Seasons of Life

Over the past few weeks, we have experienced a couple of milestones in our home.  I finally reached the top of the hill and celebrated my 40th Birthday.  Our daughter, turned 11 exactly 4 days later and entered the world of middle school 2 days after that.  For both of us, these were milestones that became intimidating and stressful in one form or another.  For me, it was the realization of the possibility that I have lived more years than I might have left to live.  It was amazing how my reflection of many decisions, failures or accomplishments that I had made in my past came back to mind in a matter of 24 hours in turning 40.  With a new morning came a fresh reminder of the responsibilities that laid on my shoulders and how they didn’t just affect me but also others in my life.  Remembering the past 40 and looking ahead to the next 40 brought thoughts of good, bad, stress, worry and so on.  With those thoughts came somewhat of a challenge to myself to learn from my past and try to be a better steward of the remaining years that God allows me.  A good reminder to me is the wisdom provided to us in Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the Lord with all your Heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.”

For my daughter, the realization of growing another year older wasn’t so much about the age she was turning but what life would bring her way with a whole new schedule and set of responsibilities in Middle School.  She had completed elementary school and would be leaving her smaller K-5th grade school.  She was stepping into a larger 6th-12th grade school with a whole new day to day routine and set of responsibilities.  Her day would no longer consist of one or two classrooms but she would be in 8 or more.  She would have to learn how to juggle going from class to class, switching books at her locker, much more homework every night, many more test and quizzes and all the other new responsibilities that Middle School would bring.  Not to mention Latin!

As she was going to bed the other night and we were having one of our end of the day talks the stress and anxiety of all these new responsibilities weighed heavy on her to where she was in tears over trying to adjust to it all.  At that very moment, the thought occurred to me that we were in the same place but at different stages of our life.  The opportunity arose for me to share with her how life can be so tough as we try to manage things on our own.  The experiences that I have had in my life over the years and even now in my day to day was an opportunity to point my daughter to the One who is with us through all of it, every day, every second, and even the time in between.   We read in Psalm 121:3b “He who keeps you will not slumber.”  We talked about how it is our human nature to often try to handle things on our own both physically and mentally.  As we grow weary or become stressed or anxious we must remember that our Lord is there to carry us through it all.  In 1 Peter 5:7 we are reminded, “Casting all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you.”  We talked about the very fact that we grow tired, become anxious and need sleep is a reminder to us that we are human, and He is God our creator.  As we prayed together and my daughter went to bed that night I thanked the Lord for the stressful times in our lives that remind us of how we need Him every second of every day.  I thanked Him for the reminder of the things I have gone through in my past and will go through in the future can be used to teach our younger generation to trust in Him with all our heart.  To teach them not to always lean on their own understanding.  To teach them to acknowledge God their creator in all things and that He will order their steps.

Jason Hicks


Five Vows for Spiritual power

Some of you might be familiar with the books of Alliance pastor, A.W. Tozer.  One of his lesser known books is titled, Five Vows for Spiritual Power.  I came across this information a few years ago and shared it with our church then.  I have found it to be a helpful guide in prayer and thought today.

Five Vows to Make and Keep

by A. W. Tozer

Some people object to taking vows, but in the Bible you will find many great men of God directed by covenants, promises, vows, and pledges. The psalmist was not averse to the taking of vows. He said, “Thy vows are upon me, 0 God, I will render my praises unto thee” (Psalm 56:12).

My counsel in this matter is that if you are really concerned about spiritual improvement – the gaining of new power, new life, new joy, and new personal revival within your heart -you will do well to make certain vows and proceed to keep them. If you should fail, go down in humility and repent and start over. But always keep these vows before you. They will help harmonize your heart with the vast powers that flow out and down from the throne where Christ sits at the right hand of God.

A carnal man refuses the discipline of such commitments. He says, “I want to be free. I don’t want to lay any vows upon myself; I don’t believe in it; it is legalism.” Well, let me paint a picture of two men.

One of them will not take vows. He will not accept any responsibility. He wants to be free. And he is free – in a measure – just as a tramp is free. The tramp is free to sit on a park bench by day, sleep on a newspaper by night, get chased out of town on Thursday morning, and find his way up a set of creaky stairs in some flophouse on Thursday night. Such a man is free, but he is also useless. He clutters up the world whose air he breathes.

