Friday, December 21, 2012


Any time our country finds itself at a place that holds the potential to define all our futures, honest, open, respectful, emphasis on listening based dialogue is critical.

When I here people begin their comments with “Any reasonable person…” alarms me.  When I here “No responsible person would disagree…” I am disturbed.  Regardless of where a person may stand on the issues of gun control, a conversation that most certainly needs to lead to meaningful action, there must be a commitment to work tirelessly to understand the positions, values, beliefs, and passions of the people opposite to our own ideas.  If conversations begin with “No reasonable person…” or “No responsible person would disagree…” then no effort is being made to listen, only insult.  No conversation where a person attempts to strengthen their position by framing the other person as unreasonable and irresponsible will be productive.  This is one of our greatest political impediments as a nation.  This impediment is at the root of our inability to pass legislation that results in meaningful action in response to the lack of access to healthcare by too many citizens, legislation that will return this country’s fiscal stewardship to the very principles that made us the wealthiest nation on earth, legislation that will continue to advance ethnic equality, gender equality, and social equality, and legislation that results in meaningful action to have a comprehensive plan for how we as a nation can responsibly arm our citizenry, for personal defense, wildlife management, and sporting recreation.

In February of this year my own personal beliefs about the ownership of guns evolved.  I had never considered owning a handgun, much less carrying one concealed on a daily basis.  My view changed as I listened to others with whom I would have previously disagreed.  I listened.  That is not to say that listening to someone will always alter our beliefs and values.  But if our beliefs and values are in need of changing, tempering, evolving… then listening to others is the only hope.  And if in our listening we still disagree, why do we need others to be wrong in order to make ourselves feel more right?  That is not strength of character but rather grossly misguided insecurity.  One of the great strengths of any society is to champion the coexistence of diverging values.

For me, I came to the conclusion that I was not living at my fullest possible potential.  I believe that if an opportunity arose where I found myself in a crisis where the lives of others were threatened, that my courage would not fail me and I would act.  This is how my father raised me, God bless him for always teaching me by his very example of the selflessness that manhood demands.  I realized that my actions, if ever required, would be grossly inadequate unless I was better prepared.  I obtained my concealed carry permit, took a class, copious research, committed to hours at the range, concentrated on developing muscle memory responses for various scenarios…I decided that any possible future crisis deserved an effort from me that was far greater than what presently existed.  My potential as a citizen of this Commonwealth that stirs my heart, of which my children are the tenth direct generation to walk upon the sacred soil of Virginia from when Abraham and Suzanne Michaux first arrived here the 1700’s, needed to climb.  My ability to serve others in a time of need that may demand lethal force existed at an elevation that placed me as a victim when I had the potential to be a responder, to aid, to rescue, to sacrifice.

Already a conversation has begun here in Virginia regarding allowing teachers to be armed.  To those who oppose this course of action, I would only ask that a conversation be allowed to advance, towards an outcome that is not yet determined but one that can and must be the result of a conversation that is characterized as being honest, open, respectful, and an emphasis on listening.

For me, I think the idea is to let people live at their full potential...for example, if a teacher is a former police officer and can pass a rigorous qualification process by the Virginia State Police, why wouldn't we consider allowing that person to live up to their potential in every possible setting, especially if that potential holds the possibility of saving lives. I would humbly suggest that part of the discussion in our society presently needs to also be how to limit the perceived vulnerability of people, how to project the ability to offer a sturdy response to any threat scenario, as opposed to our present situation of being too easily identified as victims.

The complexity of what lies ahead is immense.  But I am convinced that whatever decisions that will best serve humanity for decades to come must be born out of all the divergent values presently competing for influence.  May we all pray for those in authority over us as Scripture compels as these decisions are reached, “…that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity.”  (1 Timothy 2:2)

Pastor Fred

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Horatio Spafford

This is from our weekend service at the Williamsburg campus this past Sunday, October 25th (  We closed our service with this amazing story of faith and perseverance.  My prayer is that it will be the same source of encouragement to you as it so often is to me.

Horatio Spafford (1828-1888) was a wealthy Chicago lawyer with a thriving legal practice, a beautiful home, a wife, and four daughters. He was also a devout Christian, a faithful student of the Scriptures, and a church elder.  His circle of friends included D. L. Moody, Ira Sankey and various other well-known Christians of the day.

At the very height of his financial and professional success, Horatio and his wife Anna suffered the tragic loss of their young son. Shortly thereafter on October 8, 1871, the Great Chicago Fire destroyed almost every real estate investment that Spafford had.

