Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Sacrament of Silence

Yesterday we began to discuss the importance of friendship as we looked at Jobs friends. I began by discussing a reunion of some great friends that I was able to visit with this past weekend at Huntsville, Arkansas. Friendship is something that can last a lifetime. It can bring you much joy and encouragement, but it can also bring you hurt and frustration.

As we look at Job of the Bible, remember that he has lost his wealth, his children have died, his wife is telling him to "curse God and die", and NOW he has lost his HEALTH. As his friends come on the scene, they see him from a distance sitting on an ASH HEAP that was reserved for those who had leprosy and other contagious diseases. After the leper would die sitting on the Ash Heap alone and isolated, the remains of his body would be burned. This is the hill that Job's friends climbed to get to him. They get a lot of abuse at times, and rightly so, because of WHAT they said. But they should be commended for WHAT they did. They were there for Job during the most difficult time of his life. Let's pick up the story.

Job 2:11-13 When Job's three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite, heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him. (12) When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads. (13) Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was.

News of Job's perch on the ash heap must have spread far and wide. From a distance, his three visitors peer at him but see nothing that resembles the Job they know. Coming closer, then, they are so shocked at Job's appearance that they tear their royal robes, throw dust into the air in distress, and fall to the ground in mourning. They had not expected the sight of "walking death" that greets them. No words pass between the friends. Job's sunken eyes, blackened skin, running sores, and swollen lips speak with silent horror.

Job's friends come to the same conclusion as Job's wife—the man might as well be dead. Furthermore, their doctrine of "cash-register justice" can only lead them to the conclusion that Job's terrible suffering is punishment for some terrible sin.

As with a terminally ill patient for whom the doctor leaves the order, "Make him as comfortable as possible," Job's friends conclude that the compassion of mourning is the greatest comfort they can give. To their credit, they do not turn away from their repulsive friend as others have done.

For seven days, Job's friends sit with him in the traditional ritual of mourning. If death is imminent, no one speaks until the mourner speaks. William E. Hulme, in his book Dialogue in Despair, sees a deeper value in the silence. As a counselor who deals with grief, Hulme commends Job's friends for not speaking when words are useless. Each of us knows the awkward moment when we enter the room of a person who is fighting for life. "How are you?" is the most inappropriate greeting and yet this is what we invariably say. The unspoken communication of eyes that meet and hands that touch may well convey the compassion that we want to share and the communication that our friend needs. Hulme calls such a moment "the sacrament of silence," when kindred spirits meet and share the meaning of life in the midst of death.

Job's friends did not have to talk either. Any words would have been wrong. In the long nights of terror, Job knew that they were there. During the burning days of insufferable pain, Job sensed their compassion. Today, "Job's comforters" is a disparaging term. We forget that until Job spoke his anguish, they were truly his comforters.

These men proved to be really good friends. They came from a long distance to be with their friend during a difficult time, they climbed the disgusting ash heap to be with him, they didn't just make an appearance and leave…they stayed with him for SEVEN DAYS AND SEVEN NIGHTS. They didn't say a word, they honored him with the sacrament of silence. There are many times when people just don't go around hurting people because they "don't know what to say." There are times when you shouldn't say a word, and don't have to say a word. Just being there speaks volumes into the life of the one suffering. So many times silence is perceived as a negative thing, when in reality it can be a very positive thing. I read the following story yesterday:

My father-in-law was a preacher who loved people. He had a gift for words in and out of the pulpit. Even after his retirement, he ministered to people with his across-the-street greetings and sidewalk conversation. Anyone who asked, "How are you?" got the cheery answer, "Finer than a frog's hair." One day, he went on an automobile trip with a college president who was known for his deep thoughts and limited words. As they rode along, my father-in-law tried in vain to engage his friend in conversation. Frustrated, he lapsed into a silence that lasted many miles. Finally, he could stand it no more. Turning to his driver, he said, "Leroy, do you know that we have ridden together now for almost fifty miles without a word?" Not turning his head or breaking his train of thought, the college president answered, "Good friends don't need to talk." Obviously, they rode all the rest of the way in silence.

The most important thing as a friend is to be there for them. There is a time for talking, but there is also a time for silence…the sacrament of silence. Blessings!

Pastor Rusty Blann

Today's "THROUGH THE BIBLE IN A YEAR" Bible reading: Wednesday (April 30, 2008) Psalm 5:1 – Psalm 16:11

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Climbing the ASH HEAP for my friend

This is the day that the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it! As I type this blog, I am looking out of my home office window, and what a beautiful day that it is! Absolutely gorgeous! And that is exactly the kind of weekend that my family and I had. We were the Senior Pastors at First Assembly of God in Huntsville, AR for ten years from 1991 – 2001 and made many good and close friends. I had the privilege to preach their 75th anniversary homecoming Sunday and had a blast. Their current Pastors, Brad and Glenda McMath (my daughter and son-in-law) are doing an excellent job leading this fine church. It has been six and a half years since we moved from Huntsville, and many of them we had not seen in that entire time. One of those friends was Roger Burnett. Roger became a close friend of mine before we moved. We played softball together, and would just stand around and talk any chance we got. I saw Roger Sunday for the first time in almost seven years and we picked up right where we left off without missing a beat. We talked as if it had been a week since we saw each other, and not over six years. Roger is a good friend that I believe would come to my aid if I ever needed him to. Then, there was Gary Earnest, one of my best friends in Huntsville. He is another one that I can go years without seeing or talking to, but our friendship endures lapses of time. Right now, if I had a crisis that I needed some counsel on, Gary would be one of those guys that I call. Then there is a friend of mine that goes many years back, Steve Vanover. Steve is one of my favorite people and friends, yet we don't get to see each other very often, but when we do, you can't tell that it has been months since we talked. I could go on and on discussing names and friends that we saw. Just suffice it to say that it was a great time of renewing old relationships. This got me to thinking about the importance of friendships. I am a blessed man to have the friends that I have made down through the years. The question came to my mind, "What Kind of a friend am I?" I plan to discuss friendship this week on this blog.

As I was thinking about that, last night I was reading my Bible and spent some time on Job 2:11-13. I would like to share these verses with you and then tell you some things that God spoke into my Spirit.

Job 2:11-13 When Job's three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite, heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him. (12) When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads. (13) Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was.

Job is now the repulsive symbol of rejection by God and man. On an ash heap outside the city, he represents the evidence of the prevailing belief of his day that suffering is caused by sin. Three friends—Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar—who are wise men of the East, come to comfort him. The sight of Job, however, throws them into mourning. Seven days of silence speak their belief—Job is as good as dead.

Job is on the ash heap. Each ancient town in the Middle East had a waste site outside the protective gates where garbage and dung were dumped. Periodically, the rotting, smelly mess was burned as a primitive method of sanitation. The fire left ashes which hardened into a mound that rose higher with each burning. On top of the ash heap sat lepers and other victims of contagious or unexplained diseases in medical quarantine and social isolation. For Job, the ash heap represents ultimate humiliation. He who has enjoyed the reputation as the "greatest of all the people of the East" now sits highest on the ash heap—his cross—just beyond the spit of the wretches who ridicule him. Job is all alone—without children, wife, or friends.

Three distant friends hear of his troubles. Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, from three different cities, covenant together to meet and comfort their friend Job. They too have a reputation for wisdom and wealth, even though they do not match Job for greatness. Some scholars also make them kings who prefigure the three kings who came from the East to worship the baby Jesus. In any case, they are loyal friends who come with good intentions to comfort a brother in need.

Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights' takes on new meaning when you understand that the friends climbed the mountainous ash heap where there was contagious diseases all around him, and the smell of death. His three friends came from a long way, and then had to climb a sickening, nauseating hill to be able to sit down with Job. His friends take a lot of abuse at times because of their foolish words, but they had good intentions. Someone had taught them false doctrine, (we will look more at this later this week) however they proved to be good friends in the beginning. They saw Job from a distance because he was sitting on the hill reserved for those who were facing eminent death, isolated from everyone and everything that they loved. What a miserable, horrible time that Job was facing. But thank God that his friends came to him and sat down with him for seven days and seven nights. That is the epitome of a good friend.

