Monthly Archives: February 2014

To Be or Not To Be Not Of This World!

Pastors Pen LogoDear Church Family,

I want to use the ole title to our radio broadcast and ask you to Think About It!

When you hear the word worldly, what is the first thing that comes to mind? It is not unusual for we as Christians to simply equate the word with things the world values, things like material wealth, secular education or learning, the pursuit of pleasure to just simply blatant sin. However you may be surprised to learn that the Bible usually refers to worldly in a far more intricate and yet complex way.

We may think and even believe we are avoiding worldly thinking when in reality we are not. We must realize to truly embrace godly wisdom, we need to look below the surface – to a whole new way of seeing.

Because the struggle with worldliness was so pervasive in the early church, the apostles wrote frankly about its danger. They weren’t warning against human reasoning which they themselves often employed when preaching in cultures that highly valued thoughtful speech. Neither was this worldliness primarily about outward morality. It went deeper than, say, drunkenness or sexual compromise or greed. Rather we see worldliness characterized in their epistles as a subtle force that could turn the most faithful churchgoer into a blind hypocrite, unaware of his growing enslavement to a mindset that turns the heart from God.

READ James 3:13-18

According to James, worldliness has a root of pride, a focus on self, and a desire to be recognized as superior to others—all of which begin with listening to Satan’s shrewd voice. Later in his letter (4:4-8), James confronted believers about worldly thinking that was causing them to, in effect, cheat on the Lord. He urged them to resist this pull of the Enemy by deliberately humbling themselves and drawing near to God.

In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul likewise expressed frustration with the worldly, immature attitudes he’d seen in their church (3:1-3, 18-20). Essentially, they were thinking and acting on a surface level and refusing to go deeper. Paul was distressed that while they claimed to follow Christ, they were conforming to the world’s pattern of seeking to elevate the self while making it feel coddled and deserving of human applause—a dangerous façade that obscures what’s truly important to God.

Worldliness clouds spiritual vision. And its poison can impact anyone in any situation, whether in action or thought. It doesn’t just tempt within the arena of so-called “worldly” affairs—in fact, it can be more devastating within the church. This self-focused, counterfeit wisdom is at work in not only the atheist who spews arrogant closed-minded dogma on an online comment hoard but also the Christian who spews arrogant closed-minded dogma right back. More than the content of their thinking, it’s the heart-attitude from which they speak and act. Worldliness says, My way is right. My thinking is superior; therefore I am superior. That’s why arguing and self-absorption spring from this kind of “wisdom” (James 4:1-3; 3:15-16).

Both apostles came down hard on Christians for bending to this deception, because it works against God’s kingdom plans and His calling on our lives. Our reality should be different from the world’s, and the more aligned we are with Christ, the clearer our spiritual vision should be. (Paul points out in 2 Corinthians 5:16-21 that when we judge others in a worldly way, we’re actually refusing to align ourselves with the Lord’s perspective and purposes.) Godly wisdom is rooted in the truth of the Holy Spirit’s life-giving presence and power, which seeks to reconcile and to inject grace into that which lacks it (James 3:17-18). This ministry of reconciliation (2 Con 5:18) is fertile ground for holiness—the purifying, creative work of the Lord that sets all things right, aligned with His heart. Ultimately, godly wisdom is driven by a passionate desire to see God’s redemptive hand have complete freedom to work in any situation—for His kingdom to come and His will to be done here on earth.

REFLECT + EXPLORE

We may claim to know God and act in His name, but if we have fallen prey to worldly, self-important thinking, we’re in danger of missing or even rejecting all that Jesus is and the life He offers us.

Read John 5:39-44. How might prideful reliance on biblical knowledge turn someone’s heart away from gaining godly wisdom? In what way does Jesus’ warning to the religious people of His time speak to you personally?

The fruit of godly wisdom turns us around and sends us back to complete reliance on the Lord, whereas a worldly perspective drives us further away from the life and redemption He offers. Read 2 Corinthians 7:10. How can this principle help you take inventory of your heart and discern the root of your actions and emotions?

