Thursday, November 3, 2011

November 3

The questions Philemon compel us to ask...

Who in my life have I been such an example to that I could press them like Paul presses Philemon?

Who in my life has my example to them been so Christ like that they are inspired to make restitution for their most egregious sins?

If I were in chains for faith in Christ, would there be anyone who would come to my aid at their own risk, their own expense?

Are the people closest to me more like Jesus because of my influence or in spite of my influence?

Have I cared for someone so deeply that I was willing to bear much of the cost for their mistakes?

Am I demanding of others when I am in the right or am I lovingly gracious, pursauading them with gracious truth as a dear friend?

What other questons can you find in today's reading of Philemon?

Pastor Fred

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

November 2

   3 At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. 4 But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. 8 This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone....14 Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good, in order to provide for urgent needs and not live unproductive lives.

Titus 3:3-8,14

What good will you and I do today in light of the mercies of God so liberally showered upon us? What good will we seek out today that is commensurate to the wondrous grace of our Heavenly Father? What good will you and I seek out today, meeting urgent needs, refusing to live unproductive lives?

Do some good today!

Pastor Fred

Friday, October 28, 2011

October 28

   19 Lord, you are my strength and fortress,
      my refuge in the day of trouble!
   Nations from around the world
      will come to you and say,
   “Our ancestors left us a foolish heritage,
      for they worshiped worthless idols.
   20 Can people make their own gods?
      These are not real gods at all!”

   21 The Lord says,
   “Now I will show them my power;
      now I will show them my might.
   At last they will know and understand
      that I am the Lord.

Jeremiah 16:19-21

God, we want to see your power, we want to see your might, we want to know and are The Lord!

Pastor Fred

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

October 26

I grew up in a rural community just east of Richmond, VA in a town called Varina. If you wanted to go anywhere for shopping, entertainment...anywhere, count on a 30 to 45 minute drive. Everyone's mailing address is still Richmond because Varina is too small for a post office. However, in the mid 1980's, interstate 295 was built creating access to neighboring cities and towns at half the travel time...progress! I can remember traveling from Varina to the 295/95 interchange on Sunday evenings on my way back to college and only see a handful of other cars traveling in either direction! But now, these new paths are filled and the former ways much less traveled.

Here is Jeremiah 6:16 from yesterday's reading...

   This is what the LORD says:
   “Stand at the crossroads and look;
   ask for the ancient paths,
ask where the good way is, and walk in it,
   and you will find rest for your souls.
   But you said, ‘We will not walk in it.’...

Unlike modern transportation, there is no innovation for journeying into the depths of eternal life! There are ancient paths that have always been the way to a life lived to the fullest possible measure. God's loving grace is the only path to the forever of eternal life, but our walking on the ancient paths in the here and now are the only way to the fullness of eternal life this side of heaven. There are no short-cuts, there are no innovations, there is no evolution with journeying in the realm of our spiritual life.

So, are you on these paths? Bible, prayer, fasting, worship, accountability, reaching, gathering, relationships, stewardship, generosity, service, and rest are the ancient!

Pastor Fred

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

October 19

2 “Enlarge your house; build an addition.
Spread out your home, and spare no expense!
3 For you will soon be bursting at the seams.
Your descendants will occupy other nations
and resettle the ruined cities."

This is from Isaiah 54...and I believe is a message from God to us, The City Life Church, as we are working with North Riverside Baptist Church near the campus of CNU to be our first permanent home as a church here in Newport News and also with the launch of City Life Williamsburg at 222 Monticello Avenue, formerly Grace Fellowship. God is affirming our efforts to firmly establish a base of operations for each campus, places where we can gather to grow and disperse to deliver!

We do not want to be bursting at the seams for the sake of number but so that we can fulfill a divine purpose, telling our world the good news, the gospel of Jesus Christ!

Pastor Fred

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

October 18

11 So we keep on praying for you, asking our God to enable you to live a life worthy of his call. May he give you the power to accomplish all the good things your faith prompts you to do. 12 Then the name of our Lord Jesus will be honored because of the way you live, and you will be honored along with him. This is all made possible because of the grace of our God and Lord, Jesus Christ.

We find these challenging words in 2 Thessalonians chapter one...reminding us that there is work God expects from us, born out of the grace He so freely gives! I am convinced that a message of grace that does not come with a call to change is not grace at all. If my faith is not prompting me in any way, as Paul commands in the 11th verse, then I should feel compelled to do some soul searching. If Christ is within me, then all my days should be overflowing with faith compelling moments born out of His living presence within!

Excited already for this weekend...taking on David Platt's second chapter of Radical Together, "...the gospel that save us from work saves us to work..." What a tremendous book, I know that our church is going to be the radical community of faith that the Jesus within us demands!

Pastor Fred

Thursday, October 13, 2011

September 13

In today's reading we find these words by the Apostle Paul written to the church of the Thessalonians, "wherever we go we find people telling us about your faith in God. We don’t need to tell them about it..."

This begs a poignant question of us. Would this be the case if the people we are among everyday were asked about us? What would their response be if asked about our values, our conduct, our integrity, our compassion, our words, our interests, our allegiances...if they were told we were Christians, would they be surprised?

In Isaiah 41 to 42, he prophesies against idols, lifeless, man-made objects that become the recipients of our worship, the source of strength, the audience of our prayers. This idea of idolatry is difficult for us to relate to in our culture because most people we meet do not have carved images in their homes that are presented as being sacred religious icons. However, I would humbly suggest that idolatry is just as pervasive in America as it was in Israel during Isaiah's ministry. Idolatry is anything that has a displacing effect on the adoration, attention, and allegiance that God alone deserves.

So when those around us most are interviewed for the purpose of identifying what we are about, our reputation, would their answers reveal an idolater or someone who has a passion filled, life defining, moment by moment governing relationship with God?

Pastor Fred

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

October 5

We began a new series last weekend entitled "Radical" which is based on the book by David Platt "Radical Together." Our first message was "The Radical Vow." Jesus' message was nothing short of radical, a message, a gospel, good news that demands from us a vow of devotion that is equally nothing short of radical.

Our reading today in Philippians reminds us of this radical vow. I believe that a radical vow of devotion to Jesus is comprised of three parts, each component being related to a monumental moment of Jesus' life: His death, His resurrection, and His imminent return.

His death demands of us a prayer, radical forgiveness. Some of the most beautiful words in Scripture are atonement, redemption, justification, and propitiation, all speaking to Jesus' substitutionary death on our behalf. Romans 6:23 declares that death is what we deserve for denying God's divine right to rule over our lives but that we can be forgiven because Jesus died for us, so that we could receive the gift of eternal life, when eternal death was deserved. Have you prayed this prayer? Have you asked God to forgive you? His forgiveness is not effectual for you personally until you accept His grace. Think of everything that you have done in your life, and not done, that saddens God's heart. Is there genuine remorse in your heart? If there is, there is genuine forgiveness He longs to give you! "God, I'm sorry, will you forgive me of my past, for all that I have done and not done that has disappointed You and shamed me?" His answer is always a resounding YES!

His death demands of us a promise, radical devotion. When Jesus raised Himself from the dead, that moment was His declaration to the world that He has the power to fulfill every promise He has made to us. Have you ever over-committed yourself? Have you ever been disappointed by someone who couldn't deliver what they assured you they could do? Jesus cannot relate to that! His power has NO limits, no bounds. A radical vow of devotion to Jesus begins with a prayer but it must continue with a promise, a promise to give Jesus complete and total control of our lives. There is a moment of allegiance that is required. There is a moment of surrender that is expected. Mark 8:34-35 could not be more clear. We must be fully committed. The metaphor so often used in Scripture is that we are the bride of Christ. No bride or groom enjoys the sacredness of marriage without first forsaking all else for one another. Have you forsaken all for Him? "Jesus, my life belongs to You. Wherever You lead me, I will follow. I want You to be the dominant voice in my life. What You believe, how You would repond, what You value...I want You to rule over me!"

