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God’s Forgiveness in Jubilee

I think most of us have at some time or another known someone with a deadly disease such as cancer. As we all know, cancer kills. In fact, perhaps some of you have even lost mates, parents, or other family members because of cancer. You know its ill effects; in fact, you have even seen the devastation that treating cancer has on people: these often look as if they have been shaved and are in very poor health, in general. This “killer disease” causes great times of pain both to the bearer of the sickness and the family members associated with them. It is painful to see a loved one fade away before your very eyes. Just as cancer is deadly, so there is an even deadlier disease that many of you in this room possess and are completely unaware of; you’re even ignorant to the effects that it has on you. This illness has many different facets and I will name but a few of them today: unforgiveness, bitterness, ill-will, hatred, wrath, undealt with anger, etc.

There has been no cure found yet for cancer, but there is a cure for the above-mentioned diseases. As I present this cure this morning, I hope each of us is able to see the need for the cure (or the prevention) of this dreaded disease that is in our life. (And by the way, the cure’s name is Jesus).

Life Principle: The forgiveness of Jesus is a key element to the Presence of God in our lives.

Let’s talk about anger for a few minutes. What are some facts about bitterness, anger, hatred, etc.? Conflict. Distrust. Jealousy. Hurt … And many other titles

Before we go further, let’s answer a couple questions about anger.  Is it a sin to be angry? Paul used words to express the example of Christ in Ephesians 4:26 NIV-  “’In your anger do not sin’: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.” Not only is anger not necessarily sin, but God even shows us the proper way to deal with such – in a timely, daily manner.

But Anger can be Contagious

Certainly, there are MANY reasons why we deal with anger immediately. One of those reasons is because anger can be highly contagious. Never let it be said of us that we helped spread such a deadly disease!

Billy Martin, former coach of the New York Yankees told about a hunting trip he had in Texas with baseball legend, Mickey Mantle. Mickey had a friend who would let them hunt on his ranch. When they reached the ranch, Mickey told Billy to wait in the car while he checked in with his friend.

Mantle’s friend quickly gave them permission to hunt, but he asked Mickey a favor. He had an old mule out in the barn who was going blind, and he didn’t have the heart to put him out of his misery. So, he asked Mickey to shoot the mule for him.

Mickey decided to play a trick on his hunting partner. When he came back to the car, he pretended to be angry. He scowled and slammed the door. Billy asked him what was wrong, and Mickey said his friend wouldn’t let them hunt. “I’m so mad at that guy,” Mantle said, “I’m going out to his barn and shoot one of his mules!”Mantle drove like a maniac to the barn. Martin protested, “We can’t do that!” But Mickey was adamant. “Just watch me,” he shouted. When they got to the barn, Mantle jumped out of the car with his rifle, ran inside, and shot the mule.

As he was leaving, though, he heard two more shots, and he ran back to the car. He saw that Martin had taken out his rifle, too. “What are you doing, Martin?” he yelled. Martin yelled back, face red with anger, “We’ll show that son of a gun! I just shot two of his cows!”

My friend, anger can be dangerously contagious.

Again, let it never be said of us that we helped spread such a deadly disease!

And while this story tells a tale of anger improperly treated, I say that we must admit, on the other hand of this story, that the forgiveness of Jesus is a key element to the Presence of God in our lives.

Does my anger, as it is focused toward someone else, really affect them? Yes, it can — in several different ways:

To name a couple, It can affect how others look at the individual with whom I am angry.

My friends, rather than sway other individuals’ opinions to line up with our anger, let us seek to see others through Jesus’ eyes.

It starts with a prayer of trust asking Jesus to guide our thoughts and actions. “Lord Jesus, help me to see so-and-so through your eyes.”

It also can cause opposing sides to develop– creating a gap in friendships. For instance, in a church-type setting, anger can develop tension, create opposing groups within, and cause extremely “toxic soil” for growth in the Lord.

Does my wrath affect me? Most definitely. Anger and unforgiveness seem to take a three-step path: 1) Anger, 2) Bitterness, and 3) Death.

Does my wrath affect my walk with God? In order to answer that question, look at Jesus’ reply to Peter in  Matthew 18:22-35. In the final wordsof that passage, Jesus said, “This (wrathful response) is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

In other words, the Bible is clearly telling us that if we expect the forgiveness of the Father, we must forgive the one who owes us or offends us. Note that God will not require something of us that He will not equip us to perform. Forgiveness, my friend, is not an option; it is instead an essential in the Christian Life

How does all of this tie in with Jubilee? Among other things, the Biblical Year of Jubilee was a time of national forgiveness. There was a national awareness of the need for forgiveness throughout the land of Israel. This awareness affected land, possessions, and debts that were owed. And while there is some theological debate regarding how far this extended and how it was applied concerning land and debts — there is no debate concerning the application of personal forgiveness. It was what some would refer to as a mandated, legalistic—forgiveness – not an option.

But to go a step further my friends, in a very real way, Jesus IS our Jubilee

  • He is our Restoration
  • He is our wholeness
  • And He is our Forgiveness
  • Jesus IS our Jubilee.

