Monday, March 31, 2008

Are the “-ites” after you?

(Please note: At some point there was an ungodly picture posted on my blog. I am not sure who was responsible and was able to hack into my blog, but I have reported this mishap. Thank you for those who called the office to report it. Blessings!)

This is the day that the Lord has made! I will REJOICE and be glad in it. We had an awesome day yesterday with 25 people that either got saved, or rededicated their hearts to the Lord! Isn't that awesome? Several of the people that responded are people that we have been praying for many years. God still answers prayer!

I woke up this morning with this question on my mind…"Are the '-ites' after you?" What do I mean? In the Old Testament there are several –ites mentioned. Let me give you a few of them: Amorites, Jebusites, Canaanites, Moabites, Ammonites, etc. In 2 Chronicles 20:1-3 it was the Moabites, the Ammonites, and the Meunites who were after King Jehoshaphat and the people of Judah. Let me explain to you what some of the "-ites" meant:

  • Hittites: Descended from Canaan's son, Heth Gen_10:15; (One who is broken, who fears) So the Hittites represent our FRIGHTS- (2 Timothy 1:7) 2 Timothy 1:7 (AMP) For God did not give us a spirit of timidity (of cowardice, of craven and cringing and fawning fear), but [He has given us a spirit] of power and of love and of calm and well-balanced mind and discipline and self-control.
  • The Gir'gashites
    (dwelling on a clayey soil). Supposed by some to be the same as the Gergesenes (Mat_8:28), who lay to the east of Lake Gennesareth;

Matthew 8:28 And when He arrived at the other side in the country of the Gadarenes, two men under the control of demons went to meet Him, coming out of the tombs, so fierce and savage that no one was able to pass that way.

So these represent MIGHT that we face. (Situations that seem too strong for us to ever overcome) (Jeremiah 32:17)

Jeremiah 32:17 (AMP) Alas, Lord God! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and by Your outstretched arm! There is nothing too hard or too wonderful for You--

Philippians 4:13 (AMP) I have strength for all things in Christ Who empowers me [I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him Who infuses inner strength into me; I am self-sufficient in Christ's sufficiency].

  • The Amorites — descended from the fourth son of Canaan. They occupied, besides their conquest on the Moabite territory, extensive settlements west of the Dead Sea, in the mountains. (dwellers on the summits, mountaineers). These represent the HEIGHTS in our life (things that are above our understanding and ability to figure out): (Jeremiah 29:11)

Jeremiah 29:11 (AMP) For I know the thoughts and plans that I have for you, says the Lord, thoughts and plans for welfare and peace and not for evil, to give you hope in your final outcome.
Isaiah 55:8-9 For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, says the Lord. (9) For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.

  • The Canaanites — located in Phoenicia, particularly about Tyre and Sidon, and being sprung from the oldest branch of the family of Canaan, bore his name. (Trader) These represent the Parasites of our life (things that just won't let go. We have battled some of the same battles for years): (Isaiah 40:29-31)
Isaiah 40:29-31 He gives power to the faint and weary, and to him who has no might He increases strength [causing it to multiply and making it to abound]. (30) Even youths shall faint and be weary, and [selected] young men shall feebly stumble and fall exhausted; (31) But those who wait for the Lord [who expect, look for, and hope in Him] shall change and renew their strength and power; they shall lift their wings and mount up [close to God] as eagles [mount up to the sun]; they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint or become tired.

  • The Perizzites — that is, villagers, (Village dwellers) a tribe who were dispersed throughout the country and lived in unwalled towns. Villagers; dwellers in the open country, the Canaanitish nation inhabiting the fertile regions south and south-west of Carmel. These represent the FLIGHTS in our life (the things that we have no control over, but causes us to want to run): (2 Corinthians 4:7-9)
2 Corinthians 4:7-9 (AMP) However, we possess this precious treasure [the divine Light of the Gospel] in [frail, human] vessels of earth, that the grandeur and exceeding greatness of the power may be shown to be from God and not from ourselves. (8) We are hedged in (pressed) on every side [troubled and oppressed in every way], but not cramped or crushed; we suffer embarrassments and are perplexed and unable to find a way out, but not driven to despair; (9) We are pursued (persecuted and hard driven), but not deserted [to stand alone]; we are struck down to the ground, but never struck out and destroyed;

2 Corinthians 4:7-9 (MSG) If you only look at us, you might well miss the brightness. We carry this precious Message around in the unadorned clay pots of our ordinary lives. That's to prevent anyone from confusing God's incomparable power with us. (8) As it is, there's not much chance of that. You know for yourselves that we're not much to look at. We've been surrounded and battered by troubles, but we're not demoralized; we're not sure what to do, (9) but we know that God knows what to do; we've been spiritually terrorized, but God hasn't left our side; we've been thrown down, but we haven't broken.

  • The Hivites —(Wicked; wickedness) These represent the PLIGHTS in our life (the temptations): (Genesis 4:7)

Genesis 4:7 (AMP) If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin crouches at your door; its desire is for you, but you must master it.

(MSG) If you do well, won't you be accepted? And if you don't do well, sin is lying in wait for you, ready to pounce; it's out to get you, you've got to master it."

  • The Jebusites — resided about Jerusalem and the adjacent country. They were a very spiritually dark, depressed people. The complete opposite of PEACE. They were from Jerusalem, which means "habitation of peace" These represent the NIGHTS in our life (The dark times and places): (Isaiah 26:3)
Isaiah 26:3 (AMP) You will guard him and keep him in perfect and constant peace whose mind [both its inclination and its character] is stayed on You, because he commits himself to You, leans on You, and hopes confidently in You.

So I ask you again, "Are the –ites after you?" Are you battling: fear, seemingly insurmountable problems, things that you can't understand, problems that you just can't get victory over, things that make you want to throw up your hands and quit, strong temptations, and dark places? Then my friend, God's Word has some help for you. Notice what Jehosophat did in 2 Chronicles 20 when he faced the "-ites":

#1 He took control of his emotions before his emotions took control of him (v. 3) "Then Jehoshaphat FEARED, and set himself (determinedly, as his vital need) to seek the Lord; he proclaimed a fast in all Judah."
His initial reaction was to fear…but he QUICKLY turned his attention from the problem to the SOLUTION. God help us to do this in every situation. Different emotions will attempt to control us in a matter of seconds: anger, fear, worry, anxiety, lustful thoughts, etc. We must IMMEDIATELY take control of our emotions, and turn our attention to God.

#2 He quickly moved from the flesh to the Spirit (v. 3) "Then Jehoshaphat FEARED, and set himself (determinedly, as his vital need) to seek the Lord; he proclaimed a fast in all Judah." The NATURAL reaction is to wonder HOW can I work this out. We have to die to the natural and turn it over to the SUPERnatural! Jehoshaphat determined in his heart to seek the Lord, and called a fast! He knew his answer was not in the flesh.

#3 He refused to internalize his problem. He needed help and asked for it! v. 4
And Judah gathered together to ask help from the Lord; even out of all the cities of Judah they came to seek the Lord [yearning for Him with all their desire]. Too many times, God's people have a tendency to believe that it is a lack of faith to ask for help from others. We need each other, and that is why God tells us in Galatians to "bear one another's burdens." There is no shame in asking for help with your burdens.

#4 He took his problem to God in prayer. V. 5-12 And Jehoshaphat stood in the assembly of Judah and Jerusalem in the house of the Lord before the new court (6) And said, O Lord, God of our fathers, are You not God in heaven? And do You not rule over all the kingdoms of the nations? In Your hand are power and might, so that none is able to withstand You. (7) Did not You, O our God, drive out the inhabitants of this land before Your people Israel and give it forever to the descendants of Abraham Your friend? (8) They dwelt in it and have built You a sanctuary in it for Your Name, saying, (9) If evil comes upon us, the sword of judgment, or pestilence, or famine, we will stand before this house and before You--for Your Name [and the symbol of Your presence] is in this house--and cry to You in our affliction, and You will hear and save. (10) And now behold, the men of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, whom You would not let Israel invade when they came from the land of Egypt, and whom they turned from and did not destroy--[Deut. 2:9.] (11) Behold, they reward us by coming to drive us out of Your possession which You have given us to inherit. (12) O our God, will You not exercise judgment upon them? For we have no might to stand against this great company that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon You.

Notice some things about his prayer:

  • Again, he involved other people ("He stood in the Assembly of Judah and Jerusalem")

  • He verbalized his faith in God. This is a form of praise. He was praising in the midst of his problem ("Are you not God in heaven?")