His imminent return demands of us a pursuit, radical living. What will Jesus find you doing when He returns? In the first chapter of Philippians, The Apostle Paul mentions Jesus' return frequently. Why? Because Paul understands that looking for Jesus' return is a vital part of the radical vow of devotion that many of the readers of his letter have made. If I have said The Prayer and if I have made The Promise, then I MUST be living radically for The Pursuit! If nothing of my life has changed in light of my Prayer and my Promise, then have I really become part of God's divine family? While The Promise is all about intent, The Pursuit is all about action! Verse 10 says " pure and blameless lives..." Verse 11 says "...the fruit of our salvation--righteous character..." Verse 27 says " as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Godd News..." What life are you living in light of The Prayer, in light of The Promise? "God, I want to become the person that You created me to be, to do everything that You created me to do! Help me die to who I used to be and live for You. I don't want to just be a believer but a follower!"

Are you radical?

Pastor Fred

Thursday, September 29, 2011

September 29

...unless your faith is firm, I (God) cannot make you stand firm.

Isaiah 7:9b

Are you standing firm in your faith today? What are you believing God for today, that only He can do? Psalm 124:1 says "Unless the Lord had been on their side..." I call this living in the gap, in the gap between what I can do and what only God can do. I want to live in the gap, with a faith that is firm, trusting and knowing that in that place, He will make me stand firm, if I only believe.

Pastor Fred

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

September 27

In those days a man will say to his brother,
“Since you have a coat, you be our leader!
Take charge of this heap of ruins!”
But he will reply,
“No! I can’t help.
I don’t have any extra food or clothes.
Don’t put me in charge!"

We find these words in verses six and seven in Isaiah chapter three, and we find their meaning in the church today. Have you ever heard someone offer as the reason they are leaving a church, "I'm just not getting fed..."? These verses in Isaiah are warning us against the sentiment that says, "If you can feed me, you can lead me." I'm not suggesting that the competence level of a leader is not a valuable consideration. Isaiah is pointing out the danger of adopting a mindset that expects others to do for you what you should be doing for yourself.

Granted, there are times when we leave a church because their message has become diluted or worse, in error, or worse still, lazy! However, I have found that the majority of the people who I have heard complain about not being fed are people who are doing little to satiate their own spiritual appetite...their lives are 12 Pathway deficient (worship, prayer, Scripture, fasting, relationships, accountability, gathering, reaching, service, rest, generosity, and stewardship).

As we continue reading in Isaiah 3,
we find this same principle repeated in the context of marriage, women desperate for men to marry them for a name, symbolic of an identity. Our church most certainly should give us a sense of belonging, a sense of being a part of a family, a deep spiritual need we all most certainly must not neglect; however, that sense of belonging is only healthy and life giving to the degree it is complimenting an individual identity we have personally as a child of God, a fully devoted follower of Jesus.

Remember Paul's demand in Ephesians 4, that yes the Body (church) is fit together but only to the degree every part is doing its own work. What church family do you call home, and what are you doing there to feed others...and what are you doing at home to feed yourself?

Pastor Fred

Friday, September 23, 2011

September 23

This morning, we are still reading in Gatatians. And in the second chapter, verse 2, we find The Apostle Paul writing these words...

"I went there because God revealed to me that I should go. While I was there I met privately with those considered to be leaders of the church and shared with them the message I had been preaching to the Gentiles. I wanted to make sure that we were in agreement, for fear that all my efforts had been wasted and I was running the race for nothing."

I like this verse because it reminds me of a phrase that is repeated in Ecclesiastes, "meaningless." Paul says in Galatians, "...for fear that all my efforts had been wasted and I was running the race for nothing." If you have ever been confounded by the word "meaningless" as you have read through Ecclesiastes or in some translations, "all is vanity" then consider this. This repeating theme in Ecclesiastes is not to be understood as "has no value" or "something that should never be done." Let me suggest another phrase you could insert every time you come to the word "meaningless" or phrase "all is vanity" when reading what can be a perplexing book in Scripture, insert "should not be a person's life defining purpose." Now we can begin to see that many of the pursuits mentioned in Ecclesiastes are not worthless, but rather the instruction of the most wise Solomon to not make the same mistakes that he made, to allow good things to become our main thing. The author Bruce Malina likes to use the phrase "project of existence." The most common enemy to our respective destinies is not failure but distraction.

What does this have to do with Galatians? We find The Apostle Paul submitting something Christian leaders he believed needed to have a voice in his life. Paul is not playing politics here, he is not catering to the needs of arrogant men, his actions are not perfunctory...he is laying out for us an essential Biblical principle by the example of his own life...if one wants to live a life chasing after distractions, live outside the influence of Christian leaders.

Who are the Peters, James, and Johns of your life? Who have you given the right to correct you? If you are looking for perfect leaders, you won't find them, just as the text addresses Peter's failings in Antioch. The imperfections of others must not be permission for us to live outside the realm of leadership relationships. I have people to whom I am submitted, people who have the authority to say no to me, to correct me. Not only do I realize that I will always have blind spots but equally important, I do not want to waste my life in pursuit of distractions when destiny awaits!

Who are your leaders?

Pastor Fred

Thursday, September 22, 2011

September 22

Today's reading takes us into what many believe to be the oldest text of the New Testament.

Listen to D. Thomas Lancaster in The Holy Epistle to the Galatians (given to me by my good friend Jason Hess), "Scholars tell us that the Holy Epistle to the Galatians is the oldest document in the New Testament. Paul wrote it before any of his other epistles. It is older than Mark, Matthew, Luke, John, and the Acts of the Apostles. It almost certainly predates the other epistles and the Revelation. Paul most likely composed the epistle before 50 CE, less than twenty years after the resurrection."

This is important context for us because it speaks to Paul's courage and boldness but also the challenge facing the readers. After reading through Galatians, imagine if you had only ever had what we know to be the Old Testament today as your sacred, God-inspired texts for spiritual instruction? One is being asked to set aside everything they have held as sacred, conviction that has been passed to them through millennia of generations.

I share that because when we today witness our faith in Jesus with others, may we be patient and gracious with those for whom Christianity means a complete and utter re-orientation to life. Our sense of urgency to see those who are spiritually lost come to faith in Christ should not be mistaken as permission for hurriedness. We are not "bringing" Christ to anyone. He is already there! Let them weigh the truths that you share, keep the conversation going, we are not trying to win an argument or close the deal so to speak but rather be an instrument of the Holy Spirit, bearing witness to Christ, having faith that they too will have an epiphany, a revelation of Jesus, that is Spirt born.

Appreciate the magnitude of a call to full devotion. May we never misrepresent the radical, absolute, utter abandonment for which Christ calls, but at the same time, not be dismissive of the enormity of such a vow of devotion.

Pastor Fred

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

September 21

Ecclesiastes is a book that contains a wealth of instruction for us. But for me, I believe one of its greatest lessons, most priceless teaching treasures is this, that if we allow the gift that God bestows upon us to rule over us, only misery awaits us; His gift to us is to be our servant and not our master.

