Sunday Blessing: Stay Hungry

Like newborn babies, you must crave pure spiritual milk so that you will grow into a full experience of salvation. Cry out for this nourishment, now that you have had a taste of the Lord’s kindness. (1 Peter 2:2-3 NLT)

 

Curmudgeon Alert: Attention socialists

curmudgeion 2 280by200             Curmudgeon: – a crusty, irascible, cantankerous old person full of stubborn ideas. (The Free Dictionary)

Socialism is a trap for idiots

So now I read that young Americans are embracing socialism.  This is nothing new.  Young people have always been stupid.  Wouldn’t it be great if it would work? Everybody could just have everything they need and we can all just get along.  In previous generations we had the counterbalance of education and Christianity to put the lie to the idea that government can intervene to make everything fine. We should all just trust our government to do what’s best for us. Right? What could possibly go wrong?

The results of socialism should be obvious.  If we just take the twentieth century, The first big mess was in the Soviet Union.  In trying to establish a socialist state, Stalin and his cronies accounted for the deaths of millions of people.  The Chinese did the same, and we have the sterling example of North Korea to admire as well. Then, of course, we have the National Socialists of Germany, known affectionately as Nazis.  Now we see the country by country catastrophes in Central and South America.  Help!

Of course, we might also make the case for the problems of unfettered capitalism.  After we clean up the toxic dumps, and skim the oil off the Gulf of Mexico, we can all join Tennessee Ernie Ford in a heartfelt rendition of 16 Tons, ending up with the refrain , “I owe my soul to the company store.”  It could be that the economic system is not the core of the problem.

The founders of our republic were sharp enough to know that the hearts of men are not to be trusted.  thus the checks and balances idea.  Government is generally the problem, not the solution, because it is composed of humans. Whether they be capitalists, or socialists, or anarchists,  give folks power and they will abuse it. Period. Limiting the power of government is simply avoiding tyranny.  We have a constitutional republic designed to give specific rights than cannot be taken away by simple majorities.  Majorities elected Hitler.

The truth is simple.  Socialists think government will solve the problems of man.  History tells us that idealistic power is ruthless to those who hold different ideals.  Capitalists believe the “invisible hand’ of the market will even out the game over any extended period.  That’s fine, except that greed has no more conscience than utopian dictators.  The problem is man and evil.

God said in Genesis 6, “that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” It has not gotten any better.  The problem is the heart of man, the disease is sin, and the only cure is blood, the precious blood of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Man’s systems can slow the madness, but eventually the inmates take over the asylum.  As Christians, we have to avoid getting seduced by political delusions and remember the prime directive:  Jesus is the one and only way to change men’s hearts.

Salvation is to be found through him alone; in all the world there is no one else whom God has given who can save us.”  (Acts 4:12 GNB)

Revive the Tithe: It’s Holy!

And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Genesis 2:16-17 NKJV)

And all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the tree, is the LORD’s. It is holy to the LORD.  (Leviticus 27:30 NKJV)

God has had a “set apart” as a test for man from the very beginning.  Under the Mosaic economy He says that the tithe of the land belongs to Him, that it is holy.  I believe that means it is inherent in His very nature.  But what I believe doesn’t matter to you.  What matters is what you believe.  New Covenant giving is love giving, conviction giving, and faith giving.  Let me challenge you, allow the Lord to teach you about His tithe.  If you are open yet unconvinced, so be it.

Sunday Blessing: Better is One Day

O God, behold our shield, And look upon the face of Your anointed. For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God Than dwell in the tents of wickedness. For the LORD God is a sun and shield; The LORD will give grace and glory; No good thing will He withhold From those who walk uprightly. (Psalms 84:9-11 NKJV)

Sing With the Spirit

For if I pray in tongues, my spirit is praying, but I don’t understand what I am saying. Well then, what shall I do? I will pray in the spirit, and I will also pray in words I understand. I will sing in the spirit, and I will also sing in words I understand. (1 Corinthians 14:14-15 NLT)

One of the best ways we have to worship and praise God is the capacity to sing in the Sprit, to sing with tongues.  That deeply spiritual experience is being lost on much of the church due to the desire not to offend.  Please take a moment to consider what God said about the  subject.  Don’t miss out.