In 1873, Spafford scheduled a boat trip to Europe in order to give his wife and daughters a much needed vacation and time to recover from the tragedy. He also went to join Moody and Sankey on an evangelistic campaign in England. Spafford sent his wife and daughters ahead of him while he remained in Chicago to take care of some unexpected last minute business. Several days later he received notice that his family's ship had encountered a collision. All four of his daughters drowned along with over 200 others; only his wife had survived and having arrived in England sent a telegram that began simply with the two words, “Saved alone.”

With a heavy heart, Spafford boarded a boat that would take him to his grieving Anna in England. It was on this trip that he penned those now famous words.

After receiving Anna's telegram, Horatio immediately left Chicago to bring his wife home. On the Atlantic crossing, the captain of his ship called Horatio to his cabin to tell him that they were passing over the spot where his four daughters had perished. He wrote to Rachel, his wife's half-sister, "On Thursday last we passed over the spot where she went down, in mid-ocean, the waters three miles deep. But I do not think of our dear ones there. They are safe, folded, the dear lambs."
Horatio wrote his hymn, still sung today, as he passed over their watery grave.

Philip Bliss (1838-1876), a famed composer, was so impressed with Spafford's life and the words of his hymn that he composed a beautiful piece of music to accompany the lyrics. The song was published by Bliss and Sankey, in 1876.

For more than a century, the tragic story of one man has given hope to countless thousands who have lifted their voices to sing, It Is Well With My Soul.

It Is Well With My Soul

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

My sin, oh the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to His cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.

And Lord haste the day, when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.

It is well, with my soul
It is well, it is well with my soul.

May it be well with your soul today and forevermore!

Pastor Fred

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Impossible Loyalty

I hope you have been following this series with us...50 Day People!  If not, you can catch some podcasts online and also the sermon notes as well.  Enjoy!

We wrapped up the series this past weekend but did not get to our last point so I wanted to blog about that one.  The series has been a look at what it means to be a pentecostal church in our modern world.  Many of us have endured excesses and out of balance in pentecostal services throughout our lives and sadly, those experiences keep people away from pentecostal churches today.  At City Life, we believe in all the power without any of the pageantry!  Throughout the summer, we have examined the very first pentecostal church, the first century Jerusalem church.  The first church was birthed 50 days after Jesus's atoning death on the cross, thus our series title.

In Acts 2:41-47, we find a descriptive list of this church, what I refer to as the ten impossibilities.  This list speaks of what characterized the Jerusalem church, not just on their best day but every day, to the degree that it caused the world from the outside looking in to stand in awe!  They experienced growth, loyalty, community, prayer, power, generosity, service, gathering, worship, and favor to such degrees that it seems impossible.  That is for me the essence of pentecostalism, to have an unshakeable belief that God still makes the impossible, possible!  Mark 10:27 has been our anchor verse for the series, and for the past two weeks, we have been exploring impossible loyalty in particular.

When you and I are emotionally compromised, we are at risk of being disloyal.  The life of Jacob demonstrates this truth with great clarity.  When he felt disappointed, when he felt entitled, when he felt wronged, and finally, when he felt ashamed, Jacob betrayed.  There should be an internal alarm that we all have whenever we are emotionally compromised, especially any of the four we just mentioned.  This does not mean we will betray but rather we are at risk.  When we are hurt and wounded we often give ourselves a false sense of permission to do what we should not and not do what we should.  The podcasts will walk you through the first three, for now, let's talk about feeling ashamed.

Psalm 44:15 says, "My disgrace is before me all day long, and shame has covered my face..."  We find King David at a time in his life when he was overcome by feelings of being ashamed.  Those feelings led to one of Scriptures most egregious betrayals.  2 Samuel 11:15 records for us King David's command for Joab to send Uriah to a certain death.  King David's indiscretions with Bathsheba gave birth to an overwhelming sense of shame making him emotional compromised and ultimately vulnerable to the temptation of disloyalty.  Unfortunately, this held true for Jacob as well.

In Genesis 33:12-27, Jacob has been forgiven by his brother Esau and have before them the opportunity to restore their family.  Esau invites Jacob to return home and Jacob lies.  He tells Esau that because they have so much livestock, women, and children, their pace of travel is just too slow and that Esau should continue on to Seir and they will meet there.  However, Jacob travels to Succoth and settles there.  I can't imagine the shock of Esau when after waiting for hours, possibly even days, realizing that his brother has betrayed him yet again.  I believe Jacob was disloyal here because of his shame.  He knows that if he goes back to Seir, he has to deal with his lifetime of betrayals.