We know that Solomon when asked by God for anything he desired, he asked for wisdom. Ecclesiastes is Solomon's confession, his confession of how his life went awry as wisdom became his task master. The phrase he repeatedly uses "this too is meaningless" is not to say that there are no absolutes in this world, that nothing has meaning for we see in this very writing by Solomon that he continually gives meaning to mysteries and instruction that he expects we will heed. This phrase he uses is a part of his confession, that we should not make the same mistake he made, that we are not given the gift of wisdom so we can spend every waking moment trying solve the great mysteries of life as there are many mysteries we will never fully understand. Solomon is confessing that he allowed wisdom to drive him, that he became obsessive in regards to his need for more and more answers and compulsive in his search to find those answers. This is evil's greatest weapon, to turn that which God intended to be an empowering gift to equip us to serve others into something we serve, something that controls us and ultimately marginalizing our gift and our life's impact.

What is your gift? Are you a genius with numbers, is compassion your strength, are an organizing administrative prodigy, does music flow from your life with ease, is oration your treasure, laughter your gift...? Don't' serve your gift, have dominion over the garden of your life!

Pastor Fred

Thursday, September 15, 2011

September 15

There is little in life more sacred than Provers 22:6...

Direct your children onto the right path,
      and when they are older, they will not leave it.

Pastor Fred

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

September 14

We opened our weekend services with the following question, if you hadn't eaten for 5 days, what would you dream about eating? The answers were what you would expect, people's favorite meals like mac n cheese, steak, loaded potatoes, chocolate, and the surprise was cold cereal! Then, we shared this, "The situation we just imagined is a scenario that God wants you to experience, physical fasting is essential to Christianity." (take time to listen to Saturday's podcast)

There are many kinds of fasts such as fasting television, favorite activities, etc., but a physical fast is a practice that alters your diet or eliminates food and/or drink for a Scriptural purpose (Isaiah 58:6-8) with the added benefit of deepening our measure of eternal life (Mark 9:29). The verse in Isaiah 58 gives us, according to Dr Elmer Towns, the 9 Biblical fasts. However, Dr. Towns like many others, treats Mark 9 as a textual reference for a specific type of fast. I believe that Mark 9:29, where Jesus references fasting along with prayer as the key to Him being able to minister to the possessed boy after returning from the Mount of Transfiguration, is Jesus teaching us that spiritual disciplines are the key to being ready for moments of ministry. I don't believe He is speaking to fasting and prayer as much as He is speaking to what they represent, a person who is committed to strengthening their spiritual life is a person who is ready when faith is required. Jesus' comment "this kind" was not just in reference to the type of possession from which the boy suffered but also the approach the disciples had been taking in trying to assist the boy. "This kind" of human effort cannot do what only our spirits are equipped to accomplish and our spiritual life is only matured and strengthened through spiritual disciplines, what we call at City Life "pathways" of which Jesus mentions two, prayer and fasting.

Fasting does not have to be accompanied by extended times of prayer and study to be beneficial. All the pathways enrich one another. I find prayer blended with worship is wonderful, serving while also building relationships is especially meaningful, so of course, fasting along with other pathways elevates each but that should not lead to the wrong assumption that it cannot stand alone. Prayer alone is powerful. Scripture alone is powerful. Generosity alone is powerful. Worship alone is powerful. Fasting alone is powerful. Fasting is not for the most spiritually mature. We do not get promoted into fasting one day when we have reached the pinnacle of spirituality. Fasting is fundamental. Fasting is basic Christianity! The extent and measure of one's fast will reflect a person's spiritual life but missing one meal, setting aside one day, altering one's diet in some manner is something that everyone can do. Even if you have unique medical needs, talk with your doctor about how you can safely practice fasting. Remember, you must cross the threshold of self-denial in order for fasting to begin. Drinking Coke products instead of your preferred Pepsi products is not fasting! Drinking Maxwell House instead of some gourmet brand is not may be tragic but it's not fasting!

Self-denial is a critical component of physical fasting as this brings us to a place of exercising control over our physical bodies, conditioning ourselves to learn how to let the Holy Spirit be the dominant influence over our will and not our humanity. Our humanity has been given to us to serve us. Too many people are a slave to their humanity instead of having dominion over their own lives...and physical fasting is a key to breaking free!

Hey, don't eat that!

Pastor Fred

Friday, September 9, 2011

September 9

I want to invite you to watch In My Seat today, remembering and honoring the tragic events of September 11, 2001, asking the question, as someone who still possesses the gift of time, what am I doing with my life to glorify God?

Pastor Fred

Thursday, September 8, 2011

September 8

In today's reading of 2 Corinthians 1, we find two intensely probing questions to which we must all submit ourselves.

The first one is imbedded in the Apostle Paul's statement of self-discovered divine purpose, or as the author Edward P. Wimberly says in Recalling Our Own Stories, our project of existence. Paul writes, "I have been chosen by God to be a missionary for Jesus Christ." I have place missionary in italics to identify this as your fill in the blank! We must all be able to complete this sentence! What have you been chosen by God to do, your divine purpose, your project of existence?

The second one is imbedded in his very next statement, "Timothy is here with me..." Who has God called you to be with as you pursue your purpose? In fact, I would argue, who you are with not only determines the measure of success you will have in fulfilling your project of existence but is also essential in even discovering that purpose! The Apostle Paul himself, after his life altering encounter with Jesus, immersed himself in the community of the church, out which, his revelation of purpose began. Did he spend time in the wilderness, yes, but he did not remain there! Read the first few verses of Acts 13:1, "In the local church at Antioch..." This is where Paul's first fill in the blank moment was written!

What are you to do, who are you with? For me, I know that means pastoring at The City Life Church with the people of the Peninsula and the Tidewater region. Fill in your blanks!

Pastor Fred

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

September 7

We find in todays reading of 1 Corinthians 16 a great challenge to give 4 gifts this week, I hope you step into the generosity the Apostle Paul commends us to embrace!

First, in writing to the church in Corinth, he asks them to prepare an offering to support the ministry of the impoverished church in Jerusalem. I trust that the church you call home has many ministries that need your support! In some churches, you can give to directly to a particular ministry, in others, people are asked to give to a general fund and a gifted team of leaders are tasked with working to distribute those funds to the necessary ministries. However you church operates, set something aside this week above and beyond the percentage of your income (tithe) that you always give and bless the ministries of the house you call home this weekend!

Second, in this chapter, the Apostle Paul acknowledges the hard work of some of the leaders there in Corinth. He identifies Timothy who has not yet arrived but will soon. The work of leadership in a church is not for the fragile or ill-equipped. Leaders not only have the demand of the tasks to which they are called but also the care of people. Whether these leaders be vocational in the church or volunteers, the load they carry is weighty. Often, much of what they do is never seen by the church because in working with people in crisis, there is the responsibility to protect the privacy and dignity of those to whom they minister. Write a thank you note to a leader in your church and give it to them this weekend. Let them know how much you appreciate their sacrifice for your church family and spend time this week praying for the and their family!

Third, the Apostle Paul identifies some people who left their homes and all that is familiar to join him in his missionary endeavors. I trust your church has missionaries that are in the field, whether they have moved into impoverished neighborhoods working towards practical and spiritual revitalization in your own city or possibly they have moved to some remote village in a distant land. Missionaries seldom have the benefit of a large church family for emotional support as we have here at home. Their work often demands isolation from other followers of Christ if they are serving among an unreached people group. Their work often demands forgoing modern amenities. Their work often places themselves and their families at grave risk. Write a letter to a missionary this week, encourage them, trust the Holy Spirit will give you some words to share that will encourage their hearts, send a care package, possibly even a monetary gift that is not for their ministry but for them personally to enjoy. Love on them this week!