Signs that Make You Wonder

Attraction

“And God confirmed the message by giving signs and wonders and various miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit whenever He chose.”  (Hebrews 2:4 NLT)

Advertise Your Attractions

I have a fascination with interesting signs. I got tickled when I saw the sign at the exit off 890 in Schenectady. The header was “Attractions.” Under it were six areas pointing left and right, but there were no attractions listed, only blank green space. Now I know there are attractions there. I was headed for one. It’s a beautiful place with a rich history and some really decent people.

I thought, “How many churches could use a sign like that?” What are the attractions at your church? We ought to have a truthful response. Every church that God starts has certain attractions, things they do well. Not every one will be the same. Sure we all like to think that we are all things to all people, that we do all things well, but that’s not true. What is your church good at? When people come, what can they really expect to receive?

I think we ought to be filling in the blank spaces in our signs with things that really are attractions at our house. Our church worships. We aren’t great musicians, but we worship. Our church gives place to the Holy Spirit and His gifts. Our church teaches the Word in a practical, accurate way. Our church has an excellent track to prepare people to fulfill their ministry. Our church loves on broken people, here and overseas. Our church prays.

God built you and your church for a purpose. He has set gifts in the church. Be aware of what you have and what you do well. Put the attractions where folks can see them. Be who you are and quit trying to be who you’re not. God knows what He is doing.

Sunday Blessing

Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.
(John 15:4-5 NKJV)

There’s more to abiding in the vine than reading your Bible and praying.  God plugs you in  to people and to churches. Stay plugged.

 

Be a Great Church

I am on my way to officiate at the memorial service for my dear friend, Wayne Elston.  Wayne was a great pastor for 39 years.  He pushed through hardships most of us can only imagine.  He knew his time was short.  I am posting the last article he posted at the end of May.  He went to Heaven on July 1.  Be encouraged.

A Great Church

My mentor and spiritual dad is Dr. Bob Lemon. He has spoken a lot of things into my life over the years. After a service years ago we were enjoying a meal and he said, “This is a comfortable church.” I knew immediately that this was not a compliment. He was relating that we can get too comfortable where we are, and stop moving ahead to where we need to be.

Later Dr. Lemon challenged us with this statement: “If your church was suddenly gone, would anyone notice?” In other words, are we having any impact on the community around us?

In my mind I’m merging those observations with images from a book I’ve started reading. The premise of the book is that we may be focusing too much energy into being BIGGER, when we should be endeavoring to be BETTER. Bigger is not necessarily better! We shouldn’t be comfortable sitting where we are. We are responsible to have an impact on the community around us. If our focus is primarily on numerical growth, we may not do either of these things well.

Here’s an interesting quote from the book: “Jesus didn’t wake up this morning depressed by the size of your church. You may have; sometimes I still do. But Jesus isn’t worried even a little bit.”

Consider this: in churches of every size, from the mega-church to the house church, there are good and bad, sick and healthy, friendly and unfriendly, etc., etc. Obviously we all want to be good, healthy and friendly. But none of those things are dependent on size. There’s nothing wrong with being big … or small! But no matter what the size, there’s no reason to be a sick, unfriendly congregation.

John Maxwell, among others said, “People don’t care how much you know till they know how much you care.” A great church is a caring church. We should not only care about the community around us, but the brothers and sisters in Christ who congregate with us each Sunday. It really is easy to get lost in our own tribulations and totally block out hurting people around us. The good news is that as we care for a wounded brother or sister, our own needs have a way of either being met or not seeming as important.

I guess in all this rambling what I’m saying is let’s focus on excellence. Let’s take the next step – whatever that may be – to live like true disciples of our Lord. While doing that we just may get bigger!

Pastor Wayne Elston. December 11, 1948 – July 1, 2018. Well done!

De la Abundancia del Corazon

 

No hagamos esto solos, Friend.

Tuvimos una gran reunión de varones este pasado fin de semana, durante una de las reuniones, un varón hizo una pregunta “¿Quién es tu modelo a seguir?”, estábamos hablando de que deberíamos de hacer para convertirnos en el hombre que Dios nos mandó a ser. Una forma era encontrar a alguien que para nosotros fuera un ejemplo de cómo se vive una vida cristiana, ciertamente, Jesús es nuestro único ejemplo pero, como en la mayoría de las cosas, nos beneficia el tener una persona tangible, que pueda ministrarnos. Pablo se identificaba como el padre espiritual de los Corintios, audazmente diciéndoles, “por lo tanto, te exhorto a imitarme” (1 Corintios 4:16) eso trajo al tema la pregunta, ¿“como elijo a alguien para que sea mi mentor y modelo en mi vida como creyente”?.

