On Sunday, September 8th, the sermon message title "Entering a Season of RE:" was introduced. This inclusion of a document (below) serves as a REMINDER for those who have listened to the recorded message, or who just want to enter this important season with us as a church. God bless you as you join us in this season where God wants to REVISIT some things with us, and REPRODUCE Himself in us!
To start 2018 off to a good start, we find ourselves uniting with believers all over our state and nation, and perhaps the world, to pray for God's Spirit to move in a myriad of situations and circumstances. We're setting aside time each day during this WEEK of PRAYER to call upon the Name of Jesus, to be specific in our requests, and to listen to what direction He may again choose to give? Although we who are mature in our faith all know this should be a pattern of our lives, perhaps the reminder each year to set our face as flint, as it were, is a very needed thing.
Today happens to fall right in the center of that week. In fact today's emphasis, based on the often-used Bible verse during periods of concerted prayer (II Chronicles 7:14) happens to be repenting and turning (or returning) to God. I have been reminded of the words of scripture found in two "three-nineteen verses"; Acts 3:19 and Revelation 3:19. The first speaks of a promise of forgiveness & times of refreshing, and the latter speaks directly to the churches patterned after Laodicea of repenting earnestly to the One who loves us so much that He rebukes and disciplines us.
Repentance (turning away from that which is evil and turning toward God) is often thought of as a once-in-a-lifetime event that we experience at salvation. Rather, it should become a lifestyle pattern we experience often, with heartfelt purpose, just like prayer. Perhaps repentance should become a material part of our prayer life if it hasn't already. I once heard a saint during testimony time proclaim; "I'm repenting & rejoicing!" Indeed, repenting ought to bring great rejoicing no matter when it happens, by those whom we serve with and we ourselves. The fact is, God Himself and all the angels of heaven rejoice when one sinner repents (Luke 15:10). I'm reminded as well that the precious promise of I John 1:9 still holds; that we are purified whenever we repent. Confession is a crucial part of that.
My confession, at least in part, is that I am turning to God again. I call that repentance. Oh, I don't mean for salvation; I mean for refreshing and renewal. I want my heart to turn toward our Father again in a greater way.
More fully. With greater purpose. With greater resolve. I am setting my face like flint, as it were. King Jesus is meeting with me, and will continue to do so! He is faithful, and has been even in the times my resolve to serve Him wholeheartedly slips.
I am repenting... and rejoicing!
Love to all, Pastor
On the final Sunday of 2017, we had a visiting missionary speak at our church who, after the morning service (which was filled with reports of great ministry success and stories of divine appointments), asked me this direct question:
What has been your greatest disappointment?
I must admit... this caused me to pause for a moment. I wanted to be careful and thoughtful with my answer. I have/had several disappointments currently and throughout my life that suddenly came to mind, but I did not vocalize any of them initially to the inquirer as we stood there together in the foyer. Life certainly has its share of disappointments for everyone. After a few moments, I expressed that I was curious as to why he asked me this question, and whether it was related to ministry or something else. His response was that, in essence, this would become the very thing he would think about when he prayed for me in future days.
With that, it was without hesitation that I expressed my sadness and disappointment that my three sons, all of them, are currently not serving Christ as I'd hoped they would. I also, with deep appreciation, thanked him for these prayers that I know will be lifted to our LORD on behalf of myself, as well as my sons. Hearing this question posed to me also reminded me of another conversation that had happened just before the year came to an end.
A friend I had not seen in some time bumped into me a few days before Christmas. It was a joyous conversation, full of hope and life. We shared about several victories of faith and faithfulness in our respective lives we had each experienced in 2017. In the course of our conversation, he was reminding me that his sons were not serving Christ either.... not yet! As it turns out, our sons had grown up together, went to school together, played sports together. They had all grown up in homes where Jesus was, and is, esteemed and served. God is so gracious, as this dear friend reminded me, not to hastily put a "period" on the end of the sentence that represents our lives. Rather, he puts a "comma", signifying the fact that there remains a hope of genuine surrender, forgiveness, restoration, and new life. Our sons still have a future "after the comma", as it were. The fact is; we all do!
I expect that God has disappointment too.... plenty of it. I often wonder what His greatest disappointment is? In me personally. In humankind. Nonetheless, I marvel at the reality that God doesn't keep reminding me of his disappointment(s) in me, but rather, he constantly reminds me of his love and faithfulness to me, and to us all.
If you find yourself reading this post and have had your own share of disappointments, including the kinds I mention here, know that our God is STILL in the premier business of restoration. He is not finished with any one of us. As long as we have breath, and the Holy Spirit still hovers over the face of the earth and has opportunity to speak into our lives, there is hope of overcoming every major disappointment. What the scripture in Romans 5:5 declares is true: "Hope does not disappoint (put us to shame), because God's love has been poured out into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us."
Dear Father; Thank you for your enduring love and faithfulness. Please wait to put the period at the end of the sentences that represent the lives of our children, and others as well, until such time that their names are written in the Lamb's Book of Life. Amen.