Good friends are there for you REGARDLESS of the distance or the pain involved. They don't necessarily have to say anything; just being there to help and to grieve is what matters. I have seen times when a friend may be just trying to find the right words to say, yet their words cause more pain and uneasiness than if they had just remained silent. Job's friends didn't say anything at all for a while. They were just there for Job during his difficult time. Being there caused much difficulty for them, but friends don't care.

We will see in the next few days that they proved to be better friends when they kept their mouths shut than when they started talking. Too often we become harsh and judgmental when our friends are facing difficult times. I don't want to be a friend like that. I want to be a friend that will come from a long way, if need be, and will climb any ash heap to get to my friend to help him out.

I believe today the Holy Spirit will bring to our minds friends that are sitting in mourning on the ash heap of their lives that desperately need someone to see them in their pain, and go to them. Why don't you ask the Holy Spirit to lay a friend on your heart, it may be someone from years ago that you haven't thought about in some time, but listen to the Spirit of God as He gives you that nudge, then go to them via phone, email, card, or a visit. That's the kind of friend that I want to be! Blessings.

Pastor Rusty

Today's "THROUGH THE BIBLE IN A YEAR" Bible reading: Tuesday (April 29, 2008) Psalm 1:1 – Psalm 4:8

Friday, April 25, 2008


My post will be very brief today. My family and I are leaving in a few moments to go to Huntsville, Arkansas for a time of ministry. I am speaking at their Staff Retreat tonight and tomorrow, then have the privilege of speaking at their 75th Anniversary Homecoming. I can't wait! I pastored Huntsville First Assembly for ten years and have many wonderful memories, as well as many wonderful friends, there.

As I was thinking about Homecoming this morning, my mind drifted to heaven.

Colossians 3:1-3 You have been raised to life with Christ, so set your hearts on the things that are in heaven, where Christ sits on his throne at the right side of God. 2 Keep your minds fixed on things there, not on things here on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

What a time of reunion that we will have this weekend. We will see people that we haven't seen in almost seven years. We will renew friendships, tell stories, laugh, and just reminisce. My friend, how much greater will our Homecoming be when we get to heaven. We have family, and friends who have gone on before us and we miss them, but what a reunion heaven will be for those who put their trust, confidence, hope, faith, and life in Jesus' hands. If we have made Jesus our Lord and Savior, heaven will be a great HOMECOMING! There are times that we need to be reminded that this world is not our home, we are only passing through, preparing for the ultimate HOMECOMING. Blessings!

Pastor Rusty

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Walking the Dog

It happens every single morning at 7:20 AM. I mean, every morning without exception. I can just about set my watch to it. Just a few moments ago as I sat at my computer looking out the front window of my house I was asking the Lord what He wanted me to blog on today. What can I share with your people that will challenge and yet encourage as well? As I was deep in thought the watch turned over to 7:20 am, and sure enough…it happened, and God began to speak into my Spirit. As I watched the scene unfold, I began to listen to God's Holy Spirit as He prompted me about some things in my life that I needed to be more disciplined in. You may be asking, "What happened?" Well let me tell you!

There is a tall man in our neighborhood that consistently, religiously walks his dog. He walks FAST down through the neighborhood with his coal black Labrador retriever. It truly is a beautiful dog, and I just wonder if he knows how good of a master that he has. What a faithful, committed dog owner this man is. You can see the love that he has for his dog. About ten minutes later, every day, another one of my neighbors walks his dog. He is quite a bit older and he is much slower, but he is just as faithful and committed to his dog…consistently walking the dog around the neighborhood.

I have met one of these men, and I haven't the other. What they do not realize is the lesson that they teach me every day about consistent, deliberate, and faithful care of something that they love. Their care has to be deliberate as well. They deliberately, with consistency, show their animals how much they love them by spending that daily time with them walking through the neighborhood. The older neighbor only walks about two hundred feet and back to his house, as he gingerly and slowly walks. The dog obviously loves every minute of it. The younger guy walks briskly for miles every day, I know this because I see him as I go into the office at 8 am miles from my house. Two different men, two different dogs, but the same results…they walk their dog daily.

What does that have to do with anything? A lot! There are a lot of times that we take a lot less time and care with our walk with God than my neighbors do walking their dogs. Too easily we let a day go by without opening up God's Word, or spending real quality time with Him. Yet, He is so good to us. Some of us woke up this morning, took a deep breath, got out of bed and started off our day without even a thought of "it is morning, I am about to spend some great quality time with God!" My neighbors wake up and not long afterwards, their thoughts are on their dogs, and the time they are about to spend with them.

I am so convicted this morning that I am not as consistent in my walk with God as my neighbors are their walks with their dogs. God forgive me for being so lackadaisical at times. Forgive me for putting other things before my relationship with you. Forgive me for thinking more on my problems than I do on you. Forgive me for allowing the day to get started without taking time with you. Forgive me for asking, asking, and asking for you to give me something that I desperately need, and failing to praise, praise, and praise You for the blessings that you have already given me. I want to do better…I will do better.

Philippians 4:4-9 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! (5) Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. (6) Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. (7) And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (8) Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. (9) Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in meput it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

What a powerful and encouraging verse, yet at the same time, very challenging verse to me this morning. God encourages us to:

  • Develop an attitude of gratitude by DAILY rejoicing, not just once, but multiple times
  • Develop a gentle spirit that everyone can see, but remember the Lord is watching because He is near
  • Develop a trusting mentality, that fights off the temptation to worry
  • Develop a prayer pattern that

    • Takes everything to God in prayer-realizing that nothing is too small or too large for God
    • That understands the importance of thanksgiving interlaced in our prayers
    • Remember that we are bringing these request to God, not man
  • Daily allow God's peace to saturate your life, even when you can't understand how you have peace
  • Allow God's peace to direct you as an umpire. An umpire determines what is SAFE and what is OUT. Without God's peace, stand still.
  • Develop the discipline of right thinking by using this eight point litmus test (true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, praise-worthy)
  • Remember that people are watching you and learning something about you.
  • Live in such a way that people can PUT INTO PRACTICE what they see in you and walk in God's peace because of it.

This last part is where God spoke to me today while watching my neighbors walking their dogs. These men caused me to want to "put into practice" what I saw them doing. In the physical, yes I need to walk my dog more for the exercise. But, more so, in the spiritual. I want to be so consistent in my walk with God that others see that consistency in me and want to put it into practice. I want my family to KNOW a set time that I am spending time with God. I want them to be able to set their watches by it. After they are adults and no longer live in my home, I want them to KNOW that "RIGHT NOW daddy is in prayer for me, and I know RIGHT NOW that daddy is spending time in his walk with God."

"Thank you Lord, for using my neighbors to speak into my life, and to teach me an invaluable lesson, I will be much more consistent in my walk with you…AND walking my dog" Blessing!

Pastor Rusty

Today's "THROUGH THE BIBLE IN A YEAR" reading: April 24, 2008 (Thursday): Job 32:1 – Job 37:24

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

There’s a RATTLESNAKE in my car

As I was teaching about temptation and sin yesterday during our staff meeting, a thought came into my mind, and I can't get away from it. I would like to share it with you today. I asked Beth, our office secretary, if she were driving down the road and all of a sudden heard the "rattle" of a rattlesnake, and realized that there was a rattlesnake in her car, what she would do. She said, "I would stop the car and get out of it and wouldn't get back in until the snake was gone." Everyone in the meeting agreed. I then asked, "what if you couldn't find the snake, and you had to get back into the car. What if over the next few days you got so used to the rattle of the snake and sight of the snake in your car, that after a little while it didn't bother you to have a rattlesnake in your car?" Everyone said "that wouldn't happen" and I said that for many Christian people it already had. What do I mean? Let me explain.

Genesis 3:1-5 Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God really say, 'You must not eat from any tree in the garden'?" (2) The woman said to the serpent, "We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, (3) but God did say, 'You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.'" (4) "You will not surely die," the serpent said to the woman. (5) "For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."