When we rely on our own wisdom, we deceive ourselves and waste effort chasing counterfeits in the pursuit of meaning and satisfaction. In contrast, God’s ways and intentions run deeper than we can easily perceive at the surface. Staking our lives on them connects us to the fullness of His purposes and brings joy as they come to fruition.

Read Isaiah 55:1-3, 8-13. How would accepting God’s invitation to enjoy and surrender to His wisdom impact the way you see your life right now?

RESPOND

Write down a few areas of your life that you want to see with godly wisdom.

Take a moment to pray, asking the Lord to reveal His perspective as you surrender any worldly thinking to Him.

In Christian Love and With Many Prayers,

Pastor Rick Signature

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Becoming God’s Person!

The Pastors Pen Logo smallDear Church Family,

As I was able to share briefly Wednesday Night, if you walk into any bookstore you will find that one of the largest sections in the store is the Self Help Section. Self –Improvement is a hot topic. The term self-improvement however means different things to different people. To some it means being healthier, getting better pay for their work or a better paying job, or pursuing some dream or ambition like getting a college degree, or taking some course to improve their skills.

But, for the Christian, the goal should always be to become more like Christ. I think most of us would like to be more like Christ, but we often go about it in the wrong way. Scripture memorization, Bible Study Classes, and serving others are wonderful ways to grow in faith, but if we want to truly improve ourselves, we should turn to the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit’s indwelling presence is essential for our inner transformation. We will never develop godly character and behavior apart from the Holy Spirit’s indwelling power. This old flesh of ours is predisposed toward selfishness and sin. Only as we yield ourselves to the Holy Spirit will He begin to express the life of Christ through us.

Instead of embarking on your own self-improvement program, why not work on discovering who God created you to be? You can be confident that the Spirit will come alongside to help in transforming you to God’s person. But remember, He will not force you to change. The only way you will experience full potential in Christ is by cooperating with Him.

Let the Holy Spirit Direct

If you want to become everything God has designed you to be, the place to begin is self-denial. Now that is something that runs counter to everything the world tells us, but we are not meant to rule ourselves. That is why Jesus said, Luke 17:33 (KJV) 33 Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it. It is impossible to be a disciple of Christ and still be in charge. Our full potential is discovered only when we let the Holy Spirit have complete control of our life.

You see, there is a battle going on inside every Christian. The Holy Spirit wants to lead us into obedience to God, but our flesh desires its own way. Satan tries to convince us that freedom is achieved by doing whatever we want, but in reality, that ends in bondage. God promises that if we will walk by the Spirit – letting Him lead and direct our ways – we won’t carry out the desires of the flesh that threaten to enslave us (Gal. 5:16 & 17). So the question then becomes, “Who is going to be in control of your life: you or God?”

Make the decision to let the Lord direct and then consistently surrender authority over your life to Him. In time, you will begin to notice His power in you increasing and your flesh becoming less dominant.

Instead of insisting on our rights, you’ll listen to His promptings and seek to follow God’s will. I am not talking about a life of perfection, but one that is bent toward obedience. Though we all stumble at times, when we are filled with the Spirit, we are quick to confess, turn away from our sin, and reclaim the promise of His fullness.

Depend on the Holy Spirit

When you get up in the morning, do you think about the Holy Spirit before you set about the day’s routine? Do you make a conscious choice to depend upon Him to equip you for whatever awaits? The reason many Christians feel defeated is because they don’t understand what the Holy Spirit has come to do in and through them. Instead of relying on Him, they’re trying to live the Christian life in their own strength. However, self-reliance is a guarantee of a fruitless life.
Remember what the Lord desires is a display of Spirit-produced fruit, not self-sufficient achievements. Human beings are capable of amazing accomplishments. We can preach sermons, teach Sunday school, feed the poor, and minister to the hurting in our own strength. In fact, entire churches can function without any help from the: Spirit. But that’s not what God wants. The work He has for us is supernatural and requires a corresponding power to accomplish it. None of us is adequate for the task, apart from the empowerment of the Holy Spirit as He works through us. This was true even of Christ’s disciples: until the Spirit came upon them at Pentecost, they weren’t ready for the job of spreading the gospel (Luke 24:49).

