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September 26, 2021

Soli Deo Gloria  

 

As we reminisce of the importance of the Protestant Reformation on church history, we must consider the cause behind the charge.  What was the point in addressing the faults of the Roman Catholic Church?  Why go to such great lengths to prove a proper interpretation of God’s Word?  Countless numbers of men and women were barbarically murdered for their bold stance against the tyranny of the Roman Catholic Church.  Did they give their lives in vain?  The undeniable drive and purpose behind this movement was Soli Deo Gloria (To The Glory Of God Alone).

Over the course of the last four weeks we have looked at some of the major fundamental truths that God’s Word reveals.  The Latin phrases that describe these truths were popular during the Reformation and are still of great value today as well.  Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone), Sola Fide (Faith Alone), Sola Gratia (Grace Alone), and Solo Christo (Christ Alone) all support this final truth, Soli Deo Gloria (To The Glory Of God Alone).  Why were many martyred for their faith?  Because they knew that standing firm in their faith was worth giving their life for.  They knew that God’s glory was far more important than their carnal, temporal lives.  After all, the glory of God is what the Christian life is all about. 

As born again saints of the Lord Most High, we have a unified purpose to glorify God in all that we do.  Bringing honor to God can only be accomplished through a changed heart, a heart that has been transformed to desire the things of God.  If the motive and intention of the heart is not fixed on pleasing and serving the Lord, then no matter what we do, that work would be in vain.  God’s glory should be the singular agenda behind everything His children do.  Sola Scriptura is where we honor God through a high view of His Word (Matthew 4:4).  As we study Scripture we know and understand who God is and what He desires in our lives.  This knowledge is not to achieve intellectual prowess, rather it is for the purpose of exalting His name and living a life that is holy and pleasing to our Lord.  Sola Fide is recognizing that we are saved by faith, a faith that finds it’s authorship in Jesus Christ and not in the fortitude of man (Hebrews 12:2).  This acknowledgement is one that properly gives God the glory for providing for us what He alone can provide.  Sola Gratia is the awareness that without the grace of God, we would never be able to bring Him glory.  God’s grace is the means by which all praise and glory is given unto Him.  Without the grace of God it would be impossible to love, honor, serve and worship His Holy name (2 Corinthians 12:9).  Solo Christo professes the truth that Jesus Christ alone justifies sinners.  The atoning blood of Christ is the only means by which man can be reconciled to God (2 Corinthians 5:18-19).  Acts 4:12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.

Being made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27), we were fashioned for the purpose of bringing honor and glory to God.  Soli Deo Gloria is the culmination of the other four solas, the reason for all things.  We have the responsibility to glorify God in all things.  Why are we to love others, placing their needs above our own (1 John 4:7-10)?  To glorify God.  Why are we to be diligent in prayer, making our requests known to God (Philippians 4:6)?  To glorify Him.  Why are we to be zealous about pleasing Him (1 Thessalonians 2:4)?  Because it glorifies the Lord.  1 Corinthians 10:31  So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.  Whether you are grocery shopping, working, playing golf, spending time with your family, mowing the lawn, paying bills, whatever you do, ALL things should be done for the glory of God.  May we live our lives in a way that reflects the glory of God, a life that has been bought by the precious blood of Christ.  Like so many of the great Reformers may we be increasingly passionate about exalting Your Holy name.  SOLI DEO GLORIA![                                                                                                                                                         

By His Grace And For His Glory,
Pastor Sam                                

            

   

September 19, 2021

 

Solo Christo  

The Protestant Reformation was a monumental time for the true Church to stand firm against the false teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.  At a quick glance it could appear that there really wasn’t a great deal of difference between the two camps in terms of doctrine and theology.  However, there are crucial details that we must be aware of, details that make significant implications to the whole.  The most prominent issue in the Reformation was by what means an individual is justified.  The Roman Catholic Church held that Jesus was the divine Son of God, that He was born of the virgin, Mary, lived a perfect life, suffered and died an atoning death on the cross for sin, and was subsequently resurrected.  So what exactly was the issue?

Solo Christo is the Latin phrase meaning “Christ Alone”, and this is the precise root of contention that arose during the Reformation.  Roman Catholicism held to the belief that justification was not solely a work of Jesus Christ.  The ecumenical council of the Roman Catholic Church that met during this period of time (1545-1563) was called the Council of Trent.  The response that came out of the Council of Trent during the Reformation was that man’s justification was a combination of Jesus and the sacraments.  Though there are seven sacraments that the Catholic Church holds, two are specifically focused on the justification of the sinner.  The council held that water baptism was necessary to receive God’s justifying grace.  Then if a “mortal sin” was committed, withdrawing God’s grace, there was a second sacrament that must be made to right the wrong that was committed.  Penance was the secondary sacrament they believed would reconcile man back to God through confessing the unrighteous deeds before the priest.  It is this grievous perversion of the fullness of Christ’s atoning work that fueled the Reformation. 

The Bible teaches that God justifies a person through the finished work of Christ on the cross (Romans 5:1-2).  We are not justified by works or by merit, rather we are justified through the righteousness that is found in Christ alone (1 Corinthians 6:11).  It is only through the means of Christ that God can look at a forgiven sinner as holy, righteous, spotless and blameless (Colossians 1:22).  Imputed righteousness is the term used to describe this process.  Imputed literally means to ascribe something to someone else, in this case it is the righteousness and perfection of Christ being ascribed to all of God’s children.  Paul explains in Romans 3:20-22 that man cannot be justified by his own means, but God, in His goodness and mercy chooses to view us as righteous on the account of Christ’s righteousness.  Again in 2 Corinthians 5:21 Paul states that it is the perfection of Christ that makes possible the believers righteous status.  The imputed righteousness of Christ is final, it is not temporary.  The Catholic Church held the position that man needed a mediator between God and man; unfortunately their folly was selecting another equally fallible man.  But, the Bible teaches that Christ Alone is our Mediator, the only One sufficient to reconcile us to God (1 Timothy 2:5). 

There is no Christianity without Christ.  May we find great comfort in the finished work of Christ, doing for us what we could not and would not do ourselves.  Like the great Reformers may we stand firm on the foundation of Christ Alone (1 Corinthians 3:11), for all other ground is sinking sand (Matthew 7:26).  SOLO CHRISTO!                                                                                                                                                        

By His Grace And For His Glory,
Pastor Sam                                
 
 

September 12, 2021

 

Sola Gratia  

Perhaps the clearest passage in Scripture that defines the source of our salvation is Ephesians 2:8-9   For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.  Though echoed throughout the halls of Scripture, it is in these two verses we read that without the grace of God, salvation would not be possible.  During the Protestant Reformation, Sola Gratia (Grace Alone) was the Biblical rebuttal to the grievous error of the semi-Pelagianism that the Roman Catholic Church had adopted, which supposed that man had an important co-working role with God in the accomplishment of salvation.  However, the Bible teaches with certainty that God saves man not because of man’s willingness to assist God in the process; rather God saves man in spite of man’s rebellion and resistance.  John 6:44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.  The Greek word for draws is ‘helkō’, which literally means to drag.  The imagery of God having to drag sinful man to confession and repentance is supported by Romans 3:10-12  as it is written “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God.  All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”  Throughout history, and still alive and well today, man has undermined the grace of God with prideful tendencies to share in the works that are exclusively God’s.  But, as Ephesians 2 states, it is not a work of man; instead it is a gift of God.

The very definition of grace is getting what one does not deserve, it is unmerited favor.  It is incumbent upon us to recognize the countless ways that God bestows His grace on sinful man.  Anything that can be characterized as good is a result of the grace of God.  Grace is the only thing that keeps mankind from being immediately cast into the eternal fire of hell as a result of his sinful nature.  It is by grace alone that God made man in His image (Genesis 1:27), as the object of His affection (1 John 4:9), for the purpose of His glory (Isaiah 43:7).  Grace alone is the source of God sending His only Son to be the proprietary sacrifice for sin (John 3:16, 1 John 4:10).  By grace, God draws us to Himself (John 6:44), initiating within us what we could not do without Him.  By grace we are made known of the personal sin which separates us from the Holy, Righteous God of the heavens and the earth (Isaiah 59:2, 1 John 1:9).  By grace we have the ability to be reconciled to God (2 Corinthians 5:18).  By grace we are saved (Ephesians 2:8-9), whereby we receive the Holy Spirit to guide and aid us in a life lived out for the glory of God (Acts 2:38).  By grace we bear God-honoring fruit, evidence of the genuineness of our salvation (John 15:16).  Grace alone is what keeps us secured in Christ for eternity (John 6:37).  And by grace, those who have been saved will partake in the worship of the Lord for all eternity (Revelation 5:11-12).

From cover to cover, the Bible reveals the undeniable grace of God in all things.  On earth we will never fully know or comprehend the magnitude and fullness of the grace of God.  We should be thankful for the valiant men of the Reformation who refused to compromise or go along with the gross deviations that characterized the Roman Catholic Church.  May we find ourselves praising the Lord with ever increasing fervor, as we recognize the grace He has lavished upon us, for our very existence as God’s children is a result of His amazing grace.  SOLA GRATIA!                  

 
By His Grace And For His Glory,
Pastor Sam 
     
                            

September 5, 2021

 Sola Fide   

During the Protestant Reformation true biblical Christianity was being rediscovered by faithful men who fought tooth and nail to break through the heretical rubble that had built up as a result of a Roman Catholic stronghold.  God emboldened different individuals who would stand firm on the Word of God as the source of all truth and wisdom, thus Sola Scriptura was a key, non-negotiable principle to Christianity.  It is within the confines of the God-breathed Scriptures that the source and function of faith is revealed.  However, it would be this lucid truth that would be the source of great contention.  Specifically in terms of justification, the means by which man is reconciled to God, differing views existed, and frankly still exist today.  Thankfully, God’s Word is not vague regarding justification.  The Apostle Paul leaves no room for confusion in Romans 3:21-26, explaining that justification is a gift by the grace of God, and that the propitiatory sacrifice of Christ is received by faith.  Therefore, faith is a requirement to salvation.  We see further evidence of this in Ephesians 2:8-9 which explicitly cites faith as the means God uses to redeem His children.

Although this passage in Ephesians emphasizes the critical nature of faith in salvation, the reader is also confronted with the reality that salvation is completely a work of the Lord.  So, what does this mean about the nature of saving faith?  This is where another distinction must be made and that is the difference between faith and saving faith.  Everyone has faith, whether it be in evolution, the government, faith in self, faith in a sports team, you name it.  This type of “general” faith is a combination of inkling and wishful thinking.  On the contrary, saving faith is not only sure, but it is not subjective either.  General faith is dependent on the individual, whereas saving faith is dependent on the Lord.  Hebrews 12:2 tells us that Jesus is the founder (author) and perfecter of our faith.  In order for saving faith to be final, sure and complete, it needed to be a work of God.  It only makes sense that the very faith that is necessary to reconcile sinful mankind to Holy God, is given by the Creator as a gift to those whom He calls His children (John 1:12).  The Bible says it is impossible to please God without faith (Hebrews 11:6).  God receives honor and praise when His image bearing worshippers live by the faith He has granted to them (Romans 8:29).

Sola Fide means by faith alone.  This is really what separates Christianity from all other religions, but it is what separates the true gospel of Jesus Christ from all other false gospels.  Particularly concerning the Reformation, Roman Catholicism was entrenched in man made traditions and rituals.  When traditions carry the same weight as the Word of God, or in some cases more weight, theology becomes greatly perverted.  Catholicism has long operated under the belief that man is justified by faith as well as works.  Inevitably when one of those elements is viewed as tangible (works) and one intangible (faith), the former becomes the area of overwhelming focus.   

Any gospel that is taught whereby faith is not the sole means which man is justified by, is a false gospel.  Galatians 1:9 As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.  Sinful man is justified by God-given, God-sustained faith in the propitiatory sacrifice of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sin.  This is not simply the gospel of the Reformation; it is the one true gospel of Jesus Christ, echoed throughout the entirety of Scripture.  May we recognize the importance of these truths and praise God for accomplishing in us what He alone can.  SOLA FIDE!                                                                                                                   

By His Grace And For His Glory,
Pastor Sam

 

 

 

August 29, 2021 

 

Sola Scriptura 

 

Though instrumental in the Protestant Reformation, the importance of the five solas is certainly not limited to that time.  These are five biblical truths that are vital to a proper theology.  Sola Scriptura is the Latin phrase that means “Scripture Alone.”  Although tantamount in importance, this particular sola has significant impacts on each of the other four.  Scripture is quite literally the Word of God, His divine message to His creation, given by the precise means of His choosing (2 Timothy 3:16).  The Bible carries with it descriptions that can be said of no other writing, no other author, and no other message.  God’s Word is inerrant, infallible, authoritative, completely sufficient, and the essential sustenance we need for life (2 Peter 1:20-21, John 17:17 Matthew 4:4). 

During the Reformation the very Word of God was taking a back seat to Roman Catholic tradition, choosing the laws and rituals of man over the clear commands of God.  The Lord used bold men to call attention to this atrocity, demanding that men and women devote themselves to the unchanging, unfailing Word of God, repenting of their former ignorance.  This was a pivotal time in church history, as many renewed their commitment to Scripture or aligned themselves for the very first time. 

500 years have passed since the Reformation, yet the same issues persist today.  To many, the Bible means nothing more than a book full of fables and myths.  For the most part, even the reverence and respect for the Bible among the general public is but a memory.  Those who live their lives by it, who take it as absolute truth, are considered narrow-minded and fanatical.  The Bible has been taken out of the schools, in some cases administrations have demanded it not be brought in by any students.  My family and I were recently at a hotel, surprised to see that the nightstands did not contain a copy of the Bible, as they had in the past.  Even in the evangelical world, many professing Christians and churches pick and choose what parts of Scripture they want to use and disregard the rest, making for themselves a smorgasbord of self-defined truth.  Believing in part of the Bible is akin to denying it entirely.  It is either the Word of God or it is not.

For true, biblical Christianity, the precious Word of God is non-negotiable, as it is the gift that God has given to His people.  Through the holy words of Scripture we are able to know who God is and what He desires in our lives.  What we know about Jesus, His teachings, His death, atonement, resurrection, ascension, the need we have as fallen man to repent and submit our lives to Christ, God providing the Holy Spirit as a seal and helper to guide our lives in a way that honors Him, and the glorious promise of eternal life for those who have placed their faith and trust in the Lord alone, all this is found in the blessed Scriptures.  One cannot love God, love Jesus, yet be indifferent about the Bible.  The importance of Scripture cannot be overstated, it is the sweet honey that every child of God should crave above all else (Psalm 119:103). 

Sola Scriptura focuses on the unique qualities that are exclusive to the Word of God alone.  By His power and authority God has preserved His very own Word, so that we can be confident that it is all that we need in order to live a godly life in Christ Jesus.  Extra-biblical texts can be of great value, but Scripture alone has the power to impact the very heart of man (Hebrews 4:12).  In the face of Roman Catholic fallacy, the great Reformers stood firm on the principle of Sola Scriptura, Scripture Alone.  May we search within ourselves to determine what our view of Scripture is.  If our view be anything less than amazement at Its supreme authority and sufficiency coupled with a ravenous desire to adhere our very lives to It, then may we fall to our knees in repentance, imploring God to forgive us for our unbelief.  Like the valiant Reformers, may we have an increasingly reverent attitude toward the unchanging, unfailing Word of God.  Matthew 24:35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.               

                    

By His Grace And For His Glory,
Pastor Sam   

 

  

 

August 22, 2021

 Unchanging Truths  

 

When we ponder the significant events throughout church history, there is no question that the Protestant reformation sticks out as a monumental one.  It was in the early 1500’s that Roman Catholicism had reached its heretical peak, dominating Europe and regions far beyond.  In 1517 the former Catholic monk Martin Luther, having searched the Scriptures to discover the real truth of God’s Word, decided to take action.  To address the blatant disregard the Roman Catholic regime had for the Word of God, Luther constructed the 95 Theses, detailing these deviations.  On October 31, Luther nailed his theses to the doors of the Castle Church in Wittenberg Germany, a prestigious Catholic Church in the area. 

Many events would transpire during the reformation, but what was forced to be reckoned with was, what was the basis of one’s theology.  A bright light was shown on the man-made traditions of Roman Catholicism, traditions that ignored the explicit teachings of the Bible.  Therefore, proper theology had to be established, a theology that was based on Scripture and not the other way around.  A series of distinctions were made that separated the belief system of the Reformers and that of Roman Catholicism.  These 5 core beliefs of the Reformers are beliefs that we should be well aware of today, as they are fundamental to true biblical Christianity.  These core beliefs are called the 5 solas.  These 5 Latin phrases stand as a beacon of truth, extracted straight from God’s Holy Word.  The word sola in Latin means “only”, being seen interchangeably in these phrases as the word “alone”.  They are as follows:

1.     Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone)

2.     Sola Fide (Faith Alone)

3.     Sola Gratia (Grace Alone)

4.     Sola Christo (Christ Alone)

5.     Soli Deo Gloria (To The Glory Of God Alone) 

I believe it is of great importance that we know and understand what each of these phrases mean, as they are vital to a proper theology.  Over the next 5 weeks we will be looking at each of the solas, breaking down the meaning, implications and proving the necessity of their inclusion into an accurate theological position.  Through this series my prayer is that we will not only remember the importance of knowing a little bit about church history, but more importantly that God would be glorified through our examination of the 5 solas, as His glory is clearly seen through each one.                                                                                             

By His Grace And For His Glory,
Pastor Sam

   

   

August 15, 2021

  

 Prone to What?  

  

Everyone has their own preference when it comes to style of music, even if it is within the same genre of music.  I have always favored hymns and older Christian songs, as they generally have lyrics that are pulled right from the very Word of God.  This is not an attempt to attack or criticize modern music, although I certainly have legitimate concern with what passes as “music” today.  Anyways, I digress.  One song in particular that I thoroughly enjoy is, “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing.”  This wonderful song was written in 1758 by the 22-year-old Robert Robinson who lived in Swaffham UK.  Though this song has become quite popular, there are those who bristle at a very particular couple of lines.

The song speaks of the great need for Christ and the comfort that is found within His sovereign grace and mercy.  But it is toward the end of this lovely song that some take issue with.  The words are as follows “Prone to wander Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love.”  In a song that highlights the wonderful provisional care of the Lord, even in seeking out lost individuals, why then would it conclude in such a way?  Are we to assume the writer was not mature in His faith?  Did he question his salvation?  I would argue it is really quite the contrary.  It is because of the maturity of faith the writer can articulate the struggle that all believers face.  What we are really dealing with in this line of the song is the natural tendency of all mankind.  By nature we are wanderers. 

In fact the song even alludes to the fact that mankind does not naturally follow after God with this line, “Jesus sought me when a stranger, wandering from the fold of God.”  Scripture is transparent as to the natural heart of mankind (Jeremiah 17:9, Ezekiel 36:26, Mark 7:21-23), one that is incapable of seeking God (Psalm 14:2-3), let alone holding fast to the Lord forever.  Our allegiance to Christ is only accomplished through the mighty power of Christ.  Robinson understood that it was only through the loving grace of God that He was able to be sealed, pardoned, redeemed, and kept in the care of the Lord for eternity.  What Robinson also knew, something that we should be keenly aware of as well, is that if left to our own abilities, we would wander from the God we love.  The reason many have issues with singing that particular line in the song is because the truth frightens us at times.  May we not think so highly of ourselves that we look down our long hypocritical nose and say, “Well I would never do that”, that’s just pride talking. 

