We are back from Cuba! Yes, our Work and Witness Team returned on Monday night with our hearts full. We will be looking for a time to share the things we saw and the impact that it had on our lives in the weeks to come.
I remember eating at a restaurant for several meals. We ate there so many times at the end of our day that we started to personally get to know the waitresses. I figured out that they had one menu translated to English. The problem was that it was an old menu. I noticed that some of the new items were not mentioned on the old menu. That got my mind wondering what it would be like if you were given a menu based on your maturity level. Yours contained a list of nothing but baby food! – stewed prunes, creamy carrots, mashed peas. If you were told that you don’t appear capable of handling anything more solid, you would certainly feel insulted, wouldn’t you? Christians are expected to mature in their faith and not remain infants indefinitely. I believe that the Hebrew writer was talking about transformation and not just information.
The Hebrew writer was talking about what you do with the Word of God and the faith we have in God. If it stops with information, then you will not live in the transformation and change the Spirit of God wants to make on your life and the impact on those around you. We need to get to a point of making, “Word-driven decisions rather than circumstance-driven decisions.” Read Hebrews 5:11-6:3.
If you are old enough, you will remember the song by Amy Grant entitled, “Fat Baby.” I remember girls singing that for our district talent contest. I heard the song way too many times.
Author Andrew Murray, in the book, “The Holiest of All,” wrote, “In commerce, in study, in war, it is so often said: there is no safety but in advance. To stand still is to go back. To cease effort is to lose ground. To slacken the pace, before the goal is reached, is to lose the race. The only sure mark of our being true Christians, of our really loving Christ, is the deep longing and the steady effort to know more of Him, Tens of thousands have proved that to be content with beginning well is but the first step on a backward course, that ends in losing all.”
Revival is needed whenever disciples of Jesus are no longer moving ahead in their walk with the Lord. Spiritual awakening is needed when you have remained at a certain spiritual plateau for too long. Let’s continue to remember to approach the Word of God for the purpose of transformation and refining of our hearts toward God.
I enjoyed worshipping with our Cuban brothers and sisters in Christ, but I will be glad to be in worship with the people of God I have grown to love here in our church. May God be glorified in all that we glean from the Word of God and have many opportunities to put into practice this week.
Joy in Jesus!
In Colossians, Paul is giving instruction to the church to set your heart and mind on things above instead of on earthly things. It is when my mind dwells on earthly things for a period of time that I know that my life is getting a little out of balance. It may not be recognized at first, but if I continue down that path I feel it down the road. Then it takes a little longer to get back on course when I have drifted for a while.
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. - Colossians 3:1-4
In order to put your heart and mind on things above, you will need to put to death the things of this world. Paul goes on to say,
5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. 7 You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. 8 But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. 9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. - Colossians 3:5-10
Have you ever put together a “To Do” list? Many people live by them. It helps to organize yourself for success if you keep up with it. How about putting together a “To Be” list?
When you think about it, “being” is much deeper than “doing.” “Being” relates to character, who we are, and how we make a life. “Doing” is tied closely with activity, accomplishments, and tangible things. “Being” has to do with intangible things, the kind of people we become deep down inside that cannot be measured by impressive awards. “Being” will ultimately outdistance “doing” every time.
Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with, “Doing.” I prefer to work on the “Being” part that will impact my “Doing.” Read on in Colossians 4 and see if you can spot the encouragement to “Be.” Be watchful and thankful, be wise, let your conversations be full of grace and seasoned with salt. It’s all good.
This Sunday we will continue to look at the Church as we look at what the Body of Christ should be like instead of just do.
May God give you many opportunities to “Be” all that Christ has filled you to be.
Joy in Jesus!
A familiar verse that many quote is found in Romans 12:2 that says, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.” It is a great verse to memorize and live by. The enemy will never let up getting us to transform to the worlds pattern.
The letter continues and quickly goes into how important the Body of Christ ought be to each one of us. When we make church what we each want it to be by treating it like a buffet is slipping into the patter of this world. The church is not a building it is people. You have probably heard that many times. Why is it that we treat it like a building? Look at the next few verses.
