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Where’s Your Passion?

I recently had a very exciting conversation with a young lady. She was telling me that she had once begun her studies to become a veterinarian but gave up because she was having too many difficulties with the studies. She obviously does have a learning difficulty but she had determined that her difficulty was simply too hard to carry on with her task — so she decided to lower her expectations a little to switch and become a veterinary technician.

As she was telling me her new goals, which she has been working on for about a year now, you could visibly see her lighten up and you could hear the excitement in her voice. In fact, she told me that wanted to tell many people about her new goal in life.

The excitement I heard, and that I related back to her, was her passion. She was iterating her passion. And it was contagious.

I have no doubt that Amanda will go on to finish her studies and will become a veterinary technician.

And I am pretty sure that she will specialize beyond that.

Why?

Because she was and is in the zone of her passion.

Passion is that objective that you have to have. You eat it, drink it, dream it — and live it.

And passion will carry you through in times when otherwise you might want to quit or give up.

And I know passion.

And I think we all know passion.

When is the last time you ever dreamed of something so hard that you couldn’t let it go?

When’s the last time that you really lit up when you were talking about something — or someone?

When is the last time that you wanted something so badly that you knew you couldn’t live without it?

That’s passion.

A story is often told of a young boy who desperately wanted to learn a martial art. It is said that he sought out the training of a wise, old sensei.

In the boy’s search of the old man, he did find him. And he found him fishing in the middle of a stream.

The boy waited patiently on the side of the stream for what seemed like hours — simply in pursuit of being recognized by the old man.

Finally, the old man looked over at the boy and said to him, “Boy, what is it that you desire?”

The boy anxiously responded to him, “Oh great master, I desire to learn your martial arts.”

The old man simply looked away and continued fishing — seemingly ignoring the young boy.

After a while longer, he again looked over at the young boy and said, “boy, what is it that you desire?”

Again, the boy responded, “Oh great master, I desire to learn your martial arts.”

And again, the old man simply looked away and continued fishing.

Finally, after another hour or so, the old man looked over at the boy and said to him, “Boy, what is it that you desire?”

And, as the boy had before responded, he said: “Oh great master, I desire to learn your martial arts.”

The old man motioned for the boy to come out into the water with him.

The boy, desiring NOT to show his excitement, waded out into the water to the old man.

When the boy reached the sensei, the sensei violently grabbed, pushed, and held the young boy’s head under the water.

The boy struggled violently as well.

— until at last, four bubbles come from his mouth

— then three bubbles

— then two bubbles

— then one bubble

At which the old man, grabbing the boy by the hair, lifted him out of the water — obviously (and literally) dying for air.

And the old man looked at the boy and said to him, “Son, when you want to learn the martial arts from me … as much as you wanted that next breath of air — come back and I will teach you.

This is an illustration of the power of passion.

Passion causes us to come back when all Hell is coming against us.

Passion is that thing that causes us to NOT give up when nothing else seems to be going our way.

Passion is what finds us successful.

Why?

Because passion creates within us an “I’ve got to have it — or die trying to get it” attitude.

So again, I ask each reader today — what are you passionate about? And what’s it going to take to see your passion fulfilled?

And when you have answered those questions — carry on — and see your passion come to fruition.


Christmas in December 25 — I think NOT

An interesting question, though.

A friend, colleague, and professor once posed the question whether we as Christians should defend December 25 Christmas or not. His basis for discussion is that Jesus certainly does not need our defense and further, that most Christians who would defend December 25 Christmas probably would do so for the retail aspect. Hmmm. Interesting observation.

Personally, I think we SHOULD defend it — but simply for the reason of NOT giving up ground (as in a “slippery slope” where the enemy continues to take and take and take until there’s nothing left to take.)

You see, I really can’t defend December 25 Christmas as being the birth of Christ because all evidence points to the fact that it is NOT; instead it is a “carry-over” or loan from the ancient Romans and their Saturnalia Festivals — marked by all kinds of tomfoolery and reversals of social roles, in which even slaves and masters switched places.