It is because of this important self awareness that Robinson writes this line “Let thy goodness like a fetter, bind my wandering heart to Thee.”  Knowing the very propensity of his heart, he acknowledges God as the source of all goodness and security.  A fetter is a chain or shackle that is used to bind a prisoner’s ankles.  It is only in Christ that we have the desire to be shackled or bound to His loving care. 

So next time this song plays, whether it is in your car or at church on Sunday morning, don’t hesitate to sing with great confidence and assurance that the Lord is the only One who keeps our heart from wandering off.  The song is not meant to be a downer or to cause us to wallow in self-pity; rather it is to magnify the Lord for doing what He alone can do.  I would challenge you this week to ponder this, does the music you listen to elevate the Lord or elevate self?  This challenge also applies to listening to what is called “Christian” music.  I think you may be surprised how many songs place mankind in such a positive light, while far less give the glory and honor to God alone.  May we be found diligently and faithfully striving to think less of ourselves and more of our Great God.                                                                               

By His Grace And For His Glory,
Pastor Sam                                

 

      

August 8, 2021

 

Death Of Old Self

The mighty work that God does in an individual’s life, through salvation, really is a remarkable thing.  Much of Scripture speaks to the truths that surround the new life that a believer has in Christ.  This new life is one that is positionally sanctified, has experienced regeneration, been redeemed, forgiven, and more.  So often a great deal of emphasis is placed on the things that are guaranteed to be “produced” by this new life, and rightfully so.  The Bible is abundantly clear that a follower of Christ will bear fruit in their lives (John 15:1-27), put on the things of God (Ephesians 4:23-24), as they are quite literally a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17).

These are all wonderful promises that God ensures His children through this salvific change.  But, what is not preached, taught, or even understood as often as it should be, is the things in which believers are to put to death.  In Colossians 3 we read a wonderful chapter that is not only explanatory about the reality and certainty of the new life that one has in Christ, but also the old life that cannot cohabitate with the new life.  In fact, in Colossians 3:5-10 we read a very direct charge to put old, sinful ways to death.  What this means in the most practical sense is God does not wish us to put on things that are pleasing to Him while at the same time indulging in the things of the flesh.  Following Christ is not merely an addition to our lives, it is a radical change in all areas of our lives. 

The danger this can cause is the tendency to look only for the positive changes we see in one's life, while completely ignoring the sin that needs to be addressed.  The new life we have in Christ demands we put the old ways to death.  This is not to suggest that we will never struggle with unhealthy passions and desires, but the habitual lifestyle of being slave to sin has to be put to death.  Only by the grace of God are we able to put away our old self and put on the things that honor and glorify the Lord.  Praise God for doing what we could never do on our own.  If you need some encouragement, I would suggest you read Colossians 3 this week.                                                           

 
By His Grace And For His Glory,
Pastor Sam    
                        

  

August 1, 2021

 

Food For Thought  

There are times when we read a passage in Scripture and misinterpret the meaning.  This should not come as a great surprise, for at times, even the intended audience in the Bible was guilty of misinterpretation.  A classic example of this is found in 1 Corinthians 5:9-13.   Not only did the church in Corinth get confused with Paul’s instructions, but many today still get tripped up on this passage. 

The most common mistake is making the assessment that this passage advocates that believers should have nothing to do with those who sin in the ways the passage describes (sexual immorality, greed, swindling, idolatry).  It is upon careful examination that we see Paul is attempting to set the record straight, for the church in Corinth had already misconstrued the previous teaching of Paul.  We know this because in verse 9 Paul uses the past tense (wrote) when he reveals that a letter had already been sent to the Corinthians prior to this current letter they are reading.  In that letter, which many scholars call the Lost Epistle, Paul was perhaps too vague for the spiritually immature Corinthians (1 Corinthians 3:2-3).  Apparently the church in Corinth was looking past the sin in their own lives, while they condemned non-believers for engaging in the same dishonorable practices.  It is quite clear that they missed Paul's point.  So, it is here in this passage in 1 Corinthians 5 that we see Paul be much more specific, as to ensure his audience understands this valuable teaching.

It is ludicrous to place an unrealistic expectation on the unbelieving world to not practice sin, for that is exclusively what they operate under.  This is precisely why Paul says that if the Corinthian church was to avoid people who practiced these sins, they would have to go outside of the world to accomplish that task.  Paul did not have unbelievers in mind when he wrote his original address to the church.  This time, Paul makes himself blatantly clear and we see that in verse 11.  The distinction Paul makes here is that believers are not to associate with those who bear the name of Christ, while at the same time partaking in habitual, unrepentant sin.  With this much needed clarity, no mistake can be made as to what Paul is commanding.  Those who bear the name of Christ are ones who profess that they are believers, but their calloused hearts toward the sin in their lives reveals their spiritual deadness.  In this passage Paul makes it clear that the expectation of accountability falls between true believers in Christ, specifically the body of Christ. 

Unfortunately, many make the realization that Paul is not instructing that believers set unrealistic expectations on the unregenerate and stop there.  The question we must ask, in order to properly understand what Paul is conveying, is what does this mean for us?  How then are we to treat those who bear the name of Christ yet live like the rest of the world?  It appears we are given the directive to not eat with such persons, but what exactly does that mean?  Many will point to the gospel account of Jesus eating with the sinners and the tax collectors; does this mean Paul was teaching what was contradictory to Christ? 

In the day and culture that Paul was writing this letter to the Corinthians (app. A.D. 95), eating dinner with someone was a symbol of acceptance and fellowship.  What Paul is telling the Corinthian church, and what we too must heed, is not to support or condone the actions of professing believers who remain in their unrepentant sin.  This is tough to come to grips with and even more difficult to practice.  Paul is not making a suggestion or even asking the Corinthians to consider this notion, rather he is commanding that they follow this God honoring protocol.  When we casually mingle with those who bear the name of Christ, while they hate Him and forsake Him with their lives, our association is one of an enabling nature.  To continue hanging out with these individuals, acting like everything is ok, makes us complicit in a way.  Instead of eating (showing acceptance) with these individuals, what we really should be doing is sharing the gospel with them.  It is the power of the gospel, through the sovereign working of the Lord that can change not just their actions but their heart. 

The question we have to ask ourselves is, are there those who profess Christ, but are really lost, that we are remaining silent around?  Are we playing golf with them, having lunch with them, carrying on like there is nothing wrong?  If so, we must stack up our actions against what we find here in this passage.  Are we honoring God with our complicity?  Or, should we be sharing the gospel with them?  Bearing the name of Christ is a very serious thing, one that should not be taken lightly.  Jesus was not eating with sinners and tax collectors because He just needed someone to hang out with.  Jesus was eating with these men because they were spiritually lost and He heralded the message of salvation.  He called men to repent and put their faith and trust in Him alone.  May we express reverence and respect with the way we hold true to the commands that we find in God’s Holy Word.  

                                          

By His Grace And For His Glory,
Pastor Sam                               
 
 

July 25, 2021

 

Muddy Waters  

I recall at different times throughout my adolescent years, changing my mind about what I wanted to be when I grew up.  At times I wanted to be a zookeeper (so I could feed the lions, obviously), sometimes a firefighter, other times a professional athlete.  Even if those professions seemed like a possibility to me at the time, that didn’t mean I adorned any of those titles.  My desire alone to be something did not make me that thing.  My how far we have come from that time. 

Today one of the big agenda items being pushed is the proper (or politically correct) use of pronouns.  No, I am not talking about English 101, what I am referring to is the self identification surge that is being propagated.  If it wasn’t outlandish enough to have boys wanting to be girls and girls wanting to be boys, now this movement is demanding that everyone else address them by the pronoun they want to be identified as, at any point and time.  Think this is a joke?  Here are some of the facts, and keep in mind, this is just the tip of the iceberg. 

Elementary schools and all the way up to the college level, boys and girls (which apparently we are not allowed to say), are being taught that there are many different gender identities.  In fact, depending on the source, there is said to be over 64 different gender identities.  In some schools, thankfully not all yet, students are taught to use the properly assigned pronoun in relation to the litany of gender identities.  Taxpayer’s dollars hard at work?  You be the judge. 

A popular musician has classified herself as non-binary.  Now stay with me on this one.  The way the gender identity community has identified non-binary is “people who feel their gender cannot be defined within the margins of gender binary. Instead, they understand their gender in a way that goes beyond simply identifying as either a man or woman.”  A gender that goes beyond identification?  What does this even mean?  If anyone would know what this actually means, you would think it would be the people that are propagating this, right?  However, that is not the case.  Here is a quote from this same musician “I accidentally misgender myself sometimes! It’s a huge transition to change the pronouns I’ve used for myself my entire life. And it’s difficult to remember sometimes!”  It is difficult for her to remember her identity, because it is complete nonsense.  If she doesn’t know who she is, how then does she expect others to address her appropriately?  This last quote really hits the nail on the head though “As long as you keep trying to respect my truth, And as long as I remember my truth, The Shift will come naturally.”  This artist has certainly confused her own delusion with actual truth.  She forgets who she is and has to be reminded what her truth is?  Yet, this is the distortion that societally we are going to great lengths to comply with.

Some states have begun to bring forward legislation that will hold one legally liable for not calling each individual by the specific pronoun that they associate with at any given time.  A teacher in Virginia was fired because he refused to address a transgender student by the title and pronoun that they demanded.  One can imagine where this is headed.  There are over 64 gender identifications, more than a hundred pronouns, and we are moving toward a time in which we will be held legally responsible for addressing each and every person by their specific preference. 

I am sure this is not the first you have heard about this, and likely you have given this some thought.  Allow me to be of some assistance.  WAKE UP CHRISTIAN!  We are to be pillars and supports of the truth (1 Timothy 3:15), not encouraging and advocating false.  The Bible is very clear, God created man (Genesis 1:27) and woman (Genesis 2:22-24), nowhere in Scripture do we find the other supposed 62+ genders listed.  Gender is not subjective, it is the wonderful identity that God has given us, not to be altered or manipulated.

The question has to be asked, where does this end?  What is next on the horizon that will start as “pushing the envelope” then become “commonplace?”  If one feels like associating as a CEO, will that be grounds for being granted that position?  If one wants to identify as a millionaire, will the bank be forced to comply and give them what they want?  As absurd as this sounds, we are not exactly dealing with logic and common sense.  As a society we have drifted quite far from rationality.  

Brothers and sisters we need to make sure we stand boldly for the truth, while at the same time having a loving and tender heart towards everyone.  We must realize the despair that exists with this gender identification movement, as many are searching to find some source of fulfillment.  Sadly, there is no pronoun that will satisfy this void in their lives.  Only by submitting their lives to the Lordship of Jesus Christ will they find true, unending joy and peace.  The only identity that matters at all, is who we are in the eyes of the One who created us.  We don’t have to sacrifice truth in order to show the love of Christ to others, for His truth is the most loving thing we can share (John 14:6)       

By His Grace And For His Glory,
Pastor Sam                                 

  

 

July 18, 2021 

The Spirit of Joy  

Far too often we use the word happiness and joy almost interchangeably.  However, happiness and joy are not the same things, and as followers of Christ, this is a distinction we must understand.  Happiness is an emotional feeling, something that can be experienced through a multitude of different stimuli, making happiness subjective to the individual.  This good feeling can come and go depending on the environment and circumstances that are present at any given time in a person’s life. 

Joy is different from happiness in that joy comes from the Holy Spirit, i.e. it is produced by God.  Joy is the God-given ability to experience the riches of His grace and mercy, both in the current world as well as the certain hope of eternity in His presence.  The Bible does not say that God wants us to always be happy, again, because happiness is a fleeting emotion, while joy is a position of the heart.  In Galatians 5 Paul lists the different fruit that believers possess by no other means than the Holy Spirit working in and through their lives.  You will notice in that list that happiness is nowhere to be found.  However, one can plainly see that joy is one of the fruit that the Spirit provides. 

The purpose of making this distinction is the tendency for so many, shamefully at times myself included, to lump happiness and joy together.  The danger in doing this is not recognizing the grace of God in our lives as we should.  Going to the mechanic to get your car fixed is not generally a scenario that produces happiness.  Cleaning up after your dog, disciplining your children, sitting in traffic, doing laundry, getting a call from a telemarketer, these are not typically things that generate happiness.  But, we live in a society that promotes personal happiness as something that is to be constantly pursued.  What about those who are born again believers in Jesus Christ?  Well, you will be pleased to know (notice I did not use the word happy?) that the pursuit of happiness is not found in Scripture.  What is found in Scripture is the God-given gift of joy, with the assurance of joy being seen through the presence of the Holy Spirit in the believer’s life.  What this means is that when we express joy, others can see the evidence of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  What this also means is that if we say we love and serve the Lord, yet we are not expressing joy, we are squelching the Spirit.  1 Thessalonians 5:19 says “Do not quench the Spirit.”  The word quench literally means do not extinguish the Spirit.  One of the ways that we can quench the Spirit is by living in a non-joyful way, which does not benefit anyone (ourselves, other believers, non believers, or God). 

Brothers and sisters we have so much to be joyful about.  It is when we ruminate on these things that we cannot help but to exhibit the joy that we have.  God, in His great love and mercy, has brought us out of the darkness (spiritual death) and into the light (spiritual life) (1 Peter 2:9, 2 Corinthians 5:17).  Our sins have been forgiven through the blood payment, the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ (1 John 1:9, Ephesians 1:7).  We have literally been plucked from the fire and promised eternal life in the presence of our Savior (Romans 6:23, 1 John 5:13).  In the meantime, God has given us His guarantee by indwelling us with the Holy Spirit, sealing us as His forever (1 Corinthians 2:12, Ephesians 1:13-14).  Really the question is, how can we have anything but joy if we are in Christ?  Our human tendency is to get caught up in the temporal, whether we are happy or not, when we should be focused on the greater importance, the eternal. 

The world that we live in does not always yield happiness, but the God we serve gives us ample reason to be joyful.  My encouragement is that you don’t get bogged down with the circumstances of life.  The world can stifle your happiness but it cannot steal your joy, so cling to the latter.  The challenge is, find joy in the Lord no matter what life throws at you, be a people of joy in the Lord.  Let your joy be the thing that others take notice of.  Perhaps those who see the joy in your life will inquire of your reason for it.  What an amazing opportunity at that point to give an account for the reason we have joy.                                                  

By His Grace And For His Glory, 
Pastor Sam     
         
                                

July 11, 2021

Wisdom Of The Heart 

When you think of wisdom, what is the first thing that comes to mind?  I presume that some would contemplate some of the great thinkers like Albert Einstein, or Aristotle, or perhaps from a leadership perspective some would think of George Washington or maybe Eisenhower.  No doubt there are elite experts in every field imaginable, from science, to literature, to doctors and lawyers, to trades such as plumbing and welding.  The common thread among these diamonds in the rough is the wisdom they possess to perform at the top of their field.  When one thinks of wisdom and where wisdom lies, we undoubtedly affirm that wisdom is in the mind.

Proverbs 2 is a wonderful chapter, revealing the value of wisdom.  But, it is in this wonderful chapter that we also run into a truth that may leave us scratching our head.  In verse 9-10 we read that when one understands righteousness and justice, wisdom will come into the heart.  It is upon reading this entire chapter that we gain the proper context to more appropriately understand the meaning.  In the beginning of Proverbs 2 we read that one gains wisdom through receiving God’s Words and responding in obedience.  But, we would do well to always consider the heart motive that must exist to receive God’s Word and likewise to respond in obedience.  Only a heart that loves the Lord and desires to be faithful in pursuing the things of God would receive and respond favorably. 

You see, Godly wisdom is achieved only with the mind and the heart, not one acting independent of the other.  To have wisdom of the mind and not of the heart would simply be academic wisdom, better defined as intelligence.  To have wisdom of the heart but not of the mind would be limited by a lack of information.  This individual may have good intentions but no knowledge on how to properly apply those intentions to positive action.  It is in this wonderful Proverb we find that the wisdom that God provides through our earnest seeking of Him, affects every part of our lives, as we use this gifted wisdom to honor Him.  The yearning for wisdom that is conveyed in this Proverb is a desire that is wrought forth from a heart purposed in serving the Lord.  So, while this wisdom may or may not win a Pulitzer Prize, or invent the next best technological advancement, it is a wisdom that pleases our Lord.  Praise God for not only giving us the capacity to attain true godly wisdom, but also granting us that wisdom which affects our entire being, mind and heart, manifested through God honoring action.  I would encourage you to read Proverbs 2 this week and be reminded of the goodness of our Lord.  God graciously answers our petition for wisdom, when we ask with a sincere heart.  James 1:5 But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

By His Grace And For His Glory,
Pastor Sam                              

  

July 4, 2021

 

Consider Kindness 

Just the other day my wife and I were discussing a disturbing trend that we have not only noticed ourselves, but friends have echoed this same observation.  In our assessment it seems that there is an increase of unkindness going on at just about every level.  Oftentimes unkindness rears its ugly head in the mundane, the simple day to day circumstances.  Perhaps the waiter or waitress got your order wrong, or you had to wait longer than expected at the BMV.  Maybe the student driver accidentally pulled out in front of you, or the internet connection keeps going in and out.  Whatever the irritant may be, COVID, the government, unkindness seems to be the all too common response. 

As followers of Christ, we need to be very aware of how we are acting as well as how we are reacting to situations that face us on a daily basis.  After all, kindness is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), we should be showing kindness to others as much as we possibly can.  There are two things we need to keep in mind in terms of kindness.  One, we needn’t expect kindness out of the unbelieving world.  Listen, this world is not always going to be nice to us, people will be cruel and they will be rude.  But, let’s be completely honest, what should we expect?  We all like to think there is a common decency that exists in the world but that is more wishful thinking than it is reality.  But, when others are unkind to us, we have a wonderful opportunity in that moment.  Fighting fire with fire sure isn’t going to shine the light of Christ; it is not going to positively affect them in any way.  Instead, we should be responding in kindness, even when we don’t feel like it, or don’t think kindness is warranted.  After all, where would we be, had kindness and grace not been extended to us?

Second, showing kindness should be a trait that we consciously and diligently seek to practice.  The Bible is filled with instructions for children of God to be kind to not only one another, but to everyone (Luke 6:31, Ephesians 4:32, Colossians 3:12-14).  When we are kind to others it reflects the love of Christ, displaying qualities and character that come from the Lord.  On the flip side, if we do not show kindness to others, what does this show them?  Well, it shows them that Christians are not any different from the rest of the world.  In fact, it makes us out to be hypocrites.  It ruins our testimony.  Imagine this for me if you would.  Let’s say you go into a coffee shop and stand in line to order your drink.  The line is moving slow and you know it is because the new guy behind the counter is not keeping up with the morning rush.  You finally get up to the counter, make your drink order and wait yet again for the drink to finally arrive.  Instead of the iced drink you ordered, the less than confident waiter hands you a hot drink.  Frustrated you react in a less than desirable way, causing the waiter to apologize for his actions.  After giving him the cold shoulder you proceed about your day.  Fast forward, Sunday morning comes along and you are standing at the front doors greeting, a role you have come to enjoy.  A new couple pulls up and gets out of their car, proceeding to advance toward the front doors, when you notice the familiar face.  It is the waiter from the coffee shop.  I trust you know where this is going.  What kind of testimony do we have at that point? 