Let’s look at another man – maybe a president or prime minister or any great man who carries upon himself the weight of government. Such men are not free. But in the sacrifice of their freedom they step up their power. If they insist upon being free, they can be free, just like the tramp. But they choose rather to be bound.

There are many religious tramps in the world who will not be bound by anything. They have turned the grace of God into personal license. But the great souls are the ones who have gone reverently to God with the understanding that in their flesh dwells no good thing. And they knew that without God’s enablement any vows taken would be broken before sundown. Nevertheless, believing in God, reverently they took certain sacred vows. This is the way to spiritual power. There are five vows I have in mind which we do well to make and to keep.



Sin has been driven underground these days and has come up with a new name and face. You may be subjected to this phenomenon in the schools. Sin is being called by various fancy names – anything but what it really is. For example, men don’t get under conviction any more; they get a guilt complex.

Instead of confessing their guilt to God and getting rid of it, they sit on a couch and try and tell a man who ought to know better all about themselves. It comes out after a while that they were deeply disappointed when they were two years old or some such thing. That’s supposed to make them better.

The whole thing is ridiculous, because sin is still the ancient enemy of the soul. It has never changed. We’ve got to deal firmly with sin in our lives. Let’s remember that “the kingdom of God is not meat and drink, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost.” Righteousness lies at the door of the kingdom of God. The soul that sins, it shall die.

This is not to preach sinless perfection. This is to say that every known sin is to be named, identified, and repudiated and that we must trust God for deliverance from it so that there is no conscious, deliberate sin anywhere in our lives. It is absolutely necessary that we deal thus, because God is a holy God and sin is on the throne of the world.

So don’t call your sins by some other name. If you’re jealous, call it jealousy. If you tend to pity yourself and feel that you are not appreciated, call it what it is – self-pity.

And then there is your temper. Don’t call it indignation. Don’t try to christen it by some other name. Call it what it is. Because if you have a bad temper you will either get rid of it, or it will get rid of much of your spirituality and most of your joy. So let’s deal with sin thoroughly. Let’s be perfectly candid. God loves candid people.


I do not mean by this that you cannot have things. I mean that you ought to get delivered from the sense of possessing them. This sense of possessing is what hinders us. All babies are born with their fists clenched, and it seems to me it means, “This is mine!” One of the first things they say when they begin to speak, is “mine” in an angry voice. That sense of “This is mine” ‘is a very injurious thing to the spirit. If you can get rid of it so that you have no feeling of possessing anything, there will come a great sense of freedom and liberty into your life.

Now don’t think that you must sell all that you have and give it to charity. No. God will let you have your car and your business, your practice and your position, whatever it may be – provided you understand that it is not yours at all, but His, and all you are doing is just working for Him. You can be restful about it then, because we never need to worry about losing anything that belongs to someone else. If it is yours, you are always looking in your hand to see if it is still there. If it is God’s, you no longer need to worry about it.

Let me point out some things you’ll have to turn over to God. Property is one thing. Some of the dear Lord’s children are being held back because there is a ball and chain on their legs. If it is a man, it’s his big car and fine home. If it is a woman, it’s her china and her Louis XIV furniture and all the rest. Take that vase for instance. There it stands. And if anybody knocked it off and broke it, the poor owner would probably lose five years from her life! It is always necessary to remember that we are only stewards of that which is usually called a possession.


We are all born with a desire to defend ourselves. And if you insist upon defending yourself, God will let you do it. But if on turn the defense of yourself over to God, He will defend you. He told Moses in Exodus 23: “I will be an enemy unto thine enemies and an adversary to thine adversaries.”

What do we defend? Well, we defend our talents; we defend our service; and particularly, we defend our reputation. Your reputation is what people think you are, and if a story gets out about you, the big temptation is to try to run it down.

Henry Suso was a great Christian of other days. Once he was seeking what some Christians have told me they are seeking to know God better. Let’s put it like this: You are seeking to have a religious awakening within your spirit that will thrust you farther out into the deep things of God. Well, as Henry Suso was seeking God, people started telling evil stories about the man, and it grieved him so that he wept bitter tears and had great sorrow of heart.

