Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Have you lost your song?

Chippie the parakeet never saw it coming. One second he was peacefully perched in his cage. The next he was sucked in, washed up, and blown over.

The problems began when Chippie's owner decided to clean Chippie's cage with a vacuum cleaner. She removed the attachment from the end of the hose and stuck it in the cage. The phone rang, and she turned to pick it up. She'd barely said "hello" when "ssssopp!" Chippie got sucked in.

The bird owner gasped, put down the phone, turned off the vacuum, and opened the bag. There was Chippie -- still alive, but stunned.

Since the bird was covered with dust and soot, she grabbed him and raced to the bathroom, turned on the faucet, and held Chippie under the running water. Then, realizing that Chippie was soaked and shivering, she did what any compassionate bird owner would do . . . she reached for the hair dryer and blasted the pet with hot air.

Poor Chippie never knew what hit him.

A few days after the trauma, the reporter who'd initially written about the event contacted Chippie's owner to see how the bird was recovering. "Well," she replied, "Chippie doesn't sing much anymore -- he just sits and stares."

It's hard not to see why. Sucked in, washed up, and blown over . . . That's enough to steal the song from the stoutest heart.

Max Lucado, In the Eye of the Storm, Word Publishing, 1991, p. 11.

There are so many of God's people that can relate to Chippie the parakeet. Life has a way of stealing our song if we allow it to. Listen to what God's Word admonishes us to do: Ephesians 5:20

(AMP) At all times and for everything giving thanks in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father.

(MSG) Sing praises over everything, any excuse for a song to God the Father in the name of our Master, Jesus Christ.

When we develop the habit of complaining instead of doing what God's Word tells us to do in Ephesians 5:20, we will lose our song. My challenge to all of us today is to develop the habit of praising God, IN SPITE OF the situation. He is deserving of our praise.

Louis Albert Banks tells of an elderly Christian man, a fine singer, who learned that he had cancer of the tongue and that surgery was required. In the hospital after everything was ready for the operation, the man said to the doctor, "Are you sure I will never sing again?" The surgeon found it difficult to answer his question. He simply shook his head no. The patient then asked if he could sit up for a moment. "I've had many good times singing the praises of God," he said. "And now you tell me I can never sing again. I have one song that will be my last. It will be of gratitude and praise to God." 

There in the doctor's presence the man sang softly the words of Isaac Watts' hymn, "I'll praise my Maker while I've breath,/ And when my voice is lost in death,/ Praise shall employ my nobler power;/ My days of praise shall ne'er be past,/ While life, and thought, and being last,/ Or immortality endures."  He refused to LOSE HIS SONG!

Wow! What an attitude of gratitude! That is the way that I want to be. It all comes down to a matter of faith. How much do I trust God? William Carey had much faith in God. Listen to a little bit of his story:

After William Carey was well established in his pioneer missionary work in India, his supporters in England sent a printer to assist him. Soon the two men were turning out portions of the Bible for distribution. Carey had spent many years learning the language so that he could produce the scriptures in the local dialect. He had also prepared dictionaries and grammars for the use of his successors. 

One day while Carey was away, a fire broke out and completely destroyed the building, the presses, many Bibles, and the precious manuscripts, dictionaries, and grammars. When he returned and was told of the tragic loss, he showed no sign of despair or impatience. Instead, he knelt and thanked God that he still had the strength to do the work over again. He started immediately, not wasting a moment in self-pity. Before his death, he had duplicated and even improved on his earlier achievements. He refused to LOSE HIS SONG!

Joe Scriven was a missionary from Ireland to Canada, working among the Iroquois Indians. He was joined by his fiancé who was also from Ireland. Just before the wedding, she was killed in an ice accident. Joe buried her with his own hands, and a broken heart. A year later, in a letter to his mother, he reflected,

"What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear! What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer! Have we trials and temptations? Is there trouble anywhere? We should never be discouraged. Take it to the Lord in prayer." Joe was on the road to triumph, even though there were times when the road was rough. He refused to LOSE HIS SONG!

Having lost in a fire virtually everything they owned, the Spafford family made new plans, including a move from Chicago to France. Horatio Spafford planned the trip for his wife and four daughters to be as trouble-free as possible. To transport them from America to France, he booked passage on a huge ship, and made sure they had Christians with whom to fellowship in route. He planned to join them a few weeks later. In spite of much careful preparation, Mr. Spafford's plans suddenly dissolved when the ship carrying his loved ones was rammed by another vessel and sank, carrying his four beloved daughters to the bottom. Anyone who has ever had their plans disrupted by the hand of God can understand Spafford's plight. The next time you are in church,turn to the words of the great hymn, "It Is Well With My Soul"--words he penned as his ship passed over the watery grave of his four daughters!  He refused to LOSE HIS SONG!

By the age of 5, Beethoven was playing the violin under the tutelage of his father--also an accomplished musician. By the time he was 13, Beethoven was a concert organist. In his 20s he was already studying under the very watchful eyes of Haydn and Mozart. In fact, Mozart spoke prophetic words when he declared that Beethoven would give the world something worth listening to by the time his life ended. As Beethoven began to develop his skills, he became a prolific composer. During his lifetime, he wrote nine majestic symphonies and five concertos for piano, not to mention numerous pieces of chamber music. Ludwig van Beethoven also wrote sonatas and pieces for violin and piano. He has thrilled us with the masterful works of unique harmony that broke with the traditions of his times. 

The man was a genius. Beethoven was not, however, a stranger to difficulties. During his twenties, he began to lose his hearing. His fingers "became thick," he said on one occasion. He couldn't feel the music as he once had. His hearing problem haunted him in the middle years of his life, but he kept it a well-guarded secret. When he reached his fifties, Beethoven was stone deaf. Three years later he made a tragic attempt to conduct an orchestra and failed miserably. Approximately five years later, he died during a fierce thunder storm. He was deaf, yet a magnificent musician.

On one occasion, Beethoven was overheard shouting at the top of his voice as he slammed both fists on the keyboard, "I will take life by the throat!"  He refused to LOSE HIS SONG!

Vance Havner told a story about an elderly lady who was greatly disturbed by her many troubles--both real and imaginary.  Finally, someone in her family tactfully told her, "Grandma, we've done all we can for you. You'll just have to trust God for the rest." A look of absolute despair spread over her face as she replied, "Oh dear, has it come to that?" Havner commented, "It always comes to that, so we might as well begin with that!"

My friends, why don't we start with that today? Turn your situation over to God and trust Him completely and totally! He will not let you down. Don't be like Chippee and lose your song…sing in the face of your trial and watch the victory come! I love you guys!

Pastor Rusty



Monday, October 29, 2007

Excellence with Purpose

Good morning! We had an AWESOME weekend with our Kids Fest. We started off with around 200 at our Friday night service. The Harness family did a great job ministering to everyone of every age that was in attendance. Several responded to the altar call for salvation. Then Saturday we had a HUGE crowd for our Carnival, three on three Basketball tournaments, and our Slam Dunk Contest. It all culminated with our Trunk or Treat service yesterday morning. Somewhere around 550 showed up for our service. Again, several responded for salvation. It was the best all around Kids Fest that we have ever had. Thank you to everyone that helped make it a huge success. Eternity will certainly be much richer because of your efforts. I love you guys, and feel so blessed to be your pastor.

As I was thinking about Kids Fest this morning, I got to thinking about how we strive to do everything with EXCELLENCE. However, God birthed another phrase within my Spirit this morning during prayer. We don't want to just strive for excellence, but EXCELLENCE WITH A PURPOSE. And that is exactly what we did this weekend. Listen to what Paul says about EXCELLENCE WITH A PURPOSE:

1 Corinthians 15:58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be firm (steadfast), immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord [always being superior, excelling, doing more than enough in the service of the Lord], knowing and being continually aware that your labor in the Lord is not futile [it is never wasted or to no purpose].

Wow! What a powerful verse. God gives us some powerful instruction:

#1 God speaks about our ATTITUDE in life and ministry. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be firm (steadfast), immovable

Never, ever quit. Make up your mind that you are in this thing for the long term. Even when you are frustrated, tired, angry, discouraged…you will fight until the very end. Be FIRM, STEADFAST, and IMMOVABLE. Your favorite song needs to become, "I shall not be, I shall not be moved, just like a tree planted by the waters, I shall NOT BE MOVED."

#2 God speaks about our ACTIONS in life and ministry. Always abounding in the work of the Lord [always being superior, excelling, doing more than enough in the service of the Lord],

ALWAYS, giving and doing your ABSOLUTE BEST at whatever you do. 1 Corinthians 10:31
(AMP) so then, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you may do, do all for the honor and glory of God.

