Wednesday, November 27, 2013

A Thankful Heart

Recently, I heard the interview of a highly successful college quarterback who happens to be a Christ follower. The radio host said he noticed that the athlete thanks God each time they score and each time they win a big game. The interviewer went on to ask this football player if that isn't wrong because God doesn't care who wins. The response of this young man was wonderful. He simply said, “We thank God when we win and we thank God when we lose. He is still God in both circumstances.” 

It sounds as if this All-American Quarterback, who claims that his faith is first in his life, has been reading and chooses to live out the true meaning of Philippians 4:12-13.

12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”  Philippians 4:12-13 (ESV) 

These are “Thankful Heart” verses. Win or lose, rich or poor, blessings or curses…I can do all things in Christ! I am thankful, appreciative, and generous with my praise no matter what!

The opposite of thankfulness shows through complaint and pessimism. Everyone on earth can be thankful for something. But, think about it…everyone on earth can be pessimistic and complain about something, as well! It comes down to where our heart is and who has mastery of our heart. Our quarterback friend testifies that, even after poor play and bad games, his heart will overflow in thankfulness. 

We, too, are given the privilege of thankfulness. But this cannot be faked! Allow the Holy Spirit to transform your heart. Ask Him to give you a thankful heart that overflows in optimism and grateful words of praise. 

Thanksgiving is a day of worship. What will you do, practically, to treat it as such?

Have a great week.

Pastor David

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Right the Ship!

Do you know what I am thankful for? I am thankful that the words of Jesus were preserved. Through them we have light, life, and guidance. I am grateful that the Holy Spirit continues this work of life-giving enlightenment. In so doing, God sets right what is so easily distorted, co-opted, and/or largely ignored.

This was, and is, the case for the Sabbath…a day “set apart” as Holy and “blessed” (Genesis 2:1-3; Exodus 20:8-11). The religious leaders in first century Israel had distorted the Sabbath through legalistic beliefs and teachings. Jesus had to “right the ship” of the Sabbath because it was listing (leaning) hard and taking on water. Jesus reminded the people (and us) that the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath (Mark 2:27).

The challenge for us is to continue the work of Christ through Holy Spirit empowered lives to set aside as Holy this blessed day. Setting this day aside serves as a conduit for the transformational and spiritually formative power of the Holy Spirit to flow. 

So, resolve to rest, recreate, and reflect on this special day. Resolve to stop doing work. In so doing, you are allowing growth to happen, you are honoring God, and you are symbolically celebrating the key doctrines of redemption and restoration. 

Right the ship through allowing this holy and blessed day to be a blessing to you and to God.

Pastor David

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Rise, Depart, Pray

“And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.” (Mark 1:35, ESV) 

According to the late Dallas Willard, spiritual formation “…is the process of transformation of the inmost dimension of the human being, the heart, which is the same as the spirit or will. It is being formed (really, transformed) in such a way that its natural expression comes to be the deeds of Christ done in the power of Christ.” This week, let’s focus on the continual practice of prayer as an exercise of spiritual formation.

Take a few deliberate moments to meditate upon Mark 1:35. Jesus rose early, departed where He was staying, placed Himself in a desolate place, and prayed. Very simply, we should imitate this pattern as we seek transformation of our inmost being. This model exhibits separation from all distractions so as to focus completely on God. Separate with time. Separate with location. Separate for maximum hearing ability. For when we can hear more clearly, we can be spiritually formed into the likeness of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. 

Try it. Start as soon as you can. Look at your next 24 hours. Set an appointment with God - and keep it. He longs to be with you. After you have done this, begin a habit - go for a week. Then, string a month of days together that are spent with God. Before you know it, you will be practicing the presence of God through deliberately practiced spiritually formative habits. Not only will you have a deliberate time, but this will spill over into your entire life. You will begin seeing your ability to “pray without ceasing,” (1 Thessalonians 5:17, ESV).

Rise, Depart, Pray… He is waiting to meet with you in the secret place.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

My History, But His-Story

I love history! There is something about the “what ifs” that stirs up curiosity, wonder, and debate within me. What if Christopher Columbus never found someone to finance his explorations? What if General Lee was able to take Little Round Top in the Battle of Gettysburg? What if Adolf Hitler waited to defeat the British before attacking Russia? Maybe the world would be completely different. Or maybe it would be exactly the same. We will never know because history takes care of the outcome of all events. My personal history is the same. There are so many “what ifs”. I am sure we can all say the same thing about our own personal lives.

The most important aspect of my history was when I decided to give my life to Jesus. I don’t have a date or a time, but I do remember the moment. I would guess that I was around 6 to 8 years old. Every night my mother would put me to bed and encourage me to “ask Jesus to come into my heart”. I wasn't sure what that meant, but I made sure to make that part of my prayer. One night, however, I felt Him come into my life. I felt an immense joy take hold of me. I couldn't wait to get up the next morning to tell my mother. From that moment on, I have had a strong desire to live my life for Christ. Although I never left Him, I did venture away from Him from time to time. When I was in my early 20’s, I re-dedicated myself to His will and from that I have grown and grown. I seek Him daily. He has forgiven me of my sins. He carries me during times of trouble, and He rejoices with me through the celebrations. He is everything!

So, my personal history may not be written in a text book or discussed in a college classroom, but it is extremely important to me. And I will never second-guess the “what ifs” when it comes to the commitment I made so many years ago. Not only do I have history with Christ, but I have a wealth of promise for the future.

Chuck Pickering
Elder of Spiritual Life