Don’t think for a moment that this principle applies only to those who are serving in “the ministry.” We all need the Spirit’s power for every aspect of life. Anyone can live “a normal life,” but Jesus calls us to live supernaturally in such a way that we display His character in everything we do. Without divine empowerment, how are you going to become a godly parent or spouse, forgive someone who has hurt you deeply, endure suffering without bitterness, model Christ-like character in the workplace, or demonstrate patience and kindness to cantankerous people? The fruit of the Spirit isn’t pumped out with self-effort (Gal. 5:22-23). All our striving and struggling to become better Christians will never produce a godly life. The only way to attain that is through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Use the Spiritual Gifts You’ve Been Given

Part of discovering your full potential in Christ and becoming God’s Person is finding out what God has planned for you to accomplish. We’re called to serve Him in everything, but He’s also given each of us a unique calling. You don’t want to spend your entire life living as you see fit, only to arrive in heaven and discover you’ve missed what God had in mind. That’s why it’s so important to walk in the Spirit every day of your life. He’s the one who guides you into your calling.
Since the Holy Spirit knows exactly what the Lord created each of us to accomplish, He’s given us corresponding spiritual gifts. These are divinely bestowed abilities that enable us to fulfill God’s unique will for our life. Although spiritual gifts carry the full potential for effectiveness, they don’t usually come to us completely developed. For instance, God may give you the gift of teaching, but without diligent study of Scripture, your effectiveness will be limited. If you have the gift of mercy, it may take time to learn how to comfort the different people He brings into your life. Don’t give up too quickly. Spiritual gifts develop over time, and we become more successful as we practice using them.

Pursue Purity

You have so much potential in God’s eyes, but there’s one more area that could prevent you from experiencing His best. If you’re holding onto anything the Lord doesn’t want you to have, you’re compromising your purity and quenching His Spirit. It could be an outright sin or something that is good, but not God’s best and it stands between you and complete obedience to Christ.
You may feel you can’t live without the things that distract you from serving the Lord, but that’s just Satan’s lie. His temptations always result in bondage. That’s why letting go is such a struggle. Whatever you’re clutching can never match the value of what Christ can do in a surrendered life. He’s waiting for you to let go and fully submit to Him. If you’ll lay it down at His feet, He’ll replace it with a life of victorious power and freedom, and you’ll become the person He created you to be.

In Christian Love and With Many Prayers,

Pastor Rick Signature

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How Do I Love You? Let Me Show You How!

The Pastors Pen Logo smallDear Church Family,

This past Friday was Valentine’s Day. Many people celebrated their love for someone remembering how they “Fell in Love!” Counting the ways we love each other is a romantic way to express our feelings for the one we love now. I wonder if anyone stopped to think about How God Loves Us? His love is not as fickle as our love and His love is a great example of how we should love.

It is sometimes difficult for a modern person, who associates love with uncontrollable feelings, to understand how the Bible can command love of God, neighbors, even enemies. But in the Bible the many terms translated as “love” do not refer primarily to feelings. They refer to decisions of the will. This voluntaristic notion of love is recalled in modern wedding services, where the bride and groom say “I do” and “I will” when they are asked to make their vows, not “I feel like it.” In the Bible, when God’s people are called upon to “love,” they are being asked to do something loving and responsive to the love of God, whether they feel like it or not.

If God has gone to the ultimate lengths of love for us, we can only respond by making tangible sacrifices of love for one another. We may express our love in words, but our words are empty if they are not accompanied by actions. We may have warm fuzzy feelings inside, but our feelings remain private pleasures if they do not translate into deeds. We are even called to love others when warm sentiments are absent. Human feelings ebb and flow. True Christian love is not a slave to such emotional fluctuations.