Our sin always causes something to die, whether it be physical, emotional or spiritual. God's word tells us that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). It is inescapable, yet people continue to believe the lies that the consequences of their sin won't be that bad. For example, back in Eden, Satan told Eve that she wouldn't actually die like God said and that the forbidden fruit would actually help her be more like God. When Eve sinned, her innocence died, her marital harmony died, her relationship with God died and her peace died (Genesis 3:12-16).

Likewise, Satan and his forces of evil continue to downplay the death that will occur in our lives if we sin. But every time we sin, it causes something to die. I heard recently of a Mom and Dad that took their ten year old son to a restaurant of scantily clad ladies. When they did, a part of their little boy's innocence DIED. Sin does that…it ALWAYS causes something to die. Sin always takes you farther than you want to go, cost you more than you want to pay, and keeps you longer than you meant to stay.

Hebrews 11:24-25 By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, (25) choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin.

Satan always shows the pleasure of sin, and tries to keep the pain of sin from your sight. He makes the adulterous affair seem like so much fun, but keeps the potential destruction of your family from your sight and mind. My friends, you may enjoy the pleasure of your sin for a season, but mark it down…pain is just around the corner because sin always causes something to die. Where does the rattlesnake come in? At first the rattle of the snake is very concerning and offensive. It causes us to want to run as far away from it as possible. However, if we don't take care of removing the snake from our car, after a little while of the snake rattling in our car, and we survived it without dying, then we get used to the rattle and it doesn't bother us anymore. In fact, we convince ourselves that the rattlesnake isn't nearly as bad as what some people think, because we have had him in our car for so long and we are still doing ok. So, we determine to make a pet out of it. We are convinced that the rattlesnake has just been misunderstood down through the years. Before long, the snake is wrapped around our necks as we drive our car down the road. What we don't realize is that the snake is slowly but surely bringing death to our lives with his venom. We just don't feel the effects or the bite of the snake because he is so deceptive and such a charmer.

This snake is symbolic of sin in our lives. At first sin has a shocking effect on us and we run as fast as we can from it. The "rattle" is obvious and the potential danger is something we are well aware of. However, if we don't take care of the sin through confession and repentance, we will begin to justify the sin, and actually embrace it. It will wrap itself around "our necks" as it slowly but surely brings death to our lives with its venom. We just don't feel the effects or the bite of sin because it is so deceptive and such a charmer.

The church (God's people) as a whole has allowed the rattlesnake of sin to take up residence in our lives for so long and we have experienced so much DEATH in our relationships that many are weak and anemic spiritually. We don't want to talk about sin anymore, and we don't want anyone to preach about sin anymore. Just give me a preacher who will get on TV and give me nothing but good news and how well that I am doing while the rattlesnake slowly takes my life from me. We must wake up.

Temptations appeal to our primary sin tendencies of lust of the eyes, lust of the flesh and the pride of life (1 John 2:15-16). Since he cannot force us to sin, Satan tries to persuade us to sin through clever lies, tailor-made for our specific weaknesses. For example, Satan appealed to Eve's desire for wisdom with the notion that she could be like God if she ate the fruit. Her desire for wisdom and the attractive appearance of the fruit was the winning combination that enticed her to sin (Genesis 3:6).

Following the temptations of our sinful nature will prevent us from enjoying the fruits of our inheritance as sons of God. The Holy Spirit grows these fruits in us and they include love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23 NIV). Our sin thwarts the growth of such fruits because it directly opposes the Holy Spirit's work in us. Paul wrote, "So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want" (Galatians 5:16-17 NIV).

Why don't you TODAY call out to Jesus Christ and ask Him to forgive you of your sin, and to set you free from the bondage that sin has brought into your life. It is the thief that comes to "kill, steal, and destroy" but it is Jesus who comes "to give you life and more abundantly." Don't allow anything else in your life to DIE because you are just too fond of the RATTLESNAKE that you have been allowing in your life. It is time for it to be removed from your car! Blessings!

Pastor Rusty

Today's "THROUGH THE BIBLE IN A YEAR" reading: April 23, 2008 (Wednesday): Job 22:1 – Job 31:40

Tuesday, April 22, 2008


This is the day that the Lord has made, I will REJOICE and be glad in it. How about you? I woke up this morning with joy in my heart and an excitement in my spirit. I am so blessed and I want to make sure that I do everything within my power not to take these blessings for granted. I know there are some who are reading my blog today that are facing difficult times. I was reading this morning in the Word of God about a lady who was facing a dire problem in her life. Let me share with you a little bit about this lady and what God spoke into my heart. The story is found in Mark 5:25-34:

Mark 5:25-34 And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. (26) She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. (27) When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, (28) because she thought, "If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed." (29) Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering. (30) At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, "Who touched my clothes?" (31) "You see the people crowding against you," his disciples answered, "and yet you can ask, "Who touched me?'" (32) But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. (33) Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. (34) He said to her, "Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering."

This woman had been bleeding for twelve years. That is a long time, but especially when you realize that what she really faced with this medical condition:

Leviticus 15:25 "'When a woman has a discharge of blood for many days at a time other than her monthly period or has a discharge that continues beyond her period, she will be unclean as long as she has the discharge, just as in the days of her period.

The next few verses goes on to say that she must be separated from everything and everyone. No one could touch her, or they would be made ceremoniously unclean. Don't you believe that this lady was so lonely? I am certain that she craved for someone to hold her hand, or to give her a hug. But it was against the law of God, so we can assume that no one had touched her and she had not laid a hand upon anyone, even her children for twelve long years.

  • I am sure that she battled rejection from society. People would see her coming, because she would be wearing clothing to signify to everyone that she was unclean. People would see her coming, and go across the street to avoid any contact with her whatsoever.
  • I am certain that she battled rejection from her family. The very ones that she loved the most, probably hurt her more than anyone else. I can't imagine watching your children grow up, and not be able to hold them, or touch them in any way. She would have to tell them that she loved them from a distance.
  • I am sure that she battled rejection from God. Why God, why me, why my family? This rejection would be so painful when she would be outside and see the families playing and laughing together, and that would only intensify the feeling of rejection and anger towards God.

I believe there are some reading this blog today that are battling rejection in at least one of these areas. You find yourself angry at the world because of the rejection that you feel on a daily basis. It is so difficult for you to enjoy today because of the rejection of yesterday. People have made you feel like you don't matter in this world, that you are a nobody. This lady had to feel the same way. (26) She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. She had tried everything she knew to do to get better: tried different doctors, spent everything that she had, yet she still grew worse. She grew worse…think about that for a moment. I believe that she didn't just grow worse physically, but spiritually and emotionally as well. You see the longer that you face rejection and loneliness you have a tendency to grow worse. I am certain that she dreaded the dawning of another day, because it meant more loneliness, more rejection and more anger. She would once again be reminded that she was a nobody, that her life just didn't matter to most of society.

But this particular day, something was different. She couldn't really tell what, she could just feel it. She was going to the man that she had heard about, He had been healing people. His name was Jesus. When she got to Him, there was a huge crowd around Him. Yet, she pressed through the crowd, and reached out to touch just the hem of His garment. Immediately Jesus turned and asked, "Who touched me?" Can you imagine the fear that ran through her body? Remember, she wasn't supposed to touch anybody, much less Jesus. And now He wanted to know "Who touched me?" Was He going to be angry? Would she be stoned to death and go to her grave as a nobody?

But quite the contrary happened…Jesus made the following statement that changed her life forever: Somebody hath touched me: for I perceive that virtue is gone out of me. Luke 8:46

Did she hear right? Did this Messiah, this man who everyone was following after to get His attention… "did He just call me SOMEBODY…" Then she noticed that her bleeding had stopped and that she was completely well. My friends, Jesus not only touched her physically, but He healed her emotionally and spiritually. That is just the way Jesus works. It is WHO He is. He is the giver of life. He took this lady who FELT LIKE a nobody and made her somebody and sent her back home to the ones that she so longed to touch. My title says, "Jesus turns NOBODIES into SOMEBODIES" He never sees you as a NOBODY, but He also knows there are many people who believe that their life doesn't matter because of the pain of rejection, loneliness and anger.