This is the lie people who are overcome with shame believe, that suffering the guilt of just one more moment of disloyalty is better than having to deal with all the cumulative pain of past betrayals.  The treachery of this lie is that it is partially true.  The past does outweigh just one more indiscretion.  But we remain enslaved to the ever growing pain our past instead of the liberty that confession always brings.  Dealing with the pain of our past is never easy but it is the only path to a clean conscience.

All of us need to have people in our lives we trust enough to share our secrets.  We must have people in our lives to whom we can confess our past betrayals and find there from them the wisdom, Godly counsel, and accountability to take further steps to confess and seek forgiveness from the Esau's in our life.  What are you hiding?  When will you seek out a trusted friend or pastor to divulge your betrayal?  The road to Succoth seems tempting but only in Seir will you find the peace that has always eluded you.

Pastor Fred

Thursday, August 16, 2012


Wow!  I'm not sure I have every noticed this verse before...Jeremiah 14:11, "Then the Lord said to me, Do not pray for these people anymore."  And when we jump down to chapter 15, verse 1..."Then the Lord said to me, "Even if Moses and Samuel stood before me pleading for these people, I wouldn't help them."  Ouch!!

I know there have been times in my life when I have been so disgusted with people that I have searched for an out, permission to give up on people.  I am familiar with prayers of imprecation, which we find in the Psalms.  Check out Psalm 55:15, 69:28, and 109:8.  I have most certainly prayed a few of these prayers.  In fact, I encourage others to pray these sorts of prayers.  This is how God instructs us to deal with our unhealthy emotions, we bring them to Him.  He is our safe place to vent.   Then we are confronted with Jesus' admonition to not forget to pray for our enemies in Matthew 5:44.  For me personally, I like to keep Matthew 5:44 by leaning into Psalm 55:15!  Seriously, Jesus is asking us to pray blessings upon our enemies, but you may find that blessings for your enemies can only come from your heart once you've dealt with your impure emotions first.  So, your enemy prayers can begin with Psalm 109:8...they just can't end there!

But what about this command NOT to pray?  Our final sense of permission must not come from a verse by rather the entire text.  And in the text, we find something even more perplexing...Jeremiah blatantly disobeys God!  Wow, wow, wow!  So now, we have a command not to pray AND a permission giving example for disobedience?

As we continue to read, chapter 14-17, we find Jeremiah continues to intercede on behalf of his people, as rotten and as despicable as they are.  What would you have done, what would I have done.  My first inclination would have been, "You are so right God, in fact, I've been hoping that you would give me a pass on praying for these debauchery seekers."  But that is not Jeremiah's response, he continues to pray, pleading with God even after God has told him not to (14:19-22).  (We aren't telling our children about these verses who are instructed in our house to champion first time obedience!!)

I hope you read this wonderful exchange between God and Jeremiah today, chapters 14 through 17.  In the end, God's heart turns back towards His people, giving them an opportunity for repentance, all through the persistent, unwavering, yes even disobedience, of a Godly man named Jeremiah.  I do pretty well at not giving up when it comes to praying for myself and people I love.  I fail miserably at praying for those I don't especially like...God, help me to be more like Jeremiah today!  I want to be a man who turns Your heart, even for the good of my enemies.

50DayPeople...ImpossiblePrayer!  (current

Pastor Fred

Friday, June 15, 2012

The Perfect Day

Some of the most daunting words found in Scripture are in Matthew 5:48 where Jesus declares, "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect."  (some verses just sound more commanding in the King James!)  I love the clarification in the second half of this verse, just in case we try and explain away the meaning of perfection, Jesus makes His command undeniably clear.

In an article by Chris Haft for, he writes about Matt Cain's historic day on June 13 of this week, "Cain pitched the first perfect game in the Giant's rich, 130-year history, a 10-0 decision over the Houston Astros...the 22nd perfect game in Major League history by striking out 14 batters, matching Sandy Koufax's total against the the Chicago Cubs on September 9, 1965..."

The definition of a perfect game is not arbitrary.  Perfection is not subjective.  In baseball, no batter can achieve getting on base, not by a hit, walk, hit batter, error, etc.  Three batters every inning retired in at least nine consecutive innings.  Any perfect game is dazzling, but when that perfect game is achieved by one pitcher without any relief, that is exceptional.  That is most recently, Matt Cain.

Just as every pitcher is in search of a perfect game, should we be in search of a perfect day?  I know we can never be continually perfect; humanity precludes the possibility of sustained perfection.  That is why we are so desperately dependent upon Jesus' grace and forgiveness.  While He has only and always been perfect, since in heaven before earth, also His days here in history, and now forevermore as He reigns supreme at the right hand of God, we however will forever be susceptible to selfishness.