Fourth, he mentions the "churches in Asia." In Paul's day, the churches in a city worked together, in partnership with one another. I know many people decry the vast array of denominations that exist today but I am of the opinion that this was always part of God's plan. I am a firm believer that it takes all kinds of churches to reach all kinds of people. However, even in celebrating our differences, we can find a path of cooperation. Every city will do well to remember that we can do more for the building of God's Kingdom together than we can alone. Identify a church in your neighborhood and send the pastor there a note thanking him/her for their devotion, their love for the city, and their tireless efforts in leading their congregation. Let them know that you believe that your city is a better place because of the ministry of that church!

Let's unleash some generosity this week!

Pastor Fred

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

September 6

Are you ready? In 1 Corinthians 15, the Apostle Paul lays out for us in great detail what awaits us all.

He compares each of us to a seed, a seed that will one day be "planted" when we each breathe our last. Death is unavoidable. Of every mystery that still remains, of every question that remains unanswered, of every perplexing conundrum that remains elusive, death has a clarity that is unmistakeable. We understand death, we know death, we await death. Here, the Apostle Paul defines death. It is a planting. Are you ready to be planted? Not do you hope for a death that is soon but is the seed of your life ready to planted in the sense that it is ready to grow?

In verses 42-57, we learn that we all inherit from Adam this natural body of ours. However, only Jesus has the power to enable this "seed" to produce the fruit of a heavenly body that will last forever. Can you imagine planting a garden and with the seeds came instruction that something needed to be planted with the seeds in order for them to be transformed into something living, fruit bearing and you chose not to add the something? Would you be surprised when nothing grew? Would you complain? Here in 1 Corinthians 15, we are reminded that Jesus must be added to the seed of our lives if there is any hope of us being transformed into the heavenly bodies that are to live with God in heaven for all eternity. Are you ready? Have you added Jesus to your life?

Verse 57 says, " But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ." The word Lord is key. Many people believe that Jesus lived, that He is God's Son, that He even died for our sins, that His teachings were of God...but is He their Lord? Verse 45 refers to Jesus at the last Adam, the One who is a life giving spirit. Has He given you such life? Unless there is a moment that you can identify where you made a vow of devotion to Jesus, when you gave your life fully to Him, when you surrendered all of who you are to Him, when He became Lord, the supreme ruler of your existence, then you are not ready to be planted!

The Apostle Paul continues. He gives us two very important tests for a person who has sincerely made a vow of devotion to Jesus. In verse 34 he notes that we must stop sinning, an honest effort to stop doing the things we know in our heart are displeasing to God, and in verse 58 he notes that we must enthusiastically take up the work of doing the things that we know in our heart are pleasing to God. Are you ready to be planted?

I do not hope for a death that is soon coming, but I am expectant and confident that my seed is ready to be planted and the heavenly body that my eternal self longs to fill is promised to me because I am promised to Christ!

Pastor Fred

Saturday, September 3, 2011

September 3-4

I am posting a blog from 2008 for today and tomorrow as we find ourselves once again in the wonderful teaching of the Apostle Paul concerning spiritual language. Not a day goes by that I do not personally pray and worship in a spiritual language. If you are looking for a great book to read on this topic, The Beauty of Spiritual Language by Jack Hayford is excellent! Possibly you have been taught that spiritual language is not for today or even that spiritual language (also referred to as tongues) is evil. If so, I would humbly encourage you to read Jack Hayford's book and consider another view. My prayer has always been, "God, I want everything You have for me this side of heaven!" I pray that you will join me in that prayer!!

Spiritual Language
Ever read through the 14th chapter of I Corinthians and wonder why so many churches believe the supernatural gift of praying or worshipping in a spiritual language is still encouraged? This chapter can be very confusing and I hope you'll take the time read it. I believe the use of spiritual language is a wonderful gift, a gift for every devoted follower of Jesus, and that this text is often misused in discouraging people in its pursuit. I hope this brings some clarity! Let’s read together…

1CO 14:1 "Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy. 2 For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God. Indeed, no one understands him; he utters mysteries with his spirit. 3 But everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort. 4 He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church. 5 I would like every one of you to speak in tongues, but I would rather have you prophesy. He who prophesies is greater than one who speaks in tongues, unless he interprets, so that the church may be edified."

Here Paul clearly endorses the use of spiritual language in two ways in corporate gatherings. In fact, he comes right out and says that he would hope all experience this wonderful gift (vs. 5a). He acknowledges that sometimes a spiritual language is for the freedom of expression to God (vs. 2) and also sometimes used to give a message from God to people but then it must be accompanied by an interpretation (vs. 5b). I’ve heard people say too that the interpretation must come for some different than the person giving the "utterance." But verse 5 challenges that position directly by giving the person who gives the utterance the liberty to also give the interpretation.

1CO 14:6 "Now, brothers, if I come to you and speak in tongues, what good will I be to you, unless I bring you some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or word of instruction? 7 Even in the case of lifeless things that make sounds, such as the flute or harp, how will anyone know what tune is being played unless there is a distinction in the notes? 8 Again, if the trumpet does not sound a clear call, who will get ready for battle? 9 So it is with you. Unless you speak intelligible words with your tongue, how will anyone know what you are saying? You will just be speaking into the air. 10 Undoubtedly there are all sorts of languages in the world, yet none of them is without meaning. 11 If then I do not grasp the meaning of what someone is saying, I am a foreigner to the speaker, and he is a foreigner to me. 12 So it is with you. Since you are eager to have spiritual gifts, try to excel in gifts that build up the church."

1CO 14:13 "For this reason anyone who speaks in a tongue should pray that he may interpret what he says. 14 For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful. 15 So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my mind; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my mind. 16 If you are praising God with your spirit, how can one who finds himself among those who do not understand say "Amen" to your thanksgiving, since he does not know what you are saying? 17 You may be giving thanks well enough, but the other man is not edified."

1CO 14:18 I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. 19 But in the church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue."

It is always important to remember the context of the text in order to fully understand the intent of the text. Paul was writing this portion of the letter because of excesses and abuses during their times of corporate gatherings. The abuse he is addressing specifically here is that they were forsaking the instruction of their congregation. They were having powerful, supernatural, expressive worship services, but time given to instruction was sorely lacking. And instruction has to be done in a language that is understood if it is to benefit the church. I believe Paul was saying to Corinth and God is saying to us that our times of corporate gatherings should incorporate both: undeniable supernatural manifestations of God’s presence (like that of speaking in languages we’ve not formerly learned) and also clear, direct, sound, teaching that can be understood without any need of interpretation.

