In the Hymn, “At the Cross,” there is a verse that describes the state we were in before God entered our life. We were nothing. Without God, we still are nothing. Look with me what Isaac Watts penned over 300 years ago, “Alas, and did my Savior bleed? And did my Sovereign die? Would He devote that sacred head for such a worm as I?”
This is a vivid illustration of sinful mankind – lost, undeserving, spiritually worthless, wicked within and without. Drawing from Job 25 and Isaiah 41, the hymnist painted such a picture, using the very term Scripture uses – worm. We are all worm-like before the righteousness of God overwhelmed our soul.
The chorus says, “At the cross, at the cross where I first saw the light, and the burden of my heart rolled away. It was there by faith I received my sight, and now I am happy all the day!”
When I take the plunge and go all in, repenting of my sins and receive new life, my soul becomes happy. My faith and hope is now built on Jesus Christ and his shed blood on the cross. I can shed the worm-like existence and walk in newness through Jesus Christ. He sought me out and paid the price I could never pay. I am no longer a worm but a child of God.
In more recent years, Chris Tomlin wrote a song with the same title. Let me bring your attention to the second verse, “There’s a place where sin and shame are powerless. Where my heart has peace with God and forgiveness. Where all the love I've ever found. Comes like a flood, comes flowing down. At the cross, at the cross, I surrender my life. I’m in awe of You, I’m in awe of You. Where your love ran red and my sin washed white I owe all to You, I owe all to You, Jesus.”
Am I still undeserving? Yes I am. Can I be selfish at times? Absolutely. Am I useless or unimportant? Not at all. God declares us righteous when we are in Christ and Christ is in us.
1 I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. 2 He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. 3 He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him. Psalm 40:1-3
Praise the Lord that He set us on a firm foundation and we can continue to build on that foundation by making His Word a light unto my path each day. I can’t say it enough – saturate in the Word of God daily in order to walk where He is leading. Don’t let the worm mentality crawl back in your life. You are a child of God!
Just a reminder to put the church picnic on your calendar for Sunday, August 12 at 5:30pm. It will be held on the church lawn. Come and enjoy getting back in a good rhythm again. Now let the song fill your heart and mind today as you seek the Lord in all you do.
Joy in Jesus!
After Jesus’ famous “I am” statements in John 14 with the disciples saying, “I am the way and the truth and the life,” Jesus tells them that if they see him that they see the Father. He proceeds to tell them that they will do even greater things than what they have seen him do. Now here is what I want to look at – “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” John 14:13-14.
Ask for anything? I believe that many people have taken this the wrong way. This does not mean that Jesus can be our puppet or my token god, only there to spoil me by granting my every wish. I believe we can go the other extreme and not ask for anything.
If all of your prayers were answered, how many would be about you? Would they all benefit you? Would they bring glory to the Father?
In 1 Kings 3, Solomon is well into the kingship that his father David handed down to him. He showed his love for the Lord by walking according to the instructions given him by his father David, and went beyond that by offering sacrifices and burned incense on the high places. The Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream and said, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.”
Look at Solomon’s response, 6 Solomon answered, “You have shown great kindness to your servant, my father David, because he was faithful to you and righteous and upright in heart. You have continued this great kindness to him and have given him a son to sit on his throne this very day.
7 “Now, Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. 8 Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. 9 So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?” 1 Kings 3:6-9
Did you see his humble request? He wants a discerning heart to lead the people and know the difference between right and wrong. The Lord was very pleased with his request. The Lord told Solomon that He will grant what he asked for and that He would also grant what he didn’t ask for. He even lists the things he could have asked for but chose not to – long life, wealth for himself, or the death of his enemies.
There seems to be a cause and effect relationship between Solomon’s loving generosity in making his offering to the Lord, and God’s loving generosity in making him the offer. The answer came from a deep, abiding relationship. This brings a whole new light to Ephesians 3:20 when it says, “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.” The emphasis is on the power of God at work within me. That makes me want to know God more and more. I ask for the things in the will of God and He will take care of all the other things. That is true contentment.
If you get a chance today, go to 1 Kings 3 and ask yourself what you would ask for if God gave you the chance. Wait, He has already done that.
I am looking forward to continuing in John as we look at having a big faith in a big God.
Joy in Jesus!
Vacation Bible Adventure is in full swing. It has been an excellent week so far. We have so many people that are spending their free time investing in children and families. It is overwhelming the amount of people it takes to pull this week off. I think it gets bigger and bigger every year.