Forgiveness is a great Biblical word translated from the Greek word, aph-i-e-mi, and literally meaning s “to send forth, in various applications (as follow):– To cry, to forgive, to forsake, to lay aside, to leave, to let (alone, be, go, have), to omit, to put (send) away, to remit, to suffer, to yield up.” It is actually a term that a Bookkeeper would have used, In BookKeepers’ terms, the word “forgive” means that this offense is no longer held against someone’s account.

This presents a very different idea than our concept of “forgive and forget.” When I no longer hold it to someone’s account, I can – at any time – at my desire or by accident — look back and see the wrong done, the offense incurred, or the debt owed – BUT, I also immediately see and understand that the deed/ debt/offense has been cancelled – or forgiven — and thus, it is no longer owed or held against He account of that individual.

My friend, on other words, it doesn’t matter if I forget it or not – or whether it seemingly pops up at some unfortunate time—if it is forgiven, it is no longer held to the account of – whether I remember it or not – or whether I forget it or not.

In other words, when Christ forgives us, it does not mean that He has erased our sin from His memory; it means that He no longer holds the sin to our account. But, I must mention, by extension, forgiveness doesn’t excuse the offending behavior, it simply no longer holds it to the account.

And in very practical terms, for us, forgiveness prevents someone else’s behavior from destroying our hearts.

And forgiveness also fulfills God’s desire for us to forgive others, even as He has forgiven us.

Luke 11:3-5 (NIV)- Give us each day our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins,
for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.
And lead us not into temptation.’”

Isn’t it interesting that the medicine God has prescribed for the cure and prevention of this dreaded disease that we mentioned earlier: wrath, anger, and bitterness — is forgiveness — forgiveness through Jesus.

How do I forgive?

First of all, realize that there is nothing within you that is able to perform forgiveness; it is only Jesus in and through you that can forgive.

Life Lesson: It is only by the empowerment of Jesus that you can forgive.

Draw near to God, pray and ask God to give you the grace to forgive. The Hebrew poetry found in Proverbs 3:5-6 tells us specifically how we draw nigh unto Him.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart

(Wholeheartedly put your trust (and corresponding actions) in Him.)

and lean not on your own understanding;

(Find no strength or support in leaning upon your own understanding; instead, lean upon His understanding.)

in all your ways submit to him,

(In everything you see, hear, feel, sense, seek, say, do or even think, submit to Him.)

and he will make your paths straight” Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV).

This is how we draw near to Him – and of course, to complete that particular verse—in drawing near to Him, He will draw near to us.

After God has empowered you in forgiveness, make to yourself a mental commitment to no longer hold to someone else’s account for wrongs done. Daniel 1:8 (NIV) tells is, “But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way.”

Although some would tell us that we do not have a part to play in this action of forgiveness – or any other Christian act – that it is only Christ’s actions that have already been performed – we must understand and respond that we have the role of cooperation to play in these tasks. Cooperation with the Word of God and the Will of Christ is an essential element of forgiveness.

Go and seek to make everything right between you and the one you’re forgiving. Note that this is a fruit of God’s grace within you – by His empowerment – to go. In a very real sense, your going is merely a fruit of His dwelling presence in you. Matthew 5:23-24 (NIV) iterates, “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First, go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.”

Remember, the forgiveness of Jesus is a key element to the Presence of God in our lives.

When thoughts of bitterness or anger enter in against someone whom you’ve forgiven, Pray, and be sure to remember your mental commitment. Remember your “Book Keeper’s Book— it is clearly marked, forgiven! You may even have to verbally (out-loud) remind yourself that you’ve forgiven them.

And, how do I get forgiveness?

Confession, from the Greek, homo-le-ge-o-mai and meaning,”to say the same thing as” is a definite part of the receiving forgiveness process. I John 1:9 (NIV) reminds us, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

If I am saying the same thing as, what am I saying the same thing about? I am saying the same thing that God already knows. Certainly, our confession is to the Lord – but we may also confess things to a trusted Christian friend or Christian leader.

Ask and Repent (See Psalm 51:7-13). And note that the word translated as repent, is the Hebrew word, shuv, literally meaning “to return.”

The thought might occur, “to return to what?” To return to the state or condition in which God originally created us to be and function.  To revert back to tabula rasa – a blank slate. This is a beautiful picture of 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NIV)- “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”

And finally (and this is often the hardest part), Receive and walk in His forgiveness

The great philosopher, Lucy, of the cartoon Peanuts fame, once expressed to Charlie Brown at the end of the baseball game an explaination of why she had lost sight of the baseball and why she had failed to make the catch. “Sorry I missed that easy fly ball, manager. I thought I had it, but suddenly I remembered all the others I’ve missed, and the past got in my eyes.”

Don’t let the past, your sins, your failures, and your mistakes— get in your eyes this morning. Instead, get His forgiveness.

  • Dr. David Seamunds, in his book Healing for Damaged Emotions, says, “The two primary causes of emotional stress are the failure to receive forgiveness and the failure to forgive.”
  • Lewis B. Smede, renowned Christian author, ethicist, and theologian in the Reformed tradition, once said, “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.”
  • Still, Max Lucado, stated it in an even different way, “Forgiveness is unlocking the door to set someone free and realizing you were the prisoner.”

