Tuesday, November 25, 2008

God is there for all of the days that end in "WHY"

I was listening to my music of choice (Southern Gospel), when a song came on entitled, "God is there for all of the days that end in Y" I got to thinking about that. That means He is there Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday! Each day of the week ends in "Y". He is with us and for us everyday of the week.

But as listened a little closer to the song, I realized that the message was deeper than that. The song was saying that He is also there for all of the days that end in why! Wow! And we have all had them haven't we? Days that end in "why". Anyway we look at it, we just can't figure out why.

Why did my daugther die so young? Why did my husband die at the prime of his life? Why did God not heal my dad of cancer? Why did my parents get a divorce? Why did my wife leave me? Why am I struggling financially when I pay tithes? Why is my life such a mess even though I'm a christian? Why did I lose my job? Why do I feel so alone? Why do I feel like my prayers aren't getting above the ceiling?

I could go on and on with different "why's". Did you know that Jesus dealt with "why's" as well?
Please read the following from Mark 15:33-34:

Mar 15:33-34 And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. (34) And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?" which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

Jesus was in the darkest time of His earthly life, He had twice in His ministry heard a voice from heaven say, "This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased." Once when He was baptized, and the other when He was transfigured. Why no voice from heaven now? Where was God the Father? Where was the affirmation? The physical pain was so intense, but so now was the spiritual. Jesus hadn't heard from His Father. Had He forgotten Him? Was He now all alone?

The physical pain created spiritual pain which led to emotional pain. Jesus couldn't take it any more and He cried out with a loud voice..."My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?" There it is, Jesus' why. We know that Jesus dies, and after three days resurrects with victory over death, hell and the grave. It doesn't change the fact that Jesus suffered through the Why's of life.

There are some of you who are reading this blog today that are walking through the valley of why. You can't understand the pain, the loss, the frustration, the quietness from heaven. What is up God? Do you not care anymore? Do you not see me anymore? My God, WHY have you forsaken me?

My friend, please be reminded that just as God the Father had not forsaken Jesus, He has not forsaken you. His ways and thoughts are hard to fathom:

Isaiah 55:8-9 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. (9) For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

To help make this point, I would like to borrow a paragraph from Mark Batterson's "In a pit with a Lion on a snowy day":

Astronomers have spied galaxies 12.3 billion light-years from earth. To put that distance into perspective, consider the fact that light traveling 186,000 miles per second only takes eight minutes to travel the 93 million miles between the sun and planet earth. Sunlight is only eight minutes old. But light from the furthest galaxy takes 12.3 billion years to get here. That distance is virtually incomprehensible! And God says that that is about the distance between His thoughts and our thoughts. Your best thought about God on your best day falls 12.3 billion light years short of how great and how good God really is. We underestimate God's goodness and greatness by at least 12.3 billion light years.

Just remember, when you can't figure out what is going on in your life, when you don't understand the why's, that Jesus really is there for every day that ends in why. Blessings!

Pastor Rusty

Friday, November 21, 2008

Praising God with Psalms

I love the book of Psalms. It is a collection of songs that the Hebrews would sing as they would dance and praise God. I believe that we should use Psalms more than we do in our prayer life. We can do this by speaking the Psalm out loud as we read them and personalize them. Let's look at a few of my favorite Psalms:

"Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth. Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. Know that the LORD is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations." (Psalm 100)

"My heart is steadfast, O God; I will sing and make music with all my soul. Awake, harp and lyre! I will awaken the dawn. I will praise you, O LORD, among the nations; I will sing of you among the peoples. For great is your love, higher than the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the skies. Be exalted, O God, above the heavens, and let your glory be over all the earth." (Psalm 108)

"Praise the LORD. Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens. Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness. Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise him with the harp and lyre, praise him with tambourine and dancing, praise him with the strings and flute, praise him with the clash of cymbals, praise him with resounding cymbals. Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD." (Psalm 150)

Try praying some of the prayers and praises in the Bible by personalizing them. For example, Psalm 150 starts with:

"Praise the LORD. Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens. Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness."

Now try personalizing it like this:

"I praise You, LORD. I praise You in Your sanctuary; I praise You in Your mighty heavens. I praise You for Your acts of power; I praise You for Your surpassing greatness."

Just go on and on, showering Him with sincere praise and adoration. He is worthy and He desires your love and devotion!

When we study the Psalms to see how God likes to be praised, we find that we should rejoice in the Lord, we should sing joyfully to Him, we should praise Him by clapping our hands and shouting for joy, we should strike the tambourine and burst into jubilant song with music, and we should praise Him with dancing and with the clash of cymbals! The Psalms describe jubilant, loud, emotional, unrestrained, joyful worship from a heart filled with love and praise and rejoicing! The following psalms were written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, which means that this is how God wants to be praised! Are we willing to be obedient?

"Clap your hands, all you nations; shout to God with cries of joy. How awesome is the LORD Most High, the great King over all the earth! He subdued nations under us, peoples under our feet. He chose our inheritance for us, the pride of Jacob, whom he loved. Selah. God has ascended amid shouts of joy, the LORD amid the sounding of trumpets. Sing praises to God, sing praises; sing praises to our King, sing praises. For God is the King of all the earth; sing to him a psalm of praise." (Psalm 47:1-7)

"Shout with joy to God, all the earth! Sing the glory of his name; make his praise glorious! Say to God, "How awesome are your deeds! So great is your power that your enemies cringe before you. All the earth bows down to you; they sing praise to you, they sing praise to your name." Selah" (Psalm 66:1-4)

"Sing for joy to God our strength; shout aloud to the God of Jacob! Begin the music, strike the tambourine, play the melodious harp and lyre." (Psalm 81:1-2)

"Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song. For the LORD is the great God, the great King above all gods." (Psalm 95:1-3)

"Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth, burst into jubilant song with music; make music to the LORD with the harp, with the harp and the sound of singing, with trumpets and the blast of the ram's horn-- shout for joy before the LORD, the King." (Psalm 98:4-6)

"Praise the LORD. Sing to the LORD a new song, his praise in the assembly of the saints. Let Israel rejoice in their Maker; let the people of Zion be glad in their King. Let them praise his name with dancing and make music to him with tambourine and harp." (Psalm 149:1-3)

"Praise the LORD. Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens. Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness. Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise him with the harp and lyre, praise him with tambourine and dancing, praise him with the strings and flute, praise him with the clash of cymbals, praise him with resounding cymbals. Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD." (Psalm 150:1-6)

The Bible tells us that "the joy of the LORD is your strength" (Nehemiah 8:10). The New Testament tells us that by believing in Him and loving Him we are "filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy" (1 Peter 1:8). We are commanded to "Be joyful always" (1 Thessalonians 5:16) because "the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace..." (Galatians 5:22). Jesus says that He wants us to have "the full measure of my joy" within us (John 17:13) so that "[our] joy may be complete" (John 15:11). In the Beatitudes, Jesus tells us that when we are insulted and rejected because of Him we should "Rejoice in that day and leap for joy" (Luke 6:23).

