Monday, September 29, 2008

Seven steps to LET IT GO

One of the things that the Lord has dealing with me about is my tendency to hold onto things. What kind of things? Bitterness, grudges, hurts from the past, offenses, loser mentality, fear, doubt, worry, negative attitude¸ just to name a few. Over the past several weeks at First Assembly, I have been preaching a series on “Making it THROUGH the wilderness.” It has been a study of the Children of Israel’s wanderings in the Wilderness. Before they made it to the Promised Land, there were several things that they had to get rid of. They had to learn to LET IT GO.

I believe there are some reading this blog today that need to learn the same lesson. We hold onto to things that are stunting our spiritual growth and progress. Years pass by, and we wonder what has happened to us spiritually. If we look closely, under the direction of the Holy Spirit, we will see things that we need to LET GO of.

In Psalm 51, David gives us SEVEN STEPS to “LET IT GO.” You see King David had an adulterous fling with Bathsheba, and then basically committed murder by having her husband killed in the line of duty with his military. He thought he had gotten by with it, but God sent a prophet by the name of Nathan to David to confront his sin. Psalm 51 shows us the way that David responded. It shows us how he LET IT GO. Let’s look at it together today. I will use the Message version of the Bible to take a look at these steps.

Step #1: Learn to repent (v. 1-5)

Psalm 51:1-5 Generous in love--God, give grace! Huge in mercy--wipe out my bad record. (2) Scrub away my guilt, soak out my sins in your laundry. (3) I know how bad I've been; my sins are staring me down. (4) You're the One I've violated, and you've seen it all, seen the full extent of my evil. You have all the facts before you; whatever you decide about me is fair. (5) I've been out of step with you for a long time, in the wrong since before I was born.

If we truly want to LET IT GO, we must learn to repent. That doesn’t just mean that we are sorry we got caught, it means to “change your mind, and direction.” I must be willing to admit that I have been wrong, and then change my thinking and the direction that I have been going. I must CHOOSE today, to ask God to forgive me of my offense, grudge, fear, worry, etc, then make plans to CHANGE. Insanity is doing the same things you have always done and expecting different results. If you TRULY want to change, then you have to change. There are some things that we do that we need to do different. If you are battling offense, then STOP dwelling on it, and realize that it is sin and is hindering your walk with God. REPENT of it, change your mind and direction. That is the first step.

Step #2: Excavate the parasites in your heart (v. 6)

Psalm 51:6 What you're after is truth from the inside out. Enter me, then; conceive a new, true life.

The battle of “Letting go” is on the inside. The enemy loves to attack our spiritual hearts with little parasites like worry, doubt, anger, fear, offenses that don’t seem to be causing many problems for us. But the Word of God gives us warnings about this:

Proverbs 4:23 Keep vigilant watch over your heart; that's where life starts.

Song of Solomon 2:15 Then you must protect me from the foxes, foxes on the prowl, Foxes who would like nothing better than to get into our flowering garden.

The ESV calls the foxes, little foxes that spoil the vine. We must make sure that we get rid of all of the little things that are attacking us spiritually. Set a watch over your heart. Take the little things seriously.

Step #3: Trust the blood of Jesus (v. 7-9)

Psalm 51:7-10 Soak me in your laundry and I'll come out clean, scrub me and I'll have a snow-white life. (8) Tune me in to foot-tapping songs, set these once-broken bones to dancing. (9) Don't look too close for blemishes, give me a clean bill of health.

The Christian is washed in God’s “laundry” through the precious blood of Jesus. Learn the importance of every single day, and several times a day, “pleading the blood of Jesus” over your mind and your attitudes. Bring your troubles to the throne room of God, and LEAVE THEM THERE.

Step #4: Invite God to right your wrong spirit (v. 10)

Psalm 51:10 (MSG) God, make a fresh start in me, shape a Genesis week from the chaos of my life.

Psalm 51:10 Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.

It is so easy to go through life with anything but a RIGHT spirit. We can have: wrong spirit, wounded spirit, offended spirit, angry spirit, jealous spirit, frustrated spirit, lustful spirit, greedy spirit, lying spirit, etc. We need to, like King David, invite God to help your spirit to be renewed and made RIGHT again.

Step #5: Trust God to return joy into your life (v. 12)

Psalm 51:12 (MSG) Bring me back from gray exile, put a fresh wind in my sails!

Psalm 51:12 Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.

So many of God’s people have lost their joy, and they are just going through the motions in life. They are discouraged, depressed, defeated, and wondering where God is. My friends, we need a good dose of the Joy of the Lord. Joy is different than happiness. Happiness depends upon your “happen stance” or circumstance. If you have happy circumstances, then you are happy. If not, then you are miserable. The Joy of the Lord isn’t dependent upon circumstances; it is founded upon the Lord! Regardless of what you are facing today, why don’t you make up your mind to LET IT GO by asking God to return the “Joy of thy salvation” to be returned into your life. My friend, if you have been washed by the blood of Jesus, and you are on your way to heaven, that is “shouting ground!”

Step #6: Give your testimony regularly (v. 13)

Psalm 51:13 (MSG) Give me a job teaching rebels your ways so the lost can find their way home.

Psalm 51:13 Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee.

Make up your mind that you will allow God to use your struggle and victory to help other people.
Step #7: Outwardly express your praise to God (v. 14-19)

Psalm 51:14-19 Commute my death sentence, God, my salvation God, and I'll sing anthems to your life-giving ways. (15) Unbutton my lips, dear God; I'll let loose with your praise. (16) Going through the motions doesn't please you, a flawless performance is nothing to you. (17) I learned God-worship when my pride was shattered. Heart-shattered lives ready for love don't for a moment escape God's notice. (18) Make Zion the place you delight in, repair Jerusalem's broken-down walls. (19) Then you'll get real worship from us, acts of worship small and large, Including all the bulls they can heave onto your altar! A David psalm, when Doeg the Edomite reported to Saul,"David's at Ahimelech's house."

