Archive | November 2013

Spiritual GPS

When was the last time you or your family got lost driving to an unfamiliar destination?  

How could a GPS or a smartphone app have helped you get back on track?
 
 
Just about every smartphone has a maps app that is designed to give turn-by-turn directions to wherever you need to go.  These simple apps have kept many drivers from wandering aimlessly as they search for their destination. 
 
As many of know, I lost my mom to cancer at the beginning of this month.  It’s amazing how many times a song or a picture can bring back a flood of lifetime memories.  Even now as I write this I am listening to Christmas music and just reflecting on Christmas memories and thinking of how very strange it is going to be not having my mom here this Christmas season…..
 
So….grieving over the loss of a family member, or a friend, or even a sin in your life can leave you feeling lost and without direction, too.  
 
So how do we navigate our emotions when sorrow takes us off course? 
 
Are we expected to simply figure it out on our own? 
 
Jeremiah 31:10-14 tells us this…
“Hear the word of the Lord, O nations; 
proclaim it in distant coastlands:
He who scattered Israel will gather them
and will watch over his flock like a shepherd.
For the Lord will ransom Jacob 
and redeem them from the hand of those stonger than they.  
They will come and shout for joy in the heights of Zion; 
they will rejoice in the bounty of the Lord–
the grain, the new wine and the oil,
the young of the flocks and herds. 
They will be like a well watered garden, 
and they will sorrow no more. 
Then maidens will dance and be glad,
young men and old as well. 
I will turn their mourning into gladness;
I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow. 
I will satisfy the priests with abundance,
and my people will be filled with my bounty,”
                                                        declares the Lord. 
 
 
What promises did God make to His people in these verses? 
 
How can knowing that God desires to shepherd you on your journeys through difficult times bring comfort and hope?
 
In times of sorrow God doesn’t want you to wander aimlessly without direction.  In fact, within these verses lies a promise that God will turn mourning into gladness.  God longs to be our Navigation (our GPS).  He wants to navigate us towards providing hope and peace throughout our journey.  Throughout Scripture God fulfills His promises time and time again, and you can take comfort in knowing His promises to turn mourning into gladness are no different. 
 
As I was speaking with my mom a few days before she passed…of course I was crying like a baby and she very passionately touched my face so I would look at her and she said this isn’t goodbye…this is only “see you later”.  (that hope is mourning into gladness)
 
 
-Pastor Corey
 
 
Father God, thank You for guiding me through the difficult days in my life…and be with my family and friends that feel the pain of loss this holiday season. 

Ready. Set. Fight.

1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, “‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and “‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’”

Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.”10 Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’”

11 Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.

(Matthew 4:1-11)

 

There is so much to learn from Jesus’ time in His own personal wilderness, a parallel to Israel’s wandering in the Old Testament. He was tested in an undoubtedly weak state (due to his lengthy fast), and was able to withstand the temptations of the devil.

Because of the Holy Spirit within each saint, we are able to stand strong in the face of vigorous adversity and overcome any obstacle put before us. All of us face trials. In John 16, Jesus clearly states that tribulation is a given. He could’ve ended His statement there, deflating the apostles even further after foretelling His imminent death. However, he gives them hope – “But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

James actually encourages his readers to “count it all joy…when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness” (James 1:2).

Testing is good. Those of us who have gone through any education system should understand this. Just as scholastic testing assesses how well one understands the material and can apply it, spiritual testing exposes the effect of our faith. Tests bring about results, and those results are always earned based upon the degree of preparation.

With that said, let’s backtrack to Matthew 4 to evaluate Jesus as He was faced with opposition. What can we learn from Him that can prepare us to thrive under spiritual pressure?

 

#1: Follow the leader (wherever He goes). 

As we discussed earlier, trials cannot be avoided. God ordains them, and we must merely obediently follow Him into the pressure cooker. His goal is not for us to fail (although many times it is necessary), but to grow to trust Him and follow Him more closely from then on.

#2: Know the leader (before, during, and after the struggle).

Jesus was fasting before he was confronted with the temptations that are recorded. Biblical fasting is a twofold process – (1) an emptying of something carnal, AND (2) a filling of spiritual nourishment. During His time in the wilderness, Jesus (who we must remember is the Son of God and of Man) was feasting on the Scriptures, as is evidenced in His interactions with Satan. He knew the Father well, and this empowered Him further to defend Himself, even during a time of physical weakness.