  • He laid out his problem to God in detail ("And now, behold our problem…")

  • He admitted that he needed direction from God ("We do not know what to do")

  • He reaffirmed that their eyes were on God, and not man ("but our eyes are on you")

#5 God gave supernatural instruction v. 14-15 Then the Spirit of the Lord came upon Jahaziel son of Zechariah, the son of Benaiah, the son of Jeiel, the son of Mattaniah, a Levite of the sons of Asaph, in the midst of the assembly. (15) He said, Hearken, all Judah, you inhabitants of Jerusalem, and you King Jehoshaphat. The Lord says this to you: Be not afraid or dismayed at this great multitude; for the battle is not yours, but God's.

#6 Jehoshaphat took God at His Word and WORSHIPPED Him BEFORE he saw the answer come to pass v. 18-19 And Jehoshaphat bowed his head with his face to the ground, and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem fell down before the Lord, worshiping Him. (19) And some Levites of the Kohathites and Korahites stood up to praise the Lord, the God of Israel, with a very loud voice.

#7 He spoke words of FAITH not words of FEAR v. 20:20 And they rose early in the morning and went out into the Wilderness of Tekoa; and as they went out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, Hear me, O Judah, and you inhabitants of Jerusalem! Believe in the Lord your God and you shall be established; believe and remain steadfast to His prophets and you shall prosper.

#8 He kept his FOCUS on God by praising Him during the conflict. V. 21 When he had consulted with the people, he appointed singers to sing to the Lord and praise Him in their holy [priestly] garments as they went out before the army, saying, Give thanks to the Lord, for His mercy and loving-kindness endure forever!

#9 God responded to the praise of His people v. 22 And when they began to sing and to praise, the Lord set ambushments against the men of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir who had come against Judah, and they were [self-] slaughtered;

My friend, maybe the "ites" are after you today: fear-ites, disease-ites, poverty-ites, bad marriage-ites, stress-ites, grouchy co-worker-ites, rejection-ites, and so on. Regardless of what "ites" are chasing you, do what Jehoshaphat did and turn your attention to God instead of focusing on all of those "ites" and God will give you the victory!

When we have trouble, we should develop the habit of running to God instead of to people. Yes, we need help sometimes to help bear our burden. But we should seek FIRST God rather than our own minds or other people's minds. Ask yourself, "When trouble comes, do I run to the PHONE or to the THRONE?" God might direct us to a person for advice, but we should always go to Him first to show that we honor and trust Him above all else!

I pray that you will mediate on God's Word today! Blessings!

Pastor Rusty

Today's "Through the Bible in a year" reading: 2 Chronicles 10:1 – 2 Chronicles 14:1

This week's memory verse to "Hid in our hearts": 2 Chronicles 20:22

v. 22 And when they began to sing and to praise, the Lord set ambushments against the men of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir who had come against Judah, and they were [self-] slaughtered;

Friday, March 28, 2008

Ten things to remember when you’re DEPRESSED

It happened again. Just like the night before, I was reading my Bible before I went to bed last night, and God began to deal with me about what I was to write in today's blog. As I read Psalm 143, God began to gently speak into my spirit about the dark places of life. These dark places can be: discouragement, depression, despair, or any number of other things that we find ourselves up against. David found himself in a very deep dark place in Psalm 143:

Psalm 143:3 (AMP) for the enemy has pursued and persecuted my soul, he has crushed my life down to the ground; he has made me to dwell in dark places as those who have been long dead.

Psalm 143:3 (MSG) The enemy hunted me down; he kicked me and stomped me within an inch of my life. He put me in a black hole, buried me like a corpse in that dungeon.

Can't you feel David's pain as he writes this? He then explains his feelings:

Psalm 143:4 (AMP) Therefore is my spirit overwhelmed and faints within me [wrapped in gloom]; my heart within my bosom grows numb.

Once again the psalmist is in crisis. He is persecuted, crushed, in death's darkness, overwhelmed, and distressed (Psalm 143:3-4). He is thirsty for God (Psalm 143:6). His spirit fails (Psalm 143:7). Hounded by enemies, he needs deliverance (Psalm 143:9). His soul is in trouble and afflicted (Psalm 143:11-12). In the context of all of this catastrophe, how should he pray? The answer is that since he has a big God, he prays big prayers. He is no stoic simply asking for the strength to endure. He is a biblical man. He wants God to act on his behalf. He wants answers (Psalm 143:7). He wants deliverance (Psalm 143:9). He wants revival (Psalm 143:11). He wants God to bring his soul out of trouble and destroy his enemies (Psalm 143:11-12).

I know that there are some reading this blog today that can relate to what David is experiencing. You FEEL pursued by the enemy of your soul. You FEEL persecuted, and your life has been CRUSHED DOWN TO THE GROUND. All you can see and feel is extreme DARKNESS like you are in a very dark hole. You are overwhelmed, and you FEEL tired and ready to quit. You are bruised and broken in spirit. Your heart has actually grown numb. You DESPERATELY need God, YOUR God to come through for you. Well, He brought you to this blog today to show you HOW to come out of this DARK PLACE. I want us to look step by step at how David came out of it.

#1 Identify the NATURE and CAUSE of the problem. David says that he FEELS as if he is dwelling in "dark places as those who have been long dead." I believe STRONGLY that the source of David's depression was satan himself. You must realize that this dark HOLE that you are experiencing is an attempt by the enemy to get you to throw up your hands and QUIT! The Hebrew in verse 3 shows that the enemy has intensely pursued David with hostile intent. John 10:10 tells us that the enemy comes to kill, steal and destroy. That is his purpose. So, we must realize who we are fighting against. Don't blame it on your parents, grandparents, your situation…blame it on the enemy of your soul, and STAND AGAINST HIM!

#2 Understand that DEPRESSION steals your hope, life and light. V. 4 I sat there in despair, my spirit draining away, my heart heavy, like lead. Satan attempts to oppress our spirits power and freedom by filling our minds with darkness and gloom. David initially gave into it, as he sat there in despair, his heart heavy as lead. It is so important to RESIST this heavy feeling called depression. RESIST it by turning to the Word of God, and praise and worship. Resist it by turning to a godly friend who will hold you accountable and talk with you. RESIST it by realizing the ultimate source of this dark hole. I know that there are certain medical conditions that can bring depression on, but you must still resist it and it's power and influence in your life. It is NEVER God's will for you to lose hope, life and light. God is all about hope, life and light. Satan is the complete antithesis of hope, life and light.

#3 Get in touch with the "good times" of your past. Meditate (think upon) the blessings of God in your life, from the past. v. 5 I remembered the old days, went over all you've done, pondered the ways you've worked. This is part of praise and worship: reflecting on God's goodness and faithfulness! Do you see how David responded to this dark hole? He refused to sit in "gloom, despair, and agony on me." Instead, he remembered, mediated, and pondered God's goodness. Remembering, Mediating, and pondering are all functions of the mind. He understands that his thoughts will affect his feelings, so he gets busy thinking the types of things that will help him overcome this dark pit.

#4 REFUSE to allow your FEELINGS to keep you from praising God. Praise God in the MIDST OF THE DARKNESS. V. 6 I spread forth my hands to You; my soul thirsts after You like a thirsty land [for water]. Selah [pause, and calmly think of that]! I love the word SELAH that you see so often in the Psalms. It literally means, "PAUSE, and calmly think of that!" David determines in his heart to give God praise in spite of what his circumstance FEELS or LOOKS like. He declares what his need truly is: He needs God! Too often when people are in depression they know that they need something and they seek for that something in the wrong places, which only adds to their darkness. God alone can water a thirsty soul. Drugs can't, alcohol can't, sex can't, money can't, power can't…ONLY GOD! Chasing after the wrong things will always leave you disappointed, and disappointment opens the door to depression.

#5 Simply ASK GOD FOR HELP. Cry out to Him from the depths of your darkness.
V. 7 Answer me speedily, O Lord, for my spirit fails; hide not Your face from me, lest I become like those who go down into the pit (the grave). Many times the last thing that you want to do in this dark hole called depression is to pray. You just want to stay in bed, or at the very least isolated from everyone. It is during this time that you must will yourself to cry out to God. David is basically saying, "Hurry up God because I don't think I will be able to hold on much longer." Have you ever felt that way?