Simply praise God daily and often. He is worthy of our praise. The enemy will do everything he can do rob you in this one area. Do not allow him to. Make up your mind that “I WILL praise the Lord.” There is victory in praise!

I hope you will consider these seven steps from God’s Word today, and LET IT GO! Blessings.

Pastor Rusty

Friday, September 26, 2008

The Thief called FAMILARITY

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

A few years ago, I read a book by Max Lucado entitled, "God came near." I will never forget one part of the book that I read. It ministered to me and I cried like a baby. The Holy Spirit brought this back to my memory today so I searched it out and found it. I would like to share it with you today. Please allow God to speak to your hearts as we fight against the "Thief called familiarity."

Several years ago, we were having Sunday lunch at the home of a fellow missionary family. It was after the meal, when our friends daughter, Beth Ann rushed in with a look of panic on her face. "Jenna (my two year old daughter) is in the pool!"

Paul was the first to arrive at the poolside. He went straight into the water. Denalyn was next to arrive. By the time I arrived, Paul had lifted her up out of the water to the extended hands of her mother. Jenna was simultaneously choking, crying, and coughing. She vomited a bellyful of water. I held her as she cried. Denalyn began to weep. I began to sweat.

For the rest of the day I couldn't hold her enough, nor could we thank little Beth Ann enough (we took her out for ice cream). I still can't thank God enough.

The stool was kicked out from under my feet and the rope jerked around my neck just long enough to remind me of what really matters. It was a divine slap, a gracious knock on the head, a severe mercy. Because of it I came face to face with one of the underground's slyest agents-the agent of familiarity.

He'd been on my trail for years and I never knew it. But I know it now. His goal is nothing less than to take what is most precious to us and make it appear most common.

To say that this agent of familiarity breeds contempt is to let him off easy. Contempt is just one of his offspring. He also sires broken hearts, wasted hours, and an insatiable desire for more. He's an expert in robbing the sparkle and replacing it with the drab. He invented the yawn and put the hum in the humdrum. And his strategy is deceptive.

He won't steal your salvation; he'll just make you forget what it was like to be lost. You'll grow accustomed to prayer and thereby not pray. Worship will become commonplace and study optional. With the passing of time he'll infiltrate your heart with boredom and cover the cross with dust so you'll be "safely" out of reach of change. Score one for the agent of familiarity.

Nor will he steal your home from you; he'll do something far worse. He'll paint it with a familiar coat of drabness.

He'll replace evening gowns with bathrobes, nights on the town with evenings in the recliner, and romance with routine. He'll scatter the dust of yesterday over the wedding pictures in the hallway until they become a memory of another couple in another time.

He won't take your children, he'll just make you too busy to notice them. His whispers to procrastinate are seductive. There is always next summer to coach the team, next month to go to the lake, and next week to teach Johnny how to pray. He'll make you forget that the faces around your table will soon be at tables of their own. Hence, books will go unread, games will go unplayed, hearts will go unnurtured, and opportunities will go ignored. All because the poison of the ordinary has deadened your senses to the magic of the moment.

Before you know it, the little face that brought tears to your eyes in the delivery room has become-perish the thought-common. A common kid sitting in the back seat of your van as you whiz down the fast lane of life. Unless something changes, unless someone wakes you up, that common kid will become a common stranger.

On a shelf above my desk is a picture of two little girls. They're holding hands and standing in front of a swimming pool, the same pool from which the younger of the two had been pulled only minutes before. I put the picture where I would see it daily so I would remember what God doesn't want me to forget. (from God Came Near - Copyright 1987 Max Lucado)


Pastor Rusty

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Five Steps to overcome Worry and Concern (Part two)

We looked at the first of five steps yesterday to over worry and concern. Let's conclude this study on today's blog.

The second step Paul tells us to take is found in the word "supplication." The word "supplication" in Greek is the word deisis, which depicts a person who has some type of lack in his life and therefore pleads strongly for his lack to be met. The word deisis is translated several ways in the King James Version, including to beseech, to beg, or to earnestly appeal. This word pictures a person in such great need that he feels compelled to push his pride out of the way so he can boldly, earnestly, strongly, and passionately cry out for someone to help or assist him.

One of the most powerful examples of the word deisis is found in James 5:16. In this famous verse of Scripture, the Bible says, "The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much." Here the word deisis is translated as "fervent prayer." You see, deisis is a passionate, earnest, heartfelt, sincere prayer. It comes to God on the most serious terms, strongly beseeching Him to move and to meet a specific need that the person praying is facing in his life.

So when you are facing a problem that deeply concerns you, don't be afraid to go to the Lord and earnestly beseech Him to meet your need. Paul's use of this word means you can get very bold when you ask God to move on your behalf. There is no reason for you to be timid or mealy- mouthed when you pray. You can tell God exactly what you feel, what you're facing, and what you want Him to do for you. This is what "supplication" is all about!

After mentioning "supplication," Paul then gives us the third important step to take when giving our worries and concerns to the Lord. Paul tells us to make our requests known to God "by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving."

God not only expects you to be bold; He also expects you to thank Him for being good to you! It simply isn't right to ask boldly without expressing thanksgiving. If you've ever generously given to someone who never took the time to thank you for the sacrifice you made for him or her, you know how shocking ingratitude can be. In a similar way, you must be careful to thank God for being so good to you!