From time to time, we have members of our congregation, His body, post things on their personal blogs, Facebook, or elsewhere that are simply inspiring. I share here one of those messages from a Facebook post by Leanne Steenstra:
"7 mile run today, I feel like I'm finally getting somewhere. Running has in no way been something that has come easy for me. I have battled through self defeating thoughts, minutes that felt like forever, legs that felt like bricks and doubted that my body was designed for running, but I kept going. And now I feel pretty confident that running a long distant is a possibility.
This leaks into my faith. I feel like my faith is increasing through doing the things that I literally thought were impossible for me with any sense of enjoyment or blessing. This past week I have lost myself in worship, prayer, and wonder toward our King while running. The things that I thought I couldn't do, I am doing, and I don't believe it ends with running.
To many this may be meaningless, but to me this is the tangible evidence of a God who makes the impossible possible. To me this is my faith increased in a God who frees us from addictions, anxiety, and the chains that keep us bound and broken. To me this is an increase in the fight and perseverance for the things that matter most to me, bringing glory to God.
I just want my life to bring Him glory....that's all I want, and running is proving to bring more strength and determination to let go of myself, my thoughts, my wants, to get over myself and in return watch the miraculous purpose of God unfold in the lives of those on this island. God is on the move.....get excited about our God! He's not boring, and He wants to meet you in the spot you are at right now.
Say yes to Him.
It has been nearly a year since I have blogged or posted anything to the "corner". In a sense, I must have put the task in the corner, or on the back-burner at least. The time has went by so quickly and in such a fleeting fashion that it is remarkable just "how long" it has been. I have missed it. It is time to recharge - regain momentum!
This subject of Time; what a mystery.
Our congregation and our community at large just laid to rest a dear saint of over eighty years of age. We saw her departure, her "promotion" as it were, at hand long before it happened. In the moments of caring and comfort for the family in the death of their loved one, and in preparation for the memorial and funeral service, I could not help but recall and reflect on this concept of how time flys.
The time that this dear lady spent on earth was not in vain. Although time indeed flys, she used much of it to bear witness to Christ; to her family, friends, and community. This was validated in a powerful way by God-honoring remarks made by those who knew her. People who attended her services were purposefully reminded that time, on this earth at least, is indeed fleeting, and that we can not wait to decide for Christ in our later years, foolishly thinking that somehow we will have that opportunity later in the nick of time. Remarkable, is it not, that eternity, the longest span of time, is defined by a decision that we will or will not make in a moment of time? We dare not continue missing the opportunities to decide for Christ; to submit our lives to him, serve Him, and love Him.
At the conclusion of a sermon message this past Sunday, it was our joy to receive a young man into the Body of Christ, as he had made his decision for Christ, not wasting any more time. Taking the time himself, his remarks to me after the service were these: "For some reason today, the words of the message made sense to me this time."
Behold, now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation! (II Corinthians 6:2b)
Time is simply too short to waste, even if we do have those eighty or more years.
Did you know that what you might consider as the "fruit group" is a much larger category than you think? That's right - an acorn is fruit. A tomato is fruit. An avocado is fruit. A bell pepper is fruit. So is a pine cone. Fruit, in its grandest sense, is far more than what we find in the grocer's "fruit section" or that which we put in a fruit salad. Fruit is fruit because of one common denominator - it bears seeds. This may seem to be simply factual at this point in terms of botanical definition, but you will see momentarily why this is also important concerning the Fruit of the Spirit.
The kids in our weekly children's church lately have been studying the Fruit of the Spirit. However, this past Sunday, we had "church together" with the kids in the sanctuary. It was interactive to some degree, and we even had samples of fruit to eat throughout the course of delivering the message. I told our folks that fully understanding the Fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5 requires that we also understand John 15 in connection with it, as well as other parts of scripture. In essence, we held a "fruit talk". Jesus shares something with us in this passage that relates directly to "Spirit fruit".
John 15:1-8 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
And if this were not enough, Jesus reiterates the crucial importance of fruit-bearing again in verse 16. Here, the goal is that we will bear "fruit that lasts". I have to wonder if, when Paul wrote to the Galatian church, that he knows what Jesus had originally said to his disciples regarding the subject of fruit? He had spent numerous hours with the apostles, learning about Christ's teachings that happened in advance of his own conversion. Although I cannot prove it, it stands to reason that he understood the truth and teaching of John 15 before writing to the Galatians.
Galatians 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance [patience], kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
What does it mean to bear fruit in our lives - lasting fruit - fruit that glorifies the Father? Does fruit have any connection in accomplishing what Jesus' stated purposes are? I believe so. The gospel of John also states these purposes. Here are at least two:
John 1:4 In Him was life, and that life was the light of men...
John 10:10b "I have come that they may have life, and that in abundance..." [Jesus speaking]
When Paul wrote to the Ephesian church, I suppose that he also had this in mind when he said this: "For the fruit of the light [Spirit} consists in all righteousness, goodness, and truth."