Whatever you may do includes: work, sports, teaching a Sunday School Class, teaching Royal Rangers or Girls Ministry, serving on the cook team… WHATEVER YOU DO, remember always being superior, excelling, doing more than enough in the service of the Lord.

#3 God speaks about our ANTICIPATED RESULTS in life and ministry. Knowing and being continually aware that your labor in the Lord is not futile [it is never wasted or to no purpose].

We need to know and be constantly aware that all of my labor in the Lord is NEVER wasted or to NO PURPOSE. All of our hours that we spent leading up to Kids Fest and actually making it happen, will not be wasted. And the same is with everything that we do for and with the Lord. It amazes me how the enemy of our souls will whisper in our ears, "Your praying isn't doing any good, you are just wasting your time." "Going to church isn't doing you any good; you could be doing other, more important stuff." That is when you need to remember that your prayer, your church attendance is NEVER WASTED OR TO NO PURPOSE.

We are living in a time where satan himself has deceived some of God's very own people that the answer for their life is to just alienate themselves from church and those who have hurt them. It is the oldest trick of the devil. When Adam and Eve sinned, they hid from God, by trying to avoid His presence. It happens today. Someone hurts you in church, satan whispers into your ear, "Just stay away from church, that way you don't get hurt anymore. You don't have to go to church to serve God. You will be better off not going anyway." That is a lie from the devil himself. God's Word says in Hebrews 10:25, "(AMP) Not forsaking or neglecting to assemble together [as believers], as is the habit of some people, but admonishing (warning, urging, and encouraging) one another, and all the more faithfully as you see the day approaching.

God warns us that as we get closer and closer to the Rapture of the church that we NEED EACH OTHER more and more. We need encouragement, admonishment, and the urging on of our brothers and sisters. The answer is not to stay home, AWAY from God's people, but to strive to spend MORE TIME with God's people. Your church attendance does HAVE A PURPOSE.

Let's make up our minds today to strive for EXCELLENCE WITH PURPOSE in all that we do.

I love each of you, and pray that you have a wonderful, blessed day!

Pastor Rusty

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Cave of Isolation

Good Morning everyone! I want you to know that I am praying for you. I believe that God is going to grant you peace and wisdom this morning. I have been reading and studying about Elijah's life. He was a great man of God, who had an awesome anointing upon him. God used him mightily, however, he found himself in a cave, isolated from the very people that could help him. He became isolated because he thought that he was the only one left that was serving God RIGHT. Everyone else was just playing games, so he went into a cave a defeated, discouraged and depressed prophet of God. Listen to what God told him:

1 Kings 19:13-17 When Elijah heard the quiet voice, he muffled his face with his great cloak, went to the mouth of the cave, and stood there. A quiet voice asked, "So Elijah, now tell me, what are you doing here?" (14) Elijah said it again, "I've been working my heart out for GOD, the GOD-of-the-Angel-Armies, because the people of Israel have abandoned your covenant, destroyed your places of worship, and murdered your prophets. I'm the only one left, and now they're trying to kill me." (15) GOD said, "Go back the way you came through the desert to Damascus. When you get there anoint Hazael; make him king over Aram. (16) Then anoint Jehu son of Nimshi; make him king over Israel. Finally, anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you as prophet. (17) Anyone who escapes death by Hazael will be killed by Jehu; and anyone who escapes death by Jehu will be killed by Elisha.

God told Elijah to come out of the cave of ISOLATION and to go to work. It is a very real temptation of the devil to try to send you into the cave of isolation as well. It is a very dangerous place to be. As I was thinking on this today, a pastor friend of mine sent me an email that he sent out to some of his church members. I asked permission from him to share it with you, and he graciously granted me that request. Listen to the heart of this message…it is from the heart of God.

I love a good fire. I have a little fire pit that sits on my back patio that I just love. This time of year, as the weather is getting cooler, I keep a fire going back there almost constantly. Well, yesterday (Monday) it rained all day. The weather was miserable, wet and cold. But you know what, I built a fire anyway. I actually had me a pretty good fire going. As I sat under the little overhang outside my back door trying to stay dry the fire actually kept burning even in the rain. I had several good logs that burned quite well, put out some nice warmth, and kept burning even as the rain fell on them.

I was able to send some emails, text messages, talk to some of you on the phone, and spend my regular time in prayer, praying for you guys next to that little fire. That little fire was quite therapeutic for me. But I noticed something that happened with my fire. One of the logs rolled off and was no longer touching the other logs. That one log continued to burn for a little while, but eventually it's fire went out. The rain was just too much for it by itself. The other logs kept burning just fine. I walked over to my little fire pit and took the fire poker and moved the little log back up against the other logs that were still burning. It took a few minutes, but eventually, that log caught fire again and began to burn and add to the heat and warmth that the other logs were radiating.

Storms in life come at us constantly. As I spoke about on Sunday, we are all going through major times of crisis in our lives. I don't know of any of us that aren't facing some serious issues. But we have each other. And I tell you what, I have been so proud of how this family has stuck together through all of this. The wind and the rain has poured down over us and has threatened to put our fire out. By that I mean, our love and relationship with God. Our passion for Jesus and to fulfill his purpose. Our love and dedication for each other. The storms that we are facing are cold, and wet, and threatens to do us in. But we have stayed together. We have continued to put our trust in God. We have learned and are learning to lean on and trust each other. The danger is when we become like that little log and become isolated from the rest of the group. On our own we will become overwhelmed by the storm and the rain. We separate yourself and it leads to our demise. I need you in my life. Listen to me!!! I NEED YOU!! I can't make it without you. I know that we can absolutely not make it without God. And, while it is true that, "All we need is God," He has also given us each other. If I start thinking that I don't need any help, or I don't want to bother any of you, then I will be snuffed out and lose the battle against the storm. But if I will learn to stay close to each of you, to draw strength from your warmth and fire, then I can keep going. The same is exactly true for you.

Don't get macho on me and you start thinking, "I can handle this on my own." I know you are strong, but God has given you people around you that love you and can and will help you. That is what we are here for. Don't start thinking that you are alone and no one cares. That is a lie. God has assembled a group of people, all of us hurting, all of us in need, all of us imperfect, that will stand with you when the rain is coming down on you. You cannot afford to isolate yourself from the group. I know that busy schedules and other excuses keep us from taking the time to reach out and be around the others. But those things are what will eventually destroy us. The rain didn't put out the fire on the log. The isolation did.

I don't know how many different ways I can tell you this, but I am going to keep telling you this: You are not alone. You don't have to go through life alone. We want to "do life together." There should be no shame in asking for help, or prayer, or some other form of support. There should be great shame in NOT asking for those things. God has given us to you. God has given you to us. We all desperately need each other.

The only thing that is more troubling than isolating ourselves from the rest of the group, is allowing/seeing someone else isolate themselves. Sometimes we can look at ourselves and think, "I'm good. I've got people around me that are supporting me. Yeah, I'm going through some tough times, but God has given me a support system to stand with me and be with me during this time." And we don't even see that one "log" that has rolled off the fire and is dying (literally or figuratively) alone. We cannot allow those around us to try to "make it" on their own. We must recognize and respond to their needs. Are we in a storm and being pounded by rain? Sure we are. But we have each other. What about the person you are working with, or talking with in the grocery store, or the old high school friend? Are they alone? Are they isolated? What about the one that used to come to our church that you haven't seen in a while, that you occasionally think, "I wonder what ever happened to...." What about them? You DO have a support group. You DO have people that will do whatever it takes to support you. You MUST rely on the people that God has given you to "do life" together with. But you also MUST pay attention to those around you. Those that have been or feel isolated. Everyone needs this support group. Everyone needs to know that they don't have to try to make it alone. Who have we been leaving out? Who have we forgotten about? Who, because we have been so focused on our own issues and problems, have we neglected?

It rained yesterday. Were you isolated? Don't be. Call me, I'll come get you. I'll help you. Call the others and rely on them. Don't let pride keep you from asking for help and prayer. It rained yesterday. Who did you isolate? Who did you leave out in the rain alone? Don't let pride or self pity keep you from reaching out to those that need your warmth and strength.

I still have that fire going as I type this at 2:15 in the morning on Tuesday. I just threw some more logs on the fire. You know what happened? The fire got hotter, and the flames burned brighter. Go out and get those that are lost and cold and alone. Share with them God's love. Bring them in. You see, you will strengthen yourself as you strengthen others. Just as adding the isolated logs to the fire caused the flame on the rest of the logs to burn brighter. You become stronger when you bring more into this fellowship with you. You can do it. Stay close to the people that God has given you. But don't be so focused on yourself, that you forget about the others that are feeling alone and isolated.

