Puerto Rico

Jeremiah 33:2-6unnamed “Thus says the Lord who made the earth, the LORD who formed it to establish it, the Lord is His name,  Call to Me and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things, which you do not know. For thus says the LORD God of Israel concerning the houses of this city, and concerning the houses of the kings of Judah which are broken down . . . Behold, I will bring to it health and healing, and I will heal them, and I will reveal to them an abundance of peace and truth.”

This morning I was reading this verse as part of our F260 Bible reading plan and thinking about my recent Puerto Rico trip.  The picture above is the home that an 89-year-old man put together from the remains of his home destroyed by hurricane Maria eleven months ago.  It is a home that one of the World Changers teams will be rebuilding in the next two weeks. It is just one home of many blue-tarped homes through the island that is lacking power and an adequate shelter.  The island still is struggling with power and numerous schools are closing because thousands are people leaving the territory.  This community feels neglected by the U. S. government to whom the island belongs as a territory.  There is a feeling of isolation and abandonment and impending fear as the hurricane season cranks up again.

These same feelings were being felt by the people of Judah as they were exiles in Babylon.  God gave the above passage to let the people know they were not forgotten or forsaken, but the broken state would be temporary.  Restoration would occur and the end result would be better than the original state, not just despite, but because of the current brokenness.  As Puerto Rico reminded me, we are still in a very broken world, but God still has His promises of redemption.  In fact, until the Lord returns, those with Christ in their lives, are to be vessels of His redemption.  In Puerto Rico, I didn’t see much activity of FEMA but I did see God’s people at work.  What is broken around you? Pray for God to lead us in ways to show and bring restoration.  Don’t be surprised when the path of restoration comes at a sacrifice to you, that is the way of Christ, it is the way of the cross.  Do you feel abandoned and forgotten?  You are not! Wait on the Lord who died and rose again for you.

Jarrod Scott

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When God Judges

As I have been reading the F260 material from the Old Testament, it has struck me that much of Scripture speaks of God’s favorable/unfavorable view of Israel, or the Jewish people, as a nation. The lives of individuals such as the prophets and important characters like Ruth, David, Samson, etc. are detailed. However, when God speaks of favor for those who follow and punishment for those who don’t, it is very often outlined in broad terms. In the past I have reflected on the inequity of these broad brush strokes of God, deciding in my own shallow and sin-stained mind that “surely the remnant of faithful followers received better treatment” , or in times of repentance, “those who continued to turn away from God must have been held accountable for their individual actions”.

This morning I was reading the last two chapters of Malachi (the last book in the Old Testament, before 400 years of silence from God). Chapter 3 begins and ends as follows:

“”Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts…….. “Then those who feared the Lord spoke with one another. The Lord paid attention and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who feared the Lord and esteemed his name. “They shall be mine, says the Lord of hosts, in the day when I make up my treasured possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him. Then once more you shall see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him.”

Generalizations are often full of exceptions, and what I am about to suggest is no different. But it seems to me that part of God’s story for humankind begins with individuals (Adam & Eve), transitions to a chosen people (Israel – OT), and then ends (will end) with a one-on-one judgement (Great White Throne / Bema Seat). Two things in all this stand out to me.

First, what happened to individual Jews in the Old Testament, or what may happen to each of us today, may seem fair or unfair, depending on our faith and trust in God (Prov. 3:5). Cancer or starvation vs. perfect health or fortune would seem to us as very different life experiences. However, what we so easily pass up  is that peace and joy come from a relationship (with Christ), not from physical conditions. The more we (and the Israelites) can (could) accept what God offers recognizing it will ultimately be in our best interest, (Matt. 6:26)  the better we will be.

Second, if the Prosperity Gospel is truly false (which it is) and yet God is the perfect judge (which He is) then this short earthly life is almost exclusively about His will, and not the place where the scales of right and wrong, sin and Christian sacrifice are weighted and apportioned (Rom. 9:14-18). If the saved (redeemed and forgiven) and the lost (sinners in the hands of an angry God) can be rich or poor, sick or healthy in this life, then it should only make eternity more compelling for some and more terrifying for the rest.  Each of us needs to reflect on the question of all questions…. Is our name written in the Lambs Book of Life?

Jeff Hilles

Friend of Sinners

I want to take some space to follow up with some lacking information from Sunday’s sermon. We live in a world of people that are different in values and lifestyles.  There will be many who will vehemently disagree with a life surrendered to Christ and His ways.  Yet, Jesus was known as a friend of sinners and those who follow Jesus should be also known in the same way.