As a Pastor and Marriage and Family Counselor I see lots of families who are hurting and struggling with their emotions of love. Unfortunately, many of these, by the time they come see me have already made up their mind to divorce. They just come see me so they can say, “Oh we tried that counseling stuff, and it just didn’t work for us.”

A few years ago, some dear Christian friends explained why they had gotten divorced by writing, “We exhausted our spiritual resources.” It was one of the strangest explanations I had ever heard, especially from two Ph.D.’s and Christian educators who knew very well that God’s spiritual resources are inexhaustible. Apparently, they were unwilling to admit what had really happened and to say, “We quit trying.”

More recently, another close Christian friend, a teacher in New Testament studies no less, and a long-time educator, left his wife for another woman, who herself was seminary trained by saying to his wife, “I haven’t loved you for the last seven years.” What he meant, of course, was that he didn’t have the same kind of feelings he once had for her. But in the Bible love is primarily a commitment, obedience to God’s commands, rather than an emotion.

Just this fall, a long-time friend told me about how he had “made a mistake” and cheated on his wife. In fact, he used the expression several times in our conversation. Never once did I hear the word “sin,” however.

I guess in a world in which politicians “misspeak” when they lie, in which athletes “make bad choices” when they commit crimes, and prostitutes are called “sex workers,” I shouldn’t be so surprised.

But how about the innocuous and even heart-warming, “I fell in love”? As sweet as it sounds, it’s not a biblical expression. And if you can claim you’ve fallen in love, then you can say you’ve fallen out of love, as lots of people do. In a country in which even many Christians think the pursuit of happiness is an inalienable right (no, just because the American Constitution declares it so doesn’t make it true), is it any wonder that people justify leaving their spouses because they just don’t feel good or make them happy anymore?

Paul, in his famous love chapter, writes in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” Notice the use of “always” a few times? And the adjectives and verbs used to characterize love don’t have that much to do with emotion, except perhaps when they refer to keeping it under control.

Twice in my life, I’ve had friends who were in the process of divorcing their spouses who looked me straight in the face, and admitted, “I know, I’m reneging on my wedding vows.” At least they were honest. That’s what it’s really all about – promise keeping.

If I can’t trust someone to remain true to their word when they have made the most solemn pledge of their entire lives before God, spouse, and a Christian congregation, why should I trust them for anything else?

Now, of course, God is a God of amazing grace, wonderful forgiveness and countless fresh starts. And I have dear friends who sinned miserably with their first spouses and are having godly, inspiring second marriages.

But they repented. They called sin sin. They confessed to God and fellow humans. They prayed for forgiveness. They received godly counsel and, often, counseling. Their lives genuinely changed. The words we use for labeling concepts do matter.

Most countries and cultures in the history of the world that have practiced arranged marriages have had extremely low divorce rates. At least those couples recognized that it wasn’t feelings or emotions that made or unmade marriages. They were also less likely to define love as a feeling or an emotion in the first place.

1 Corinthians 13 ends with the famous 1 Corinthians 13:13: “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” If love is eternal and love is the greatest of the attributes we will share throughout eternity, maybe we’d better start paying more attention in this life to what it truly involves. Richard Walker, a former pastor and founder of AMOR Ministries, working with Brazilians in the Upper Amazon basin, put it well, “Love is the giving of the very best you have on behalf of another regardless of response.” – even when it’s thrown back in your face. Isn’t that what Jesus did with and for us?

Jesus obeyed his Father when he didn’t “feel like it.” Because he obeyed in spite of his emotions, we are now empowered to love God and each other, as John admonishes us: “Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth” (1 John 3:18).

SO, how should we love in accordance to God’s Plan?

Americans need advice on love and marriage. Our society leads the industrialized world in teenage pregnancy: one out of three girls in America becomes pregnant by the age of 20, 81 percent out of wedlock. Ninety percent of our youth have been exposed to pornography by the age of 18. Fifty percent of first marriages, 67 percent of second and 74 percent of third marriages end in divorce.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 1.8 million sexually transmitted diseases were reported in 2012. More than 1.1 million people in the U.S. are living with HIV infection. Since the epidemic began in 1981, more than 641,000 Americans have died of AIDS-related causes.