I need you today. Send me an email or text just to let me know that you are praying for me. Others need you today. Send out some form of communication to let them know that they are not alone and that you are praying for them. Don't be alone. Don't let others be alone. Remember, by strengthening others, you strengthen yourself.

I love you all, more than you can imagine. I am praying for God's peace to be on you today. You can make it. I'm with you. But most importantly, God is with you. I hope that you will meditate upon this message of this blog today…YOU ARE NOT ALONE. Don't allow yourself to believe that you are. Run from the CAVE OF ISOLATION. Blessings!

Pastor Rusty

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Victory over depression

This is the day that the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it…I hope you are as well!

We have been looking at hope the past week or so. My prayer is that it ministered to you, and that you understand that God indeed will work on your behalf. He is a GOOD God. Yesterday I was meeting with someone in my office that has been battling depression. As I spoke with this person, and we looked into the Word of God, I felt God nudge me to deal with the subject of depression for a few days on this blog. Look at what God's Word says about worry and anxiety:

Proverbs 12:25(CEV) Worry is a heavy burden, but a kind word always brings cheer.

(ESV) Anxiety in a man's heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad.

(MSG) Worry weighs us down; a cheerful word picks us up.

When you're depressed your motivation is drained, your desire to pursue God is gone, your conversations turn sour, you're blinded to your blessings, your enthusiasm is forced, you're in a daze regarding future plans. What's the way out? Find the cause of your depression!

1. First of all, examine your relationships. There are different type of relationships, but I want to mention three:

  • Replenishing relationships. This is where you get something positive out of the relationship. It is a relationship where you feel encouraged and enriched when you spend time together.
  • Neutral relationships. In these relationships, you aren't replenished, nor are you really drained.
  • Draining relationships. These relationships wear you out and tear you down. Nothing positive comes from them.

Take just a moment and think about it. What type of relationships do you have? Do you have any replenishing ones? Or are they all neutral or draining? Elijah was in a cave, depressed and discouraged. Why? One of the reasons is that he had nothing but draining relationships. He felt all alone, he even said, "God, I'm the only one left who won't worship Baal." What God tell him? "Come out of the cave, I have many others who haven't bowed their knee to Baal." Then God sent Elijah to a replenishing relationship with Elisha. One of the main causes of depression is a lack of replenishing relationships.

Long-term depression drains your energy, distorts your reality, assaults your faith, and affects everybody around you. One in five of us suffers from it. It's responsible for more workplace absenteeism than diabetes and heart disease. Poor health can cause it, not to mention your surroundings; also stress, fear, loneliness, guilt, and anger. And it's no modern-day disease either; it affected Bible characters too.

2. David experienced it because of unconfessed sin. "I am… severely broken… my strength fails… my loved ones… stand… afar off" (Psalm 38:8-11 NKJV).

3. Job got so depressed about his financial, personal and family losses that he cursed the day he was born. (Job 1-3)

4. When Jezebel threatened Elijah, he went through the "H.A.L.T." syndrome. He was Hungry; he stopped eating. Angry; he got mad at God and the world. Lonely; he left his servant and went off by himself. Tired; he collapsed.

But God had a prescription. He: (a) changed his diet; (b) told him to rest; (c) let him know he wasn't alone; (d) sent an angel to minister to him. Those are still the steps out of depression!

David said, "The Lord… brought me up out of a horrible pit" (Psalm 40:1-2 NKJV),
and He can bring you out of your depression too! Don't isolate yourself, and don't be ashamed to get help from your pastor, a trusted friend, or a good counsellor. And remember, addictive behaviour and destructive relationships will only make things worse. The moment Elijah heard God's voice, he began "getting it together." With God's help, you can too!

Psalm 116:7 (MSG) I said to myself, "Relax and rest. GOD has showered you with blessings.

Bob Gass, a well known author reminds us that you can conquer depression: (a) Through prayer! Oswald J. Smith said that the happiest moments of his life were during prayer and Bible reading. He called this his 'morning watch.' He also said praying aloud prevented his thoughts from wandering. (b) Through God's Word! Jeremiah said, "When Your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart's delight" (Jeremiah 15:16 NIV). Daily prayer and the reading of God's Word is a prescription that can help heal your emotions and lift your depression. Try it!

Why don't you meditate on God's Word today that I placed in this blog, and also turn on some good Praise and Worship music. As you do this, you are putting on "a garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness." (Isaiah 61:3)

I love you guys, and pray that a GARMENT and SPIRIT of praise will be released upon you even now. Blessings!

Pastor Rusty

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Hope, an Anchor of the Soul (#3)

Good morning! This is the day that the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it. I woke up this morning with an excitement in my soul, simply because I am alive and well. God has given me another day to enjoy His favor, my family, and so many other blessings that I take for granted. Before we go any further with this blog, why don't you just take a moment to try to count your blessings? We are good at counting our hardships, but why not today count as many blessings as you can? It just might surprise you at how blessed you really are! I believe that it will also get your HOPES up. We have been discussing hope for some time now, and I would like for us to continue today.

Last week we began to look at how HOPE is an anchor of our soul, based on Hebrews 6:19
(AMP) [Now] we have this [hope] as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul [it cannot slip and it cannot break down under whoever steps out upon it--a hope] that reaches farther and enters into [the very certainty of the Presence] within the veil, [Lev. 16:2.]

(NLT) This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God's inner sanctuary.

Anchor #1 is "God's presence is watching over me." Anchor #2 is "His purpose is working in me." Today, let's look at anchor #3…

III. The third anchor is… GOD'S PLACE IS WAITING FOR ME.
When things get unbearable in your life you remember that our ultimate hope is heaven. Paul says it like this, If all our hope is just on this earth, we should be pitied. But there's more to life than just here and now. We do have an ultimate destination. This is just the warm-up act. And God is preparing a place in heaven.

Notice what Jesus said. John 14:1-2
"Don't be troubled. You trust in God, now trust in Me. I am going to prepare a place for you."
Jesus Christ says that heaven is a place, not a state of mind. It's not some kind of fantasy, nothingness, where you just float around, bodiless, spiritless, whatever. It is a real place and God says "I am going to prepare a place for you."

There are so many things that I could say about heaven, but let me today just say that heaven is a place of relief and release. No fear. No pain. No sorrow. No conflict. No more problems. The Bible says this Revelation 21:4 "He will wipe away all tears from their eyes and there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying, nor pain. All of that has gone forever." That gives us a reason for hope. The litmus of your faith and your hope is how you handle the funerals in your life. Anybody can have great faith when things are going great. But how do you handle the funerals of life. I have been there, and looked in people's eyes who did not have hope and seen the despair in their eyes at the funeral. On the other hand, I have been in many, many funerals of believers where there were actually celebrations. When a Christian dies, we rejoice for that person because we know where they're going. We grieve. But we're not grieving for that person. We're grieving for ourselves because we're going to miss them. When a Christian dies, we don't grieve for them. They get to be in a place where we're all going eventually so we don't grieve for them. There's no more problems for them. We grieve for ourselves. And the Bible says, "Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted."

This morning I want you to hear an excellent example of this in Dee's story. I read many things this week about hope. The best example I came across was the following example shared from a lady who tragically and suddenly lost her husband to death. Let me share her story to you from her own words. It is basically a four point sermon. Please listen:

I'd like to share how I was able to find hope I needed in the gravest crisis of my life. I had always envisioned myself standing up here with my husband sharing how the Lord brought us through some great financial trial. I could imagine us standing behind this podium, holding hands, smiling, taking turns speaking, nudging each other, as we would share how the Lord brought us through. But that was not the story that God knew that I would eventually share. As you can see I'm standing here without my husband beside me. He died suddenly last summer in an underwater accident. In one brief moment my entire life, my family, my faith in the future, was completely turned upside down. All our dreams together, our goals and our plans were crushed. So today, I'm here today to share how God's love and comfort helped me and my five children find the hope to go on when life seemed hopeless.

Richard, my husband of sixteen years, was only 39 years old. A group of staff members came over to tell me what happened and to be with me. I was devastated. Actually my feelings were beyond devastation. I can't even describe the pain I felt at that moment. Richard had been diving many times before. I was usually a little anxious about his safety. For this particular trip, though, I had no fears. I was completely taken by surprise when I received the news. My first reaction was total shock.

In the hours and days that followed, God gave me four different gifts to help me make it.