I am not suggesting that followers of Christ don’t have bad days or never act in unkind ways.  But, this should not be the norm; it should not be how others would define us.  As the fallen world that we live in becomes more and more unkind, may we be different.  May we show the love of God to others through our kindness (Luke 6:35).  

                                                                                                                                                                                                                           

By His Grace And For His Glory,
Pastor Sam

 

June 27, 2021 

 

Just What I Needed To Hear 

They say a little bit of encouragement goes a long way.  Then it should be assumed that a lot of encouragement goes even further right?  It is no surprise that we live in a world filled with ups and downs, hills and valleys if that suits you better.  Hopefully there are more hills than valleys, but nevertheless, there are times when circumstances have us down.  Finding encouragement in times like these is like a cold, refreshing drink of water on a hot summer day, it hits the spot. 

As followers of Christ there is often a certain stigma that is attached to feeling down or discouraged, after all, we are children of God, heirs to the throne.  But, we are human too.  While keeping things in perspective can certainly be of great benefit, life can still be tough sometimes.  That is why encouragement can be so instrumental, especially in these times.  One can find encouragement from family, friends, even complete strangers.  Thank goodness God knew we would need encouragement as well, and there is no greater encourager than our Heavenly Father. 

God used the Apostle Paul to bring great encouragement to the church in Colossae.  In the opening of Colossians 1, Paul tells the believers in Colossae that he has not stopped praying for them, which is an encouragement in itself.  However, it is in this prayer of Paul’s that we not only find great biblical truth but also some of the most encouraging words one could hear.  Colossians 1:9-14  And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy; giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Though some may find this to be more of a charge or an instruction, I believe this is more specifically a well timed, well needed encouragement.  Paul states some of the wonderful promises of God, results of walking in a manner that is pleasing to Him.  But, the real zinger, the pinnacle of encouragement is found here in verse 12, where Paul states that God has qualified them (all believers) to share in the inheritance of the saints.  Brothers and sisters this is glorious truth.  When the throws of this world have you feeling down, this is the promise that should come flooding into your mind; that no matter how unworthy we feel, you are qualified through the power of God.  We are not unworthy, because we are not living for ourselves or by ourselves, we are not alone, we have been saved by the grace of God, we are sons and daughters of the king.  Verse 13 and 14 are the icing on the cake really, reminding us that we have been delivered from the world of darkness to the marvelous light through the blood atonement of Jesus Christ. 

Friends, I would encourage you to jot this passage down, highlight it, underline it, whatever you need to do.  Feelings and emotions will come and go, but God’s promises will never fail us.  I pray you find encouragement from the sweet words of our Lord.

 

By His Grace And For His Glory,
Pastor Sam
 
 

June 20, 2021

 

Who Said Change Is Good? 

As a follower of Christ I must say one of the attributes of God that I am utterly thankful for is His immutability, that is His unchanging character, nature, and will.  The fact that God does not change, His will does not change, His desire and purpose does not change is remarkable.  A.W. Pink says this of God’s immutability “He cannot change for the better, for He is already perfect; and being perfect, He cannot change for the worse.”  Truth be told, it is upon realizing this truth that many frivolous arguments should gain no further ground.  So, why is the immutability of God so important?  What arguments should be dropped at the doorstep of this unquestionable truth?

Scripture is filled with teachings of God’s unchanging nature.  Psalm 102:26-27 tells of the things that pass away, but God remains, James 1:17 explains that the Father does not vary or change, Numbers 23:19 reveals that the Lord does not change His mind, Hebrews 13:8 says that Jesus Christ is the same past, present and future.  This divine character of God is one that certainly separates Him from mankind.  We have all experienced moodiness, and if we are too prideful to admit our own, we at least recognize that other people can be moody, meaning their attitude changes from day to day.  The result of moodiness is a variance of reactions and outcomes generated from the same source.  Obviously you can see the negative quality of moodiness, making it difficult or impossible for one to navigate and predict efforts given.  Thank goodness this is not true of God, there is no such thing as catching God on a bad day.  If this were true, we would really be in a world of trouble.  Could you imagine if one day God desired one thing and the next He condemned it?  Of course you can’t think of that, because this is not how God operates.  His immutable nature is one that offers consistency and clarity. 

So, what implications does this have on how we function and behave?  It is far too common for churches, as well as individuals, to view change in a way that suggests God’s Word is ever-needing to be adapted to the current social and cultural milieu.  Without explicitly stating it like this, their actions, as well as their arguments against Scripture, speak loud and clear.  To give an example, one of the common deviations today is the view of LGBTQ.  Many churches and professing believers vehemently proclaim that the homosexual lifestyle is one that should be embraced as the new “norm” and that it fits in Christianity.  This is why it is imperative that we know and understand the importance of God’s immutable character.  This is not a matter of interpretation, nor is it a matter of an isolated or obscure text.  The Bible is distinctly clear on ALL sexual immorality being sinful and dishonoring to God (Leviticus 18:22, 20:13, Romans 1:26-27, 1 Corinthians 6:9, 1 Timothy 1:10, 1 Corinthians 6:18, 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5, Ephesians 5:3, Galatians 5:19, Colossians 5:3, 1 Corinthians 7:2).  The immutability of God extends to all three persons of the Trinity (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) as well as the Word of God.  God’s word has not changed, His character has not changed, His standard has not changed, and what He has deemed to be sin has not changed.  It is not our responsibility, nor is it our possibility, to change what is and is not right in God’s sight.  Cultural and societal influences do not dictate truth. 

This is just one of many examples of the “change” that has been demanded in the face of an unchanging God.  Another big one is the false belief that one can lose their salvation.  This would mean that God has adopted us into His family (Ephesians 1:5, Galatians 4:5-7, John 1:12), made us heirs to the kingdom (James 2:5, Romans 8:17)……..but then changed His mind and cast us back out.  This is not a biblical construct at all, it is simply bad theology and a low view of God. 

Thankfully we have a very clear obligation to obey God (John 14:15, James 1:22, John 14:23) and not to conform to the world (Romans 12:2).  I would encourage you to praise God for His consistency, for His immutable nature.  Because if you have been saved by the grace of God, He has promised to keep you and give you eternal life, (John 3:16, Romans 6:23, John 5:24, Matthew 25:46), escaping wrath and experiencing the endless love of God.                                                                                                                                      

By His Grace And For His Glory,
Pastor Sam 
      
         

June 13, 2021

 

Doing Whatever It Takes 

The book of 1 Corinthians is a wonderful book, filled with practical ways in which to live a purposeful life for the Lord.  In Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth, he addresses many issues that they are facing, most of which are self-inflicted, due to their lack of spiritual growth.  One need not be overly astute in order to pick up on the stern, but loving corrections that Paul frequently applies to this letter.  In chapter 9 Paul gives a defense for anyone who would question his motives and purpose for ministry.  Paul was not milking the system for an easy vocation filled with cushy benefits.  Quite the contrary, ministry came at a cost, one Paul was starkly aware of.  But, this was not a deterrent of the faithful Apostle; rather it was part and parcel for living a life of service, spreading the saving gospel of Jesus Christ. 

But, then we get to verse 19-23 of chapter 9, a commonly misinterpreted and misunderstood passage.  A quick read through, without contextual support, would appear that Paul is saying he will do whatever it takes to reach someone with the gospel of Jesus Christ.  What exactly does that mean?  If Paul would go to any length to reach the lost, would he even go so far as to sin?  The passage does say that he became all things to all people; this seems a bit extreme doesn’t it? 

A closer examination of the passage at hand will shed some much needed light on the common confusion.  Paul is in no way suggesting that he would do anything that would go against what God forbade.  For instance, in verse 20 when Paul states that to the Jews he became a Jew, He was not insinuating that he literally conformed to Judaism.  The point the Apostle was making was the importance of knowing his audience.  Was Paul deviating from the truth?  Absolutely not.  Within the confines of the Word of God, Paul was being the most effective evangelist he could be.  Nowhere are we given any indication that Paul compromised in word or deed.  Being able to relate to his target audience gave him a precise angle of sharing the gospel.  The gospel didn’t change, the message was the same, but the tact and approach was more directed to the situation. 

I could go on and on and dissect each scenario that Paul lays out in this passage, and don’t get me wrong, there is great value in that kind of extensive study.  But, for the purpose of this musing, may we focus our attention on how this applies to our lives?  How do we become all things to all people, while maintaining a right standing with God?  Though there is no exact formula or step by step instruction in terms of relating to each person that needs to hear the gospel, we can learn a lot from the wise Apostle.  Sharing the gospel often means we have to go outside of our comfort zone and talk to others we wouldn’t normally talk to, in places we wouldn’t normally go, who have interests that are not the same as ours.  My point is, Paul was not simply sharing the gospel with family and friends, and by no means is that to suggest we shouldn’t be sharing the gospel with family and friends.  But, he was trying to reach everyone that he could, even if that meant being relatable with a crowd he wouldn’t normally associate with.  Paul knew the message he heralded was worth the effort.  The question is, do we? 

In a day and age when easy believism is doled out in mass quantities like an evangelical Pez dispenser and friendship evangelism has become the “new norm”, appreciating the work and effort Paul put forth can go unnoticed if we aren’t paying careful enough attention.  May we find encouragement in the approach that Paul had for reaching the lost with the gospel of Jesus Christ.  May it cause us to look for new opportunities we hadn’t thought about before or give us the motivation we need to witness to those we have been putting off for far too long.  I would challenge you this week to look at this passage here in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 and do a little further studying.  My hope and prayer is that you would be moved to heed the example that is found in the Apostle Paul.  Lord, may we all be found as faithful stewards of what You have entrusted us with.                                                                                                                                                                                           

 
By His Grace And For His Glory,
Pastor Sam   

           
                    

           

June 6, 2021 

Defining Qualities 

 

One of the ways that we can exalt the name of the Lord is to acknowledge His traits and characteristics.  It is always a beneficial practice to consider the many wonderful attributes of God.  Categorizing these qualities of God is another helpful exercise that will likely yield a better understanding of God’s grace.  One way, but certainly not the only way, to make distinctions between attributes is to break them down between two groups, communicable and incommunicable.  The word communicable can mean the ability to communicate to others or to transmit something to someone else.  The latter is what best pertains to the subject at hand.  In the medical field, communicable is what denotes a disease that can be transmitted from one thing to another, thus communicable is transferable. 

So, what are some of the incommunicable, or non transferable, attributes of God?  One that certainly comes to mind is the sovereignty of God.  God’s sovereignty is something that separates Him from everything else, for God alone is sovereign (Job 42:2, 1 Chronicles 29:11-12).  There is only One Creator God, making this another incommunicable attribute of our Lord (Colossians 1:16, John 1:1-3).  Commonly we think of the omnis of God, He is omniscient (all knowing 1 John 3:20), omnipotent (all powerful Psalm 147:5) and omnipresent (in all places at all times Isaiah 44:6).  A few more attributes on this list would be that God is the Lawgiver and Judge (Ecclesiastes 12:14, Isaiah 33:22), He is perfectly Holy, Righteous and Pure (Psalm 11:7, 1 Samuel 2:2, Psalm 12:6), He is immutable (Malachi 3:6), He is self existing (John 5:26) and so on.  Again, these are attributes that God alone possesses, mankind cannot achieve these qualities nor does God transmit them to His children.  These are attributes that make God who He is, worthy of all of our praise.  Acknowledgment of these characteristics of God is a wonderful way to be reminded of His greatness and majesty.  God is God and we are not. 

There are attributes that we receive through salvation, as beneficiaries of the extension of His grace.  These are qualities and characteristics that God desires us to have, thus He has transferred them to His children.  Communicable attributes include the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).  These are attributes that are perfect in the Lord but transferred in part to the saints as verification of life change and further sanctification (being made into the image of His Son).  Praising God for these attributes is really twofold.  On one hand we thank God for importing into our lives, qualities that we would never and could never attain on our own.  On the other hand we again are reminded that God alone is the perfection of all of these traits. 

Why would we go through the work to distinguish between these qualities, what is the purpose?  I believe it is always important to be reminded that we serve a God who is worthy to be glorified, whose character and nature is praiseworthy.  Knowing that there are things which are unique to God is important to knowing Him at a greater level.  I would encourage you this week to identify the different attributes of God, then determine whether you think they are communicable or incommunicable and why.  Don’t shoot the messenger, I am not demanding homework or a well constructed diagram.  But, I can assure you, taking the time to be mindful of the attributes of God will never be done in vain.  May He be glorified in your pursuit to know Him more and more with each day He gives you.                                                                                                      

By His Grace And For His Glory,
Pastor Sam
 
  

 

 

May 30, 2021

 Embracing Propositional Truths

Throughout church history there have been various attacks from both outside the church as well as within.  The attacks from outside are expected, but the ones from inside tend to be the most surprising as well as damaging.  With the ever increasing pressure to ‘normalize’ the church in terms of cultural relevance, there has been a widespread abandonment of recognizing the propositional truths that are made in God’s Holy Word.  How could this even be possible?  How could professing believers purposely suppress absolutes that are so clearly revealed within the Holy Words of Scripture?

Under the influence of a postmodernist hangover, new movements are proclaiming something, but it is not the truths of the Bible.  Rather, this new wave (primarily, but not limited to, the emergent church) insists on gleaning personal interpretation from Scripture, essentially developing one’s own definition of truth.  Many of this ilk will take an account in the Bible and refuse to make any propositional statements, extracting only what they want to as a personal theory of sorts.  Perhaps the greatest atrocity in their deviation is that which surrounds the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.  If we believe the Bible is inerrant and infallible, we know that there are a lot of propositional truths to be made within the atonement account.  Some, but certainly not all, common propositions that are made are.

1.      Jesus Christ literally was beaten, tortured and hung on the cross in Calvary.  (Matthew 27:26-30, Mark 14:65, John 19:18)

2.     His death paid the penalty for the sins of man (1 Peter 1:18-19, 1 Peter 2:24, 2 Corinthians 5:21)

3.     It was God’s will and plan of redemption to crucify Christ (Isaiah 53:10)

These are propositions, not based on one’s feeling or emotions, but derived directly from the Word of God.  No matter how much theological gymnastics one does, these truths still remain. 

However, there are increasing numbers of those who will refuse to accept any propositions, fearing that it is narrow-minded and intolerant of other viewpoints.  Some have taken the crucifixion account of Christ and allegorized it, stating that His death was merely symbolic for taking people's pain and afflictions away from them.  This is not simply a case of wrong interpretation, it is heresy.  To deny the actual, literal death, resurrection and ascension of Christ is to not know Christ at all (Matthew 10:33).  The question has to be asked, where does this madness stop?  If there are no propositions to be made at all, what actual, definitive truth can we extract from Scripture?  And that is precisely the point.  In an effort to appeal to everyone, to not step on anyone’s toes, all opinions and interpretations are valid, as they are true to the person who holds them.  This is the kind of blasphemous garbage that is captivating many of the “progressive” church movements.

The apostle Paul reminds his young protégé Timothy that the church is to be a pillar and buttress (support) of the truth.  Brothers and sisters I implore you to do the same, for there has never been a more critical time in church history for us to be pillars and buttresses of truth.  The Word of God is sufficient and it is certainly worth upholding.  Movements and fads come and go but the Word of God remains eternal (1 Peter 1:25, Matthew 24:35).                                                                                                                                                     

By His Grace And For His Glory,
Pastor Sam
 
 

May 23, 2021

 

 

For Christians, the Bible is undeniably significant in knowing who God is as well as what He has purposed for His children.  All true followers of Christ must affirm the importance of the Holy Scriptures, as it is imperative to life and faith.  However, we live in such a time that has seen an increase of scrutiny toward the Bible, making it vital that we know not only where we stand on our view of Scripture, but why we hold that position.  Bibliology is the theological discipline and study of the Bible, combining elements of origin, history, authorship, etc.  But, like any theological matter, there are differing views. 

One area that has been widely debated is the theories of inspiration of the Bible.  There are four main lanes of thought that most Christians fall into.  The nature of these different views demands that we choose a lane, because the reality is only one can be right.  I am confident that further detail will reveal striking clarity as to which ones are theories and which one is reality. 

First there is the idea that the Bible is a remarkable human book without divine inspiration.  This would suggest that talented men penned the words that they felt were pertinent to the Christian faith; which also means that God did not have any supernatural oversight to the contents at all.  The problem with this theory should be glaringly obvious.  This would deny the sovereign nature of God, placing Him in a position of hoping these writers would write something good about Him, since it is in a sense out of His hands.  This view elevates the ability of man while greatly reducing the power of God, stripping Him of having any control of what the Bible contains.  Not only do the Scriptures not support this, they actually reveal quite the opposite (John 1:1, 2 Timothy 3:16-17). 

Another theory is that the Word of God is partially inspired.  This theory suggests that there are times in the Bible where God influences the writers (via His speaking to them directly or the guidance of the Holy Spirit) and there are times when the writers pen their own thoughts and words.  The confusion this would cause is quite obvious, not being able to determine what is of God and what is of man.  Man does not coauthor the Bible, again 2 Timothy 3:16-17 is clear on the source of Scripture.  It is ironic that one would use the term Word of God while at the same time insisting that fallible man had an equal part in “creating” the Bible.  This view also puts a high view on man while attempting to limit the power of God. 

Yet another theory is that of God’s divine control devoid of any human adjunction.  This theory states the Bible is a book which is independently divine, having been dictated mechanically to men.  What that means is there are no outside factors present in the writers.  While this theory does recognize the sovereignty of God, it fails to recognize the method in which God Himself compiled Scripture.  The Bible was assembled over the course of nearly 1,600 years, by 45 different writers.  There is substantial evidence that the individual books contain the nuances and traits of the writers.  We see differences both grammatically as well as stylistically.  One example is the way that Paul and James both address the event of Abraham nearly sacrificing Isaac on the altar on Mount Moriah.  Though the writers did not contradict one another, they certainly gave to different angles of the same scene.  Without question God inspired these men to write the words He wanted, but their personalities are also embedded in the text.

That leads us to the last mode of thought in regards to the inspiration of Scripture; which is verbal plenary inspiration.  What this means is the Bible is entirely of God, every single word being completely His words, while at the same time incorporating the individual personalities of the individual writers.  This view does not diminish God’s sovereignty in any way, rather it recognizes the inerrant word being transmitted through human writers.  What is so wonderfully unique about God using these means is that His infallible and authoritative word is brought to us through fallible men, further displaying His glory.  Inspiration was given to the writers in multiple ways, one on one encounter with God (Moses), direct revelation from God (Prophets), the Holy Spirit, etc.  We see the evidences of this all throughout Scripture as the writers use their uniquenesses (the detail of Luke the physician, the fast pace of Mark, the boldness of Paul), while at the same time having a unified message that reveals God and His redemptive plan.     