Maybe you are reading today and you are so filled with anger, lonliness and rejection. Maybe you feel that your life doesn't matter, that you are a nobody. I am so glad that you stopped by today to hear God speak to you that you matter to Him, and your life matters to Him. He is reaching out His hand to you right now, why don't you reach back? You will hear Him say…SOMEBODY has touched me. You really are somebody! Blessings!

Pastor Rusty

Today's "THROUGH THE BIBLE IN A YEAR" reading: April 22, 2008 (Tuesday): Job 15:1 – Job 21:34

Monday, April 21, 2008

“Lord, please help me find my cell phone”

This is the day that the Lord has made, I will REJOICE and be glad in it. How about you? As I type this blog, I am looking out of my office window and enjoying the sound of the birds going about their day with no concerns whatsoever, also I'm watching the squirrels as they gather their food, with a constant eye out for the neighborhood cat that has an appetite for squirrel meat. It is an absolutely beautiful day. My heart is so full this morning of thanksgiving to God for many reasons. One of those reasons is because of the great services that we had yesterday in church. God moved in all three of our services, in diverse ways. Last night's service was a wonderful time of healing and basking in God's presence as God showed us that faith says God can, hope says God will, and Trust says, I will serve and praise Him still. Many people responded to the altar call and were ministered to by God's precious Holy Spirit. He is so faithful to us isn't He?

I also had a great weekend with my sister, brother-in-law, and their children. They were in town for a baseball tournament and we enjoyed watching my nephew's team win the championship as he pitched a shutout. I was very proud of him. While at this tournament, something happened that spoke into my heart about God's concern over His children. I would like to share this experience with you.

Saturday after one of the baseball games had concluded, my daughter and I started to walk away from the field when she looked at me with a look of horror on her face. As she frantically searched her pockets she said with tears already forming in her eyes, "Daddy, my cell phone is gone. It must have fallen out of my pocket." We began to search frantically for her phone. She had been throwing a tennis ball around with her brother and had been all over the sports complex, so there was no telling where she might have dropped the phone. She had just bought this phone less than a week earlier with money that she had saved. I watched as she stopped searching, stood still for a moment, and I knew what she was doing. She was praying. She told me later that she realized that she hadn't asked God to help her yet, so she simply said, "Lord, please help me find my cell phone." She had no more than gotten those words out of her mouth, when I saw her take off running towards some bleachers. She jumped over a brick wall, reached down and picked up her phone. She told me that as soon as she asked God to help her find her phone, the thought came to her mind where she had fallen while running. And that was where her phone was. What a wonderful opportunity that I had to share with my precious daughter that if God is concerned enough about her to help find a cell phone, how much more is He concerned about the larger issues of life. I also was able to teach her about how God's Holy Spirit will give us direction as we listen to Him.

I had planned to write on another subject today, but as I sat down at my computer to write, God brought me back to the story that I just shared with you. We hear people say all the time that there is nothing too big for God. We read this in the Bible, and hold onto it during trying times. But I want you to know that there is nothing too small for God either. Whatever you may be facing today, why don't you just stop right where you are, and talk to God about it, like my eleven year old daughter did. Listen to what Jesus says to you today:

Matthew 6:26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?

I believe Jesus asks this question, "Are you not much more valuable than they" talking about the birds of the air, because He wants us to understand the value that He puts upon each of us. God cares for, and provides for the birds of the air and He so much more will provide for you, His child. My daughter had come to me when she couldn't find her cell phone, and I couldn't help her, even thought I desperately wanted to. Then she realized something that I NEVER WANT HER TO FORGET…"I can take it to my heavenly Father and He can help me." I love the confidence that she has in God. She never hesitated wondering if she should "bother" God with such a small issue. My friend, when we realize how awesome God is, everything is small when compared to His greatness and His ability. So we need to understand that we never bother God when we bring our situations to Him. It troubles Him when we don't bring them to Him.

Zechariah 4:10 Do not despise these small beginnings, for the LORD rejoices to see the work begin, to see the plumb line in Zerubbabel's hand." (The seven lamps represent the eyes of the LORD that search all around the world.)

When we learn to trust God in the small things it a "small beginning" of our confidence and trust in Him. Then we will find ourselves able to trust Him more with the larger issues of life. We should never despise or neglect bringing anything to God in prayer. He wants us to see Him and KNOW Him as our loving Heavenly Father.

Yes, my eleven year old daughter taught me something Saturday. God really is my Heavenly Father, and He cares about whatever troubles me…His child. He cares for and about you as well. Why not stop right now and give Him all of your struggles, worries, frustrations, aggravations. When you begin to wonder if you should bring the small matters to him, remember how this weekend he answered the honest, sincere prayer of, "Lord, please help me find my cell phone" from an eleven year old little girl. He will do the same for you, for He no respecter of persons. You really can trust your Father! Blessings.

Pastor Rusty

Today's "THROUGH THE BIBLE IN A YEAR" reading: April 21, 2008 (Monday): Job 3:1 – Job 14:22




Friday, April 18, 2008

Lessons from a New Cell Phone

My daughter worked really hard the past few months to save money to buy a cell phone. The day finally arrived where she had all the money that she needed. That day was yesterday. My wife and I went to the AT& T office and purchased her phone. We picked her up from school and put her phone into her hand. I will never forget the look of excitement on her face. She could hardly sit still as she IMMEDIATELY starting texting her friends to let them know that she had a cell phone! As her father, I smiled inwardly and outwardly because of the happiness that it brought into her life. That was 19 hours ago, and I have enjoyed watching the way she has responded.

I have 32 text messages that she has sent to me that said, "I love you daddy". Thirty-two! And I love every single one of them. Right before I went to bed last night I checked my phone and saw that I had a text message. It was from my daughter who had already drifted to sleep, with her new phone right beside her. It said, "I love you daddy." I woke up this morning early and I saw that I already had a text message. You guessed it…from my daughter. It said, "I love you daddy". The last thing that she did before she went to bed was to express to me, her daddy, how much she loved me. The first thing that she did when she woke up was to express her love to her daddy.

For the second day in a row, God has used one of my children to teach me some valuable spiritual lessons. I felt the Holy Spirit speak to me and ask me when was the last time I got that excited about one of God's blessings. We can all get excited about the big stuff, but what about the daily blessings such as health, groceries, clothes, home, car, being able to walk, talk, feel, see, and hear…what about the health of our family? I had to stop and ask God to forgive me for all of the complaining that I have been doing lately. Maybe not outwardly, as much as inwardly, and it has been expressed through my demeanor and attitude. I really have a lot to be excited about and thankful for. As I so enjoyed watching my daughter's excitement over the gift that I had given to her, I thought how much God must enjoy watching us experience the daily gifts and blessings that he bestows upon us. How disappointed would I have been if my little girl had just looked at the phone and put it beside her and went on with life? I would have been so disappointed and I would have missed out on the joy of watching her respond with excitement and thankfulness! How disappointed must God, my heavenly Father be when He blesses me with daily blessings and I just put them "beside me" and go on with life without one single "thank you or I love you."

How often do I look toward my heavenly Father for no other reason than to say, "I love you daddy!" Why don't I go to bed with the last words on my lips sharing with my Heavenly Father my love for Him? Too often, what is on my mind right before I go to bed is what else I need from my heavenly Father, not how much I love Him. And when I wake up, too often the first thing on my mind is what I need from Him today, not how much I love Him!