Okay, here we’re going to tackle a portion of scripture like the one in Hebrews 4 we did together in November of 2007 that takes what seems to be unexpected turns. Let’s read and I’ve imbedded some commentary that will hopefully help make these verses more easily understood.
1CO 14:22 "Tongues, then, are a sign, not for believers but for unbelievers (pf – because God uses the supernatural to make our witness undeniable); prophecy, however, is for believers, not for unbelievers (pf – it is important to remember that prophesy if broader than just "foretelling" it also encompasses what I call prophetic teaching/instruction which is being supernaturally empowered to understand and articulate the mysteries and truths of God’s Kingdom which is why this is primarily for believers, those seeking to understand what it means to live as a child of God, a devoted follower of Christ). 23 So if the whole church comes together and everyone speaks in tongues, and some who do not understand or some unbelievers come in, will they not say that you are out of your mind? (pf – I thought Paul just said it is a good sign? He did, but what we need to remember is that Paul is responding to excesses at the church of Corinth so what he is saying now is that a gift that is supposed to be a good sign, a sign that was supposed to cause the unbeliever to recognize God exists…when it is abused, used in excess, not done in an orderly way, that which God intended to be beneficial, becomes counterproductive.) 24 But if an unbeliever or someone who does not understand comes in while everybody is prophesying, he will be convinced by all that he is a sinner and will be judged by all, 25 and the secrets of his heart will be laid bare. So he will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, "God is really among you!" (pf – Paul is saying that if the church of Corinth is unable to exercise the use of spiritual language in a responsible way in their times of corporate gatherings, then they should rely solely on prophecy, even though prophecy is primarily for the believer as we stated above. Prophesy too can have a "sign" benefit for the unbeliever, by God using the prophetic teacher to reveal something that only the unbeliever would have otherwise known in order to demonstrate the reality of His existence to the one who needs to come to faith in Christ.)

1CO 14:26 "What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church. 27 If anyone speaks in a tongue, two--or at the most three--should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret (pf – when spiritual language is being used to articulate a message from God to the congregation, but no interpretation is necessary when people are in a moment of collective prayer or praise because then they are speaking directly to God, expressing their heart and thoughts to Him). 28 If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and God… (pf – If church leaders yield the attention of the congregation to a person using a spiritual language to articulate a message from God to the congregation and the person is unable to bring the interpretation nor anyone else feels inspired by God to give an interpretation, then the church leaders should be cautious in allowing this person to address the congregation in a spiritual language in the future and encourage that person to use their gift of spiritual language in worship and prayer to God.)
1CO 14:39 Therefore, my brothers, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. 40 But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way."

I hope this helps you!!

Pastor Fred

Friday, September 2, 2011

September 2

In reading 1 Corinthians 13 this morning, we are challenged to remember that a life defining faith in Jesus is about what we do and what we do not. Jesus teaches us that what we didn't do can be just as egregious as an overt mistake.

The parable of the Good Samaritan contrasts right action with inaction, noting the sin of the priest and the Levite as what they failed to do. The parable of the Talents contrasts right action with inaction, noting the sin of the one steward as what he failed to do. On the contrary, we find in the parable of the Unforgiving Servant contrasts the right action with wrong action, noting the righteous act of the king and the sinful act of the steward.

We are called to love. And the moments when we fail to love as well as the moments we act in a manner that is contrary to love, both grieve God's heart and harms others.

"4 Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud 5 or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. 6 It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. 7 Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance." (1 Corinthians 13 not)

Pastor Fred

Thursday, September 1, 2011

September 1

If you are trying to find a reason to celebrate God today because your circumstances have eclipsed your praise, look no further than Psalm 135. Let's look at them together...

Verses 1 & 2, "...praise Him you who serve the Lord, you who serve in the House of the Lord..." The New Testament pairing in today's reading is 1 Corinthians 12, what a perfect match! Psalm 135 tells us to praise the Lord because He has given each of us gifts, talents, passions, and abilities that enable us to serve Him. Celebrate the gift you have been given and celebrate that you have a church that you love where you can put those gifts to work! What a privilege we have to be useful in His Kingdom, what a cause for celebration!

Verses 3 & 4 have three specific reasons we should celebrate the Lord. First, He is good! Come on! He only and always has our best interest at heart. Even when we don't understand, even when we fell as though He is not listening or He has forgotten us, we must remind our feelings that they must yield to truth...that He is good! We are told here as well that we are celebrate because of His name. Jesus tells us that His name is Father. Of all the ways that He could choose to relate to us, He chose one that is paternal, love. All of us have experienced love in some measure, no matter how small, even if it was just the compassion of a stranger. Now imagine someone whose love is perfect, without limit, always enduring, and eternal! That is His love for you, what a celebration! Finally, these two verses tell us that He has chosen us, that we are His treasure. This is important because there are times that we love people in this life because we are committed to them, because we are loyal to them, but at times, we are certainly are not liking them. God's feelings of affection for us never wane! Even at our worst, we are His treasure...what a cause for celebration!

Verses 5-11 are recounting His greatness. These are important texts in our search for a cause for celebration. Think of all the people you love who have found themselves in situations where your heart longed to help but your resources, your ability, your influence just wasn't enough. Think of times when you over committed yourself to help others, you over promised. God cannot relate! His resources, His ability, His influence, His power knows no bounds...what a cause for celebration!

So for the rest of the chapter, you try. Read the remaining verses and make a list of reasons given for why celebration should be rising in our hearts and give that celebration a voice, praise Him!!

Pastor Fred

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

August 31

I'm not sure the Apostle Paul would have found his place in children's ministry if he were alive in this era. I can hear him now, "Johnny, if you want to cry, I'll give you something to cry about..." In today's reading, 1 Corinthians 11:17-34, we find him speaking with a directness that would cause may of us to find a new church the following weekend. While certainly children's ministry is a place for an abundance of love and affection, many of us are still wanting to be coddled as if we were in grade school. May I be so bold as to say that what we need are people who love us enough to speak plainly to us, to be direct, to "Apostle Paul" us when necessary.

In verse 32 he equates his reprimand to how the Lord Himself pursues us by reminding us that being corrected is in fact a loving act so that we will not be condemned with the world. Are gentleness, softness, empathy, and comfort vital aspects of love? Absolutely! But may we not be a people who leave the rest of love behind! I Corinthians 11 love that is bold, direct, challenging, corrective, and telling should be equally celebrated!

Take some time today to read Luke 5:17-26. Two of the most poignant words in the entire account of the supernatural healing of the paralytic man were "get up." Yes he needed friends, yes he needed a divine encounter, yes he needed a revelation of Jesus, yes he needed to be forgiven...but yes he needed to get up. How many of us in an emotional sense, would rather be catered to, continue to be carried around by others, remain the victim instead of heeding the words of our loving Savior, "get up!" We read this historical account of Jesus but the practice of our lives implies that we have overlaid information that is not there. We live as if Jesus said, "Hey, could someone get this man's mat for him?" or "Hey, I know he can walk now but we need some volunteers to carry this poor man home, hasn't he been through enough today?" No...he heard Jesus say, "get up!"

I am not suggesting that compassion has no place in our lives, on the contrary! I am suggesting that true compassion is both comforting and courageous. Who in your life have you invited to speak to you with directness, to tell you no, to Apostle Paul you, to 1 Corinthians 11 you, to tell you to get up? May our churches be places where hurting people can come and find a gentle voice and a loving hand but also find a community of people who love each other enough to be confronted by trusted friends who care deeply and call us to "get up!"

Pastor Fred

Saturday, August 27, 2011

August 27

Psalm 121

    1 I look up to the mountains—
      does my help come from there?

    2 My help comes from the Lord,
      who made heaven and earth!

    3 He will not let you stumble;
      the one who watches over you will not slumber.

    4 Indeed, he who watches over Israel
      never slumbers or sleeps.

    5 The Lord himself watches over you!
      The Lord stands beside you as your protective shade.

    6 The sun will not harm you by day,
      nor the moon at night.

    7 The Lord keeps you from all harm
      and watches over your life.

    8 The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go,
      both now and forever.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

August 25

Psalm 119:55 says, "I reflect at night on who you are, O Lord; therefore, I obey your instructions. A revelation of who He is gives birth to a motivation to embrace what He says. When I see His sovereignty, I surrender myself.

