grind us down to the point where we carry on only mechanically, where we never lift our eyes, or minds from the dust of the road that we are travelling.

And we lose sight of the glory and strength of His presence. We can even come to a place that life loses its meaning. But this story gives us hope. Our situation does not change who He is. Just because we do not feel His presence, at times, and He seems unseen to us, does not mean that He is not walking with us.

If God is for us…who can be against us? May God keep you and bless you, and make His face to shine upon you.

 

 

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Faithfulness

It is generally believed by most that the prophet Jeremiah is the author of Lamentations. Lamentations was written during a particularly dark period in Israel’s history. The city of Jerusalem was under siege from Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, and those inside the city were starving. The nation of Israel has been invaded and is now controlled by a foreign power.

It was during this time that these laments (poems) were written. To lament means to grieve for or mourn. This book is not a happy book. Lamentations 1:1 says, “How lonely sits the city that was full of people. How like a widow is she, who was great among the nations. The princess among the provinces has become a slave (forced laborer).

The city was once bustling with people, but now is silent. Like a widow broken with grief, she sits alone in her mourning. Once the queen of nations, she is now a slave. That is a pretty bleak scene, isn’t it? Sometimes in our personal lives it feels that way as well. Sometimes it feels as though God has stopped working in our lives. Sometimes there are signs to indicate that we are experiencing a God-failure.

The problem could be physical, it could be financial, or emotional. We may be experiencing personal problems, or a natural disaster, even a national disaster. Something bad happens, and it looks like you are experiencing a God-failure. We might even ask ourselves, “Has God stopped working?” But, I want to encourage you, God never stops working, He never stops blessing.

Even in those times when we feel that God has failed, He never stops caring and He never stops protecting. God never fails. There is always a ray of hope. And that ray of hope is the Lord Jesus Christ. That is what Jeremiah embraced in those dark days. This is what he remembers when all seems lost and hopeless. He remembers the unfailing love of God. We have all experienced times of joy and sadness. The church has experienced times of joy and sadness, times of unity and times of conflict.

In every situation God is always faithful. His mercies are indeed new every morning. This gives us the hope necessary to continue to embrace God’s faithfulness as we move into the future, both personally and corporately. May God keep you and bless you and make His face to shine upon you.

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Peace

Hello Church,

As we continue to talk about the fruits of the Spirit I wanted to write about peace. Peace can be such a fleeting thing. Peace is not the absence of conflict. It is not the absence of challenge. We will always have circumstances that test the peace in our life. In the 23rd Psalm David writes, “you prepare a table for me in the midst of mine enemies.” David was surrounded by enemies but, in the midst of those enemies God prepared a table for him. A place, though surrounded by those who would destroy him, he is able to eat in comfort and safety. Our enemies may be different. Bitterness, jealousy, illness, financial hardship, etc. But God will prepare a table for us in the midst of those things. In other words we have the victory of Christ no matter the circumstance. The peace that God is offering is available even in the midst of our conflict. It is a peace that transcends the daily challenges of life. Psalm 34:14 tells us to “depart from evil and do good, seek peace and pursue it.” To pursue something means that we go after it until we have obtained it, and then we hold on to it with all that we have. Have you obtained the peace of God? Are you able to hold on to it? How is that possible? Paul tells us in Philippians 4:8-9 to meditate on whatever things are, “true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is anything of virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy meditate on these things.” If we will do that, then the God of peace will be with us. Paul gives us eight things or filters. If we take everything that we hear and see and pass them first through these filters, and if they do not find their way through, then we should discard them from our heart and mind. If it’s not true, then don’t welcome it. If it’s not noble, if it’s not right, or pure, or lovely, or admirable, or excellent, or praiseworthy, don’t let it find a home in your heart. I want to encourage you to apply these filters to your life, and you will see that the peace of God, “the peace that surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7), is possible. May God keep you and bless you and make His face shine upon you.

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Love

Valentine’s Day is fast approaching. We celebrate that day with the one’s we love. We buy gifts, flowers, chocolates and the likes. Those celebrations are fun but, I want our hearts to be focused on God’s love. He loves us unconditionally. I think it would be safe to say that all of us have known someone who is mightily used of God, and yet sense a need for some additional love or character refinement in their life.

You know, there are those who don’t quite measure up to our definition of morality but yet seem to make a great deal of headway, and seem to be successful. And maybe it is just me, but I feel a certain level of jealousy or envy at times concerning these type situations. God allows everyone to experience a level of success. How successful you or anyone else is, is God’s business.

And no matter how successful a person seems to be on the outside does not mean that they are successful on the inside. Just because folks laugh a lot, doesn’t mean they are happy a lot. And though folks seem spiritual does not mean they are necessarily filled with the Spirit of God. It is important to understand that it is possible to have the manifestations of the Spirit operate without the fruit of love.

Paul reminds us that we can, “speak with the tongues of men and angels, but not have love,” or “have the gift of prophecy…but have not love…” (1st Corinthians 13:1-2). And though it is possible to have manifestations of the Spirit without love, it undermines God’s intent. Everything we do must be bathed in love. Not our love, but the love of God. Man’s love, compared to God’s is shallow and usually has in some way a level of prejudice or debt attached to it, in other words, “I’ll love you when, or I’ll love you if.”

I pray that God will bless you and keep you and make His face to shine upon you.

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