I truly want to follow my daughter's example today and get excited again about the blessings in my life, and to express many times TODAY, how much I love my Heavenly Father. My Father's love for me is renewed day by day…

Lamentations 3:22-23 Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. (23) They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

And today, I'm going to reciprocate that love:

"Father, thank you so much for every blessing that you have given to me, so many of which I DAILY take for granted. I don't deserve such goodness, but you give them to me anyway. That is your GRACE. I want to once again, get excited over the daily things that you bring into my life. Forgive me for just setting them aside without so much as a "thank you" coming out of my lips. I also ask you to forgive me for going to bed at night thinking ONLY about what else I need from you, and waking up in the morning resuming my thoughts of how much I need from you today. I am thankful that I can bring my needs to you, but I was reminded last night and this morning of how important it is to express my thanks and love to You. Thank you that my little girl was used by you to speak a deep lesson into my heart. I close this prayer by saying with every emotion in my heart…I LOVE YOU DADDY! And I determine to keep that thought on my mind throughout this day. Amen."

Pastor Rusty

This weekends "THROUGH THE BIBLE IN A YEAR" Bible Reading:

Friday (April 18): Esther 5:3 - Esther 10:3 Saturday (April 19): Job 1:1 - Job 2:13 Sunday (April 20): Job 3:1 - Job 14:22

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Lesson learned from my Nine year old Daughter: “God is good!”

I have been teaching, preaching and blogging a lot lately about TODAY! My theme verse is Psalm 118:24 that says "this is the day that the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it!" I know that, I believe it; I try my best to live it. However…we all have days where we just wake up on the wrong side of the bed, and our attitude and mood STINKS! That was me this morning. Have you ever had a morning where everything seemed to go wrong? I woke up this morning and felt that there was something wrong with just about everybody and everything. I don't get discouraged very often, but I was extremely discouraged this morning. I told my wife, "I don't think I'm going to blog this morning, in fact, I don't know if I will ever do it again." She asked me, "Why?" And I just said it takes a lot of work and a lot of time, and I'm not sure I am motivated to do it anymore.

Then, I try to get on the internet with my phone, and it is down. I desperately needed to check on some things, and it wasn't happening on my phone, and I am brewing by now. But, I always have my computer, so I turn on my computer, attempt to get online, and…it was down as well. I was so frustrated! I wanted to throw my computer, and to be completely honest with you, my attitude stunk and my family could easily tell. I went into the kitchen to make breakfast, muttering something under my breath. My 11 year old daughter asked me, "Dad, what has gotten you in such a bad mood?" I told her all of the "bad stuff" that had happened to me this morning and she said, "is that all?" I just looked at her, and gave her a "fake smile" and went back to making breakfast. I thought to myself, "is that all, is that all? Oh to be eleven again and not have a care in the world. Is that all?" Then the Holy Spirit began to work on me and He asked me the same question, "Is that all that it took to get you this upset and in such a horrible mood?" At this point, I really didn't want to even talk to God about it. So, I just turned on the TV, watched morning news, and stayed busy…me and my discouraged and funky attitude!

After I finished breakfast, I got in the shower, and slipped and fell in the bathroom because there was water on the floor. I hit my head on the shower door, and as I was getting up I grabbed a towel and it came down on top of me. I was so aggravated I threw it across the room. I got in the shower, and someone had left the shampoo out of the shower. I was furious! (I later found out that someone was ME). I love to use the shower as a time of singing praises to God, and thanking Him for a great night sleep, keeping us all safe, etc. Well, there wasn't much praising going on this morning, because I was stewing over how bad I had it this morning! I got out of the shower dreading going to work. I didn't want to see anyone, talk with anyone, in fact, I didn't even feel like praying. What was going on inside of me? Why was I so discouraged AND frustrated? I didn't know and frankly, I didn't care! I determined that it was going to be a bad day for me!

Well, I was mumbling, griping and complaining about how the kids had left stuff all over the house and hadn't picked it up, when I saw it. The thing that was going to change the direction and destiny of my day…it was on a piece of white paper, and I could tell that it was a note from my nine year old daughter. As I looked at it, the Holy Spirit began to speak to me…in her second grade hand writing, my little girl had written: "God is good all the time, and all the time God is good!" We all have had those God appointed moments when the Holy Spirit teaches you a lesson that you will never forget. Well, that was such a moment for me. I began to ponder that…God is good all the time! That included the BAD TIMES, the HAPPY TIMES, the FRUSTRATING TIMES, the times when my ATTITUDE STUNK, and the times that I just feel like quitting. It doesn't change the TRUTH that God is good. Listen to what Lamentations 3 says:

Lamentations 3:20-2 (20) I remember it all--oh, how well I remember-- the feeling of hitting the bottom. (21) But there's one other thing I remember, and remembering, I keep a grip on hope: (22) GOD's loyal love couldn't have run out, his merciful love couldn't have dried up. (23) They're created new every morning. How great your faithfulness! (24) I'm sticking with GOD (I say it over and over). He's all I've got left.

I desperately needed to read that simple, but profound truth, and I needed it at that exact moment. I had already walked by the note probably fifteen times this morning, but God knew I needed to see it at the appointed time before I exploded. I went in and thanked my daughter for allowing God to use her, and she looked at me so funny. I explained to her about how God used the words that she wrote on a piece of paper to change the direction that my day was headed. I hope that this blog will serve the same for you today…God really is good ALL THE TIME, and ALL THE TIME, God is good. Blessings!

Pastor Rusty

Today’s “Through the Bible in a year” Bible reading: Thursday April 17, 2008: Esther 1:1 - Esther 2:23

This week’s memory verse to “Hide in my heart”: Hebrews 11:1

(KJVR) Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Don’t Miss the Boat

Matthew 8:18-20; 23 When Jesus saw the crowd around him; he gave orders to cross to the other side of the lake. (19) Then a teacher of the law came to him and said, "Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go." (20) Jesus replied, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head (23) Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him.

There are "destiny moments" when you have to make life-changing choices. One day Jesus invited two people to join His team, but they both had their reasons for putting it off. One had a funeral to attend, another wanted to go home to explain his decision. That's the last we hear of them. Matthew records, "Then [Jesus] got into the boat and His disciples followed Him." And they missed the boat!

There are so many examples in the Bible of people who make emotional responses like this teacher of the law in Matthew 8:19. He says, "I will follow you wherever you go" however, for whatever reason, it appears he missed the boat. Then we have Simon Peter that says, "even if everyone else denies you Jesus, I never will. Even if I have to die, I will not deny you" and less than eight hours later, Peter denies Jesus three times. How about the other disciples? They said they wouldn't deny or forsake Jesus, however they ran at the first sign of trouble. So many people do this very thing. They commit to serving Jesus, and gladly do so as long as things are going well. But my friend, the true test of your faith is in the difficult times of life. Anyone can have faith, when it is not really needed, or when it isn't being attacked. But how is your faith when you are under stress or pressure? Do you run to Jesus, or from Him? Do you praise God regardless of your situation, or do you wait until you SEE that you have reason to praise Him. So many people MISS THE BOAT because they aren't willing to pay the price of commitment! Jesus is telling you…"Get into the boat, follow me" in spite of what you are going through. Put Him first, not second, third, etc. Seek Him FIRST!

Even thought the test of your FAITH is during the tough times of life, the true test of your FAITHFULNESS and relationship with God is during the good times of life. When things are going well, do you just enjoy your relationship with God, or do you put Him and your relationship on the backburner to be brought back to the forefront of your life at the first sign of trouble? If so, you are "missing the boat!"

You'll never be successful if you're forever putting things off. If you take too long to make up your mind about an opportunity, you'll miss out on seizing it. One of the best illustrations of this is the story about the patent of the telephone. In the 1870's two men worked extensively on modifying and improving telegraphy, which was the current technology. Both had ideas for transmitting sound by wire, and both explored the transmission of the human voice electronically. What's remarkable is that both men - Alexander Graham Bell and Elisha Gray - filed their idea at the patent office on the same day, February 14, 1876. Bell was the fifth person that day who filed for a patent. Gray, on the other hand, got busy with other things so he sent his attorney. Unfortunately the attorney arrived more than an hour after Bell, to apply for a caveat, a kind of declaration of intention to file for a patent. Those minutes cost Gray a fortune. Bell's claim was upheld in court, even though Gray complained that he had come up with the idea first.