The word "thanksgiving" that Paul uses in this verse is the Greek word eucharistia, which is a compound of the words eu and charis. The word eu means good or well. It denotes a general good disposition or an overwhelmingly good feeling about something. The word charis is the Greek word for grace. When these two words are compounded into one, they form the word eucharistia. This compound word describes an outpouring of grace and of wonderful feelings that freely flow from the heart in response to someone or something. By using this word, Paul teaches us that when we earnestly ask God to do something special for us, we must match it with an earnest outpouring of thanks. Although the request has only just been made and the manifestation isn't evident yet, it is appropriate to thank God for doing what we have requested. Thanking Him in advance demonstrates faith. So always make sure to follow up your earnest asking with earnest thanksgiving! Make it a goal to be just as passionate in your thanksgiving as you were when you made your request.

Paul then gives you the fourth step out of worry and anxiety when he tells you, "Let your requests be made known unto God." The word "requests" is the Greek word aitima, from the word aiteo. The Greek word "ask" destroys any religious suggestion that you are a lowly worm who has no right to come into the Presence of God. You see, the Greek word aiteo means to be adamant in requesting and demanding assistance to meet tangible needs, such as food, shelter, money, and so forth.

In fact, in the New Testament, the word aiteo is used to portray a person who insists or demands that a specific need be met after approaching and speaking to his superior with respect and honor. Additionally, it expresses the idea that one possesses a full expectation to receive what was firmly requested.

There is no doubt that this word describes someone who prays authoritatively, in a sense boldly requesting something from God. This person knows what he needs and is so filled with faith that he isn't afraid to boldly come into God's Presence to ask and expect to receive what he has requested. This means when you pray about a need that concerns you, it is right for you to pray authoritatively. As long as your prayer is based on the Word of God, and not demanding God to do anything. You just speak forth God's Word and believe and expect Him to honor His Word. Furthermore, when you pray, it is spiritually appropriate for you to fully expect God to honor His Word and do what you have requested.

As a final, fifth point, Paul says "let your requests be made known unto God." The word "known" comes from the word gnoridzo, and it means to make a thing known; to declare something; to broadcast something; or to make something very evident. This plainly means that your asking can be extremely bold! Declare to God what you need; broadcast it so loudly that all of Heaven hears you when you pray. You can be exceptionally bold when you come before Jesus to make your requests known!

An expanded, interpretive translation of Philippians 4:6 could be rendered:
"Don't worry about anything — and that means nothing at all! Instead, come before God and give Him the things that concern you so He can in exchange give you what you need or desire. Be bold to strongly, passionately, and fervently make your request known to God, making certain that an equal measure of thanksgiving goes along with your strong asking. You have every right to ask boldly, so go ahead and boldly ask that God meet your need. When you pray, be so bold that there is no doubt your prayer was heard. Broadcast it! Declare it! Pray boldly until you have the assurance that God has heard your request!"

So in moments when worry or fear is trying to wrap its life-draining tentacles around you, rush to the truths found in Philippians 4:6. You don't have to live subject to worry, concerns, and fears the rest of your life. If you follow these steps, worry and fear will always be replaced with a peaceful and praising heart!

Why don't you take the time today to enter God's Presence and walk through these five important steps? It's time to move from fear to faith, from turmoil to peace, and from defeat to victory! Blessings.

Pastor Rusty

Monday, September 22, 2008

Five Steps to overcome Worry and Concern

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

We had a great day of services yesterday! God is so good!

In my blog this week, I would like for us to look at five steps to overcome worry and concern in our lives. I would like to use Rick Renner's "Sparkling Gems from the Greek" to speak into our hearts.

Rick says, "I vividly remember a time in my life when I was very concerned about something that was about to occur. Although the challenge before me really wasn't so life-shattering, at the moment it seemed huge and mountainous. Therefore, I was extremely concerned.
I'm sure you know what it's like when worry tries to flood your mind. It has a way of magnifying issues to the point of being ridiculous, but when you're in the midst of the situation, it seems so real. Only after the event has passed do you realize how silly it was to be so worried about something that was so non- eventful.

But at the time I'm telling you about right now, I was consumed with worry. I paced back and forth, fretting, thinking, and pondering, making myself even more nervous by my anxious behavior. I was nothing but a bag of nerves. Realizing how deeply I was sinking into worry, I reached for my Bible to try to find peace for my troubled soul. I opened it to Philippians 4:6, which says, "Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God."

I tried to push everything else out of my mind so I could concentrate on God's words in this verse. Through Philippians 4:6, I could see that God was calling out to me and urging me to lay down my worries and come boldly before Him to make my requests known. As I focused on this verse, I suddenly saw something I had never seen before. I realized that this verse showed me step by step how to lay down my worries and boldly make my requests known to God. If I followed the steps laid out in this verse exactly as I understood them, I would be set free from worry and fear! I promptly followed these steps, and in a matter of minutes my worry was replaced with a thankful, praising, and peaceful heart!

As the years have passed, I have had many occasions when worry and fear have tried to plague my mind. It would be impossible to exaggerate the challenges my wife and I have faced as we've fulfilled our apostolic ministry overseas. At times, these challenges have simply been enormous.

This is the reason I so entirely identify with the apostle Paul as he describes the difficulties he encountered in his ministry. Just as Satan regularly tried to disrupt Paul's ministry, the enemy has also attempted on many occasions to hinder our work and thwart the advancement of the Gospel. However, none of his attacks have ever succeeded, and the Gospel has gone forth in mighty power!

In moments when worry or fear is trying to wrap its life-draining tentacles around me, I rush back to the truths found in Philippians 4:6. Just as I followed the steps found in this verse so many years ago, I still carefully follow them whenever I start getting anxious. Every time I do, these steps lead me from worry and fear to a thankful, praising, and peaceful heart. In fact, I have learned that if I faithfully follow these steps, fear will always be eradicated and replaced with the wonderful, dominating peace of God.

So don't let worry wrap its tentacles around you. Instead, listen to Paul's advice about how to deal with the problems and concerns that try to assail your mind. Let's look once again at what he says in Philippians 4:6: "Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God."

