Archive for September, 2019



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

 

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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