This great chapter continues in verse 77b, "...for Your instructions are my delight." Are they? Or do we have an "oh, okay, if a I have to..." mindset when it comes to giving generously, to loving our enemies, to forgiving people who have betrayed us, to accept suffering in innocence, to feel responsible for strangers, to take up the cause of the poor, to serve my church family, this our delight?

At City Life we teach about 12 pathways: prayer, Scripture, worship, fasting, accountability, relationships, gathering, reaching, service, generosity, stewardship, and rest...let's delight in them! Let us run after them with celebration and abandonment, our joy, our life, surrendering ourselves to His ways because we have seen His sovereignty!

Pastor Fred

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

August 24

Listen to what the Expositor's Bible Commentary states in regards to a "capstone" as mentioned in Psalm 118:22, "The capstone was an important stone that held two rows of stones together in a corner (cornerstone) or stabilized the stones at the foundation or elsewhere." Jesus is referred to as the "chief cornerstone" by Paul in Ephesians 2:20. Again Paul (Romans 9:33) and also Peter (1 Peter 2:6-8) point to Isaiah 28:16 as a prophetic Messianic metaphor, referring to the coming Messiah (Jesus) as a "precious cornerstone."

In Psalm 118:22, I am intrigued by the picture of the builder having rejected a stone. The cornerstone needed to be reliable and attractive, sturdy and aesthetically pleasing. This stone needed to be strong enough to fulfill a vital purpose and also appealing enough for a place of prominence in construction. The builder has a trained eye. "Builders" as referred to in Psalm 118 carried with them generations of training, handed down from parent to child. Our geological science today was not present then. They held a stone and in their hands, in their eyes, centuries of knowledge created a well honed intuition. They were expert craftsmen...and they were wrong.

Each of us is building a life. Our lives, our values, our sense of right and wrong have been passed down to us through centuries of culture. The wisdom of this Psalm is to confront us that our judgments are flawed. Our trained humanity, our natural intuition is incapable of choosing the right "cornerstone" for our lives. Everything about Jesus is contradictory to our natural self.

If you are sharing Jesus with people around you and they seem to be disinterested, suspicious, even contentious... be patient. They are the master craftsmen of Psalm 118. Can you imagine walking onto an job site in ancient times, going to the rubble pile and picking up a stone buried there and taking it to the head craftsman and convincing him and that this stone is supposed to not only serve as a cornerstone but the chief cornerstone of the entire structure! You might be thrown back into the rubble pile with the stone!

Nick Hokkanen on Saturday night preached about Reaching, and during his sermon he said that we cannot do the Holy Spirit's job, brilliant. We find this in 1 Corinthians 12:3. Appreciate the magnitude of the offer that you present to people in sharing Jesus. We are not trying to encourage them to live out what they already believe, although sometimes that is the case, but rather completely abandon their personal value system, cultural norms that for them have worked their way into their lives through generations of influence. There is a vast difference between being intentional and being hurried. Don't be hurried in sharing Jesus. The Holy Spirit has been working on that person's heart from the foundations of the earth! We have a part to play, most certainly (Luke 10:2), but the Holy Spirit is the only One who can administrate the supernatural work of a cornerstone replacement project!

Pastor Fred

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

August 23

In todays reading through, we find an interesting start to the sixth chapter of Paul's first letter to the church at Corinth. He writes, "When one of you has a dispute with another believer..." His instruction is not that they should never have disputes. His counsel is that there will be disputes, in fact, disputes that will be serious enough to necessitate formal proceedings.

How do we reconcile that with Jesus' declaration in John 13 that the world will know we are His disciples by our love for one another and again in John 17, His prayer, that we would be one as He and the Father are one? I would submit to you that oneness and unity are not contradictory to conflict. In fact, Christianity expects us to pursue relationships to a degree of vulnerability that if we have never been disappointed, if we have never been hurt, if we have never been emotionally violated, then we have not loved deep enough! Jesus does not expect us to be naive; He tells us in Matthew 10:16 that we are to be as wise as serpents yet innocent as doves. He is not demanding that we make ourselves emotionally and materially vulnerable to others impulsively, without considering a person's character or a person's reputation. We are simply being taught a principle of relationship, the bond of friendship, brotherhood, sisterhood, is not held until we cross the threshold of vulnerability. In addition, vulnerability has degrees. The wisdom of Proverbs speaks volumes to this idea of being measured in our vulnerability to others; however, we cannot be measured if we have not even begun to trust!

I Corinthians 6 is a treasure to the church. Our witness is not in an absence of conflict but rather the presence of reconciliation. When the Church begins to, among ourselves, reconcile relationships that the world itself deems irreconcilable, there will not be enough chairs and pews in an entire city to contain those who will come. We all know that we are broken, we are looking for a place that heals and unfortunately, for most people, the Church has been just another place of perpetual relational fracturing.

We are talking about Relationships this weekend at the Newport News campus of City Life, specifically Matthew 18...if you cannot be with us, checkout the podcast! We are working diligently to be a church where the ministry of reconciliation is held in high esteem!

Pastor Fred

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

July 27

Take time to read Psalm 45 today, I like the New Living Translation if you are reading online. Envision Jesus as the King in the song and we, His church, as the daughters/bride. Enjoy!

Pastor Fred

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

July 26

23 For last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside me, 24 and he said...

This comes from Acts 27 in today's reading. In these few words we find three of the most foundational concepts of Christianity!

First, does my belief in God translate into a sense of belonging to Him? I have met few people who deny in the existence of God but many who have no sense of belonging to Him, acknowledging His right to fully govern and rule over their lives. In Greg Gilbert's book, "What Is the Gospel?" he lists four questions that we should all acknowledge as being vitally important to our existence: Who made us and to whom are we accountable? What is our problem, in other words, are we in trouble and why? What is God's solution to that problem? How has He acted to save us from it? How do I, myself, right here, right now--how do I come to be included in that salvation, what makes this good new for me and not just for someone else? One of the reason I love this book is because he defines sin, at its very essence, as living in a state of rebellion, denying God's sovereign right to rule over us. If we believe but do not submit, we are anchored in sin. We must belong to Him!

Next, in my belonging to Him, am I serving Him? I teach about 12 Pathways that lead us into the depths of eternal life this side of heaven, believing that eternal life is not just measured on the time continuum but the depth continuum as well, a life that is forever, yes, but also full! You show me a person whose life is tracking on every path: Scripture, worship, prayer, fasting, gathering, relationship, accountability, reaching, rest, service, generosity, and stewardship and I will show you are person who is serving Him! Belonging to God is a matter of the heart, serving Him is a matter of effort. I cannot earn His love, I cannot earn His grace, I cannot earn His salvation...but make no mistake, serving Him is about activity. The book of James brings this perspective like no other book in Scripture, read it, live it!

Finally, we come to "he said..." which is the angel speaking to Paul. If I belong to Him, if I am serving Him, I will not endure without and expectation that He will speak to me. Whether by angels, visions, the Holy Spirit, divine encounters, a prophetic voice...we must have a vision for a God who speaks! I have never heard the audible voice of God but seldom does a day go by that I do not feel His whisper to my soul.

Submit to Him, work for Him, and above all, be listening!

Pastor Fred

Friday, July 22, 2011

July 22

1 Oh, what joy for those
whose disobedience is forgiven,
whose sin is put out of sight!
2 Yes, what joy for those
whose record the L
ord has cleared of guilt,[c]
whose lives are lived in complete honesty!
3 When I refused to confess my sin,
my body wasted away,
and I groaned all day long.
4 Day and night your hand of discipline was heavy on me.
My strength evaporated like water in the summer heat.