“For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” Romans 12:3-5
The book of Acts talks about the first church but there are many letters or books written to churches found in the New Testament. Starting this Sunday I want to begin a series on how important Jesus wanted his church to be for each one of us. We are all an important part of the body. I pray that as we participate in the series, “I Love My Church,” that we will be overwhelmed at the blessed privilege we have to be a part of the church.
I do love my Church. I am excited to come through the Scripture and see how God intended Church to function as we see the glory of God fall fresh on us.
Invite someone to come with you and let’s see God do so much more than we could ever imagine.
Joy in Jesus!
I looked for someone among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found no one. - Ezekiel 22:30
This verse reminds me of the Promise Keepers movement around 1997. It was supposed to be the largest gathering of Christian men in United States history. It was designed to help men seek forgiveness for their shortcomings as husbands, fathers, and churchmen. There was a strong emphasis on eradicating racism and sectarianism throughout the church. When the founder of Promise Keepers, Bill McCartney, presented this challenge, men stood to their feet in applause and agreement. If you were in the crowd you would have seen the Lord answering the cries of our hearts for God to bring conviction and repentance.
The seven promises of Promise Keepers, when changed to impact both men and women, would go something like this:
With God’s help I promise to…
I feel the men of our church who are going through the Conquer Series are creating a Promise Keeper Statement and trusting the Lord to help us to be men full of integrity. To be the men, husbands, fathers, and churchmen God is calling us to be.
When God looked for a man in Jerusalem to “stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land,” he found none. Thankfully, this is not the case as we continue to have men go through the Conquer Series. We are currently in our 13th group. Praise the Lord for hungry men.
During the month of February, we have called a Churchwide Fast in order to break the chains that bind us from experiencing Spiritual Breakthrough. It is a Promise Keepers movement that is for the whole church – men, women, and children. Would you join me as we trust the Lord to move among our church and our families? Let’s believe together that the Lord will do immeasurably more than we know to ask or think.
Stop by the church and pick up a brochure about fasting in February if you were not able to get one on Sunday.
Joy in Jesus!
Beginning next month, our church will embark upon our corporate fast as we have done for the past several years. I am praying that this year will lead us to a fresh spiritual breakthrough in our church as well as everyone who participates. I have been praying for the Lord to reveal to me what He wants me to fast from and what to fast for.
As we gathered this morning for prayer, I was led to Joel 2:12-17:
12 “Even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.” 13 Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity. 14 Who knows? He may turn and relent and leave behind a blessing— grain offerings and drink offerings for the Lord your God. 15 Blow the trumpet in Zion, declare a holy fast, call a sacred assembly. 16 Gather the people, consecrate the assembly; bring together the elders, gather the children, those nursing at the breast. Let the bridegroom leave his room and the bride her chamber. 17 Let the priests, who minister before the Lord, weep between the portico and the altar. Let them say, “Spare your people, Lord. Do not make your inheritance an object of scorn, a byword among the nations. Why should they say among the peoples, ‘Where is their God?’”
Fasting sheet guides will be available in the Worship Center on the back of each chair. Plan to pick yours up on Sunday and prepare to intentionally fast and pray for a spiritual breakthrough. We are in desperate need of one not only in our Nation but our church as well.
Joy in Jesus!
If the Son of God were to personally accompany us through each one of our days we would soon become highly sensitive to right and wrong. We would quickly realize that our excuses to walk in the flesh do not hold water. The truth is that this is exactly what he’s promised to do! Jesus told his disciples that the father would send “another Counselor to be with you forever – the Spirit of Truth” (John 14:16-17). The Holy Spirit dwells within us and performs this role of teaching and guiding and reminding for all who desire to be sensitive to Him.
I can remember when I was younger I had moments where I would find myself in a situation where there were two blatant decisions to make. I don’t think you ever grow out of that. But being as young as I was, it was as if my hand was holding a door knob that I knew wasn’t the right choice to make and I had these thoughts rush through my mind. One of my thoughts sounded like this, “If my mom knew I was going to do this, she would be so disappointed.” I have to remember that there is One who is more sensitive against sin than the purest mother who ever walked the earth. This One dwells in our hearts, and if there is anything unholy, impure, selfish, mean, petty, unkind, harsh, unjust, or evil in act or word, He is grieved by it. We must remember that there is no place I can go where I am alone. I might think from time to time that I am but I must never believe it.