Then one day he looked out the window and saw a dog playing on the lawn. The dog had a mat, and kept picking the mat up, tossing it over his shoulder, running and getting it, tossing it some more, picking it up and tossing it again. God said to Henry Suso, “That mat is your reputation, and I am letting the dogs of sin tear your reputation to shreds and toss it all over the lawn for your own good, but one of these days things will change.”

And this did change. it was not very long before the people who were tearing his reputation were confounded, and Suso rose into a place that made him a power in his day and a great blessing still to those who sing his hymns and read his works.


Never pass anything on – about anybody else that will hurt him. “Love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8). The talebearer has no place in God’s favor. If you know something that would hinder or hurt the reputation of one of God’s children, bury it forever. Find a little garden out back – a little spot somewhere – and when somebody comes around with an evil story, take it out and bury it and say, “Here lies in peace the story about my brother.” God will take care of it. “With what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged.”

If you want God to be good to you, you are going to have to be good to His children. You say, “But that’s not grace.” Well, grace gets you into the kingdom of God. That is unmerited favor. But after you are seated at the Father’s table, He expects to teach you table manners. And He won’t let you eat unless you obey the etiquette of the table. And what is that? The etiquette of the table is that you don’t tell stories about the brother who is sitting at the table with you – no matter what his denomination, or nationality, or background.


God is jealous of His glory and He will not give His glory to another. He will not even share His glory with another. It is quite natural, I should say, for people to hope that maybe their Christian service will give them a chance to display their talents. True, they want to serve the Lord. But they also want other people to know they are serving the Lord. They want to have a reputation among the saints. That is very dangerous ground – seeking a reputation among the saints. It’s bad enough to seek a reputation in the world, but it’s worse to seek a reputation among the people of God. Our Lord gave up His reputation, and so must we.

Meister Eckhart once preached a sermon on Christ cleansing the Temple. He said, “Now there was nothing wrong with those men selling and buying there. There was nothing wrong with exchanging money there; it had to be. The sin lay in their doing it for profit. They got a percentage on serving the Lord.” And then he made the application: “Anybody that serves for a commission, for what little bit of glory he can get out of it, is a merchant, and he ought to be cast out of the temple.”

I go along with this. If you are serving the Lord, and yet slyly -perhaps scarcely known to you – you are hoping to get just a little five percent commission, then look out! It will chill the power of God in your spirit. You must determine that you will never take any glory, but see that God gets it all.

Now, it is the easiest possible thing to give a message like this. The hard thing is to make it work in one’s own life. Remember that these five vows are not something you write in the back of your Bible and forget. They have got to be written in your own blood. They have to be made final, irrevocable, if it only comes off the surface, it is no good. Much of our consecration is just that way – it comes off the surface. Many of our promises come off the surface. No, no. Let it come out of the depths of your heart, the deep depths of your spirit.

These vows cut against the old human nature. They introduce the cross into your life, and nobody ever walks back from carrying his cross. When you make these vows, remember, they strike at the heart of your self-life and there is never a place to go back to. And I say, “Woe unto the triflers!”

In America – and maybe in other places too – SO many people are saying, “Try Jesus, try God!” Triflers, experimenters, tasters they are. Like a rabbit with a half dozen holes so if one is stopped up lie can flee to another! No! From the cross there is no place to flee. You don’t “try” Jesus. He is not there to be experimented with. Christ is not on trial. You are. I am. He is not! God raised Him from the dead and forever confirmed His deity and scaled Him and set Him at His own right hand as Lord and Christ. Turn everything over to Him, and you’ll find your life begin to lift. You’ll blossom in a wonderful way.

Now, if you happen to be one of those on whom God has laid His hand for a deeper life, a more powerful life, a fuller life -then I wonder if you would be willing to pray this kind of prayer: -0 God, glorify Thyself at my expense. Send me the bill – anything, Lord. I set no price. I will not dicker or bargain. Glorify Thyself. I’ll take the consequences.

This kind of praying is simple, but it’s deep and wonderful and powerful. I believe that if you can pray a prayer like that, it will be the ramp from which you can take off into higher heights and bluer skies in the things of the Spirit.

Jarrod Scott

Have A Coke … And Then What?