Life Principle: The forgiveness of Jesus is a key element to the Presence of God in our lives.

Sow, here is a nice “take away.”

  1. Confess
  2. Ask and Repent
  3. Receive
  4. Forgive others.

On another note:  This weekend, at our church, we had the privilege of hosting singer,  Steve Green. There was such a calming and peaceful Spirit of the Lord among us. I think what I took home from that experience is that God is always there to bring His peace, even when many have labored so intensely to make an event happen; He is even there to bring rest over you when you have labored long and hard. Many who were there that evening had labored had for ays (and weeks, and months)

These are things that we all know BUT, sometimes, you have to be reminded by seeing them in action.

Pastor Jim

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Are You Using Your Gifts?

One of the mysteries of God is found in the concept that He chooses us, He qualifies us, and He equips us with wonderful gifts. This week, I want to explore the idea of God giving His people gifts.

Have you ever seen someone that you thought was just immensely talented? Have you ever wished that you were as gifted as someone else? It’s interesting that the Bible speaks very clearly about the giftings God has provided for us. Matthew 25:14-30 speaks about some of those giftings. I am aware in this passage that Matthew is using the word “talent” to refer to a measure of money. The word “talent” is actually a transliteration, meaning that it is almost an identical “letter-for-letter” rendering of the original Greek. It fascinates me that this word for a measure of money links so closely with our word for natural gifting. Hmmm!

Here is a condensed paraphrase of the story

It’s like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and left some money with them. To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. The man who had received the five talents immediately put his money to work and gained five more talents. So did the one with the two talents; he gained two more. But the man who had only the one talent went off, and buried his master’s money in the ground.

After a long time their master returned to settle accounts with them.

The man who received five talents brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.’ His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

The man with the two talents also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two talents. See! I have gained two more.’

His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

Then the man who had received the one talent came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’

His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest. ‘Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents. For everyone who has will be given more and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

I think that all of us are found in this story; we each have various degrees of gifting. That’s a Biblical point, because 1st Corinthians tells us that God “divides to every man severally as he will.” We also can see that God is not ashamed or embarrassed with the gifts which He gives because He “never changes his mind about the people he calls and the things he gives them” (Romans 11:29, NCV).

In fact, we are each granted a special purpose in this life. God says that His purpose for you is already formed in His will. “Before I formed thee in the belly, I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations” (Jeremiah 1:4-5 NKJV). You might be amazed to know that His purpose in you is probably much more than you can imagine. Remember that God told Queen Esther (through Uncle Mordechai): “and who knows whether you have been appointed to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14 KJV). You see, just like as mentioned in Esther, our gifts are given to us to accomplish a special purpose for God in this life. And He expects us to use those gifts to accomplish His purpose.

As those gifts are faithfully used, other gifts will be multiplied unto us. Notice that to the man with five talents, his gift was doubled. Also notice that to the man with two talents, his gift was also doubled.

The story is told of a gardener of a castle in Scotland who had a son. This son dreamed of becoming a medical doctor. One day, the son of a visiting dignitary was swimming in the castle’s pool. Hit suddenly with severe cramping, the dignitary’s boy began to struggle to stay afloat. The gardener’s son dove into the water and rescued the boy from drowning. The boy’s father was so overjoyed that he insisted on repaying the gardener’s son in some way. The gardener told him of his son’s dream of going to medical school, which the dignitary volunteered to finance — but that’s not the end of the story. The boy who nearly drowned was Winston Churchill. While he was Prime Minister of England, he became deathly ill. Only a recently-discovered drug could save his life. This miraculous new medicine was called penicillin, and the man who discovered it was Dr. Alexander Fleming, the gardener’s son. Churchill responded to the drug and soon recovered completely.

As wonderful as that story is, we also need to understand that in cases where those gifts are not used, they will grow stagnant. In our passage, notice that to the man with one talent who didn’t invest it, it stagnated and even was taken away from him.

What I want you to receive is this: God has gifted each of you. You may have spent several years of your life developing those gifts, talents, knowledges, etc. and acquiring wisdom. Understand that those giftings and callings, and even many of your desires, were placed there by God Himself with a purpose. Have you ever considered that you were created and purposed “for such a time as this”—just like Queen Esther?

Finally, Thomas Edison was in a race with many other inventors to discover an efficient filament for the light bulb. He tried more than 1,000 different substances-everything from horse hair to bamboo strips. When asked by a reporter if he were discouraged by so many failed attempts, he responded, “No. Each failure represents one less filament I must try and brings me closer to my goal.” Edison kept on and received the patent for the electric light bulb, an invention that revolutionized the world.

Final Thought: Think great thoughts, attempt great goals, accomplish great things- and give the glory to God.

 

On another note:

I just had my first cataract surgery last week. Overall, it was a breeze BUT, there is a recovery time – not from pain but more, from relearning to focus. It makes reading very difficult for the moment. Also, I didn’t recover well from the anesthesia; I felt like I was in a deep well for the remainder of the week. I was a bit paranoid and depressed. I really have no idea WHY individuals enjoy doing drugs; I enjoy my semblance of sanity too much.

