On Monday, I got a phone call and it was someone from the church with some shocking news. She said, “Pastor, I am in the Family Life Center and I just saw a squirrel run by me.” At first I thought she was joking with me but it ended up being true. So after staff meeting yesterday, I ventured down to the FLC and found the critter in the kitchen. The good news is that I was able to coax the little animal out of the building with a broom. It only took about 10 minutes. I had visions of Lampoons Christmas when the squirrel jumped in the middle of the Christmas tree and it burning to the ground. Needless to say, my encounter didn’t end up like that.
We have some friendly squirrels around the church that come and look in the glass doors by the office. They even have trails formed from going to the front of our church and then to the back putting away their winter rationings. One of them finally made it in the building but realized that it wasn’t what they expected. The grass is always greener on the other side but sometimes it leads to a trap. I heard just the other day that someone lost their keys. Maybe one of them found them and is coming and going as they please. That was a bad trick to open the door for one of your friends only to slam the door and run. The things I sit around and think of…
As we enter into this Christmas season, I want to encourage you to open your hearts to Jesus afresh this year. This Sunday is the first Sunday of Advent. What an awesome season we are going to experience together. There will be times of giving, serving, loving, singing, and worshipping our Savior. It truly is “Much More that a Miracle on 34th.”
Just this past week our Church Board gathered for our monthly meeting and I shared the following:
“Jesus is the hope of the world and the local church is the vehicle of expressing that hope to the world.”
Jesus said, “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it” Matthew 16:18. Thank God for the church. It is in the church that we find strength when we come together. We are better together. When we are alone then we are limited by our ability and inability to reach the lost. You might be able to share but we have many limitations. Together we can make maximum contribution. I am so glad to have fellow believers in Jesus who are different in personality, strengths, and weaknesses. There are some who I may not be as effective at reaching people than you are. But I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God will use someone else to minister His grace. It is just comforting to know that we have a place to call people to come to worship, serve, and grow deeper.
Why not use this Advent Season as an opportunity to invite friends and neighbors to worship our Savior and be discipled? Don’t forget about the cards available on the welcome center as you do random acts of kindness this month. It simply says, “…because God cares.”
Let us enter into this day with thankfulness and joy as we are freshly filled with the Spirit and Attitude of Jesus!
Joy in Jesus!
Many times around the holidays, there seems to be something that comes in and steals our thanksgiving. This week we will gather around the table with our families and give thanks for the food we are about to eat but some may forget to be thankful. It happens when we get consumed with worry. Have you ever stopped and pondered on the things that are going on in life and begin to get mad or have a pity party because of the way particular relationships are going or not going? Maybe you haven’t talked to a friend for months and you don’t know what happened. Maybe you do know what happened and you don’t want to face it. Worse yet, it could be a particular family member you are about to go and see.
It isn’t until you come across certain passages of Scripture that you realize how deeply you have been sinking into worry or even bitterness. Whenever I want to find peace for my trouble soul, I go to the Word. Let’s look at Philippians 4:4-7 as we enter this Thanksgiving Holiday.
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
God is calling us to lay down all of our worries and come boldly before Him to make our requests known. I want to focus in on verse 6 because I believe there are steps to take as to how to lay down our worries and be bold in making our requests to God. If we follow these steps then we can be set free from worry and fear.
Let’s just be real. There will always be plenty of opportunities to worry. Paul describes many difficulties he experienced in his travels and ministry. Satan will try to regularly distract you from being who God called you to be. But be assured, the tactics of the enemy can be exposed and brought down. You do not have to fall to that temptation.
Worry does not have to cripple you this holiday or any day for that matter. In verse 6, Paul lays out 5 important steps to move from fear to faith, from defeat to victory, from turmoil to peace. There are 5 key words that tell us exactly what we must do when worry and concerns are trying to flood our minds: prayer; petition; thanksgiving; requests; and known.
When you pray, walk in the close relationship you have with Jesus and give him your worry in replace for peace. He truly wants to do that for you. He reminds us in Matthew 11:30 that His yoke is easy and His burden is light. Take on Jesus at His word and lighten your load by giving it to Him.
The second step Paul tells us to take is found in the word petition. In the Greek it depicts a person who has some type of lack in his life and therefore pleads strongly for his lack to be met. Even to the point of begging. This person is so desperate that he pushes his pride aside and passionately cries out for assistance.
Paul then goes into the third step. We are to bring our requests to God with thanksgiving. Not only be bold but be thankful. Each one of us has been on the end of someone wanting something from us but not taking the time to express their appreciation for your sacrifice. The word “thanksgiving” is the Greek word eucharistia. When you break it apart it literally means “good grace.” It describes an outpouring of grace and of wonderful feelings that freely flow from the heart in response to someone or something. Paul is showing us that when we earnestly ask God for something, it must be with an earnest outpouring of thanks. That demonstrates faith in God that He will do what is right.
The next step is the word requests. This denotes from the Greek word a sense of confidence. It is to be adamant in requesting and demanding assistance to meet tangible needs. It is used to portray a person who goes to their superior out of respect and honor, demanding a specific need to be met. This person knows what he needs and is so filled with faith that he isn’t afraid to boldly come into God’s Presence to ask and expect to receive it. As long as your prayer is based on the Word of God it is feasible.