Two unmistakable giants in our culture are Coca-Cola and Ford.  But giants do not become giants without making gigantically important decisions along the way.  For The Coca-Cola Company, one of theirs came in 1985, April 23rd to be exact.  On that Tuesday, Coca Cola announced that it was changing the formula for its Coke soft drink, intent on re-energizing its brand that had seen its dominance in the soft drink industry continually slip over the past 15 years.

However, the public outcry that ensued over “new Cokemanaged to convince the Coca Cola executives to bring back the original version, and July 11th ended undoubtedly the longest 79 days in the company’s history.  Even positive taste test results from nearly 200,000 consumers couldn’t prevent, and certainly didn’t predict, the fallout that followed.  Ninety-nine years of familiarity with and enjoyment of the original taste ran much deeper than the prevailing taste buds of a sample set, and 1,500 calls a day to the consumer hotline at Coca Cola Company supported that fact.

And so, Chairman and CEO Robert Goizueta, the man who received a letter of complaint addressed to “Chief Dodo, The Coca Cola Company,” brought back Cokeâ as the newly named, “Coca Cola Classic.”  And much to the satisfaction of so many who had been hoarding and rationing their favorite drink, the original flavor was back, and normalcy and sanity had returned to the soft drink industry.

Henry Ford used to get casual credit by the uninformed for inventing the automobile, primarily because of the number of cars his company made.  But Ford’s part in the demise of the horse-drawn carriage was the mass production of vehicles by use of the moving assembly line.  In his factories, production was unheard of because of the efficiencies he was able to incorporate.  But the reason for his immeasurable success also became the cause for his greatest concern.

The year before he installed the assembly line, he doubled his work force and doubled his productivity.  The following year, production nearly doubled again, but he did not increase the number of laborers.  What had happened, though, was that the workers had become increasingly intolerant of the repetitive, demanding work, causing the turnover rate for employees to skyrocket, reaching levels as high as 370% annually.

So in a drastic attempt to retain his workforce, Ford took the advice of his trusted VP James Couzens and reduced the work day from nine hours to eight, added a third shift to open up new jobs, and more than doubled the pay rate to $5 a day.  Within a year, the results were staggering.  The turnover rate dropped to 16% while productivity jumped another 40%.  And before the decade had ended, car prices had been cut in half.  Ford was well on his way to filling the land with Model T’s and earning his first of several billion dollars.

Decision-making is not always easy, and certainly not always simple.  But when you are basing your decision on what can be trusted, there is peace amidst the uncertainty.  One man said it’s not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are.  And though I believe the decision can still be difficult, the strength to act does come from the foundation on which the actions are based.  Another once warned to not make permanent decisions on temporary feelings.  That is why verses like Proverbs 3:5-6 are so powerful.  They call us to trust in God completely, and that admonition comes on the heels of verses that urge us to immerse ourselves in the truth of God’s commands.  When decisions are hard, when the answer is unpopular, courage and resolve comes from God and His Word on which we rely.  If that source is of our own making, if your god has a lower case “g,” then trouble awaits.  But when the Rock is our fortress, no storms shall prevail.

Rich Holt

The Sin of the Self-Made Man

In the garden of Eden, the first temptation dealt with mankind’s desire to define good apart from God.  Our society continues to strive with God as we define what is good.  For the believer in Christ, who has surrendered the right to define good, our struggle is to do good apart from God.  To do right and to love others yet doing it in our own strength fails to be worship.  If we are disregarding God’s strength and simultaneously overestimate our capabilities to love a neighbor, we have failed to love God (the first chief commandment).  We seem to have an undying false confidence in our abilities to live life as though there is no sin to handicap our efforts.

There is one undeniable indicator to reveal this self-reliant attitude, our spirit of prayer.  This was Jesus’ warning to Peter on the night that he would be betrayed by Peter.  Peter seemed to have the loyal disposition and every experiential evidence and relationship to be loyal to his friend, Jesus.  It was not enough.  Jesus’ solution in warning to Peter was “to watch and pray.”   Earlier in that same evening, Jesus had taught his disciples that “apart from me (Jesus) you can do nothing (John 15:5). The idea is not just the routine or habit of prayer, but the disposition of our prayer.   I have a friend of mine who stresses to us that we need to be a “people of desperate prayer.”  That phrase gets to the heart of the spirit of prayer that God is seeking for His glory.