#7 Be STILL and know that God is in control. How? By LISTENING to Him. V. 8 Cause me to hear Your loving-kindness in the morning, for on You do I lean and in You do I trust. Cause me to know the way wherein I should walk, for I lift up my inner self to You. You will hear all kinds of voices in the darkness of depression. Voices that will tell you things like, "you have no reason to live, you have nothing to offer your family, you aren't worth anything", etc. These lies are not from the voice of God. David knows that he must hear from God. He needs to be assured of God's love and kindness. He needs God's attention and direction. God loves you, cares about you, and wills to bring you out of your dark hole. But you must allow Him to speak into your Spirit. Be patient, even when you feel like He isn't speaking…SELAH…pause, and calmly think of God's goodness.

#8 Pray, HOPE, and BELIEVE for deliverance! V. 9 Deliver me, O Lord, from my enemies; I flee to You to hide me. One of the big answers to prayer that David needs is deliverance from his enemies, and in verse Psalm 143:9 he asks for it. In God Himself, his crushed life will be restored; the darkness will be dispelled (Psalm 143:3). His depression will be broken (Psalm 143:4), and he will be secure, as he confesses, "In You I take shelter" ("I conceal myself"). Once again, David declares that only God can help him. I want you to notice that throughout this entire discourse, David's attention is on God, and not his problem. There are too many people that just accept the FACT that they will always have to battle depression because it "runs in the family". My prayer is that you break that CURSE in the name of Jesus, through the authority of His Word, and through the power of the Blood of Jesus!

#9 Submit yourself to the leadership of the Holy Spirit. V. 10
Teach me how to live to please you, because you're my God. Lead me by your blessed Spirit into cleared and level pastureland. David ask God to teach him how to live a life that pleases God, and he tells God that he wants to be led by the Spirit of God into a LEVEL pastureland. David makes it clear that he is sick and tired of being sick and tired. He is finished with the roller coaster life; up one minute, down the next. He says, Lord I am ready for some level ground. Right now you can pray the same thing over your life, "Lord teach me how to live to please you, and lead me by YOUR blessed Spirit into level ground." Daily, in fact several times each day, submit your life to the leadership of the Holy Spirit. Then obey His promptings. In seems that David is indicating that he has gotten out of the will of God and thus opened the door to this attack on his soul. He wants to be in God's will because he realizes that is the only safe place to be. Then he asked God to help him be level and stable.

#10 Expect to come out of this DARK hole because of God's faithfulness. V. 11-12 Keep up your reputation, God--give me life! In your justice, get me out of this trouble! (12) In your great love, vanquish my enemies; make a clean sweep of those who harass me. And why? Because I'm your servant. Remind God through your praise, worship, thanksgiving and attitude that you know that He will bring you out! Then…look for the victory and release from your dark hole!

I encourage you to meditate on God's Word and apply it to your walk and life today! Let it bring you deliverance and peace! Blessings!

Pastor Rusty

This weekend's "Through the Bible in a year" reading:

March 28, 2008 (Friday): I Chronicles 25:1 – I Chronicles 29:30
March 29, 2008 (Saturday): 2 Chronicles 1:1 – 2 Chronicles 5:1
March 30, 2008 (Sunday): 2 Chronicles 5:2 – 2 Chronicles 9:31

This week's memory verse to "hide in my heart": Isaiah 43:2-3

Isaiah 43:2-3 When thou passest through the waters, I will
be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee. (3) For I am the LORD thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Savior:…"

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Cleansed and PRUNED

This is THE day that the Lord has made! I will rejoice and be glad in it, how about you? Find something to rejoice in today. It shouldn't be too hard, we are such blessed people. I spent much of my night dreaming about the great country of Ecuador. Our church is taking a Missions trip there in a couple of months. It will be the third straight year that we have gone to Ecuador. I love the people of Ecuador! They are filled with so much THANKSGIVING and praise to God for His faithfulness, even though they don't have CLOSE to the STUFF that we have, they have more THANKS than most of us have. Thanksgiving, praise and rejoicing is about an ATTITUDE…the ATTITUDE of gratitude! So, instead of complaining and whining, let's make up our mind that we are going to PRAISE GOD TODAY!

Last night I was reading God's Word out of my Amplified Bible right before I went to bed. I know that you have had times when a verse that you have read numerous times, just jumped off of the page at you and you see it in a way that you never have. Well, that happened to me last night. I was reading through John 15, and verse three ministered to me for several minutes:

John 15:1-7 I AM the True Vine, and My Father is the Vinedresser. (2) Any branch in Me that does not bear fruit [that stops bearing] He cuts away (trims off, takes away); and He cleanses and repeatedly prunes every branch that continues to bear fruit, to make it bear more and richer and more excellent fruit. (3) You are cleansed and pruned already, because of the word which I have given you [the teachings I have discussed with you]. (4) Dwell in Me, and I will dwell in you. [Live in Me, and I will live in you.] Just as no branch can bear fruit of itself without abiding in (being vitally united to) the vine, neither can you bear fruit unless you abide in Me. (5) I am the Vine; you are the branches. Whoever lives in Me and I in him bears much (abundant) fruit. However, apart from Me [cut off from vital union with Me] you can do nothing. (6) If a person does not dwell in Me, he is thrown out like a [broken-off] branch, and withers; such branches are gathered up and thrown into the fire, and they are burned. (7) If you live in Me [abide vitally united to Me] and My words remain in you and continue to live in your hearts, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you.

Wow! What a powerful passage of Scripture. Jesus is speaking to generation after generation of His people and teaching them the importance of unbroken fellowship with Him. How do we have this type of fellowship with God? Through reading, studying, meditating on, and obeying the Word of God. Each time that we pick up the Word and study it, it CLEANSES and PRUNES us. If we do not spend time with God's Word, our lives become CARELESS and unmanageable.

About two years ago, my family and I were driving through Searcy, Arkansas. My wife and I served as youth pastors there for about three years in the early '80's. We decided to take our kids by to show them the house that we lived in. I was shocked to find the house vacated, the grass un-mowed, the trees untrimmed, and vines carelessly growing up all over the outside of the house. What had happened to this house? It was a beautiful home at one time. Someone had lost interest in its upkeep, and became careless. Because of that carelessness, it was difficult for me to convince my children that the house really used to be nice. All they could see was how unkempt that it was.

My friends, that is exactly how some people are with their spiritual walk and relationship with God. They allow LIFE to take them away from God's Word, and they go DAYS without picking up the Word of God, and their lives become unkempt and CARELESS. It is difficult for people to see anything remotely related to Jesus Christ in that type of life. Thus, we have people discussing how many HYPOCRITES that there in the church. What is the answer? "You are cleansed and pruned already because of the Word." Some people say that they don't have time to study the Word of God, however, they have time to hunt, fish, go to ball games, read the paper, etc. The truth is, we make time for what we want to do. God's Word must became a priority in our lives.

I have met with people that talk about how they LOVE praise and worship, but not crazy about the Word of God. My friend, satan couldn't care less how much you dance and lift your voice and hands towards heaven in praise and worship IF you don't take time for the Word of God in your life. It isn't praise and worship that will cleanse and prune you…it is God's Word. Now, please don't get me wrong, I love praise and worship and believe strongly in it, but it is the power of God's Word that brings deliverance, pruning and purity into our lives.

Please read the following verse and notice the emphasis that God puts upon His Word:

Psalm 138:2 (AMP) I will worship toward Your holy temple and praise Your name for Your loving-kindness and for Your truth and faithfulness; for You have exalted above all else Your name and Your word and You have magnified Your word above all Your name!

There's an old saying, "Be careful what you set your heart on for it might come true!" History surely proves this true. Thomas Edison fell in love with invention, Henry Ford fell in love with motor cars, Kettering fell in love with research, and the Wright brothers fell in love with airplanes. Their "hearts" controlled their time, energy, direction, and output. And look at the results! Love is the most powerful force in the world: want power (the heart) is the strongest impetus for will power (the head). My prayer is that we SET OUR HEARTS to love the Word of God AGAIN!

In Ephesians 5 Paul shares with us that the Word of God washes us like water:

Ephesians 5:25-27 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her, (26) So that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the Word, (27) That He might present the church to Himself in glorious splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such things [that she might be holy and faultless].