Until next time –

Dr. James Garrett


Friends, we ALL have a job to do.

 1 Timothy 1:14-17 (NIV) tells us, “Oh, how generous and gracious our Lord was! He filled me with the faith and love that come from Christ Jesus. This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I am the worst of them all. But God had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst sinners. Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in him and receive eternal life. All honor and glory to God forever and ever! He is the eternal King, the unseen one who never dies; he alone is God. Amen.”

 Have you ever thought about it? When you love a people so much, and you know that you must be away from them – at least for a long while, you want to be sure to leave them in good hands with good instructions. Mentor/Apostle Paul is writing to his young protégé, Timothy, with instructions on taking care of the Ephesian church, which Paul deeply loves and wants to protect. And Paul instructs young Timothy regarding love and unity – but he also warns him of dangers and divisions. This is the setting for the entire book of 1 Timothy. And by the way, anyone desiring to serve the Lord in any capacity would do well to study Paul’s pastoral epistles carefully and to read them regularly.)

Wherever God presents spiritual opportunities to you, know that the enemy will present obstacles in the middle of your path. Young, easily-discouraged Timothy was facing MANY obstacles.

Life Point: We all have a job to do — and by God’s grace and our commitment, He will work in and through us to complete it.

As part of Timothy’s task, Paul called upon Timothy to teach sound doctrine (vv. 1-11). Paul commanded sound doctrine. No other kind would do; in fact, any other kind would only bring confusion. So, Paul spoke against false doctrine.

My friend, today we NEED sound doctrine. There is every kind of teaching under the sun out there and if we are not careful, if we don’t put up our defenses, we will be caught and tripped up. Let each of us be sure we are getting the Word right.

It used to be said that when an aspiring agent for the U.S. Treasury was learning how to detect counterfeit money, they are taught to tell the fake from the real. Do they look at counterfeit bills? Do they learn about color-shifting inks, watermarks, ultraviolet glows, and fiber quality? Probably not! Their training consists of one thing and one thing only: endless hours of touching, viewing, and sniffing real money. It is said that if a person knows what the genuine article looks, feels, and smells like, then they’ll never accept a counterfeit. While this story is probably not true, it certainly makes a great illustration for our purpose.

We must be so open to the truth of God’s Word —so hungry to dig in to and to know God’s Word— that when a false doctrine comes our way, we know it immediately.

Our best prevention, then, against false teaching is good, Godly teaching. And Paul gave Timothy (and the church and us) a charge to teach sound doctrine!

A “charge” literally means “strict orders from a superior officer.” This charge had the effect of saying, “Timothy, you are not only the pastor of the church in a difficult city, you are also a Christian soldier under orders from the King. Now both obey these orders – and pass them along to the soldiers in your church.”

And there is a continued need within the church for basic Christian doctrine. But some are afraid of the word “doctrine” and tend to see it as divisive and unnecessary. However, doctrine, foundational teaching of the Bible to the church, is to the church much like the foundation is to a house; you cannot build anything solidly without it. Lack of good and strong doctrine also gives opportunity for compromise and sin. In other words, sin, not doctrine, is what eventually builds up barriers between the believer and God. We need to express good doctrine in our preaching, in our teaching, and in our living.

Life Thought: Regarding your teaching, If God calls you to teach, that’s terrific. But teaching shouldn’t be a driving desire in any man or woman because with greater responsibility comes greater potential for condemnation should a teacher swerve from the simplicity of the Word.

Additionally, Paul told Timothy – and us – that he was to Proclaim the Gospel (vv. 12-17). We must grasp that our testimony is a part of the Gospel. The Gospel is the euangelion, meaning, the Good News. It is the fact that God and mankind were separated from one another because of sin, that God so much desired for that separation to be removed and for the relationship to be restored, that He sent His Son, Jesus to live among us, to die for us, and to resurrect among us that we could walk in that restored relationship with Him forevermore — and that we could tell others about that Good News as well.

Paul spoke very openly about Mercy and Grace. And further, Paul used the prefix, Huper, meaning “An exceeding abundant amount” in his conversation. So, when Paul referred to grace and to mercy in this context, he was referring to an exceedingly abundant and powerful mercy and grace.

And the closer Paul drew to the Lord, the more he understood the extent of his sin and his need for a Savior.

Life Illustration: The first time I saw the Chicago Skyline from the air, I wasn’t as impressed as I thought I would be. But when I got off the plane, into a car, drove on to Michigan Avenue, past Garrett Popcorn and looked up, up, up at the buildings surrounding me, I was amazed because the closer I got to the buildings, the larger they looked.

And so, the closer Paul drew to the Lord, the more intimate he became with the Lord.

And finally, Paul told Timothy – and us—the he/we were to defend the faith (vv.18-20).

He said to Timothy, “Hold on to the faith. If you are God’s servant (and you are), called by the Spirit (and you are), obeying His will (and you are and must continue), then you can “stay with it.”