We must cling to God. To know Him is to cherish Him, and to cherish Him is to ward off anything that could prove detrimental to our relationship with Him. Spiritual battles never end in a draw. If you know Him and trust Him, He will win the battle for you.

#3: Fight.

Notice that Jesus fought off the enemy with Scripture. Because He knew the Father and was empowered by His divine Word, He was able to defeat Satan. Jesus didn’t run. He didn’t hide. He was ready to face His opposition head-on.

Satan is a powerful enemy. He knows our weaknesses, and has a battle plan in place to destroy us. In our own strength, we are unable to come out victorious against our foe. BUT God equips us for the fight when we press into Him.

Ephesians 6:10-11 reads, “Finally be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.” It goes on to describe in detail the spiritual armor that God has for us, and how each piece is advantageous in the battle.

God knows the enemy’s tricks and wishes to equip us with the tools to stand strong as we journey through life’s hardships. Our God is a Mighty Warrior, who is eternally victorious. Stand with Him, and He will prepare you for the fight…and the victory!

……..

When we trust Him and know Him intimately, we are prepared for the trials that come our way. The fight is coming. Be ready for it ahead of time.

 

-Sean

The Importance of Marriage

Many of us have experienced weddings. Friends and family of a happy couple get dressed up and file into a church for a ceremony. A minister escorts a nervous groom to the front of a chapel, followed by his buddies. Bridesmaids glide one-by-one down an aisle, building anticipation for the main attraction. Cue the dramatic pause – possibly accompanied by music to build the expectation – and, suddenly, the doors open swiftly to introduce the bride in all her beauty to those gathered, who now are either holding back tears or grabbing for the tissues (unless they are heartless!).

Isn’t that such a cool moment to behold?

By now you may already be asking yourself what this imagery has to do with anything.  The answer: EVERYTHING.

 [31] “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” [32] This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. [33] However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. (Ephesians 5:31-33)

This section of Ephesians 5 should change the way we think during any wedding ceremony (I know it has for me.)! The reason being that its significance is more than meets the eye.

You see, this gathering, which many have become so accustomed to, is meant to portray physically what will one day happen spiritually – that is, the marriage of the Lamb (Jesus Christ) to His Bride (the redeemed). On this day, those who are in Christ, through faith, will be united together with Him forever.

From the time God gave mankind the gift of marriage, He meant for it to model the relationship between Christ and the Church.  

[22] Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. [23] For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. [24] Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.[25] Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, [26] that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, [27] so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. (Ephesians 5:22-27)

The apostle Paul puts marriage in spiritual terms to instruct husbands and wives more fully. If Paul were in marital counseling and were giving advice, I imagine he would begin by asking the following questions to prompt a biblical understanding of marital responsibilities: (1) How does Christ respond to His Church? AND (2) How is the Church to respond to Christ? These questions are crucial because they should shape the way married people interact with one another, assuming they are in Christ.

What God has revealed to me over the years has led me to believe that there might be no greater portrayal of the Gospel message than the relationship between husbands and wives. When marriage becomes less about temporal pleasures and more about the emulation of Love that went to the cross to die on behalf of the undeserving, then we are able to display the work of God in our lives beautifully, in a way that only this particular union can. 

It saddens my heart when I see marriages failing to live out this divine purpose. This holy establishment was set forth by God to be a demonstration of His unconditional, unending, faithful love – a love that was willing to die for His beloved. God has eternally pledged Himself to those of us in Christ, which is the precedent by which our own marital covenants derive. When so many Christian marriages end in separation or even continue in mediocrity, it tells me that we have not grasped the fullness of our vows to one another at the altar. Successful, Christ-centered unions are not the norms nowadays. What a shame this is, because this covenantal relationship has the potential to be one of our most powerful evangelistic tools. 

Marriages, and subsequently weddings, are meant to proclaim the Good News until the day the Church is finally united to its Bridegroom. And we will live happily ever after.

Tell this story to the world. And if you’re married, leverage that relationship for the proclamation of the Gospel! 

 

-Sean