Rome was notorious for assimilating various customs and holidays of conquered peoples with their (Rome’s) own customs and holidays.

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In fact, December 25 Christmas has nothing to do with Christ other than sharing His name.

Hanukkah, on the other hand, is an eight-day celebration of God miraculously providing ceremonially pure oil when the Jews worked to restore and rededicate their temple after it was desecrated by Antiochus IV, King of Syria in the 2nd Century BC. According to Jewish religious writings, there was only enough consecrated oil to fuel the Menorrah flames in the Temple for one day. The oil, however, miraculously burned for eight days, which was the length of time it took to press, prepare, and consecrate fresh olive oil. (This story is recorded also in 1 and 2 Maccabees in the Apocrypha — which by the way is good historical contextual reading — but not anointed scripture.)

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Jesus Himself observed the celebration of Hanukkah (or the Festival of Lights as it is also known) in the Temple as recorded in John 10:22-39. There are also many who feel that Hanukkah marks the “time of conception” of Jesus within Mary’s womb. This would certainly coincide with similar thought that would place the actual birth of Jesus during the Festival of Tabernacles or Sukkot. Isn’t it interesting that Jesus may have been born during the “Feast of Tabernacles?” (And the Word became flesh, and dwelt [tabernacled] among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth [John 1:14 NASB]).

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However, I am not ready to release Christmas to secularists/atheists who would dare to attempt to take one more thing from the Christian world.

Also, in 61 years, I have gotten familiar with my own personal traditions connected with Christmas (and I’m pretty sure I’m not ready to give those up.)

But I did make my own feeble attempts to observe and respect Hanukkah for several  years now — including spending some of that time in Israel during Hannuka 2011. (And besides, 8 days of Gift-giving/receiving beats that daylights out of one day of such.)

And I’m pretty convinced that Jesus was born sometime near Sukkot.

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So I guess I’ll do it like this: I will celebrate both Christmas and Hanukkah —  and even though Christ wasn’t born on the day we celebrate as Christmas (December 25) — and even though He really ISN’T the reason for that particular season, I will continue to honor Him, love Him, and share Him — on December 25 and every other day of the year.

Merry Christmas — and Happy Hanukkah!


Luke 2:1-20

(translated by Dr. Jim Garrett)

And it happened in those days [that] there came an order from Caesar Augustus for all the Roman Empire to be registered. This registration first took place while Quirinius was ruling the Syrians. And every citizen went to be registered, each into his own city

And Joseph came up from the Galilee, from the city of Nazareth in Judea, into the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he [was] from the house and of the ancestry of David. [He came] to enroll for himself, together with Mary, the one both being engaged to him and pregnant.

And it happened, while they were there, that the days for her Child to be born were fulfilled. And she gave birth to her firstborn Son and she wrapped Him in baby clothes and placed Him in a feeding trough because there was not a place [for them] in the guest room.

And there were shepherds in the same region living outdoors and keeping guard by night over their flock. And an angel of Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shined around them and they feared with a great fear. And the angel said to them,

Do not fear! For behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be to all people. For today, there is born to you in the city of David, a Savior Who is Christ the Lord and this is a sign to you: you will find a Baby being wrapped in baby clothes and lying in a feeding trough.

And suddenly, it happened that a number of the hosts of heaven appeared with the angel praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth, peace among men.”

And it happened as the angels departed into heaven, [that] the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go indeed to Bethlehem so that we might see this event that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.”

So they left in haste and found both Mary and Joseph, and [they found] the Baby lying in a feed trough. And after observing [Him], they made known [around them] concerning the matter that had been told them concerning this Child. And all, upon hearing [this], marveled concerning the proclamation that had come through the shepherds.

But Mary kept all these things and considered them in her heart.

Then, the shepherds returned honoring and praising God because of all the things they heard and saw, just as it was said to them.


Wow!

I guess I’m really getting older.

I have NEVER faced such difficulty in re-acclimating to my US time and routine. The flight to and from Israel, by way of Istanbul, has taken its toll.

