Archive | Uncategorized RSS for this section

Stand

[10] Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. [11] Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. [12] For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. [13] Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. (Ephesians 6:10-13)

 

Since the Fall of man there has never been a time in our history where mankind was more evil than they had been previously. From the time Adam and Eve committed the first act of betrayal against God, sin has reigned in the life of every individual conceived. Our world is in the same state today as it was in the Garden of Eden as sin entered the scene. 

Time and accessibility have run a parallel course of progression as technology has ventured beyond the imagination of previous generations. The instant access we have to a plethora of resources is an incredible reality. With all the beneficial materials that we have at our disposal, it should not surprise us that there are inversely a great deal of evil of which we are made aware, as well. Due to the nature of today’s media, we are more than likely faced with a variety of issues that some people in previous days did not encounter (although they existed in some form or fashion).

The sin in our world is on display to the masses, yet those who are fallen are numb to many of them due to their sin nature. This is not shocking. Ephesians 2:1-3 states, ” And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 

Sinners sin. It’s in their nature, and they can’t help but act out the rebellion within them.

Our enemy, Satan, is at-large in this world, and he is looking to “steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10). 

The world is a bleak and hopeless place…without Jesus!

Jesus said, “I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness” (John 12:46). He came as light, and through His Spirit, He bestows that same light unto His followers that they may go forth and combat the dark cloud of sin that envelops the world. The darkness cannot withstand Him.

Before He ascended into heaven He told His disciples that “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). He called them (and subsequently us) to be witnesses! However, His witnesses would not merely go about this business in their own strength; they would receive power through the Holy Spirit to do whatever He would lead them to. This is how we push back the darkness – by His Spirit! Without it, we are power-less to accomplish this great task. 

Sin marches on with Satan at the helm, but with an inevitable defeat awaiting it. That said, our enemy will wage war until the end of time when he is finally trampled by our Victorious King. Knowing this, we must, as Ephesians 6 above commands, STAND FIRM. We must be equipped for battle daily to offend the darkness and defend against the attacks of the devil. We cannot just sit around and wait for the return of our King, nor can we merely discuss the problems that are so prevalent in the world today. As 1 Corinthians 4:20 states, “the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power” (1 Corinthians 4:20).

The Spirit within us empowers us to fight for the faith with boldness. However, we are not to feel entitled to tear down other people on account of their sin. Jesus said this in John 13:35: “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” If we don’t display the love of Christ for the world to see, how will they truly see Him in all of His glory and splendor. Your evangelistic approach cannot begin with condemnation, but with grace. Use Isaiah 6 as an example. In his vision, Isaiah first encounters the Lord in all His glory and is then forced to recognize his wickedness. When people truly see God, they will have no choice but to face their sin. Begin with grace, for that’s what captured your heart. 

In a fallen world, we must stand firm for the gospel message. We cannot compromise, even though the world will tell us we are intolerable. The truth we proclaim is our salvation and firm foundation, and to back down for the sake of “peace” with the world would be a tragedy.

The gospel is offensive to sinners, for it exposes their evil heart and need for a Savior. It also is life to those who take hold of it, and that is our goal – to preach the gospel so that those dead in sin might be raised to life in Christ. 

We stand on a spiritual battlefield, with life and death in the balance. If you have chosen life, share it so that others might experience the same freedom that you have found in Jesus and be rid of the curse of sin. 

Go forth and make disciples. 

-Sean

 

Advertisements

Rest for Our Souls

[4] For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith. [5] Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? (1 John 5:4-5)

[8] For by grace you have been saved, through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, [9] not the result of works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Faith. It is the reliance upon someone or something to bring about a particular result that has yet to be proven. In terms of “cause-and-effect”, faith is the effect of any cause deemed worthy by an individual to warrant trust. Faith, therefore, is reactant.

There are many practical displays of faith in our day-to-day, even if those actions are “second nature” and go unlabeled as such. Let’s take you for instance…yes, you reading this post. As you’re reading this, it’s likely you are seated on a chair that has been entrusted with the task of keeping you from a painful fall onto your posterior. You have placed your complete trust (and weight) in this particular object. Without thinking about it, you have relied upon this piece of furniture to relieve you from the consequence of gravity – a great fall.

The same goes with our faith. When I place the fullness of my faith in Jesus and truly sink into and rest on His grace, I am saved from the inevitable consequence of sin – a spiritual death at the end of the sinner’s perpetual fall (infinitely worse than a bruised rear end, I might add). To say “yes” to Christ is to fully embrace Him and to go “all in”, without reservation. What this means is (to reference the example of the chair) I do not withhold some of my “weight” from the comforts of His grace, for this displays a lack of faith in the Savior. Genuine faith in Christ is an “all or nothing” matter. You either put all of your trust in Jesus, or you don’t rely upon Him at all. You either believe that He saves completely, or that He isn’t worth resting your existence upon.