Our church has needed for a number of years, God’s life-giving work, which may come as the result of desperate prayer.  God’s prerogative to revitalize a church belongs only to Him, but whether He acts or not, we glorify God by our desperate prayer.  This past Sunday I asked us to commit with 2 or 3 others to join in 40 days of prayer.  There is a good 40-day prayer guide that you can print out and download here.

Jarrod Scott

The Significance of Love

The version of Scripture I usually use is the ESV and 1 Corinthians 13:1-13 has the heading in that version (which is not inspired), entitled “The Way of Love”. The intent of the translators in adding headings is to summarize the content of the next group of verses. It is my humble opinion that, in this case, they have sadly missed the mark. In these thirteen verses, the Bible is not merely describing a method, plan or “Way” for attaining the goal of Love. God is trying to express the importance, consequence, or “Significance” of Love.

Referred to by many as “the Love chapter”, Scripture begins by emphasizing the importance of love, from the negative….

1 Corinthians 13:1-3 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Without love as the basis for our speech (“tongues of men”) or even if we could speak as angels do, we would sound loud (“noisy gong”) and harsh (“clanging cymbal”) without love. Further, being able to proclaim and understand the deep truths of God’s word (1 Cor. 2:10, John 16:13), and to have wisdom and knowledge (James 1:5) means little without love. Set between chapter 12 and chapter 14 of 1 Corinthians, God is trying to impress on the reader that these spiritual gifts have little value if they are not applied through love. Even supreme “faith” (Matt. 17:20) or self-sacrifice, “gains nothing” in the absence of love.

So, if love is so important, so fundamental to our relationship with others, how does God define the concept of Love?

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (ESV) Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Largely self-explanatory, these verses provide a scriptural commentary on how God views love in action as it relates to relationships between people. We are to be patient (Rom. 12:12), kind and forgiving (Eph. 4:32), not envious (Gal. 5:26), arrogant (Prov. 21:24), rude (Tit. 3:2), irritable (Jam. 12:20) and resentful (Col. 3:8). Love does not accept or condone someone doing something which is wrong (“does not rejoice at wrongdoing”). Truth is important, but we live in a gray world where pure, sinless truth is rare. So, Paul reminds us that to love means we need to always have faith and hope while we “bear all things” (Matt. 18:21-22) and “endure all things” (Jam. 1:2-4).

How long should Love last?

1 Corinthians 13:8-10 (ESV) Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.

A book entitled 10 Presents from the King, presents 10 things that God has given us while we are on this earth that will not be available to us on the other side of the grave. They include the need for spiritual discernment (“prophecies” and “knowledge”), and the insight from others (“tongues”) and faith. The reality is that we live in a sinful world which is full of shades of gray, needing the Holy Sprit’s insight to navigate. At best we, as sinful humans, blessed by the Holy Spirit’s activity in our lives, can only know “in part”. However, “when the perfect comes”, when we cross over from death to eternal life, all these “partial” things will “pass away”. However, there is one constant, one gift or blessing, one trait or action that will pass with us into Heaven, and that is love. Love existed in eternity past, is the basis for our existence today, and will cross over the grave into our future eternity as Christians.

Love is a process.

1 Corinthians 13:11-12 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

There needs to be a recognition that Love is not a Spiritual Gift offered to a Christian by God at the point of salvation. It is something that needs to be cultivated, reinforced, and trained. It is a commandment (John 13:34-35). As we mature as Christians (from child to a man), love should become more and more a part of our lives and our actions. It is often difficult to see what our love for God and our worship of the Trinity will ultimately look like, as we view what the Lord calls us to be while looking through “a mirror dimly”. However, when we get to heaven we will, both literally and figuratively, see how we should have acted while preparing for our destiny with Him. This reality is why we will need God to “wipe away every tear from our eyes (Rev. 7:17).

Against all other spiritual markers, how important is Love?

1 Corinthians 13:13 (ESV) So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Finally, the ESV was on target when it used the heading, “The Greatest Commandment”, in Matthew 22:36 and following, which reads,

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

The best way we can move forward as the body of Christ called Green Pines is to follow  Colossians 3:14, “And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.”

Jeff Hilles