A. First He gave me the gift of His people.

Honestly, I don't know how people survive a tragedy like this without a loving church family and Christian friends. It made the difference between hope and total despair for me. So many people showed up to help me, share God's comfort and just be with me. One close friend who had visited with me earlier that day drove back down two hours bringing other Christian friends who are like family to me. Food, money, offers of help and prayers poured in especially from members of my church. In fact, we were so overwhelmed with help from our church family I finally had to beg them not to bring any more food. My refrigerator couldn't hold any more. Many times in the Bible God promises to take care of us in situations that seem hopeless if we just trust Him. He also promises to open the windows of heaven and pour out so much blessing that I won't have room enough to receive it. During this time, I found those promises were true. He used His people to provide for all my needs. And there wasn't anything that my children or I lacked.

B. The second gift that God gave me was His presence.

This gave me great hope. Even in my deepest grief I knew that God was there with me. He had not left me. In my many tears I could feel His love for me. Some of the times I felt closest to God was in my deepest sorrow and when people prayed for me I felt I was being lifted up on a carpet of prayer. I felt the presence of the lord well up inside of me. His presence surrounded me like a warm blanket in those dark days. Even my children who were looking to me for direction could see the peace of God rise in me and I could see the peace of God settling on them too. And that gave me tremendous joy. God was with us all, comforting us like the father and husband we were now missing. Even though Richard was no longer with us, we were not alone.

C. A third gift that God gave me that gave me hope was the reassurance of His plan for my life.

Of course, I had many questions for God. I wanted desperately to know how a man who was so cautious about the details and dangers of free diving could die in this manner. How could God let this happen to such a responsible family man? We had five children to raise. How could God allow my husband to be taken? I needed to know. I got out my Bible and asked God to lead me to a scripture to explain to me what had happened. The Bible said, "Ask and it shall be given," and that night God led me to read Philippians 1 and in verse 12 Paul explains how God was able to use even the difficulties and trials that he went through to fulfill God's purpose and plan for Paul. As my Pastor has said many times God specializes in bringing good out of bad and turning tragedies into testimonies. As I read that chapter, God spoke to me personally through scripture. I realized that God was not finished with His plan for my life. He would never leave me nor forsake me.

D. Finally the fourth gift from God that gave me hope to keep going was the promise of heaven.

Losing Richard has been a terribly painful experience, but it has not been a hopeless one. I know I will get to see him again one day in heaven. My husband Richard had put his faith in Jesus and God has promised that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. Heaven is real and Richard is there right now. That truth has freed me from much pain. Hearing the account of what actually happened to Richard would have been far too much for me to bear without the insight God gave me through His word. God impressed on me that Richard was not alone in the water that day. God met him there and took him home to heaven. The hope of heaven has given me hope to go on living down here.

I would like to end this testimony with "And we all lived happily ever after with no problems." But my children would ask me why I lied to you. A hope filled life is not a problem free life or a grief free life. Intense grief still comes in waves for each one of our family members. Little things remind me of what I miss about Richard. Any bright sunny day reminds me of his love for our family and for me. It's not always fun to plan things alone or to experience life alone. But I do know this: Even in my lonely times I am not alone.

Since Richard's death I've struggled to find the balance between patient understanding and firm discipline where my kids are concerned. It's not easy raising kids alone with three of them being teenagers. But my hope is in the promise of Isaiah 54:5 which says, "For your maker is your husband. The Lord almighty is His name." And in Psalm 68:5 that God will be a Father to the fatherless. These two promises of God have kept me going.

A friend recently asked, "What's next for you?" I can honestly say I don't know. I just keep putting one foot in front of the other step by step trusting God to direct my life. I try to be open to His leading and obedient to whatever He asks me to do. I do know that God has a plan for my life and for my children's lives. And He's given us enough hope for tomorrow.

In closing, it's my sincere desire that my story gives you hope in the midst of your trials. I want to encourage you as I've been encouraged by God. The Bible says that to whom much is given, much is required. God has given me much peace, hope and grace and I pray that through my story you will acknowledge the grace of God in your life. With Jesus Christ in your life there's always a reason for hope.

There's no way you can get that kind of hope from some pop psychology group. No book, no tape, no therapy, no positive affirmation is going to make you competent to handle that kind of crisis. To lose your husband instantly and be left with five kids, that's not minor inconvenience is it? This is a major blow.
And yet you've just heard a great example of a woman with deep hope. Where does that come from? There's only one place you can get that. A personal relationship with Jesus Christ. When you get that kind of relationship, you know that God is watching over you, His purpose is working in you, His place is waiting for you and you have hope.

If you are feeling hopeless this morning about something in your life, you have forgotten how much God cares about you. The Bible says in Isaiah 46:3-5
"Listen. I have upheld you since you were conceived and I have taken care of you from your birth. Even when you are old, I will be the same. Even when your hair has turned gray, I will take care of you. I made you and I will take care of you. I will carry you and save you. Can you compare Me to anyone? No one is equal to Me or like Me." What a God we have!

Maybe you have felt trapped in a hopeless marriage. It's on the rocks and you've tried anything and everything and it's going nowhere fast. Or maybe you've felt trapped in a hopeless career and you've bounced from job to job to job and you just haven't found where you fit yet. Or maybe you're stuck in a hopeless health problem. You've been to all the doctors and you've tried all the cures but nothing has helped you. Or maybe you've got a hopeless situation with a child. Or maybe you've got a hopeless situation with your finances and you're not getting out of dept; you're getting deeper in debt – month after month. Maybe you're a single parent like Dee and there are those days when you feel powerless and hopeless to cope.

What do you do? You give it to Jesus Christ. When you do, you will have a rebirth of living hope in your heart.
I Peter 1:3
"In God's great mercy He has caused us to be born again into a living hope because Jesus Christ rose from the dead."
You will have a rebirth of hope in your life. You will go from no hope to new hope. Instantly.

Did you read several years ago in the news about the American pilot who was shot down over Kosovo? "As he crouched in a shallow culvert deep in Serb territory, one of the worst moments for the stealth fighter pilot downed over Yugoslavia came when the barking search dogs drew within thirty feet of his hiding place. The U.S. pilot reached for a folded American flag that he'd tucked inside his flight suit next to his skin and he prayed a silent prayer. 'That helped me to not let go of hope," he said in an interview released by the air force news. Hope gives you strength and hope gave me endurance.'"

If you've just been barely hanging on you need to do two or three things.

1. First you need to remember the presence of God.

That He has always with you. That you will never be without Him. You may not feel it but He is there. He is aware. He cares. He can help. Jehovah Shammah – "I am the God who is always there." You remember God's presence. You will never go through anything alone.

2. And two, you need to receive from God's people like Dee did.

She let other people support her. That's why you need a church family. That's why you need to be in a small group. That's why you need to be more than just a spectator. You need to be a participator. Dee says, When I was in the crisis, my church family stood with me. Who's going to stand with you? Do you know anybody? Do you have any relationships? Who do you stand with when they're going through tough times? That's why you need a church home. You need a family who will be there when the crisis comes on and the heat is there so you can receive from God's people and you can remember God's presence and then you can rely on God's promise.

There are a lot of things in life that are uncertain but these three things you can count on. They are certainties of life. No matter what happens, God's presence will always be watching over me, God's purpose will always be working in me and God's place is always waiting for me.

When I have hope what happens?

Isaiah 40:31 "Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint." No situation is hopeless.

God brought some of you to this blog today so He could say this to you: Don't give up. Don't do it. Don't give in to discouragement or despair. Don't give up, look up. Don't despair, turn to prayer. Don't give up. Don't give out. Give over. Give over to God.

I love you guys, and pray that you have a HOPE-FILLED day! Blessings!

Pastor Rusty

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Romans 8:28-God is in Control!

No matter what's happening in my life – good, bad, or ugly – God's purpose is working in me. Whenever you have a problem where you can't understand the purpose, it becomes very difficult to handle. You know the most difficult kinds of questions of life are, "Why is this happening to me?" When the problem is there that's kind of a freak accident and it doesn't have any rhyme or reason to it. It just doesn't make sense. Those are the kind of situations that are the most difficult to handle.

On the other hand, when you see a purpose behind your problem it gives you enormous hope. It also gives you enormous power to endure it. And God says, I am working in your life and I have a purpose no matter what's happening.

God is doing good things in my life even when the situation is bad, even when I don't feel it, even when it doesn't make sense, even when I have no understanding. When the situation is bad, He is still doing good things in my life.