Cuando comenzó, tuve un mentor al cual elegí por todas las razones equivocadas, salía con él por las cosas que percibía de Él, tenía dinero, hablaba muy bien, y se miraba muy seguro de sí mismo. Dios me engancho y me hizo tambalear, mientras más me acercaba, descubrí que la atracción real no era lo que el tenia o lo que él hacía, sino lo que él era. El tiempo paso, tuve otros dos hombres a los que tenía como ejemplos a seguir. Siempre estaré agradecido con estos tres varones, toma tiempo el encontrar a alguien que refleje “quien” es en su vida cristiana, no solo “que” tiene hablando materialmente. Te traerá muchos beneficios el saber lo que encontré importante en un mentor/modelo.

1. Un compromiso para ganar al perdido. Eternidad es algo real para El, e intencionalmente busca las oportunidades para presentar el evangelio.

2. Un compromiso para ayudar a las personas. El invierte tiempo y dinero buscando oportunidades proactivas para ayudar a personas que están en problemas.

3. Un compromiso con la palabra de Dios. La Biblia es parte de su diario vivir, la lee, la habla y la vive.

4. Un compromiso con su Esposa y su familia. Respeto por el pacto matrimonial que hizo con su boca y que demuestra con sus acciones, guarda su pureza, y habla respetuosamente de su Esposa.

5. Un corazón humilde y un oído atento. Ninguno de mis tres modelos encuentran necesario estarle diciendo a otros de sus buenas acciones, ni juzgan a otros por sus defectos, ni reprenden antes de oír.

Alguien dijo: el que da buenos consejos, construye con una mano, el que da buenos consejos y ejemplos construye con ambas manos.- Francis Bacon

Escrituras Bíblicas: hermanos, sigan todos mi ejemplo, y fíjense en los que se comportan conforme al modelo que les hemos dado (Filipenses 3:17)

La vida del creyente no fue diseñada para que la viviéramos solos. Convertirse en lo que necesitamos convertirnos es un trabajo en conjunto: aquellos que caminan al lado de nosotros, aquellos que caminan adelante y nos animan a seguir adelante, y aquellos que caminan detrás guiándonos, cada uno estamos en las tres categorías en determinado momento, solo asegúrese de caminar delante de aquellos que necesitan ser guiados hacia donde quieren ir

 

Sunday Blessing: A Special People

But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy. (1 Peter 2:9-10 NKJV)

 

We get to hang out with special people to do special stuff.  Who wouldn’t want to do that? Christianity is never a “me” thing, it’s an “us” thing.  Let’s us have a good time together today.

Curmudgeon Alert!

Curmudgeon: – a crusty, irascible, cantankerous old person full of stubborn ideas.   (The Free Dictionary)

I have decided that for my sanity and your edification, I am going to regularly take a few moments to express my inner curmudgeon. Most of my life is spent trying to be kind, wise, culturally aware, and socially appropriate. Nearly every day, however, I see or hear something that brings out the curmudgeon in me. The overwhelming desire to comment on the general silliness of the world around me just boils up and I must bite my tongue, or close my Twitter feed, to keep from spouting out things sure to be offensive.

I will take precautions. The posts will be entitled “Curmudgeon Alert!” This will serve as sort of a Surgeon General’s warning that what is inside may cause dyspeptic outbursts, irritation of the funny bone, anachronistic head nodding, or feigned disapprobation syndrome. The hope is it will provoke the lost art of pondering. You see, pondering indicates giving deep thought to a truth or to a dilemma. I believe there is truth, and that any claim to a standard of morality based on truth will always lead to moral dilemmas. We have a bunch of them: What to do about too many guns without neutering a generation and handing our liberties over to bureaucrats? How to keep ladies from being sexually abused without telling them that it is their fault or seeming misogynistically overprotective? How to help the weak and helpless without making them more weak and helpless? How to applaud the president’s positive results without seeming to condone his boorish behavior? Hopefully, you get the point.

Why can’t the homosexual people get a cake?

So, today’s curmudgeonism: Why can’t the homosexual people get a cake? I understand the dilemma (see above) It’s a genuine moral dilemma. I am a Christian. By the standards of today’s society, I suppose I am a homophobe (Though I don’t really feel any fear on the issue.) I find the behaviors involved more than a little distasteful. It is quite plain to me that two folks of the same sex cannot be married to each other. By Bible definitions, that is not marriage. I don’t know what it is, but it ain’t marriage.

