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