5 Finally, I confessed all my sins to you
and stopped trying to hide my guilt.
I said to myself, “I will confess my rebellion to the L
And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone.

6 Therefore, let all the godly pray to you while there is still time,
that they may not drown in the floodwaters of judgment.
7 For you are my hiding place;
you protect me from trouble.
You surround me with songs of victory.

8 The Lord says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life.
I will advise you and watch over you.
9 Do not be like a senseless horse or mule
that needs a bit and bridle to keep it under control.”

10 Many sorrows come to the wicked,
but unfailing love surrounds those who trust the L
11 So rejoice in the Lord and be glad, all you who obey him!
Shout for joy, all you whose hearts are pure!

May Psalm 32 be the story of our lives!

Pastor Fred

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

July 20

If you have been following this blog for any amount of time, you have found that there are three beliefs central to my faith in God as a devoted follower of Christ: the goodness of God, the potential of people, and the centrality of church.

Psalm 27:13-14 from today's reading is a hallmark verse for my unwavering confidence in God's goodness...

13 Yet I am confident I will see the Lord’s goodness
while I am here in the land of the living.

14 Wait patiently for the Lord.
Be brave and courageous.
Yes, wait patiently for the L

I love how David doesn't say that the only way he will see God's goodness is once he is in heaven with Him after death. No, there is goodness here! But still, as he concludes in verse 14, he acknowledges that often patience is required of us in waiting for this goodness to be realized. And as we continue in today's reading, we come to Acts 22 where we find a narrative that exemplifies this foundational truth, God's goodness.

We find Paul arrested, bound, and about to be beaten and tortured for the purpose of rendering a confession from him. I wonder if in the moments before he was recalling Psalm 27? Our belief in the goodness of God does not include a denial of hardship. On the contrary, we have every expectation of hardship! The promise of the goodness of God contains an assurance that when we face hardship, the suffering is never meaningless. The goodness of God is not just about seasons of ease but most certainly also seasons of affliction. When God chooses to allow me to suffer, I see His goodness because in such places my character is formed, my destiny is advanced, and the message of the gospel of Christ is preached to people I would have otherwise never encountered! Even when I am suffering because of my own folly and foolishness, my suffering becomes my teacher, helping me to eradicate sinful patterns from my life.

I must have patience for God's goodness to be realized this side of eternity, for a season of suffering to change into a season of ease and also for a revelation of understanding to see how the season of suffering was in itself purposeful for me, my future, and my world!

He is GOOD!

Pastor Fred

Friday, July 15, 2011

July 15

1 Who may worship in your sanctuary, Lord?
Who may enter your presence on your holy hill?
2 Those who lead blameless lives and do what is right,
speaking the truth from sincere hearts.
3 Those who refuse to gossip
or harm their neighbors
or speak evil of their friends.
4 Those who despise flagrant sinners,
and honor the faithful followers of the L
and keep their promises even when it hurts.
5 Those who lend money without charging interest,
and who cannot be bribed to lie about the innocent.
Such people will stand firm forever.

Psalm 15

May it be for each of us!

Pastor Fred

July 15

1 Who may worship in your sanctuary, Lord?
Who may enter your presence on your holy hill?
2 Those who lead blameless lives and do what is right,
speaking the truth from sincere hearts.
3 Those who refuse to gossip
or harm their neighbors
or speak evil of their friends.
4 Those who despise flagrant sinners,
and honor the faithful followers of the L
and keep their promises even when it hurts.
5 Those who lend money without charging interest,
and who cannot be bribed to lie about the innocent.
Such people will stand firm forever.

Psalm 15

May it be for each of us!

Pastor Fred

Thursday, July 14, 2011

July 14

In today's Old Testament readings, we find Psalms 10, 11, and 12. What a tremendous picture of our emotional journey at times when we are in crisis.

Psalm 10 conveys the sentiment of feeling abandoned by God. Verse one opens with, "O Lord, why do you stand so far away? Why do you hide when I am in trouble?" Have you ever felt this way? God doesn't want us to ignore our feelings. He doesn't want us to be ruled by them either. Suppressing our feelings is what leads to being controlled by them. One of the great lessons of Psalms is to bring our feelings to God in prayer. When we do, we find our hearts turning towards Psalm 11.

This Psalm opens with "I trust in the Lord for protection..." We must note that David's situation has not changed, rather his outlook, his heart. When we feel abandoned, ignored by God, we bring those feelings honestly to Him and in that place, we find His presence, we experience His comfort, we sense His voice and direction and hope comes alive in our hearts. Amazingly, that same heart that once despaired now becomes a well spring of trust and faith, preparing us for Psalm 12.

In verse five we find the long awaited moment, "Now I will rise up to rescue them..." God's timing may not be what we would at first prefer but we must trust in His sovereignty. We must let truth saturate our heart and mind (Psalm 119). We must be honest with Him about what we are feeling and remember that waiting on God is not a sign of His delay but an opportunity for us to grow!

Wait well!

Pastor Fred

Friday, July 8, 2011

July 8

At the end of Acts 15, we find the account of Paul and Barnabas' disagreement that led to a parting of ways for a time. Unfortunately, for many Christians, this is where their story ends... but not for Paul, Barnabas, John Mark, and Silas.

We are destined to have disagreements with people that we love and respect, unavoidable. However, we are expected to work through those differences and even if we cannot come to a place of agreement, we reach a place of mutual respect and being relationally reconciled. In the end, the relationship has to be more valuable to us than being right.

Eventually, these men were once again working together in ministry. See 2 Timothy 4:11 for Paul and Mark and 1 Corinthians 9:6 for Paul and Barnabas. In addition, according the Expositors Bible Commentary, both Luther and Calvin believed that 2 Corinthians 8:18-19 refers to Barnabas, placing him together ministering with Paul and Silas.

Paul practiced what he preached. In Ephesians 4:3 he speaks of "the peace that binds us." He was in prison at the time of the writing of the letter to Ephesus making his metaphor clear. We should be held captive by our commitment to be at peace, reconciled to one another always eventually.

A hallmark of being spiritually unhealthy is whether or not a person has a lengthy list of people with whom they are estranged, that fractured relationships characterize them, especially people with whom they have worked closely in ministry.

Acts 15 is not permission to part ways, it is given to us to remind us of the "bond of peace" to which we are committed to uphold, usually at the expense of our pride!

Pastor Fred

Thursday, July 7, 2011

July 7

Acts 15...unity is when absolute commonalities transcend relative dissimilarities.

Great leaders are always asking the question, "What are the absolutes, immutable truths, timeless principles, upon which we agree, hold in common? And, what are the issues where we disagree, dissimilarities, that are relative to ones perspective, opinion, preferences?"

When we elevate issues that are relative to an undeserved place of absolutism, we create a legalistic environment. When we concede absolutes to an undeserved place of relativism, we create a compromising environment.

Discern, dialogue, distinguish...lead.

Pastor Fred

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

July 5

In reading Acts 13:26-52, I am struck at how similar the predicament of Paul's Jewish audience in Pisidian Antioch is to so many people in our time.

The people to whom Paul was speaking had in their possession the Holy Scriptures of their day, for us, that would have been the Old Testament since much of the New Testament had not even been written, much less canonized. And in the Old Testament Scriptures, as Paul so aptly identifies, Christ is clearly identified as the Messiah. Yet, even when confronted plainly with the truth, a life altering response is not forthcoming from the crowd.