I want us to look at a couple of verses that we've looked at many times here at First Assembly of God. But we keep coming back to these verses because they're so profound, they really explain what life is all about. I hope by now if you've been a believer for some time that you've memorized Romans 8:28 "We know that God causes all things to work together for good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose." This is such a significant verse I want us to look at it word by word.

Notice first what it does not say. It doesn't say, "All things work out the way I want them to." We would like that and we'd like to interpret it that way but that's not what it says. It doesn't say, "All things work out the way I want them to."

It does not say, "All things have a happy ending on earth." Because that is not true. All things do not have a happy ending on earth. Reality teaches us that not every patient gets well, that not every couple that gets married lives happily ever after. Reality teaches us that not every business decision makes a million bucks, not every problem is resolved. So we know that's not true. All children don't get straight A's and become captain of the football team. What does it say?

  • First it says, "We know that God causes all things to work together for good." What that means is we don't wish, we don't imagine, we don't desire, we don't have false hope, we don't have positive thinking. It just says, We know. It's not a wish or a desire. It is a certainty. We are confident of whatever comes after this. "Hope is not the same as optimism. It is not the conviction that something will turn out well. But hope is the certainty that something makes sense regardless of how it turns out."
  • "… that God causes…" There is a grand master designer of the universe. And there is a plan that is in action and history is His story. There is no such thing as fate. There is no such thing as chance. There is no such thing as luck – good luck or bad luck. There is no such thing as karma, or "I just happen to fall into it." That is not true. There is a master designer. We make mistakes for sure. We make many mistakes. But God never makes mistakes.
  • "We know that God causes all things to work together for good."
    What does "all things" include? Does that include illness? Yes. Does that include unemployment? Certainly. Does it include divorce? Some of you have a question about that one, but yes. Does it include a miscarriage? Does it include failure? Does it include freak accidents? Does it include the stupid decisions that I make and the mistakes I bring upon myself? Yes! Absolutely, yes! Everything fits into God's plan. The good, the bad, the indifferent. The things that I do, the things I don't do. The things that I control, the things I don't control. All things work together for good.

Notice: It doesn't say, "all things are good." And it does not say God causes all things. God does not. God does not cause rape. God does not cause war. God does not cause famine and poverty. God does not cause leukemia and cancer. To attribute those things to God is to turn God into a monster. God is not a monster. God is incapable of sin. It doesn't say God causes all things. We bring a lot on ourselves.

  • But it does say that
    "God causes all things to work together for good."
    It's not by accident and it's not separate. They work together. It goes back to that illustration about baking a cake. When you're baking a cake you've got to have some flour and some raw eggs and some Crisco and some sugar and some salt and some vanilla. Any one of those things by itself doesn't really taste too good. Have you ever tasted flour? Crisco? Maybe the sugar some of you might say is ok. But none of those things on their own tastes good.
There are a lot of things in your life that are difficult to swallow. They're bitter going down and you choke on them. "Why is that happening?" Not all things in your life are good but they all work together for good. When those elements are put together – just like the element of the cake are put together it produces a cake and the cake is very good. God wants to bake a cake in your life and He wants to take the elements in your life, even the things that are distasteful, bitter, and He wants to work them together.
  • Notice the qualifier of this great promise. It is not for everybody. It says "… those who love God…" All things do not work together for good for everybody. In fact, if you are thumbing your nose to God, walking out the back door and saying, "Forget You, God!" all things are not working for good in your life. In fact, all things are working for bad in your life. This is not a promise to everybody. It's a promise for those who love God and want to have a relationship with Him and who are trying to live according to His purpose.
This morning if you are reading this blog and you are facing an impossible situation, the next verse is for you. Jeremiah 29:11 God says, "I have good plans for you, not plans to hurt you. I will give you hope and a good future."
You may think that what God is doing in your life right now is painful and is to no avail but God says, "My plan is good. You just don't see it. You need to trust Me. You need to have hope because it's a plan to give you a hope and a future."
If you have walked away from God. And you think, "I was close to God at one time but I can't get back to Him," then the next verse is for you. Philippians 1:6 "God began doing a good work in you and I am sure He will continue it until it is finished when Jesus Christ comes again." God starts something in your life and what He starts He finishes. You may say you're too far beyond hope. You're not. You've walked away from it but when you come back and say, "God, I'm going to give You the mess, give You the pieces. Give me Your peace." Then that which He started, He finishes in your life. And He keeps on keeping on.
I pray that you have a HOPE-FILLED day today! Blessings!

Pastor Rusty

Thursday, October 11, 2007

HOPE, an Anchor for the Soul

Good morning! What a crowd we had at our Feast of Nations last night and the food was wonderful. Missionary Kerry Mauldin did a great job of ministering the Word with many stories of God's grace interspersed in his message. It was just a great night. Thank you to everyone that worked hard to make it so successful.

Throughout most of the past week we have been discussing the importance of HOPE in our lives. Several people have told me that the Word has been ministering to them. After prayer, I feel impressed of the Lord to spend a little more time discussing HOPE. So let's get into it…

Romans 15:13 (GWT) says, "May God, the source of hope, fill you with joy and peace through your faith in Him. Then you'll overflow with hope…"
Then, Psalm 52:9 says, "In Your name I will hope, for Your name is good."

What does that mean? How do you put hope in a name? What's the big deal? You need to understand that names meant a lot more back in the past than they do today. Today, we choose names for the way that they sound. Tiffany, Amber – kind of sophisticated sounding names. You just like the way it falls off your tongue. But in ancient cultures, they would choose a name because of what it meant, because of what it described. In fact, your name was usually the definition of your character. You were given a name that matched who you were. When God chose to reveal Himself to the Hebrew nation, He used Hebrew terms to describe Himself. Did you know that God has a lot of different names? In the Bible, God calls Himself by many different Hebrew names. Each one of those names is a description of His character. Each one of those names is a promise to you. Each one of those names is a benefit that God says, I provide to man.

For instance, one time God used the Hebrew name Jehovah Shalom. That means, "I am the God who gives you peace. And if you want real peace of mind you come to Me for it." In another place He uses the Hebrew term, I am Jehovah Jireh. That means, "I am the God who provides for all your needs. You can count on Me. You can come to Me."

At the end of the book of Ezekiel 48:35, God gives one of His names.

Ezekiel 48:35 [It was] round about eighteen thousand [measures]: and the name of the city from [that] day [shall be], The LORD [is] there.

He says "I am Jehovah Shammah." In Hebrew that means, "I am the God who is always there." There is no place that God is not. There is no place you will go that God isn't. God has been in your past. He's in your present. He's going to be in your future. He's in the good times and the bad times. He's in the good places. He's in the evil places. He is everywhere.

This has profound implications on where you find hope. If God is truly with me all the time, whether I feel it or not, if He's truly with me, then that means there are three avenues of hope that I can count on. There are a lot of things in life that I can't count on, a lot of things in life that are uncertain. These are three anchors of the soul as the Bible calls them – hope is the anchor of the soul – things that I can count on so that no matter what happens, I know that life is not hopeless.

Hebrews 6:19 (AMP) [Now] we have this [hope] as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul [it cannot slip and it cannot break down under whoever steps out upon it--a hope] that reaches farther and enters into [the very certainty of the Presence] within the veil, [Lev. 16:2.]

(NLT) This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God's inner sanctuary.

I. The first anchor is…. HIS PRESENCE IS WATCHING OVER ME.

The older I get the more I realize how much of my life is out of my control. The truth is, not only can I not control much of what's in the future, I don't even know much of what's in the future. Isaiah 41:10 "'Don't worry because I am with you,' says God. 'Don't be afraid,
because I am your God. I will make you strong and I will help you. I will support you.'"
The good news is regardless of what happens; you and I don't have to go through it alone. Thank the Lord for our God who will be with us. He will be there with you. That is one of the certainties of life that I can hold on to. When I hold onto that certainty, I have hope.

There are a lot of uncertainties in life. One of the sad uncertainties of life is that people will leave you. Friends and family might move away. There will be people that you love that will die. There will be people that you love that will become ill and won't be themselves any more. There may even be those that you argue with and there's a separation that's painful. The sad truth of life is people leave us.

But the certainty of life is God will never leave you. That helps us to have hope because the fear of being abandoned is one of the greatest causes of hopelessness in all of our lives. This feeling that I'm going to be deserted, I'm going to be forsaken, I'm going to be left alone, I'm going to be overwhelmed and there's going to be no one to help. It's expressed in the two words, "What if…?" What if my husband/wife leave me and I'm left alone? What if my kids aren't there for me at the end of my life? What if these friends aren't there? What if…?

The truth is, God will never leave you.