Clearly, our love rules aren’t working very well.

Taylor Swift has been making entertainment headlines since she released her first album at the age of 16. Her net worth is estimated at $220 million. An online magazine recently compiled “Taylor Swift’s Rules About Love: A Comprehensive List.” Here are some of her rules on the subject:

• “I never chase boys. They don’t like it.”

• “[Guys] can be a part of your life but never let the guy be your life. They can live in your world, but never make the guy your world.”

• “Relationships are like traffic lights. And I just have this theory that I can only exist in a relationship if it’s a green light.”

• “Deciding not to play games is the best way to go because it keeps things simple: If he messes it up by playing around with your heart, you’ll know he doesn’t deserve you.”

• “I think you can love people without it being the great love.”

However, she also says, “I have rules for a lot of areas of my life. Love is not going to be one of them.” So maybe her rules aren’t rules after all.

What if we applied God’s rules for love and marriage? His word offers a “top 10″—10 principles that, if practiced, would transform our homes and society. Let’s set them out as clearly and concisely as possible.

Rule #1: Sex is God’s gift for heterosexual marriage

God created humans as sexual beings, instructing us to “be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28). Before the fall, “the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed” (Gen. 2:25).

Our Creator intends sexual intercourse to be between a man and his wife (Gen. 2:24). Jesus reinforced his Father’s intention that “a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh” (Matthew 19:5; cf. Ephesians 5:31).

Rule #2: Sex outside of marriage is always wrong

We are repeatedly told, “you shall not commit adultery” (Exodus 20:14; Deuteronomy 5:18; Matthew 19:18; Romans 13:9). We are not to have sexual relations with anyone who is not our spouse (Leviticus 18:6-18).

Rule #3: Marriage is intended to be permanent

Scripture teaches that “a wife is bound to her husband as long as he lives” (1 Corinthians 7:39; cf. Romans 7:2). There are three clear exceptions:

• Divorce is permitted for adultery: “Everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery” (Matthew 5:32).

• Abandonment by an unbelieving spouse is also grounds for divorce: “If the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved” (1 Corinthians 7:15).

• I believe that abuse constitutes a third ground for “biblical” divorce, as life must be protected: “You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13).

Malachi rebuked men who were faithless to “your companion and your wife by covenant” and asked, “Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union?” (Malachi 2:14, 15).

Rule #4: Sexual purity begins with the mind

Job testified, “I have made a covenant with my eyes; how then could I gaze at a virgin?” (Job 31:1). Scripture consistently affirms such integrity:

• “Everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28).

• “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Philippians 4:8).

• “Each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death” (James 1:14-15).

• “This is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God . . . For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness” (1 Thessalonians 4:3-5, 7).

Rule #5: Sexual relations between people of the same gender are forbidden

This is a much-debated subject but these Scriptures are clear and relevant:

• “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination” (Leviticus 18:22; cf. 20:13).

• “God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error” (Romans 1:26-27).

• “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).

• “The law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine” (1 Timothy 1:9-10).

Rule #6: Celibacy can be God’s intention

The Bible forbids homosexual activity, not homosexual orientation. For those who are attracted to the same sex, God teaches purity and thus abstention. His Spirit will help those who are called to this difficult lifestyle: “I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another” (1 Corinthians 7:7).

Jesus taught, “There are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let the one who is able to receive this receive it” (Matthew 19:12). The Apostle Paul affirmed celibacy: “To the unmarried and widows I say that it is good for them to remain single as I am” (1 Corinthians 7:8; cf. Revelation 14:4).

Rule #7: Sexual sin harms us

Scripture consistently warns that sexual immorality harms those who choose it:

• “He who commits adultery lacks sense; he who does it destroys himself. He will get wounds and dishonor, and his disgrace will not be wiped away” (Proverbs 6:32-33; cf. 5:3-14).

• “The works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality . . . orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:19, 21).