Some may object, and implore the authority of scripture for reasons to separate from unrepentant sinners.  There are some grounds for that in a believer’s life but maybe not as much as one might think.  Often 1 Corinthians 5 is utilized to provide such an argument which states, “I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people—not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”

However, I would observe that this text is uniquely addressing professing Christians that are repeatedly falling to a specific temptation and/or no longer calling the sin wrong.  The instruction to disassociate with “sexually immoral people”  is explicitly directed to professing believers and not to those in the world.  So there is an implication that we are to be involved in the lives of those in the world.  Indeed, seek to love them and befriend them in the context of being an active and interdependent part of the local body of Christ.  We are not to be the ones that make recipients of our love “jump hoops’ before we can love people.  We do not have to approve everything that others do.  Who can do that anyway?  Jesus is the only one we can wholly approve.  There are many times I do not approve of myself specifically because I love myself and expect more.  However, we can love and respect people while not at the same time approve all of their decisions.  This means that as we examine the multiple interactions with those outside we can lean more toward “yes” to invitations and responses.  We will pray for wisdom to examine when our activities with friends may become an approval of their actions.  Many times those implied approvals can be negated with a frank and loving conversation about our lifestyles convictions.  At the same time, understand that anyone who follows Jesus’ commands on sexual expression will be increasingly bizarre in a society that wants the freedom of sexual expression to rank as high as freedom of speech, and religion.   This takes us to the essential command to allow Jesus to cross our will as we trust and love Christ and His work.

While Jesus had many friends who were sinners there were only a few that He entrusted himself to “because he knew what was in their hearts.”  This is evidenced in John 2:24 where Jesus differentiates levels of friendship yet He loved them all.  This “entrusting” idea is a very conscious decision of the level of influence we give to someone to shape our thinking and identity. Jesus looked to the Father for his identity and sought the Father’s voice in the words of others around him.    We don’t have the benefit of the knowledge of heart Jesus possessed, though words and actions can reveal much of our heart.  The principle of degrees of friendship is a wise principle.  These friendship degrees will be separated by our level of entrusting ourselves to a friendship and thereby determining the level of influence.

A helpful resource to help you think through your relationship and friendship can be found in Brad Hambrick’s book.Do Ask, Do Tell, Let’s Talk: Why and How Christians Should Have Gay Friends

Jarrod Scott.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mothers

Sunday was Mother’s Day.  Outside of Easter, Christmas, and Thanksgiving, I’m not sure there is a more deserving focus of recognition than mothers.  To be sure, Father’s Day has its place, as God has given fathers their unique calling and place in the structure and design of the home and society.  And as significant and historic as was the accomplishment of our nation attaining its independence, I would still place Mother’s Day ahead of July 4th.  And though setting aside a day of the year to remember and honor our servicemen who have died for our country is hardly thanks enough for their sacrifice, Memorial Day also takes a back seat to Mother’s Day.  Certainly holidays such as New Year’s Day, Valentine’s Day, President’s Day, and Labor Day pale in comparison to the day chosen to honor our mothers.

One of the things that makes mothers, and by extension Mother’s Day, so special is that they are worthy of honor simply for who they are, and not because they have done anything extraordinary.  But do not misunderstand, what I might refer to as less than extraordinary would be for the males of our race literally inconceivable.  But beyond the ability to conceive and carry a child (or more), the splendor of a mom is revealed in the thousand little things that make them who they are, things that come out as naturally as you and I breathe, things which would be extraordinary for a mere human.

For moms are superhuman, aren’t they?  At least, I hope you see yours as so.  I certainly view mine that way.  God blessed me with a mom who grew in faith in the Lord only after I had become an adult.  And whereas Christ was far from a priority for her as she raised us, in her later years, He became central to her thoughts and behavior.  But all the while, through an unhappy marriage and jobs that demanded so much of her time and energy, her love for me never wavered, and her vigor seemed to never deplete, even to the day before she went to heaven.  Ultimately, God took her body and soul simultaneously, and for that I am extremely grateful.

And now, my kids have the same kind of mother.  She works circles around all seven of us, and her heart is tender to the slightest offense in them.  She loves and serves her husband, and has God’s glory as the desire of her heart.  Her faults are just like yours and mine, small and momentous, occasional yet recurrent.  And they remind her of her need for a Savior who loves without condition.  Yes, as Proverbs 31:10 says, she is a virtuous wife worth far more than rubies.

Your mom deserves a day.  She probably deserves a month, maybe even her own planet.  For God could have started and grown families in a million other ways, but He chose to give each of us a mother.  And for that, I say thank you.  Mothers, I hope your day was special.