Like a cozy chair, Christ is waiting for people to take a load off and fall into Him with complete abandonment. As He said to the crowds during His earthly ministry, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:29-30). Now, don’t misunderstand this passage or what I’m saying. Christ offers eternal relief for our souls when we come to Him for salvation, but following Him is not intended to be easy. You will still exist in a fallen world, and be faced with many troubles; BUT, you will have the assurance of your faith – an eternity secured by Christ’s work at Calvary. THAT is worth total surrender. HE is worth trusting.

Our faith overcomes the world. It has nothing to do with us. And everything to do with the God who bestows such faith to us in the first place. The faith of the Christ-follower is overcoming because it rests upon the Overcomer.

Christian – remember the promise of God through Christ that has won you over, from death to life. He graces you with faith. Be reminded that He initiated it all, and that you simply reacted to His lovingkindness. And although you will fail at times to trust Him, take heart; for He remains faithful in our shortcomings.

Doubters – there is a Savior waiting with arms open wide, ready to receive you and relieve you from an eternity separated from Himself. There is rest for your soul…but only IN CHRIST.

Grace and peace,

Sean

Dwell

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. (Colossians 3:16)

 

Let’s break this down a bit…

  • The imperative“let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.”
  • The result“teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”

The result comes about by our submission to the imperative. To put it a bit differently, when we allow “the word of Christ” (the good news, or “gospel”) to live and thrive within us, it will positively affect the way we relate to God and others. 

But how are we to gauge whether or not our lives reflect the gospel in this manner? Answer the following questions truthfully, and see if it doesn’t give you an idea.

  1. How do I view the Godhead (Father, Son, Holy Spirit)? Are you elated by the love of the Father, expressed by the death and resurrection of the Son, revealed by the Holy Spirit? If you greatly value this divine notion of grace and mercy, and if you are fulfilled by this truth alone, it is likely you have a biblically informed and energized view of the Magnificent Three in One.
  2. How do I view my sin? Are you genuinely humbled by the fact that God, in Christ, has covered over your transgressions (past, present, and future)? Are you deeply remorseful and repentant when you sin against God in your day-to-day experiences? If you see sin as a terrible offense against God, and that drives you to hate it as He hates it, I would submit that you are allowing the Scriptures to be the lens through which you see. 
  3. When life brings about joy or sorrow, what comes out of you? The gospel should be an all-encompassing force in our lives, reaching into every part of it and transforming us. Regardless of circumstance, the hope we find in Christ should resound above our triumphant shouts and mournful groans. We should know the Word, and the Word should overflow out of us for others to tangibly experience (verbally and non-verbally). 

Christ-follower, if you find your answers to these questions to be unsatisfactory, ask God to forgive you where you have not allowed the gospel to inform and shape you. In our flesh, we are prone to wander away from the Savior if we do not keep a careful watch over our souls. 

The gospel is our lifeline. The One whom it reveals must be our King. This must change everything.

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly” and may that result in love for God and your fellow man. 

 

-Sean

 

 

 

Our Treasure

[44]“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

[45] “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, [46] who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it. (Matthew 13:44-46)

 

Question: do you treasure Jesus above anything?

That’s what I’ve kept asking myself over the past several weeks. And it’s been quite the gut-check as I evaluate the way that I spend my time and energy. Based upon the verses above (and a number of other passages), I would say that Jesus requires exclusive dedication from us. It seems that these parables are meant to describe to us the type of buy-out that He expects from His followers. Apparently, the Savior is hinting in these illustrations that following Him is worth the loss of everything or, at very least, the diminishment of anything that challenges His lordship. 

The apostle Paul seems to have gotten it, as is evidenced in Philippians 3:7-8 where he states, “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ. (Philippians 3:7-8). 

Now, I pose the same question to you that I have been wrestling with for close to a month – DO YOU TREASURE JESUS ABOVE ANYTHING?

If the answer is “no”, you may want to spend some time trying to rediscover the “joy of [your] salvation” (Psalm 51:12). Remember what you have been rescued from (sin and death) and to (eternal life in Christ). The grace that He extends is far more costly than we can fathom, so we must not allow our wandering hearts to carry us to a place of forgetfulness and apathy. 

The Gospel message must penetrate every facet of our lives because it means EVERYTHING for the Christ-follower. It must affect change. A life transformed by Christ should be noticeable (in word and deed), and it is through this display that we reveal our affections for Him. 

Ask yourself this question daily. Be honest. When you allow something to hijack the throne of your heart, ask God to forgive you and grant you endurance and strength to withstand the desires of your flesh to flee from the God of your salvation. 

Cherish Him. He is worthy of our greatest affection and devotion. 