The Word of God keeps us CLEAN and PURE. When we first get saved, it is the Blood of Jesus that washes away sin and filth. However, it is the Word of God that DAILY keeps us clean and allows Jesus to present His bride (the church) without spot or wrinkle! The problem with the church in America is that we NO LONGER know the Word of God. It is kept on the shelf, and that is why false doctrine is running rampant in America. We don't take time for the Word, and we are drowning in immorality because of it. We must return to honoring, obeying, KNOWING, meditating on the Word of God:

Deuteronomy 6:5-9 Love GOD, your God, with your whole heart: love him with all that's in you; love him with all you've got! (6) Write these commandments that I've given you today on your hearts. Get them inside of you (7) and then get them inside your children. Talk about them wherever you are, sitting at home or walking in the street; talk about them from the time you get up in the morning to when you fall into bed at night. (8) Tie them on your hands and foreheads as a reminder; (9) inscribe them on the doorposts of your homes and on your city gates.

This commandment is not automatically transferred from one generation to another. Deuteronomy attaches the importance and responsibility of teaching to the family.

A man who had served as a chaplain for many years at a state penitentiary said, "Out of seventeen hundred convicts, I found only one who had been brought up in a home where they had a family altar, and that man was later found innocent of the crime with which he had been charged."

Socrates asked, "Fellow citizens, why do you turn and scrape every stone to gather wealth and take so little care of your children to whom one day you must relinquish it all?"

The instruction from the parents to the children was not to be just a "lesson," but a continual way of life. Truth was to be communicated when they sat, as they walked, after they lay down at night, and when they arose in the morning. If we do this, we will certainly find ourselves being cleansed and pruned to be all that God wants us to be! Blessings!

Pastor Rusty

Today's "Through the Bible in a year" reading: March 27, 2008 (Thursday): I Chronicles 22:1 – I Chronicles 24:31

This week's memory verse to "hide in my heart": Isaiah 43:2-3

Isaiah 43:2-3 When thou passest through the waters, I will
be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee. (3) For I am the LORD thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Savior:…"

Wednesday, March 26, 2008


This is THE DAY that the Lord has made! I will REJOICE and be glad in it. I hope you are rejoicing in God's faithfulness.

I want to ask you a question that I feel the Holy Spirit asking me the past few days. "What are you UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF?" We can read almost daily of someone who has been arrested because they were driving UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF drugs, or alcohol. Their driving was erratic, many times even killing someone because of their lack of judgment. I have been reading through 1 & 2 Chronicles the past few days, and I am once again AMAZED at how easily the Children of Israel turned their hearts AWAY from Jehovah God to dead, lifeless IDOLS such as Baal. What was their problem? One of the main problems was that they didn't ESTEEM God's Word. They began to take God's Word (law, commandments) for granted. Instead of God's Word being their standard for living, this became their standard: "Everyone did was right IN HIS OWN EYES." They neglected reading, studying, meditating, and acting upon God's Word. They were UNDER THE INFLUENCE of SELF rule, or THEIR FLESH. Listen to what Paul says about this:

Galatians 5:16-17 So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won't be doing what your sinful nature craves. (17) The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions.

Paul explains the battle that every Christian has…the battle between the Flesh and the Spirit. He strongly encourages us to "let the Holy Spirit guide your lives." He will guide us through the Word of God. But we must esteem the Word of God daily, or we will act and live just like the Israelites, "everyone doing what is right IN THEIR OWN EYES."

Isaiah 66:2 (AMP) For all these things My hand has made, and so all these things have come into being [by and for Me], says the Lord. But this is the man to whom I will look and have regard: he who is humble and of a broken or wounded spirit, and who trembles at My word and reveres My commands.

You want God to think highly of you? Then be humble, broken hearted, TREMBLE at God's Word, and His commands. Don't treat God's Word haphazardly. Allow God's Word and His Spirit to INFLUENCE your life and your decisions. Too many of God's people are influenced by: anger, frustrations, bitterness, grudges, un-forgiveness, lust, money, possessions, pleasure, etc. That is why there are so many people who can't get past the "hypocrites" that go to church. There always has been, and always will be people who act one way in church and another at work. That is a fact of life. But these people do not represent God, or what He is about. They are UNDER THE INFLUENCE of something other than God's Word or His Spirit. Leave them in God's hands, and you just make up your mind that you WILL BE DIFFERENT, and LIVE UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF GOD'S WORD AND SPIRIT.

In Galatians 5:16 Paul is urging the Galatians to remember that, as Christians, they have received the Spirit and they are to walk in the Spirit, under His INFLUENCE. The Spirit is the supreme energizing and regulative force in their lives. If they walk in the Spirit, there is no danger that their Christian liberty will become an opportunity for the flesh.

For Paul, the Spirit is more than the manifestation of a supernatural power, more than the giver of dramatic gifts, more than an explosive force erupting in the believer now and then. The Spirit is the daily sustaining, inspiring, and guiding power of the Christian's life.
The Spirit is the domain of power, the sphere of influence which replaces the flesh as the energy force of our lives.

What will YOU allow to dominate today?—that is the question. Flesh or Spirit? So long as we are in the flesh there is going to be a conflict between flesh and Spirit, and this is what Paul is dealing with. Listen to Paul's words in Romans 7:15-25

Romans 7:15-25 What I don't understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise. (16) So if I can't be trusted to figure out what is best for myself and then do it, it becomes obvious that God's command is necessary. (17) But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can't keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! (18) I realize that I don't have what it takes. I can will it, but I can't do it. (19) I decide to do good, but I don't really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. (20) My decisions, such as they are, don't result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time. (21) It happens so regularly that it's predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. (22) I truly delight in God's commands, (23) but it's pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge. (24) I've tried everything and nothing helps. I'm at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn't that the real question? (25) The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different.

Paul had to DAILY battle the INFLUENCE OF SIN and the flesh. He overcame it by walking in the Spirit (under the influence of the Spirit), and having a vibrant relationship with Jesus who is the WORD OF GOD who became flesh. So we need to put God's Word into our FLESH daily and act upon it, and mediate upon it. You choose every day, who or what is going to influence you. My prayer is that we will TODAY live under the INFLUENCE of the Spirit and God's Word.

Galatains 5:24-26 Among those who belong to Christ, everything connected with getting our own way and mindlessly responding to what everyone else calls necessities is killed off for good--crucified. (25) Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out its implications in every detail of our lives. (26) That means we will not compare ourselves with each other as if one of us were better and another worse. We have far more interesting things to do with our lives. Each of us is an original.

So I ask again… "Who is INFLUENCING YOU? What are you UNDER THE INFLUENCE of? It really is something to think about! Blessings!

Pastor Rusty

Today's "Through the Bible in a year" reading: March 26, 2008 (Wednesday): I Chronicles 18:1 – I Chronicles 21:30

This week's memory verse to "hide in my heart": Isaiah 43:2-3

Isaiah 43:2-3 When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee. (3) For I am the LORD thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Savior:…"

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

“They worshipped EMPTINESS and became EMPTY”

This is the day that the Lord has made! I WILL REJOICE and be glad in it.

What an awesome Resurrection weekend we had. In our three services, we had 868 in attendance, and several people either got saved, or rededicated their lives to the Lord. Also, our cast of 100 or so, did a phenomenal job in portraying the gospel message in our drama entitled, "The Lamb of God." I have never been more proud of a group of people as I am our awesome church family. From acting, making costumes, greeting, parking, security, and praying in the altars, our church exemplified the love and heartbeat of Christ! Again, this pastor's heart is so very full. I am so thankful that Jesus loved us enough to pay the debt for our sin, and we reap ETERNAL dividends. What a great deal…amen?

I have been reading through 2 Kings the past several days. It is always amazing to me how easily God's people have turned away from Him to follow other gods. In 2 Kings 17 there are 20 ways that the Children of Israel turned from God. Let me share them with you:

1. Spiritual forgetfulness and ingratitude. 2. They feared other gods (2Kings 17:7).
3. They adopted the customs of the pagan Canaanites (2Kings 17:8).
4. They tried to keep their wrongdoings secret (2Kings 17:9).
5. They covered the land with "high places" (2Kings 17:9). "From watch-tower to fortified city" was a familiar figure of speech used to denote "everywhere"—that is, "hamlet to metroplex."
6. They set up idolatrous pillars and wooden images everywhere (2Kings 17:10). "On every high hill and under every green tree" is another idiomatic expression meaning "everywhere."
7. They burned incense on the "high places" (2Kings 17:11).
8. They served idols (2Kings 17:12).
9. They would not listen to the warnings of the prophets whom the Lord sent to them (2Kings 17:13-14).
10. They became stiff-necked and rebellious (2Kings 17:14).
11. They rejected God's statutes, His covenant, and His testimonies (2Kings 17:15).
12. They followed idols, and thereby became idolatrous, adopting the empty customs of pagan nations (2Kings 17:15).
13. They disobeyed all the commandments of the Lord their God (2Kings 17:16).
14. They made molded images of two calves (2Kings 17:16).
15. They made a wooden image (Asherah) and worshiped "the host of heaven"that is, the sun, moon, and stars (2Kings 17:16).
16. They served Baal (2Kings 17:16).
17. They burned their children in the fire as sacrifices to Molech (2Kings 17:17).
18. They practiced witchcraft and soothsaying (2Kings 17:17).
19. They sold themselves to do evil (2Kings 17:17).
20. They provoked God to anger (2Kings 17:17).