But can we have a perfect day?  Can there be just one day where from the time we awake to the time we rest again, not one misstep through omission or commission?  That in a day, we do everything that God expects and successfully fail to do everything He chagrins.

I don't believe that a perfect day is possible.  But I do know that if I ever give up trying, I cheapen grace by letting Christ's perfect forgiveness become my justification for living less.  I strive not because I doubt grace but because I want to honor grace.  I strive not because I believe I will ever see a perfect "nine inning" day but because I want to fulfill my admittedly limited potential.  I strive not because I have an over-exaggerated sense of self-sufficiency but because I am convinced that complete God-dependency produces the fruit of righteousness.

So this is my prayer, "God, help me today to live in such a way that I have only one errant pitch."

Living In The Gap!

Pastor Fred

Saturday, May 26, 2012

ImPossible Gathering

What a great series we are beginning together, 50 Day People, answering the question what it means to be a Pentecostal Church in a modern day world. We opened the series with ImPossible Gathering and will be continuing with ImPossible Power, Impossible Service, and Impossible Generosity...possibly covering even more during the The Holy Spirit leads!

City Life's foundational verse when asking the question about being Pentecostal is found in Mark 10:27, our life verse for the series...where Jesus declares what is impossible for man is always possible for God, that nothing is impossible for God! That is the essence of Pentecostalism, that the same God we read in Scripture is the same God alive and at work in our lives, able and desiring to be at work in our lives in ways that will cause others to say, "That's impossible!" At City Life, we have an unshakeable belief that God still makes the impossible possible!

This past weekend, we took an introductory look at Acts 2:1-4 where we found that The Church was born on the Day of Pentecost. The prescribed feasts, annual festivals, found in the Mosaic Law for Jewish people were and are still today, to both remember times of God's "impossible" intervention and favor as well as declare a trust for His continued, steadfast love, devotion, and favor forevermore. Two of the most honored for such feasts were Passover and Pentecost. I didn’t quite have time for the last of my three points so I wanted to blog about that point here in this article.

Just 50 days prior to this article, we celebrated Easter, remembering Jesus' atoning death and victorious resurrection, which 2000 years ago coincided with the Jewish feast, Passover. This was Jesus' grand and glorious declaration that He is the ultimate Passover Lamb for all eternity. This understanding is commonplace in churches, that Jesus' death at Passover was an unavoidable intention of a sovereign God. But 50 Days after Passover, we have Pentecost, a feast that primarily was to honor God during one of the year's first harvests (the word pentecost is Greek for “fiftieth day”) gives the name of the feast. The imagery here is just as poignant as Jesus' death at Passover. God was saying to the world that once people begin to have a revelation of Jesus as THE Passover Lamb who takes away the sins of the world, there will be a harvest of hearts, people, that The Church must gather into a spiritual community and take up the sacred work of Jesus’ Great Commission that He proclaimed at His ascension.

And to be a Pentecostal Church is to be a church that as we covenant together to see this great harvest gathered and commissioned, that we also engender within the church, a culture reminiscent of this first church. At City Life, we are committed to be such a church, a community of devoted followers of Jesus, disciples, where we still believe that the list of "impossibles" found in Acts 2:41-47, detailing this culture, are still possible today!

Luke tells us as he writes Acts, that people were enamored with this burgeoning religious movement formed around a common devotion to Jesus. Even for a time in history when there was a great interest in spirituality, the degree of growth, loyalty, community, prayer, power, generosity, service, gathering, worship, and favor that was found among these Jesus followers was, well, impossible! We covered in the opening sermon how their commitment to a daily, yes, DAILY, corporate worship gathering was a hallmark of this new movement. And we focused in on two areas of exploration within this gathering that we want to see in our own gatherings today...people came not with a "what's in it for me" mindset but rather with the hope of being a valuing presence and also if necessary a correcting presence. (You can listen to the podcast if either of those spark an interested in you!) So much of what we come to expect when we attend church, so much of what drives our decisioning as we weigh whether or not to attend weekend unfortunately influenced not by Scripture but rather a western-world consumer based mentality that is grossly self-focused and self-indulgent. We intend to make no room for that at City Life!

So for the third motivation we are striving to see flourish among the people who call City Life home as we consider the priority that attending a weekly worship gathering should hold in our lives is...that we should come to church with the expectation of being a prophetic presence.