I have worked really hard to establish a routine of blogging every Monday BUT, that went all out the door on this trip — and a fabulous trip it was — but I am exhausted.

31 of us made this journey. Everyone expected something different — yet each expected the same thing: we wanted to walk where Jesus walked. We wanted to see the sights where events of the Bible really happened. (and yet, some want to see archaeology. Some wanted to float in the Dead Sea. Some wanted to taste the fabulous foods of the Middle East — and some — wanted to shop.)

Regardless, we all came away fulfilled.

But as a way of helping me to segue back into daily reality, I want to post a devotion that my wife and I had written for our visit to Bethlehem. Let it speak to you as you read.

 

Oh, Little Town of Bethlehem.

The building of the Church of the Nativity is the oldest standing church in the Holy Land. Underneath its present floor are beautiful mosaics of the earlier church. (I actually saw some beautiful mosaics on previous trips to Israel that had been excavated … they were amazing!) According to tradition, Mary gave birth to Jesus at the place where the star is located on the floor of the Church of the Nativity. The tradition that the birth was in a cave is one of the oldest Christian traditions. It has been stated that the cave of Jesus’ birth was pointed out in His day and no doubt is the same place where this church was erected.

To the east of the city is believed to be the area of the fields of the shepherds “keeping watch over their flocks by night”. Several churches have also been built there to commemorate this event. Even today local shepherds can be seen tending their flock in this same area. As a matter of fact, on my last visit to the Holy Land, we met some of these shepherds who have made it a business to charge to have pictures made of them and the sheep in that field. (We were told by one vendor, “We love Americans — and the more you spend, the more we love you.”)

But the scene to the Shepherds at the birth of Jesus, happened in this manner:

Luke 2:8-20 – That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior – yes, the Messiah, the Lord – has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: “You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.” Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others – the armies of heaven – praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.” When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them.

 

So, what can we take home with us from Bethlehem? A few things cross my mind…

  • Bethlehem was chosen by God to host the birth of the King. God has chosen us, He picked us out as His very own to host King Jesus in our own hearts.

Ephesians 1:4 – Even as (in His love) He chose us (actually picked us out for Himself as His own) in Christ before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy (consecrated and set apart for Him) and blameless in His sight, even above reproach, before Him in love.

  • Bethlehem was a “little” town yet Jesus, God in the flesh, came to dwell in it. God is not looking for “big” people who have it all together, who look a certain way or who talk a certain way … that have money, status, gifting, or personality. He is looking for ordinary people such as you and me. He wants to come and dwell in us, to take up residence in “little ‘ole’ us”.

Micah 5:2– But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, are only a small village among all the people of Judah. Yet a ruler of Israel will come from you, one whose origins are from the distant past.

I Corinthians 3:16– Do you not discern and understand that you are God’s temple (His sanctuary), and that God’s Spirit has His permanent dwelling in you (to be a home in you, collectively as a church and also individually)?

  • Throughout the Christmas story we see “be not afraid”. The angel told Mary to not be afraid … the angel told Joseph not to be afraid and the angels told the shepherds not to be afraid. God is saying that to us TODAY. Don’t be afraid to step out into your calling and your destiny and your purpose! He is with us in everything and through everything. Be Strong! Be brave! Don’t be afraid. Your God is with us everywhere we go! Glory to God in the highest!

Joshua 1:9- “Remember that I commanded you to be strong and brave, Don’t be afraid, because the Lord your God will be with you everywhere you go.”

  • Many of us tend to want to idolize places like Bethlehem and events and moves of God. He simply wants us to” idolize” Him: to love Him with all our hearts, souls, minds, and strength. That is the GREATEST commandment. And when we do that His presence shines through us to others to see Him and be drawn to Him.

Deuteronomy 6:5 Love GOD, your God, with your whole heart: love him with all that’s in you, love him with all you’ve got!

 

God has chosen you and me to host Jesus. Many times, we feel too ”little”, too ordinary, and not good enough. But God sees us SO differently than we see ourselves and He wants to come to dwell in us: He desires to take up residence in us. All he really wants from us is for us to love Him with everything we are and everything we have!