In this verse, Paul lays out five very important steps to move from fear to faith, from turmoil to peace, and from defeat to victory. We'll look at five key words that tell us exactly what we must do when worry and concerns are trying to assail our minds: 1) prayer; 2) supplication; 3) thanksgiving; 4) requests; and 5) known.

When Paul uses the word "prayer" in this verse, it is the Greek word proseuche, which is the most commonly used word for prayer in the New Testament. This particular word and its various forms is used approximately 127 times in the New Testament. It is a compound of the words pros and euche. The word pros is a preposition that means toward, which can denote a sense of closeness. Nearly everywhere it is used in the New Testament, the word pros carries the meaning of close, up-front, intimate contact with someone else.

One scholar has noted that the word pros is used to portray the intimate relationship that exists between the members of the Godhead. John 1:1 says, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God." The word "with" is taken from the word pros. By using this word to describe the relationship between the Father and the Son, the Holy Spirit is telling us that theirs is an intimate relationship. One expositor has translated the verse, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was face-to-face."

The second part of the word proseuche is taken from the word euche. The word euche is an old Greek word that describes a wish, desire, prayer, or vow. It was originally used to depict a person who made some kind of vow to God because of a need or desire in his or her life. This individual would vow to give something of great value to God in exchange for a favorable answer to prayer. Thus, inherent in this word is the idea of an exchange — giving something to God in exchange for something wanted or desired.

So instead of carrying your worries and burdens, you are to take the first step Paul gives you in moving from a place of turmoil to peace: Come close to the Lord in prayer. Once you are in that intimate, face-to-face place with God, take that opportunity to give Him your worries, fears, and concerns. Then ask the Lord to give you something back in exchange for the worries you have given Him — ask Him for peace! You see, this is a part of the great exchange found in the Greek word proseuche. When you give God your problems, in return He gives you His peace.

Perhaps you've experienced this great exchange at some previous moment in your life. Can you think of a time when your mind was hassled with fears? Once you truly committed your problem to the Lord, did a supernatural peace flood your soul and relieve you from your anxieties? This is the first step that Paul urges you to take when worry, fear, and concerns are trying to take over your mind or emotions."


Pastor Rusty

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Nothing can separate us from the Love of God

It has been a tough week at First Assembly of God as we have had several people that we love go home to be with the Lord. We celebrate for them, but grieve for those left behind. I want to share with you something that blessed me this morning as I read from Rick Renner's "Sparkling Gems from the Greek."

Paul said, "For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:38,39).

Notice that Paul said, "For I am persuaded." The word "persuaded" is the Greek word peitho. It means to be persuaded, to be convinced, or to be swayed from one opinion to the opinion held by another. This word describes a person who has been coaxed from a particular conviction to embrace a different one. Furthermore, the Greek tense implies that this was a persuasion that had occurred to Paul in the past but is still so strong that it continues to be his conviction in the present. He was persuaded, and he continues to be persuaded. It could therefore be translated, "For I have been persuaded, and I remain convinced."

The word "death" is the Greek word thanatos, the Greek word for physical death, but it can also be used to depict mortal danger or a dangerous circumstance. In this case, Paul's primary meaning is that the love of God is so strong, even physical death cannot separate us from His divine love. Death may separate us from the earth and from people we love, but it is impossible for death to separate us from the love of God, for God's love doesn't stop with the cessation of life.

It is a fact that many believers feel overwhelmed by the situations they face in life. In fact, they often feel so confused and weighed down that they wonder if God is still near to them. This is precisely why Paul adds that even life cannot separate a believer from the love of Jesus Christ.

Just as the word thanatos describes physical death, this particular word for "life," the Greek word zoe, refers to physical life. Paul uses this word to let us know that neither the cessation of one's physical life nor the complex issues and events related to one's life on this earth are strong enough to separate a believer from the love of God.

Next, Paul lets us know that no spiritual being, good or bad, has enough power to separate us from God's love. The word "angels" is the Greek word angelos, which refers to brilliant, spiritual, angelic beings. Such angelic beings are extraordinarily strong, as is evidenced by hundreds of scriptures in both the Old and New Testament.

The word "principalities" is from the word archai. This is the same word that Paul uses in Ephesians 6:12, where he describes the rank and file of the devil's kingdom. The word archai is the plural for archos, the Greek word for a ruler or one who has long held a lofty position of power. The plural version of this word depicts an entire group of high- ranking demon spirits that have held their positions of power since the most ancient times. Although angels and demonic powers are indeed strong, they are not strong enough to disconnect a believer from God's love.

Paul also mentions "powers." This is taken from the word dunamis, which is the Greek word that sometimes depicted the powerful governments of men. Certainly Paul had been arrested, bound, and restricted by evil governments on many occasions, but none of these actions were ever sufficiently powerful to separate him from the love of God. A jail cell may have separated Paul from other believers. However, even in the deepest, darkest, most gruesome prison cell, Paul tangibly felt and personally experienced the love of God.

In addition to these points Paul has already mentioned, he uses the phrase "things present" to let us know that nothing that currently exists is able to prevent a person from experiencing God's love. The words "things present" are derived from the Greek word enistemi, a compound of the words en and histemi. The word en means in, and the word histemi means to stand. Thus, when these two words are joined to form the word enistemi, the new word describes something that is presently standing in its place. In this case, it means nothing presently existing or nothing that currently stands is sufficient to separate a believer from the all-powerful presence of God's love.

But Paul doesn't stop with the things that presently exist. He goes on to say that "things to come" are also not able to separate a believer from the love of God. The Greek word used here is from the word mello, and it describes events that will occur in the future. These are things that haven't happened yet, but will take place in the days and years to come. Paul has already said that nothing currently existing is strong enough to separate a believer from the love of God. Now he boldly declares that nothing will ever happen in the future that will contain enough power to hinder a believer from knowing and experiencing God's love.