While I understand there are different viewpoints taken on this theological issue, I firmly believe there is only one logical and biblically supported view.  Verbal plenary inspiration is God inspiring the writers to both utilize their uniquenesses while at the same time unequivocally revealing the complete expression of God through every single word (Matthew 4:4, John 17:17).  I leave you with the words of God that were given through the Apostle Peter, 2 Peter 1:21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.                                                                                                                                    

By His Grace And For His Glory, 
Pastor Sam   
         
                                           

May 16, 2021

 

Theology Matters

 

Those of you who know me, know that I am a stickler for the importance of theology.  As I have discussed before, there is a progressive movement that operates under the guise of Christianity, which states there is no need for theology.  This absurd logic unravels quickly as there would be no definitive statements made about who God is, what He desires and consequently what our purpose in this world is. 

There is another deviation that I want to address, one that really took shape with the postmodern movement, and that is our ethics determine our theology.  It is the thought process that assumes what our belief is on ethical issues will formulate our theology.  The problem with this would be glaringly apparent.  One might say, I live with my boyfriend/girlfriend, therefore I choose to look at Scripture in a way that does not condemn that type of living.  This sounds outlandish but rest assured, this happens all the time.  One could argue that the Bible is not current in terms of cultural views on couples living together.  One could even argue the definition of fornication, a definition that is somehow constructed to condone the situation that benefits them. 

Another example would be the common issue of lying.  One could say that white lies are harmless, in fact in some cases they might just spare others feelings from getting hurt.  Ethically lying is something that can be discerned whether it is beneficial or not.  There are certainly instances in Scripture where lying wasn’t completely and utterly condemned by God.  Take for instance the deception of King David, as he faked his insanity before Achish, the King of Gath.  David was afraid of what Achish might do, so he pretended to be insane.  God did not harshly rebuke David in this instance, so there must be validity to the occasion for lying….right?

Building theology based on our ethical views is a backwards way of operating as a follower of Christ.  There are factors that contribute to our ethics, like individual (feelings, emotions, personal history & experience) and social (cultural, definition of “normal”).  On the contrary, theology is determined by Scripture, the unchanging, timeless Word of God.  God’s word is not subject to changing cultures and time periods.  When a statement is made based on our understanding of Scripture, theology is being formed.  For instance, since the Bible says that God does as He pleases (Psalm 115:3), rules over all with great power and strength (1 Chronicles 29:11-12), and does everything according to His purpose (Isaiah 46:9-10), then we can conclude that God is sovereign.  He is not sovereign because we feel that way, or because that makes sense to our logic, He is sovereign because the Bible clearly defines God as such.

Theology should always determine our ethical behavior.  If we go back to the issue of lying that was previously mentioned, the Bible says that a lying tongue is an abomination to God (Proverbs 6:16-17, Proverbs 12:22), that we should not lie to one another (Colossians 3:9-10, Exodus 20:16), and that lying is attributed to the likeness of satan (John 8:44), therefore we can confidently make the theological statement that lying is wrong.  David may have not been struck dead on the spot when he was deceitful before King Achish, but that did not justify his actions either.

Theology, very simply put, is the study of the nature of God, a nature that we see explained throughout the canon of Scripture, His very own Word.  The more we study God’s Word, the more we know who He is.  Our theology should determine how we live our lives, meaning, it should dictate our ethical behavior.  2 Timothy 3:16-17  All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.                                                                                                    

By His Grace And For His Glory,
Pastor Sam 

   

  

May 9, 2021

Adopting Compromise

I recently read an article that a dear brother in the Lord gave to me.  The contents of the letter were appalling but, I must say, I wasn’t overly surprised by it.  Bethany Christian Services (BCS) is the largest Christian adoption service in the country.  For over 75 years the organization has stuck to its deep biblical roots and values, helping place children with qualified, Christian married couples.  Unfortunately, in the face of societal pressure for inclusion and acceptance, BCS has made the announcement that they will welcome LGBTQ couples as adoption candidates.  In a time of rapid degeneration in our country, BCS’s decision to kowtow to the group shouting the loudest is at the expense of denying the principles that the organization was founded upon, biblical principles.   

The biblical family structure has been attacked for many years now, meaning, this did not just happen overnight.  Scripture is very clear that marriage is between one man and one woman (Genesis 2:24), an understanding BCS seemed to have a firm grasp on.  So, what happened?  What causes an organization that operates under the banner of Christianity to bend and comply with the ebb and flow of society?  It’s called compromise.  I am not talking about the kind of compromise that settles for Italian food when you really wanted Mexican.  I am not talking about the kind of compromise that took the good deal on the silver car when you really wanted red.  What I am talking about is the worst kind of compromise of all, the compromise that goes against the very Word of God.  The Bible is not vague when it comes to the sinful condition of a homosexual lifestyle (Leviticus 18:22, 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, Romans 1:26-27, 1 Timothy 1:10).  For years BCS did precisely what this country needs, provide a service that dedicates its efforts to maintaining a biblical family model.  With this latest decision they have purposely deviated from the family structure that God has designed; a decision that comes with monumental repercussions. 

The confusion this places on little boys and girls that will be raised in this perverse kind of family dynamic is heartbreaking.  Like I said, this has been a slow fade, but when will we say enough is enough?  Paul gave the instruction in Romans 12:2 not to conform to this world, even written nearly 2,000 years ago these are valuable words to us today.  The nature of living in a lost and dark world is that the world does not seek to honor God nor attempt to operate under biblical principles.  To stand firm on the Word of God takes courage, boldness, and commitment in remaining steadfast to the Lord, no matter what the world is shouting in opposition.  BCS’s capitulation is a victory for the world, one that comes at the expense of dishonoring God.  As time goes on, inevitably as societies move forward (notice I didn’t say progress) cultural norms change.  But, as followers of Christ we acknowledge that the Word of God is unchanging and our adherence to it is something we mustn’t deviate from.  It is sufficient for all things pertaining to living a godly life (2 Peter 1:3-4), a truth that stands apart from what our culture has defined as “normal”.  BCS’s abandonment of the truth of Scripture is an indictment to their organization and the beliefs they have long claimed to stand upon.       

My encouragement brothers and sisters is that we understand our need to remain faithful to God (Hebrews 10:23), even when we are pressured to do otherwise.  I would also encourage you to pray for BCS, that they would repent and turn back to their commitment to honor God.  Stay the course my dear brothers and sisters, fight the good fight.                                                                            

By His Grace And For His Glory,
Pastor Sam                                 

May 2, 2021

 

Loving God Means Loving God’s People

 

I hope you have enjoyed journeying through the different ways to assess spiritual maturity.  Though this is not an exhaustively complete list, these areas are in fact found rooted within the canon of Scripture.  This week we are going to look at the area of God’s people, more precisely, our attitude toward the ‘Church’.  First, I must clarify that when discussing the ‘Church’ we are specifically looking at the Body of Christ.  Scripture uses several terms when describing God’s collective saints; biblical phrases like The Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:27, Ephesians 4:12, Romans 12:5), The Bride of Christ (Revelation 19:7) and of course The Church (Matthew 16:18, Ephesians 5:25-27). 

As followers of Christ we are part of The Body of Christ universally, which is the collection of all men, women and children who have been saved by the grace of God.  God has divinely brought this family together, all for the purpose of bringing honor and glory to His precious name.  Within the Body of Christ there are many functions, giftings and roles that God has given to the individual members (1 Corinthians 12:12-31).  This is the design of God, that though we all have individual responsibilities, we are also meant to operate and function as one cohesive Body, again, for His glory.  However, while this truth is very clearly defined in the Word of God, many have taken it upon themselves to make this as a matter of opinion, viewing it as one suggested possibility. 

I have encountered numerous individuals throughout my life who have vehemently proclaimed that they haven’t a need for the Church, for other believers to be in their lives.  Typically it is a case of one who has been scorned by a bad Church experience or an unfavorable childhood memory of Church that they refuse to let go of.  Whatever the case may be, none of these excuses negate the design and purpose for The Body of Christ.  In fact, I firmly believe that at the very core of why individual professing believers would be indifferent about the need for fellowship with other believers boils down to one word…..accountability.  Accountability is one of the wonderful functions of the Body of Christ, as brothers and sisters rely on one another for support as they strive to live a life that honors God.  But, if one makes the ill advised choice to isolate themselves from the gathering of believers, they are not allowing themselves to be part of what God has established.  This may not always be the case, but again, I believe this is because they don’t want accountability nor do they want to be under any form of authority. 

For those who enjoy the many wonderful benefits of the Body of believers, there are still questions that we need to ask ourselves.  Here are several questions regarding our attitude toward the Body of Christ. 

1.     Is the Body of Christ a good thing but not necessary?

2.     Do I focus more on what I get out of the Body or how I can be a benefit to the Body?

3.     Do I genuinely love and care for EVERYONE in the Body of Christ?

4.     Do I pray for my fellow brothers and sisters?

5.     Do I recognize that the Body of Christ is a family, one that I am not in charge of picking or choosing?

6.     Do I praise God for providing the Body as a source of encouragement, support, accountability, strength, and love?

 

When we are impartial about the Body of Christ, there are some serious implications that we must recognize.  What we are really saying is, that which God has designed and fashioned is really not our cup of tea; a rather damning statement to say the least.  If we love God we must love God’s people as well (1 John 4:7-8).  I would encourage you this week to pray that God would give you a heart of thanksgiving for the Body that He has orchestrated, recognizing His perfect, sovereign will.  God has constructed the Church and it is our responsibility to be a functioning, active part of that Body.  The Church is for the glory of God, may we find great delight in that.                     

                                 

By His Grace And For His Glory,
Pastor Sam                       
  

April 25, 2021

 

Delusion of Deservedness

 

Measuring spiritual maturity is not an exact science, but it is a beneficial assessment of the growth that God has produced in our lives.  One of those areas of growth can better be described as a replacement process.  That replacement is the removal of entitlement and deservedness for the recognition of the grace of God.  God is glorified when we shift our focus from ourselves to Him, for He is rightly and justifiably a jealous God (Exodus 20:5, 34:14, Deuteronomy 4:24).  But this crucial shift in focus doesn’t just happen instinctively; it takes a conscious effort against our natural tendencies.

It should come as no surprise that we live in what can confidently be described as the most entitlement driven society in existence.  Billions of advertising dollars are spent targeting one of mankind’s most primal desires, self satisfaction.  Convincing the general consumer that they are deserving of a product and should treat themselves is not a difficult sell.  This same general premise spills over into every aspect of life and as believers we need to be very careful of this pitfall. 

I am disheartened by the influence this monumental push for self entitlement has placed on the church.  Many couples going through difficult times in their marriage hear that still small voice of the world telling them they deserve better, they deserve to be ‘happy’.  Or perhaps the potential for an uncomfortable situation is the very thing that keeps you from ever sharing the gospel with someone else.  Or maybe it is the self indulgence of frivolous spending backed by the justification that you work hard and deserve it.  It might even be the pride of knowledge, even biblical knowledge.  This is a pride that demands respect from others, because after all, they should know who they are talking to, right? 

I realize these may be extremes, but entitlement and deservedness come in many different forms and severities.  This is to be expected of the secular, non-believing world, but it is not what God desires out of His children.  God delights when we recognize Him for all the many ways He extends His grace in our lives.  It is rather easy to look back over the course of our lives and see the big moments where God has lavished grace upon us.  The moment of salvation, the birth of a child, the provisions and protection through a health crisis, these are all obvious events we can pinpoint.  But, what about the day-to-day?  Are we in a constant state of acknowledgment regarding the grace of God in our lives?  This is an indicator of spiritual maturity. 

I had the pleasure of going fishing with a great friend and brother in Christ a short time ago.  He and I share a love for the outdoors and it was a blessing to spend that time together.  Unbeknownst to him, he would provide me with a much needed reminder that morning.  He got a bite, set the hook and reeled in a nice striped bass.  As soon as the fish got into the boat, my friend said in the most genuine, appreciative voice “thank you Lord for that”.  Was I surprised He gave praise to God, of course not, but nevertheless, it was a great reminder to recognize the grace of God in everything.  Am I suggesting that God is heavily concerned about our success out on the lake?  I am not, but I can assure you, He does care about our heart.  When we have a heart that is fixed on Him, and operate our lives with a consciousness of giving God glory for the ways He grants grace in our lives, He delights in that.  Life can be fast paced and if we are not careful it can get out ahead of us.  Recognizing the ways in which God provides our lives with grace is something that requires diligence.  Here are some questions we need to ask ourselves.

1.      Do I use phrases like “I deserve this” or “I don’t deserve this”?

2.     Am I constantly looking for injustice or mistreatment?

3.     Do I consider myself undeserving of God’s grace?

4.     On a typical day, do I spend more time looking after my own interest or recognizing God for who He is and what He is doing in my life?

5.     Do I only recognize the grace of God in hindsight?

 

The fact is, if you have been saved by the grace of God, you have undeservingly been given the greatest gift of all.  When you had nothing to offer, nothing to give, God saw fit to intervene in your life and change your heart, changing who you are at the very core.  What you were entitled to and deserving of was death because of your sin.  But, God did the work in your life that you could not do because He is full of love, mercy and GRACE.  Ephesians 2:8-9 explain the wonderful working of God’s grace in salvation For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”  I would encourage you this week to give this some serious thought.  I am certain that you will not be disappointed that you took the time to acknowledge the grace of God in your life.                             

 

By His Grace And For His Glory,
Pastor Sam                                 

 

April 18, 2021

 

 

The Most Powerful Thing We Can Do

 

As we consider the different ways that we can measure spiritual maturity, we must recognize these are not subjective points, rather they are deeply rooted in the confines of Holy Scripture.  The reverence we place on the Word of God, the way we view the sin in our lives, as well as how we care for those in need, these are all practical ways of assessing spiritual maturity.  Another very important element of spiritual maturity is our heart toward prayer.  God’s Word is exhaustively clear on the critical nature of prayer, therefore we must give proper attention and focus to this understanding.  The late Jonathan Edwards said “Prayer is as natural an expression of faith as breathing is to life.” 

Prayer is the unique and divinely created means by which God’s children can speak to the great Creator of the world.  The very concept of prayer is one that should leave us in awe, that God would provide a way that sinful mankind could approach the holy and righteous throne of God.  We see Jesus serve as the perfect example of how one ought to pray in Matthew 6:9-13.  We can break down prayer into two main categories, prayers of supplication and prayers of praise. 

Prayers of supplication are also known as prayers of petition.  This is where we make our requests known before God, recognizing Him as the provider of all things for our lives (Philippians 4:6).  Many have wrongly depicted God as some sort of genie in a bottle, waiting to grant our every wish and demand.  This is certainly not the case, nor would Scripture support that illogical notion.  Assuming that prayers of supplication are simply for temporal “stuff” is not only a far too narrow view, but a shallow one at that.  A spiritually mature individual will pray for things like guidance, direction, wisdom, perseverance, endurance, boldness, opportunities to minister and share the gospel, patience, things that would lead to a more God honoring life.  These are important things to pray for because we know, by God’s Word, that these are things that God desires out of us.  When we have a firm understanding of this, we can better interpret verses like Mark 11:24 and John 15:7.  When we know what the will of God is, then our prayers will reflect that, praying for things that honor Him and not indulge self. 

Another form of prayer is prayers of praise, a form that unfortunately is seen far less than prayers of supplication.  Genuine prayers of praise are certainly a good indicator of spiritual maturity.  These types of prayers are seen all throughout Scripture.  The book of Psalms is filled with wonderful examples of God honoring praise, singing of His glorious name and exalting His excellencies.  The very nature of a prayer of praise is placing focus on God and not on oneself.  The more we are acutely aware of His constant extension of grace in our lives, the more we should be found praising His glorious name.  We live in a society that is driven by entitlement, expecting certain things based on our perceived deservedness.  Praising God should not be done only when we feel we have received our fair share, rather we should recognize the need to praise God all the time, humbly acknowledging that we are undeserving of His love and mercy.  1 Thessalonians 5:17 says that we should pray without ceasing, that means that we are to be in a constant state of prayer, having a heart that is purposed on communicating with God. 

Here are some questions to consider this week as we take a closer look at the area of prayer in our lives.

1.     Does the thought of praying without ceasing make sense to us, or do I find this an unreasonable task?

2.     What form of prayer do I focus on most often, supplication or praise? 

3.     Do I only praise God when I feel like He has answered my prayers in the way I wanted Him to?

4.     Is prayer my “go to” or my last resort? 

5.     When is the last time I have praised God for who He is?

6.     When is the last time I have asked God to reveal the things in my life that need to be corrected and changed, so that I can live a life that is more pleasing to Him?

 

My hope is that you would be encouraged this week to take a deeper, more intentional look at this area of your life.  As always, I pray that God would use this time to draw you closer to Himself, for His glory.                     

By His Grace And For His Glory,
Pastor Sam                                 

 

 

April 11, 2021

Need For The Needy

 

Over the last several weeks we have been assessing the different ways in which we can measure spiritual maturity.  This is not to assume there is some magic formula that exists, but undoubtedly Scripture provides clear foundational truths that mustn’t be ignored.  These are characteristics and attributes that serve as evidence of genuine, growing faith.  So far we have looked at the importance of our view of God’s word as well as how we view the sin in our lives.  Today we are going to look at an area that is often overlooked, but certainly not because Scripture is silent or vague about the issue. 

As followers of Christ we should have a strong passion and desire to care for those who are in need.  1 John 3:17-18 tells us that if we have resources at our disposal and we see that someone else is in need, yet we turn a blind eye to their need, the love of God is not in us.  Did you hear that?  Verse 18 follows up by explaining that we are not to just to love with our words, but with our actions.  Because if our actions don’t back up our words, we are just a noisy gong (1 Corinthians 13:3).  Words don’t fill bellies and keep people warm from the cold.  James teaches this very same thing in chapter 2, stating that if we are all talk and no action, that we have dead faith.

When we think about those who are in need, this can really encompass a lot of different things.  Some individuals are in need of food, some money, or clothes, a helping hand, a listening ear, encouragement, etc.  For those who are lost spiritually, they have a need for the gospel, to hear the good news of Jesus Christ and the redemption that is found through Him alone. 

I have been extremely blessed in my own life to see the desire to meet needs modeled by a man I respect dearly.  I have known Ron Morris for over 20 years (he happens to be my wife’s grandfather).  Ron has volunteered at a local Christian rescue mission in Central Illinois for over 30 years.  The mission is designed for men who are struggling to meet their basic needs.  The shelter provides meals for the men, a warm place to stay, complete with showers, change of clothes and more.  The mission even has programs that teach skills to the men so that they can get involved in the workforce and provide a stable income.  But, more importantly than all of those things, the mission provides men with the gospel message.  Two times a day, volunteers come in to preach a message, maybe even sing a few songs with the men.  The men who come to the mission come from all walks of life.  Some are drug addicts, alcoholics, criminals; some are just plain down on their luck, products of tough circumstances.  The rescue mission has been serving that community since 1955, but many drive by it daily and don’t even know it exists. 