What a list! Now for the "therefore." Since Israel had sinned so grievously, therefore they will be destroyed (2 Kings 17:18). The ten tribes of the North disappeared after this, never to be heard from again. These ten lost tribes of Israel have been a mystery through the years. People have tried to find them in the Jewish communities of southern Arabia, in various tribes in India, in China, in Turkey, in Cashmir, in Afghanistan, in the American Indians; but not a trace remains. Verse 2Kiings 17:23 says, "the LORD removed Israel out of His sight."

But one of the most vivid lessons in this passage is in verse 2Kings 17:15. The New King James Version translates the phrase, "They followed idols, became idolaters." The original is more accurate at this point: "They worshiped emptiness and became empty." The word here is hebel meaning "air," "delusion," or "vanity."
The idea is that they became like the gods they worshiped. They bowed down to nothingness and became nothing.

The writer of Kings describes the religion of idolatry with the same vivid phrase. It is hebel—nothing but hot air. And the tragedy was that the followers of that empty religion had become empty themselves: their lives lacked substance, their personalities became trivial, their characters lacked depth. As one man described his friend, "Down deep, he's shallow!"

As one commentator put it, "Trivial Pursuit" is not just the name of a popular American game, it is the sad but accurate description of the lives of many people today. Their lives are trivial. They go through the motions of routine daily schedules without anything to excite them, to challenge their best, to ennoble their existence. They have put first in their lives those things that have no eternal value, and as a result, they have become as empty as their "gods." Someday, they will conclude, as the author of Ecclesiastes did, of vanities … All is vanity" (Ecclesiastes 12:8).

Please take the time to go over the twenty things that Israel did to fall away from God (listed above). Does the Holy Spirit convict you of any of these in your life? Why not ask God if you are guilty of any of these? If He convicts your heart, then confess it and repent of it. We MUST NEVER allow ourselves to worship EMPTINESS…we become like what we worship! If we worship emptiness…we will be empty!

Lord, please forgive me for worshipping EMPTINESS, and VANITY! I want to put you back FIRST in my life. Please make this your prayer today. Blessings!

Pastor Rusty

Today's "Through the Bible in a year" reading: March 25, 2008 (Tuesday): I Chronicles 13:1 – I Chronicles 17:27

This week's memory verse to "hide in my heart": Isaiah 43:2-3

Isaiah 43:2-3 When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee. (3) For I am the LORD thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Savior:…"

Friday, March 21, 2008

Resurrection Sunday

This is the day the Lord has made and I will rejoice and be glad in it!

We have a lot to rejoice about it. This is the weekend we celebrate our Lord's death, burial, and resurrection!

In our local congregation we are celebrating with an illustrated sermon/drama including a cast of over 100 people. I am excited this year because we have added a scene about the curtain in the temple being torn. When Jesus breathed His last breath, something wonderful happened.

Matthew 27:51 says, "At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split."

No longer was the presence of God limited to the priests. Jesus paid the price for all mankind so that "whosoever will" can enter His presence and sit at His feet.

If you live in our area, I invite you to our Easter drama entitled, "The Lamb of God". We will portray our Lord's life, death and resurrection on Saturday at 4pm and Sunday at 8 am and 10:30 am.

May you be filled with the newness of life that comes from accepting Christ!

Pastor Rusty

This weekend's "THROUGH THE BIBLE IN A YEAR" reading:

Friday, March 21: 2 Kings 18:1 - 2 Kings 21:26
Saturday, March 22: 2 Kings 22:1 - 2 Kings 25:30
Sunday, March 23: I Chronicles 1:1 - I Chronicles 9:44
Monday, March 24: I Chronicles 10:1 - I Chronicles 12:40

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Do I Poison anyone’s Mind?

DAY 19 of our 21-day Daniels fast! We are almost there gang. God has really been purging my life of some things, and I know that He has you as well. As I laid in bed this morning (around 3:30) I couldn't sleep because the Lord was speaking to my heart. He was burdening my heart with the question of, "Have you every poisoned anyone's mind?" In other words, have I spoken against someone because of frustration and bad intentions in my heart? You see, God has called us to be builders of His kingdom, not destroyers! We can become careless with our words, especially at home, and find ourselves on the wrong team, working for the wrong god…the god of this world, who is satan himself! It happened to Jesus…by the religious crowd. Let me share some Word with you today…

Matthew 21:8-11 Nearly all the people in the crowd threw their garments down on the road, giving him (Jesus) a royal welcome. Others cut branches from the trees and threw them down as a welcome mat. (9) Crowds went ahead and crowds followed, all of them calling out, "Hosanna to David's son!" "Blessed is he who comes in God's name!" "Hosanna in highest heaven!" (10) As he made his entrance into Jerusalem, the whole city was shaken. Unnerved, people were asking, "What's going on here? Who is this?" (11) The parade crowd answered, "This is the prophet Jesus, the one from Nazareth in Galilee."

The crowd was so excited about Jesus, the Messiah, coming to town that they were taking off their garments and throwing them down on the road in front of him. They were crying out, "Hosanna, to the one who comes in the name of the Lord." The word Hosanna means "save now," or "save, I beseech thee." It is a Syriac word, and was a form of acclamation used among the Jews. It was probably used in the celebration of their great festivals. The crowd WELCOMED Jesus with open arms. Now notice these next few verses:

Matthew 26:55-56 Then Jesus addressed the mob (CROWD): "What is this--coming out
after me with swords and clubs as if I were a dangerous criminal? Day after day I have been sitting in the Temple teaching, and you never so much as lifted a hand against me. (56) You've done it this way to confirm and fulfill the prophetic writings." Then all the disciples cut and ran.

The crowd went from having palm branches in their hands, to clubs and swords! What happened, in less than seven days?

Then this:

Matthew 27:41-43 The high priests, along with the religion scholars and leaders, were right there mixing it up with the rest of them, having a great time poking fun at him: (42) "He saved others--he can't save himself! King of Israel, is he? Then let him get down from that cross. We'll all become believers then! (43) He was so sure of God--well, let him rescue his 'Son' now--if he wants him! He did claim to be God's Son, didn't he?"

Wow! What a change. The crowd went from honoring Jesus as a KING and crying out, "Save us, I beseech thee" to going after Him with clubs and weapons, then to mocking Him with cries of, "He can't even save Himself." All of this change in LESS THAN A WEEK. What happened? I believe the answer is found in Matthew 27:20:

Matthew 27:20 But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus executed.

The reason the crowd changed so quickly from being pro-Jesus to anti-Jesus was that there were people working very hard, behind the scenes to POISON THE MINDS of people against Jesus. They were "sowers of DISCORD" and God says this about sowers of discord:

Proverbs 6:16-19 There are six things the LORD hates, seven that are detestable to him: (17) haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, (18) a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, (19) a false witness who pours out lies and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers.

Think about that for a moment. God, who is LOVE, hates a man who stirs up dissension (or discord) among brothers. It was the seeds of discord that led to Jesus' death over 2000 years ago, and it STILL leads to the death of Jesus' influence in our lives today. We can see it in so many places and ways. The Bible tells us that Barnabas was an encourager of his brothers. His name literally means son of encouragement. Everywhere he went, he left a harvest of encouraged, exhorted people. People who felt better about themselves. He brought medicinal benefits to people's minds and relationships through encouragement. They would leave his presence feeling better about themselves and others.