As I walked through the different stations and heard the different stories and verses, I was struck by the fact that we are not only evangelizing and sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ, but we are discipling as well. We are discipling adults and children alike. Not only are the children learning about Jesus, but the teachers and leaders are learning more about Jesus and his love that draws us in.
I want to focus on what Jesus calls us to when we become a disciple of Christ. In Mark 8:34, Jesus says, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” In Luke, he adds that it needs to happen daily. That means in every and all situations.
Taking up your cross is the ultimate act of surrender – a conscious choice to deny yourself and live for Christ. It means a willingness to follow and obey Christ to whatever end. God calls us into his kingdom through grace. Being “born again” (John 3:3) means that we have new life. Although salvation is a free gift, it costs us everything. We cannot buy God’s love and forgiveness. But Jesus doesn’t beat around the bush: it will cost us everything to follow him. If we truly follow Jesus with all of our heart, then we can have no other gods before him. There is a plethora of gods we can choose or even teach our children to choose before the Almighty God. To follow Jesus it takes absolute surrender.
That, my friends, is what we are teaching our children. It is about having a deep, audacious commitment to the One who gave his life up for us all. Our theme this year is “SLIME.” It stands for the Savior Lives In Me Everyday.
If you haven’t been able to come out this week, I want to encourage you to come and check it out. As you are here, pray for the children and the families that are participating. We need a spirit-filled renewal amongst our families with young children. I pray that it happens this week.
On Sunday following the second service, we will have our Sunday Funday. The picnic will be for everyone. If you are limber enough, maybe you can participate in some of the activities. If not, then you can enjoy watching others that may think they are limber enough. All I know is that it is going to be a fun-filled day of being together and enjoying hearing the stories of what God is doing.
Joy in Jesus!
This week I have completed seventeen years of ministry at Findlay First as the lead pastor. What a journey it has been. My heart is full of love for the people of this church and our community. I remember when I was first called by Dr. Fairbanks to consider coming for an interview. My first thought was that I was content with where I was and that the Lord was continuing to use us where we were. I told Vickie that I thought my love for Shelby County was increasing. Her response to me was, “Why couldn’t your love for the people of Hancock County increase as well?” I guess she told me. So we decided to just come and interview.
During the interview, the Lord showed up in a powerful way and we knew that we were to come to Findlay. After preaching at a service during the week and fellowshipping with the people, Vickie was right. God placed the people of Findlay, Ohio on my heart. I specifically remember traveling home and wondering how we were going to tell the people of Sidney that God was calling us to another church. It was like mourning a death.
Sure enough, the next day, Dr. Fairbanks called and said that they wanted to continue in the process of calling us to come and be their pastor. After a few weeks and the congregation voted, we started our transition to Findlay, Ohio.
It is mind boggling to think of the many changes and how much we have all grown in the faith. I will be forever grateful for the love this church has shown to my family through the years. Vickie and I will celebrate 30 years of marriage on Monday and to think that we spent more than half of it with the great people of Findlay First Church of the Nazarene. Thank you for loving my family and helping me to raise my children.
It is fun to look at pictures of people and renovations over the years. What a fun journey it has been. Just think, in some respects, we have just begun. I am looking forward to many more years of growing to be more like Jesus with Findlay First Nazarene. Let me close with a prayer the Apostle Paul prayed for a church he was a part of.
15 For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, 16 I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. 17 I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. 18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength 20 he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church,23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way. Ephesians 1:15-23
Have a blessed day today and may the Lord open up doors you have been praying for.
Joy in Jesus!
Years ago, there was a book called The Pineapple Story about a missionary who had a hard time loving the people he was called to minister to. He had a pineapple garden that he was trying to cultivate, but the natives kept stealing the pineapples. He was angry all the time. Then he told the natives that he had “given his pineapple garden to God.” He gave up his rights to receive the treatment he “deserved.” He stopped being angry, because it was God’s problem now. When he did that, God did some interesting things!
The story is about realizing that we are stewards, not owners—that our lives and things aren’t our own if we have given them to God. Anger comes when we hold on to our rights. It’s a matter of surrender. We could live more joyfully— maybe even love unconditionally—if we would say, “God, this is your relationship. This is your time. This is your idea. I’m going to surrender to You my agenda and my expectations.”
Will we still be disappointed and hurt sometimes? Yes, but we give that to God, too. Sometimes dealing with issues like anger is both an instant decision and a process. If you are struggling with anger issues, then let me suggest you do the following:
1. Recall what makes you angry. What are you really angry about?
2. List your rights which others are violating.
3. Transfer your rights to God. Picture yourself kneeling in the presence of God and putting your rights on the altar. Then tell God He can do whatever He wants. You are giving ownership of that to God.