You see, it is hard to get volunteers to serve down at the mission.  It takes time, it takes effort, it takes desire.  Faithful men like Ron Morris have served, making the ongoing work of this ministry possible, because they love God and love God’s people.  I cannot even fathom how many messages Ron has preached down there, how many times he has gotten last minute cancelations and quietly stepped up, doing what needed to be done for those men to hear the message of Jesus Christ.  He has missed some family dinners and holiday gatherings, sacrificing to meet other’s needs.  Through his actions, he demonstrates a heart for the needy.  His example has been instrumental to me.  In fact, it was many years ago that Ron first asked me if I would preach down at the mission.  Now, since he was family, he certainly had some pull.  I agreed and have preached down there many times after that.  I firmly believe it is always more of a blessing to me than it is to those men. 

God cares for those who are in need and so should we.  Proverbs 14:31 Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, but he who is generous to the needy honors him.  We honor God through our actions in serving those who are in need.  So, here are some questions we must wrestle with. 

1.        Do I have a genuine heart for those in need?

2.        When is the last time I have taken action to meet the needs of others?

3.        When is the last time that I have prayed for God to make me aware of others needs?

 

As we contemplate these things, my prayer is that God will work in this area of our lives.  May God be glorified as He continues to grow us into the image and likeness of Christ.            


 
By His Grace And For His Glory,
Pastor Sam                                

  

 

April 4, 2021

 Deep Contrition

I hope you have been both encouraged and challenged as we have considered the different ways in which one can measure spiritual maturity.  Last week we looked at the importance of how we view scripture, a critical element of spiritual maturity.  Another area of importance is our attitude toward our own sin, in other words, our level of contrition.  Simply put, contrition is our degree of remorse over disappointing God.  Contrition is a noun and contrite is the adjective form.  We see several times in scripture that a proper feeling about our sinful condition is to have a contrite heart (Psalm 51:17, Isaiah 57:15, 66:2) 

We know that God is grieved by our sin, for every sin is quite literally against Him (Psalm 51:4, Ephesians 4:30, Psalm 78:40).  God hates our sin (Proverbs 6:16-19, Psalm 5:5, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10), thus we too should hate and forsake our sin.  What that means is living a habitual life of unrepentant sin speaks volumes about our attitude toward sin and quite frankly, our attitude toward God.  To love God is to want to please Him (1 Thessalonians 2:4, Hebrews 13:16), to bring honor to His name through our life and conduct (1 Corinthians 10:31).  That means that if an individual is indifferent to sin, is not affected by their sin, then their desire to please self is greater than their desire to please God.

Consider the earnest expression of David’s heart in Psalm 51, one that is anything but complacent about his sin.  It is safe to describe David’s anguish as deep contrition.  Plus, to prove his sentiment was more than just lip service, David implored the Lord to search his heart in Psalm 139:23-24.  I would encourage you to contemplate these questions.

1.     When was the last time I was broken over my sin?

2.     Do I allow the reality of God’s view of my sin to trump my feelings and emotions?

3.      Is there habitual unrepentant sin in my life?

4.     Do you care enough about your sin to ask God to search your heart, knowing He will actively work to eradicate that sin from your life?

5.     What kind of verbiage do you use concerning your sin?  Do you downplay it, attempting to justify sin on the grounds of inclusiveness, with remarks like “no one is perfect” or “the Bible does say we are all sinners”? 

 

I would challenge you to give considerable thought to these questions this week.  May God be glorified through your diligence to look deeply into the area of sin in your life, and consequently be honored by your response to hate and forsake it.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      By His Grace And For His Glory,
Pastor Sam                   
 
 

March 28, 2021

 

Sharper Than A Two Edged Sword

Last week I explained that over the next several weeks we would be looking at the different ways that spiritual maturity can be measured.  Spiritual stagnicity is what Paul rebuked the Corinthians for, while just a short time later encouraging the young Timothy to grow so that he could see progress, both in his life as well as the lives of his hearers (1 Timothy 4:15).  When God does the work of regeneration in our lives, we are changed at the very core of our being, a change that affects every part of our lives, that is the power of God at work. 

As followers of Christ we want to ensure that we are following Him well, which is why spiritual growth is a vital component that we need to be cognizant of.  One area of spiritual growth, one with monumental impacts, is our view of the Bible.  This may sound like a simple area, but I believe it is the most overlooked as well.  Going back to what Paul explained in 1 Corinthians 3:1-3, the believers in Corinth were not growing in their understanding because they had let worldly pleasures get in the way of their desire for the Word of God and living by Its truths.  If we proclaim to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind and strength (Mark 12:30), then we cannot be indifferent about His Word.  We cannot love the Lord and not love His Word (John 14:23), they are intrinsically intertwined.

In 1 Peter 2 the Apostle Peter gives the example of a baby longing for milk, tying this to the yearning we ought to have for the things of God.  If you have ever experienced a baby who is well past their scheduled feeding time, you will understand exactly what Peter is talking about here.  Not only do babies desire milk, crave milk, but they also need milk for survival.  If one thinks this to be too strong of a comparison, it is a clear sign they are guilty of the very error this teaching exposes.  We should long for the Word of God, as it is essential for spiritual life and growth.  Matthew 4:4 says that man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.  This verse is not talking about an obligatory process, rather it is describing the necessity of being fed by the Word of God, nourishment that cannot be achieved by any other means. 

Many will boldly state the characteristics of God’s word, that it’s inerrant, infallible, authoritative, sufficient, all these things being true.  But, they speak little of their attitude toward the Holy Scriptures.  I am often reminded of the stories that are told of soldiers that have gone all over the world to fight for our freedoms.  One of the highlights of a soldier’s day is when the mail gets distributed among the platoon.  Letters from home are coveted property and the reaction from the troops makes this abundantly clear.  All anxiously await their name to be called and when it is called they rip the envelope open with excitement.  They read the letter with intensity, hanging on every single word.  The letter gets read not once, but time after time, revealing the value that its contents provide.  As believers we too should have a similar attitude toward the Word of God.  The desire we have for His Word should be second to none.  You see, we can say many great things about the Bible, but actions reveal the desire of our heart.

Along with this, we must recognize the Bible as the final Word in all matters.  What this means is the Word of God is superior to our feelings, emotions, and traditions.  Our lives should be constantly molding and forming to the truths of His Word.  The Bible is living and active, discerning the thoughts and intentions of our hearts (Hebrews 4:12).  Anytime something in our lives doesn't line up with what Scripture says, our actions and attitude in those moments tell a great deal about our view of the Bible.  A good mark of spiritual maturity is recognizing that Holy Scripture is never changing but should always be changing us. 

With our view of Scripture being a barometer of sorts, regarding spiritual maturity, what kinds of questions should we be asking ourselves?  Here are just a few starter questions to ruminate on this week. 

  1.  How would I describe my level of passion for the Word of God?
  2. When there is a problem in my life, what is the main source I turn to for guidance and wisdom (family, friends, google, Bible, feeling/emotions)?
  3. Do I really believe that the Bible is relatable to everything in my life?
  4. Do I allow the Bible to be the final word in all matters of my life?

 

I pray that through this intentional look into this area of your life that God would do the necessary work for you to have a proper view of His Word.  May we glorify God with a heart that is zealous for His Holy Word.           

 

By His Grace And For His Glory,
Pastor Sam                  

 

March 21, 2021 

Pass The Meat Please

A question that gets asked with regularity is how does one measure success in a church?  I take issue with the question itself, since success is a word that requires explanation, as success is a rather subjective idea.  The appropriate question to ask, not to mention the more biblical one, is what level of spiritual maturity exists within your local congregation?  While success can be subjective, spiritual maturity is easier to define, since scripture has given us great insight on the issue. 

In 1 Corinthians 3 the Apostle Paul addresses the church in Corinth with a rather pointed rebuke.  Those within the church had been succumbing to the worldliness that was so pervasive in that city.  Paul had brought them the gospel message in his earlier journey, many received the gospel, placing their faith and hope in the Lord.  But, as time went on they were not living a life that was glorifying to the Lord.  Needless to say, Paul had expectations for the church in Corinth and we see that as he corrects them in chapter 3:1-3 But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way?  Here we see that Paul had assumed that over the course of this elapsed time, the church would be growing in terms of spiritual maturity.  But, to his dismay, that was not the case.  Paul uses the familiar analogy of spiritual infancy and milk.  Just like babies need life sustaining milk to survive, individuals need the truth of the gospel to bring about spiritual birth.  However, and to Paul’s point, babies do not continue to drink milk alone for the entirety of their lives, they eventually grow up, not only tolerating solid food but also desiring it.  Solid food is the deeper truths of scripture, understandings that come through the increase of wisdom and knowledge in the Word of God.

The frustration that Paul expressed in this passage demands that we take a good hard look at the spiritual maturity that is present in our own lives.  The question is, how do we do this?  How does one measure spiritual maturity?  There are certainly some indicators in this particular passage that we can glean, but this is most assuredly not an exhaustive teaching on the marks of spiritual maturity.  Why is this important you may ask?  I believe the Bible is quite transparent on the issue of spiritual growth.  God desires us to grow, to become more sanctified and useful for His will and purposes.  Colossians 1:9-10 And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. 

Over the course of the next several weeks we are going to look at and break down the different areas of Christian life that serve as a barometer of sorts for measuring spiritual maturity.  I pray this will serve as an encouragement as well as a challenge.  Please join me in prayer as we look to our Heavenly Father and desire to be found faithful in all our ways.  I am confident that there will be some areas revealed that will cause needed action, but I trust the attention will be rewarded greatly and the Lord will be glorified.                                                                                                                                                               

By His Grace And For His Glory,
Pastor Sam                 

March 14, 2021

 

Don’t Confuse Me With The Facts

 

In light of some of the recent events, it occurs to me that as a society we have somehow lost our ability to distinguish the difference between historical fact and personal opinion.  This is not a trend that is isolated to governmental protocol or the way our country was founded, but it is actually infiltrating the church quite rapidly.  The serious danger in all of this rests on the perceived solution that if you don’t like the truth, just cancel it, pretending it never happened.  Now, I know many of you reading this are probably shaking your head, thinking this to be an infantile reaction at best.  But, let’s take a look at what has happened as of late in the ever growing confusion of fact and opinion, plus the consequent reaction to the issue. 

It is a fact that George Washington was one of the founding fathers of our country.  He was the first president of the United States of America.  These are irrefutable facts.  It is one’s personal opinion whether George Washington was a good person or whether his practices were ethical or not.  However, an individual's assessment of his merit and character does not change the facts about his presidency or his intricate role in this country's inception.  One’s opinion cannot erase the facts from existence, facts are still facts. 

When a child is born, they are either born as a little boy or a little girl, these are biological and anatomical facts.  Now, for a boy to say they feel like a girl or a girl to say they feel like a boy, this is a matter of opinion, but their opinion does not change the facts of who they are, better yet, who God made them to be.  Opinions do not dictate facts. 

So, how does this relate to the church and those who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ?  Unfortunately this kind of mode of operation, one that runs off of factless opinions is all too common.  There are those who feel like hell is too drastic of a measure, in their opinion it is unloving and cruel.  Instead of focusing on the facts that scripture reveals about hell (Revelation 21:8 Matthew 10:28, Matthew 25:36), they choose to believe it doesn’t exist (annihilationism).

In God’s grace and mercy, He sent His very own Son, Jesus Christ to die on the cross, providing the only way for man to be reconciled to God.  This is a fact.  Unbelief is an opinion, one that does not change the facts.  There is even a dangerous church movement right now that states that God would never have truly sent His very own Son to die, since this would be called “cosmic child abuse”.  Instead they claim the gospel accounts are not to be taken literally.  Again, this is their opinion, but it does not change the facts.

There are far more examples of this dangerous trend but they all have the same underlying problem, letting personal opinion overrule facts.  This kind of practice places a low view on scripture and a high view on self.  If we are not careful, I think we might start seeing a push for removing parts of scripture to best suit one’s feelings.  Now, this is just my opinion, it is not a proven fact. 

God’s Word is truth (John 17:17), by nature it is inerrant and infallible.  No amount of opinion can change the truth of God’s word.  I hope you find great encouragement in that.  It is quite understandable to have an opinion on certain matters, but let us not be unnecessarily confused with what is fact and what is opinion.  Praise God and rest on the assurance we have through His Holy Word.                                                                                       

 

By His Grace And For His Glory,
Pastor Sam

 

March 7, 2021

Where Strength Is Found

 

Without question, the Bible has many amazing characters that serve as examples, some good, some bad.  Perhaps one of the most fascinating characters is the Nazarite, Samson.  It is a story most of us are familiar with, but one that has an often forgotten lesson. 

From the beginning God gave detailed instruction of how the boy was to be raised, born of a barren woman to be set apart for God’s purposes.  One of those details was an untouched mane, which the young man attributed to his great strength.  Samson was a man who knew what he wanted, arguably passionate to a fault.  He was also a very strong and virile man, a warrior to be reckoned with.  First his heart was set on pursuing a Philistine woman, despite this act being taboo to say the least, since they were known as enemies to everyone, especially Israel.  At their wedding feast, Samson challenged the young men in attendance with a riddle.  Out of frustration the young men threatened the bride to be, demanding she coerce the brute into revealing his answer.  Samson gave in to the woman’s pleas and indulged her wishes.  After learning that he had been tricked, the Narcissistic Nazarite had a personal vendetta that would see him stop at nothing to get revenge.  In his mind the mission was clear, kill all the Philistines that he came in contact with. 

The warpath included burning the Philistine’s fields by way of live foxtail torches and killing 1,000 men with nothing more than a jawbone of a donkey and fierce determination.  Samson was a seemingly unstoppable force, that is until the harlot Delilah entered the scene.  For Samson this was lust at first sight, forgoing any logic or reason to pursue his new desire.  Low on morale and manpower, the Philistines decided to try another route in stopping the great Samson, they bribed Delilah.  After repeated attempts, finally Samson gave in to the woman’s inquiry, divulging the source of his strength, his long hair.  Upon cutting his hair, guards came in and seized the Nazarite, gouging out his eyes in the process. 

Up until now Samson’s life had been a rollercoaster of highs and lows.  He was used by God, yet he didn’t even realize his desperate need for the Lord.  What could Samson possibly have left to offer in this life?  Well, the answer is nothing.  Samson had nothing to offer.  Thank goodness God did have something to offer. 

The Philistines brought Samson into a large assembly where they were making great sacrifices to pagan gods.  Samson, blind and powerless was brought in by guards.  He asked the guards to allow him to rest between two columns in the building.  With over 3,000 people in attendance, Samson did what he had failed to do in his entire life thus far, submit to the Lord.  In a genuine petition to God, the seemingly weak man prayed “O Lord God, please remember me and please strengthen me only this once, O God, that I may be avenged on the Philistines for my two eyes (Judges 16:28).  The Lord responded to Samson’s prayer and provided him with more strength than he had ever had before.  Placing one hand on each pillar, Samson pushed with divine power, collapsing the building, killing himself along with the 3,000 Philistines. 

You see, even for a man of great physical power, nothing compares to the power of submitting to God.  In that moment of submission we see the single greatest thing Samson did in his life.  If you have been born again into a new life in Christ, submitting to the Lord is the single greatest thing you have ever done, which is done only by the grace of God and all for the glory of God.  True strength is found when we submit ourselves to the Lord.                                                             

By His Grace And For His Glory,
Pastor Sam                 

     

 

February 28, 2021

New Package - Same Heresy

This past Sunday I had the privilege of preaching on James 5:15, as part of a systematic journey through the book of James.  While digging deep to accurately exegete this verse, we looked at the error that exists among many false teachers.  One of those groups leading many astray is called the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR).  It gives me no delight to call attention to this false teaching movement, however it is careful attention indeed that is required to remain watchful against these wolves (1 Peter 5:8).  So what is the NAR?  Why is this movement so dangerous?

The charismatic movement gained a great deal of steam in the 1960’s, from there spawning new groups along its path to present day.  One of those groups was pioneered by C. Peter Wagner, who after organizing a massive meeting with other like-minded leaders in 1996, called themselves the New Apostolic Reformation. 

The ‘New’ in the NAR describes the revelation that these self proclaimed modern “apostles” receive from God.  They believe this is a God-given role that exceeds the role of a pastor/elder, since their self proclaimed title equips them with the same miraculous functions as the apostles of the Bible.  Of course, this lofty title is one they capitalize on, boasting of their ability to receive new revelation from God, as well as perform miracles and healing.  Anytime one claims to receive new revelation from God, they directly undermine the sufficiency and authority of Scripture (Deuteronomy 4:2, Proverbs 30:6 Revelation 22:18-19).  When God is not enough, leave it to fallen man to step in and assert himself as the missing link.  The emphasis placed on the leaders of these churches is appalling, not to mention in complete contradiction to God’s Word (1 Corinthians 3:4-9).

Another major error in this false teaching movement is the belief that the church is establishing a new order of control on earth.  Insisting that God has appointed modern prophets and apostles to set things in order on earth is not a biblical premise.  But, they believe it is their responsibility to govern and dominate every facet of life, from politics, to the arts, to economy, and so on, bringing about a utopia of sorts.   This not only contradicts the reign that satan has been allowed to have on earth (2 Corinthians 4:4, 1 John 5:19) but also ignores the second coming of Christ (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, Hebrews 9:28).

This dangerous movement preys specifically on the younger generation, swooning them with what has been known as their ‘hook’, contemporary music.  Organizations like Bethel and Hillsong pump out chart topping song after song (these are musically talented people), while flying under the banner of this horrendous NAR movement.  To say that music is used as the gateway would be a severe understatement.  Creating an experience is their top priority, while God’s Word takes a back seat. 

Not preaching the true gospel of Jesus Christ, elevating man while devaluing God, seeking signs and wonders to validate personal prestige, ignoring the sufficiency and infallibility of Scripture are just a few of the many reasons why this movement is one to avoid completely.  This abominable movement is leading many astray and we need to be on guard, being able to spot the wolves for the sake of protecting the sheep.  This is nothing new, false teachers have been cleverly concocting innovative deceptions since biblical times (2 Timothy 3:1-9) and I am sure we have not seen the last attempt.  It is important that we remain steadfast and immovable when it comes to standing firm on the Word of God and upholding His precious name with all reverence and honor (1 Corinthians 15:58).  Press on, proclaim the truth and refute the false.                                                       

By His Grace And For His Glory,
Pastor Sam                 

     

February 21, 2021 

Shutting The Door To God’s Ear

 

It is undeniable that the Bible exhaustively clarifies the importance of God’s children being defined as people of prayer.  Prayer is a vital component of our relationship with God, a privilege that cannot be overstated.  As it should, prayer is prescribed for every circumstance, recognizing God as the source of all healing, growth, forgiveness, mercy, restoration, as well as being worthy of all praise.  But, very rarely do we give adequate attention to the things we do that cause a fracture in our communication with God. 