O Little Town of Bethlehem … ”little ole you”, I choose you to be great, to host Jesus. Let Him in and love Him with your whole heart! Be strong and brave! Do not be afraid! I am with you everywhere you to!

Cheri Garrett


Israel- The Day Before

 

We are ready!

Tonight, we will call all the kids and will speak with most of the grandkids too.

And we are ready to head out tomorrow AM for Israel.

We leave Columbus, OH, head to O’Hare in Chicago, to Istanbul, Turkey, and then to Tel Aviv, Israel.

We hope to blog daily about this trip … and to share a few pictures. I will post the blog on my personal site and on the OCF site for those who are interested.

If you know us and you know people who know us, pass this link along to them so that they too, can know what’s going on and so they can pray for us too.

Tuesday is a day of travel, so you probably won’t see too much from us then though.

Keep the entire trip and team of 31 in prayers.

Pastor Jim & Cheri


Fight the Good Fight

In the book of 1 Timothy, accolades come to young Timothy through a title such as “man of God” and through strong command to “Fight the good fight of the faith.” These words could also be pointed to many who are in leadership today.

Many of the truths that are directed to Timothy are also true to all of us. We, the church, are the frontline of defense against the false gospel as promoted by the world.

And yes, it is a strenuous task BUT, as usual, the Holy Spirit equips us to be more than enough.

In Paul’s use of the term, “man of God”, for Timothy and other church leaders, he was drawing two lines. One, he was showing that the body of Christ was set apart from the world as having a special task—as a protector of the truth of the Gospel. And second, he was defining a mark between the man of God and the man of the world—the false teacher.

And Paul was letting us know that we are all to “fight – and keep fighting — the good fight of the faith and daily keeping the good testimony.”

The importance of our role was well portrayed as Paul said in 1 Timothy 4:16, “Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers” (NIV).

Timothy was in an all-out battle to protect the truth of the Gospel.

You see, there were then – as there are now — individuals who believed they had some kind of inside scoop going on with God. We, as theologians, call such writings or sayings of theirs, gnostic gospels – simply meaning that they professed to possess a “secret knowledge” (or so THEY thought.)

And yes, fiction writers such as Dan Brown (in his book, The DaVinci Code) DID get that part correct; the early versions of the orthodox (or “right teaching) church excised, did away with – even burned or buried — these many false books as false teachings. The early church was continuing Paul’s charge to Timothy and to others to preserve and protect the pure Gospel; it was NOT a movement to hide secrets from the average church person; it was a directive to protect the Word of God from false teachings.

My friend, very little has changed today; we are still defending against false teachers, erroneous teachings, dilutions of the Gospel, cults, and intentional slanders. To protect ourselves and to be good guardians and stewards of the church, we must be faithful students of the Word of God and we must produce strong and correct doctrine.

The story goes that the command came, “On your mark, get set,” and then, the pistol cracked and the race was on. A fine athlete sprang to the lead, and when the race was over, he had broken the state record for the one-mile. Only a few other runners even finished the race. Many dropped out when they saw they could not win.

As the field crew was bringing out the hurdles for the next race, one of the judges yelled, “Get those hurdles out of the way. This race is not over. Look!” And around the turn came a runner, panting, and staggering. The crowd stood in silent disbelief as he made his way over the last hundred yards, and literally, fell across the finish line, grinding his face into the cinder track.

One of the judges ran to the boy, turned him over on his back, took his handkerchief, and wiped the blood from his face. “Son, why didn’t you drop out? What are you doing in the mile race anyway?”

Between gasps, the boy explained that his school had a good miler who had gotten sick just the day before. The coach had promised to have a man in every event, and so he had asked the boy to run the mile.

“Well son, why didn’t you just drop out when you saw that you had lost?”

The boy answered, “Judge, the school didn’t send me here to quit. They didn’t send me here to win. They only sent me here to run this mile — and I ran it!”

