The Apparency Of Transparency
While the topic of racial
equality has climbed near its apex, many have demanded that the church make their voice be heard on this issue. Scores
of believers are left wishing that church leaders would provide clarity to this sea of chaos and confusion. Although
this is not an entirely unrealistic request, personal discernment and biblical aptitude could go a long way in the matter.
Let's not over think this please.
First and foremost, there is absolutely no room for racism in the gospel of
Jesus Christ, period. No human being should hate another human being, that is sin, equivalent to murder (Matthew 5:21-22).
Everyone should garner treatment for what they are, a human being, made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). Lastly,
if we have the gall to proclaim the name of Christ and yet do not love our brother, we have proven that we have no business
tarnishing the name of Christ with our ineffectual proclamation (1 John 4:20). So what message must we present?
What should our voice be? Well, that is quite simple, it is the Word of God. We are ambassadors of Christ (2 Corinthians
5:20), we represent the King and we need to do so with boldness and lucidity.
May we not deviate from our God given
responsibility to herald the name of Christ and advance the gospel. May we show the love of God through the gospel of
His Son and the evidence of a regenerated life in Him. Angry antagonists will demand that you pick a side. Your
side has already been chosen for you. By God's grace and by God's grace alone you have the privilege to stand on the
promises of God as an adopted heir to the throne (Romans 8:17). A child of God is not determined by the color of their
skin, rather it is determined by where their heart lies. If the gospel was limited to a specific demographic, then the
Great Commission (Matthew 28:19:20) would not make sense. Being witnesses to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8) would
not make any sense.
Let us not get unnecessarily roped into a debate that has us picking and choosing anything
but the Word of God. The Word of God is sufficient for all matters pertaining to a life that is lived in reverence and
honor of Him. 2 Peter 1:3-4 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness,
through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and
very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption
that is in the world because of sinful desire.
Grace And For His Glory,Pastor Sam
The Insanity of Self Reliance
On Sunday mornings we have been studying through the book of James. One fact that James gets across very early on
in that book is the inevitable reality of trials in a believer's life. In chapter 1 of James we see a wonderful explanation
in that when we face trials with the joy of the Lord, the result will be steadfastness. However, in our fallibility
and deficiency, we fall sometimes before we learn this hard lesson. This reminds me of the story David in 1 Samuel 21.
David is running from King Saul, who is vehemently fixed on killing the young man.
In the 21st chapter of Samuel,
David found himself in the city of Nob where he met Ahimelech the priest. Knowing that he was in danger, David asked
Ahimelech if there were any weapons there. Ironically there was a weapon there in Nob, and it just so happened to be
the sword of the slain Philistine legend, Goliath. David had defeated Goliath in the valley of Elah only a short time
before this meeting with Ahimelech. David then travels on to the very hometown of Goliath, the city of Gath. There
David is met by the king of Gath, Achish. Fearing for his life, in imminent danger, David was knee deep in a trial,
a test if you will. David could have trusted in the Lord, but instead, he collapsed in this moment of weakness and self
preservation. David immediately changed his behavior before the king and pretended to be insane. Spit ran down
his mouth as he conducted an Oscar winning performance. His antics worked, as the king wanted nothing to do with David
after that pathetic display, removing himself from the presence of the apparently deranged man.
You see, David
was faced with a trial and he relied on his own cunning to elude danger. Yes, this is the same David that confidently
relied on the power of God to provide and protect him against the Philistine giant, whose sword he bore as a tangible reminder
of the faithfulness of God. It is easy to look at a story like this and shake our heads in disapproval at the weakness
David displayed in that moment. But, I would encourage you to not be so quick to judge. How many times have you
and I relied on our own instinct and reasoning to avoid trouble or danger? How many times have we failed to rely on
the provisions of God when faced with opposition? "Yeah but David had the evidence of God's faithfulness in his
hands." We too have the evidence of God's faithfulness in our grasp; we too have that tangible reminder in the
very word of God, the Bible.
May we learn from those who have gone before us as well as learning from our own
mistakes. Let us remain joyful and steadfast through trials so that we can rely fully on God, for He is faithful and
merciful. David was a man after God's own heart; I pray that we too would be described in that very same way. Psalm
118:8 It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man.