As a pastor, I can’t do same-sex weddings. There is no such thing. I don’t marry unbelievers, I don’t marry couples I feel strongly are unsuited, I discriminate in this area based on biblical standards all the time. What I do for these folks is talk to them. I see their desire to be married by clergy as an opportunity to explore with them their lifestyle, the Bible’s teaching, and what can be done to move them toward lining up with God’s standard. The key term here is “opportunity.”

I am not a baker or a florist, so I don’t understand the business. I do understand that when someone invites me to be part of what they see as a momentous occasion in their lives, no matter how wrong-headed I believe them to be, they are opening themselves to relationship and input. If you don’t want to hear about Jesus, don’t do business with me. Every wedding I do includes two things: a clear presentation of the Gospel, and a moment when I pray over the couple by laying on hands and praying for a miracle of God in uniting a man and a woman as one. That’s the package, take it or leave it.

If, knowing who I am, they offer me an opportunity for connection, my commandment is to love them. My commission is to preach the Gospel to them. I believe the commandment opens doors for the commission. Our promise is that some will hate us, and some will respond in faith. The outcome is not our problem. I just can’t get loose of the feeling that Jesus, though adamant on sin, would have found some way to speak truth to the sinners without winding up in the Supreme Court. He was often found at dinner with the publicans. He spent a lot of effort calling out religious folks for looking down their noses at the untouchables. I may not endorse the event, but if asked, I’m looking for some way to take Jesus as far as they will let me. Tough call. It’s not a decision about politics, but about eternity. Love, not rancor, must prevail.
So there.

 

Out of the Abundance of the Heart

Church is an “us” Thing.

For years, I have heard folks say variations on this theme, “I have a relationship with God. It is private and personal. I don’t need to go to church.” Assuming these individuals are believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, that they have been born of the Spirit (John 3:6), then the first two statements are true to an extent. The third statement, however, is patently false, a Satanic lie. You do need to go to church. That is, you need to go to church if you want to fulfill the plan of God for your life here on earth and enjoy the rewards that can be yours in Heaven. God never intended that we live our faith in a vacuum. The local church is the hothouse for growing prize Christians. Peter said it clearly: “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light…(1 Peter 2:9 NKJV)” Notice, we are a priesthood, not just priests. We are a nation and a generation, not just individuals. We are a special people, not a special person. Without you, I am not special!

God wants to show His supernatural power in His Church and through His Church. In our quest to see the supernatural power of God in our fallen world, being part of a local body of believers is essential. Indeed, we need to be part of a body that is more than a weekly motivational speech, or a good concert, or a political action group. The New Testament seems clear. You need:

1. A spiritual family to pray for you. I believe the number one reason that we don’t see more of the fullness of God’s healing and delivering power is that we are too often on our own in the battle. Colossians 4:12 Epaphras, who is one of you, a bondservant of Christ, greets you, always laboring fervently for you in prayers, that you may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.

2. A team of spiritual fellow travelers to encourage and correct: Hebrews 10:24-25 NLT Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. (25) And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of His return is drawing near.

3. A spiritually connected body that functions in concert to bring supernatural power to bear on broken humanity: 1 Corinthians 12:11-12 NLT (11) It is the one and only Spirit who distributes all these gifts. He alone decides which gift each person should have. (12) The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ:

4. A spiritual coaching staff to train you and coordinate your gifts: Ephesians 4:11-12 NLT Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. (12) Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do His work and build up the church, the body of Christ.

Somebody Said: Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships. Michael Jordan

Scripture Reading: I was chosen to explain to everyone this mysterious plan that God, the Creator of all things, had kept secret from the beginning. God’s purpose in all this was to use the church to display His wisdom in its rich variety to all the unseen rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 3:9-10 NLT)

The Christian life is not a “me” thing, it is an “us” thing. You’ve heard of the headless horseman of Sleepy Hollow fame? I think we reduce the Body of Christ to the status of a body-less Head. When we fail to flow in what we were designed to do by the power of the Spirt, we deprive the Lord Jesus of His ability to impact the world. We are His Body. In this earth, we are the only one He has.

Pastor Virgil L. Stokes
Faith Christian Fellowship of Tucson
www.fcftucson.org
Office: 520-792-3238

You can ramble through the archives of these posts, along with other material at www.pastorvirgil.com Stop by and check it out. New stuff is being added almost daily.