As he continues, Paul also declares that neither "height, nor depth" shall be able to separate us from the love of God. The word "height" is the Greek word hupsuma, which expresses the notion of something that is overhead. It would include anything that is lofty, such as the sky and the heavens above. The word "depth" is the word bathos, the Greek word that expresses the notion of something that is exceedingly deep, like the deepest, darkest parts of the sea. Now Paul uses these illustrations to say that nothing in the sky or in the deepest parts of the earth has the power to keep one of God's children from knowing and experiencing His love.

To make sure absolutely everything is included in this comprehensive list, Paul adds "any other creature" to the list. The word "creature" is the Greek word ktisis, and it categorically refers to all created things in both the physical and spiritual worlds. Absolutely nothing in either of these spheres "shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

The words "shall be able" is from the word dunamai, which describes strength, capacity, or ability. The word "separate" is the Greek word choridzo, meaning to sunder, to sever, to disunite, to tear apart, to disconnect, to cut off, to disengage, or to withdraw. Notice that Paul says that nothing is capable of tearing a believer "from" the love of God. The word "from" is the Greek word apo, which means away and implies distance. This clearly means that there is nothing that can put distance between a believer and his Heavenly Father.

In light of the meanings of these Greek words in Romans 8:38 and 39, an interpretive translation of this verse could read:

"I have been persuaded, and I remain convinced, that neither death, nor the complications that often arise in life, nor powerful angelic beings, nor even an entire group of high-ranking demonic spirits, nor anything that currently exists, nor anything that could potentially happen in the future, nor any political power, nor anything in the highest heavens, nor anything that resides in the deepest depths, nor anything that has ever been created is capable of disconnecting us from the love of God or of putting any distance between us and the love of God, which is in Jesus Christ our Lord."

Never forget this message Paul proclaimed. Nothing in this world has enough power to disconnect you from the love of God. No angel, no demon, no government, no creature — and no mistake of your own making — will ever be capable of cutting you off from the love of God. God's love is greater than man will ever be able to comprehend. It reaches to the highest mountain, and it penetrates to the lowest parts of the earth. Regardless of what you are facing in your life today, God's love is with you — and nothing will ever be able to disconnect you from this awesome, powerful, all-consuming love! Blessings!

Pastor Rusty

Monday, September 15, 2008

God can do the UNBELIEVABLE

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

This morning I received a devotion via email from one of my favorite authors, Max Lucado. It ministered to me so much that I decided to share it with all of you.

The kingdom of heaven. Its citizens are drunk on wonder.

Consider the case of Sarai. She is in her golden years, but God promises her a son. She gets excited. She visits the maternity shop and buys a few dresses. She plans her shower and remodels her tent … but no son. She eats a few birthday cakes and blows out a lot of candles … still no son. She goes through a decade of wall calendars … still no son.

So Sarai decides to take matters into her own hands. (“Maybe God needs me to take care of this one.”)

She convinces Abram that time is running out. (“Face it, Abe, you ain’t getting any younger, either.”) She commands her maid, Hagar, to go into Abram’s tent and see if he needs anything. (“And I mean ‘anything’!”) Hagar goes in a maid. She comes out a mom. And the problems begin.

Hagar is haughty. Sarai is jealous. Abram is dizzy from the dilemma. And God calls the baby boy a “wild donkey”—an appropriate name for one born out of stubbornness and destined to kick his way into history.

It isn’t the cozy family Sarai expected. And it isn’t a topic Abram and Sarai bring up very often at dinner.

Finally, fourteen years later, when Abram is pushing a century of years and Sarai ninety … when Abram has stopped listening to Sarai’s advice, and Sarai has stopped giving it … when the wallpaper in the nursery is faded and the baby furniture is several seasons out of date … when the topic of the promised child brings sighs and tears and long looks into a silent sky … God pays them a visit and tells them they had better select a name for their new son.

Abram and Sarai have the same response: laughter. They laugh partly because it is too good to happen and partly because it might. They laugh because they have given up hope, and hope born anew is always funny before it is real.

They laugh at the lunacy of it all.

They laugh because that is what you do when someone says he can do the impossible. They laugh a little at God, and a lot with God—for God is laughing, too. Then, with the smile still on his face, he gets busy doing what he does best—the unbelievable.

He changes a few things—beginning with their names. Abram, the father of one, will now be Abraham, the father of a multitude. Sarai, the barren one, will now be Sarah, the mother.

But their names aren’t the only things God changes. He changes their minds. He changes their faith. He changes the number of their tax deductions. He changes the way they define the word impossible.

Aren't you glad that God can change our minds, our faith and the way we define the word impossible? He can still do the unbelievable! He is an awesome God! Blessings.

Pastor Rusty

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Wild Goose Chase

As most of you know, my oldest daughter and her family are spending a year in Washington, D.C. working on the staff of the National Community Church, where Mark Batterson is the lead pastor. I am so excited about this opportunity for them as Mark Batterson is rapidly becoming one of my favorite authors.

I am currently reading his lastest book, "Wild Goose Chase". I would recommend it to everyone. It is an EXCELLENT read! I also enjoyed his other book, "In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day". A few weeks ago I shared his "Chase the Lion Manifesto". He has "tweaked" it and come up with "Chase the Goose" I share it with you here:

Quit living as if the purpose of life is to arrive safely at death. Set God-sized goals. Pursue God-ordained passions. Go after a dream that is destined to fail without divine intervention. Don't let fear dictate your decisions. Don't take the easy way out. Don't maintain the status quo. Stop pointing out problems and become part of the solution. Stop repeating the past and start creating the future. Stop playing not to lose and start playing to win. Expand your horizons. Create some margins. Take off your sandals. Find every excuse you can to celebrate everything you can. Live today like it is the first day and the last day of your life. Don't let what's wrong with you keep you from worshipping what's right with God. Burn sinful bridges. Challenge old assumptions. Blaze new trails. Don't stop making mistakes. Celebrate your failures. Don't try to be who you're not. Be yourself. Don't make a living. Make a life. Quit making excuses. Quit playing defense. And quit putting eight-foot ceilings on what God can do. CHASE THE GOOSE!