However, the opposite of Barnabas are the people who poison the minds of people with constant criticism of people. You feel dirty and unsaved when you leave their presence. They talk negative and bad about everyone and everything. They don't seem happy unless they are unhappy about something or someone. They also believe it is their obligation to tell you every dirty detail that they have heard about individuals. When the church wants to believe God for something miraculous the dispensers of poison are the ones who go around telling everyone why it won't work. Yes, they are poisoning the minds of people, just like what happened to Jesus.

So my question today is this: "Are you a sower of discord, or a sower of encouragement?" Do you poison the minds of people against certain individuals and God's plan? If so, you are the complete antithesis of who God is and what He is all about. And…you just might be killing "Jesus" in someone's life while you are at it. After people spend time with you, when they think of Jesus, do they want a palm branch to wave in praise towards Him, or a club to swing in protest at Him?

James 1:26 (CEV) If you think you are being religious, but can't control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and everything you do is useless.

The Holy Spirit has convicted me about this during our Daniel Fast. I want to be a sower of ACCORD and not DISCORED. I realize that when I sow seeds of discord, I am being used of the devil. Lord forgive me, and help me to be a Barnabas (encourager) and not a Pharisee (discourager).

My prayer is that you have a PALM BRANCH-filled day! Blessings.

Pastor Rusty

Today's "Through the Bible in a Year" Bible reading: 2 Kings 14:1 – 2 Kings 17:41

This week's memory verse to "HIDE IN MY HEART": Romans 10:9-10

Romans 10:9-10 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. (10) For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008


This is the day that the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it. As I have been preparing for our Easter drama, and going through the practices, once again, my heart has been so stirred to remember and rejoice at the great price Jesus paid for our salvation. What love and divine, unmerited favor. Let's continue today looking at this great Savior (once again, using Rick Renner's "sparking gems from the Greek" book)

Matthew 27:32-33 And as they came out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name: him they compelled to bear his cross. And when they were come unto a place called Golgotha, that is
to say, a place of a skull.

When the soldiers brought Jesus out from the residence of Pilate, Jesus was already carrying the crossbeam that would serve as the upper portion of His Cross.

Most Roman crosses were shaped like a "T." The upright post had a notched groove at the top into which the crossbeam was placed after a victim had been tied or nailed to it. The crossbeam, normally weighing about one hundred pounds, was carried on the back of the victim to the place of execution.

According to Roman law, once a criminal was convicted, he was to carry his own cross to the place of execution if his crucifixion was to occur somewhere other than the place of the trial. The purpose for exposing criminals heading for crucifixion to passersby was to remind those who watched of Roman military power. At the place of execution, vultures flew overhead, just waiting to swoop down and start devouring the dying carcasses left hanging on the crosses. In the nearby wilderness, wild dogs anxiously waited for the newest dead bodies, dumped by the executioners, to become their next meal.

After the person was declared guilty, a crossbeam would be laid across his back and a herald would walk ahead of him, proclaiming his crime. A sign with the person's crime written on it would also be made, later to be hung on the cross above his head. Sometimes the sign bearing the person's crime would be hung from his neck, so all the spectators who lined the streets to watch him walk by would know what crime he committed. This was the very type of sign that was publicly displayed on the Cross above Jesus' head, with the crime He was charged with - "King of the Jews" - written in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin.

Carrying such a heavy weight for a long distance would be difficult for any man, but especially for one who had been as severely beaten as Jesus. The heavy crossbeam on which He was destined to be nailed pressed into His torn back as He carried it to the place of execution. Although the Bible does not state the reason why, we may assume that the Roman soldiers forced Simon of Cyrene to help because Jesus was so drained and exhausted from the abuse He had suffered.

Little is known of Simon of Cyrene, except that he was from Cyrene, the capital of the province of Libya that was situated approximately eleven miles south of the Mediterranean Sea. Matthew 27:32 informs us that the Roman soldiers "compelled him to bear his cross." The word "compelled" is the Greek word aggareuo. It means to compel; to coerce; to constrain; to make; or to force someone into some kind of compulsory service.

Matthew 27:33 says, "And when they were come unto a place called Golgotha, that is to say, a place of a skull." This scripture has been the center of controversy for several hundred years, for many have attempted to use this verse to geographically identify the exact location of Jesus' crucifixion. Some people allege that the place of Jesus' crucifixion was inside modern-day Jerusalem, while others assert that the name Golgotha refers to a site outside the city that from a distance looks like a skull. However, the earliest writings of the Church fathers say this phrase "a place of a skull" refers to something very different!

An early Christian leader named Origen, who lived from 185-253 AD, recorded that Jesus was crucified on the spot where Adam was buried and where his skull had been found. Whether or not this is true, there was an early Christian belief that Jesus had been crucified near Adam's burial place. As this early story goes, when the earthquake occurred as Jesus hung on the Cross (Matthew 27:51), His blood ran down the Cross into the crack in the rock below and fell on the skull of Adam. This history is so entrenched in early Christian tradition that Jerome referred to it in a letter in 386 AD.

Interestingly, Jewish tradition states that Adam's skull was buried near the city of Jerusalem by Noah's son, Shem. Tradition says this burial place was guarded by Melchizedek, who was the priest king of Salem (Jerusalem) during the time of Abraham (see Genesis 14:18). Unknown to most Western believers, this history is so accepted that it is considered a major theme of Orthodox doctrine, and the skull of Adam appears consistently at the base of the Cross in both paintings and icons. If you ever see a skull at the base of a crucifix, you can know that it symbolizes Adam's skull that was allegedly found buried at the site of Jesus' crucifixion.

These extremely interesting facts, although unprovable, have retained strong support throughout 2,000 years of Christian history. If it were true, it would be quite amazing that the Second Adam, Jesus Christ, died for the sins of the world exactly on the spot where the first Adam, the original sinner, was buried. If Jesus' blood ran down the crack in the stone and fell upon Adam's skull, as tradition says, it would be very symbolic of Jesus' blood covering the sins of the human race that originated with Adam.

But what can we definitely know about the place of Jesus' crucifixion?

We definitely know that Jesus was crucified like a criminal by the Roman government just outside the walls of the ancient city of Jerusalem. Whether or not He was crucified at the place of Adam's skull is interesting but not important. What is vital for us to know and understand is that Jesus died for the sins of the entire human race - and that includes you and me!

Today we may not be able to say with certainty exactly where Jesus was crucified, but in our hearts and minds we should meditate on the scriptures that speak of His crucifixion. Sometimes life moves so fast that we tend to forget the enormous price that was paid for our redemption. Salvation may have been given to us as a free gift, but it was purchased with the precious blood of Jesus Christ. Thank God for the Cross!

This question of where Jesus was crucified is a good example of the way people tend to get distracted by unimportant issues and, as a result, miss the main point God wants to get across to them. People have argued and debated for centuries about the accurate location of the crucifixion when the truth they should have been focusing on is that Jesus was crucified for their salvation! The apostle Paul wrote, "Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that he was buried, and that he rose again on the third day according to the scriptures" (1 Corinthians 15:3,4). Of this, we can be sure!

Aren't you thankful that Jesus' blood purchased the forgiveness for all of mankind's sin?

It is true that through Adam's disobedience, sin entered the world and death was passed on to all men. But just as sin entered the world through Adam, the gift of God came into the world through the obedience of Jesus Christ. Now the grace of God and the free gift of righteousness abounds to all who have called upon Jesus Christ to be the Lord of their lives (see Romans 5:12-21). Now every believer has the glorious privilege of reigning in life as a joint heir with Jesus Himself!

Oh, what a SAVIOR! My prayer for you is that you have a CHIRST-centered day today. Blessings!

Pastor Rusty

Today's "Through the Bible in a Year" Bible reading: 2 Kings 11:1 – 2 Kings 13:25

This week's memory verse to "HIDE IN MY HEART": Romans 10:9-10

Romans 10:9-10 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. (10) For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

72,000 Angels

DAY 17 in our 21-Day Daniel Fast! We are ALMOST there gang. Great victories have been won. We as a church family have done this together, and not only SURVIVED, but THRIVED. Someone told me last night how much they are struggling KNOWING this is the last few days. I believe the struggle will intensify for many of us because the enemy does not want us to finish the task before us. We must PRESS ON. Yesterday we began to look at the last week of Jesus' life here on earth, before He died on the cross. He came to earth to fulfill God's plan and purpose, however, the enemy tempted Him in ways that we will never truly understand. Simon Peter felt like he needed to defend Jesus, so he grabbed a sword and swung it. After you read today's blog, you will understand why Jesus didn't need Peter to defend Him. As you read today, please remember all of the power and resources that Jesus has available to you, to help you make it through your battle. Once again, as I will do all week, I would like to use some thoughts from Rick Renner's "Sparkling Gems from the Greek."