In the summer of 1990, the year of my own personal revelation of Jesus as the Passover Lamb...I was attending Mechanicsville Christian Center, not yet of devoted follower of Jesus but certainly wrestling with the debauchery of my life in light of the teachings of Jesus. This was the church that my family attended and I would often come to the service just as the musical portion of the worship service was concluding because of the intense conviction I would experience if I were there while the worship band was ministering. This particular Sunday morning, one of the elders, a man named Charlie Bevels, had a spontaneous, prophetic message at the end of one of the last songs that changed my life forever, being an audible voice for God, a message from God to someone in that room, a message for me.

I was intentionally late as usual and was standing right in the doorway at the entrance to the sanctuary, literally on the threshold. There were several hundred people in the room and the doorway was a considerable distance from the platform for anyone who might suspect Charlie was manipulating the moment having seen me arrive. He has since passed from this life into eternity but on this earth, he was one of the most genuine, honest, forthright men I have ever known. He began to say, "How long will you stand there on the fence, on the threshold? What else do you need to see me do in order for you to embrace the life you were created to live? How many more lives do you need to see me change, 10, 100, 1000...tell, what is it that will move you off that fence, out of that threshold?" Needless to say, I felt intensely conspicuous, under the gaze of my God. Just a few months later, in December of that year, I made my vow of devotion to Jesus.

I had the privilege of sharing that story at Charlie's funeral many years later. He didn't come to church for himself...he came to value others, to lovingly correct others when needed, and yes, he came with an expectation the Holy Spirit just might reveal to him something of God's heart that someone in that room needed to hear, possibly something that would alter the course of their eternity just like it did for me!

Why is it that so many churches that are stereotypically categorized as Pentecostal are over run with eccentricity, excess, sensationalism...just plain weird? We can be expressive without being strange, we can be impassioned without being obnoxious...we can have all the power but without the pageantry! I too want to see our church experiencing the working of the Holy Spirit among us! I also believe that the oddities that have characterized many of our own personal observations in times past were not because the Holy Spirit is aberrant but because people can be strange! I'm convinced the Holy Spirit is saying, "Hey, that wasn't Me!"

In Acts 13:1-2, we have a wonderful account of people coming to a church service in the ancient city of Antioch, with an expectation that God could use them in a prophetic way. And that is exactly what happened…through the working of the Holy Spirit, they identified Paul and Barnabas to be some of the first church planters of this early movement soon to be known as Christianity. When you come to church, do you have this same expectation? Take some time to read the second chapter of 1 Corinthians where Paul explains the Holy Spirit searches the heart of God and reveals His heart to us! And what would otherwise be indiscernible with our natural, human understanding becomes knowable through the mind of Christ at work within us! You are a candidate for such super-natural experiences and so should be one of your greatest motivators for coming to church each week...use me Lord, use me!

See you this weekend!

Pastor Fred

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Judges 6-7

What a great narrative...and some convicting questions for each of us to consider!

In the first verse, we find that Lord allowed the Midianites to persecute the Israelites for seven years. In previous chapters, we find this same pattern repeated. Whenever the Israelites slipped into a pattern of disobedience, meaning that rebellion characterized them, more than just having a bad day, because of God's great love for them, there was a lesson to learn. In chapter three for example, the Israelites formerly suffered under Aram for eight years and eventually again under Moab for eighteen years. Each time we find the Israelites finally calling out to the Lord for help. My question is, what took so long? Really? Seven, Eight, and Eighteen years? So here's the first question. How long does it take you to cry out to God for help? If you have young children, you know that one of their first complete sentences spoken is, "I do it myself!" Even what we think we can do ourselves, ask for God's help, quickly!

As we continue reading in chapter six, we find that after seven years of suffering, the Israelites cry out to God and He sends a prophet. Then He sends an angel to Gideon which apparently still was not enough to move his heart and as the encounter progresses, the Lord Himself speaks to Gideon! I remember when Derick, our oldest was born. Just one whimper and we came running. Just a change in his breathing when he was sleeping, we came the time Claire came along, our third, we had one rule, "Don't call for us unless there is blood!" You know it's true for you too! This too happens in our spiritual lives. Often our responsiveness to God from when we first became devoted followers of Jesus diminishes. How long does it take you to respond to God's promptings, His instructions? As we read in Ezekiel 36:26, may our hearts be tender and responsive to Him!

Finally, embedded in verse eighteen of chapter 6, the angel tells Gideon that he will remain until Gideon returns with his offering to the Lord. So here's the last question. How long do you ask God to wait for your worship? How many days go by without you offering praise to Him? Just last night one of our children was praying before dinner and the focus of the prayer was that the food would taste good. Apparently by way of observation, they had their doubts! I interrupted to remind us all that this was a time to be thankful, an opportunity for praise, not a time to pray for the pleasure of our palate! Let's make a choice today to not keep Him waiting for our worship! I am reminded of 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 which says, "Rejoice evermore, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks for this is the will of God for us in Christ Jesus!"