First, it must be stated that prayer is reserved for those who are in Christ, who have confessed their sin and believed upon the Lord for salvation.  James 4:3 reveals that those who do not receive what they are praying for is due to the fact that they are asking wrongly.  There are a number of ways to pray wrongly, or come before the Lord in an improper way, one of those being with a heart that has not been regenerated by God.  The unrepentant heart does not love God nor does it desire to serve God.  Unregenerate sinners are driven by their passions and lusts, which we see in Psalm 66:18 results in God not listening to their prayers, while Psalm 28:9 calls these prayers an abomination.  By the grace and mercy of God, there is one prayer that unbelievers can pray that is heard and answered by God every time, which is the prayer of confession, crying out for the forgiveness that is found through the atoning blood of our Savior Jesus Christ ( 1 John 1:9, Psalm 32:5, Acts 3:19). 

But, what about believers?  What about those who have experienced forgiveness through the saving grace of God in salvation?  How can the prayers of saints be unheard or unanswered?  To answer these questions we need to understand the nature of our fellowship with God.  Prayer is a wonderful privilege that we undeservingly get to partake in, but it is also a great responsibility.  1 Corinthians 4:2 tell us that as good stewards of what God had entrusted us with, we should be found faithful.  Therefore not being a good steward would reveal that we are consequently not being faithful.  As believers, we too can have unrepentant sin present in our lives, making the words of Psalm 66:18, as well as Isaiah 59:2, sear with conviction.  Unconfessed sin damages our fellowship with God and even affects the area of prayer. 

Another passage to be familiar with is 1 Peter 3:7.  In this verse we see that the way a husband treats His wife is of utmost importance, in fact, so much so that not adhering to biblical instruction in this area can hinder one’s prayers.  This passage not only highlights the significance that God places on marriage, but also the reverence that one needs to maintain when approaching God in prayer. 

In perhaps one of the most overlooked commands (not suggestions), scripture explains the care that we have for the poor holds us accountable to God.  Proverbs 21:13 minces no words as it explains the hypocrisy that exists with those who would turn a deaf ear to need, yet continue to petition God for their own.  In keeping consistency as a Just God, He holds us accountable for our actions, and disciplines us in ways that He sees fit.  The wonderful words of Proverbs 3:11-12 show us that God disciplines those He loves. 

Although as believers we cannot be rejected by God, we can experience the strain in fellowship at the hands of our own disobedience.  Prayer is vitally important and something we need to take very seriously.  May we have a desire to heed the remarkably sincere prayer of David in Psalm 139:23-24 Search me, O God, and know my heart!  Try me and know my thoughts!  And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!  When sin is revealed in our lives, dealt with by confessing it unto the Lord, He is glorified through our obedience and as well as our desire to seek Him above all.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

By His Grace And For His Glory,
Pastor Sam 
 
 

February 14, 2021

 

 

Literarily Confused

Oftentimes when students get through (pass) literature and grammar classes, they sigh in relief, hoping to never have to use that information from there on out.  But, before you go and wipe any and all data from the existence of your mind, might I caution you to consider rethinking your actions?  You see, we use literature and grammar all the time, more often than you are likely aware of.  Even if one does not enjoy reading, we use literary principles all the time.  Parents will occasionally speak “code”, using symbolism to conceal the matter of the conversation from their children.  Sometimes we use sarcasm (“sometimes” being sarcastic in itself), other times we use hypotheticals, instructions, or even allegories.

As believers, we should have a strong desire to not only read God’s Word, but also understand Its meaning.  The Bible uses many different literary forms, so we have to be aware of these and notice when they are being used.  Let me give you an example.  In John 10:9 we see Jesus referring to Himself as a door.  Revelation 13:8 calls Jesus “The Lamb Who Was Slain”.  If we don’t understand the use of metaphor in these passages, we would get unnecessarily confused.  It would certainly be a wrong conclusion to render that Jesus is a rectangular structure on hinges with a handle, or that He is a fluffy animal with four legs and hooves.  There are a number of major literary devices used in particular sections of the Bible and getting these mixed up can cause great misunderstanding. 

The book of Genesis, as well as the four gospels, was written in a historical narrative form.  That is, these books are to be read as literal, as they give a detailed account in order of the events that took place.  Of course within these books, as previously mentioned with John 10:9, there are uses of other literary forms as well.  Symbolism, metaphors, parables, and more are used to support the lesson being explained.  We see wisdom or lyrical books, written by use of poetry throughout Psalms and Proverbs.  Even within this poetic style, subcategories are used, such as acrostic and alliterations.

The knowledge of the use of hyperbole (exaggeration) can save us from believing we have to cut off our hand if it ever causes us to sin (Mark 9:43).  Parallelism helps us determine the unified meaning of what appears to be two or more unique phrases.  There are also prophetic books (Isaiah, Daniel, Malachi, etc) as well as books of instructions or epistles (Ephesians, 1 &2 Timothy, Titus, etc.). 

So, what is the point of all of this?  Does this mean that we need to all go back to school and master literature and grammar?  No, take a deep breath, because that is not what I am suggesting.  What I am suggesting is that you give more caution and thought to what you are reading, where in the Bible you are reading it, and use the necessary tools to interpret the passage correctly.  We are to be students of the word.  With that said, it does take work and effort on our part.  Start off slow, recognizing the major themes first (narrative, poetic, prophetic, allegorical).  I can assure you of this, the instance of wrongly interpreting a verse will be greatly reduced if we recognize what literary style is being utilized.  You don’t need to be a literary genius to know and understand the Bible; thank goodness that is the case.  But, the more we are equipped with the tools to rightly interpret scripture, the more we will understand who God is and what He desires in our lives.  It is worth it.                                                                                     

By His Grace And For His Glory,
Pastor Sam                           

  

 

 

February 7, 2021

 

The Friendship Fallacy

It is always disheartening to me when the gospel message is shared in any way that deviates from what we see laid out in scripture.  One of those deviations that has increased in popularity, as many churches have endorsed this ideal, is what is known as friendship evangelism.  Why do I say deviation?  Well, simply put, the ideology behind friendship evangelism is seen nowhere in scripture. 

So, what is friendship evangelism?  It is the belief that one must establish a friendship and build a level of trust before sharing the gospel.  Now, let me pause by saying, there is certainly nothing wrong with sharing the gospel with your friends, in fact this is the appropriate and God honoring thing to do.  But, becoming friends with someone is not a qualification to sharing the gospel. 

At the very center of a friendship is the shared commonality with the other person.  Friendships are born out of many different interests, like sports, work, hobbies, family, etc, etc.  The more time two people share together, the closer friends they become, furthering the level of trust.  Friendship evangelism supposes this is the ideal scenario in sharing the gospel.  Is this biblical?  Is this the way that Jesus shared His gospel message.  Is this the way the disciples shared the gospel?  In Mark 16:15 we read the instruction that Jesus gave to His disciples regarding the sharing of the gospel - And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.”  Obviously in this passage we see no indication that suggests that friendship had to be established before sharing the gospel. 

Another fault with friendship evangelism is the appearance of deception.  Since “the right time” to share the message of salvation through Jesus Christ is subjective to the one sharing, this can actually be viewed as distrustful.  Because it is after trust is established and the friendship has matured that you are going to now reveal the most important thing in your life.  First off, this should be glaringly evident to your friend anyhow.  If they have no idea that you are a Christian and that you are living your life for Christ, then needless to say there is a problem.  Secondly, your friend may feel tricked, and rightfully so, as you were not divulging pertinent information from the get go. 

Not only does friendship evangelism lack logical sense, it lacks biblical support as well.  John the Baptist preached the message of repentance (Mark 1:4), Peter preached a message of repentance (Acts 2:38), Paul preached a message of repentance (Acts 26:19-20), and more importantly Jesus Christ preached a message of repentance (Matthew 4:17, Luke 5:32).  A certain level of friendship is not a prerequisite for preaching the message of repentance.  The false notion propelling friendship evangelism is man-made and at the very least creates the tendency to greatly limit the number of people you share the gospel with.  My prayer is that you are encouraged to share the good news of Jesus Christ with as many people as the Lord provides you with.  Friend or not, this is a message that all need to hear.  Who knows, they may have not been your friend, but by the grace of God, they may become your brother or sister in Christ.  Let us seize every opportunity we are given.                                                                                                                                                                                                

 

By His Grace And For His Glory,
Pastor Sam 

 

 

 

 

January 31, 2021

 

Expectation Frustration

 

The word expectation does not have to be uttered for it to be ever present in our lives.  Stop and think about it for a moment, we place expectations on just about everything in our lives.  When you turn on the shower faucet, you expect warm water to come out.  When you put the trash out by the curb, you expect the garbage truck to take it away.  When you work hard, you expect to be compensated.  When you get married, you expect your partner to be loving and faithful.  In our judicial system, you expect justice to be upheld and maintained. 

Perhaps one of the most expectant things is the joy of childbirth.  When a woman becomes pregnant, the expectation is that in roughly nine months, a baby will be born.  Our lives operate a great deal under expectations.  But, what happens when those expectations do not turn out the way we had planned?  What happens when we find ourselves the exception instead of the product of expectation?  I have seen the grief of marriages that have fallen apart, babies that have been stillborn, and lives that have been rocked by unmet expectations.  These are certainly trying times that will test one’s faith. 

I am afraid so many live their lives fixated on the positive expectations, the ones that are pleasing and desirable.  But, as followers of Christ, we have expectations that scripture has clearly laid out.  2 Timothy 2:12 tells us this, Indeed, all who desire to live a Godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.  This is pretty straight forward isn’t it?  So, as believers in Jesus Christ, we should expect nothing less than persecution for our faithful allegiance to Him.  If we do not take heed of this truth we will be blindsided when this inevitable persecution comes marching through the front doors of our lives.  Ignoring this truth is not the antidote to ridding persecution from our lives. 

In John 15:19 Jesus explains that because He has chosen us out of the world, the world hates us.  Did you hear that?  The world does not love you and think your faithful obedience to Christ is endearing, it hates you, opposing who you are at the very core.  Folks we need to hear this.  Because the expectation is, if we are a “nice” person and treat others with respect, we will live peaceably with all.  This is simply not the case.  Scripture has not led you astray, your expectations have deceived you.  We need to filter our expectations through the lens of Holy Scripture.  Expectations are a good thing, as long as they are attached to the promises of God.  But, take heart, not all the expectations are as heavy as persecution, trials and tests.  Here is just a short sample of expectations that are formed from the wonderful promises of God.

Romans 10:9  because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

Romans 8:28  And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

James 1:12  Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him

1 Peter 5:10  And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you

2 Corinthians 4:17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison

Philippians 3:20-21  But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.

John 14:3  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.

I pray you find assurance in the promises of God.  I also pray that as we navigate through life, that we would be aware of whether we are creating our own expectations or submitting to the expectations that are found in God’s Word.  Lord, continue to mold us and shape us into what You desire us to be.                                    

By His Grace And For His Glory,
Pastor Sam          
 
 

January 24, 2021

 

The Testimony Of God

One of the most wonderful things to hear is the testimony of an individual that has been radically changed by God.  When we hear the word testimony, it should remind us of the wonderful work that God has done and continues to do in our lives.  However, I have noticed an unhealthy, and all too common, dialogue that exists with many testimonies.  Although a testimony is personal, there is such a thing as making it too personal.  Let me explain.

How often does one’s story start off with, “I was a pretty good person”, or “I wasn’t terrible, just the typical guy/girl”?  Sadly, this is a tragic way to begin one’s testimony.  If this is how one begins, the hearer has already been misled.  Apart from Christ we are all sinners (Romans 3:23) with wicked hearts (Jeremiah 17:9) that have us in a spiritually dead state (Romans 6:23).  With that said, no one was pretty good and the typical guy/girl is sinful and rebellious.  To begin a testimony in this way is a major misunderstanding of the sinfulness and depravity of mankind. 

The next part of the testimony is the explanation of how salvation took place.  Again, a common misconception revolves around phrases like “I invited Jesus into my heart” (found nowhere in scripture), or “I decided to let Jesus into my life” (again not in scripture).  Up to this point the word I, me or my has been used a great deal.  When we had absolutely nothing to offer a Holy God, by means of His grace, He intervened in our lives.  John 6:44 tells us that no one comes to Christ unless God draws (‘helko’ literally drags) them.  In God’s perfect redemptive plan, He not only accomplishes salvation in lost souls, but He also initiates it (John 6:65) and instills the faith required to accomplish it (Hebrews 12:2), sealing them (Ephesians 1:13) for eternity (John 6:37).  God’s sovereignty, His grace, love, and mercy should be the focus of every testimony. 

Even when the testimony moves to post-salvation, many unnecessarily insert too many personal pronouns.  “I have become a better person”, “I have grown in such and such a way”.  Again, this shortcuts and undermines the source of all of these changes in our lives.  Our testimony should not highlight ourselves, rather it should point to the Glory and Majesty of the Lord, the only One capable of changing who we were.  Our testimony should serve as a firsthand account of the wonderful salvatory work of God. 

An easy way to break down a testimony is in 3 areas, life before, during and after salvation.  The only ownership we should be taking in these areas is the first area.  It was our sin that separated us from the perfect Holiness of God (Isaiah 59:2), making us sinners in need of a Savior (Ephesians 2:1-10).  May the testimony that we share be one that honors and glorifies God for doing what He alone can do.  My prayer is that the Lord would provide you with many opportunities to share the story of how He changed your life forever, and that God would use that to touch the lives of others.                   

 

By His Grace And For His Glory,
Pastor Sam   

 
 
  

January 17, 2021

The Casual Casualty

The word nominal can be defined as a role or position that operates on name only, meaning it does not possess any supporting attributes or character of the role/position.  Today, there are many who profess the name of Christ, but their proclamation is as far as it goes.  The nominal Christian often lives a life of complacency, with little to no regard for what is taught through Holy Scripture.  I came across a wonderful passage (1 John 3:1-10) that explains the severity of this kind of complacent lifestyle. 

What John is delineating in this passage is the stark difference between a true child of God and everyone else.  A true child of God is one who is defined as hating sin, removing sin from their lives at all cost.  Sin is recognized in their lives and, by the power of God working in them, earnestly resisted.  Those who do not go on practicing sin are shown to be God’s children by evidence of their faith.  What a wonderful testimony this is to the power of God to not only change behavior, but to change the heart of sinful man.  We see in verse 9 that those who are born of God (spiritual birth), cannot go on practicing sin.  John goes on to intimately tie in salvation, abiding with God, to the character of God Himself.  What that means is, if a person was truly saved and continued to live a life of sin, practicing sin, then this would make God a liar.  This would mean that the work He has done in that person’s life was not effective enough to actually change them.

Those who practice sin do not abide in God, they are not His children.  It does absolutely no good mincing words or watering this truth down.  I am afraid that is precisely what has gone on for far too long.  The church has either been too quiet about sin or too inclusive with their definition of who God’s children are.  Here is the deal, it is not up to us who God’s children are, it is up to God, and His word is explicitly clear in what that looks like.  Making a profession of faith and then living a life of sinful rebellion is nothing more than nominal Christianity.  Many churches are afraid to speak in these kinds of terms because they might offend people, they might even lose some attendees.  But, listen to what John says here in this passage through the Holy Spirit.  Verse 8 Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil; and Verse 10 By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.  

Many would say this kind of directness is not loving, it is too harsh and rigid.  Those feelings are brought forth from a distorted view of what love really is.  Loving someone is telling them the truth.  The truth is if we abide in the Lord, we will live a life that reflects that.  And if one lives a life of habitual sin, then they are not of the Lord, rather they are of the devil.  We need to stop fostering an environment that supports and encourages nominal Christianity.  May we be found faithfully heralding the truth of God’s word, unhindered and unedited.  Nominal Christianity stops the moment an individual cries out to the Lord for forgiveness of their sin, repenting and submitting unto God in salvation.  For it is not our clever rendition that has the power to change lives, rather it is the Sovereign God who has spoken with saving power through His Word.  Praise be to God for doing what He alone can do.                

By His Grace And For His Glory,
Pastor Sam                 

   

January 10, 2021

 Hard Boiled Heart

It was a hot day in the heart of Texas, normal weather for the locals I’m sure, but hot for this Midwest boy.  My wife and I had flown to San Angelo Texas with the youth group we led at our church.  Accompanied by two other adult volunteers, we were in for a great, but eye opening, week of serving the Lord.  We quickly found out that feeding these hungry youngsters was a feat in and of itself.  It was while preparing for breakfast one morning that I received a wonderful reminder of the grace of God. 

Stacks of eggs cartons were brought in by the ranch owner and that morning it was my job to cook up the eggs.  I got out a large bowl and began to crack the eggs, emptying the contents into the bowl.  On my way to the 40 egg goal, if memory serves me right, I believe it was egg number 33 that caught my attention.  This egg cracked just like the rest had, but as I emptied the contents into the bowl, something was noticeably different.  This is the first time in my life that I had come across a black, rotten egg.  The rotten stench of sulfur permeated the air instantly.  Out of impulse, trying to save the batch of good eggs, I attempted to scoop the vile contaminant out.  This was a futile attempt however, the entire batch was ruined. 

It wasn’t until later that I contemplated the significance of that morning mishap.  It reminded me of the sin that infects the lives of all people.  If I had a dollar for every time I heard someone say that they are a good person because their good deeds outweigh their bad, I would be living high off the hog.  This unbiblical notion is one that presumes God is into numbers, having good deeds negate the bad that we do.  This is far from the truth.  You see, our sin is like that rotten egg I encountered in Texas.  As soon as that bad egg entered into the bowl, it ruined everything, forever changing the integrity of the mixture.  Such is the case with sin in our lives, it doesn’t go away because we tack a couple of good deeds on.  The severity of this condition is one that must be addressed, as spiritual death and sin are intimately connected (Romans 5:12). 

I could not remove that bad egg from the bowl, neither could any of the onlookers.  In the same way, we cannot fix the damage that sin has created in our lives, neither can anyone else.  Only through Jesus Christ can we be made new (2 Corinthians 5:17, Galatians 2:20), can we be cleansed (1 John 1:9), can we have our sins forgiven (Ephesians 1:7, 4:32) and forgotten (Isaiah 43:25, Hebrews 8:12).  It is by the grace of God that He takes the tainted, rotten, undesirable and makes them into useful, new, wonderful creations for His glory.  May we bring glory to God, by recognizing Him for doing what He alone can.  

By His Grace And For His Glory,
Pastor Sam                  

 

January 3, 2021

It’s Not What You Know, It’s Who You Know

On Sunday morning we have been systematically going through the book of James.  In the fourth chapter of James we are taught that our lives, as followers of Christ, are ones that should be lived by the guidance and direction of the Lord (James 4:13-16).  The decisions we make are important and they are many.  But, how does one maintain a consistent focus on making decisions that honor God? 

In Proverbs 3 Solomon provides a wonderful look at how we can accomplish this task.  In verse 5 we see the need to trust God with all of our hearts.  Trust can be a fickle thing can’t it?  We extend trust based on our knowledge of the one being trusted, don't we?  We determine if the person has good character and if they are proven by experience.  Oftentimes we trust an individual with carefully selected things but not necessarily the important stuff.  But, here in this verse we see that we are to trust the Lord with our whole heart, with everything that we have.  The Lord is certainly trustworthy and proven (Psalm 18:30, Isaiah 25:1).  When we wholeheartedly trust in the Lord, we will inevitably cease to lean on our own understanding (V:5).  If we lean on our own, carnal, finite understanding, we would not be completely relying on the sovereign, omniscience of God.  In all humility, we have to consciously yield our own understanding to seek the understanding of God (James 4:7). 