Pastor Rusty

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Sounding Brass, Cymbals and driving folks "WACKO"

This is the day that the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it! I hope you are as well. Rejoicing really is a CHOICE!

This morning I was studying for my Sunday morning sermon on "Getting rid of Bitterness" and I read First Corinthians 13:1 and would like to share a few things from this verse with you today.

It seems that the apostle Paul encountered a group of people who were extremely "superspiritual" in the city of Corinth. However, Paul was unimpressed with these people and their level of spirituality because they had an obvious lack of love. Their deficit of love bothered him so deeply that he alluded to it when he wrote First Corinthians 13:1: "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal."

The words "sounding brass" are very important in this verse. Let's begin our study today with the word "brass." It comes from the Greek word chalkos, an old word that referred to metal. However, it wasn't just any metal; it was bronze or copper to which a small amount of tin had been added. This tin caused the metal to have a hollow, empty sound when it was beaten. That is why Paul also used the word "sounding" — the Greek word echo, which described a noise that reverberates or echoes. When these two words were used together, they portrayed the endless beating of metal that produces a hollow, annoying, irritating echo that seems to eternally reverberate.

In his book "Sparkling Gems from the Greek", Rick Renner says "when Paul wrote about a "sounding brass," he borrowed an illustration from the pagan world of Corinth to make his point about super- spiritual people who demonstrate no love. The illustration he chose to use was the endless, nonstop, annoying, aggravating, irritating, frenzied beating and clanging of brass that was performed in pagan worship and that echoed ceaselessly throughout the city of Corinth. The citizens of Corinth could never escape the endless banging of this metal, so this was an illustration everyone in the Corinthian church could readily comprehend.

The unsaved citizens of Corinth were deeply devoted to pagan religions. In terms of paganism and idolatry, Corinth stands out as one of the most wicked, idolatrous cities in world history. The pagan temples of the city were filled with worshipers who danced wildly under the influence of wine and drugs. In order to drive the people over the edge and into an emotionally frenzied state of spiritual ecstasy, the pagan priests would wildly beat the metal drums faster and faster and louder and louder.

The citizens believed the piercing, deafening banging and clanging of the drums was essential for achieving a state of spiritual ecstasy. Nevertheless, it was a constant nuisance to them, for they could never escape the constant, rhythmic pounding of metal that produced this clamoring noise.
As time passed, this well-known and commonly loathed, nonstop clanging noise became the very word people used to describe a person who talked incessantly."

Have you ever been around a person who talked so much that you didn't even listen to him anymore? After a while did you just look at the person without listening because words never seemed to stop pouring from his mouth? Did his words eventually just sound like noise to you, and they began to "DRIVE YOU WACKO?" Well, that is exactly what Paul is talking about here in First Corinthians 13:1 — people who say a lot and claim a lot, but who don't have a life to match their many words. Paul says people like this are just a lot of empty, shallow, clanging, banging noises that eventually become an irritant to all who are near enough to hear them.

But wait — Paul also likened these super- spiritual people who lacked love to "a tinkling cymbal." The word "tinkling" is a very poor translation, for the Greek word Malalazon means to clash or to crash loudly. The word "cymbal" comes from the Greek word kumbalon, which is the Greek word for cymbals. But when these two words are compounded together, it describes a constant, loud clashing of cymbals, much like the clashing cymbals played by the Jewish people just before they went to war! The clashing of those cymbals was a call to arms! It sounded the signal that it was time to fight!

I find it interesting that Paul would use the phrases "sounding brass" and a "tinkling cymbal" to describe these people. Just as a "sounding brass" was irritating and nerve-racking to all who heard it, and just as the "tinkling cymbal" aroused the mind and emotions for war — a person who claims great spirituality but doesn't demonstrate love can be just that much of an irritant!
As this type of person goes on endlessly in a perpetual, nonstop, shallow, boastful, self- glorification of himself, he almost makes you want to stand up and fight. But don't do it! You need to pray for patience when you're dealing with a person like that. If he isn't willing to listen and be changed, you need to ask God to show you a way to graciously remove yourself from the difficult encounter. But if a door opens and an opportunity arises for you to speak the truth in love, tell that person how he is coming across to others. If you were in that person's shoes, wouldn't you want someone to tell you the truth, even if you didn't like what he was telling you?

Don't wait until this person's nonstop talking drives you to the point of wanting to rise up and slap him and tell him to shut up. Before that ever happens, go to the Lord and ask Him to give you His heart for that person. When you have God's heart and mind about the situation, you'll be able to deal with it in the spirit of Jesus.

But what should you do if you are the one who talks nonstop? You need to pay attention to what you've read today. Do your words act like a repellant that drives people away from you? If you've noticed that people are avoiding you, maybe you need to find out the reason why! Go to someone and ask, "Would you please tell me what I am doing that is driving people away from me?" However, if you're going to ask this question, be prepared to receive the answer. You must be willing to make corrections in your character, your words, and your life.

The last thing you or I want to be is a sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal. Therefore, it would be good for all of us to go to the Lord and ask Him to reveal anything in our words or actions that needs to be changed. And if the Holy Spirit does reveal something to us, we need to give all our effort to bringing correction to our lives! Why not pray this prayer right now:

Lord, please help me be patient with people who are inconsiderate of others and won't stop talking about themselves. When I am tempted to lose my patience and to become angry with them, give me the grace to moderate my emotions so that I can respond to them in the spirit of Jesus. I know that You have been patient with me so often, and now it is my turn to be patient with others. Help me to show them the same kindness You have shown me and to avoid falling into the trap of being judgmental and impatient. I pray this in Jesus' name!