Church, Hold on to the faith! Defend the faith! Finish the work that is before you! And as you do these things, do not get further discouraged, do not reject the Gospel and do not become shipwrecked in the faith – as some have done before you. Instead, enjoy the relationships and community of the church because the fellowship of the local church — in obedience to the will of God —      gives believers, including the leaders, spiritual protection.

So, what should we do?

1) Hold on to the Faith

2) Learn, teach, and live sound doctrine.

3) Preach the Gospel

And 4) Defend the Faith

And on a different note.

It has been a relatively quiet week for our family—which is really nice. Sometimes we get so engaged in the hecticness of life that we forget to LIVE. And, for my week, I conducted a funeral/memorial service of a lady who reminded me that life should be an adventure and should be lived to the fullest.

So, my short simple message this week is: Live life as an adventure and to the fullest – in Him.

Pastor Jim

 


You know, we’ve heard many of the old Bible stories since childhood. We’ve heard them so many times, in fact, that they may seem to be just that: simple childhood STORIES – But God recorded all of those for real and specific purposes:

1) They’re real, historical recordings.

2) God is still using them to tell us His Old, Old story.

For a moment, I want to think about the story of the old, wizened prophet, Daniel as he, in Babylonian and then Persian captivity, was accused and sent to be executed – in a den of lions. And while observing this, let us see the deliverance of the Lord for Daniel – and in doing so, let’s see what God has for us as well.

In studying the true-life story of Daniel and the Lion’s den, we can see the enemy’s forces at work in the lives of the people of God

AND

we can see the deliverance of an individual dedicated to Godliness and integrity: old, wizened, Daniel, as he keeps himself true to his God.

AND

We can also see that God has that same purpose for each of us:  as we keep our trust in Him, He still delivers us today.

 Of course, this story is presented to us in Daniel 6. and, rather than tell it, I encourage you to read it again – in a trusted, easy-to-read translation – and then think about these things:

Life-Principle #1: God sees the enemies in your life and He gives you His deliverance when you put and keep your trust in Him.

Life-Principle #2: You can serve God as a young person OR as an old person (or anywhere in between); age has no boundaries for the servant of God.

Life-Principle #3: If you, like Daniel, desire to have an excellent spirit within you, God will open amazing doors before you. How do you get an excellent spirit? You spend daily time in relationship with the Lord and with His community, His people, His church.

Life-Principle #4: Wow! Think about this: It is a great thing when people such as Daniel possess such great character—such impeccable character — that they can’t be accused of doing anything wrong– except in matters relating to their faith. Let that be a challenge to each of us today.

Life-Principle #5: Faith is not believing through lack of evidence or in spite of evidence; faith is believing and obeying, even through and in spite of consequences.

Life-Principle #6: God’s servants are, in a very real way, immortal, until God’s work in them has been completed. In other words, if God is not finished with you yet, you need not fear death.

Life-Principle#7: If your faith cannot be tested, your faith cannot be trusted.

And with all these thoughts in mind, I really would like for you to take these words with you throughout this week:

  1. Determine to serve the Lord with an unwavering faith
  2. Know that He has a purpose and will for you.
  3. Know that He has you and your care in the center of His hands
  4. Know that ALL things work together for His good (Romans 8:28).

 

On a Different Note:

This past week reminded me of the need for setting and following priorities.

Thursday was a Jr. High football game in Perkins/Sandusky. Cheri and I didn’t get to go to see our grandson, Isaac, play. His team won by four touchdowns; he scored three of them. I really would have like to have seen that.

Friday, we had dinner with Dave and Jacquie at their house. They are getting ready for their seasonal move back down south in a few weeks. We were honored to have been invited and we are so glad we went over and spent close to six hours with them. Good, trustworthy, and Godly friends are difficult to come by. I’m glad we went.

Saturday, another grandson, Christian, played Jr. Varsity football over in Apple Creek. Cheri and I knew it was going to be a busy day BUT, we were determined to go and see him play. Although he did not get a whole lot of playing time on the field, we both beamed with pride as we sat in the stands with our son and daughter and one of our granddaughters, Piper. We treasure such family times.

Then we rushed back from Apple Creek to Mansfield so that I could pick up my guitar and drive to Ashland to play with my son, Jamie, as he and I ministered in a time of street ministry to the addicts in particular. It is always a wonderful thing to minister with any of my family, and Jamie is particularly anointed in playing piano and leading in worship; I got to be a part of that.

And Sunday, Cheri and I ministered God’s Word in two services. Those are always special times to me – times when we can stretch out a little in our giftings – and times when we can watch what God is doing through us. I don’t take for granted the anointing we have; so we treasure them and seek to be good stewards of those giftings.

And then, I just get to take care of Cheri. She is my gift from God and I get to pamper her a little and take care of her. She is really doing great and looking to be perfectly fit and healthy; she wanted so badly to go to church Sunday night – to be a part of the dinner-on-the-grounds and to sing with our church at the hymn-sing – but she was tired and struggling with some of the after-effects of her radiation treatments – so I asked her to stay at home. Sometimes, it’s just nice to take care of your mate.

My friends, we must be good stewards of the time, of the gifts, and of the giftings that God has granted to us. As we prove to be faithful and as we prove to be good stewards, His grace seems to increase.