• “Let marriage be held in honor by all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous” (Hebrews 13:4).

Sexual sin will always take you further than you wanted to go, keep you longer than you wanted to stay, and cost you more than you wanted to pay.

Rule #8: Wives should encourage and respect their husbands

Now we come to perhaps the most misunderstood teaching in Scripture regarding love and marriage. Ephesians 5:22-24 instructs: “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.”

Could any teaching be more counter-cultural today?

Actually, Paul does not mean what most readers think he does. “Submit” translates the Greek word hypotasso, which can be rendered, “the voluntary decision to encourage and respect another.” The verb is in the Greek middle voice, literally translated “place yourself in submission.”

The wife is not in any sense inferior to the husband: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). Rather, she chooses to respect and support her husband. He is created in such a way that he needs his wife’s affirmation more than he needs the affirmation of any other person.

Rule #9: Husbands should put their wives first

In turn, men are taught: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25). “Love” translates agape, which can be rendered, “the unconditional commitment to put another person first.” Husbands are told to cherish their wives as their highest priority under Christ. Wives are to be more important than a husband’s career, ambitions, goals, or any other relationship.

A wife is created in such a way that she needs to be cherished by her husband, to know that she is his “first love” under God. When wives encourage and respect their husbands, and husbands cherish their wives unconditionally and before all others, they align themselves with God’s word and enable the Lord to bless their marriage.

One expert summarizes: “Men are motivated and empowered when they feel needed. . . . Women are motivated and empowered when they feel cherished.” Every marriage needs encouraging respect and unconditional love.

Rule #10: God calls us to purity

Our bodies were designed for purity: “The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body” (1 Corinthians 6:13). As a result, “sexual immorality and all impurity and covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints” (Ephesians 5:3).

Conclusion

God’s rules for love and marriage can be summarized simply: marriage is a covenant. Our culture views it as a contract which can be ended whenever either party wishes. Our Lord sees it as a covenant to which we make a permanent commitment.

John Adams once noted in his diary, “Suppose a nation in some distant region should take the Bible for their only law book, and every member should regulate his conduct by the precepts there exhibited! . . . What a Utopia, what a Paradise would this region be.” Suppose our society took his advice, living by God’s rules for love and marriage. What would be the impact on divorce, adultery, pornography, sexually transmitted disease, children and the family?

You may not be able to lead our nation to live by Scripture, but you can set an example for those you influence today. An evangelist was once asked how to begin a revival. His advice: “Go home, take a piece of chalk, and draw a circle around yourself. Then kneel inside that circle and pray until your life is right with God. When you are done, revival will have begun.”

Can a moral revival in our culture begin with you?

In Christian Love and With Many Prayers,

Pastor Rick Signature

 

Based on articles:

James C. Denison, Ph.D. God’s Top 10: rules for love and marriage

Craig L. Blomberg, Falling in Love?

Hazel Offner, A Deeper Look at Love

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Do You Know My Jesus? He Loves You!

The Pastors Pen Logo smallDear Church Family,

WOW! Here we are already in February! I don’t know about you but I am still wondering where January went. Time goes so fast. I don’t know where it goes but I do know who holds all time in His hands, His name is Jesus. I am amazed that the Lord knows me and cares about me but He does and He cares about and loves you. Do you know Him? Does He live in your heart today? February is the month that focuses on the heart so I want to today in this Pastor’s Pen as well as focus us on Jesus.

To the poet, it’s the vault in which dreams are kept. To the athlete, it’s the high-test fuel that propels the body. To the romantic, it’s a gift to be given. To the zealot, it’s what is worn on the sleeve. To the physician, it’s a muscle extraordinaire. And to the pastor, it’s why the workweek never ends at forty hours.

The Heart—the unseen, non-negotiable center of human life.

Like an anxious kid waving his hand during show-n-tell, the beating heart is eager to be recognized. And with good reason, too. Its primary function is to receive, clean and pump as many as six quarts of blood through every nook and cranny of the body every sixty seconds—every twenty seconds if you’re exercising.