4. Intentionally thank God whatever happens. God may not give you what you want for reasons you may not see. If He does, they are privileges to be used for God’s purposes.
5. Use future anger as God’s alarm system. Meekness is yielding our rights to God. Anger will point out something that needs to be let go of and given back to God.
“Keep company with Him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of Himself to us. Love like that.” Ephesians 5:2, The Message
Father’s Day is this Sunday. Come and bring all fathers and there will be a gift for you following each service. Camp Meeting in St. Marys is still going on. If you have never been before, it is worth checking out. Hope to see you down there. Have a blessed day!
Joy in Jesus!
Faith and hope go closely together. I want to look in Hebrews today to find the correlation that the enemy does not want us to ponder on. Biblical hope is much more than simply longing for something that might happen. It is a confident assurance – rooted in faith – that God will do what he promised to do. This is huge in understanding the totality of faith and hope.
Let me lay out a path for you to dwell on today.
“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Hebrews 11:1
To not hope gives us no future. To not have faith would kill any hopes you have of the future. Do you see the connection?
“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” Hebrews 11:6
Now we see that belief plays a major role in faith and hope. It is like they are all intertwined. Amazing! Could it be that the reward for those who earnestly seek him is fresh hope?
Now look with me at Hebrews 6:19: “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.”
The image suggests a harbor where the soul securely drops an anchor. That anchor has been carried to the safest point of all – the inner sanctuary behind the curtain – by Jesus, who went before us. To keep the harbor imagery in mind, it recalls the role of sailors who leave their ship in a smaller craft in order to carry the anchor forward to a place where it can be firmly lodged. So too Jesus, by his entrance into the heavenly sanctuary where He functions as a High Priest forever, interceding for us all, gives to us a hope anchored in total trust that He will do what he says he will do. That alone is enough to rest on the hope of a great future.
I think of the song Cornerstone that we sing from time to time:
My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly trust in Jesus’ name
Christ alone, cornerstone, weak made strong, in the Saviors love
Through the storm, He is Lord, Lord of all.
Whatever you are going through today, whatever has happened to you yesterday, don’t allow the enemy to steal your hope. Place your hope in Christ, the Great High Priest, a place that is secure forever. God is faithful!
On Sunday, we will continue to look at John 3 and ask the Lord to reveal to us exactly what we need to continue to live a fruitful, spirit-filled, hope-filled life. Live free today and place your trust solely on things from above and not of this world.
Joy in Jesus!
The charge to go and make disciples of all nations propelled the early followers of Christ into a strategic mission that turned the world upside down – not just by preaching the gospel, but by training the new believers as well. To be a Christian is to be a disciple – a lifelong learner and follower of Jesus.
3 Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 4 No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer. 5 Similarly, anyone who competes as an athlete does not receive the victor’s crown except by competing according to the rules. 6 The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops. - 2 Timothy 2:3-6
Paul compares the life of a disciple to the life of a soldier, an athlete, and a farmer. He then promises that if Timothy will reflect on these things, the Lord will give him insight. I want you to reflect on each of these things so that God can give you insight as to what a fully devoted follower is all about. Write each word down and reflect on what it teaches you about discipleship.
In Luke 6:40 it says that the student will become like the teacher. If we are called to make disciples, what are you producing? Spend some time reflecting on how the Lord wants to develop you not only to sustain you but the replicate Himself through you in others.
This Sunday we are celebrating those who have graduated. Let’s come and show our support for the next chapter in so many lives and pray that they will be all about knowing Jesus as they continue on in their journey.
Joy in Jesus!
There was a father who kept a journal everyday to look back on wrote something in it that was not completely accurate. He wrote, “Went fishing with my son today – a day wasted.” His son followed in his father’s footsteps and also kept a journal. In his he wrote, “Went fishing with my father – the most wonderful day of my life!”
On Sunday, we had baby day. It was wonderful seeing all the babies in our church. Along with these babies are parents who have the responsibility to raise them up in the Lord. What all is involved in that? As a parent, your role never ceases even when they are grown up and out on their own. Sometimes when you raise your children it can be the most challenging and rewarding times of your life. You never take a vacation from being a mom and dad. If you are not always hooked in to the power source of the Holy Spirit, then you are going to fail at raising kids who completely rely on the Lord.