So it's not enough to see your God-given opportunities, you have to seize them. In other words - don't miss the boat! There are so many MOMENTS in time that we must SEIZE, but none more important that the moments that we have to get away with Jesus. Just to spend those precious moments in His presence through prayer, meditating on His Word, praise and worship and thanksgiving. Whatever you do…don't' MISS THE BOAT like the religious scholar in our text did. Can you imagine it? Jesus asked Him to come away with Him to follow Him, but somehow SOMETHING was more important to Him than getting away with Jesus. How many times have we MISSED THE BOAT of opportunity to spend time with Jesus because we were just TOO BUSY OR DISTRACTED?

Matthew 6:19-21; 31-33, where Jesus cautions us not to focus on temporary earthly riches but on eternal riches in heaven; to focus first on His kingdom and not to worry about our daily needs.

He who dies with the most toys— still dies .

What do you want out of life? What attracts you, and drives you to get up and get going every day?

Are you living for your family, for fame, money, or a bigger house? Or are you living for the honor and glory of the King of kings?

Egypt's "Great Pyramid of Giza" is one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. It's immense mass and precision of construction still impresses us today. An early Pharoah of Egypt built the Great Pyramid over 4500 years ago as his personal tomb, and it remained the tallest man-made structure in the world until the 19 th century.

The pharaohs had vast stores of gold, jewels and other priceless treasures buried with them to provide for their needs in the afterlife. The Great Pyramid was supposedly the greatest of all of the Egyptian tombs, so when Western explorers painstakingly unearthed the tomb centuries later, they expected to find a "king's ransom" of wealth. They actually found nothing. Even the mummy case containing the embalmed body of Pharoah Khufu was gone. Unknown grave robbers had long since stripped the burial chamber bare of gold, jewels, and precious treasures.

Even mighty Pharaoh couldn't take his wealth with him! Anonymous thieves stripped his grave of everything, leaving only an empty and outwardly impressive tomb for a dead king whose body had long since turned to dust.

Most people spend their lives chasing things that do not last. They waste their most productive years pursuing wealth, pleasure and fame—only to reach the end of their lives with nothing to show for it all.

What good are riches, possessions or fame if you have nothing waiting in the hereafter? It has been said that "you will never see a hearse pulling a U-Haul." The writer of Ecclesiastes said, "As he came from his mother's womb, naked shall he return, to go as he came; and he shall take nothing from his labor which he may carry away in his hand." (Ecclesiastes 5:15) Jesus said in Mark 8:36, "For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?"

Most people have it backwards. They pursue things and possessions thinking they are building security for themselves and their families. Jesus described a man who built bigger barns to hold all his grain so he could relax in luxury. But when God required his soul, he was not ready. Please read the account of this story from the Message translation of the Bible:

Luke 12:15-21 Speaking to the people, he went on, "Take care! Protect yourself against the least bit of greed. Life is not defined by what you have, even when you have a lot." (16) Then he told them this story: "The farm of a certain rich man produced a terrific crop. (17) He talked to himself: 'What can I do? My barn isn't big enough for this harvest.' (18) Then he said, 'Here's what I'll do: I'll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. Then I'll gather in all my grain and goods, (19) and I'll say to myself, Self, you've done well! You've got it made and can now retire. Take it easy and have the time of your life!' (20) "Just then God showed up and said, 'Fool! Tonight you die. And your barnful of goods--who gets it?' (21) "That's what happens when you fill your barn with Self and not with God."

This man "missed the boat" didn't he? He thought that his value and worth came from the abundance of his possessions. Too many in America are missing the boat in this area as well. God blesses you not so that you can be stingy and tight fisted, but so that you can be a blessing to other people! The Bible says, "It is more blessed to GIVE than to RECEIVE." So my question to you today is, "What, or WHO are you seeking?"

We find true security in seeking the kingdom of God. Seek the things of the Spirit and everything else will be supplied. Be careful about what you allow to impress you. Whatever impresses you attracts you. Strong attraction produces persistent pursuit. And whatever you pursue becomes your purpose.

Pursue the King of Kings-Jesus Christ; let Him become your purpose. This way you gain His kingdom and everything that goes with it. Jesus said, "Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you." Pursue the King and He will give you everything else you need.

Jim Elliott, a missionary martyred in the jungles of South America in 1956, said, "He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose." The choice is yours. Will you spend your life pursuing things of the world that pass away, or will you pursue the King and His kingdom, which never passes away? It really is your choice…just please, don't miss the boat! Blessings!

Today's "Through the Bible in a year" Bible reading: Wednesday April 16, 2008: Nehemiah 11:1 – Nehemiah 13:31

This week's memory verse to "Hide in my heart": Hebrews 11:1

(KJVR) Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Right Mind-set

Yesterday, my wife and I attended the funeral of a lady that I had the privilege of being her pastor for ten years. What a remarkable lady that Millie was. She had such a wonderful attitude, even when she was the sickest. She had the right mind-set. I have been reading a book by Bob Gass entitled "Discovering your destiny" In it he talks about the importance of being yourself and keeping the right mind set. That is exactly what Millie did. She lived life with the RIGHT MIND SET.

When you entertain certain thoughts in the privacy of your own mind, you may be tempted to excuse yourself by saying, "What harm can it do?" Well…ultimately you become whatever you meditate on. Solomon said in Proverbs 23:7 "For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he."

Think about that for a moment. If you mediate on anger and the reasons that you have to be angry…you will be an angry person. If you meditate on fear and the reasons that you have to fear…you will be a fearful person. If you meditate on worry and the reasons that you have to worry…you will be known as a worried person. If you mediate on lust …you be known because of the lust in your life. I could go on and on. However, if you mediate on the peace of God…you will a peaceful person. If you meditate on the joy of the Lord…you will be a joyful person.

You see my friends, it DOES matter what you think! It does matter what you mediate on. Meditation basically means to dwell on something. What are you dwelling on today? What is on your mind? A thought left to ramble through your mind, can attach itself to a weakness or an event in your past to feed on it. The stronger it grows the weaker you become, until finally all your strength is drained away. Don't let that happen to you. Paul writes, "Take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ" (2 Corinthians 10:5). In other words, take your thoughts captive before the take you captive.

In Ephesians 4, Paul writes, "Put off…the old man…put on the new man…" There are some old clothes you've got to take off when you commit yourself to a God-given goal – like old thinking patterns, old attitudes, and old behaviors. You may not even want to admit that you're still wearing those old clothes, but the truth is you can't put on the new man until you first take off the old one.

Furthermore, you can't hang those old clothes in a closet for a rainy day, or leave them on the floor to be tripped over. You've got to get rid of them! Paul says, "Put away all falsehood and tell your neighbor the truth…don't let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a mighty foothold to the devil.

When God tells you take off the old an put on the new, He's talking about having the right mind-set. A big part of that is – learning to be content. The Bible says, "…godliness with contentment is great gain" (I Timothy 6:6). Now sometimes when you talk about contentment, people think you're against progress. No, Paul is simply saying that contentment never comes from externals. NEVER! The Greek sage said, "To whom little is not enough, nothing is ever enough."

Every twelve minutes television advertisers try to convince you that contentment is not possible without their particular brand of product. As you watch, you start to feel "less than" if you don't have it. So you go out and buy it, put yourself in debt, and miss out on what's truly important.

Get rid of the idea that "more is better." America has less than six percent of the world's population, but more than fifty percent of its wealth. Now, if more is better, we ought to be the happiest humans on the planet. But are we? You already know the answer. The desire for more can be insatiable. As long as you believe more is better you'll never be satisfied, because you'll never live long enough to have it tall. Think, when you get something or achiever something, do you even take the time to enjoy it, or do you just move on to the next event without stopping?

The next time the "more is better" feeling hits you, immediately remind yourself that it doesn't work, because the same mind-set that wants more NOW will want even more LATER. If you don't want to get old too son, and smart too late, listen to what God has to say on this subject:

1. 1 Timothy 6:7 After all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can't take anything with us when we leave it. This verse explains why you never see a hearse pulling a U-Haul trailer. It's a one-way trip.

2. 1 Timothy 6:10 For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows. If your pursuit of things leave you no time for God, you're heading for trouble. Reexamine your priorities and start changing them.