Now here is where the seeds come in. Seeds come from mature fruit. Fruit has to develop - it has to stay connected to the vine in order to be sustained and to grow. The seeds will eventually develop within the fruit. Not only that, the seeds are what carry the capacity, the potential, for life reproduced. The Fruit of the Spirit is not meant for just ourselves - it requires (works best) in relationship. I have no need for kindness or gentleness unless I am around other people. Love is not meant to just be received - it is meant to be given. Scripture and life both demonstrate this! Even peace can be left as a deposit. Jesus said; Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. [John 14] Yes... Jesus had the Fruit of the Spirit, too!
The Fruit of the Spirit, left as a deposit in our relationships with other people, should leave a sense of life in other people - Spirit life. A lot of the fruit we get in the stores today has been modified to be seedless. Seedless grapes. Seedless watermelon. Even bananas have been re-engineered to become seedless for our everyday consumption. The question in relation to our topic is this: Should our Fruit of the Spirit be seedless? NO - it should have life in it! Abundant life, full life, Spirit life.
John 20:31 But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. I believe that when Paul mentions the Fruit of the Spirit in Galatians, his purpose for writing is quite similar. When it comes to the Fruit of the Spirit, we don’t want seedless fruit. No, we want to bear fruit that has the potential to help promote and give life, the life that brings light to men, women, boys and girls. The Fruit of the Spirit, if mature enough, can plant a seed in the lives of others that eventually reproduces life anew - spiritual life! The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit of Jesus. His Spirit, living in us, is suppose to reproduce life, and to produce fruit that lasts.
May we be asking Jesus by His Spirit to so mature His Spirit fruit in us, that it goes to seed. I don't just believe in joy; I believe in supernatural joy. I don't just believe in kindness; I believe in supernatural kindness. I don't just believe in faithfulness; I believe in a supernatural faithfulness so astounding, that it causes the world to take notice. May the world take notice of the fruit you bear, lasting fruit, fruit that truly glorifies the Father! Against such, there can't possibly be any law.
While on a recent vacation my wife and I took to the beaches of Mexico, I took with me a journal that she had given me as a gift on a very special Father's Day in 2014. This particular Father's Day was special in that I was able to officiate a baby dedication - to dedicate my first grandson to the LORD! The journal is titled, A Father's Legacy. It includes pages for memorable events and character development to be written down; things about my life that my children, grandchildren, and others may benefit from in the future, should they happen to read my stories. I must admit, however, that I had not entered one word into that journal prior to this vacation. However, my wife had. Her words in the front were a grand start to describing a legacy that I hope to leave to my children, as well as to others.
As I read through the questions in the journal, which are designed to help you recall your childhood and important events in your life, I was reminded that leaving a legacy is something each one of us has opportunity to do. Whether or not you are a father, a legacy is something that each of us has the great privilege of leaving behind. Unfortunately, many people may first think of a legacy as what money or asset was left to them via a will, or through some other means. To be sure, this indeed is considered a legacy. But better yet, don't you think, is the legacy of life we can leave behind to those we know and love? If all I have to show for my life, in terms of relationship, is an addition to my beneficiaries savings accounts, I call that lunacy, not legacy. No, what I have the privilege of leaving behind is much, much greater. Charles Spurgeon is recorded as quoting this; Those who loved you and were helped by you will remember you. So carve your name on hearts, and not on marble.
Consider these examples of leaving a legacy, which even scripture shows us is tremendously important:
I Corinthians 11:23a For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: (Paul; writing to the church at Corinth.)
II Timothy 1:5 I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also. (Paul; writing to his son in the faith, Timothy.)
Isaiah 52:7 How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!” (Paul repeats this to the church in Rome; Romans 10:15)
I see a connection, a relationship, between these verses, and leaving a legacy. You see, the greatest legacy that any one of us can leave, is the legacy that is Jesus, the legacy that began with Him! The legacy of life, life in Christ, that life lived in front of others and for others and for His glory, is a legacy unmatched - a legacy indeed.
A father may teach his son how to fish, but a father who teaches his son how to fish for men leaves a greater legacy. A father who teaches his son how to properly love, including setting an example of how to love a wife, is a wonderful thing. But a father who teaches his son how to love Jesus with all of his being leaves the surpassing legacy. A mother may teach her daughter how to cook or sew, and leave a legacy lasting for many generations. But a mother who teaches her daughter to pray will extend that legacy into eternity.
There are so many varieties of possible types of relationships in which to leave a legacy. Let's face it, where there is no relationship, there is no legacy. But where relationships are involved, the opportunity for leaving a legacy abounds:
Dare I mention sibling to sibling, or spouse to spouse. All of these provide a tremendous opportunity, a privilege, for leaving a legacy. But no matter who we are, how old we are, what our gender or social status might be, or what our country of origin or nationality may be, we each have the grand privilege to know Jesus, and showcase Jesus, and leave a legacy of eternal consequence. To be certain, we can’t leave a legacy to everyone, but we can leave a legacy to someone. Choose to leave a remarkable legacy to those whom God has placed in your life. Remember... He lives in you, by His Spirit, to help you accomplish such an astounding thing!
The following four messages in this series of sermons was drawn from and adopted by a single message given by George Wood, Superintendent of the Assemblies of God, in 2014. May they encourage you to believe for greater things, now and until Jesus comes back for His Church! Pastor Bob