Look what Paul says, “19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.” - Galatians 5:19-26
In this passage Paul writes about Christians learning to live by the Spirit. Look over the list and see what is prevalent in your life. Red flags ought to surface if you see the flesh coming through. Remember, the Holy Spirit, who is the embodiment of the fruit of the Spirit, is living inside of you as a disciple. As a growing disciple of Christ, you would have to go out of your way to grieve the Spirit. As I look through the list of the “acts of the flesh,” I notice that many of these qualities influence others or are a reaction to others. The same is true for the fruit of the Spirit. It’s time we keep in step with the Spirit and to do that daily. There should be no room for anything but Christ alone.
I am looking forward to continue our series, “Inside the Fence.” Have a blessed day as you are intent on listening to the Spirit of God show you where you reside today.
Joy in Jesus!
I love the beginning of a New Year. Time to have a redo on several areas that are lacking. One of the things I try to work on is my relationship with the Lord. Being more consistent in practicing the Lord’s presence is the key to revival in your personal life. When you experience personal revival it is bound to affect others around you. I know that I want to raise the spiritual vitality of any place I am simply because of the presence of Jesus spilling out of my life.
A commitment to this lifestyle is what David describes in the familiar Psalm that many quote.
1 The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, 3 he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. 4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. 6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Sheep are not adept at taking care of themselves. Even when blessed with a good shepherd they still stray. In A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, W. Phillip Keller writes, “A commonly held, but serious misconception about sheep is that they can just ‘get along anywhere.’ The truth is quite the reverse. No other class of livestock requires more careful handling, more detailed direction, than do sheep. No doubt David, as a shepherd himself, had learned this firsthand from tough experience. He knew beyond dispute that if the flock was to flourish and the owner’s reputation was to be held in high esteem as a good manager, the sheep had to be constantly under his meticulous control and guidance.”
The truth is that we don’t have to live very long to realize that people are a lot like sheep. They have a tendency to wander off. Without being under the care of a good shepherd then they could end up in a pretty bad predicament. We have the Greatest Shepherd of all – Jesus Christ. We need to intentionally stay as close to the Shepherd as possible. He is both our protection and our blessing. We can trust that David knew what he was talking about when he referred to the events of his younger years. The former shepherd boy did not hide the identity of his Shepherd. He wanted to stay as close as he could.
Beginning this Sunday I will be preaching a series called, “Inside the Fence.” God has always protected and provided for his sheep and our role is to stay close so He can do so. He even has given us some principles in order to stay close in this up and down world. Come and learn how to stay close to God in all areas so He can be Lord of all. I am looking forward to worshipping with you on Sunday.
Joy in Jesus!
Every Wednesday morning from 6:30am – 7:30am, there is a small group of people gathered in the Worship Center for prayer. We spend the hour praying for the needs of our church, our community, and our nation. You will be glad to know that there are dedicated people who come every week to pray and believe God will do miracles in and through our fellowship. The Bible tells us that Jesus often went away by himself to pray. His life was filled with times of prayer. Jesus would not have been able to function without this dedicated, daily time of prayer.
As we make prayer a priority, our relationship with the Father deepens. It is as if we familiarize ourselves with the voice of God and are able to discern when He speaks. As we link our hearts together and form a chain, our prayers form a complete circle as we embark upon the throne room of God. It is through prayer that we discover how much we are connected to God and to one another.
From time to time as a church, there seems to be a season of many incidents that remind us of our need of the Lord each and every day. Several have had physical ailments come upon them as well as major life changing diagnosis and incidents that will forever change the way people live from here on out. Through it all, the Lord reassures us that He is in control. But there are things we must go through to get to that place.
It is during these times that I feel like the disciples in Luke 11, “Lord, teach us to pray!” We have had these prayer times on Wednesday morning for several years and in one sense it feels like we have only begun. Can I remind you today to spend time, during this Advent season, quieting your hearts before the Lord and just talking to Him as you would your best friend.
I love Christmas. I love the songs, the snow, the chance to serve together. I love it even more when I take the time to slow down and enjoy the Giver of the greatest gift of all – sending Jesus to save His people from their sins. May God continue to speak to you as you seek Him with all of your heart.