By His Grace And For His Glory, Pastor
grew up doing and still continue to do to this very day is split firewood. My family owns a tree business, so splitting
firewood was an essential part of life from a very young age and something I enjoy doing. I love watching a child for
the first time push the lever while they watch the wedge easily divide the log. Kids love seeing the power and ease
at which the splitter dissects even the biggest of logs.
You see, the wedge on the
splitter creates a weakness in the log. Sometimes the first angle you take with the log doesn't work, the wood is too
strong or you hit a knot. But, eventually, you find the weakness in the piece and the wedge exposes it, separating the
log. Isn't this much like the way Satan works? I mean think about it. As believers, we want to be as complete
as possible, spiritually mature in all aspects of our Christian life (2 Timothy 3:17, James 1:4). But, the reality is,
we all have areas of our lives that we struggle with more than others. Instead of ignoring these areas and chalking
them up to hopeless pursuits, my encouragement is that we would be all the more prayerful toward them. May we be found
seeking the Lord for growth in these areas. Because here is the deal, Satan is always looking for a foothold (Ephesians
4:27), he is very active (1 Peter 5:8) and he wants nothing more than to place a wedge between you and God.
Whether it's our prayer life, giving, serving, time in God's word, compassion, patience, humility, thankfulness,
grace, you name it, God can stretch you and strengthen you. I pray that we all have a desire to recognize our weaknesses
and likewise acknowledge the Lord as being the source of all strength. Focusing on the Lord and the things that please
Him is the single best way to remove any wedge that Satan tries to divide us with (James 4:7). Pray for each other this
week and be encouraged by the strength we have through our great God.
By His Grace
And For His Glory,
I was reminiscing the other day about
growing up out in the country in central Illinois. We lived right next to a 102 acre horse farmed that boarded, trained
and raised horses, primarily for English riding. Our neighbor asked if I would like to learn how to ride, so I decided
to give it a try. Over the course of a few months, I learned the nuances of the English style of riding, which included
jumps. There is one particular lesson that I learned while practicing jumps that I will never forget. The instructor
told me to keep my eyes locked straight forward over the jumps, because if I looked down, the horse would know it. What?
That sounded so silly, I had to give it a try. So, the next time I steered the horse to the jump, I looked down.
What happened next was not only a surprise, but a valuable lesson. The horse put on the hoof breaks so fast that it
threw me forward, almost dismounting me completely. I was shocked that the instructor's warning was one of a very serious
nature. You see, the horse sensed through my body posture that I was looking down and associated that with trouble or
possible danger, so it stopped to avoid risk. As I reflected on this memorable event, my mind was quickly drawn to a
Looking down before going over a jump indicates that the rider does not fully trust the horse.
It shows fear, uneasiness, and concern. How many times have you and I tentatively brought something before the Lord,
or worse yet, not brought it before the Lord at all? Our reluctancy, whether intentional or not, shows a level of distrust.
We need to be reminded, I need to be reminded, that the Lord is worthy of our unhindered trust. God's word is full of
reasons to trust Him, for He alone is worthy (Isaiah 12:2, Proverbs 3:5-6, Psalm 28:7). In this coming week I would
encourage you to take a careful evaluation of your life. See if there be any way about you that is not fully trusting
in the Lord. Spend some time in God's word, exploring all the reasons why He is worthy of our trust. Also, bring
your concerns before the Lord, confess your shortcomings and your imperfections unto Him. Ask Him to grow you in this
area, that you may be more pleasing to Him and trust Him in all circumstances. May we all heed the instruction of the
horse trainer and keep our eyes fixed upward. Let the words of Proverbs 4:25-27 ring true in your life
- Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you. Ponder the path of your feet; then
all your ways will be sure. Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil.
His Grace And For His Glory,
Pastor Sam _______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Media, The Great Distracter
Over the last several
months we have witnessed unprecedented events that have really shaken our nation, even the world. Many spend countless
hours scanning the web for the latest story, watching television, listening to the radio, etc. I am not suggesting that
we don't stay informed about what is going on in our world. But, really, how productive are we being by subjecting ourselves
to what the media wants to feed us. At times we are like buoys out in the sea of confusion, swaying back and forth by
the whims and misdirection of secular media. Whether it is a powerful agenda tool or an inadvertent byproduct, one thing
is certain, we are distracted.