 

-Sean

 

Challenges and Tests

The Great Barrier Reef stretches some 1,800 miles from New Guinea to Australia.  Tour guides regularly take visitors to view the reef.  On one tour, the guide was asked an interesting question by a traveler. “I notice that they lagoon side of the reef looks pale and lifeless, while the ocean side is vibrant and colorful,” the traveler observed.  “Why is this?”

The guide gave his educated answer, “The coral around the lagoon side is in still water, with no challenge for its survival.  It dies early.  The coral on the ocean side is constantly being tested by wind, waves, storms and surges of power.  It has to fight for survival every day of its life.  As it is challenged and tested, it changes and adapts.  It grows healthy.  It grows strong.  And it reproduces.”

Then he added this telling note: “That’s the way it is with every living organism.”

 

“Consider if pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.   (James 1:2-4)

 

-Corey

Pain and Suffering

7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. 8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 11 For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.12 So death is at work in us, but life in you…16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:7-12, 17-18)

 

Life is messy. It’s difficult and taxing seemingly more than it is wonderful and stress-free, wouldn’t you agree? At least that’s been my experience thus far. Granted, I haven’t had many terribly tragic events arise like some have, but I do know what it is to struggle in various ways. 

Most of us who have lived long enough have witnessed or experienced firsthand tribulations that bring about suffering, whether spiritual, physical, mental or any combination of the three. There are those who cannot find employment, and are hard-pressed to feed their families. Some have to bury their young children. Others must toil through life-threatening diseases, and sometimes lose the ensuing battle. 

Bottom line – life brings about hurt in some form or fashion, with varying severity. And most times, it doesn’t make sense. 

Questions like “Why would God allow something so devastating to happen?” naturally enter in and can lead us down a winding path of bitterness. When these types of questions go unanswered (and many times they will) our faith in God grows weak because we cannot wrap our finite minds around the outcome we’ve grown so hostile toward. 

This is the sad truth of the matter. We doubt what we cannot define, rather than genuinely trust that God is in control and that He is working all things together for good (Romans 8:28-30). So often we fail to find anything “good” that offends our well-being and prosperity. After all, a good God would only give me that which I, in my fleeting passions, deem beneficial to my existence, right??? (In case you miss the sarcasm or don’t do well with rhetorical questions, the answer is, emphatically, NO!)

So what are we to do? Well, for starters, recognize that they are inevitable. Jesus stated in John 16:33 that “in the world you will have tribulation. But take heart, I have overcome the world.” Or as the writer of Hebrews encourages, “run the race with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the founder and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2). To be succinct, buckle up (because hard times ARE coming) and keep your eyes on Jesus (because He will give you strength to keep going). We live in a fallen world that is prone to disastrous affairs; but take heart, God is a victorious Warrior who wants to impart His strength to us so that we may be prepared for battle.

After you settle into this reality, remember to “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4). This follows suit with the previous reference in Hebrews, as it encourages steadfast endurance. Difficulties in life can be a drag on our psyches, leading us to shut down rather than press on. How can one endure under the most trying circumstances? Fix your gaze on God and His eternal Kingdom. When we look past the here-and-now and see our current situations in the light of eternity, the bigness of the moment tends to fade a bit. That doesn’t mean we can’t hurt or emote our frustrations, but it does mean we are given the strength to rebound and turn our sadness to glorious joy, for we know that God is sovereign and over all things.

The world wants to deal us wounding blows and demoralize us with pain and suffering, but we who cling to the Lord can leverage these things for His glory and our good by the overcoming power of Christ in us. Reference the passage above. “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9). If we press into God and walk with Him, He will prepare us for the struggle and give us a strengthened trust in Him through the process. With every agonizing blow the world hurls at us, God is with us. He may not remove the pain, but His grace will sustain you through it. 

I have seen some overwhelming tragedies befall families – the kind that leaves any and all within proximity speechless – and was able to witness the power of Jesus Christ on display as they endured the hardship. The situation didn’t get easier, but God, in their weakness, showed Himself stronger than any force the world might wield. 

The same thing can happen for you. We all have our heartaches and pains. Many of us, right this instant, are dealing with real problems that have a tendency of deflating our will to keep going. Do not be dismayed, for there is a God in the heavens who loves and cares for you more deeply than you could ever imagine, who wishes to reveal Himself to you in a life-changing way. Trust Him in times of struggle and doubt, and He will give you unexplainable peace in the fiercest of storms. 

We may never find the clarity we seek as we pose questions to God about our current sufferings. But maybe that’s okay. Maybe the best thing for us is not to be so entranced with the “why” of our crises, but rather be more concerned with giving God glory in the wreckage. I believe if we approach our pain with this mindset, we will find our faith in God stronger and will be more willing to trust that much more. 

Suffering happens. Turn it for good. 

 

-Sean

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.