Too many times we believe that praise, worship and thanksgiving are things that you do in a church service or setting. I do not believe that is the way God wants it. We should DAILY and on all occasions give God praise and worship. Why not start right now? I plan to! Blessings!

Pastor Rusty

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Learn to enjoy the CONTENTS of life by being CONTENT

I woke up this morning with a keen awareness of how blessed I really am. Oh, I recognize it regularly, but I was overwhelmed by it today. A spirit of thanksgiving came over me. I began to name the blessings that God has placed into my life. On that list were several things that I take for granted. I believe that many of us have developed an attitude of complaining rather than an attitude of thanksgiving and we don't even realize it.

Listen to what Paul said in Philippians 2:14-15:

Philippians 2:14-15 Do all things without grumbling and faultfinding and complaining [against God] and questioning and doubting [among yourselves], (15) That you may show yourselves to be blameless and guileless, innocent and uncontaminated, children of God without blemish (faultless, unrebukable) in the midst of a crooked and wicked generation [spiritually perverted and perverse], among whom you are seen as bright lights (stars or beacons shining out clearly) in the [dark] world,

We don't realize that when we complain, we are saying that God isn't caring for us like He should. We rob Him of the praise and Thanksgiving that He so deserves.

  • We complain about the price of groceries instead of offering Him thanks that we can afford to buy food.
  • We complain about our spiritual struggles instead of offering Him thanks that Jesus died on the cross for my salvation.

  • We complain about the price of gasoline instead of offering Him thanks that we have a vehicle.

  • We complain about how messy our families are instead of offering Him thanks that we have a family.

  • We complain about how much our kids fight instead of offering Him thanks for our children.

  • We complain about our country instead of offering Him thanks that we live in the greatest nation in the world.

  • We complain about our spouse instead of offering Him thanks that we are married.

  • We complain that we don't feel very well instead of offering Him thanks that we are alive.

  • We complain that we don't make enough money instead of offering Him thanks that we have more wealth that a large percentage of the world

  • We complain about the traffic jam on the interstate instead of offering Him thanks that we are not causing the jam due to car problems or an accident.

  • We complain about the music of our church instead of offering Him thanks that we have the right and freedom to worship God in our church

  • We complain about the problems that have to be fixed in our house instead of offering Him thanks for our house.

  • We complain about how busy we are today instead of offering Him thanks for this day

I could go on and on. I (we) can very easily become a complainer. That is why my theme verse is Psalm 118:24, "This is the day that the Lord has made, we will rejoice and be glad in it." I have to remind myself often that I choose to be full of thanksgiving and not complaining… TODAY. I have to take one day at a time. I often teach on how we need to enjoy each season of our lives. Well, I actually believe that we need to enjoy each minute of each day, or each season of our lives. How do we do that? Develop an attitude of gratitude.

Listen to what Paul says in Philippians 4:11-12:

Philippians 4:11-12 Actually, I don't have a sense of needing anything personally. I've learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. (12) I'm just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I've found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty.

He says, "I have learned to be content in every circumstance." Being content is something you have to learn. You learn it through your daily choices. You will never be content as long as you make the choice of complaining! However, when you strive to give thanks daily, you will slowly but surely become content, regardless what comes along in your life.

I love the CONTENTS of my life (Salvation, family, home, vehicles, etc), but I will never be CONTENT in my life until I daily choose to give God thanks before I bring my needs or complaints before Him. It is the absolute least that I can do for a God who has blessed me abundantly.

So my prayer today is: "Lord, help me to enjoy the CONTENTS of my life by learning to be CONTENT in my life. I become content by becoming a daily, habitual thanks giver!"


Pastor Rusty

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Practice these things

Have you ever been reading God's Word, and you can't get past a certain passage for several days? Well, that is what has happened to me the past four days. God has kept me in Philippians 4:4-9 and has been speaking into my spirit. Let me share a little bit with you.

I love Philippians 4:9. There are four things in this verse that Paul says we should "practice these things" and if we do, the God of peace will be with you.

Philippians 4:9 What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me--practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

Remember that Paul said in 1 Corinthians 11:1 "Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ." There are many that say, "Don't follow me, I may lead you astray", yet here is Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit saying, "Follow me..." There is a big difference between worshipping someone, and following their example. No one should worship us, but everyone should be able to follow our example if we are Christian men and women. We should, like Paul, be able to say, follow me as I follow Christ. To better examine how good of an example we are, we need to look closely at Philippians 4:9 and what Paul says.

First of all he says, what you have LEARNED from me, put it into practice. For us to tell people to "practice what you have learned from me", we must first ask ourselves the following question: What am I TEACHING? Are those who are around me learning forgiveness from me? How about faith? Worry? Fear? Anger and frustration? Joy? Patience?

Before I tell people to put into practice what they have learned from me, I better make sure that I am following Jesus in what my life is teaching.

Secondly, Paul says what you have received from me put into practice. Now we need to ask ourselves the question, what am I giving? Am I giving of my time? Am I willing to sacrifice? One of the most powerful stories in the Bible is found in 2 Samuel 24. Let me share a little bit of it with you:

2 Samuel 24:21-25 Araunah said, "Why has my lord the king come to his servant?" "To buy your threshing floor," David answered, "so I can build an altar to the LORD, that the plague on the people may be stopped." (22) Araunah said to David, "Let my lord the king take whatever pleases him and offer it up. Here are oxen for the burnt offering, and here are threshing sledges and ox yokes for the wood. (23) O king, Araunah gives all this to the king." Araunah also said to him, "May the LORD your God accept you." (24) But the king replied to Araunah, "No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing." So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen and paid fifty shekels of silver for them. (25) David built an altar to the LORD there and sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings. Then the LORD answered prayer in behalf of the land, and the plague on Israel was stopped.

Before we say to those around us, put into practice what you have received from me, we must examine what we are giving. Do we, like David, say and MEAN, "I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing." We have some who's worship of God depends upon the style of music that is being played. My friends, true worship is a matter of the heart and not of style. Worship never has been about style and never will be. If it is for you, then I am afraid that you haven't found the essence of worship. What are you willing to give to the Lord? What price are you willing to pay in worship to your God? David was concerned with what he was giving to the Lord. May we be as well.

Thirdly, Paul said what you have heard from me put into practice. I need to ask myself, what am I saying? If I encourage people to put into practice what they have heard from me, I better watch my tongue and my words. Proverbs 18:21 says, "Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits."

The message puts the same verse like this: "Words kill, words give life; they're either poison or fruit--you choose." "Oh be careful little tongue what you say" because your words are impacting more people that you can imagine.

Finally, Paul said what you have seen in me put into practice. I need to ask myself what I am doing. My daily decisions: the places I go, the way I place myself in compromising situations, the way I refuse to avoid the very appearance of evil, the words I speak, the habits I develop (good and bad) impact people. I need to be careful what I do.

Paul said, "Follow me as I follow Christ" by practicing what you learned, received, heard and received from me. When you do, God's peace will be with you.