How much strength do you think one angel possesses? Today I'd like for us to consider the full impact of Jesus' words in Matthew 26:53, where He said, "Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?"

Let's look at three questions:

It is important to know the answers to these questions, because the answers reveal the full might that was available to Jesus had He requested supernatural help in the Garden of Gethsemane. Actually, when we take into account the power that was already demonstrated in the Garden and then add the potential assistance and impact of twelve legions of angels, it becomes obvious that there was no human force on earth strong enough to take Jesus against His will. The only way He was going to be taken was if He allowed Himself to be taken! This is why He later told Pilate, "Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above" (John 19:11).

Let's begin with our first question: What is a "legion"? The word "legion" is a military term that was taken from the Roman army. A legion denoted a group of at least 6,000 Roman soldiers, although the total number could be higher. This means that anytime we read about a legion of anything, we can know it always refers to at least 6,000 of something.

An amazing example of this is found in Mark 5:9, where the Bible tells us that the demon-possessed man of the Gadarenes had a legion of demons. That means this man had an infestation of at least 6,000 demons residing inside him!

Let's now contemplate the second question: How many angels would there be in twelve legions?
Since the word "legion" refers to at least 6,000, it means a legion of angels would be at least 6,000 angels. However, Jesus said the Father would give Him "more than" twelve legions of angels if He requested it. Because it would be pure speculation to try to figure out how many "more than" twelve legions would be, let's just stick with the figure of twelve legions to see how many angels that entails.

One legion is 6,000 angels, so if you simply multiply that number by twelve, you'll discover that twelve legions of angels would include a minimum of 72,000 angels. But Jesus said the Father would give Him more than twelve legions of angels; therefore, you can conclude that there were potentially many additional thousands of angels available to Jesus the night He was arrested!

Finally, let's look at our third question: What would be the combined strength in this number of angels? Angels are powerful! In fact, Isaiah 37:36 records that a single angel obliterated 185,000 men in one night. So if a single angel had that kind of power, how much combined strength would there be in twelve legions of angels?

Since a single angel was able to obliterate 185,000 men in one night, it would mean the combined strength in a legion of 6,000 angels would be enough to destroy 1,110,000,000 men (that is, one billion, one hundred ten million men) — and that's just the combined power in one legion of angels!

Now let's multiply this same number 185,000 by twelve legions, or at least 72,000 angels, which was the number of angels Jesus said was available to Him on the night of His arrest. When we do, we find that there was enough combined strength at Jesus' disposal to have annihilated at least 13,320,000,000 men (that is, thirteen billion, three hundred twenty million men) — which is more than twice the number of people living on the earth right now!

Jesus didn't need Peter's little sword that night. Had He chosen to do so, Jesus could have summoned 72,000 magnificent, mighty, dazzling, glorious, overwhelmingly powerful angels to the Garden to obliterate the Roman soldiers and the temple police who had come to arrest Him. In fact, the combined strength in twelve legions of angels could have wiped out the entire human race! But Jesus didn't call on the supernatural help that was available to Him. Why? Because He knew it was time for Him to voluntarily lay down His life for the sin of the human race.

Learn a lesson from Jesus and from the apostle Peter. Jesus didn't need Peter's undersized, insignificant sword to deal with His situation. What good would a single sword have been against all the troops assembled in the Garden that night anyway? Peter's actions were a perfect example of how the flesh tries in vain to solve its own problems but cannot. Jesus had all the power that was required to conquer those troops.

As you face your own challenges in life, always keep in mind that Jesus has the power to fix any problem you'll ever come across. Before you jump in and make things worse by taking matters into your own hands, remember the story of Peter! The next time you're tempted to "grab a sword and start swinging," take a few minutes to remind yourself that Jesus can handle the problem without your intervention. Before you do anything else, pray and ask the Lord what you are supposed to do. Then after you receive your answer and follow His instructions, just watch His supernatural power swing into action to solve the dilemma you are facing!

What a mighty God we serve. I pray that you will have a Word-filled day today. Blessings!

Pastor Rusty

Today's "Through the Bible in a Year" Bible reading: 2 Kings 8:16 – 2 Kings 10:36

This week's memory verse to "HIDE IN MY HEART": Romans 10:9-10

Romans 10:9-10 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. (10) For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Lanterns, Torches, and Weapons

This is the day that the Lord has made, I will REJOICE and be glad in it. I pray that you realize TODAY, how blessed you really are.

We had a great weekend of services with God touching so many lives. He is FAITHFUL. As we begin Passion week, during this blog I plan to look at what Jesus went through leading up to His resurrection from the dead. The pain, TORTURE, that He endured for each of us. As you read the blogs this week, my prayer is that our hearts will once again FILL with gratitude to God for sending His "only begotten Son" to pay the price for OUR SINS. Oh what a Savior! Today, I would like to share a few thoughts with you from Rick Renner's "Sparkling Gems from the Greek" book. He has such great insight on many subjects, but especially Passion week. I plan to use his book each day this week and post articles from it.

John 18:3 Judas then, having received a band of men and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees, cometh thither with lanterns and torches and weapons.

Have you ever had an experience with someone who had a wrong perception of you? When you heard what that person thought of you, were you shocked to hear it? Did you wonder, How could anyone ever think something like that about me?

The more well-known you become, the more that people hear all kinds of rumors about you — most of which are completely untrue. You know how rumors work. When one person hears a rumor, he passes it along to another person, who then repeats it to someone else — and so it goes from one person to the next, growing more and more ridiculous with each telling. Finally, an entire story is being told that has no truth in it whatsoever; unfortunately, when people hear it, they believe it! This is one reason Christians need to be very careful not to participate in gossip.

I don't know what stories were being repeated about Jesus, but they must have been pretty wild. After all, when the Roman soldiers and temple police came to arrest Him in the Garden of Gethsemane, they were armed to the maximum! They also brought enough search lamps and lights to light up the entire Mount of Olives. What had they heard that made them think they needed to be so heavily equipped in order to find Jesus and the three disciples who were praying with Him that night?

Judas had obviously prepared them for the worst.
He had seen Jesus perform innumerable miracles, so he knew very well about the massive power that operated through Him. Judas had also been present many times when religious leaders tried unsuccessfully to catch Jesus as He seemed to vanish, supernaturally slipping through the crowd to safety. So many times Jesus' enemies thought they had Him, but then suddenly — boom! He was gone!

When the troops arrived that night, they must have been operating on the basis of these stories. John 18:3 tells us, "Judas then, having received a band of men and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees, cometh thither with lanterns and torches and weapons." Today I want to draw your attention to the words "lanterns," "torches," and "weapons." When you see the impact of these words, you'll understand that the soldiers who had come to arrest Jesus were acting on presumptions about Him that were totally inaccurate!

In the first place, Passover occurred at the time of a full moon, so the night was already very well lighted at this time of year. But Judas didn't want to take a risk that Jesus and His disciples wouldn't be found; therefore, Judas obviously instructed these armed forces to be equipped to search, hunt, and track them down with the aid of "lanterns" and "torches."

The word "lantern" comes from the Greek word lampas. This word refers to a bright and shining light. It portrays something like a lampstand — a light that is intended to "light up" a room so you can see things better. A lampas was actually the equivalent of a first-century flashlight. Its light was so brilliant that it penetrated darkened areas and revealed things hidden in darkness.

In addition to these lamps, John 18:3 tells us that the soldiers also carried "torches." The word "torch" is from the Greek word phanos, a word that describes a long-burning oil lamp. The "lamps" mentioned above were brilliant but short-lived. These "torches," however, were oil-based, had a long wick, and could burn all night if necessary. The fact that these soldiers came with these torches strongly suggests that the soldiers and police were prepared to search all night. So when they came to the Garden of Gethsemane that night, they had enough bright shining lights (lampas) and longburning oil lamps (phanos) to hunt for Jesus all night long.

Several hundred troops scoured the hillside, carrying brightly lighted lamps as they searched for Jesus. This was the scene that occurred that night. Were the soldiers apprehensive that Jesus and His disciples might hide from them?