As a final point, Paul says, “…let your requests be made known to God.” There is a boldness that is evident in this as well. So in the moments when worry or fear is trying to wrap itself around you, rush to the truths found in Philippians 4:4-7. You don’t have to live a life filled with anxiety. Anxiety can be replaced with a peaceful disposition and you can enjoy the days you have with others by allowing God to guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus.
Enjoy your time around the table as you love the people you are thankful for.
Joy in Jesus!
Have you ever stopped and wondered what the phrase, “Throwing Pearls to Pigs” means? Let me ponder that with you right now.
This phrase is found in Matthew 7:6. “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces.”
There are many parts to this verse when it pertains to the pig section. It starts out by saying, “do not throw.” Other translations say, “cast.” In the Greek that is so strong that it can be translated, “NEVER cast your pearls to swine.” So this isn’t a suggestion, it is an order to never throw your pearls to pigs.
The next word I want to look at is “Pearls.” This is the Greek word margarites. That is where you get the name Margaret. Pearls are formed in shells located on the floor of the sea. They are formed over time and are rare and can be very valuable. I believe Jesus is talking about the things God has done for you. You can’t put a price on the things you have learned over the years through God’s Word, experiences, and godly counsel. Like pearls, those life lessons are invaluable because they cost you something. You had to go deep with God to obtain spiritual treasures.
Every time you share with someone you need to remember that you are sharing your pearls with them. The counsel and advice you’re giving may be free to them, but it has cost you everything!
It is also interesting that Jesus would use the analogy of a pig or a swine. When I was just a teenager, I worked on a pig farm. I learned many lessons working with these creatures. One lesson I learned is that pigs do nothing and are motivated for nothing except eating. When they knew you were coming to feed them, they would go as far as hurt each other in order to get to the food first. It reminds me of some buffet lines I have been in… Pigs were very well known in Jesus’ day. They were considered the lowest and most unclean animal. For Jesus to refer to people as pigs was a very graphic depiction. It is a picture of a consumer. They take, take, and take. They eat and then want more. They never think to ask where the food came from, who paid for it, or what process was required to produce it. Not one “thank you” is heard (not that they could even voice it). They are just careless consumers never contributing to the farm until they’re on their way to the market never to return.
This is the picture Jesus paints of people who don’t appreciate the advice that is freely given to them from the depths of another person’s life. Unfortunately I can recall times when I was a careless consumer of other people’s time and energy. I can remember not caring how the other person obtained the wisdom, what it cost them to obtain it, or how long it took for them to come to this point in their relationship with God. I think of it often when I am on the advice end and feel drained of all my strength only to see someone continue to repeat a destructive behavior and not heed the advice.
Let’s look at this verse in light of the meanings described above…
“Never invest too much time, energy, or money into people who don’t even care about what you are doing for them! I’m commanding you not to share your ‘pearls’ – those precious details, experiences, and parts of your life that have cost you so much – with people who live and act like ungrateful pigs…”
Seems pretty harsh but is wise because someone who is not open for God to move on their life will eventually pull you in on the drama and dysfunction of their own demise. Better to pray for them and allow the Holy Spirit to convict their heart and convince them of their need for God’s Word and wisdom. Many times people will just harden their heart even more as you voice words of concern and wisdom.
I pray that you will not encounter or encompass the life of a pig. Let me tell you from personal experience, it’s miserable.
I’m looking forward to an incredible day of worship on Sunday.
Joy in Jesus!
Last week we had our annual leadership banquet held at the University of Findlay. We call it “Onpoint.” The purpose of the event is to celebrate what God is doing in and around the church, be reminded of how God wants to use us together to do “Big” things for the Kingdom of God, and see how we are better together.
As I was preparing I was overwhelmed at how many leaders we have in our church. We truly are blessed with many great servant leaders in every age group and ministry. Let me share with you some Truths from God’s Word that encompasses the culture that our leadership creates together.
“Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered” Proverbs 11:25.
“Give and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” Luke 6:38.
“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many” Mark 10:45.
“Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms” 1 Peter 4:10.
“Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and that the Master you are serving is Christ” Colossians 3:23-24.
“The I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?’ Then I said, ‘Here I am. Send me!’” Isaiah 6:8.
God is moving in a powerful way amongst us. It is good to be surrounded with people who are “Can do” people committed to building the Church and reaching the lost in Jesus name. It is so refreshing to serve with people at every capacity. My heart is full with the satisfaction of knowing that together we are better and over the top when we live by faith in the One who is our All in all.
Let me remind you of our Harvest Dinner this Sunday night at 5:30pm. Details will be in our bulletin this Sunday. There will be an opportunity to give non-perishable items for Chopin Hall as you come and put “giving” back in Thanksgiving. I am looking forward to seeing what the Lord continues to do through his Holy Spirit on Sunday as we worship together. May God give you more opportunities to see miracles throughout this day…
Joy in Jesus!
Rev. Mike McClurg
Senior Pastor, Findlay First Church of the Nazarene