As I have studied this, the Holy Spirit has asked me over and over again, "as people follow you, where will it lead them?" Ask yourself that question. Will your example lead people closer to Christ, or further from Him? It really is something to think about, and re-examine. Amen? Blessings!

Pastor Rusty

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Lost Art

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

I have been reading different verses the past few days on Thanksgiving. As we get closer and closer to Thanksgiving Day, I have purposely turned my heart towards thanksgiving. I have determined to count my blessings and give God thanks. I am afraid that "thanksgiving" has become a lost art. Being unthankful is one of the signs of the time. In other words, a sign that Jesus is preparing to come back to this earth. God's Word tells us that "perilous times" would come, and part of those troubling times would be how arrogantly unthankful this world would become. My prayer is that we all slow down TODAY, and give God thanks for His blessings.

Throughout history, many cultures have set aside a time for expressing their thankfulness. In the US, Thanksgiving Day originated with the pilgrims. In the midst of extreme hardship, loss of loved ones, and meager supplies, they still believed they were blessed. They chose to celebrate God's blessings by sharing a meal with Native Americans who had helped them survive.

We know we've lost the spirit of that original celebration when we catch ourselves complaining that our Thanksgiving Day has been "spoiled" by bad weather, disappointing food, or a bad cold. It's we who are spoiled—spoiled by the very blessings that should make every day a day of thanksgiving, whatever our circumstances.

Let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. —Hebrews 13:15

Billy Graham wrote, "Ingratitude is a sin, just as surely as is lying or stealing or immorality or any other sin condemned by the Bible." He then quoted Romans 1:21, one of the Bible's indictments against rebellious humanity. Then Dr. Graham added, "Nothing turns us into bitter, selfish, dissatisfied people more quickly than an ungrateful heart. And nothing will do more to restore contentment and the joy of our salvation than a true spirit of thankfulness."

We can read much about thanksgiving in the book of Colossians. The apostle Paul had never been to the church in Colosse, but he had heard all about it from Epaphras. He knew it was a church under attack by false teachers, so he prayed fervently for this congregation (Colossians 1:9-14; 2:4-7).

Among his requests, Paul asked that they would give joyful thanks to the Father because He had rescued them, moving them from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of His Son (1:12-13).

Then he told them to make sure and: Let the peace of God rule in your hearts, . . . and be thankful. —Colossians 3:15

We too need to be thankful for what Christ has done for us.

Thankfulness seems to be a lost art today. Warren Wiersbe illustrated this problem in his commentary on Colossians. He told about a ministerial student in Evanston, Illinois, who was part of a life-saving squad. In 1860, a ship went aground on the shore of Lake Michigan near Evanston, and Edward Spencer waded again and again into the frigid waters to rescue 17 passengers. In the process, his health was permanently damaged. Some years later at his funeral, it was noted that not one of the people he rescued ever thanked him.

Let's take time often to recall how God has rescued us from eternal death and has given us eternal life through His Son. May we "continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name." Let's make certain that we never allow thanking the Father to become a lost art. Amen? Blessings!

Pastor Rusty

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Lord is at hand

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

We started looking at Thanksgiving this past Friday, and we will continue to do this as we lead up to Thanksgiving Day.

A few moments ago, during our Staff prayer time, the Lord really ministered to me from Philippians 4:4-9. I would like to share a few of these thoughts with you:

Philippians 4:4-9 4 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. 8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9 What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

Philippians is my favorite book of the Bible, so I've read through it several times. However, as I was reading this morning, I knew the Holy Spirit was wanting to show me something. I reread verse 5, and there it was The Lord is at hand. Think about that for a moment...The Lord is at hand, very near. When you get ahold of that, then you really understand the premise of everything Paul is telling us.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Paul was in prison as he wrote this phrase, not knowing how long he was going to live. How could he be rejoicing during this difficult time of his life? Because he knew, without a doubt that The Lord is at hand.

5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. It's difficult when you are in prison being treated as inferior, and many times less than human, how in the world could Paul be reasonable? The Lord is at hand.

6 do not be anxious about anything, Now, this is truly a difficult one, because I am naturally an anxious person. I battle worry on a regular basis. However, Paul in prison, not knowing whether he was going to see tomorrow or not writes to you and me and says, don't be anxious about anything. Wow! How can we not be anxious? Is that feasible? Only when you realize what he did...The Lord is at hand.

but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. Now, Paul takes it a step further. Not only should we not be anxious about anything, but in everything we bring our needs to God with thanksgiving. It doesn't matter how difficult the situation you are facing today, it fits into this everything and regardless of how upset you are about it, the way to bring it to God is through thanksgiving. How can we do this? Remembering that The Lord is at hand!

7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. My friends, when we understand that even when we don't feel Him at all, The Lord is at hand, then we WILL walk in the peace of God that we can't even begin to understand, and that peace will guard our hearts and minds from fear, doubt, anxiety, etc.

8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Paul then explains to us, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the boundaries of what we should think and dwell on. These eight things should be the litmus test of what we allow into thought life. This thought that I am tempted with, is it: true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, praise worthy? If it is, then think on it. If it isn't, then push it out of your mind. When you have a legitimate concern, how can you keep it from causing depression in your life? Remember, The Lord is at hand.

9 What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. And finally, Paul encourages everyone to put into practice what they had seen in him and God's peace would follow. How could he say that? Because he really, really knew that The Lord is at hand.
My question for all of us today is this: Can we truly tell people that if they put into practice what they see in us then God's peace will follow? Or would what we show people lead them to stomach ulcers and fear?

The key is to remember today, whatever happens, whatever you go through that The Lord is at hand. Oh, by the way, at hand actually means very near! That is "shoutin ground!" Blessings!

Pastor Rusty

Friday, November 14, 2008


It is so to complain, gripe and bellyache, and forget how blessed we really are. Remember the ten lepers in the Bible (Luke 17:11-19)? All ten were healed, but only ONE returned to give glory to God after he had been healed. That is 10% of those who had been blessed beyond measure, slowed down enough to say "Thanks Lord!"

What about you? What about me? Are we thankful? Or do we have a tendency to complain?
Philippians 2:14 says, "Do everything without complaining or arguing"

A good question for us today is, "Am I filled with THANKSGIVING or COMPLAINING?"

David C. Egner writes: While I was teaching at a Christian college, a talented young man pushed his way into my life. He needed one more course to graduate, so he decided that I should give him an independent study in writing. He would be everlastingly grateful if I would just do this--even though it required extra work on my part. The college dean agreed to the idea because of the young man's abilities.

What a headache! He skipped appointments, missed deadlines, and rejected my evaluations of his writing. He even turned in the last assignment just hours before graduation. After all that was done for him, you'd think he would have been grateful. But he didn't express one word of thanks on graduation day nor in all the years since.