We are sent here by Jesus to run the race, to fight the fight, AND to win. So, let us run with endurance.

John Wesley once said: “Give me a hundred men who love nothing but God and hate nothing but sin, and I will shake the whole world for Christ.”

It doesn’t take many… but it does take someone who decides to be faithful.

In December 1944, the German army launched an unexpected attack. In what was to become known as the Battle of the Bulge, the Nazis drove deep behind Allied lines. Writing in WWII about the reaction of the American troops to this attack, James Jones said,

No one of these little road junction stands could have had a profound effect on the German drive. But hundreds of them, impromptu little battles at nameless bridges and unknown crossroads, had an effect of slowing enormously the German impetus … These little die-hard ‘one man stands,’ alone in the snow and fog without communications, would prove enormously effective out of all proportion to their size.

Faithfulness, playing your “little part” in the greater scheme of things, makes all the difference.

To you, the church, I thank you for your faithfulness.

Faithfulness to volunteer

Faithfulness to give

Faithfulness in your presence on Sunday services as well as other services.

Faithfulness to use your gifts and talents.

Thank you for your faithfulness – for it is in your faithfulness – combined with His faithfulness– that we are successful as a church

Your faithfulness – and His – those make all the difference.

This is God’s way of protecting the truth and spreading it around the world.

We, His church, are stewards of the doctrines of the faith and God expects us to be — and equips us to be — faithful in sharing His Good News.

And now, Paul brings his first letter to Timothy to an end. Throughout the book, he has sought to thoroughly encourage the young pastor Timothy. He has reminded him of his calling. He has reminded Timothy of his qualifications and equipping. He has charged him— in military terms – to be a guardian of the Good News. He has charged him to stand against false teachers by teaching and preaching pure and true doctrine. And in doing all these things, he has precisely reminded Timothy of the Lordship of Jesus Christ. In fact, his apparently intended closing words in 1 Timothy 6 14b-16 (NIV) were

…until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which God will bring about in his own time– God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honor and might forever. Amen.

And now, let us practice the things Paul has given Timothy – and us – to do. Be faithful.

 

On another note.

Our daughter and son-in-law just got back in from Paris, France. They had such a wonderful time there. And among the gifts they brought back for their children, they had a red beret for our granddaughter, Abigail. She adores it. She had to don a matching red dress (from last Christmas) so that she would look Parisian. She is beautiful – and she had to share her picture with everyone. I love it. But then again, I love it that my children are travelers – even world travelers.  I am glad we have instilled such behavior in our children – Get out. Explore the world. Witness God’s creation. And be an influence for Jesus wherever your foot, or your hand, or your voice, or your words may land.

Let’s go exploring.


‘Staying’ With The Lord

Psalm 55: 22- ”Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall. “

There was an incident that occurred at a Martial Arts tournament several years ago.  An instructor assigned one of his lower belt students the task of filming what promised to be one of the best matches of the evening.  This young student was given permission to move anywhere around the ring with his video camera in hand as long as he did not enter the area of competition.

As the match began, it soon became everything everyone anticipated that it would be.  It was solid action from beginning to end.  In fact, within the first few seconds of the match, the two competitors were solid mass in motion, headed directly towards our young cameraman.  BOOM!  They mowed him over as they fell out of the ring area.  The competitors got back up, regained their composure, and their places; and so did the cameraman.

Again and again, the furious blur of feet and hands would bully its way out of the ring, and BANG … find its way back to the young cameraman.  Many were surely thinking, “When is that cameraman going to get a clue and move out of there?”  Well, he was trying his best to follow the orders of his instructor, “Film that fight!”  Eventually, he did decide that it might be best to move much farther away and use the zoom feature of his camera.