Rich Holt

Full Joy

Who is the most joyful person you know?  Have you wondered why they are so joyful or why you are not as joyful as they?  You might have contributed it to some personality quirk or maybe they just don’t care as much as you do and thus not burdened by life.  Maybe this joy-filled individual just needs some more responsibilities in their life?

However, I believe that the Bible presents the most joyous being as God Himself, who is the creator and sustainer of all things.  You could respond that we would have joy too if we had all power and wisdom.  Did you know that God desires you to experience His very own joy?  We can walk our life with all of its cares, burdens, and responsibilities and do so with God’s very own joy in our heart.  Consider what Jesus had to say in John 15:10-11,

If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in HIs love.  These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.

The secret to experiencing the very joy of Jesus and that at its fullness is to remain under the authority of Jesus.  Whenever we choose to disobey Jesus, we may get what we want, but we will lose what we most desperately need.  This day we may get fleeting happiness or we may experience enduring joy.  May we think clearly when it comes to the attitudes and decisions of our heart today.  A suggestion that I have recently have received is to find those people who can be your “Joy mentors.”  As a joy seeker, I could use a guide from someone who has walked similar paths and did so with joy.  Joy in living gives great glory to God as we worship and live for Him.  Consider a spouse who grudgingly is faithful or joyfully commits, which options speak of greater love to the spouse?  So too, don’t settle for just duty to God but seek the delight of the Lord in our living.  May the joy of the Lord be your strength today.

 

Jarrod Scott

Cherishing Gods Gifts

This week marks a significant date in my life as I am blessed to celebrate 26 years of Marriage to the Love of my earthly life Lisa.  The moment I saw her walk into our office on Glenwood over 28 years ago I was taken by her beauty and I haven’t been the same since…..And if you knew me 28 years ago you’d certainly say that is a good thing!  Now of course at that time I thought things were going just fine in my life but Thank God He knew exactly what I really needed in my life, so in walked the blessing of Lisa Armbrister.   In Genesis 2:18 Gods word says: “Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone, I will make him a helper fit for him.”
Isn’t it amazing that God knew exactly what we men would need to help us understand the love He has for us and aren’t you glad it was woman, bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh?  And to top it off, He made them more beautiful, more caring, more loving, and more of all of the things that we would need to get a true picture of His love for us.  Our marriages and the love and loyalty of our wives is a beautiful shadow of God’s love for us and we should be on our knees daily thanking Him for this great blessing.
Next to the saving grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ it’s the absolute best gift I could ever receive. So on this day and every day that I am blessed with life, I’ll thank God for His love and for the love of my wonderful wife Lisa, who fills my heart and life with a joy that I could  have never dreamed of and certainly never deserved.
Make sure you Thank God for your Wife today and then make sure she knows how blessed you are to have her in your life.
Happy 26th my love, thank you for loving God so much that I get the beautiful overflow of love in your heart.
Chris Best

Sabbath freedoms and the 4th Commandment..

The person who lead me into a personal relationship with Christ was an accountant. It took over two years of questions and challenges and… well all that is another story and anyway, God was in control of all that. The point is that we became close friends as he continued to disciple Judy and I (Judy’s salvation is another story of God’s grace) weekly for a number of years. As I absorbed his biblical Christian worldview one of the more interesting aspects of his “theology” had to do with the 4th Commandment,
(Exo. 20:8-10).  His Sunday’s were very different from the rest of the week. He would do no “work” whatsoever. No cutting the lawn or paying bills or hobbies or anything. He was a sports fanatic and yet, no TV on Sunday. He would go to church and spend the rest of the day reading his Bible, memorizing Scripture and praying, with the occasional nap and pleasure reading mixed in. That was almost twenty five years ago.

Over the past two weeks, through an unfortunate set of circumstances, I have had the unusual experience of spending a great deal of time alone, working on a huge project, physically isolated from human contact, other than by phone.  One of the benefits is that it has allowed me to be reflective in a number of different areas, not the least of which, my walk with the Lord.  When the first Sunday rolled around I decided to follow my old mentor’s example and “do no work”. I spent the day reading F260 (getting caught up), deeply researching and cross referencing the passages, praying, and… napping a bit. Secretly, my shallow expectation was that God would honor my commitment and redeem the time the following “workday”.  However, Monday was a disaster as far as making any progress on my big project.. As I sit writing this blog, today is the second Sunday and I spent the morning digging into Scripture and researching online the opinion of Christian theologian I respect related to the Sabbath and how as New Testament Christians we should behave on Sunday.  At the bottom of this blog is a list of some of my references.