I don't ever want to be that kind of person. I would rather be like David. When he was in deep trouble, he called out to the Lord for help (Ps. 28:1-2). Afterward, he remembered to give God thanks for delivering him (vv.6-7). In fact, David's heart of gratitude toward the Lord is evident throughout the book of Psalms.

"Dear Abby" is a popular syndicated newspaper column, Started in 1956 by Abigail Van Buren, the advice column is written today by her daughter Jeanne Phillips. In an edition a few years ago, she included this Thanksgiving Prayer written many years before by her mother:

O Heavenly Father:
We thank Thee for food
and remember the hungry.
We thank Thee for health
and remember the sick.
We thank Thee for friends
and remember the friendless.
We thank Thee for freedom
and remember the enslaved.
May these remembrances
stir us to service.
That Thy gifts to us may be used
for others. Amen.

The words of this prayer echo the clear teaching of Scripture. Our thanksgiving to God should always be accompanied by thinking of those in need.

"Therefore," said the writer to the Hebrews, "by [Jesus] let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name" (Hebrews 13:15).

But there is more to it than thankfulness. We are to put actions behind our gratitude. "Do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased" (v.16).
Be thankful for God's many blessings, but be sure to remember those who have less.

What about us? Do we have an ungrateful response to the Lord's graciousness? Or are we, like David, unceasingly expressing our thanks to God for His goodness?

Is there someone whose kindness I've been taking for granted? How can I show that person gratitude today? In what ways can I show my gratitude to God? When you count your blessings, it adds up to thankfulness. At least it should. Amen? Blessings!

Pastor Rusty

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Word became Flesh

John 1:14 tells us that "the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth."

I am so thankful that the only "begotten" Son of our Heavenly Father was willing to become man and live among us to not only die for our sins, but to show us how to live.

I love Max Lucado and read everything he writes. I have never heard anyone explain this kind of love (John 1:14) any better than Max. Please read and comtemplate the following:

He could have given up. No one would have known otherwise. Jesus could have given up.

One look at the womb could have discouraged him. God is as unbridled as the air and limitless as the sky. Would he reduce his world to the belly of a girl for nine months? He could have given up. If not, at least he could have stopped short. Did he have to become flesh?

How about becoming light? Her is an idea. Heaven could open, and Christ could fall on the earth in the form of a white light. And then in the light there could be a voice, a booming, thundering, teeth-shaking voice. Toss in a gust of wind and the angels for background vocals, and the whole world notices!

And the stable. Is that not yet another reason for Christ to back out? Stables are smelly, dirty. How are they going to cut the umbilical cord? And who is going to cut the umbilical cord? Joseph? A small-time carpenter from a one-camel town? Is there not a better father for God? Someone with an education, a pedigree. Someone with a bit of clout? This fellow couldn’t even swing a room at the hotel. You think he’s got what it takes to be the father to the Maker of the universe?

Jesus could have given up. Imagine the change he had to make, the distance he had to travel. What would it be like to become flesh?

This question surfaced as I was golfing recently. Waiting my turn to putt, I squatted down to clean my ball and noticed a mountain of ants beside it. Must have been dozens of them, all over each other. A pyramid of motion at least half an inch tall.

I don’t know what you think when you see ants on a green as you are waiting to putt. But here is what I thought. Why are you guys all bunched up? You have the whole green. Why, the entire golf course is yours to spread out in. Then it occurred to me. These ants are nervous. Who could blame them? They live under a constant meteor shower. Every few minutes a dimpled orb comes crashing into their world. Bam! Bam! Bam! Just when the bombing stops, the mallet-swinging giants arrive. If you survive their feet and sticks, they roll a meteor at you. A golf green is no place for an ant.

So I tried to help them. Leaning down where they could hear me, I invited, “Come on, follow me. We’ll find a nice spot in the rough. I know it well.” Not one looked in my direction. “Hey, ants!” Still no reply. Then I realized, I don’t speak their language. I don’t speak Ant. Pretty fluent in the idiom of Uncle, but I don’t speak Ant.

So what could I do to reach them? Only one thing. I needed to become an ant. Go from six feet inches to teeny-weeny. From 200+ pounds to tenths of an ounce. Swap my big world for their tiny one. Give up burgers and start eating grass. “No thanks,” I said. Besides, it was my turn to putt.

Love goes the distance…and Christ traveled from limitless eternity to be confined by time in order to become one of us. He didn’t have to. He could have given up. At any step along the way he could have called it quits.

When he saw the size of the womb, he could have stopped.

When he saw how tiny his hand would be, how soft his voice would be, how hungry his tummy would be, he could have stopped. At the first whiff of the stinky stable, at the first gust of cold air. The first time he scraped his knee or blew his nose or tasted burnt bagels, he could have turned and walked out.

When he saw the dirt floor of his Nazareth house. When Joseph gave him a chore to do. When his fellow students were dozing off during the reading of the Torah, his Torah. When the neighbor took his name in vain. When the lazy farmer blamed his poor crop on God. At any point Jesus could have said, “That’s it! That’s enough! I’m going home.” But he didn’t.

He didn’t, because he is love. And “love…endures all things” (1 Cor. 13:4-7 NKJV). Blessings!

Pastor Rusty

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

God doesn’t GIVE UP

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

Have you ever felt like God has forsaken you? Have you ever felt like your prayers aren't getting above the ceiling? If you have felt this way, please understand that you are not alone. Even Jesus felt that way.

Matthew 27:37-47 Above his head they placed the written charge against him: THIS IS JESUS, THE KING OF THE JEWS. (38) Two robbers were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left. (39) Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads (40) and saying, "You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!" (41) In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. (42) "He saved others," they said, "but he can't save himself! He's the King of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. (43) He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, 'I am the Son of God.'" (44) In the same way the robbers who were crucified with him also heaped insults on him. (45) From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land. (46) About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?"—which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (47) When some of those standing there heard this, they said, "He's calling Elijah."

How do I know God is with me? What if this is all a hoax? How do you know that is God who is speaking?

The thick and dreadful darkness of doubt. The same darkness you feel when you sit on a polished pew in a funeral chapel and listen to the obituary of the one you love more than life.

The same darkness that you feel when you hear the words, "The tumor is malignant. We have to operate."

The same darkness that falls upon you when you realize you just lost your temper.. . again.

The same darkness you feel when you realize that the divorce you never wanted is final.

The same darkness into which Jesus screamed, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Appropriate words. For when we doubt, God seems very far away. Which is exactly why he chose to draw so near.

Listen to some words from Max Lucado about the fact that God NEVER gives up:

Throughout time, though God's people often forgot their God, God didn't forget them. He kept his word. God didn't give up. He never gives up.

When Joseph was dropped into a pit by his own brothers, God didn't give up.

When Moses said, "Here I am, send Aaron," God didn't give up.

When the delivered Israelites wanted Egyptian slavery instead of milk and honey, God didn't give up.

When Aaron was making a false god at the very moment Moses was with the true God, God didn't give up.

When only two of the ten spies thought the Creator was powerful enough to deliver the created, God didn't give up.