As a pastor, I've stood at a lot of gravesites with people. After the funeral, many, many times I've seen in their eyes and I've heard the words, "I don't know how I'm going to make it. How am I going to make it to the next step?" I've heard oftentimes this sense of doubt and this, What if? In the voice of a spouse who has just been deserted or someone who has just lost their job or a parent who has just lost a child. This feeling of, "How am I going to go on?" Some of you are feeling that way today.

The answer is this: God will be with you.

Not only is He with us but the Bible says He watches over us. Not just watches us but watches over us and cares for us.

Psalm 32:8"I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and will watch over you."

You and I, we don't know the future. We can't control the future. God does know the future. God can control the future. And that God who knows and can control the future is willing to guide and advise us. He's willing to show us the way. There's great hope in that.

For many of us, when we can't figure out why something's happening, there's real hopelessness in that. If we can figure out why we're having a problem, if we can figure out what the benefit of that problem is going to be, there's a little more hope. But when I can't figure it out, I feel hopeless. One of the great things that brings hope is realizing I don't have to figure it all out. I just have to trust the God who has it all figured out. He knows and He understands and He's willing to guide and advise me through life.

Lamentations 3:21-23 says "I have hope when I think of this: the Lord's love never ends. His mercies never stop. They are new every morning." That one verse has enough hope to get me at least through to the next week. It's all about hope. Nothing can ever make God stop loving me. Meditate for a few moments on this phrase, "God's mercies are new every morning." Many of us look back on our lives and say "I really blew it there. I wish I hadn't done that." We feel hopeless because we feel like we've already messed the thing up anyway. The Bible says that God gives us a new fresh start every morning. I need that. I need the hope of that. That God gives me a new start and a new day to live a new hope that He wants to give me.

That is anchor #1. We will look at #2 tomorrow.

Thank you for reading my blog today. My prayer is that you have a wonderful, HOPE-FILLED day in the Lord! Blessings!

Pastor Rusty

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Faith is the DYNAMITE and Hope is the FUSE (#5)

Good morning! I woke up this morning, walked over to the weight scales, stepped on, and confirmed that I have lost 11 pounds since Kurt Kennedy and I began exercising together just 2 ½ weeks ago. I was EXCITED and ready to run some more! You see that is what HOPE does for you. It motivates you to keep on keeping on. It helps you get out of the rut that you find yourself in. In the Bible, it caused the woman with an issue of blood for twelve years, to get up out of her bed, and on the road to her miracle. Without hope, she would have just stayed in bed, and in the house, HOPELESS! Thank God for HOPE. We have been discussing hope the past few days. Faith is like dynamite but HOPE is like the fuse. The dynamite is ineffective without a fuse. Thus, faith is ineffective without HOPE.

Paul writes in Romans 8:24-25: "But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, WE WAIT FOR IT PATIENTLY."

Christian friend, who has given you permission to give up hope? Does God no longer hear your prayers? Does He no longer care?

Of course He cares:

  • He hears!
  • He cares!
  • He delivers!

Friends, hope on! Your victorious faith must begin with a patient hope!

 The noted commentator, Charles Barclay, once said: "The Christian hope is not simply a trembling hesitant hope that perhaps the promises of God may be true. It is a confident expectation that they cannot be anything else but true!"

 David therefore wrote in Psalms 42:11: "Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why (are you) so disturbed within me? PUT YOUR HOPE IN GOD...."

I can almost see David shaking himself here. He is talking to his soul and giving it a tongue-lashing. He is rebuking the doubt and the despair that had crept into his heart. He then prescribes for himself the remedy --- hope in THE GOD OF HOPE!


In recounting his experiences as a political prisoner in Russia, Alexander Solzhenitsyn tells of a moment when he was on the verge of giving up all hope. He was forced to work 12 hours a day at hard labor while existing on a starvation diet, and he had become gravely ill. The doctors were predicting his death. One afternoon, while shoveling sand under a blazing sun, he simply stopped working. He did so even though he knew the guards would beat him severely -- perhaps to death. But he felt that he just couldn't go on. Then he saw another prisoner, a fellow Christian, moving toward him cautiously. With his cane the man quickly drew a cross in the sand and erased it. In that brief moment, Solzhenitsyn felt all of the hope of the gospel flood through his soul. It gave him courage to endure that difficult day and the months of imprisonment that followed.

 Ours is not a vain hope, a pretentious hope, or a presumptuous hope. No sir, ours is a hope that is grounded in the sure work of God through His Son on the cross two-thousand years ago.

 The song writer wrote, "My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus' blood and righteousness."  Yes, we have hope because our hope is in Christ!  Whenever you are tempted to give up hope:

  • Look to the Cross.
  • Look to Jesus and to the victory that He won there.
  • Look to His Holy Word and to the wonderful and faithful promises that He has given to you each and everyone of us who serve Him.

 Then too, please remember these words found in Jeremiah 29:11: "For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

I want to close this morning's blog with a story that I have taken from the devotional magazine, OUR DAILY BREAD:

"While attending college, I visited a psychiatric institution with a group of students to observe various types of mental illness. The experience proved to be very disturbing. I remember one man who was called 'No Hope Carter.' His was a tragic case. A victim of venereal disease, he was going through the final stages when the brain is affected. Before he began to lose his mind, this man was told by the doctors that there was no known cure for him. He begged for one ray of light in his darkness, but had been told that the disease would run its inevitable course and end in death. Gradually his brain deteriorated and he became more and more despondent. When I saw him in his small, barred room about two weeks before he died, he was pacing up and down in mental agony. His eyes stared blankly, and his face was drawn and ashen. Over and over he muttered these two forlorn and fateful words: 'No hope! No hope! No hope!' He said nothing else."

How sad to be like "No Hope Carter", a person totally devoid of hope.  The lost have so little to hope in. What hope and what assurance do they have beyond this very moment? Beyond the grave? Their plight is one that is sad indeed! No hope! No hope! No hope!

Do you have hope? Do you know THE GOD OF HOPE?

The world is asking, "Is there any hope?" Our answer is yes, there is ample hope in the God of Hope!

Read again the words to song, "On Christ the Solid Rock"…

My hope is built on nothing less
than Jesus blood and righteousness
I dare not trust the sweetest frame
But wholy lean on Jesus name

On Christ the solid rock I stand
All other ground is sinking sand
All other ground is sinking sand

When darkness veils His lovely face,
I rest on His unchanging grace
In every high and stormy gale,
my anchor holds within the veil

His oath, His covenant His blood,
support me in the whelming flood
When all around my soul gives way,
He then is all my hope and stay

When He shall come with trumpet sound,
O may I then in Him be found
Dressed in His righteousness alone,
faultless to stand before the throne

On Christ the solid rock I stand
All other ground is sinking sand
All other ground is sinking sand

Thank God that our HOPE is built on Christ the Solid Rock! I love you guys, and look forward to seeing you TONIGHT at 6:30 PM for our Feast of All Nations! Blessings!

Rejoicing (and spinning) in this wonderful day!

Pastor Rusty

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Faith is the DYNAMITE and hope is the FUSE (#4)

Good morning! I woke up to COOLER weather this morning! I love it. Fall is my favorite time of the year, because of two reasons: football and cooler weather. Well, I've been getting plenty of football, but not any cool weather, so it was nice, and I am looking forward to the next few days.

We have been talking about HOPE the past few days, and I feel like we are supposed to stay there a few more days. Let's continue our look at how FAITH is the dynamite, but dynamite is ineffective without a fuse. HOPE is what makes faith effective…it is the fuse.

Some time back a speaker stepped to the platform at Southwestern Assemblies of God Bible College. The school has chapel every morning. The students were half asleep when it came time to introduce the speaker. He was about 70 years old. He stood 5' 6" and weighed maybe 110 pounds. The gentleman didn't look too great or all that interesting. He was a congressman by the name of Willie Upshaw. He came to the pulpit and didn't say a word for quite some time. He simply stood there and stared at the students. He had been a politician for over 40 years. He knew how to get people's attention. As the fellow finally began to speak he said something that the students there that day say they have never forgotten. He said, "I was a cripple all of my life." By this time the speaker was moving all over the platform. He was a picture of health and energy. He continued on, "They never saw me come into congress except on a rolling cot, in a wheelchair, or on crutches." Then he reared his head back and screamed as loud as he could, "NEVER, NEVER, NEVER GIVE UP!"