Pastor Rusty

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Four Things that I WILL do today!

This is the day that the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it! I hope you will as well. I am excited about today! My oldest daughter and her husband begin their time of training and ministry in Washington, D.C. In fact, as I write this blog they are arriving at the offices of the National Community Church where Mark Batterson is the lead pastor. What an opportunity for them. Mark Batterson is a young pastor, but is rapidly becoming one of my favorite authors and I am honored that Glenda and Brad will be on staff with him. What a learning experience this will be. Please pray for them today as they are very nervous. I know they will do GREAT.

Every morning we have pastoral prayer in the sanctuary. This morning as I walked into the church building, I could just sense God's presence in an awesome way. I knew He was about to speak something into my Spirit. I opened my Bible for today's reading. In addition to reading through the Bible this year, I read a Psalm and Proverbs that corresponds with the day of the month. For instance, today is September 9th, so I read Psalm 9 and Proverbs 9. You should try doing this; it is like taking a spiritual vitamin to supplement your regular study and reading.

Anyway, as I opened up Psalm 9, God immediately challenged me with something in the first two verses of the chapter. I would like to share with you today, "Four things that I WILL do today!"

Psalm 9:1-2 I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds. (2) I will be glad and exult in you; I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.

#1 I WILL give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart!

I have so much to be thankful for, but for some reason I find myself focusing on my problems instead of thanking God for His blessings and His faithfulness. When I focus on my problems and not on God, I am allowing worry to dominate my life. Listen to what Paul said concerning thanksgiving:

Philippians 4:4-7 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. (5) Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; (6) do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. (7) And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in EVERYTHING by prayer, and supplication…WITH THANKSGIVING let your requests be made know to God. Then, the peace of God will overwhelm my life. Thanksgiving and peace go hand and hand. If I do not learn to thank God with my whole heart, then I will never experience the fullness of God's peace in my life. So TODAY, I have already made up my mind that I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart. Not half-heartedly, not sleepily, or because I have to…but because God is good and has blessed my life with good things. "Thank you Jesus for your hand upon me and your blessings that you have poured out upon me!"

#2 I WILL recount all of your wonderful deeds!

Periodically, in political elections the vote is so close that they call for a RECOUNT of the votes. That means they stop everything else they were doing and take the time to count again. David says in our text this morning that he would RECOUNT all of God's wonderful deeds. I believe that would be a good thing for me to do as well. I have stopped whatever else I was doing today so that I can recount God's blessings in my life. I would like to put them in an acrostic:

Redemption! I am so glad that Jesus redeemed me from the curse of the law. I was on my way to hell, but Jesus saved me!

Eternity! I am glad that this world is not my home, I am only passing through. When you get discouraged, stop and RECOUNT the fact that if you have made Jesus your Savior and Lord, you will spend eternity with Him! That is shouting ground!

Church family! I am blessed to pastor the greatest church in the world. What a wonderful group of people that show the love, light and life of Jesus to their world and areas of influence.

Outstanding health of my family! I am so blessed that my family is healthy. I am healthy. I never want to take that for granted.

USA! I am proud to be an American and to live in the greatest nation in the world. I am so thankful for the freedoms that we have.

Necessities of life! I have a home, cars, clothes, plenty of food and water, an awesome family and great friends. I am truly blessed!

The Holy Spirit! He nudges me and directs me attempting to bring out the character of Christ through the Fruit of the Spirit. I have taken Him for granted at times, and I truly repent of that.

Why don't you take a moment to RECOUNT all of the wonderful deeds of God in your life! As the song goes, "Count your blessings, name the one by one, and it may surprise you what the Lord has done."

#3 I WILL be glad and exult in you!

The word glad in the Hebrew here means a perpetual state of rejoicing and to brighten up. The word exult means to jump for joy, to be jubilant! You put these two words together and David is saying, "I will stay in a perpetual state of rejoicing that will brighten up all of those I come in contact with. I will be jubilant and jump for joy because of God's goodness!" David says I WILL be glad and exult the Lord. So today I CHOOSE to stay in a perpetual state of rejoicing. Being glad really is a choice. Listen to Psalm 9:2 in the Message version of the Bible:

Psalm 9:2 I'm whistling, laughing, and jumping for joy; I'm singing your song, High God. This is awesome isn't it? Make up your mind to be glad and exult the Lord today.

#4 I WILL sing praise to your name, O Most High

Psalm 20:7 Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.

Every day I will sing praises to the Lord! I will praise the name of Jesus! There are seven Hebrews names for praise and each gives us a different aspect of praise. Please notice these differences below:

* Hallal: "to laud, boast, rave, to celebrate" - It is used approximately one hundred times in the Old Tes tament.

* Yadah: "to worship with extended hands, to throw out the hands" - It is used over ninety times in the Old Testament. (Yad means "hand.")

* Barak: "to bless, to declare God the origin of power for success, prosperity, and fertility" - It is used approximately seventy times in the Old Testament as praise to God.

* Tehillah: "to sing or laud" - It is derived from hallal and is generally accepted to mean "the singing of hallals." It is used over fifty times in the Old Testament.

* Zamar: "to pluck the strings of an instrument, to praise with song" - It is used almost exclusively in the Psalms and occurs approximately forty times in the Old Testament.

* Todah: "to extend the hands in thanksgiving, a thank-offering" - It is used only a few times when translated "praise" but occurs many other times in connection with thanksgiving.

* Shabach: "to commend, address in a loud tone, to shout" - This is the exclamatory form of praise in a special sense and is found only about seven times in the Old Testament.

My prayer for you today is that you will make up your mind to do these four things every single day! I'm going to give it a shot, how about you? Blessings.