When Samson whispered to Delilah, when Saul roared after David, when David schemed against Uriah, God didn't give up.

When God's word lay forgotten and man's idols stood glistening, God didn't give up.

When the children of Israel were taken into captivity God didn't give up.

He could have given up. He could have turned his back. He could have walked away from the wretched mess, but he didn't. He didn't give up.

When he became flesh and was the victim of an assassination attempt before he was two years old, he didn't give up.

When the people from his own home town tried to push him over a cliff; he didn't give up.

When his brothers ridiculed him, he didn't give up.

When he was accused of blaspheming God by people who didn't fear God, he didn't give up.

When Peter worshiped him at the supper and cursed him at the fire, he didn't give up.

When people spat in his face, he didn't spit back. When the bystanders slapped him, he didn't slap them. When a whip ripped his sides, he didn't turn and command the awaiting angels to stuff that whip down that soldier's throat.

And when human hands fastened the divine hands to a cross with spikes, it wasn't the soldiers who held the hands of Jesus steady. It was God who held them steady. For those wounded hands were the same invisible hands that had carried the firepot and the torch two thousand years earlier. They were the same hands that had brought light into Abram's thick and dreadful darkness. They had come to do it again.

So, the next time doubt walks in, escort him out. Out to the hill. Out to Calvary. Out to the cross where, with holy blood, the hand that carried the flame wrote the promise, "God would give up his only son before he'd give up on you." Blessings!

Pastor Rusty

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

“They’re driving me WACKO!”

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

I would like to talk with you today about lessons that God is teaching us as we deal with difficult people. The Word of God tells us that "iron sharpens iron." That person that you have a hard time getting along with, do you see them as someone God is using to develop His character in you? It is so easy to find ourselves praying, "Lord deliver me from problematic people. They are driving me WACKO." However, the only way you will ever be delivered from people is when you go to heaven. So, let's look at what Paul teaches about this subject.

From Paul's words in 2 Cor. 12:8, it seems that he had prayed to be delivered of problem people on three different occasions during his ministry. He wanted to be free of these people so desperately that he said, "For this thing I besought the Lord thrice."

The word "besought" is the Greek word parakaleo, an intense word that is derived from the Greek words para and kaleo. The word para means alongside, and the word kaleo means to call or to beckon. When compounded together into the word parakaleo, the new word pictures one who comes alongside someone else, as close as he can get, and then begins to passionately call out, plead, beckon, beg, and beseech that other person to do something on his behalf.

In using the word parakaleo in this verse, Paul lets us know that he had passionately asked God to answer this prayer. Paul had drawn as near to God as he possibly could; then once he was in that close position, he earnestly pleaded with God, asking Him to deliver him from that thorn in his flesh and from the messenger of Satan that buffeted and constantly harassed him

Paul tells us that he asked God to cause this thorn in the flesh to "depart" from him. The word "depart" is the Greek word aphistimi, which means to depart or to remove and as a rule it is used to refer to people rather than things. The use of this Greek word amplifies the fact that Paul was praying to be freed of problem people! He was literally saying, "God, I don't want to deal with these people anymore. I earnestly ask You to please remove them from my life!" However, even if God did remove this particular group of people that caused Paul such trouble, it wouldn't be long until another group of problem people showed up!

As long as we live in this world, we will have to deal with people whom we don't enjoy or whom the devil tries to use to steal our joy and peace. If we constantly focus on getting rid of people we don't like or enjoy, we'll be praying to be delivered from people for the rest of our lives.

That's why the Lord told Paul, "My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness." (2 Corinthians 12:9). The word "sufficient" is the Greek word arkeo. This is an old Greek word that means to be sufficient; to be satisfactory; and to give protection, power, and help. In later Greek, it denoted a man who possessed great financial means. This type of person was sufficiently endowed with huge resources that were more than enough for him or for any endeavor he would ever attempt. Hence, he was financially strong or financially sufficient.

This is precisely the word the Lord used when He told Paul, "My grace is sufficient for thee." It was the equivalent of the Lord saying, "My grace is more than enough to protect you, empower you, and help you deal with the problem people you encounter in life. You will find that My grace is completely satisfactory in meeting your need and that it will make you sufficiently strong to deal with these situations."

Just like Paul, we may occasionally feel exasperated and incapable in our own strength to victoriously cope with troublesome people; nonetheless, the Lord gives us His promise: "My strength is made perfect in weakness." The word "strength" in this verse comes from the Greek word dunamis, the word for dynamic power. This is a strength that always releases sufficient power and possesses the ability to make needed changes. God knew that Paul needed a new surge of divine power that would change his perspective and empower him to successfully overcome his struggles with people.

The Lord knew that Paul felt insufficient in his own strength to successfully deal with these people.

But if Paul would open his heart to the Lord, God's promise was that His strength would be made "perfect" in his weakness. Here is the answer that Paul and you and I need when we feel exhausted in dealing with troublesome people and relationships. The word "perfect" is the word teleo, which means perfection, completion, or something that is mature. But the Greek tense used in this verse accentuates continuing action, which is a very important point! It means that this inflow of supernatural, strengthening power is not what God only does sometimes; it is power that God makes available at all times if we will only receive it. The verse could be translated, "My power is constantly being perfected in you whenever you feel weak and needy."

It's all right to pray for others to be changed, but never forget that God wants to do a work inside you as well! He wants to change you so that you can successfully live in the midst of imperfect people. If you'll open your heart to receive what God has for you, He will fill you with His dynamic, supernatural power - divine power that will transform your thinking and inwardly fortify you to live successfully in this world. You'll be able to cope with the problem people you have to deal with - and you'll do it all with joy, peace, and victory! God will strengthen you and help you overcome your own weaknesses, making you sufficiently strong to handle every people challenge that ever comes your way! Those people that are "driving you WACKO" are the very ones God is using to teach you more about His grace and strength! Blessings.

Pastor Rusty

Monday, November 10, 2008

I Plead the blood of Jesus

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

One of my favorite themes in the Bible is the Blood of Jesus. Every single day I pray five things over my family:

1. I plead the Blood of Jesus over their body, soul and spirit
2. I ask God to encamp His angels round about them
3. I ask God to bless them indeed (1 Chronicles 4:9-10)
4. I ask God for goodness and mercy to follow them today

5. I ask God for them to dwell in the house of the Lord today (His presence)

I believe strongly in the power of the Blood. As we plead the blood of Jesus, we are not BEGGING at all. Quite the contrary, we are claiming our legal rights. Just like someone "pleads the fifth" amendment and the "right to remain silent", when I plead the blood of Jesus, I am claiming my legal rights over the enemy of my soul. I challenge you to began to claim/plead the Blood of Jesus daily. Too many of our churches are moving away from talk about Jesus' blood. That is a mistake, and a tragedy.

Do our churches need to be more seeker-friendly? Absolutely! Should we develop our gifts to a higher level, then offer them to God? Yes! But there are some things church attendance won't fix and talent can't do. Only the blood of Jesus can lift you out of a family under the sentence of death, and place you in one that offers pardon, peace and purpose, not to mention a heavenly home that makes the richest folks in your town look like they're living on skid-row.