I was reminded over and over again that we live under the sacrificial actions of Christ and the grace of God and not under the sacrificial system of the Law. Jesus came to fulfill the law (Matt 5:17-20) that the Israelites operated under as a shadow of the ultimate redemption in and through Christ. This does not mean that the 10  Commandments should not be followed. However, we are no longer under a Jewish law that would put us to death for working on the Sabbath (Exo. 35:2). For example, the following verse precludes us from even picking up sticks to light a fire in order to get warm on the Sabbath (which, by the way was Saturday, not Sunday…. again another rabbit trail).  Remember, Jesus challenged the religious rulers in Matt. 12:11 regarding Sabbath behavior using the illustration of pulling a sheep out of a well if the need arises. It comes down to the importance of doing “good” on the Sabbath, as defined by God, not man.

If our Sunday’s are no different than our secular Saturday’s, are we living in grace or taking advantage of it? God did not need to rest on the seventh day of creation. God does not get tired. He rested on the seventh day to set an example for His children that we need to have periods of rest and spiritual renewal. It can, and really should be a part of every day, a time of prayer and devotion. Like sleep, we can miss a few hours here and there but if we don’t catch up (refilling our leaky spiritual buckets) we are a mess, open to our own sin nature and Satan’s advances.

The bottom line is that legalism is a tricky concept. Like last Sunday for me, one can do all the” right” things for all the wrong reasons. For some, like my old accountant, trying to strictly follow the 4th Commandment is perhaps the right thing. For most, a more of balanced approach is in order. Today, I tried to strike more of a balance, spending a few hours working on my never ending project and the rest reflecting on the Lord through prayer and reading and writing. Tomorrow I’ll see if God honors that…. Just kidding J

Jeff Hilles

Internet References…

 

  1. Is Working on Sunday a Sin? https://www.gotquestions.org/working-on-Sunday.html
  2. Scripture verses about working on the Sabbath –  https://www.openbible.info/topics/working_on_the_sabbath
  3. Baptist Faith And Message – The Lord’s Day, Article 8 – http://www.baptist2baptist.net/b2barticle.asp?ID=251
  4. What does God’s Word say about Christians keeping the Sabbath. – https://www.backtothebible.org/what-does-god-s-word-say-about-the-christian-keeping-the-sabbath
  5. Piper- What does it mean practically to keep the Sabbath holy? – https://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/what-does-it-mean-practically-to-keep-the-sabbath-holy
  6. What does it mean to remember the Sabbath and keep it holy?- https://www.gotquestions.org/remember-the-Sabbath-day.html

Is Aunt Sally an Angel? (Or a demon?)

If you have been around many funerals, you might have heard a well-meaning comforter tell a grieving family member “God needed another angel so He took ____________________.”  Or as recently heard after Billy Graham’s death, “Heaven is brighter now.” At the same time, I have never heard anyone say “Satan needed a demon so he took ______________” for I suppose it would bring little comfort.  We may view preceding deaths as how comics portray deceased loved ones as current angels.  The frequency of this perspective may convince you that this might probably happen. However, just because the view may be common does not mean it is supported by the Bible.

  1. God is wholly sufficient in His capability and love and does not need anyone.  To state that God needs someone is to imply that He is inadequate.  Please do not try to comfort someone by diminishing God and His character.  In the end, making light of God will not be a comfort to anyone.  The unique characteristic of a triune God is that He is perfect in His love among Himself. Therefore, His creation was a function of His desire for self-expression as opposed to a need for an object of love. God reveals Himself as the “I am” meaning that He is whole sufficient within Himself and without limitation other than His own character.  While Satan is not perfect and is lacking, still there is no indication from the Bible that Satan takes someone to make them a demon.
  2. The Bible already states that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. The presence of our loved ones with God does not enhance God, but they are the ones enhanced by God presence.  As amazing as Moses was as a leader, his face shown because he was in God’s presence and not vice versa.  We must see God as the source of blessings even when they come through human personalities.  People are a blessing to us due to God’s working in and through them.  When I grieve them, I am also grieving the loss of God’s unique working through them for my benefit.  Heaven is a place where those comforts are restored because I am perfectly restored to God’s presence.
  3. Angels and fallen angels are beings, different from humans, but also created by God through Christ (Psalm 148:2,5; Colossians 1:16) As such, the Bible gives no support to idea that deceased loved ones change into angels, but they do get transformed into bodies fitted for Heaven (1 Corinthians 15:50-54).    In fact, this role of redeemed and transformed humans is a role that even the Angels long to look into (1 Peter 1:12).
  4. Deceased loved ones will be judged by God according to Hebrews 9:27. As in the case of the thief on the cross, Jesus assured him an immediate presence with Christ in God’s Kingdom.  This expectation is also reinforced by Paul as he stated that to be “absent from the body is to be present with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8).  The Bible seems to indicate a final judgment where we will be judged by either the book of works or the book of life.  Those being judged by the books of works will all be found lacking and all grounds for justification will be insufficient (Revelation 20).  The other option is to be judged by having our name written in the book of life (Rev. 20) which means that we are in Christ and Jesus has endured the penalty of our sin and we have received His right stand with God.  For such as those, God does not put into the role of angels, but as judges over angels (1 Corinthians 6:3).

