Archive for September, 2017


I Couldn’t See It Then…

stormI always love it when I can preach about some of the major characters found in the Bible. From Abraham and Isaac, to David, Daniel, and Jonah. But one of the most interesting characters we find is that of Joseph. There was even a musical written about him and his technicolor dream-coat. You have to admit, his is an incredible story and journey which can be summed up within a single verse.

Genesis 50:20 says; “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”

Joseph’s life after he was 17 years old was one that was filled with ups and downs, ins and outs, as he is sold into slavery by his brothers, moved up to a position of power with his master only to be thrown into prison by false accusations. He then works his way up again, all the way to being second in command in Egypt. Who would have thought you could actually do all that in just a little over 20 years. But we must remember that God was with Joseph, and it showed.

But we also have to see that this is not just Joseph’s story. It is also our story. We live lives of ups and downs. We get on that roller coaster of a life and live it to our best ability. We have moments of triumph, days when we think nothing can go wrong. And then in a moment’s notice, our world flips upside down and we can’t see how it could ever turn around and get better.

It is in these times that we must remember another passage from scripture; Romans 8:28. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

There are many times in my life that I have faced a struggle and a few of those I have been able to witness how God has used them for good. He has used my life experiences to help me in my ministry. He has taken some of the most desperate times in my life and allowed those to teach me things that I needed later on in my life.

My wife and I had two daughters who were born prematurely and consequently spent months in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Rockford Memorial. I learned quite a bit from those experiences and even though I questioned why this would have happened to us, I got a glimpse of God’s great plan about 20 years later when I served as a chaplain for the hospital and especially for a few patients in the NICU.

God took that moment in my life when everything seemed to be falling apart, and redeemed it into something good for Him. He allowed my experience to give me valuable resources to be able to minister to others in their time of need. Others may have thought that those times in my life were meant to be bad, maybe even break me, but God meant them for good.

So, what is it in your life that you have gone through or that you are going through right now, that God will bring good out of? Do you have a testimony of past experiences that you can point to and say that God was with you, he brought you through a trying time, and now can see the benefits to that experience?

Let me remind you that God will never leave you, and he will use all things for his good.

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Peace & Contentment

AutumnLakeHDDuring our Wednesday morning prayer service this week, we shared a scripture passage from Philippians 4, verses 10-13. Let me read those for you today.

“I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”

This passage comes right after Paul is talking about prayer. He says that we should “not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let our requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Two words stick out to me, peace and content. Are these synonyms? Are they mentioned so close to each other for a reason? Scripture is the inspired Word of God, so yes, I believe they are mentioned so close for a reason. But we must see that the word ‘peace’ mentioned here is not the worldly view of peace, which is the absence of conflict. We are not talking about being at war and then finally at peace when war subsides. We are talking about the peace of God. But what does that look like, what does that feel like?

I think one way we can experience this peace comes through the assurance in our salvation. When we have full faith in our relationship with God and his steadfast love for us, that is when we experience true peace.

But Paul is speaking of another peace we can know in verse 11. He says “for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.” Content in every circumstance. Peace in every circumstance. You see, it doesn’t matter if he is living high on the hog or is struggling to make ends meet.

I hear so many people that will talk about what they would do if they won the lottery, what they would do if they came into a large inheritance. They all seem to think they will be much happier if they had everything they thought they needed. All of their problems would be solved and life would be a joy. They would finally be truly happy. But that never seems to be the case. All of that wealth doesn’t necessarily bring happiness and peace, it brings a new set of problems, a new set of struggles, not the peace that we thought would come.

The main problem is that we are hoping for peace in something that will never provide it for us. Jesus said that he is leaving his peace with us and that he does not give as the world gives. His peace is not the same as the world’s peace.

The peace we all long for is that of an assurance in our relationship with God and the contentment with all that we have, whether it is in abundance or scarcity. So how is it with your soul? Are you content? Are you happy with what you have? Have you learned to rejoice in all times, when we are well, when we are sick, when we are full of life, and when we are nearing the end of the road?

My prayer, is that you all know the true peace that only God can provide through Jesus Christ and in the power of the Holy Spirit. May the peace of Christ be in your hearts today!

Overcome

Overcome-Sermon-SlideWatchman Nee was a Christian. He was an evangelist, one who reached out to others with the gospel message. He would tell a story about when he was younger, he was tending his rice paddies at home. You see, he would fill his paddies with water, only to return the next day and find them dry. He would fill them up again, and once again they were dry in the morning.

He finally figured out what was happening. When he would leave the paddies, his neighbor, who did not believe in Jesus, would open up the walls of Watchman Nee’s paddies so that the water would flow downhill toward his paddies. This neighbor was using Nee’s water instead of his own, certainly saving himself a good deal of money.

Well, this went on for a while and Watchman thought about what he should do. Should he confront him, argue with him, blame him, take him to court and get an injunction? What should he do? If he just left it alone, his rice would surely die. He prayed about it, and then came up with a solution. The next day he got up extra early. He first filled his neighbor’s rice paddies, then he filled his own. After a short time of this, Watchman and his neighbor had a conversation which eventually turned to one about Jesus and his neighbor accepted Christ in his life. He was overcome by a genuine demonstration of what Christian love truly is.

We can overcome evil, with the power of good, the power of love. Romans 12:9-21 gives us insight into how we can do this. We can break this passage in Romans down in two main sections, two main themes, two main directives on living. And they are these; teaching on how to live with those within a community of faith and teaching on how to live with those outside a community of faith. Of course, all of this applies to all of our relationships as well. So this may be a gross oversimplification, but it’s worth looking at it this way.

Verses 9-13 talks about ways to live and grow in a faith community. We should love genuinely, hate evil, and love what is good. We should show outrageous hospitality. We shouldn’t be lazy in our service to the Lord. And we should rejoice often, be patient, and pray always.

Sounds pretty simple? But it’s not. This takes work, it takes dedication, and it takes commitment. The first two verses deal with love. Our love should be pure, honest, open and it should include everyone, not just the ones we, quote unquote, ‘like.’ Love is the most important part of this. Jesus told us that all the law of the prophets could be boiled down to this; love your God with all your heart, your soul, and your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.

But then we look at verses 14-21, and we find that although they could be talking about people within the sacred covenant of the Church, they actually focus on living with those who are outside the community, outside the Church. And no surprise, it’s all based in love.

We should bless our enemies. We should share emotions with those around us, celebrate with them, mourn with them as well. We need to live in harmony with others, not judging them. We should seek peace, always acknowledging that God is the ultimate judge. We should care for all people, including our enemies. And finally, we should not be transformed by evil, but we should overcome evil with good

Paul is writing this in a letter to the Church in Rome, asking them to live as Jesus Christ has called them to live. He is telling them what that looks like, how living in community and outside in the world may look different, but there are still ways to live that will glorify God. And that our attitudes and affections should not be different. We are called to live at a higher standard. We should not allow the world to dictate who we are or how we react. We are God’s children, not the world’s. We are citizens of another world. We have dual citizenship. We are citizens of this world we live in today, but we are also citizens of the Kingdom of God, and that trumps all others.