Ever hear of "the wages of sin?" Every rebellious act goes on your account. And those payments add up. You can roll them over, but eventually they've got to be paid. Right? Well, God recognizes only one currency - the blood of Jesus. "The blood… makes atonement" (Leviticus 17:11 NKJV). The word atonement just means at-one-ment! Atonement wipes out the debt, bridges the gap and makes you one with God.

Furthermore, the blood of Jesus draws a line in the sand over which Satan dare not step. Listen: "They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony" (Revelation 12:11).

Each time you testify to what the blood has done for you, Satan is silenced. Each time you say, "I plead the blood", he retreats; he must, he's no other option. In Exodus, even the death angel had to back off once the blood had been applied to the doorposts. And it's the same with you. Study the message of the blood. Learn to use its power and walk in victory every day.

God designed blood to deliver oxygen and nutrition to your cells; without it your limbs and organs die. Your white cells are uniquely qualified to act as a "militia", attacking harmful bacteria that could otherwise kill you. And your physical body illustrates the function of Jesus' blood in the church, which is His body. Paul says, "A body is made up of many parts, and each… has its own use. That's how it is with us… we are… part of the body of Christ, as well as… of one another" (Romans 12:4-5 CEV).

Regardless of morality, maturity or rank, we all need the sin-cleansing, life-giving power of the blood. Without it we've no proof of our son-ship. Just as a doctor draws blood to verify who your earthly father is, the blood of Jesus makes us "[sons and] heir[s], with complete access to [our spiritual] inheritance" (Galatians 4:7 TM).

Strength and nourishment, plus every promise and blessing, flow to us today through the blood of Jesus. And Satan hates it because not only does it redeem us, it "makes our consciences clear… we can serve… God and no longer do things that lead to death" (Hebrews 9:14 CEV).

One Christian teacher writes: "We've toned down our teaching of the blood… We've learned about the Spirit… but failed to teach about the blood. Consequently we've produced a generation of believers who are empowered by the Spirit but don't feel forgiven… They're exercising spiritual gifts, but living in guilt… The blood must be preached. Without it we've no life." So let's emphasize the power of the blood. Why? "Without the… blood, there is no forgiveness of sin" (Hebrews 9:22 NLT).

Ever notice when somebody sins or falls short in an area that we relate to, we're quick to give thanks that Jesus' blood covers all our sins! But if that person happens to fail in an area where we're strong, often our first inclination is to feel morally superior and want to deny them the blood's cleansing power.

Sin affects each of us differently according to our background and disposition. But regardless of the symptoms it's the same disease, and there's only one remedy - the blood of Jesus. Without that we're all in trouble; black, white, rich, poor, homosexual, heterosexual, drug addict and alcoholic alike. Jesus' blood is the only thing that makes forgiveness and a clean slate possible, regardless of what we've done.

The Bible says that Jesus "created… a fresh start for everybody… through His death… Christ came and preached peace to… outsiders and… insiders… treated us as equals… through Him we… have equal access to the Father… You belong here, with as much right to the name Christian as anyone… He's using us all - irrespective of how we got here."

Don't for a second think that you have unlimited access to God's mercy and forgiveness, then deny that same access to your brother and sister in Christ! The Bible says, "If someone falls into sin, forgivingly restore him, saving your critical comments for yourself." Why? Because, "You might be needing forgiveness before the day's out" (Galatians 6:1 TM).

In other words, don't burn the bridge you yourself might need to cross some day. If you're secretly harboring a condescending attitude about somebody else's failures today, you need to repent and allow the blood of Jesus to cleanse you. Blessings!

Pastor Rusty

Friday, November 7, 2008

Post-Election Thoughts

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

There are many thoughts and much discussion going on around our nation with the election of President Elect Obama. Our nation in many ways is divided as shown by the millions of votes that both McCain and Obama received. For some, there is a lot of uncertainty in the future. For the Christian, we can trust that our God will walk with us and lead us through any difficult time that we may face. My assistant pastor, Bill Harness, said something to me this past Wednesday. He said, "Whoever sits in the White House does not affect Who sits on the Throne!" Isn't that great? And very true?

I was reading different articles and blogs today, just checking out different opinions from around the nation. I can across a blog that I would like to share with you. Dave Burchett is an Emmy Award winning television sports director, author, and Christian speaker, and he shared the following on election day:

No matter who wins I am making a commitment today. I am going to pray for the leaders that are chosen. I may not agree with the choice. But I learned a valuable lesson earlier in my journey with Jesus. When President Bill Clinton was elected in 1992 I was extremely unhappy.

I did not pray for Bill Clinton during most of his Presidency. I did not respect him as the authority my sovereign God allowed to be in power. I said ugly things about him. In short, I sinned in my spirit and with my speech. During that time I put my trust in politics and not in God. I will not make that mistake again. I have matured in my faith since then. I am more aware of who I am in Christ and that my trust is in God and not in government. That does not mean I will be apathetic.

I will be engaged as a proud citizen of the United States. Trust me. But I must never forget as I too often did during the Clinton years that I have a dual citizenship. I will do all that I can to serve both my earthly and my eventual heavenly home. That is why the Scripture I "happened" upon today was so timely. So I give my space to a guy named Paul writing to a young man named Timothy. See if this feels timely on the day after a contentious election two-thousand years later:

The first thing I want you to do is pray. Pray every way you know how, for everyone you know. Pray especially for rulers and their governments to rule well so we can be quietly about our business of living simply, in humble contemplation. This is the way our Savior God wants us to live.

He wants not only us but everyone saved, you know, everyone to get to know the truth we've learned: that there's one God and only one, and one Priest-Mediator between God and us—Jesus, who offered himself in exchange for everyone held captive by sin, to set them all free. Eventually the news is going to get out. This and this only has been my appointed work: getting this news to those who have never heard of God, and explaining how it works by simple faith and plain truth.

Since prayer is at the bottom of all this, what I want mostly is for men to pray—not shaking angry fists at enemies but raising holy hands to God.(1 Timothy 2:1-8 The Message)

I started today during my daily walk with dog friend Hannah. Praying every way I know how for our rulers and our government. I will be prepared to make my voice heard as a citizen of the United States when I disagree with those leaders. I will boldly speak truth wrapped in grace. But at the end of the day I hope I never forget the following charge.

This and this only has been my appointed work: getting this news to those who have never heard of God, and explaining how it works by simple faith and plain truth…what I want mostly is for (me) to pray—not shaking angry fists at enemies but raising holy hands to God.

I failed once to get this right. I am seeking the power of the Holy Spirit to get it right this time around.

What powerful words. I believe that Dave Burchett has it right. As we Christians, we need to hold our new President and his Cabinet up in prayer It is the way our Savior wants us to live! Blessings.

Pastor Rusty

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Help me Lord! I’m overloaded

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

We are living during stressful times for so many people. I have heard several say and pray, "Help me Lord, I'm overloaded!" Let's talk about what to do when we overloaded.