Pastor Rusty

Monday, September 8, 2008

Thoughts on Washington D.C. and Bitterness

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

I had quite an interesting and busy week last week. I was in Huntsville for Labor Day helping my oldest daughter and son-in-law pack up all of their belongings, and ended the week in Washington, D.C. their new home. The picture that I have posted was taken about two blocks from their home. I am so excited for them as they have "stepped out of the boat" of comfort and are following the Lord with all of their hearts. I couldn't be more proud of them. They really are an awesome young couple with two of the best little girls you will ever meet! (And they love their "big daddy!")

Thank you to everyone who has supported them through prayer and financial support. Please continue to do so! I know that the Lord will richly bless you. They report to the office of their new assignment tomorrow morning, so please pray for everything to go smooth and for them to be at peace today.

Last night in our service, I shared a little bit about the dangers of "bitterness". I would like to do the same here, with the help of Rick Renner in his "Sparkling Gems from the Greek" book.

When you find yourself constantly saying something derogatory about someone else, pay attention to what’s happening! What you’re saying about that person is a telltale sign that some bad seed is trying to take root in your heart.

Hebrews 12:15 tells us how to recognize bad seed when it begins to produce destructive fruit in our lives. It says, “lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you.” The words “springing up” are from the Greek word phuoo. This word depicts a little plant that is just starting to sprout and grow. It isn’t a large plant yet; rather, it’s a small seedling that is just breaking through the soil and starting to peek out at the world. However, the very fact that it’s peeking through the soil means there is a seed hidden in the soil producing this new life.

This is a very significant picture. It tells us that bitterness doesn’t overwhelm us all at once. Instead, it grows a little here and a little there until it finally becomes a huge, ugly growth that defiles our entire lives. Bitterness usually starts peeking up out of the depths of our souls in the form of negative thoughts about another person or a sour, sharp, distrusting, cynical attitude toward someone who has offended us. If the root is not quickly uprooted and removed, that bitterness will eventually become a full-blown tree that produces bitter, wounding, hurtful, and scornful fruit for everyone who eats of it.

Hebrews 12:15 shouts its warning: If you don’t stop these attitudes, they will eventually “trouble you.” The words “trouble you” are from the Greek word enochleo, which means to trouble, to harass, or to annoy. It refers to something inside that bothers and upsets you so much, you are constantly pestered by thoughts about it. In fact, your whole life is stalked by these hassling, troubling thoughts. What you allowed to take root and to fester inside your soul has now become a major nuisance to your peace, keeping you upset and emotionally torn up all the time.

  • Do you have a grudge against someone that just gnaws away at you all the time?
  • Every time you see that person, do you feel something sharp and ugly inside?
  • When you hear about that person being blessed, do you wonder how God could possibly bless him when he did such an ugly thing to you?
  • Do negative thoughts like these pester and bother you all the time?

If you relate to the questions I just asked you, then watch out! It may mean that a root of bitterness is growing inside you and that bitterness, resentment, and unforgiveness are starting to hound and stalk you wherever you go! You need to get a grip on yourself and let the Holy Spirit help you permanently rid yourself of these feelings; otherwise, you’ll end up troubled, annoyed, and terribly upset. You’ll lose your peace, forfeit your joy, and toss aside your victory. Friend, you don’t want to take this path! It’s too painful, too hurtful, and costs you too much in your walk with God.

So if you find yourself constantly saying something derogatory about someone else, pay attention to what’s happening! That is a tell-tale sign that some bad seed is trying to take root in your heart that could potentially grow into a major issue that hassles your whole life. Don’t let it happen! Ask the Holy Spirit to help you jerk out those roots from the soil of your heart so you can stay free! The Holy Spirit is willing, ready, and waiting to help you grab hold of those roots of bitterness and pull them clear out of your life. All He needs is your invitation, so why don’t you go ahead and ask Him to assist you right now?


Lord, I ask You to please forgive me for allowing negative thoughts about others to consume me. Even though I don’t like what they did to me, I have no right to be bitter and resentful. I realize now that I am acting just as ugly inwardly as they acted outwardly. In Your eyes, my sin is just as bad as theirs. I am truly sorry for allowing these attitudes to grow inside me, Lord. To the best of my ability, I turn right now from the wrong thoughts that have been consuming me, and I choose instead to speak well of those who have offended or hurt me. Holy Spirit, help me uproot those wrong feelings from my heart and replace them with love and forgiveness. I pray this in Jesus’ name!


Pastor Rusty

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Thoughts from 2 Chronicles 7:14

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

I pray you are having a blessed day!

I want to share with you just a few thoughts today from God's Word.

2 Chronicles 7:14 "if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land." NIV

Some very powerful and important principles are listed in this one verse of scripture.

Allow me to highlight a few things:

1) IF... Such a big conjunction. If represents a condition to a promise.

2) My People who are called by my Name.....
God was making a promise to HIS FOLLOWERS that are called by HIS NAME.

3) Condition #1: Humble themselves
When I think of the word humility, I think of realizing "it's not all about me and my agenda".

4) Condition #2: Pray
We need to be in relationship with Him. Relationship involves effective communication which, in turn, includes talking as well as listening.

5) Condition #3: Seek His Face
This is a powerful one. Seeking His Face again is about relationship, but it goes further than just praying. It denotes an intimate relationship. So, we must, not just pray, but know Him intimately.

6) Condition #4: Turn From Your Wicked Ways
This is an automatic response to intimate relationship with God. When we are close enough to Him to "seek His face", then our reaction will be to change, to be more like Him~ to turn from our wicked ways.

7) Promise #1: I will hear from heaven.
When our lives line up with His will for us, then He is able to hear our requests.

8) Promise #2: I will forgive their sin.
We can't get what we don't ask for. When we ask for forgiveness, He gives if freely!

9) Promise #3: I will heal their land.
A national blessing from a personal intercession. This is where we are in America! We need God to heal our land.

I will share more regularly next week. My prayer is that you are praying for our nation and that our hearts will be turned to Him during this crucial time in our country!

Pastor Rusty