Throughout his sermon that morning he would speak only a paragraph or two and then he would again shout as loud as he could---always in threes---"NEVER, NEVER, NEVER GIVE UP!" He was really quite dignified, and the yelling was somewhat out of character, nonetheless, he was trying ever so hard to get his message across to keep trying. He went on to explain that only two years before, while sitting crippled in a revival service, the preacher said to him, "Congressman, God now gives you the faith to be healed." Willie then told that "for the first time in my life, I stood to my feet and walked -- 68 years I was a cripple." And then he reared back his head, and shouted once more, "NEVER, NEVER, NEVER GIVE UP! GOD IS STILL ON THE THRONE AND HE STILL HAS AN ANSWER FOR YOU."

Friends, I echo the words of the congressman. God wants to put hope back into your heart today! Quit quitting! NEVER, NEVER, NEVER GIVE UP ON GOD!

That is the message behind the story of Abraham. That is the message that the Bible wants to communicate with its account of Jonathan and his armor bearer. That is the story of Willie Upshaw. Have hope! Saints of God, have hope!

Romans 15:4 declares that: "Everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures WE MIGHT HAVE HOPE."

Furthermore, Romans 15:13 adds: "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may OVERFLOW WITH HOPE by the power of the Holy Spirit."

Who is the Scripture speaking of here? The GOD OF HOPE! Our God is not the god of doubt, He is not the god of despair, nor is He the god of gloom and doom. No, who is He? He is "THE GOD OF HOPE" and He wants you to "OVERFLOW IN HOPE BY THE POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT" that is at work within you this morning!

We talk about the God of love, and we hear much about the God of power, but we don't hear near enough about the God of hope!

  • He gave us the story of Abraham for hope.
  • He gave us the Bible for hope.
  • He gave us His wonderful promises for hope.
  • He gave us the Holy Spirit for hope.
  • He gave us Himself so that we might have hope!

Let me ask you a simple question. Which two books in the Bible allude to hope more than any others?

Would you believe Psalms and Job? That's right. While the Psalms carries the word 30 times the book of Job has it 17 times. I can't help but believe that the secret to Job's success in his time of testing was hope! He refused to cave in, to quit, to give up.

  • His wife cried: "Why don't you just curse God and die!" She had lost hope. She was in the grips of despair.
  • His friends lost hope too. They reverted to finger pointing and fatalism.
  • Job, on the other hand, said in Job 23:8-10: "But if I go to the east, he is not there; if I go to the west, I do not find him. When he is at work in the north, I do not see him; when he turns to the south, I catch no glimpse of him. But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold."

Job still had his hope. He knew that the trial had a purpose, and he also knew that in the end, he would come though the trial victorious--like pure and tested gold! He was not about to give up!

The Psalmist wrote in Psalms 31:24: "Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the LORD."

Psalms 71:5 likewise notes: "For you have been my hope, O Sovereign LORD, my confidence since my youth."

Psalms 146:5 then adds: "Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God...."

Are you getting the message? God wants His people to be optimists. He ever wants His children to look to Him in confident hope!

Having said that, please notice with me that

As you know, patience in not one of America's virtues. We seek instant gratification. Christian hope, on the other hand, is ready and able to wait. Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 1:3 of "endurance (or patience) inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ."

As Christians:

  • We wait for the coming day of our salvation--when we shall fully receive the blessings God has for those who serve Him.
  • We wait for His glorious appearing.
  • We wait for the dawning of His kingdom.
  • We wait for our new bodies.
  • We wait to see Him!
  • We wait to see those who have preceded us in death.
  • We simply wait--patiently by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.

Hebrews 10:23 encourages us to
"hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful."
Don't give up your hope, He is saying. Wait! Hold on. "Never, never, never give up!"

So, on this beautiful Tuesday morning, regardless what you are facing…NEVER, NEVER, NEVER give up! Why don't you GET YOUR HOPES UP today? I love you guys, and praying for you to have a HOPE-FILLED day! Blessings!

Rejoicing (and spinning) in this wonderful (and cool) day,

Pastor Rusty

Monday, October 8, 2007

Faith is the DYNAMITE and Hope is the FUSE (#3)

Good afternoon! We had a great start to our mission's convention yesterday. We were honored to have both the Barbers and Burnett's as our guest, as well as Sandra Rodas. They all spoke into our lives and challenged us to become more aware of those around us that desperately need Jesus. A great big "thank you" goes out to each of these fine people.

I would like to continue talking with you today about HOPE. We have discussed how faith is the DYNAMITE and HOPE is the fuse. I had someone this weekend make a comment to me about how that means LOVE would be the spark that lights the fuse. I like that, and believe it is true. Our love for God must be the driving force in our life, regardless what we find ourselves face to face with. The fuse, nor the dynamite does us any good without the spark of love! Now, let's continue our look at HOPE:

In 1 Samuel 14, we find the Israelite army in a desperate situation. The Philistines had five times as many chariots as the Israelites had men. In addition, the enemy had captured all the Hebrew blacksmiths, which meant no new weapons could be made. The cold fact was that the Israelites were all waiting to die. King Saul was confused and had lost the faith and confidence of his men. Things could have been worse, but I don't know how.

It is at this time that Jonathan, the king's son, steps to the forefront. Did he stand and rally the army with an impassioned speech full of faith? No. He could muster only a scrap of hope. He turned to one other person, his young armor bearer, and suggested that they go and check out the Philistine outpost. Why? The Bible in I Samuel 14:6 quotes him as saying (The Living Bible): "Yes, let's go across to those heathen, Perhaps the Lord will do a miracle for us. For it makes no difference to him how many enemy troops there are!'"

Notice, he made no promises. No predictions. He just stated a fact: Victory was possible. In response to such hope, God gave the enemy over to Jonathan and the armor bearer. Before the day was over, Israel had won a stunning victory. 

People in trouble often say, "I don't want to get my hopes up." Well, friends, I want to challenge you to get your "hopes up" in the Lord! Hope is not silliness. Hope is the quiet whisper inside the Christian's heart that says as did Jonathan, "Perhaps the Lord...."

I want to now make this message up close and personal. Some people reading this blog today have lost hope. They have given in to despair. I can see it in the face, I can hear it in the talk, I can recognize it in the spirit.  

These folks love God; love the church. They have simply given up hope in some area or areas of their lives. It is as if they have a secret little closet somewhere hidden in their hearts. That room is now reserved for matters of discarded faith.

 I have known people who have given up on divine healing. Oh they have seen others healed, it just has not worked for them. They have read all of the books on healing, have listened to all of the tapes on the subject as well as attended every healing service within five-hundred miles. Nonetheless, they are still sick. After some period of time, they simply opened up the door to their little closet and they tossed in any hope for healing.  

Others have given up on an unbelieving spouse or child coming to the Lord. Others have thrown in any hope of their marriage getting any better, any hope that they are going to bear a child, or that they are going to see some long-held dreams realized. On the outside of the door hangs a sign that declares, "IN THIS ROOM ARE STORED ALL OF THE THINGS THAT ARE JUST TOO HARD FOR GOD." Sad! Tragic!

 Dr. Charles L. Allen pastored the largest United Methodist Church in the world, the First United Methodist Church in Houston, Texas for many years. He once wrote: "When you say a situation or a person is hopeless, you are slamming the door in the face of God."

 What, if anything, have you tossed into your private little closet? What, if anything, have you given up on? Well, today, I believe that I have a Word from the Lord for each and every one of you:

·        God wants us to open that room up to His inspection.

·        He wants to go in there and clean out that smelly place of doubt and fear.

·        He yet wants to prove to you that He is God and as such, He is able to do "Exceeding and abundantly above all we are even able to ask for or to think of."

·        He wants to restore your hope.

·        He wants you to believe.

·        He wants you to be confidently expectant once more.

1 Thessalonians 2:16-17 declares: "May our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who loved us and by His grace gave us eternal encouragement and GOOD HOPE, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word."

 The God of Hope is asking you to GET YOUR HOPES UP!

I love you guys, and believe with you for a HOPE FILLED day in the Lord!

Rejoicing (and spinning) in this wonderful day,

Pastor Rusty

Friday, October 5, 2007

Faith is the DYNAMITE and hope is the FUSE (#2)

Good afternoon! It has been a busy but productive day so far. I hope things are going well for you.

I want to continue what we started yesterday discussing the importance of HOPE. Hebrews 11:1 says that "Faith is the substance of things HOPED FOR, the evidence of things not seen."

Faith is the DYNAMITE, and hope is the FUSE. You can have all of the dynamite in the world, but it will not do you any good without the fuse. The fuse is what IGNITES the dynamite. It is HOPE that ignites FAITH. Hope is that expectation and anticipation that something good is about to happen.