 


“Doing” versus “Being”

I have recently been reading a book by Brian Rosner entitled, “Known by God: A Biblical Theology of Personal Identity”. In this book, he presents the Biblical thought of the “son being in the image of the Father”. While I had a concept of this, the imagery was deepened for me. Yes, that seems to be only natural that a son should be reared in the image of his father and should pick up and produce many of the traits of that father. But, all of the sudden, as I am reading this, I now see the image of the son (us) being reared in the image (and praxis) of our loving Heavenly Father and following in His traits. All of the sudden, “Be ye holy for I am holy …” (1 Peter 1:16 NASB) comes to a new light. Because we are HIS, we should be taking on the image of Him. While this could present an immediate challenge of trying to ACT in His image, Rosner’s side-bar on p.158 brought a new light with the son saying to the father, “you taught me to BE myself” (emphasis mine). In other words, this IMAGE of God in us is not something that becomes worked up and produced; instead, it BECOMES because it is being grown in us by walking in His footsteps.

The part of this that seemed counterintuitive to me was the concept that many of us would strive to achieve the goal of being in His image. Admittedly, part of this issue is that I am, along with our church elders, simultaneously reading “Gospel Wakefulness” by Jared C. Wilson. In it, he speaks of “doing” versus “being”. I think the issue with me is that Rosner continually iterates that the process of being fathered through adoption WILL PRODUCE likeness, simply through the parapeteo of life. This is great imagery, and IF such semantics have been drilled into one’s mind through study and training, the idea of STRIVING FOR what will eventually be ours anyway seems ultra-counterintuitive.

First, I understand the reasoning many translations make certain phrasings and words gender non-specific. Such understanding certainly applies to huios. However, since ho huios IS masculine in situ, and since I am naturally male, the need was undesired for me. It seems more applicable to me personally that the Heavenly Father Who has adopted me desires and equips me to “follow in His footsteps.” Again, I do not desire to take away from the gender non-specific translation, I simply seek self-application that I can fully relate to. SO, I am compelled to spend more time with Him so that I might learn to walk in His footsteps—so that I might BECOME more like the Heavenly Father.

On a personal note

This weekend at OCF, we celebrated a life well lived through Judy Roth. Judy was in her eighties, had been married for 61 years to Bob and had served Jesus pretty much all her life. To be very honest, I wish that Cheri and I had been able to know Judy sooner. In our knowledge of her, she had been manifesting signs of dementia and was clearly not always of sound mind. But to our understanding, she had always been vibrant and adventurous. In fact, just a few years ago, she had jumped from an airplane in a parachute – just because she could. I can’t exactly produce the word her son used to describe her, but it paralleled the thought of defying the norm or expected.

And so, I walked away from that service challenged. I don’t want to live the norm. I want my wife to think I am God’s gift to her.

I want my children and grandchildren to think their dad/papa is fun.

And I want to hear God say of me, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”


Tell Me the Old, Old Story – of David and Goliath

We’ve heard the old Bible stories since childhood. We’ve heard them so much, in fact, that many of them may seem to be just that: simple childhood STORIES – But God recorded these stories for a very real purpose.

1) They’re real, historical recordings.

2) God is still using them to tell us the truth.

One of those stories is that of David and Goliath.

There is MUCH for us to learn here in this factual story.

Perhaps the biggest is this: God sees the giants in your life and He gives the victory when you put your trust in Him.

You see, when you determine to allow God to move in your life—and when you get out of His way and cooperate with Him to pull down strongholds in your life, my friend, it will produce a victorious end – But it will also make the news.

When great things are happening, people are going to talk about it — and talk about you– and some will even come and try to talk you out of it.

But we must remain steadfast.

We must not be swayed to the left or the right BUT, we must stay on course and produce what God has put within us.

Our attitude, then, must be like that of young David; it must be,

“Satan, you cannot have my family!

You cannot have this ministry!

You cannot have this church!

Devil, you cannot have our finances!

You cannot kill our family with sickness and disease!

You cannot, cannot, cannot! … for I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.”

At that time in his life, David didn’t need to know Goliath’s Strength, because David already knew God’s strength.

In his book, Facing Your Giants, Max Lucado says:

  • Focus on Giants — You Stumble
  • Focus on God –Your Giants Tumble

Think of it this way:

In the case of David and Goliath, the enemy had already defeated the children of God through words and intimidation

Until a man after God’s own heart, full of faith in God stepped up

Called upon the Name and reputation of the Lord

And defeated that enemy.

So, stop listening to the enemy with his slanderous accusations and deceiving suggestions.

Instead, stand up, pursue God, and become the man or woman after God’s own heart.

And witness the victory of the Lord.

 

On a different note:

This is a heavy week.

Cheri finishes her 20 units of radiation for her Breast Cancer. This is exciting and she has shown all of us how to trust and believe God in times of need. Praise God for her example.