Don't get me wrong, I am guilty of this same diverting sidetrack at times. But,
isn't there something better we could be doing with our time? Again, we should be knowledgeable about what we are facing
as a nation or as a people in general, but let's not sacrifice our need to be equipped. No, I don't mean how many locks
we have on our doors, or how much food we have in the pantry. These are good practices but what I am talking about is
our time in prayer, our time in God's word, our time encouraging and helping others, our time sharing the gospel, our time
of being bright shining lights for Christ. There are only so many hours in the day, and if you and I are not careful,
we could be filling too much of it with noise.
We have to ask ourselves the question, what would God have us
do in these times? Well, thank goodness we have the answers in scripture. I love the words in Philippians 4:8,
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever
is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. My
prayer is that you and I would be increasingly mindful of pursuing the things of God. May we be found diligently and
zealously seeking that which brings honor to the Lord. Father help us to fill our minds with the things of God (1 Peter
1:13) and be prepared to give an account for the hope we have (1 Peter 3:15).
By His Grace And For His Glory,Pastor
Whom Shall I Fear - Fearing Man Part 4
Over the past
three weeks we have looked at several ways in which people, you and I, fear man. This unhealthy fear is one that we
must be conscious of and diligent to rectify. Fearing man means that we put more focus and attention where it is not
warranted. Our focus, attention and fear should be in the One Holy God. Yes, fearing God is healthy and it is
taught all throughout scripture. Many have the wrong notion that there is no reason to fear God, as He is our loving
Father, and we are the object of His affection. While this is in part true, the issue really lies in how we define fear.
There are well over 100 references to fearing the Lord throughout God's word. The Psalms alone count for a great
deal of these instances. So, why, if we have been saved from the bondage of sin, are we to fear God? Psalm
33:8 says Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him! You
see, our fear is not based on the perceived danger of being cast out of His eternal presence and thrown into the lake of fire.
This kind of incorrect assumption would be contradictory to the very word of God. As children of God we will never be
cast out from His eternal kingdom and family (John 6:37). A key word in the correct, biblical fear of the Lord is seen
at the end of Psalm 33:8. We are to be in awe at the power and majesty of the Lord. The glory of the Lord is deserving
of our utmost attention and acknowledgement. We stand in awe of the holiness and the righteousness of God.
way we express this healthy fear of the Lord is through our reverence of Him. He is deserving of all our attention,
focus, respect, for after all He is God and He has done a miraculous work in our lives that forever changed us. We live
in a dark and fallen world, one that hates and rejects God. There are about 7.8 billion people on this earth and one
thing is true of every single person, everyone fears something. To be even more specific, everyone fears someone. As
faithful followers of Christ, may we be found fearing God. May we sing His praise in reverence and awe of who He is
and what He has done in our lives. Pray fervently that we fear man less and fear God more (Matthew 10:28). God
alone is worthy of our fear, as well as our praise and glory of Him. Amen?
By His Grace And For His Glory,
Pastor Sam ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Sticks And Stones - Fearing Man Part 3
As we continue
in this series, focusing on the unhealthy fear of man, I hope you see the danger in this practice. First we looked at
fearing man through being seen. Last week we looked at the fear of being rejected. This week we
are going to look at the fear of being physically hurt.
In an interview, former heavyweight boxing champion
Mike Tyson made this compelling statement "Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth." Although
Tyson was referring to his opponents, this statement really should resonate with all of us. You see, many of Tyson's
opponents would talk a big game before the fight, insisting on how badly they were going to pummel the young champion.
However, as soon as that bell rang and Iron Mike landed one good shot, his opposition became much less motivated to hold true
to their claim. The fear that he put into his opponents caused them to abandon their game plan, it changed their course.
Fear from physical abuse or fear of physical abuse can be crippling. Breaking the grip of this fear is difficult,
but it is not impossible. We have a choice to say no to fearing man. From 1369-1415 John Huss boldly preached
that Jesus Christ was the only way, which infuriated the Roman Catholics, who pledged their allegiance wrongly to the pope.
For his efforts, Huss was threatened, jailed, beaten and tortured. Finally, after refusing to recant over and over again,
Huss was tied to a stake. While the fire was lit, Huss began reciting the Psalms. As he endured the unimaginable,
Huss gave glory to the Lord. You see John Huss understood the full extent of Matthew 10:28, "And do not
fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell."