I meet few people who do not embrace a belief that the Bible is sacred and from God. I meet few people who do not embrace a belief that Jesus is divine, lived a perfect life, died for our sins, rose from the dead, and will one day judge us to determine our eternity. Yet, I meet many people, as with Paul's day, whose beliefs do not alter their existence.

What of the Bible do we believe? How have those beliefs changed our lives? Paul speaks plainly in his second letter to the church of Corinth when he wrote in the fifth chapter, the seventeenth verse, "Therefore, if any person is in Christ, they are a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come."

If you believe, what old things for you have passed away, what new things have come...and may it be that the passing away of the old and the coming of the new never cease as long as we have breath! May that which we declare to believe forever define us as we live!

Pastor Fred

Saturday, June 18, 2011

June 18

Acts 2:22, "...miracles, wonders, and signs..." Is there a difference? My father-in-law is doing a series at Christian Life Center in Williamsburg on this topic which created a curiosity in me about the distinctions between them. I had always thought of them as three words restating the same sentiment, redundant for emphasis. But they are in fact, each one, unique.

The word that is translated "miracle" is typically the word "dunamis." Vines defines it as, "...power, inherent ability, is used of works of a supernatural origin and character, such as could not be produced by natural agents and means." You will also find this word translated as "power" throughout the New Testament. When "miracle" is used for the translation, it is when a specific occurrence is being referenced, one that necessitated power of supernatural origin (see Matthew 7:22). If you want to see examples of where "dunamis" is translated "power" then see Mark 5:30 and Ephesians 1:19.

New Ungers Bible Dictionary has a great definition for miracles, "supernatural manifestations of divine power in the external world, in themselves special revelations of the presence and power of God."

"Wonders" is the typically a translation for "teras" which according to The Complete Word Study New Testament, "to watch, as that which for its extraordinary character is apt to be observed and kept in memory." You can find this word in Matthew 24:24 and Acts 4:30. The word "miracle" is the more general word, a category of sorts, in which "wonders" could be thought of as a subset. Not every miracle is a wonder but every wonder is a miracle. An example of a miraculous wonder is when we practice tithing, priority percentage giving, we have less according to the math but for everyone who faithfully does this, you know, we always end up with more! It is a miraculous wonder!

"Signs" is from the word "semeion" which according to TCWSNT, "valuable not so much for what they are as for what they indicate of the grace and power of the doer or his/her immediate connection with God." When you read Mark 16:20, Acts 14:3, and Hebrews 2:4, you will see how "signs" has a special meaning relative to the others although it often appears in a list with them. Again, not every miracle is a sign but every sign is a miracle. An example of a miraculous sign is Jesus' virgin birth. A miracle most certainly but more importantly, a sign for Jesus being the Messiah!

In Acts 2:37 we see a great example of a miraculous wonder in that Peter's sermon was just words, but words that were supernaturally empowered from on high, words that "...pierced to the heart..." and brought the listeners to a moment of surrender to God!

In Acts 2:25-28 we see a great example of a miraculous sign through the prophecy that David gave centuries before in speaking of the Messiah in Psalm 16:8-11.

May we be a people of miracles, wonders, and signs!!

Pastor Fred

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

June 14

Stage fright. Our daughter has her first recital this weekend and her big question is, "Will I get stage fright?" I am quite certain that is the least of her worries! If anything, we may have difficulty getting her off the stage!

In Acts 1, we find the crowd of people who just witnessed the ascension of Jesus suffering from a sort of spiritual stage fright, paralyzed by the moment, needing a bit of a push to start that for which they had been training, studying, and practicing for the last three years.

I believe City Life, our church, is a place where we have a responsibility to be like the two men in the white clothes (although we prefer jeans, flips, and t's!) who say to people, "Hey, stop gazing at heaven...we've got work to do and you have a part to play!" People are stuck. They have a vision and a hope to one day be in heaven but they have never begun the work Jesus expects of us all, to bring heaven to earth, now.

The very first thing they did was to begin meeting together, they created a spiritual community, they formed the very first church! They prayed together, worshiped together, were active in the community telling others about Jesus, they worked to sure up their leadership team, they held meetings, they met practical needs...and as we keep reading in Acts, so much more! Does this describe you? Does this describe your life?

Don't be stuck staring aimlessly into heaven! Find a church, be a part, get to work!

Pastor Fred

Thursday, June 9, 2011

June 9

“My Kingdom is not an earthly kingdom...My Kingdom is not of this world.” This is Jesus responding to Pilate, recorded for us in John 18, verse 36.

I wonder how that perspective would change our reaction to perceived moments of unfairness in life? When we are passed over for a promotion, when we are the victim of unscrupulous business practices, when we are the subject of neighborhood gossip, when our hard work goes unnoticed or worse, credited to another, when we feel neglected by our friends, when we are excluded from certain social circles, when we are judged prematurely... my kingdom is not an earthly kingdom, my kingdom is not of this world.

That perspective doesn't preclude us from feeling hurt, feeling disappointed, feeling sorrowful, even angry. It does however keep us from slipping into a place of self-pity, from regressing into an emotional state of defeatism, a life orientation that allows disappointment to always eclipse hope. We must be genuine and honest and courageous in embracing the emotion of the moment, allowing our hearts to feel deeply. But then we give those feelings in prayer to God, we give those feelings to trusted friends, we give those feelings to their proper place... felt, not followed. Truth must be what ultimately leads us, that my kingdom is not an earthly kingdom, my kingdom is not of this world.

That which I suffer in innocence here costs me nothing... my kingdom is not of this world.

Pastor Fred

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

June 8

In today's reading in 2 Chronicles 30 and 31, we find some beautiful examples of the expectation that God has of each of us to do our part in ensuring that there are vibrant, life giving spiritual families in our respective communities that gather for worship, embrace a life defining faith, and support a vocational clergy.

In verses 7-9 of chapter 30, God speaks of the people who refuse to gather for corporate worship as being stubborn, having abandoned God, and having become the object of His derision because they are refusing to submit to God's call to gather regularly for worship. The particular gathering in this account is to celebrate the annual feast of Passover. I love the instruction that God gives regarding the Passover in Exodus 12:4, that families who cannot consume an entire lamb by themselves, should join with other families so nothing is wasted. If Jesus is the Passover Lamb, and we know He is, then what kind of crowd do we need to be a part of consistently to rise to the measure of His life! Do you gather with a church each week? Are you experiencing the joy sharing in the worship of Christ with others?

Moving on to chapter 31, in verse 1 we find that for those who gathered, there was a personal revelation during that gathering that there were inconsistencies between what they professed in worship and how they lived at home. And immediately upon their return to their communities, they began to abandon aspects of their lives that they knew were a contradiction to their declaration of faith to live as a child of God. When you drive home after sharing in the worship of Christ with others, are you examining your life as the Holy Spirit leads to explore areas of inconsistency in your life, between your declaration of faith and your attitudes, your words, your life roles, your relationships, your habits, your character, your marriage, your parenting, your job...

Finally, again in chapter 31, verse 4, we find that the people took up the responsibility to take financial ownership of ensuring that priests and their families were supported so they could devote their time to meeting the spiritual needs of their respective communities. Part of gathering for worship regularly is in bringing your contribution so that the church you call home has the financial means to advance ministries and endeavors to care for the community and will be ready to care for you when you need them, and at some point, you will! But until your crisis arises, be a person who takes delight in knowing that the urgent needs of others are being attentively addressed because you cared enough to share what you have!

Go to church this weekend, share in the worship of Christ, live according to your faith, and give generously!

Pastor Fred