And I made appointments for cataract surgeries. Wow! I didn’t see that a-comin’. But I’m told that, between my age and my diabetes, it is pretty much inevitable. I know this is routine surgery – and I’m not afraid– BUT, I just don’t want to have to go through all the healing process and time. AND, I don’t know what to anticipate on the other side of the surgery. BUT, it’s all in His hands and I walk with confidence in that.

Pastor Jim


Recharge Your Batteries

There are many different expectations of all of us as Christians – especially pastors and other leaders.

It is my understanding that the Biblical qualifications of a pastor are delineated in 1 Timothy 3:2-7 (NASB)

An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate,
prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not addicted to wine or
pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money. He must be one
who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with
all dignity (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how
will he take care of the church of God?), and not a new convert, so that he will
not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil. And
he must have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he will not
fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.

From this passage, I have surmised that the role of the pastor must begin within his own home. Another aspect of this is found in a phrase often quoted by a pastor-friend of mine in Alabama. He says, “You can lose your church and still keep your family; but if you ever lose your family, you stand at risk of losing your church as well.”  I think there is great wisdom in those words. Because of this sentiment, I believe that the Christian leader must protect his family as well as himself by establishing limitations and guidelines that he will allow of others’ expectations upon himself and his family.

I think one of the difficulties I often face as a pastor is that I have difficulty in taking time-off. I simply get into the aspect where I want to be sure that I don’t miss anything God is doing at the church.

But we must realize that such is not healthy. We MUST take time to rest, to develop ourselves, and to let God be God in and around us. In fact, God commanded us to take a break; He told us we are to keep and honor every Sabbath. This means we are to take a day of rest every week.

There are probably many reasons we are told to rest. One is that God Himself set such an example before us when He rested on the seventh day of Creation. Another is that He specifically told us that we are to take every seventh day as a time of rest.

And again, He showed us with the example of supplying the Children of Israel with manna and yet, they were to collect only on the first six days of the week but leave untouched the seventh day’s supply; God would (and did) supply their need.

The pastor must be careful to set aside time for vacation and time alone with his family. Also, there must be time set aside for personal recreation, personal rest, family togetherness, and personal mental and emotional maintenance. And all of this is in addition to personal Bible Study, reading, and praying. Some have suggested that pastors should not factor those things into the equations, but I suggest that if the leader is not adequately concerned for his own family and well-being, he will not last long enough in life to be able to last long in ministry.

So yes, I am pleading for all of us to take time and rest our weary bones, rest our minds, relax in Him, and them move in Him.

On a Personal note:

Cheri and I took this past weekend off. It was the first time I have missed church in forever. It was personal time for the two of us, AND, it was my 61st birthday.

We road-tripped much of these few days, spent some time in Amish country with the camera in hand, and more than anything, just enjoyed being together.

We rested.

We had all the grandchildren (but 1) over and grilled out hamburgers and hotdogs.

I even bought edible crickets for all the kids to try. (We’re always trying something – I teach them to be adventurous.)

But more than anything, we just relaxed and enjoyed.

So, I’m still learning.

After 61 years, I’m learning to relax and enjoy.

I am finding that it is an art.

But I am also finding that it is necessary.

Friends, Let’s take time to rest – and to enjoy this God-given journey called life.

Pastor Jim


Wow! I was looking at my photos in Dropbox yesterday and I hit upon all my pictures from the three trips I have made to Israel. How exciting it was as I viewed our 2007 archaeological study tour with Ashland Theological Seminary, our 2010 pilgrimage with CLC, and my 2011 Missions journey with four friends from Chicago as we toured the land while ministering in missions work among Russian Jews in Haifa.

While those times and pictures are very precious to me, I am also reminded that we are returning to the Land in November and we get to share it with many who have never been there before.

I am passionate about the Land of Israel and about sharing it with others.

And I am challenged by that BECAUSE, I wonder how passionate I am about sharing Jesus with others. Certainly, as a Pastor, sharing Jesus is part of the assumed role and I fill that well BUT, am I, James Vernon Garrett the man, passionate about sharing Jesus?

If we can be consumed by a place, by a sports team, by a family, by anything else, then what hinders us or what sidetracks us from being consumed by Jesus?

This is NOT intended to “beat any of us up”, nor is it intended to produce a false humility among any of us – instead, it is to provoke a thought that perhaps we can move deeper in love with Him – with the Author and Finisher of our faith – with the Object of our true worship.

Be challenged this day. Accept the challenge – and dig a little deeper.

On another note:

What a Sunday we just completed. OCF had all the students, teachers, administrators, and staff from all of our represented schools: kindergarten, elementary, jr. high, high school, college, grad school, and technical/vocational school with public school, home school, and private school representation – and we individually prayed, accompanied with the laying on of hands, for each one. It was a special time and I know that we are going to bear good fruit from this effort. God is going to be in the midst of our schools in a special way this year.

Also, we had a time of unity building among our pastors, elders, and deacons that was incredibly priceless. The following morning, I received an email from one of those in attendance that ended with this statement: “More and more I think the Holy Spirit is taking hold of our church …”

To God be the glory!!!

Pastor Jim


The sermon from this weekend’s pulpit was about pride. The preacher made an interesting comment to the effect that, “Pride is the enemy of Joy.”