The heart is petite too! This little workhorse is only the size of a clenched fist and weighs less than a pound. And yet the heart is the most active and durable muscle in the body, beating 100,000 times every day or 36 million times per year.

In one hour the energy exerted by the heart is equivalent to lifting 1.5 tons one foot off the floor.

Because of its importance, physicians have tried to fix sick hearts for centuries—some with extraordinary results, others not so much. For example:

•    In 350 B.C., the first bloodletting office was opened in Alexandria. Egyptian physicians hoped to eliminate heart diseases by eliminating diseased blood.

•    In 1540, an English Barber’s License was issued permitting local beauticians to engage in haircutting and bloodletting—presumably at a full-service salon.

•    In 1903, the electrocardiograph was developed to detect and record the electrical activities of the heart. (Rumor has it the electro-candygram was introduced then too.)

•    In 1949, two doctors at the Yale School of Medicine used dime-store toys and various pieces from an Erector Set to build an artificial heart for a dog. The dog lived for more than one hour.

•    In 1967, the first human heart transplant was performed. The recipient died of pneumonia 18 days later due to a weakened immune system.

•    In 1982, the first successful artificial heart, the Jarvik-7, was implanted. The longest living recipient survived 600 days.

•    In 1988, the first Hemopump was used, allowing patients to live without a pulse thereby giving the implanted heart time to heal before it started pumping again.

•    In 2013, there were 2,000 successful heart transplants in the United States. Another 278 were not as fortunate.

All in all, the heart is critical property.

Pastors, working hand in hand with Jesus, are also in the heart-fixing business. But our work has nothing to do with blocked arteries or damaged myocardium: Our challenge is to operate on the very serious and deadly hardened hearts.

Thankfully, the surgical tools we’ve been given are timeless and oh so effective.

“The word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged scalpel, cutting deep to the soul and the spirit … to the thoughts and attitudes of the heart, exposing us for what we really are.”

It’s little wonder that almost 1,000 verses of scripture speak of the heart. God’s word has an uncanny ability to cut out sin and weaknesses. It binds wounded spirits and resuscitates weakened hearts. It gives birth to hope. It empowers once-dormant muscles. It revitalizes lost disciplines.

But heart check-ups aren’t just for parishioners. Scripture offers an EKG for pastors, church members and the lost too.

The warning signs for Christian heart disease can be found in five pressure-point areas:

1.)    Don’t let the heart be snared by attractive evils.
2.)    Don’t let the heart be vindictive in another’s misfortune.
3.)    Don’t let the heart be troubled when God’s plans supersede our own.
4.)    Don’t let the heart be bought by the highest bidder.
5.)    Don’t let the heart wander into complacency.

Heart surgery, whether on the lost, a congregation or its pastor, is serious business. Though the pulse may be weak and the conditions grim, the solutions are always available.

Do not lose heart. Jesus is the answer. That is why I am starting this new series on Sunday nights for a while. It will be an interactive series where I hope you will not meet my Jesus but fall in love with Him, and grow to understand Hos Purpose and Passion for you.

As the ole hymn writers said:

Have you a heart that’s weary
Tending a load of care
Are you a soul that’s seeking rest
From the burden you bear?

Do you know my Jesus
Do you know my friend
Have you heard he loves you
And that he will abide till the end?

Who knows your disappointments
Who hears each time you cry
Who understands your heartaches
Who drys the tears from your eyes.

Do you know my Jesus
Do you know my friend
Have you heard he loves you
And that he will abide till the end?

Have you heard he loves you
And that he will abide till the end?…

He does you know, He is really something.

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus
There’s just something about that name
Master, Savior, Jesus
Like the fragrance after the rain

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus
There’s just something about that name
Master, Savior, Jesus
Like the fragrance after the rain

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus
Let all heaven and earth proclaim

Kings and kingdoms will all pass away
But there’s just something about that name

See you on Sunday nights I hope!

In Christian Love and With Many Prayers,

Pastor Rick Signature

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