Living In The Gap!

Pastor Fred

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Deuteronomy 11-13

God's affectionate feelings of love toward us are most certainly unconditional but His favor and blessings are most certainly not! This is one of my complaints against Reformational Theology, that God's grace is never consequential. While I whole heartedly agree that there is nothing I can do to earn Heaven, I compel you to consdier that His favor in the here and now, what I call heaven on earth, is a reaction to our actions/inactions.

Paul in writing to the church of Rome, opening chapter 12..."I urge you therefore my bretheren, by the mercies of God, offer your body as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the patterns of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, that you may know His good, acceptable, perfect will."

In Deuteronomy 13:5-11, without mercy, demands the death of everyone who attempts to lead the Israelites astray. We find the relevance of this text in our own hearts. What part of me, what part of you is continually leading you astray? Is it the past betrayal of a former relationship, temtping you to linger in bitterness? Is it a certain pattern of web browsing into places that damage your sexuality? Is it coveting the possessions of others around you...and the list continues! Satan wants us to believe that we are a victim to our humanity. Respecting our own personal vulnerabilities and being powerless against them are not the same! You have the authority to slay, to put to death the parts of you that lure you away from God's ways!

Paul in the text mentioned above gives just one of the countless examples of God's favor, that of having a confidence in regards to His will for your life. How, by putting to death our inclinations for conformity with Godless patterns of living.

Kill something today!

Pastor Fred

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Deuteronomy 4

This selection comes from Deuteronomy 4, as you read through it, insert events from your life when you have experienced God in undeniable ways. For example, in verse 33, the text references the Israelites hearing God's voice speaking from fire...think of a time when you know God was speaking to you at a critical time in your life. Each time the text references a reason the Israelites should be faithful to God, insert something of your own personal experience...

32 “Now search all of history, from the time God created people on the earth until now, and search from one end of the heavens to the other. Has anything as great as this ever been seen or heard before? 33 Has any nation ever heard the voice of God speaking from fire—as you did—and survived?34 Has any other god dared to take a nation for himself out of another nation by means of trials, miraculous signs, wonders, war, a strong hand, a powerful arm, and terrifying acts? Yet that is what the LORD your God did for you in Egypt, right before your eyes.

35 “He showed you these things so you would know that the LORD is God and there is no other. 36 He let you hear his voice from heaven so he could instruct you. He let you see his great fire here on earth so he could speak to you from it.37 Because he loved your ancestors, he chose to bless their descendants, and he personally brought you out of Egypt with a great display of power. 38 He drove out nations far greater than you, so he could bring you in and give you their land as your special possession, as it is today.

39 “So remember this and keep it firmly in mind: The LORD is God both in heaven and on earth, and there is no other. 40If you obey all the decrees and commands I am giving you today, all will be well with you and your children. I am giving you these instructions so you will enjoy a long life in the land the LORD your God is giving you for all time.”

Now, may we also ask ourselves this vital question, In light of all the encounters I have had personally with God, in light of all that I have witnessed Him do in people that I know, in light of everything that I believe about God from Scripture...does my life reflect all that I believe and know to be true...or is my life a contradiction? Just as He promised the Israelites in verse 40, so to with us, He longs for us to enjoy a long life, one where all is well for us and our children...a life that is only possibly when we abandon ourselves to Him!

Live True!

Pastor Fred

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Old Testament Offerings

As we are reading through the Bible, I want to share a quick guide to the ceremonial offerings prescribed by the Lord to Moses. This information comes from New Unger's Bible Dictionary.

There are 7 types of offerings: sin, guilt, burnt, peace, grain/drink, heave/wave, and red heifer. While each one has a distinctive, they all share in the same ultimate lesson, we are incapable of dealing with our own pervasive sinful nature. As Paul wrote in Romans 3:23, "For all have sinned fall short of the glory of God." And if we were to keep reading, we find why there is no longer a need for a sacrificial system..."They are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. God presented Him as a propitiation through faith in His blood..." Reading Hebrews chapters 9 and 10 also give great insight to Jesus being the final sacrifice for all sin for those who embrace Him as their Savior.

We must note that NONE of the seven offerings could atone for sins of defiance. Willful, defiant, or as the Hebrew idiom states, "sins with a high hand" meaning in complete arrogance against God's divinity, for these people death was the consequence.

The sin offerings were general offerings to address the sins of a person that were committed in the course of living, unintentionally. Even if the sin was the result of a moment of weakness, the sin offering was still efficacious. While a sin offering could be made by a person, they were also made on behalf of the entire nation of Israel at certain times of the year.