3. Solomon writes, "It is [good] for a man to enjoy his work, whatever his job may be…the person who does that will not need to look back with sorrow on his past, for God gives him joy." (Ecclesiastes 5:18-20 LB)

Stop wishing your life away! Stop thinking, "If only I had a bigger house, a more understanding spouse, a better paying job, a more beautiful body, a higher IQ, or the acceptance of a particular person, I'd be happy." It doesn't work that way. The Bible says, "This is THE DAY that the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it (Psalm 118:24). Did you heart that? Today, not tomorrow!

Jesus said, Look at the birds…" (Matthew 6:26 NIV). "See the lilies of the field grow" (Matthew 6:28). "Be content…" (Luke 3:14). What is He saying? Simply this – take time to enjoy where you are, on your way to where you're going.

If you feel like circumstances have you locked in today, then read this:

Acts 16:25-26 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. (26) Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everybody's chains came loose.

The same power that opened every prison door for Paul and Silas is still available to you today. It's called, THE POWER OF REJOICING. Anytime you praise God despite your circumstances, the forces of heaven come to your aid. You say, "But I don't feel like praising God." Then listen, "…offer to God a sacrifice of praise" (Hebrews 13:15 NIV). Anybody can praise Him in the good times, but when youhave to rise above your feelings and sacrifice to do it – that's when it is most effective.

The battle of Jericho teaches us that sometimes we have to shout when: (1) it makes no sense; (2) it seems like we're just going in circles: (3) the enemy stands over us mocking; (4) our rational mind says "this is no way to win a war;" (5) it's the last thing on earth we feel like doing.

Nehemiah writes, "…the joy of the Lord (that that comes from knowing He is present with you in the situation) is your strength (Nehemiah 8:10). If you look to your circumstances to find joy, you'll live on an emotional roller coaster. But if you look to the Lord of your circumstances and rejoice in His unchanging goodness, you'll move from weakness to strength every time.

So remember, wherever you go today, God's promise to you is "…ye shall go out with joy…" (Isaiah 55:12) Blessings!

Pastor Rusty

Today's "Through the Bible in a year" Bible reading: Tuesday April 15, 2008: Nehemiah 8:1-10:39

This week's memory verse to "Hide in my heart": Hebrews 11:1

(KJVR) Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Faith, Hope, and Trust

This is THE DAY that the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it! How about you? Yesterday in our morning services, I mentioned that there are TWO enemies that will try to keep you from rejoicing and savoring every moment of TODAY. Enemy #1 is the regrets from the past. Enemy #2 is the fears of tomorrow. There are some that are reading this blog today, and you have a hard time making it through each TODAY because of the things you wished you had done different yesterday. My friend, it is time to move on past those regrets into the joys of TODAY. There are others who are having a hard time enjoying the blessings of today because you are so worried about tomorrow. You have so much fear in your life. Jesus warns us to not even think about tomorrow and what COULD happen. He wants us to enjoy TODAY. But to truly do that, we must have THREE THINGS that are evident in our lives. To show you what these three things are, I want to point you to Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego from Daniel 3.

Daniel 3:17-18 If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. (18) But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up."

Necessity number one if we are going to savor the moments of today…FAITH.

Faith says God can. Listen to the men in our text… "the God we serve is ABLE to save us from it" (Blazing furnace). If you are going to enjoy TODAY, then you must allow your Faith in God to increase. How will it increase? By spending time in God's Word: reading it, studying it, memorizing it, meditating (dwelling) on it, talking about it, listening to it…

Romans 10:17 So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

Psalm 1:1-3 Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. (2) But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. (3) And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.

Necessity number two if we are going to savor the moments of today…HOPE.

Hope says God will. Listen again to the men in our text… "and He WILL rescue us from your hand, O king." If you are going to enjoy TODAY, then you must allow Hope to be resurrected in your life once again. I have mentioned several times down through the years that faith is like dynamite, and hope is like the fuse for the dynamite. I do not believe the problem with must Christians is their FAITH, but with their HOPE. The enemy has no problem with us believing that God can do anything, as long as we doubt whether He will or not. Dynamite is ineffective without the fuse, and FAITH is ineffective without HOPE:

Hebrews 11:1 (AMP) NOW FAITH is the assurance (the confirmation, the title deed) of the things [we] hope for, being the proof of things [we] do not see and the conviction of their reality [faith perceiving as real fact what is not revealed to the senses].

Faith is the assurance of the things we HOPE for. Please read the following story carefully:

Matthew 9:20-22 Just then a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak. (21) She said to herself, "If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed." (22) Jesus turned and saw her. "Take heart, daughter," he said, "your faith has healed you." And the woman was healed from that moment.

For twelve years this lady had an issue of blood. She had spent everything that she had on doctors. She heard about a man named Jesus. It was FAITH that got her on the road to where Jesus was. But it was HOPE that got her out of bed. I love verse 21, "she said to herself, "If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed." Faith said, God can, but the hope that she had said, God will!

Necessity number three if we are going to savor the moments of today…TRUST.

Faith says, God can. Hope says, God will. Trust says, I will praise and serve Him STILL. Listen to the men in our text… But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up." Wow, that is TRUST. I know that God can, and I believe that He will…but even if He doesn't, I'm still going to serve Him. I'm still going to praise Him! Why? Because I TRUST HIM! Last week we discussed Isaiah 26:3, please read it again:

Isaiah 26:3-4 Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on
thee: because he trusteth in thee.
(4) Trust ye in the LORD forever: for in the LORD JEHOVAH is everlasting strength:

If you need the peace of God, then you need to fix your mind on Jesus. However, you will never be able to fix your mind on Jesus until you learn that you can TRUST HIM. Regardless what you face in life, trust in the fact that God is a good God. Trust in the fact that He will work ALL THINGS for the good of those who love Him, and those who are called…according to His purpose. Trust in the fact that God will make all things BEAUTIFUL…in HIS time.

The great preacher T.D. Jakes says his mother was a wonderful cook, and he loved to watch her bake. In his book, "Maximize the Moment", he writes, "With my fingers in the bowl and batter smudged across my cheeks, I learned what it later took me years to articulate – that all of life is good. If you want to enjoy it to the fullest, don't wait for what's in the oven, take the bowl now and get something out of every part." What a powerful thought. Why don't you make up your mind to enjoy the "bowl moments" of today and REJOICE in them.

My prayer for you is that you will savor the moments of TODAY by speaking to the enemy of your soul the same way the three Hebrews of our text did: Faith: "I KNOW God can", Hope: "I BELIEVE God will", and Trust: "I will praise and serve Him STILL even if I don't get the answer I'm looking for" then you can SAVOR EACH MOMENT OF TODAY! Blessings!

Pastor Rusty

Today's "Through the Bible in a year" Bible reading: Monday April 14 ,2008: Nehemiah 6:1 – Nehemiah 7:15

This week's memory verse to "Hide in my heart": Hebrews 11:1

(KJVR) Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Becoming more determined than HELL ITSELF (Cleats #5)

All week long we have been looking at the importance of perseverance, and determination. It is so easy to give up because we get discouraged. This week's series has been entitled, refusing to HANG UP MY CLEATS. When baseball players retire or quit playing for whatever reason they use this term. God has burdened my heart to share with His people that we must make up our minds that we will not quit. Jesus is the Author AND Finisher of our faith. He always finishes what He starts. And if we truly want to be like Christ, then we will be FINISHERS as well. Listen to what Paul says in Philippians 1:6, (MSG) There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that the God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Christ Jesus appears.

We can be confident of this fact…that our Lord will FINISH what He starts. We must trust Him for this to take place! Tuesday we looked at Paul's comments in 2 Corinthians 11, as we finish this series I want to spend a little more time there. In fact, let's look together at v. 23. Once more, I will use Rick Renner's "Sparkling Gems from the Greek" to emphasize some awesome truths from this verse.

Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. — 2 Corinthians 11:23

I am often amazed by people who say they want to be mightily used by God but yet are so "soft"! It doesn't take much at all to ruffle these people's feathers. A little inconvenience or discomfort is enough to upset them and start them complaining. And if they are asked to do a little extra work for free, they act like martyrs who are doing something extremely sacrificial!

If you're going to do something mighty for God, you have to throw yourself into the call of God and do what is needed, regardless of whether or not it is convenient to you. The fact is, doing what God has called us to do must be paramount in our lives — more important than any comfort or pleasure. Like the examples we see in the lives of Jesus and the apostle Paul, we must be willing to do anything required or go to any length to do exactly what God has assigned to us.

Of course God wants His people to be blessed! But a believer shouldn't start whining and complaining just because he runs into an attack of the devil that affects the level of comfort he is accustomed to. And if he's asked to do a little more than what is usually asked of him, he shouldn't start griping that the extra task is not a part of his job description. When a person does that, we can know that this is someone who will not do something mighty for God — at least not until he makes an adjustment in his attitude!

To push the forces of hell out of the way, you have to be more determined than hell itself. You have to be willing to do anything necessary to get the job done. The vision before you must be more important than your own personal pleasure. When you adopt this mentality for your life, you will always push through hard times and take significant territory for the Kingdom of God.

Paul then goes on to tell us more about his determined attitude to finish God's call, regardless of what he has to do to finish it and the challenges he has to face on his way to victory.

Stripes Above Measure

In addition to working hard, Paul tells us what he has physically endured in order to fulfill his heavenly assignment. He tells us that he has been physically beaten as he pursued the fulfillment of his God-given task, experiencing "stripes above measure."

The word "stripes" is the Greek word plege. It means to smite, to hit, to wound, or to violently strike. There are many examples of this word in the New Testament. In Luke 10:30, Jesus tells us, "And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead." The word "wounded" is this Greek word plege.

Notice that the man's wounds were so devastating that when the thieves departed, they assumed he was dead. These were mortal wounds. Now Paul uses this same word to describe the kinds of beatings he received as he sought to fulfill his God- given assignment in life.

This word is also used in Acts 16:33 to describe the kind of beating Paul and Silas received in Philippi. After God's power shook the prison walls and set Paul and Silas free, the keeper of the prison came to them to ask how to be saved. Acts 16:33 tells us that once the prison guard was saved, he "took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes." This word "stripes" is the same Greek word plege. Here we see an example of the physical beatings Paul endured.

But this incident in Philippi was just one example of Paul being physically knocked around by opponents to the Gospel. In Second Corinthians 11:23, he goes on to say that he experienced these stripes "above measure."

The words "above measure" are from the Greek word huperballo. It is a compound of the words huper and ballo. The word huper means above and beyond what is normal. The word ballo means to throw. And when these two words are joined together, they depict a very powerful picture!

Imagine an archer who takes his bow and arrows to the field for target practice. He aims his arrow at the bull's-eye, pulls back on his bow, and shoots the arrow. But he misses his target and shoots way over the top or exceedingly out of range. The arrow flies way beyond the range of anything considered normal. This pictures the meaning of the Greek word huperballo.

Paul's use of this word tells us that he was beaten way beyond the range of what we could even begin to imagine. The word huperballo describes both the frequency and the intensity of his beatings. The beatings Paul received occurred frequently. They were cruel, severe, merciless acts of brutality. What Paul's enemies did to his body was way over the top! But Paul never allowed even these acts of physical brutality to affect his commitment to the task God had given him.

You must be more determined than the forces that will try to come against you. Otherwise, it won't take much pressure to make you say, "This is too hard" or "I didn't understand how difficult this was going to be." You'll mentally start packing your bags so you can transfer back to more comfortable territory where less is expected of you. Before long you will find yourself HANGING UP YOUR CLEATS!

By no means am I wishing hardships or hard times on you. But I do pray that you make up your mind to be tougher than anything the devil ever tries to throw in your direction. In your flesh alone, you are not strong enough to withstand the devil's assaults. But with the power of the Holy Spirit, you can resist, stand against, and drive back everything the devil will attempt to do to you, to your family, to your business, or to your church or ministry. Isn't it time for you to make up your mind to stick with God's call on your life and press ahead in the power of the Holy Spirit?

Prisons More Frequent

Paul goes on to tell us that he has been "in prisons more frequent." The word "prison" is the Greek word plulake. It describes a place of custody, a prison ward, or a place heavily guarded by keepers and watchmen. Such a prison was usually a small, dark chamber in which the most hardened, dangerous, and menacing prisoners were confined. The prisoners who were put into this particular kind of chamber were considered so risky that they were usually accompanied by a host of prison guards who guarded them twenty-four hours a day.

This word plulake ("prison") is used in Acts 12:4 for Peter's imprisonment in Jerusalem. Acts 12:4 tells us, "And when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him; intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people." Peter must have been viewed as especially risky to have four quaternions of soldiers assigned to keep watch over him!

Paul was also kept in this kind of extreme confinement many times during his ministry; this is what he means when he says here that he has been in "prisons more frequent." In fact, Paul became so familiar with this type of confinement that he even spent his final days under similar circumstances: "And when we came to Rome, the centurion delivered the prisoners to the captain of the guard: but Paul was suffered to dwell by himself with a soldier that kept him" (Acts 28:16).

No one wants to go to jail! But if going to jail meant that Paul would accomplish his apostolic calling along the way, that was what he was willing to do. Paul was ready to undergo any inconvenience, pay any price, and go to all lengths to do what God had commissioned him to do. Even jail would not stop him.

Deaths Oft

In addition to the beatings and imprisonments he endured, Paul also says he was "in deaths oft." The word "deaths" is from the Greek word thanatos. Here, however, Paul uses the plural form, thanatoi, which is literally translated "deaths."

We know that Paul wrote in First Corinthians 15:31, "I die daily." We tend to spiritualize this statement, but in reality, Paul faced actual physical death on a regular basis. When he wrote, "I die daily," he actually meant,
"I am constantly confronted with the prospect of death."

Paul faced death so often that he learned how to face it bravely. In Romans 14:8, he wrote, "whether we die, we die unto the Lord." In First Corinthians 15:55, we see that he learned to meditate on victory rather than on mortality and fatality: "O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?" These are not allegorical verses about death. They are the thoughts of a man who faced the prospect of death almost on a daily basis.

Paul never sought to live under this constant threat of murder or execution. It was just a part of the journey to get where he needed to go. But rather than run and hide from imminent danger, he faced it bravely and kept moving forward to do what he was called to do.

Had Paul been less committed, it would have taken only a few of these difficult experiences to knock him out of the race. But because he was totally focused on finishing the assignment Heaven had given him, he pushed beyond each of these attacks, and at the end of his life, he was able to say, "I have finished my course, and I have KEPT THE FAITH." (2 Timothy 4:7).

The Holy Spirit who empowered the apostle Paul to overcome each of these instances is the same Holy Spirit who is available to help you.
You never have to be a defeated victim. If you choose to take advantage of the power that is available to you, the Spirit of God will energize and lift you to a place of victory over any obstacle the devil tries to throw in your way. Never forget that you have resurrection power residing inside you (see Romans 8:11). If you'll yield to that power, it will supernaturally quicken you to overcome every time!

So throw open your arms of faith and embrace the Spirit's power to overcome each attack the devil has tried to orchestrate against you. If you'll embrace that power, it will begin to flood you with everything you need to survive and to gloriously succeed in your task! Make the decision to let it start flowing today and REFUSE to HANG UP YOUR CLEATS and KEEP THE FAITH! Blessings!

This weekend's "Through the Bible in a year" reading:
Friday, April 11 2008: Nehemiah 1:1 – Nehemiah 2:10
Saturday, April 12, 2008: Nehemiah 2:11 – Nehemiah 3:32
Sunday, April 13, 2008: Nehemiah 4:1 – Nehemiah 5:19
Monday, April 14, 2008: Nehemiah 6:1 – Nehemiah 7:15

This weeks' memory verse to "Hide in my heart": 2 Timothy 1:12

2 Timothy 1:12 (KJV) For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.