When I was… beside myself, You calmed me down. (Psalm 94:19 TM)

Before a violin can produce music, stress must be put on the strings. But pull them too tightly and they'll snap. The same's true of you. Enough stress gets the juices flowing and helps you do what needs to be done, but beyond that you snap. Someone joked, "You know you're on overload when you've no time to cook a TV dinner, the cat's on tranquilisers and family reunions have to be mediated by law enforcement!" Seriously, before it gets to that point, do the following things:

(1) Ask for help: During Hurricane Katrina eight dolphins were swept out of their aquarium into the sea, but because they stuck together they were rescued. If one had tried to go it alone he'd have perished. When you're alone too much, you lose perspective. If the enemy can isolate you, he can influence you. God designed His family to stay connected. Or as Paul says, "So that all the members care for each other" (I Corinthians 12:25 NLT).

(2) Get real with God: Under stress the surge of negative emotions can be overwhelming, and unless you unburden your soul before God you'll explode at the wrong people. The Psalmist addresses this: "Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you" (Psalm 55:22 NIV). "Pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us" (Psalm 62:8 NKJV).
It's no mere coincidence that many of the Psalms start out with the Psalmist crying out to God for help, and end up with him rejoicing because he vented his pent-up frustrations.

I'm awake all night. (Psalm 77:4 TM)

You can't escape stress, but you can learn to cope with it by taking control of your life in small but important ways.

(3) Think about someone other than yourself. David was so frazzled that he was awake all night. Ever been there? That's when you need to "Let… praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God's wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down" (Philippians 4:6 TM). Elijah was depressed and suicidal when God showed him how to help himself. How? By leaving the cave he was hiding in, and going out and ministering to others. Focusing on something other than yourself gives you perspective. Paul says, the "God of all healing counsel… comes alongside… when we go through hard times… and… brings us alongside someone else… going through hard times so… we can be there for that person… as God was there for us" (2 Corinthians 1:3-4 TM).

Do you need help? Reach out to others. It's in connecting that we are made whole!

(4) Don't get bitter. Life is 10 percent what happens to you, and 90 percent how you respond to it. Archbishop Fulton Sheen said, "Nothing creates more deep-seated anxiety, than the false assumption that life should be free from anxieties." When somebody you trust betrays or disappoints you, or you're struggling financially after tithing faithfully for years, it's easy to feel hard-done-by. But "Don't… become bitter" (Hebrews 12:15 CEV); it destroys relationships and cuts you off from God's presence. The answer is learning to "thank God no matter what happens. This is the way God wants you… to live" (I Thessalonians 5:18 TM).

(5) God's still looking out for you. When things look bad, remind yourself that God's bigger than your problem. "Don't get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes."

Don't get worked up. (Matthew 6:34 TM)

(6) Don't think about quitting! Every time you reach the breaking point it's a test. You have before you a series of choices that will add up to either quitting, or persevering through to victory. Paul was flogged, thrown in jail, shipwrecked and run out of town. But he refused to give in to circumstances and in the end he was able to say, "I have fought the good fight… finished the race and… remained faithful" (2 Timothy 4:7 NLT).

(7) If it doesn't have your name on it, don't pick it up! Stress comes from micro-managing others and assuming responsibilities that aren't yours. Establish healthy boundaries. If you're not sure what's appropriate, ask God to show you how much to get involved in the lives of friends and family.

(8) Your breaking point can be the start of a breakthrough. Ever heard the expression 'hitting the wall'? Runners use it when they're exhausted and feel like giving up. But seasoned athletes know if they push through the pain they'll get their second wind and experience a 'runner's high' that'll carry them over the finish line. So keep going - by God's grace you'll make it! Blessings!

Pastor Rusty

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Seeds of Peace

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

Well, it is the "day after" our presidential election. It may, or may not, have gone the way that you wanted it to. One thing we can count on however…God is still in control. He was not shocked by the results. He is the "Prince of Peace" and wants to pour peace into our lives. Let's talk about that peace today.

Peacemakers… plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of goodness. (James 3:18 NLT)

If you want to witness a miracle, plant a seed and watch it fight its way through every obstacle to blossom. God refers to this principle when He says, "Peacemakers… plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of goodness." During WWII when Europe was infected with anti-Semitism, an 11-year-old boy named Heinz learned about planting 'seeds of peace'. Confronted by Hitler's thugs who roamed the streets looking for trouble, Heinz didn't fight back or walk away. Instead, he witnessed firsthand how the tongue can create peace. Whenever a beating seemed inevitable, he used words to convince his enemy that fighting wasn't necessary. Years later, after his family escaped to America, Heinz's name became synonymous with peace negotiations. In fact he won the Nobel Peace Prize in l973! You may know him better as the former Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger. And even though he generally downplayed his earlier experiences, you have to wonder if his training started back on the streets of Europe.

While we don't read about Jesus settling many disputes, we know that He built bridges by bringing peace and healing hurts. He did it through acts of love like: (a) washing the feet of those who betrayed Him; (b) eating with a despised tax collector; (c) giving hope to a woman whom society had discarded. Words of peace are like seeds; they don't produce fruit overnight. But slowly, silently, they work under the surface changing hearts, minds, attitudes and futures. So, why don't you try sowing some seeds of peace today?

Dr Robert Oppenheimer, the noted physicist who masterminded the first atomic bomb, was asked by a Congressional committee if there was any defense against it. Addressing a hushed audience, Oppenheimer replied, "Yes. Peace!" Now think, if peace can diffuse an atomic bomb, what can it do in the lives of the people you come in contact with? The Bible says, "Peacemakers… plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of goodness" (James 3:18 NLT). All around you are frightened, despairing, lonely people, desperately needing 'a word of peace'. Do you have one?

When the world was dark and God needed a miracle, He planted His seed in the womb of a Jewish girl. And it grew up, "like a tender green shoot, [pushing up through] dry… sterile ground." Jesus spent His life pushing back the rocks that threatened to destroy people: (a) Rocks of religion that over-burdened them. (b) Rocks of oppression that broke their spirit. (c) Rocks of prejudice that shut them out. And just when it seemed like the final rock was insurmountable, He broke through, victorious over death itself!

If you want to experience your own miracle today, try planting a seed of encouragement in the heart of somebody who's ready to throw in the towel. Speak a word of peace to that person whose life is in turmoil because of family problems, health issues or financial hardship. Anytime you 'plant seeds of peace', you schedule a harvest of hope, love and joy in the life of that person - and your own life too!

One of the most awesome commands that God gives to us is, 'be still.' The reason He says it so often is because our activity - when birthed out of the carnal mind - actually prevents Him from working on our behalf.

That doesn't mean you're to be passive or lazy. No, it just means that you're to do whatever He leads you to do - without running ahead of Him in your own energy!

It also means you're to submit everything to Him first, then slow down and wait! In other words, make sure you have a sense of peace to go along with the plans and ideas you believe He's given you.