When we count the cost of following Christ, may we not overlook the possibility of physical pain. The promises of
God are not for a pain free life. But, what we can be certain of is, if we live in fear of the possibility of being
physically hurt, we have chosen to fear man. If we choose to fear man, we have elevated man and reduced our view of
God. God please give us the power and the courage to boldly proclaim You, no matter what the circumstances may be.
May we be unashamed and unwavering in our pursuit of You. You have given us the strength, may we recognize it and use
it to glorify You.
By His Grace And For His Glory,Pastor Sam
Protection From Rejection - Fearing Man Part 2
Last week we
looked at the first of three categories in which people have an unhealthy fear of man. Fearing man will inevitably diminish
our fear of God. The second way that the fear of man manifests itself is through the fear of being rejected.
Rejection is one of the most powerful tools that keep us from doing what we know we should, rather what we are commanded to
do. Most people avoid situations of possible rejection much like they would the bubonic plague.
Circumventing opportunities which could result in rejection is placing superiority on the fear of man, while at the
same time curtailing potential positive outcomes. One of the most wonderful privileges we have as believers, and it
certainly is a privilege, is that we get to share the good news of Jesus Christ with others. God uses His children to
reach the lost with the gospel. But, far too often we don't share when we ought to because we are afraid of rejection.
Maybe they won't listen to me, maybe they will laugh at me, or maybe it will be awkward and uncomfortable. When we choose
to stay silent, what we are really doing is placing our fear of man in front of the eternal condition of the lost. Of
course we would never admit this, but in this case, our actions speak louder than our silence.
our wall in the foyer of the church we have the verse Acts 1:8 displayed above a map of the world. Like most, we recognize
the importance and value of missionaries. A missionary shares the gospel, as Acts 1:8 says they witness to the ends
of the earth. Their boldness and dedication in reaching the lost is one of great encouragement. But, here's the
deal, we are not delegating this duty to missionaries so that we do not have to share the gospel. As ambassadors of
Christ we need to share without reservation, as the need for Christ is oftentimes right in our own town, our own neighborhood,
even in our own homes. Do not get caught up in rejection, this is a snare of Satan to keep us quiet. I encourage
you to be confident in Christ, knowing that He will use our obedience for His glory and His purposes.
Grace And For His Glory,
Through Lenses of Fear
- Fearing Man Part 1
One of the most overlooked and understated issues that so many believers
face is the unnecessary fear of man. This is a fear that lurks in the shadows of our hearts and warrants more attention
than most would suspect. There are three primary ways in which the fear of man manifests itself in our lives.
In the next three pastor's corners we are going to look at each one of these three areas.
first fear is the fear of being seen. This is a fear of being exposed, humiliated and shamed. If we look back
to the garden, we saw this happen with Adam and Eve. Once they ate from the tree that they had been forbidden to eat
from, what did they do? They found shame in their nakedness (Genesis 3:7) and they hid from God (Genesis 3:8).
One could presume that while hiding, they must have thought "what will God think of me now?"
We are still dealing with the repercussions of the shame that Adam and Eve experienced in the garden, we are still
in a hangover from the fall, if you will. Shame can come from being victimized or sinned against by another. This
form of shame is commonly one that is hard to let go of. Fearing that others will look at you differently is all consuming.
Even as a child of God, the tendency is rather to identify as the victim of (fill in the blank). By doing this, whether
purposefully or inadvertently, we are choosing to fear man.
Not everyone is in that boat though.
Still, this world we live in will not let you off the hook that easy. We live in a society that loves to shame and humiliate
people. You are a Christian you say? Well, then many will call you a bigot or intolerant. Oh, and don't
think about sharing your faith, or you will be labeled as one of those bible thumping Jesus freaks. And so it goes,
the world we live in will not spare the opportunity to try and bring about feelings of shame. Many choose to hide and
stay quiet about their faith, in fear that it may not be socially acceptable in certain places or times. Again, this
is a fear of man.
The fear of man is crippling, rendering us far less
useful for the purposes of God. Fearing man is a choice. I encourage you to make the choice to stop fearing to
be seen by man. If you are a child of God, you have nothing to be ashamed of. He has forgiven your sins, forgiven
your shame and He has erased it. Don't worry yourself about what man will say, think or do. Remember the words
of Psalm 118:6 "The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?" God alone is worthy
of being feared. Let us rest on His promises and resist the snare of fearing man. By His Grace And For His Glory,