A great number of caverns, holes, and caves were scattered all over the hill where the Garden of Gethsemane was located. The hillside was also a place of many graves with large tombstones, behind which a person could hide. Finally, the hill offered prime hiding spots in its many great olive trees with twisted branches. So why in the world would 300 to 600 soldiers, plus the temple police, need so many brilliantly lit lights to find Jesus unless they thought He would try to hide or escape from them?

John 18:3 also tells us that the soldiers and temple police brought "weapons" with them. The Greek word for "weapons" is hoplos, the very word that depicts the full weaponry of a Roman soldier referred to in Ephesians 6:13-18. This means the soldiers came attired in full weaponry — belt, breastplate, greaves, spikes, shoes, oblong shield, a brass helmet, a sword, and a lance. These 300 to 600 troops were ready for a huge skirmish and confrontation!

But there's still more to this story! In addition to the weapons the Roman soldiers bore that night, the temple police also came ready to put up a fight. Mark 14:43 says, "And immediately, while he yet spake, cometh Judas, one of the twelve, and with him a great multitude with swords and staves, from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders."

I want you to notice those words "swords" and "staves." The word "sword" is the Greek word machaira. It refers to the most deadly type of sword, one that was more often than not used for stabbing someone at close range. Does this mean the temple police were ready to stab and draw blood that night?

The word "stave" is from the Greek word zhulos. The word zhulos describes a thick, heavy stick made of wood. You might say it was a heavy-duty, dangerous, hard-hitting club intended to beat someone. When you look at the combined list of weapons brought to the Garden of Gethsemane that night, you will readily understand that these Roman soldiers and temple police were prepared to be militarily engaged!

As noted earlier, the stories being repeated about Jesus must have been pretty wild! What makes this even wilder is the likely prospect that Judas Iscariot was the one who fanned the flames of these rumors! He was right alongside the soldiers with all their lanterns, torches, and weapons.

Is it possible that after Judas had walked with Jesus for three years, he himself had never really come to know the real Jesus? Did Judas himself have a false perception of how Jesus would respond in such an event? It makes one wonder what kind of relationship Judas had with Jesus to perceive Him so inaccurately. We will discuss this very thing tomorrow, and I believe it
will sufficiently answer this question regarding the kind of relationship Judas really had with Jesus.

As you know, Jesus willfully went with the soldiers that night. He and His disciples did not hide or put up a fight. After being supernaturally empowered by the angel God sent to help Him, Jesus rose up and went out to greet Judas and the troops. However, I'm personally convinced that when Jesus saw Judas surrounded by hundreds upon hundreds of soldiers and temple officers with lanterns, torches, and weapons, it must have stunned Him! I think Jesus was surprised to learn just how erroneously Judas perceived Him.

The next time you hear that someone has a wrong perception about you, don't let it ruffle your feathers too much. Remember all the times you've had a wrong perception about someone else! You were just so sure that your opinion about that person was right, but then you discovered you were so wrong! If you've perceived others incorrectly at times, why should it surprise you when the same thing occasionally happens to you?

If you ever find yourself in this position, consider it an opportunity to show people who you really are! Notice that Jesus didn't say to those who came for Him in the Garden, "How dare you think so badly about Me!" Instead of arguing or trying to prove a point, He simply surrendered, went with the soldiers, and gave His life for the very men who arrested Him. The response Jesus made with His life was the greatest comeback He could have demonstrated to them!

So when people misunderstand you, back off and take some time to think and pray about the matter before you proceed. Don't let the devil get you all upset because you were misunderstood. This may be the greatest chance you'll ever have to show people the truth about who you really are!

This week, let's FOCUS on the great love that Jesus has for each of us. I will say it again, Oh what a Savior! I pray that you will have a CHRIST-centered day. Blessings!

Pastor Rusty

Today's "Through the Bible in a Year" Bible reading: 2 Kings 1:1 – 2 Kings 8:15

This week's memory verse to "HIDE IN MY HEART": Romans 10:9-10

Romans 10:9-10 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. (10) For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Six Types of Prayers

This is the day that the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it. God is good and FAITHFUL to us. Even when we feel like He isn't listening or concerned, we go by what we KNOW through God's Word. He promised us that He would never leave us or forsake us. I hope you are having a great day in the Lord. Make up your mind that nothing or no one will keep you from enjoying this beautiful day. I just got back into my office from taking my son to school. As I dropped him off, someone coming down the road obviously thought that I was going to pull out in front of them, and they laid on the horn and gave me a vulgar hand gesture with their middle finger. I will be honest with you and tell you that I felt RAGE come over me. Everything within me wanted to get out of the car and ask the guy what his problem was. But before I got up this morning, I asked the Holy Spirit to lead me, guide me, nudge me, because I wanted to walk in the Spirit and not fulfill the craving desire of the flesh. So I allowed the Holy Spirit to influence me…at least partially. I have to admit to you that I did honk my horn at him in great frustration, and then regretted it. Have you ever done something that you regret? It was ANOTHER learning experience for me. I seem to get them daily during our fast. God is teaching us, trying us, and going to bring us forth as GOLD tried in the fire with our character shaped and molded into what He wants it to be.

After I sat down at my computer and began to re-think my "honking" experience this morning, I was thinking about the importance of DAILY prayer, and the different types of prayer. Author Bob Gass wrote an article about different types of prayers that ministered to me. I would like to share some of that with you today on this blog.

Let's examine six types of prayer:

(1) The prayer of agreement! Listen: "If two of you… agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by My Father" (Matthew 18:19 NIV). When you're up against something too big to handle alone, find a prayer partner and come into agreement with them. This isn't for people who generally live in strife then decide to agree because they're desperate. God honors the prayers of those who pay the price to live together in harmony.

(2) The prayer of petition! Be confident in asking God to meet your needs. Jesus said, "Whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours." (Mark 11:24 NIV). If we'd stop trying to impress God we'd be a lot better off. Length, loudness or eloquence isn't the issue; it's the sincerity of our heart, our confidence before God, and the knowledge that it's according to His will - that gets results!

(3) The prayer of thanksgiving! When our petitions outweigh our praises it says something about our character. Self-centered people ask but rarely appreciate. God won't release us into the fullness of all He's planned for us until we become thankful for what we've already received. Petition avails much, praise avails much more!
"In everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God" (Philippians 4:6 NIV). Powerful living comes through thanksgiving. We can "pray without ceasing" by being thankful all day long, praising God for His favor, mercy, loving kindness, grace, longsuffering and goodness.

(4) The prayer of intercession. Listen to God's Word: "I looked for a man… who would… stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land" (Ezekiel 22:30 NIV).
To intercede means: "to stand in the gap" for someone else. If there's a breach in that person's relationship with God due to a particular sin, you have the privilege of placing yourself in that breach and praying for them. "The gap" is the distance between what is - and what can be.

(5) The prayer of commitment.
"Casting the whole of your care [all your anxieties, all your worries, all your concerns, once and for all] on Him" (I Peter 5:7 AMP). As long as you keep trying to control events your stress levels will just keep mounting. But when you learn to hand things over to God, you'll wonder why you spent even a single day worrying.

(6) The prayer of consecration. On the Damascus Road, Paul prayed: "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?" (Acts 9:6). That's like signing your name to a blank check. It's saying, "Here I am, do with me as you please. I hope I like what You choose, but even if I don't I'll do it anyway; Your will be done, not mine." Now you're deciding to voluntarily follow God, rather than struggling to get Him to follow you. As a result, God will do the work that needs to be done in us, so that He can do the work that He desires to do through us.

I love you guys and hope to see you this weekend in our services. Sunday morning (8:15 & 10:30 am) I plan to preach a message entitled, "The TEMPTATION of MISTRUST" The past two weeks, God has been speaking into my heart about the temptation that all of us have. The temptation? That we can't TRUST God. This is a temptation that started in heaven with the beautiful angel Lucifer and continues to our day. I hope you will be here as I pour out of my heart this message that has been BRANDED into my spirit.

My hope and prayer for you today is that you have a PRAYER-filled, FAITH-filled weekend! Blessings!

Pastor Rusty

This weekend's "THROUGH THE BIBLE IN A YEAR" Bible Reading:

Friday (March 14, 2008): I Kings 12:1 – I Kings 16:34

Saturday (March 15, 2008): I Kings 17:1 – I Kings 19:21

Sunday (March 16, 2008): I Kings 20:1 – I Kings 22:53

This week's Memory Verse to "hide in our heart": Luke 17:6
Luke 17:6 If ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye might say unto this sycamine tree, Be thou plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea; and it should obey you.