I must confess to you: I had to think about that for a little bit. Of course, we can all probably come up with MANY enemies of Joy BUT, as I though deeper, I began to realize that the focus of the message was not on joy – or lack thereof—rather the focus was on pride.

Pride is defined as a sense of self-majesty (as directly opposed to a sense of “ruin”). In other words, it is a thinking more highly than one should or even higher than is true. And yes, pride and arrogance are proper translations BUT, we must realize that Biblical pride, especially in the Old Testament, is diametrically opposed to “ruin” In other words, when we begin to read about pride going before the fall and pride leading to destruction, we should readily see that, because those two ends are exact opposites, the former quickly digresses to the latter; it is a natural degradation of thing – it is also the Law and the plan of God. So, it begins to make sense when we read Job 33:17 (NLT):He makes them turn from doing wrong; he keeps them from pride”. Doing wrong IS destruction – and when God is keeping us from pride, He is correspondingly keeping us from ruin and destruction.

So yes, Pride IS the enemy of joy – but it is also the enemy of contentment, peace, goodness, completeness, success, and much, much more. If we want these things, the joy, the contentment, the completeness, the success, and all these other things, we must walk absent of pride – but in humility before Him. I love to read this passage that refers to the result of a king, a leader of a nation, as he turned from his pride, as he faced the purpose of God, and as God protected him and ALL his people: “Then Hezekiah humbled himself and repented of his pride, as did the people of Jerusalem. So, the LORD’s anger did not fall on them during Hezekiah’s lifetime (2 Chr. 32:26 NLT).

May we walk NOT in pride – but in true humility.

 

On another note, I was thrilled this weekend by two separate events with our local church, OCF.

One, I was able to conduct my first OCF Baby Dedication. As we dedicated John-John, I was reminded of the responsibilities that are due for our children — and I am speaking to every parent, grandparent, great-grandparent and beyond. And I am also talking to the church. We ARE family. We ARE community. And we need to work together, pray together, and live together to teach our children about Jesus Christ well.

Two, I was able to baptize ten believers in the pond of one of our church members. Some were children, some were teens– there was even an adult. To hear the testimonies, to hear the shouts of respect and joy from the families, and to see the faces on several of these as they came out of the water– it was a fabulous experience and, as the pastor, I had the honor of being a part of it.

Lord, let me remember these experiences like they are new — every time I get to do this. Make it fresh. Make it like a first time all over again.

Pastor Jim


Leviticus 25 declares the concept of the Biblical Year of Jubilee as:

–- that time when freedom reigns because lands and possessions are reverted back to their previous owner

— that time occurring every 50 years when captives are set free

— that time when land was allowed to lie fallow (or basically, untended), that it might actually become more fruitful

What an appropriate portrait as this week, our church, OCF, celebrates 50 years of ministry.

It is also appropriate that we venture into Acts 29, as we are liberated to continue the exaltation of Christ among our families, our peers, and the whole earth.

As we look at what God did for the people and the land of Israel at the time of Jubilee, it should cause great excitement to come upon each of us. Pretty much everything God did for Israel then, He has available for us today (except for the issue of the possession of land which applied only to that people in that place). I get excited when I realize that God still chooses to restore that which has been taken, to set the captives free, and to release the oppressed. And in a very large and real way, God has handed this over as the mission of the church. Now, it us up to us to recognize that we are that Church, the living presence of God in the earth declaring that restoration and freedom.

God is calling us to rise up and be the Church.

So what are our “take-aways” from this weekend’s message?

  • Make restitution for things stolen, taken, or lost.
  • Deal fairly with every person –even for past events.
  • Forgive offensestaken against us.
  • Invite God to bring Jubilee to you and to your family.
  • Be a funnel of Jubilee to your community… to your friends, your neighbors, your co-workers, the lost, the addicted, the destitute…bringing restoration and freedom, expanding His Kingdom

 

On a much more personal note:

I had the privilege of ministering together with my son this past weekend at the Jubilee Festival at our church, OCF. That is always a joy for me – to see someone I taught music to – to play and to sing – and then to see that he has far exceeded my gifts—what a thrill. Jamie, I am proud of you, son. And I am glad you are sensing your role in His Church.

And my middle child, Amber, started her new job as a Neonatal Nurse Practitioner with Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit. She is genuinely a servant of God and I love seeing her do what she loves —ministering to those premature babies and their parents. What a thrill. And I am glad you are sensing your role in His Church.

And finally, my oldest, Crystal, is in the country of South Africa this month – a place that she considers her second home. This is the land where she interned as a missionary. Although she is currently there on a hiring venture, her missionary heart for these people groups still rings true. Again, What a thrill. And I am glad you are sensing your role in His Church.

And as far as the world around us spins, this week has been a relatively quiet world – especially in light of the events of the week prior. I think we all needed a little bit of time to think and contemplate our place in our often-violent habitation. I am so thankful that it is not me who is in control – but God who is in control – and while I do not understand what all is taking place, I continue to trust God in and through it all. And in the midst of that, I am glad that He still chooses us, His people, the Church, to carry on as His Ambassadors to bring His liberty to this earth and to enlarge His Kingdom.