Be sure and invite your neighbors and loved ones to the services this weekend and to our Christmas Eve Service at 4pm or 6pm. Let’s embrace the unexpected…
Joy in Jesus!
13 I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. 14 Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. - Psalm 27:13-14
To have confidence is to hold a firm belief – to feel certain about something. David writes that he is confident he will still see “the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living” (verse 13). With this conviction he takes heart while waiting for the Lord to work it all out. It is as if he is going through a very difficult time and is reminding himself that God has greater things ahead.
This can be applied to our church, our nation, and our families. Let me talk to us as a church. Are we confident that we will see “the goodness of the Lord in our lives? Will we once again know the joy of his presence? There have been some discouraging things that have happened this fall at our church. From challenging issues in relationships, physical ailments and diagnosis, discouragement, and problems families connecting with others – it becomes apparent that we are experiencing some heavy spiritual warfare.
In The Great American Revival (1934) Arthur Strickland wrote, “The history of the past gives us a chart for the future. What God did in the past shows us, as Saint Augustine puts it, ‘the direction in which the will of God operates.’ History repeats itself. This encourages us to believe that there will be another great revival. Although the spiritual tide may be far out, the ocean of God’s limitless resources is in no danger of going dry. The tide will come in again.”
Take heart, the church is not on the eve of perishing, it is on the eve of revival according to Scripture. Revival always follows a time of purging, persecution, or sickness. There is nothing more certain than this. So the question should not be, “Will we recover?” The question ought to be, “When will we recover?” And then we keep praying to be faithful till that time has come. It is during these upheaval times that God brings us closer together and helps us to realize who is in this for the long haul. So I say all of that to say, “Hold on church, the day is coming when the Lord will show us that He has been with us the whole time.”
I am looking forward to this Sunday as we look for the “Unexpected” in our Advent series.
Joy in Jesus!
Have you ever heard of the phrase, “Speaking truth from the heart”? It is all about integrity. It concerns motivation, honesty, and truth all rolled up in one. Do you live an upright life when no one is looking? If you had the chance to get away with something that you know is wrong, would you do it if no one would ever found out? It all boils down to integrity and living a life pleasing to the Lord.
1 Lord, who may dwell in your sacred tent? Who may live on your holy mountain? 2 The one whose walk is blameless, who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from their heart. Psalm 15:1-2
David reminds us that we are to be blameless in order to dwell in the Lord. It means that you cannot even be accused of any unrighteous acts. It reminds me of when the Lord appeared to Solomon in 1 Kings.
9 When Solomon had finished building the temple of the Lord and the royal palace, and had achieved all he had desired to do, 2 the Lord appeared to him a second time, as he had appeared to him at Gibeon. 3 The Lord said to him: “I have heard the prayer and plea you have made before me; I have consecrated this temple, which you have built, by putting my Name there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there. 4 “As for you, if you walk before me faithfully with integrity of heart and uprightness, as David your father did, and do all I command and observe my decrees and laws, 5 I will establish your royal throne over Israel forever, as I promised David your father when I said, ‘You shall never fail to have a successor on the throne of Israel.’ 6 “But if you or your descendants turn away from me and do not observe the commands and decrees I have given you and go off to serve other gods and worship them, 7 then I will cut off Israel from the land I have given them and will reject this temple I have consecrated for my Name. Israel will then become a byword and an object of ridicule among all peoples. 8 This temple will become a heap of rubble. All who pass by will be appalled and will scoff and say, ‘Why has the Lord done such a thing to this land and to this temple?’ 9 People will answer, ‘Because they have forsaken the Lord their God, who brought their ancestors out of Egypt, and have embraced other gods, worshiping and serving them—that is why the Lord brought all this disaster on them.’” 1 Kings 9:1-9
In verse 6 when it says, “you,” it is plural in the Hebrew which means, “You all.” Pardon my Tennessee talk. The following Biblical conclusions about integrity fall from this passage.
Chew on this today and thank the Lord that He provides the means necessary to love and follow Him with all of our heart.
This Sunday in the 2ndSunday of Advent. The first service will be in the Worship Center and the second service will be in the Family Life Center with a family ministry flare to it. You will want to be sure and come to participate in the Unexpected during this season of wonder.
Joy in Jesus!
Rev. Mike McClurg
Senior Pastor, Findlay First Church of the Nazarene