The guilt offerings differed from the sin offering in that the guilt offering addresses, atones for a certain act. The sin offering atoned for the person while the guilt offering was ransom for a particular offense. It many cases, it involved restitution for the person wronged.

The burnt offering was unique in that the whole animal was consumed in the offering (except the skin) compared to the other sacrifices where the animal was only partially consumed. This distinction gives insight into the meaning of this offering, we are to offer ourselves wholly to God. The burnt offering symbolized the entire surrender to God of the individual or the congregation.

The peace offering had three kinds: thank offering, votive offering, and freewill offering. The thank offering was in response to specific times of prosperity and success, offered in an effort to acknowledge God as the source of that success and a plea for that prosperity to continue. The votive offering was in connection with a vow or promise made. The freewill offering was more general, offered as a praise to God for His goodness and bountiful blessings.

The grain/drink offering " analogous to that of of the offering of the tithes and appears to be expressed in the words of David in 1 Chronicles 29:10-14 (...all things come from Thee, and from Thy hand we have given Thee..."). It recognized the sovereignty of Jehovah and His bounty in the bestowal of earthly blessings by dedicating to Him the best of His gifts--flour, as the main support of life; oil, the symbol of richness; wine, as the symbol of vigor and refreshment (see Psalm 104:15)." They were also offered with a dual meaning of acknowledging God was the only true source of spiritual sustenance, that nourishment that the eternal part of who we are is desperate to receive, only from His hand.

The heave/wave offering took their names from the manner in which they were offered. "When this offering was presented, the offering was placed upon the hands of the offerer then the priest placed his hands under those of the offerer and would move the offering back and forth in a horizontal motion. Heave literally means to lift up and wave is self-explanatory. These offerings were used when special offering were called for various religious purposes, often in support or repair of the temple and too for the care of the priests and their families.

The red heifer offering was used as a ceremonially cleansing for someone who had been made unclean according to the Law, for example, if the person had come in contact with a dead person. People who were considered unclean were often limited in their ability to participate in various religious ceremonies. They would need to follow the prescribed process of being made clean hence the purpose of this offering.

Don't just skim through the Old Testament, take time to read and research the enormous wealth of meaning and symbolism that God as placed there for us to discover!

Pastor Fred

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Exodus 39-40

Of all the rich imagery we find in the garments of the priests, I am especially fond of the medallion on Aaron's turban described in verses 30 and 31.

30 Finally, they made the sacred medallion—the badge of holiness—of pure gold. They engraved it like a seal with these words: HOLY TO THE LORD. 31 They attached the medallion with a blue cord to Aaron’s turban, just as the LORD had commanded Moses.

If we believe God to be the sovereign creator of the Universe, the One who rules all that is in existence, and One whose heart overflows with affection for His creation, how can we not have a seal upon us that declares Holy To The Lord? Once I am convinced of who He is, surrendering to His sovereignty, giving myself fully to His governance should be what naturally follows. How can I embrace His identity and then deny my own? Once I am convinced of His identity, what sort of self-perception can I possibly have except to live in complete surrender to Him?

What majestic garments God chose to adorn Aaron and the priests. Each component, although individually unique and symbolically distinctive, all shared one ultimate expression: God is God and man's great privilege is to serve Him. This idea of "holy" as inscribed on the medallion attached to Aaron's turban means to be set apart, consecration. For what and for whom have you set your life apart? What medallions do we wear: promiscuity, gluttony, bitterness, self-promotion, greed, anger, lust, addiction, apathy, profanity, drunkenness, laziness, isolation...? Who gave those medallions to us? Why do we insist on keeping them?

In Ephesians 6, the Apostle Paul speaks of the helmet of salvation. What medallion do you think is attached to Exodus 39 seal...Holy To The Lord! I want to challenge you to consider something. What are your struggles? Possibly I listed some above. Cut out some round pieces of paper and write on them a word or two that describes an area of sin in your life that is a constant struggle. You might have several. Now shop around an find a coin, a medallion, something that can represent to you a commitment to be Holy To The Lord. What is actually on the coin or medallion doesn't may say OBX or South of the Border, some trinket you picked up on vacation. What matters is how you see it, how you will use it, how it will begin to re-shape how you see yourself...Holy To The Lord! Put those other paper medallions in something that is safe to burn, put on some of your favorite worship music, talk to God about your desire to live a life that is set apart to Him and Him alone, and then put a match to them!

Keep that coin with you for the next month and every-time you face a temptation that you are endeavoring to conquer, reach for that medallion and say, "I am Holy To The Lord." Do you know what 1 Peter 2:9 says about you and me?