Ask Him to show you His will for your life, then 'be still' and acknowledge that He's God… He's in charge… and He knows what He's doing!

It's pride, or fear, that makes you want to get behind the wheel, and determine the direction of your life. Acknowledge that. Pray about it. Learn to trust Him without always having to know what He's going to do, when He is going to do it, and how He's going to carry it out.

When He says to you, "Be still, and know that I am God," (Psalm 46:10). He's just saying that all you have to do is turn your heart toward Him in confidence, and He'll do what needs to be done. It's that simple. Blessings!

Pastor Rusty

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


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

Every now and then I run across a devotion that ministers to me in such a way that I feel like I need to share it with everyone on my blog. Yesterday morning was one of those days. I was reading a devotion from Max Lucado entitled, "Judas." What a word. I pray that it ministers to you as much as it did to me.

They had a dinner for Jesus. Martha served the food, and Lazarus was one of the people eating with Jesus. Mary brought in a pint of very expensive perfume made from pure nard. She poured the perfume on his feet, and then she wiped his feet with her hair. And the sweet smell from the perfume filled the whole house. (John 12:2-3)

If God has called you to be a Martha, then serve! Remind the rest of us that there is evangelism in feeding the poor and there is worship in nursing the sick.

If God has called you to be a Mary, then worship! Remind the rest of us that we don't have to be busy to be holy. Urge us with your example to put down our clipboards and megaphones and be quiet in worship.

If God has called you to be a Lazarus, then testify. Remind the rest of us that we, too, have a story to tell. We, too, have neighbors who are lost. We, too, have died and been resurrected.

Each of us has our place at the table.

Except one. There was one at Martha's house who didn't find his place. Though he had been near Jesus longer than any of the others, he was furthest in his faith. His name was Judas. He was a thief. When Mary poured the perfume he feigned spirituality. "The perfume could have been sold and given to the poor," he said. But Jesus knew Judas's heart, and Jesus defended Mary's worship. Years later, John, too, knew Judas's heart, and John explained that Judas was a thief (John 12:6). And all these years he had been dipping his hand in the treasury. The reason he wanted the perfume to be sold and the money put in the treasury was so that he could get his hands on it.

What a sad ending to a beautiful story. But what an appropriate ending. For in every church there are those like Martha who take time to serve. There are those like Mary who take time to worship. There are those like Lazarus who take time to testify.

And there are those like Judas who take, take, take, and never give in return. Are you a Judas? I ask the question carefully, yet honestly. Are you near Christ but far from his heart? Are you at the dinner with a sour soul? Are you always criticizing the gifts of others yet seldom, if ever, giving your own? Are you benefiting from the church while never giving to it? Do others give sacrificially while you give miserly? Are you a Judas?

Do you take, take, take, and never give? If so, you are the Judas in this story.

If you are a Martha, be strengthened. God sees your service.
If you are a Mary, be encouraged. God receives your worship.
If you are a Lazarus, be strong. God honors your conviction.
But if you are a Judas, be warned. God sees your selfishness.


Pastor Rusty

Monday, November 3, 2008

“Lord, place me in my garden”

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

I would like to share with you today the fact that God has placed great dreams and potential within you!

God planted a garden… there He put the man whom He had formed.
Genesis 2:8 KJV

Before God put Adam into the garden, He "formed" him. There's a process of preparation God takes us through in order to make us what we need to be. But preparation takes time. God must deal with our inconsistencies, personality defects, areas of distrust, unresolved childhood issues, scars, flaws, etc. How long does it take? Only God knows.

Admit it; even at your age you still recognize some childish ways in yourself. Anybody else would have given up on you, but God has a plan and He's committed to it. We should all wear a sign that says: "Work in progress. If you hire me, you need to know that. If you marry me, you need to know that."

The Bible says the Lord "formed man out of the dust of the ground" (Genesis 2:7 NKJV). What's God working with? Dirt! And the tools He uses to form you are the experiences you go through in life. They shape and alter you. And the more you keep trying to have it your way, the longer the process takes. It may take you five years to learn to quit people-pleasing, or ten years to stop feeling sorry for yourself, or twenty years to stop going back and reliving your childhood. All the while God is telling you, "Stop it," and you're saying, "Yeah, I know. I'm going to do better." Then finally a crisis happens and the truth hits you. At that point you say, "You know what? I'm going to forget those things which are behind and start reaching for those things which are before" (Philippians 3:13).

God planted a garden… there He put the man whom He had formed. (Genesis 2:8) NKJV
What does it mean to plant? To bury seeds beyond human view so that they germinate and eventually produce fruit. In God's plan for your life, He's planted blessings you experience over time. Just because you walk out into a field and don't see a crop, doesn't mean the seeds aren't there; God has planted things in your life that will come to fruition at different times.

It's amazing that God would plant. Why would He go to such trouble when He could just speak a word and create it? Think of the love, the personal involvement of the Creator of the universe, as He stoops down and plants blessings to come up at different seasons in your life. Everything God has for you hasn't come up yet, so you can't give up, or walk away and say, "That's all there is." No, God's got so much planted that you haven't yet seen or experienced. You're still becoming what He planted. Knowing that reinforces your faith that it will happen. It also means God believes in you - even when you don't believe in yourself.

There are talents in you that haven't been discovered and dreams that haven't been fulfilled. That's what the battle is about! The devil is fighting you over your destiny. He knows what's been planted in you and he's trying to kill the seed. Don't let him. You're not the person you'll be six months or six years from now, because there's a time factor; everything doesn't come to harvest at the same time. You have to have faith and patience, otherwise you'll miss what God has for you.

Notice, God placed the man in the garden, "eastward in Eden"
(Genesis 2:8 NKJV). It's not enough to be in the garden, you've got to be in the right location. You must pray, "Lord, place me in my garden."

You learn a lot by raising children. You're older and wiser, saying, "Don't do that. Don't go there." But you can't cut through the process. Children have to stumble, because that's how they learn to walk and find their way. Maybe you yourself worked at several jobs before figuring out what you were supposed to do. That's because you weren't 'placed' yet. At some point, if you're wise, you begin to pray, "Lord, don't let me spend my life trying stuff, place me!"

You can be in the right place and not know it - because the place has been planted, not created! Dave Thomas, the founder of Wendy's (fast food chain), was adopted at six weeks old. When he was five his adoptive mother died and his early years were spent moving from state to state while his adoptive father looked for work. He recalls being ashamed of not having a decent pair of shoes to wear. Imagine: a school dropout, wearing shoes that don't fit, working as a waiter - but he has a six-billion-dollar business inside him. It doesn't matter where you start, it just matters where you finish. You need to look in the mirror and announce, "There's something in me that hasn't come out yet. God, help me to be steadfast until You pull out of me what You planted in me." Don't let anyone convince you that you're a failure because you don't wear the right shoes, or have it all together right now. God has a place in mind for you. Just walk with Him and He'll get you there. Blessings!

Pastor Rusty