Jarrod Scott

The Cycle of Life

Last fall, our family got four baby chicks.  We had been planning for some time to raise our own hens and collect the eggs, and so when my son finished building the coop and run, we went and bought four one-day old Speckled Sussex chicks.  Now, some twenty or so weeks later, the eggs are beginning to arrive.  We’re not exactly sure which ones or how many are laying as of yet, as we are getting only one or two eggs each day.  Since the cycle to produce an egg is slightly more than 24 hours, we should be getting almost 4 eggs each day once they each are laying.  And we fully expect that time to arrive shortly.  The cycle of egg-laying is not something that the chickens really have much control over.  Every day or thereabouts, they will find themselves remaining on the nesting area until an egg is laid.  They truly have very little choice in the matter, which made me think about this business of cycles and how they can take on a life of their own.

Reading through the book of Judges as we are in our church-wide Bible reading plan, the cycle is repeated numerous times over multiple generations of God’s judge leading the people, times going well, the people forget about God, times get tough, the people cry out to God, and another judge returns God’s favor to them.  It reads almost as if it were a precursor to the movie Groundhog Day, where a character relives the same day over and over with only himself in the know.

In nature, water comes from the clouds, evaporates from the earth, condensates in the sky, and returns back to the ground without the help of anyone or anything.  The tides, the seasons, the phases of the moon, the ovulation of a woman, the waking and sleeping of day following day, it’s all going to continue regardless of our part.  Our input couldn’t matter any less.

But let that not be the case where you and your faith are concerned.  You may have grown up in a cycle that tends towards goodness and positivity, with the pleasant qualities of life as its companion.  But little from the past is guaranteed in the future.  So make it a priority, part of your daily cycle, to abide in the God who exists outside of time and cycles.  Talk and listen to the One who is daily renewing what never gets old.  Do not take for granted the grace and mercy of our Divine Father.

But if you or someone you know is part of a cycle that is not overflowing with what seems so abundant in others, taking blessings for granted is the last thing you have to worry about.  It may be all you can do to block out the feelings of sorrow and thoughts of despair.  To dare to hope for something better seems a risk unimaginable.  Then how do you escape the cycle that may be all you’ve known for too long?  How could the Israelites cry out in year 400 when nothing but silence was heard for 399 years?

Until Jesus, the cycle had been birth, life, and then death.  But then, resurrection came.  And with it came the reality of a new life, a new cycle.  That may seem like just words on a page to someone who feels like they’re caught in a trap.  But if you’ll stake your life on them, if you’ll believe they can break your cycle and start you anew, then the love that God showed by raising His Son from the dead will be yours for the asking.  And what seemed unimaginable can become quite believable.

Rich Holt

Words Matter

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The last couple of weeks we have been studying the use of words especially focusing on James 3.  Just in case you may have missed that particular week, I showed how James 3 teaches us that:

1. Words Matter

2. Words matter for they reveal our heart

3. Words matter for they can form our/other’s hearts

4. Words said to/from God can heal our words to others

To prove a point, Sonship international ministry provides these instructions of speech to show how much of our thoughts and words reveal a continual struggle for approval.  We continual believe that we are in a courtroom to demonstrate our worth to ourselves, others, and God.

  1. Do not complain or grumble.
  2. Do not boast about anything at all.
  3. Do not gossip or repeat bad information about somebody else.
  4. Do not run somebody down, even a little bit.
  5. Do not defend or excuse yourself, no matter what.
  6. Do always affirm other people.

Yet. according to the gospel we are already approved by the work of Jesus on the cross on our behalf.  As approved by God, the only lasting authority, I no longer need to push myself before lesser authorities.  Yet our words may reveal that our heart doesn’t believe this declaration.

Consider these instructions in light of social media.  If you applied the instructions listed above to your social media postings and remarks, how many of your postings would be eliminated?  Social media’s effect is to amplify our heart revelations as well as intensify the effect on other people’s hearts.  The media can be a powerful tool for good if we learn to talk and hear from God before posting and remarking. Note in the verse below that the object of judgment is not just our speech, but our words whether written or spoken.

Matthew 12:36 I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, 37 for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

Jarrod Scott