In verse 6 of Proverbs 3 we read that we are to acknowledge the Lord in all of our ways.  The Hebrew word for ways is ‘dârak’ which literally means road or journey.  That means that our trajectory should be one that is in a constant state of acknowledging the Lord.  Notice the verse says in all your ways acknowledge Him.  This removes any tendency to pick and choose what part of our lives we choose to acknowledge God in.  The verse is explicitly clear that we are to acknowledge God in everything, in every circumstance.  Recognizing our need to trust in the Lord should permeate every part of our lives. 

When we trust fully in the Lord, instead of our own intuition, and acknowledge Him in our lives, then we are left with a wonderful promise.  The promise is found in the latter part of verse 6, He will make straight your paths.  Trusting in the Lord provides clarity, knowing that He will set our course according to His will and purposes for our life.  There is no better place we can be than in harmony with the will of God, the path of His choosing. 

Trust can be fickle, but we have every reason to put our full assurance in the Lord.  May we commit to acknowledging Him in all our ways, for He alone is worthy.                                                                                                                                                                                                                             

By His Grace And For His Glory,
Pastor Sam  

  

 



December 27, 2020 

Claus And Effect

It has always been compelling to me how so many will teach their kids to love, idolize and adore a false character (spoiler alert) like Santa Claus, yet retort of the absurdity at the belief of an Almighty Sovereign God.  Nevertheless, those who get all wrapped up in the holidays (pun intended) will inevitably feel a bit lost when the festivities come to a swift close.  The excitement is over and they are forced to move on to something else to fill their time.  But for believers, we have cause to continue our celebration.  We have a great deal in common with the Bible character Anna. 

We find the account of Anna in Luke 2:36-38, following the birth of Jesus Christ.  This is the only place in scripture you will find this prophetess, but we need not forget her important role.  Depending on how you interpret her age, Anna was likely between 84-104 at the time of this account.  She was a devoted woman of God, spending her days praying, fasting and worshipping.  Verse 38 tells us that Anna began thanking God among those who had been waiting, indicating Anna too had been waiting.  Clearly her thanks to God were directed toward the birth of the Messiah, the One that they had been waiting for. 

As children of God, we have the finished work of Christ’s crucifixion, resurrection and ascension.  Although the work is finished, let us not forget that we, in similar fashion to Anna, have much to look forward to.  Fulfilling scripture, Jesus will one day return to establish His kingdom, war against opposition and bring about judgment (Revelation 19:11-16, Zechariah 14:2, Matthew 25:31-46, 2 Corinthians 5:10).  Just like Anna continued to praise God, even after the Messiah was born, we too will continue our praise of the Lord for eternity.  Our joy and hope are fixed on the promises of God and no season of life can change that. 

As the lights come down this Christmas and once lively evergreen trees are seen dried out on the curb, may we be reminded that we have a Savior that is so much more than temporal, fading, stuff.  I hope everyone has a very Merry Christmas.  But, on December 26th, I pray that you find just as much cause to celebrate.  For our God is worthy.                                                                  

                                                                                                                                                 

By His Grace And For His Glory,
Pastor Sam

 

December 20, 2020

The Working Of The Spirit

As Christmas draws closer, many believers will read through the account of Christ’s birth, found in Luke 1 and 2.  It is wonderful that the more we read scripture, things are brought to light that we may have not noticed before.  I think spiritual maturity plays a part in this, as we grow in knowledge and understanding we start to recognize the details more, as they pertain to a greater understanding of the totality of scripture.  For many who will read this account, the tendency is to focus on the glory that is revealed through God’s orchestration of events and circumstances.  However, a commonly overlooked reality is the integral part that the Holy Spirit had throughout this unfolding. 

The Holy Spirit is mentioned five times throughout this account.  In an unprecedented fashion, John The Baptist was filled with the Holy Spirit while still in his mother Elizabeth’s womb (Luke 1:15).  Part of the message that the angel Gabriel relayed to Mary was that she would be filled with the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:35).  This was to be done so that Mary would undoubtedly accomplish all that God had planned through her.  Mary was a common young lady who God used as an instrument to bring the Messiah into this world, God taking on the form and appearance of man.  The means by which He accomplished this through her was that she be filled with the Holy Spirit.  We see that the Spirit was actively at work in the lives of those involved in the account. 

When Mary went to visit her relative Elizabeth, sharing with her all that had transpired, Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:41).  She too was part of the master plan of God, as was her husband Zechariah, who would also be filled with the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:67).  A short while later we see that Simeon was given revelation that he would see Christ before his life would come to a close, a revelation that was given by the Holy Spirit (Luke 2:26).  So, you may be thinking, what is the significance here, what do we do with this knowledge of the Holy Spirit? 

Unfortunately the Holy Spirit is commonly viewed as a lesser part of the Trinity.  In other cases, the Holy Spirit is perverted and made out to be something that we experience through special services, calling on the Spirit through repetitious music and low lit gatherings.  These are both major errors that do not give the Holy Spirit the proper reverence that is due.  As followers of Christ we have the Spirit of God who works in and through us to accomplish His will and purposes for our lives (Romans 8:9).  The same Spirit who was active in the birth of Christ is the same Spirit who we have at work in our lives.  This is certainly a remarkable truth that should cause us to praise His wonderful name with Thanksgiving.                                                         

                                                                                                                                                 

By His Grace And For His Glory,
Pastor Sam
                   

 

December 13, 2020 

Christmas Excitement

If you haven’t noticed, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas (in my best Bing Crosby voice).  There are so many things that get people excited about Christmas.  For some it is picking out the perfect tree, others it is adorning their home with lights and ribbons in spectacular fashion, for others it is the multitude of delicious foods they get to enjoy (one’s that will inevitably lead to many New Year’s resolutions, but that’s another story entirely).  Whatever warms your holiday heart, without question the highlight for the masses will be exchanging gifts.  A great deal of time, energy and effort are put into giving the perfect gift.  Commonly parents are particularly eager to generate a great buzz around the gifts their children will receive.  In many cases, this is the highlight of the season, the grand finale if you will. 

Sadly even many Christ following parents have fallen victim to this focal distraction.  Trust me, I don’t write this from a high and mighty seat in an attempt to cast down judgment on my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.  Rather, this is a reflection that I am wrestling with and I have a feeling that I am not the only one.  As believers we should make every attempt to be devoted in a life of faithfulness and obedience to the One True God.  The excitement that we enjoy is brought forth through the salvation that we have received through the blood of Christ.  Jesus Christ is the cause of great excitement for all believers.  Ironically, during this Christmas season, there are multitudes of other things that vie for our attention and excitement.  We vehemently proclaim that Jesus is the reason for the season, but is He the reason for our excitement?

Church services, giving to the less fortunate, reading the account of Jesus’ birth with your family, these are all great things.  But, have they become routine, have we taken them for granted?  I am not suggesting that from this point on we should revolt and forego all traditions and norms, that is certainly not my intent.  Instead, my encouragement is that we refocus our excitement around the birth of Jesus Christ, the greatest gift of all.  May we spend less time wondering what is in that oddly shaped package underneath the tree and more time celebrating that we have a Savior that emptied Himself and took on the form of man (Philippians 2:7), providing the only way for our salvation (Acts 4:12, 1 Timothy 2:5).  No Black Friday or Cyber Monday deal could ever compete with that.  May we not allow anything to take precedence over our celebration of Jesus Christ.  Let’s use this opportunity to share with others why we are excited about Christmas.                                                                                                                                                                                             

By His Grace And For His Glory,
Pastor Sam

 

December 6, 2020 

 

No Censorship Required

It is concerning to me the “softness” that many have unnecessarily inserted into scripture.  This softness generally comes by way of misinterpretation, an interpretation that is made to accommodate feelings and emotions.  One recent example is one’s rendering of the parable of the 10 virgins that is seen in Matthew 25:1-13.  In this parable there are 10 virgins (representing professing believers) who are going to meet the bridegroom (Jesus Christ).  There is a clear distinction between the virgins, 5 are diligent and prepared and 5 are lazy and unprepared.  The nature of their preparedness is a direct correlation to the love, or lack of love they have for the bridegroom.  The 5 who were prepared and eager about their meeting depict 5 believers who truly love the Lord.  The 5 who were not ready depict unbelievers, who made a profession of their love but their actions revealed their indifference. 

To misinterpret this passage would be to make the unwarranted conclusion that all 10 of these virgins are believers, 5 prepared and useful and 5 not prepared and complacent.  So, how do we clear this up?  There are actually several ways to remove this confusion.  First, if you look at verses 11-13 the 5 unprepared virgins come to the door of the bridegroom (Jesus) and ask to be let in.  Notice the Lord’s response, “I do not know you.”  This is not a threat to the omniscience of the Lord, rather it is a repeated phrase that signifies those who have rebelled and rejected Christ (Matthew 7:23).  Not being known by Christ is the opposite of being known by Christ, that we see in John 10:14  I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me.  So the very fact that the bridegroom (Christ) rejected the 5 unprepared virgins and stated that He did not know them, this should be a closed case as to the condition of the 5 virgin’s hearts. 

But, there is further clarity to this understanding.  The parable of the 10 virgins is tantamount to the parable of the talents.  We have the same lesson being revealed in the parable of the talents.  There are 3 servants that represent 3 professing believers and the master who represents Christ.  The actions of the first 2 servants revealed the love and faithfulness they had toward the master, while the lazy and unconcerned actions of the third servant revealed his lack of love for the master.  The third servant was in the exact same boat as the 5 virgins who were rejected, they were unprepared.  Their unpreparedness wasn’t a result of not doing enough work in advance, rather it was found in their unregenerate hearts.  Just like the 5 virgins were rejected at the door, the third servant in the parable of the talents was rebuked by the master and as we see in Matthew 7:30.  The master ordered that the servant be cast out to the outer darkness, in the palace where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.  This is not a low lit area of heaven, this is a clear reference to hell (Matthew 13:42, Luke 13:28).  To interpret either one of these parables as believers who simply differ in effectiveness is just plain wrong.   

Brothers and sisters, God’s Holy Word does not need our tweaking and adjusting to make it more palatable.  It is not our responsibility, nor right, to censor the Word Of God so it is easier to stomach for the masses.  These two parables serve as a warning for those who are not ready when the Lord returns, as Matthew 25:31-46 clearly defines.  Being ready when the Lord returns in glory is submitting our lives to Christ, laying down pride and putting on humility in servanthood for the Lord.  These parables are not about trimmed wicks, oil and buried treasures.  They are about the condition of the heart and the reality of what will take place when Jesus Christ returns to settle accounts. 

My encouragement is that we approach the Word of God with reverence and respect, not as a book of good ideas that needs our fine tuning.  May we have a high view of scripture, trusting in every word God has brought forth for our benefit to live a Godly life in Christ Jesus.                                   

                                                                                                                                                

By His Grace And For His Glory,
Pastor Sam

November 29, 2020

Thanksgiving Is Not Canceled

As we approach Thanksgiving we concede that this year has not been the typical year.  In fact, many will forgo their normal family gathering in light of the ever present virus that has demanded global attention.  As we reflect on the events of the year, the recap is a rather dismal one.  Masks have gone from hot topic to standard attire.  Our kids are growing up in a time where sickness is the scuttlebutt and charts and graphs can be seen on every news outlet.  Politics vie for focal supremacy yet fail to offer any clarity or resolution.  High school and college sports fans deal with partial seasons at best and professional sports fans are left with inundating social messages from athletes who have forgotten if they are running for office or playing basketball.  Riots, violence and hate have become commonplace in many cities across the nation.  Many lament about 2020 being the worst year in recent history. 

Although I understand the unusual nature of this year, I am not altogether surprised either.  In John 16:33 Jesus tells his disciples that in this world, they will have trouble.  Trouble has certainly not vanished in the last 2000 years.  However, take heart, neither have the promises of God vanished in that time.  Psalm 103:19 tells us that God is on the throne that He has established in heaven, ruling over all that He has made.  Our God is not silent, rather He is always working to accomplish His perfect will (Psalm 50:2, Isaiah 46:9-11).  As followers of Christ we have been given the wonderful promise of security in Him (John 10:27-29, John 6:37, Romans 11:29).  And praise God our hope, joy, peace and comfort are not of this world (Romans 15:13, 2 Thessalonians 3:16, Jeremiah 29:11, 2 Corinthians 1:3-4).  My encouragement to you is this, don’t look at 2020 as a year void of things to be thankful for.  Instead be thankful that 2020 has been a year that aids in our appreciation and understanding of God’s grace in our lives.  We have so much to be thankful for.  We serve a living and active God who reigns supreme, victory has already been won.  The last part of John 16:33 is a wonderful promise that we can rest on, Jesus said “But take heart, I have overcome the world.”  Sorry world, you can try to take our Thanksgiving, but you cannot take our thankfulness.                                                                                                                                                                 

By His Grace And For His Glory,
Pastor Sam                  

November 22, 2020

 

The Battle Rages But The Victory Is Won

 

No matter how well an athlete trains for a competition, nerves are still commonly present.  Sometimes these uneasy feelings are masked behind a braggadocious facade with boasts of unwavering confidence.  Nevertheless, the presence of nerves are just under the surface.  These nerves generate out of a fear of the unknown.  Did I train hard enough?  Did my opponent train harder?  What if I make a simple mistake, human error, a slip?  These are things an athlete mulls over, even the ones who seem calm and unfazed.  In sports, it isn't over until it's over.  Whether it be a last ditch effort haymaker, an interception, a buzzer beater, you name it, but the fact is, it isn't over until it's over.  

Fortunately for those who have submitted their lives to the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, this is not the case for them.  Ephesians 6:12 tells us that, as believers, we are in a battle.  This battle is with an enemy, an adversary, that fights tirelessly and vigorously.  Our enemy, satan, is very good at what he does.  1 Peter 5:8 says that the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to destroy or devour.  Logically one could conclude that this is a rival that is deserving of our concern.  However, for those who are in Christ, there is absolutely nothing to fear.  

As well trained as satan is at his craft, he is no match for our great God.  1 Corinthians 15:57 tells us that God has given us victory through Christ.  Romans 8:37 calls us conquerors, while 2 Corinthians 2:14 says that we are led in triumph by Christ.  Romans 8:31 gives us the confidence in knowing that our relationship with Him is one that should not fear opposition.  We will in fact be in battle daily, always fighting to be pillars and supports of the truth (1 Timothy 3:15), while fighting against the schemes of satan (James 4:7).  We have no reason to falter in our pursuit, as we find our confidence and strength in Him alone (Isaiah 41:10, Ephesians 6:10).  Unlike the undetermined outcome that exists prior to an athletic event, our battle as children of God has already been won.  Thank you Lord, that we have victory through Your precious name.  Having no reason to fear, may we march forward in all boldness through the power of Your Spirit (2 Timothy 1:7).                                                                                                                                                         

By His Grace And For His Glory,
Pastor Sam                   

 

November 15, 2020 

 

Big News


As the sunset behind the green rolling hills near Bethlehem, the shepherds were about to embark on the night shift.  The cool of the night would be ushered in and the noise of the day would grow quiet.  Shepherds in those days had to be fearless, not letting anyone or anything harm the sheep they were entrusted with.  They also had to be attentive, knowing the situation and the condition of the sheep at all times.  When nightfall came, an increased level of awareness was most certainly present among the shepherds.  Predators of all kinds would roam the land in search of such a meal.  Wolves are commonly viewed as a sheep’s worst nightmare, but the Bible also lists lions and bears as possible advisories to the flock (1 Samuel 17:34).

In the profession of a shepherd, no news is good news.  An uneventful night was all those who tended the flock could hope for.  Any sound or rustling in the tall grass could send the shepherds into a mode of fierce protection.  On the night that Jesus Christ was born, shepherds in a nearby field were about to experience an unprecedented event.  Luke 2:8 says that while the shepherds were keeping watch over their sheep, an angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them.  Suddenly this uneventful night became a divine display of God’s glory.  The fear that must have immediately gripped these men would have them wishing it had been a lion or a bear instead.  God used this magnificent event to tell of the Savior’s birth.  We recognize the contrast between the humble, quiet birth of Christ and the glorious, attention demanding revelation of His arrival.

Undoubtedly this event was one that the shepherds would never forget.  For those of us who have been saved by God’s grace, we can relate, at some level, to what the shepherds must have felt that night.  For us it was not the glory of the Lord shining down in the middle of the night or an angel of the Lord speaking audibly to us.  But, the miraculous work that God has done in our lives certainly leaves us in awe, recognizing His glory and majesty.  I encourage you this week to thank God for the many ways that He has shown His glory in your life.  The tendency is to look at particular accounts throughout scripture and marvel at the ways in which the Lord worked, and rightfully so.  But, let us not overlook the spectacular work that God has done in our very own lives.  May we ruminate on ALL of the wonderful ways that God displays His glory.  Lord, it is all for Your glory.  Romans 11:36  For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.                                                                                                                                         

By His Grace And For His Glory,
Pastor Sam                  

 

November 8, 2020 

Free To Be Slave 

I am often baffled by those who feel they need to choose a specific camp when it comes to a particular theological stance.  Don't get me wrong, there are without question stances that need to be made and maintained when it comes to proper theology that is formed from the truths of scripture.  But, there are those issues that are really not issues at all.  I have witnessed brothers and sisters who have adamantly demanded that believers are free and liberated, and no longer slaves.  On the other hand I have also encountered those who declare with persistence that we are slaves to God.  So, the question that unavoidably springs forth is, which one is right?  Herein lies the problem with the debate, assuming that since one is right that the other has to be wrong. 

Those who stand on the premise that we are liberated and free are correct.  Galatians 5:1 says For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.  This verse is explaining the freedom that Jesus Christ has provided from the law, we see a similar example in 2 Corinthians 3:17.  Then in a more than convincing passage, John 8:34 points out that those who practice sin are slaves to sin.  However, in verse 36 we see that the Son, Jesus Christ, is the source of freedom and liberation from sin's enslavement.  This is a crucial understanding that scripture reveals, that Jesus Christ came to save people from their bondage of sin.  If we are compelled to choose a camp, this one is looking pretty promising. 

Those who stand firm on the understanding that we are slaves, must provide ample evidence.  Romans 6:22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.  In this text we see that those who are in Christ have been removed from sin's enslavement and become slaves of God.  It would be irresponsible for us to reason that this is merely a transfer of slave ownership alone.  Rather, this is a momentous positional change that is done only through the salvatory work of God.  The only way that we can be freed, liberated from the eternal grasp of sin's clutches is by God drawing us to salvation.  As Matthew 6:24 says, we cannot serve two masters.  Luke 9:23 tells us that as believers in Jesus Christ we are to deny ourselves and follow Him.  The Lord is our Master and we are His servants.  Suddenly this camp has us wondering what side we should be on. 