In a few weeks, we will see our children enter a new season of life by celebrating those who are graduating. As I shared, you have 936 weeks with your children home full time. What you do with those weeks matters.
The apostle Paul shares a few simple truths in Ephesians 6 to help guide you on your journey.
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise--3 “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” 4 Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. 5 Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. 6 Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. - Ephesians 6:1-6
Did you see the three guidelines for Christian Parenting?
May God continue to give all parents the wisdom to walk as a fully devoted follower of Jesus Christ, following the One who knows best. When we make a mistake, we own it, as forgiveness, and strive to be all that God empowers us to be. Pray often for one another as we work to raise up children who love God with all their heart.
“I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.”
3 John 4
Joy in Jesus!
16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. - John 14:16-17
Jesus calls upon the Father and sets the stage for the Holy Spirit to come and fill the believers. He does not bring us this far to drop us. His ministry and power continue to be evident in the form of the Holy Spirit. In John 16:7-15, Jesus begins to get very specific in His description of the person and ministry of the Holy Spirit. He reveals that the Holy Spirit’s ministry will look very much like His, except that He will indwell all believers and empower them to live and look like Jesus. Unfortunately, as A.W. Tozer has said, “Every believer has the Holy Spirit, but the Holy Spirit does not have every believer.”
What would happen if the Holy Spirit were suddenly removed from our safe, routine driven world where people are used to living on their own human strength? Probably about 95% of all we do would continue, unaffected by His absence.
A.W. Tozer was a well-known author and pastor in the early 1900’s. Here is what he writes, “The doctrine of the Spirit as it relates to the believer has, over the last half century, been shrouded in a mist such as lies upon a mountain in stormy weather. A world of confusion has surrounded this truth. This confusion has not come by accident. An enemy has done this. Satan knows that Spiritless evangelicalism is as deadly as modernism or heresy, and he has done everything in his power to prevent us from enjoying our true Christian heritage.” Tozer died in 1963. The world has advanced in ungodly territory since then. Every step away from God seems extreme in the present time you are living. He was seeing it then and we are definitely seeing unprecedented evil amongst us today. They say that sinful living is the same today as it was many years ago. It just has a new coating. As a world, we just continue to slip further and further away from our spiritual heritage.
The Holy Spirit desires to not only indwell but to empower us; to not simply be in us but be on us, in power. He wants us to not be dragged into the pattern of this world. He is a person, just like Jesus, who has a mind, will, and emotions and wants to gift and enable every Christian for supernatural ministry.
Look at what the Holy Spirit’s role is:
This Sunday we will continue our Study of the Gospel of John. We will specifically look in John 3. I always look forward to worshipping the Father with my Church family. Consciously seek the Lord and His Spirit with all your heart. Give Him your all and follow with an unrelenting dedication to His ways.
Joy in Jesus!
There was a lady named Anne Sullivan born in poverty and affliction. She was half blind. Her mother died and she went to live in the poor house in Massachusetts. While she was at Perkins Institute for the Blind, a brilliant operation restored her sight. From that point on she devoted herself to the blind.
One of the people she cared for was a baby born blind and deaf by the name of Helen Keller. Anne initially taught her thirty words, spelling them by touching the hand. She worked with her for forty-nine years. Helen became an incredible powerhouse in her own right.
Time came when misfortune befell Anne Sullivan, who meanwhile had become Mrs. Macy. She became blind. Now it was time for the student to become the teacher. Helen, out of gratitude, returned grace to Anne by helping her to cope and thrive in her new condition.
Psalm 100 is filled with praise, thanksgiving, and a heart of gratitude for all God has done for us.
1 Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. 2 Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. 3 Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. 4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. 5 For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations. (Psalm 100)
Within Psalm 100 there are 7 reasons to show gratitude to the Lord:
We serve a God who gives us many reasons to be grateful. If you think about it, the instant that we are born, we already owe our mothers for nine months of room and board. There is no way that we can pay that debt. But we can have fun trying. Maybe even this Sunday as we celebrate Mother’s Day. This Sunday we will have a small token of appreciation for our mothers and recognize the love they have for their families.
Gratitude is from the same root word as “grace,” which signifies the free and boundless mercy of God. Thanksgiving is from the same root as “think,” so that to think is to thank. Take some time today to be grateful and thankful for not only the Lord but our mothers and others the Lord brings into our lives. When we choose to live a grateful life, we will live as a blessed people and see the Lord provide peace that passes all understanding.
May God give each of us a grateful heart.
Joy in Jesus!
Rev. Mike McClurg
Senior Pastor, Findlay First Church of the Nazarene