We can all recall incidents in our own lives where we decided to stand our ground for a principle. Sometimes this insistence on success just prolonged an inevitable failure. Today’s scripture lesson gives us some advice for tapping into God’s staying power. 1 Peter 5:5-11 offers further advice in situations where the strength of the Lord is a must — specifically verses 5b-7: “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. “

Just like the young martial artist with the video camera who was following orders, we stand ready in our Christian walk to follow the order of our Life Manager, Jesus Christ. And like the young videographer, our orders seem almost impossible: Matthew 28:19-20 tells us, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Our present assignment as Christian soldiers may, to the uninitiated, seem just as daunting as the one assigned to the young cameraman. God wants us to tell as many people as possible about the Gospel or “Good-News” concerning His grace and salvation through Jesus Christ. He wants us to preach the Gospel — not just by our words but also by our actions. He has called us to be holy and righteous — not through our own strength, but by His power and wisdom. Herein lies the critical difference between that young martial artist/cameraman and us. God is telling us to follow these marching orders and to stand firm — trusting in His grace and strength. You see, He is standing right there with us! He promises that even though our problems may seem too large for us, and temptation too strong, He will lift us up and restore us, because after all, it is Him working through us!

Psalm 55:22 was written by King David after he was betrayed by someone he considered to be a close friend. His feelings of pain, rejection, and abandonment were soothed by the knowledge of God’s always-present Spirit, which He promises will never leave us or reject us. 1 Peter 5:5-11 was written by the Apostle Peter, who had denied the Lord three times before His crucifixion. However, he later became a mighty Leader of the early Church through the strength and wisdom provided by the Holy Spirit. He stood firm through seemingly impossible difficulties — even until death.

Friends, we too must stand firm. Our orders are quite explicit: we are to move forward, always standing our ground, and never giving an inch of territory to the enemy. Retreat is out of the question. We are well-equipped to follow this order, and we have been given the best training manual ever written, God’s Holy Word, the Bible. But wait! There is still more; you see help is only a cry away! You are not in this alone. God has also equipped an army of believers to stand by you in prayer and service.

Lord, protect me from self-serving pride and fear. Lead me away from the many temptations of life that are intended to take me off the course you have set! Grant me your strength and wisdom to resist the attacks from within and outside of my heart, and keep my eyes always on the cross.

In Jesus Name AMEN!

On Another Note:

This past week, Cheri and I had the privilege of watching three of our grandchildren, Crystal and David’s kids, while their parents were in Paris, France. It is such a delight in being with your off-spring and seeing/knowing they are truly growing in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

Thank you, Lord, for this precious gift.

 


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Between the Words … Pastor Jim’s Perspectives on the Weekend Behind and the Week Yet to Come (October 21, 2019)

It all rises and falls on leadership

I am really enjoying teaching our series on 1 and 2 Timothy; there is so much valuable material in those two books. But, I have to admit that 1 Timothy 3 was a real challenge to me. The message went forth in the midst of Pastor Appreciation Month AND, this particular chapter dealt with qualifications of the bishop; it just seemed that it could appear as self-serving. I pray that it didn’t.

But too, I realized that the ideal for a bishop (elder, pastor, overseer) was being established for the purpose of being exemplary for the entire church to see and model after. These are the qualifications Paul presented to Timothy:

So a church leader must be a man whose life is above reproach. He must be faithful to his wife. He must exercise self-control, live wisely, and have a good reputation. He must enjoy having guests in his home, and he must be able to teach. He must not be a heavy drinker or be violent. He must be gentle, not quarrelsome, and not love money. He must manage his own family well, having children who respect and obey him. For if a man cannot manage his own household, how can he take care of God’s church?

A church leader must not be a new believer, because he might become proud, and the devil would cause him to fall. Also, people outside the church must speak well of him so that he will not be disgraced and fall into the devil’s trap (1 Timothy 3: 2-7 NLT).

And while these are certainly the ideal, they are by no means presenting that this office is to be one of perfection.

And, too, these are to be modeled before the entire church – so that the church can see and follow in that model. Wow! Lofty expectations BUT, the Holy Spirit empowers us to walk in those actions if we will co-operate with Him.

Therefore, I am greatly encouraged with the role that God has placed before us – before His leadership – before His church. He has called us. He has positioned us. He has equipped us and empowered us. What a great place to be.

Dr. Jim Garrett


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


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