There is truly a need for more faith in this world. However, faith is, according to Scripture, the substance of what? HOPE! We have to have hope before we can have faith. Many people today have lost faith because first they gave up hope.


The word "hope" is found some 158 times in The New International Version of the Bible?  

·        The Bible points out that we are saved in hope.

·        Hope is likewise tied to the second coming of Christ.

·        God the Father describes Himself as The God of Hope.

·        1 Corinthians 13:13 then adds: "And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love." Again, hope finds itself in some pretty select company.  

Hope, along with love and faith, is truly one of the centerpieces of Christian truth! We are a people of hope!

Having said that, I want to now share with you one of my favorite "hope" stories. It is the story of Abraham found in Genesis 12 – 21.

While most people associate faith with this great man, I see him as also being a person who possessed great hope. The man was old. His wife was old. His animals, his tents, his clothes were old. Everything about Abraham had grown old. Something else marked him and his wife. They had never had a child. They were both old and barren. It was in such a hopeless situation that God came to Abraham and told him that he was to become a father; Sarah was to become a mother. Years passed. Five, ten, maybe fifteen years and then the Lord appeared to Abraham once again and repeated the promise. At this point, Abraham was 99 and his wife was 89. Nonetheless, within the year the promise was fulfilled and Isaac was born.  

Listen to these words found in Romans 4:18-21: "Against all HOPE, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations..., Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead since he was about a hundred years old and that Sarah's womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised."

Did you catch what was the foundation of Abraham's hope? IT WAS THE PROMISES OF GOD. GOD SAID IT THAT SETTLED THE ISSUE.  

We're talking serious business here, people! "SARAH, GET READY, WE ARE GOING TO HAVE A BABY!"     

 Hear me please. Sometimes all that we hope for is contrary to hope, is against hope, and simply defies us to have hope. That was Abraham. Notice Romans 4:18 now from several additional translations:

"When hope was gone, he hoped on in faith...."

"Who against hope believed in hope...."

"Who past hope upon hope believed…."

"Abraham, when hope was dead within him, went on hoping…."  

He had hope in God's word in spite of what he saw when he looked in the mirror or when he looked across the room at his wife Sarah! He had hope in God's Word in spite of what the calendar or the birth certificate said. He had hope in God's word REGARDLESS!

That hope led to faith. That faith led to the promised blessing!

 The story of Abraham was put in the Bible to inspire HOPE in us! You do not have to doubt God or His great promises. He is true to His Word.  

Before I close today's blog, I want to share with you a quote from Max Lucado's great book, God Came Near. Lucado writes, "Hope is not what you expect; it is what you would never dream. It is a wild, improbable tale with a pinch-me-I'm-dreaming ending. It's Abraham adjusting his bifocals so he can see not his grandson, but his son. It's Moses standing in the Promised Land not with Aaron or Miriam at his side, but with Elijah and the transfigured Christ. It's Zechariah left speechless at the sight of his wife Elizabeth, gray-headed and pregnant. And it is the two Emmaus-bound pilgrims reaching out to take a piece of bread only to see that the hands from which it is offered are pierced. Hope is not a granted wish or a favor performed; no, it is far greater than that. It is a zany, unpredictable dependence on a God who loves to surprise us out of our socks and be there in the flesh to see our reaction."

My prayer for you is that you have a great, HOPE-FILLED weekend. I HOPE to see you Sunday! Blessings!

Rejoicing (and spinning) in this wonderful day,


Pastor Rusty


Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Faith is the DYNAMITE, Hope is the FUSE

Good afternoon! I hope you have been rejoicing in the goodness of God. I have had a good, but BUSY day. I am sore from my 11 am workout with Kurt Kennedy. I so appreciate him spurring me on and being patient with me. I enjoy how I feel AFTER I run, but not how I feel DURING my run. But I have high HOPES of the good that is going to come out of the discipline that I am developing.

Speaking of HOPE, I was meeting with someone this afternoon in my office and they mentioned how Revelation 5 had ministered to them today. After this person left, I opened up my Bible to read what was mentioned to me. God began to speak to me about HOPE and how important it is to each of us. Let me share some thoughts with you.

First of all, please read Revelation 5:1-4:

Revelation 5:1-4 I saw a scroll in the right hand of the One Seated on the Throne. It was written on both sides, fastened with seven seals. (2) I also saw a powerful Angel, calling out in a voice like thunder, "Is there anyone who can open the scroll, who can break its seals?" (3) There was no one--no one in Heaven, no one on earth, no one from the underworld--able to break open the scroll and read it. (4) I wept and wept and wept that no one was found able to open the scroll, able to read it.

John began to "weep and weep" because no one in heaven or earth was found to open the scroll. His weeping came from the desperate feeling of no HOPE. Have you ever been there before? Are you there now? Are you facing a situation where you have searched "heaven and earth" for the answer, but there just doesn't seem to be an answer? If you aren't careful, you will get in the same state of mind that John found himself in…HOPELESSNESS!

Proverbs 13:12 (AMP) Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when the desire is fulfilled, it is a tree of life.

(GNB) When hope is crushed, the heart is crushed, but a wish come true fills you with joy.

(MSG) Unrelenting disappointment leaves you heartsick, but a sudden good break can turn life around.

God warns us in the above verse about what happens when hope is-deferred (put off), crushed, or unrelenting disappointments
keep coming our way-God tells us that the heart becomes sick and crushed.

Hebrews 11:1 says "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."

What is the difference between Faith and Hope:

  • Faith deals with deity-Hope deals with details
  • Faith is the education-(Faith cometh by hearing, hearing by the Word of God) Hope is the emotion!
  • Faith finds it's foundation in God's Word. Hope is a mental attitude!
  • Faith is the channel from which we receive miracles from Jesus. Hope is the motivator that brings us to Jesus!
  • Faith is related to miracles. Hope is related to morale

Webster defines hope as-"An expectation, and a desire, that a dream, goal,or purpose will be achieved! A feeling of excitement about what is getting ready to happen."

Many times our hope is destroyed. Faith is like dynamite! It explodes truth! Brings us from doubt to belief! From defeat to victory! From unseen to seen! Hope is the fuse!
Without a fuse, dynamite is worthless! Hope is that confidant anticipation of good things that are to come! Hope is the positive feeling that brings about a good work! Hope brings forth active Christians! No hope brings forth ineffective Christians! Satan's attack may not be so much against your faith, as it your hope! Why go through the trouble of messing with the dynamite, when you can remove the fuse? The devil is attacking hope in the day that we live in. It is easier for the devil to discourage us mentally than it is for him to defeat us spiritually (attack fuse rather than dynamite) It is easier for him to manipulate a circumstance, than to alter the will of God! Opposite of hope is hopelessness!

When you have no expectation you reach a place of despair that ends in giving up! Many people are at this place! They have given up on dreams, promises, purposes, and desires! We need to Get our hopes up! Let me say it once again, many people have given up! They have enough faith to turn the situation around! But they've lost their hope! They have enough dynamite, but their fuse has been tampered with! You can have enough dynamite to move mountains, but you must have a fuse! You must get your hopes up! A lot of churches have lost their hope! Their mental attitude of anticipation. People come into the doors of the church downcast, defeated, depressed! No anxious anticipation, they have LOST THEIR HOPE!

You can take from a person his wealth, and you HINDER him. You can take his purpose, and you SLOW HIM DOWN. But you take from a person his hope and you STOP HIM IN HIS TRACKS. He can go without wealth, and even without purpose for a while. But he will not go on without HOPE. Hope is like oxygen. You take oxygen away and death comes by suffocation. You take away hope and death comes by despair. We live on HOPE! When hope dies, a large part of us dies.

An eminent American cardiologist noted that "hope is the medicine I use more than any other. Hope can cure nearly anything." A noted minister wrote: "The grand essentials of happiness are: something to do, something to love, and something to hope for."

We MUST get our hopes up. How do we do that? We will discuss this in greater detail in tomorrows blog, but let me tell you this. Look back at our text:

Revelation 5:5 One of the Elders said, "Don't weep. Look--the Lion from Tribe Judah, the Root of David's Tree, has conquered. He can open the scroll, can rip through the seven seals."

John realized that just because his situation looked HOPELESS, didn't mean that it was. The LION OF THE TRIBE OF JUDAH was on the scene to CONQUER the problem he was facing. My friend, Jesus is still the LION OF THE TRIBE OF JUDAH, and He hasn't changed one bit. Look to Him this evening, and allow Him to reinstate your hope.

I love you guys, and look forward to posting further on the subject of hope in the morning! Blessings!

Pastor Rusty