I hope you are picking up on where this is going.  This is a classic case of the unnecessary nature of needing to choose between two theological principles.  In this particular case, both camps are completely right.  By the grace of God, He has provided the only way to be free from the bondage of sin, through the redemptive blood of His Son.  When an individual is drawn to salvation by God, they are then removed from sin's enslavement and placed into servanthood of the Lord, a slave of God.  The two camps are not opposed to one another, rather they are two parts to a whole.  As I have stated on many occasions, my encouragement is that we always look at what we are saying and ask ourselves the question "what does this say about God?"  In this case, both angles of approach say the same thing, that being a slave to God is the only way to be free from eternal punishment that we deserve as a result of our own sin.  Praise be to God for providing mercy and grace to an undeserving lot like us.  He is good.                                                                                                                  

By His Grace And For His Glory,
Pastor Sam                  

 

November 1, 2020  

The Road Less Traveled

 

There is a passage in scripture that has always produced within me a mix of emotions.  In Matthew 7:13-14 Jesus teaches the familiar lesson about the narrow gate and the wide gate.  The rich depth that permeates this short passage is staggering.  Every time I come across this section of scripture it seems that another facet in understanding is brought forth, which I liken to another layer of the onion being peeled.

The more I study the Word of God, the more certain I become that the narrow gate is in direct correlation to the size of the path.  We read in verse 14 that the way that leads to life, eternal life, is hard.  And all God's people said "Amen", right?  The Christian life is one of trials, tests, persecution, and opposition (John 16:33, 2 Timothy 3:12).  As born again believers in Jesus Christ we work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12) in this life long journey of sanctification.  Humbly serving the Lord is an extraordinary privilege, one that exceeds anything that the world could offer.  But, make no mistake, it is, as the scriptures reveal, a difficult journey.  When we understand the extent of what it means to pick up our cross and follow God daily, we know our lives were not meant for ease and comfort.  Few are on this path, a few in comparison to the other path.  But, those who are on this path know they are on it, they are confident.  This is a confidence that comes not from their own achievements and merit, but one that comes from the promises and power of God.  No one is on the path to life by accident.  There is no confusion, as all who press on do so by the grace of God alone.  

The other gate is wide and in a similar correlative fashion, the path is wide as well.  On this path there is a diverse group of people, from all walks of life: rich and poor, wild and passive, rude and arrogant, quiet and pleasant, violent and abusive, unassuming and shy, passionate and apathetic.  However, the path has but one common thread.  Inclusion to this path is not defined by the color of one's skin, the amount of good deeds done in one's life or even whether they attended church or not.  Thus lies the confusion that exists on this wide path.  The one thing that knits the droves of individuals on this wide way is they have never repented of their sins.  In a steady march toward the wide gate, even many religious people obliviously proceed; religion is not what determines position. 

As I get older the thing that frightens me the most is what the reaction of those who will enter through the wide gate will be.  They have enjoyed a life that cost little, denying the Messiah who gave everything.  But, what really gets to me is the confusion.  Many are confused and think because of the way they lived their life, or they were raised in a Christian home by Christian parents, or they attended church as a youth, or they raised their hand during an invitation, that this was more than sufficient to gain them access to the narrow gate, heaven.  None of these scenarios reveal the real condition of the heart.  This is where I am left motivated and charged up.  I, we, have work to do.  There are a lot of people out there who think they are good, that think they are deservingly on the narrow way, by virtue of works and self righteousness.  We need to share the full saving gospel of Jesus Christ with everyone that we can.  Because we should not be happily complacent with the path that we are on, while giving little thought to the masses that push toward the wide gate of destruction.  Lord, please give us an increased sense of urgency and passion to reach the lost.  May we live and act like we have the most important message of all to share.                                                                                                          

By His Grace And For His Glory,
Pastor Sam                  

 

October 25, 2020 

Unity

In the fifteenth chapter of the book of Romans, the Apostle Paul places a great deal of emphasis on unity within the body of believers.  In fact, Paul goes so far as to point out that we are not only to come together on Sunday morning for a moment of unity, rather we are to live in harmony with our brothers and sisters in Christ (Romans 15:5).  The word live denotes a constant state, one that is not just part of life but essential to sustaining a healthy spiritual life.  Thank goodness Paul does not leave us with this good intended ideal without any practical ways in which to accomplish it.

Earlier in that same chapter we see that putting others needs into focus and building them up is a key element in fostering unity (v2).  It is also made clear that this is not merely a goal and personal aim of Paul, but this was the character and nature that Jesus Christ exhibited (v3).  Jesus Christ came to serve others (Matthew 20:28, Mark 10:45), providing us with an example that we should strive to emulate to the best of our abilities.  And one of the ways we can do that is to faithfully and diligently be equipped in the proper teaching of the Word of God, so that we can be in one accord and have one voice in our praise and glory to the Father (Romans 15:6).

One voice?  How does that work?  This is not to assume we don't have a personal responsibility and ability to worship and honor God.  But, it would be absurd for us to assume that we all have a different set of parameters when it comes to what pleases God.  Pleasing God is our aim, it is a vital function and purpose of a follower of Christ (Galatians 1:10).  Something that the Bible is very clear on in terms of what pleases God is unity within the body (1 Corinthians 1:10, 1 Peter 3:8, Philippians 2:2, Colossians 3:14).  These passages are not talking about denominations or affiliations, rather they speak to the body of believers collectively, those who have believed upon Jesus Christ as the only way.  When the body adheres to these commands that scripture has laid out, they function in such a way that glorifies God harmoniously, in one voice.  Who but God could bring together a group of former bond servants to sin, rebellious and wicked as we were, to form a pleasing bride that would be spotless and blameless in the sight of the Lord, with the ability to exalt His majesty through one, united voice?

Satan wants nothing more than to bring division and dissension to the body.  That kind of chaos and strife is what defines his character.  Let us be steadfast in prayer for the church, both locally, and universally.  My challenge to you this week is, take some extra time to devote to praying for the body, that we would be found united and of one voice and one accord.  For this is pleasing to the Lord.                                                                                  

By His Grace And For His Glory,
Pastor Sam

 

October 18, 2020 

May I Have A Word

It is always intriguing to me how one word or a short phrase can have such profound meaning behind it.  The affirming words "I do" at a wedding encompass so much.  All the communication that took place prior to the wedding day, perhaps the premarital counseling that the couple went through, the time and energy that have been invested in one another, it all culminates to this simple yet powerful phrase, "I do".  Not all words and phrases bring about such a positive outcome though.  Far too many families have been impacted by the painful words from a doctor that has to break the heart-wrenching news "you have cancer".  Words can change lives and the ramifications are vast.  Whether it is the army general who gives the command "charge", the NASA engineer that says "blast off" or the judge who gives a declaration of "guilty", word can possess tremendous power.   

In John 19 we read the account of Jesus Christ suffering on the cross at Golgotha.  After experiencing what no man could endure, Jesus said these words found in verse 30, "It Is Finished".  The enormity and the power of this statement was one that would reverberate for eternity.  In that moment Jesus Christ had completed His redemptive earthly ministry in the flesh.  His blood atonement on the cross was sufficient for all sin.  Salvation was made exclusively possible through repenting and confessing our sins to Him and acknowledging Jesus Christ's penal substitutionary atonement.  "It Is Finished".  That thing you did that is so bad not a day goes by that you don't think about it, "It Is Finished".  That legalistic lifestyle of constantly trying to tip the scales of good works over bad in your favor, "It Is Finished".  The guilt and shame you have been harboring for as long as you can remember "It Is Finished".  Those feelings of inadequacy and worthlessness, "It Is Finished".  The life that is slave to sin and bound for hell, "It Is Finished."  There is great power in the words of Christ. 

Thank You Jesus for doing what we could not do, thank You for saving us from ourselves.  Thank You for the finality of the work that You did on the cross in our place.  May we never forget the power in that phrase, may it bring us to our knees in thanksgiving as we marvel at Your grace, love and mercy.                                                                            

By His Grace And For His Glory,
Pastor Sam        

 

October 11, 2020

Season Of Change

As I look out our back dining room window the changing colors of the maple leaves quickly reminds me that a new season is being ushered in.  Soon enough the leaves will fall, the air will grow colder and pumpkin spice will be replaced with the fragrance of spruce and peppermint.  For all the complaining that can be made at the expense of the erratic Midwest weather, I do love the changing of the seasons.  It’s always amusing to watch “out of staters” getting off the planes in the Midwest airports.  Apparently no one mentioned to them that a week-long trip would warrant a coat, jacket, shorts, sandals, and snow boots. 

The Apostle Paul had a great deal of valuable instruction for Timothy, the young man from Lystra.  In 2 Timothy 4:2 Paul urges Timothy to preach the word; in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.  Timothy had been entrusted with weighty responsibility of leading and shepherding the church in Ephesus.  Paul knew that Timothy would find out soon enough that there would be times where the message of Christ would be heard with ease and conversely there would be times when that message would not be well received.  Thus Paul encourages Timothy to preach during all seasons.  The results of good biblical preaching and teaching are what Paul mentions in the latter part of verse 2, to reprove, rebuke, and exhort.  These are results that God’s Word can produce in either scenario. 

Though the Midwest weather may be ever changing, there is no doubt that we live in a time where the Word of God is in large part, out of season.  God’s Word has been taken out of schools, taken out of homes, and sadly, even taken out of many churches.  The truth that God’s Word contains brings about an acknowledgment of sin, and sin brings to light the separation between the lives of fallen mankind and the perfect holiness and righteousness of God.  As followers of Christ, we have a responsibility to herald the name of Christ, to proclaim and share the saving gospel.  We need not worry ourselves with the nature of the season we are in.  Instead, let us boldly preach the message of the Savior, which is never changing.  Hebrews 13: 8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.  So grab your coat, your stocking hat, your sunglasses and t-shirt, because we have work to do.                                             

 
By His Grace And For His Glory,
Pastor Sam         
 
  
         

October 4, 2020

The End Of The Story

During a discussion in a men's bible study one Friday morning, we got talking about Mary, the mother of Jesus.  We were commenting on the extraordinary responsibility that God had set before Mary.  A few of the men shared their thoughts on what that must have been like for the young betrothed virgin girl.  When the angel Gabriel told Mary of the monumental task that she was about to embark on, one is led to wonder what was going through her mind.  Mary was a young engaged girl, who, before that day, likely day dreamed about the future.  Whatever her plans and aspirations were, God intervened with a different ending to the story of her life. 

I asked the guys in the group, if God had not intervened in their lives, how different would the end of their story be?  Without hesitation some of the men shared about the predictability of how their lives would have played out.  Most commented that their sinful behavior would have landed them in jail or worse yet, the morgue.  It was a sobering moment as all in attendance recognized the grace that God had lavished on their lives.  You see, these men knew who they were before they submitted their lives to Christ and they knew the trajectory that old life had them on.  They could have easily finished the story of their lives.  BUT......God had a different plan for them.  God's redemptive plan in their lives would change the ending. 

If God has done a mighty work in your life and brought you to salvation through His Son Jesus Christ, then you have great cause for rejoice.  The God of the universe and all that it contains saw fit to change the end of your story.  He is the only one that can take the enslaved sinner, change their heart and declare them righteous.  However, there are a great many people out there who are living out the very predictable story of their lives.  They are dead in their sins, being condemned by the very thing that ensures their story's unsurprising end.  But, God's message of hope, the saving gospel of Jesus Christ, is a message that changes lives, it changes the ending.  My encouragement for you this week is to find someone to discuss this with.  Ask someone how they see their life playing out, ask them to write their ending.  This gives you a wonderful opportunity to share with them.  As followers of Christ, we did not write our ending, God did (Ezekiel 36:26, 2 Corinthians 3:18).  Praise God for doing what we couldn't do.  To you alone Lord we give all honor and praise.


By His Grace And For His Glory,
Pastor Sam                   
 

 

September 27, 2020 

We’ve Been Enlisted

In the tumultuous times we find ourselves in, the reality of “the last days” (2 Timothy 3:1) rings loud and clear.  Our heads would have to be buried deeply in the sand of delusion to not recognize the spiritual battle that is present.  Everything that we, as followers of Christ, stand for is being increasingly attacked.  Many churches and individuals will compromise under the increasing pressure to conform to “today’s culture”.  It is stunning how quickly many forget who they are in Christ. 

Throughout scripture there are many references to the structure and order of the military.  We are likened to good soldiers in Christ (2 Timothy 2:3-4); we are told to put on the full armor of God (Ephesians 6:11), prepared to wrestle against evil (Ephesians 6:12).  If you are wondering at what point and time you signed up for this post, may I remind you, you didn’t.  You were enlisted.  Much like the disciples, if left to our choosing, we would have not signed up (John 15:16).  But, God chose us (1 Peter 2:9, Ephesians 1:3-4), He equips us (Hebrews 20:21, 2 Timothy 3:16-17), and He uses us to accomplish His purposes (Romans 8:28).  We are soldiers not by merit but by divine appointment.  

The darkness in this present age is blatantly apparent, as evil is not hidden but paraded.  The need for preparedness and support is vitally important.  To be prepared we need to equip ourselves as well as one another.  We do that through personal study and prayer as well as discipleship.  Like all good soldiers we need to engage in ongoing training, be united with our comrades and know our enemy.  But, unlike any army that has ever existed, God has promised victory for those who serve Him (1 Corinthians 15:57).  The words of 1 Corinthians 15:58 offer more encouragement than any words I could ever conjure up,  Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.  I pray this week that you not only recognize your privileged responsibility but also find great comfort in God’s wonderful promises of victory.  The battle is already won.                 

By His Grace And For His Glory,
Pastor Sam                 

 

 September 20, 2020

 Can’t Judge a Tree By Its Leaves?

            As a former arborist I can recall many times in which we would be called out to remove a tree off of a customer’s house.  Normally, the tree that had fallen was never deemed a threat, as it looked completely healthy.  If the tree had shown typical signs of distress and disease, it would have likely been removed as a precautionary measure.  But, typically the trees that fell looked like they were full of life. 

The problem with these fallen trees lied on the inside.  You see, from the outside the trees looked full and healthy, but on the inside they were often hollow and diseased.  Only upon closer examination could one spot what was really going on inside.  Thus there are many trees that look full of life on the outside but they are dying on the inside. 

In this world there are many people who walk around looking like they are full of life but they are dead inside.  Instead of green leaves covering their condition, they hide behind a smile or laughter.  See, the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 2 talks about the former condition of those who have received salvation.  Recounting their unregenerate state, Paul notes that though they were walking the earth, they were dead because of their trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1-2).  Paul then explains the only means by which they now have life, by God’s grace which gave them the faith to believe upon Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:4-5). 

My challenge to you is this.  Throughout your week you will encounter many different people.  The person at the coffee shop may smile and give a nod of affirmation at your take on today’s weather, or that amazing catch in last night’s game.  But, this gives no insight as to whether they are really alive, spiritually alive.  But, what happens if you ask a question like, “there seems to be a lot of people grasping for hope these days, where do you place your hope?”  Or how about asking what thing they treasure most in their life?  You may be surprised by what you receive back as an answer.  Sometimes their response might validate and give credence to the reason they seem so full of life.  Other times it might reveal the lack of real genuine hope in their life, making their need for Christ glaringly apparent. 

The point is, you cannot determine whether someone is full of life without knowing what is on the inside.  Slow down, take the time to engage a little in a conversation.  God may be providing you with an opportunity to share where true life is found (John 5:21, John 8:12, Romans 6:23).

 

By His Grace And For His Glory,
Pastor Sam                   
 
 

September 13, 2020

Casting Burdens

This week I was reminded of the familiar Psalm, one that has such sweet relevance to what we are facing as a country, rather as a world.  Psalm 55:22 Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you, he will never permit the righteous to be moved.  These wonderful words will likely have us throwing out a hearty amen in concurrence.  However, I think it is common to overlook the important details that this verse contains. 

Commonly when we see the word “cast” we think of the repetitious action of release and retrieve that accompanies fishing with a rod and reel.  But, is this really what the Psalmist David was thinking when he wrote this?  Hardly, as the rod and reel had not been invented at that time.  In those days, fishing was done by means of throwing a net over the side of a boat.  In this application, the release of the net is paramount.  When the net exited the grip of the fisherman’s hands, control was relinquished.  In the same way, when we cast our burdens upon the Lord, we are relinquishing our control, which let’s be honest, we never really had a firm grip on in the first place. 

Any idea what happens when you go to heave the net overboard but don’t release your grip of control?  You go overboard right?  Much is the same when we attempt to hold tightly to the struggles that we are facing in our lives.  We find out very quickly that we cannot handle the pressures and afflictions of this world with our own wisdom and fortitude.  God wants us to trust Him and not lean on our own understanding (Proverbs 3:5).  God desires us to recognize His glory and majesty and come to Him, bringing our cares to the throne of grace (Hebrews 4:16).  By His grace He upholds us and like it says in Psalm 55:22, the righteous will not be moved.  Let us stand in bold confidence of our Lord, that He not only has the power to deal with the problems we face, but He also has the desire to care deeply for what burdens His children.  Might I encourage you to cast your burdens to the Lord, even the ones that you have been clinging to with white knuckles.  He will provide for you and accomplish everything according to His perfect will.                           

                                                                                                                                                   

By His Grace And For His Glory,
Pastor Sam         
 
 
 
                                                         

September 6, 2020

Caring For The Bride

There was a great King and the King loved His bride very much.  In fact, His bride was the object of His affection, and He told her so.  But, the King had to go away for a long time, so He set things in order before He departed.  The King entrusted His servant with caring for His bride, a great task and a privileged one at that.  The responsibility in caring for the bride was significant, it would require careful adherence to the King’s instructions. 

During the time that the King was gone, the servant was diligent in keeping to the instructions and caring greatly for the bride.  The bride was appealing to the kingdom, others would recognize her beauty as she stood as a beacon of light.  But, as time went on, people appeared to become disinterested in her beauty.  The servant noticed this trend and decided to do something about it.  He thought, if I change a few things, liven her up a bit, people will be more drawn to her beauty.  The servant knew this was not as the King had instructed, but He had been gone for a long time, surely He would understand the need for change. 

So, the servant dressed her in a more vibrant attire to appeal to the crowds.  He changed her hair to fit in with a more modern day look.  It seemed that every time the servant changed something about the bride, the more people were drawn to her.  The efforts of the servant shifted from compliance of the King’s orders to what thing could he change next to make even more people admire the bride.  As time went on, the bride looked very little like she looked when the King left.

If you haven’t picked up on it yet, the King is Jesus Christ and the bride is His church, the servant is the church leaders that have been entrusted with caring for the church.  I am afraid that much of what we see in the church today is a perverted image of the bride of Christ.  Far too much attention and focus has gone to appealing to the masses, compromising both instruction and obedience.  The Bible offers exhaustive teachings and commands of how to care for the church, the bride of Christ.  For the sake of attendance numbers and comfortable conversation, many have drifted far from the King’s instructions. 

One day the King is coming back, this is certain (Hebrews 9:28).  What will He say to the servants?  To the faithful and obedient I can guess He would say something like “Well done good and faithful servant.”  To the others I can only imagine that the rebuke will be severe.  Lord help those who have not taken seriously the responsibility of caring for Your bride.  The King is coming back and He will come to take His bride.  May we be found honoring and upholding her in the way that the Lord has commanded.        

By His Grace And For His Glory,
Pastor Sam