But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.

Living in the Gap (Psalm 124:1)

Pastor Fred

Friday, January 13, 2012

Genesis 28

27 When the time came for Tamar to give birth, it was discovered that she was carrying twins. 28 While she was in labor, one of the babies reached out his hand. The midwife grabbed it and tied a scarlet string around the child’s wrist, announcing, “This one came out first.” 29 But then he pulled back his hand, and out came his brother! “What!” the midwife exclaimed. “How did you break out first?” So he was named Perez. 30 Then the baby with the scarlet string on his wrist was born, and he was named Zerah.

I love this story in Genesis! I am using the New Living Translation and the footnotes define Perez as meaning "breaking out" and Zerah as "scarlet" or "brightness" ...a story which gives us a rich offering is symbolism as we reflect on our own lives.

I love how the midwife was prepared. Properly identifying the firstborn in Jewish culture is vital. (If you want to read more about this, try New Unger's Bible Dictionary which is a mainstay in my library.) She was not casual about her responsibilities. What are you presently doing as ministry in your church? Are you just doing enough to get by? Do you have an attitude that if they gave you more responsibility that you would be more committed? Whatever it is that you have been asked to do, do it with excellence..."a pocket full of scarlet strings" kind of attitude!

Finally, I'm always captivated by their names. How? There is a prophetic promise in them for each of us! The birthing of your destiny, my destiny will always "break out" no matter how "bright" my present circumstances appear to be in the contrary. What does that mean? Often our present circumstance seem to be so prominent (bright) that they are irrefutable. We have a promise from God but our present reality is blindingly obtrusive, making believing in His promise exasperatingly difficult. Abraham was 100 before Isaac was born. He was blinded by the brightness of his natural condition...but come on, providence arrived, destiny could not be denied, Zerah was overcome by Perez!

Be prepared and above all else, be willing to believe for your own Perez moment!

Pastor Fred

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Genesis 16

We find here a great lesson for us all, to never make assumptions about God's intent. Sarai convinces Abram that God has prevented her from having children, in spite of a very specific promise from God to the contrary. Yes, they have waited for decades, yes, they are well beyond child bearing years, yes, they have grown weary of we are at times as well in waiting on God. However, in our waiting, we must never make assumptions. Assumptions are conclusions that we reach apart from a divine revelation. Proverbs 3:5-6 comes to mind...

5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart;
do not depend on your own understanding.
6 Seek his will in all you do,
and he will show you which path to take.

If you are in a place of waiting, don't make assumptions about God's intent, His apparent delay, His, wait, believe!

Pastor Fred

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Genesis 13

These chapters in Genesis are like the words spoken in the first chapter about the oceans at creation, teeming with life! I am especially drawn to the beginning of the 13th chapter, where Abram and his entourage leave Egypt and return to a familiar place, a place where God had spoken to him previously, a place where he had a built an altar of worship.

In Genesis 12, we read that God promised this land to him when God appeared to Abram after he had left Haran and was journeying towards the Negev. Here, between Bethel and Ai, Abram built an altar to commemorate the promise, a marker for a divine encounter. Even though a famine, desperate circumstances forced them to travel to Egypt, Abram never lost faith in God's ability to keep His promise, evidenced by Abram's return to the altar between Bethel and Ai.

What promises from your past have you forsaken? What promises you believe God spoke to you in your yesterdays have you abandoned? For you, your journey may not be measured by a map or gps but rather the geography of the heart. Your "place" between "Bethel and Ai" is a place of believing, a place of faith. Find a quiet place today where you can return to an altar from days gone by, God wants to meet with you just as He met with Abram. God wants you to rediscover your faith in His ability to keep that promise. Remember, God's faithfulness is not measured by time, nor by temporal circumstances, nor by the doubt of others. His faithfulness is measured by His word. For Him, a promise made is always a promise kept.

Psalm 27:14 says that we must wait patiently for the Lord, being of good courage! Return today to your place of promise, believing again in the dream that God has spoken to your heart!

Pastor Fred

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Genesis 8

In Genesis 8 we find the great contrast between the raven and the dove. Which are you, am I...some of each for most of us. The raven is the picture of a person who goes to a place prematurely and languishes there rather than remaining where one is and continue flourishing. The dove is the picture of a person who wisely waits and flourishes, recognizing that the time to depart has not yet come. The risk here is that the person might wait too long. Imagine if the dove had never left the ark. The ark that once was a refuge eventually became desolate and the flooded earth emerges as a paradise. Even when we see something in our future that proves to be a new source of flourishing, often replacing our present, the timing of God is always vital!

Pastor Fred