Monday, December 31, 2012

Reactions

Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react.  Your reactions reveal more about yourself than you may know.

I have become a fan to the TV show "Lie to Me" in which a crime drama series where the main character interprets micro facial expressions  to determine the truth.  In their investigations they study how subjects respond to various situations and questions.

This week we continue to focus on the reactions of various characters in the Christmas story: Mary, Joseph, the Shepherds, and the Wisemen; as well as the people of Jerusalem and Herod.

Mary, instead of becoming proud at the announcement that she had found favor with God, reacted with humble acceptance.  Joseph, upon facing disgrace and embarrassment with Mary's condition, planned to divorce her quietly; but when given the truth of the situation through an angelic messanger reacted with complete obedience.  The Shepherds, those outcasts of society, reacted to the angelic hosts' proclamation of the birth of the Messiah, God's Son, with instant and on-going testimony.  And the magi, Gentiles from the East, much like the Shepherds - outcasts as far as the Jews were concerned; yet, they reacted with faith and works upon seeing the star in the east and traveled the many miles to see the Child born King of the Jews.

Today, you are presented with the same Christ, the Son of God, who came 2000 years ago for the simple purpose of re-establishing relationship with sinful men.  What is your REACTION?

For the full message shared on 12-30-12 at First Church of God, Racine, WI; go to:
Reactions

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Eve 2012

With so many things trying to grab your attention this Christmas season, it can be easy to miss the true reason for celebrating this season; Jesus Christ.

Take a moment, sit down with a cup of hot chocolate or coffee, and join our Christmas Eve service.

Whether you are surrounded by family and friends or find yourself alone, rest assured that God loves you and demonstrated that love by sending His precious Son, Jesus, to live and die just for you.

May you find the joy and peace that comes with knowing Jesus as your personal Savior this Christmas season.

For the full message shared on 12-24-12 at First Church of God, Racine, WI; go to:
Christmas_Eve_2012

Sunday, December 23, 2012

A Birth Party: A Life Enriched

One of my favorite Christmas movies is It’s a Wonderful Life.  In the movie, George Bailey receives the gift of knowing what life would be like had he never been born.  What would be different if you had never been born?  For George it meant he was not present to save his little brother from drowning when playing on the river with some other friends.  That meant that his brother was not alive to save an aircraft carrier from being bombed and so many sailors died.  George also ran the family business, a small Savings and Loan.  If George had never been born, there would have been no one to take over the Savings & Loan, therefore the old miser Mr. Potter took over the town.

What are some of the implications to your life?  Who has been affected by your having been born?  A birthday is a big thing – because every birth has changed the course of history and our very lives!

The birth of Jesus has affected the whole world; even though many would refuse to acknowledge His significance.  Consider some of the ways history would be different without the birth of Jesus:
  • Our Calendar -- the year is 2012 because nearly 2012 years ago Christ was born.
  •  There would be no NT -- The NT is the testimony of the disciples and followers of Jesus.  Without Him they would have no testimony.  Saul would have never seen Christ on the road to Damascus and never would have been converted.  He would never have become Paul, the writer of over 1/3 of the NT.
  • No Church – We are the bride of Christ.  If Jesus hadn’t been born the church would have never formed.
    • No Church of God – Had the NT church never formed, the Catholic church would not have existed, there would not have been the protestant reformation lead by Martin Luther, and the Reformation Movement known as the ChOG would have never followed.
      • Our local congregation here in Racine, known as the First Church of God, would have never been established.

Imagine, if Jesus had never been born, you and I would have never experienced the demonstration of God’s love; our sin would have remained unpaid and we all would be condemned to hell.

But thanks be to God, He did send His Son, the promised Messiah.  Isaiah 9"6-7 gives just a brief glimpse at how the gift of Jesus enriches the lives of those who receive this gift:

6For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.
7There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, On the throne of David and over his kingdom, To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness From then on and forevermore. 


For the full message shared on 12-23-12 at First Church of God, Racine, WI; go to:
A Birth Party - A Life Enriched

Thursday, December 20, 2012

A Birth Party - Enjoy the Moment

My daughters and I were watching Kung Fu Panda the other day and one of the characters ( a turtle I think) said, 
"Yesterday is history, 
tomorrow is a mystery, 
but today is a gift; 
that's why it's called the present."

Now I know this proverb did not originate from the writers of KFP, but none the less it is a truth that we often forget.
Living in the moment is important.  Yes, the past has much to teach us and the future offers hope; but enjoy the moment found in today.

Of course, how we view the moment is filtered by our past experiences.  Some people are very cynical, because of past disappointments.  Others view the moment with anger and bitterness because of past hurts.  Our experiences with Christ should allow us to view every moment with love, joy, and peace – regardless of the circumstance.
 
Have you ever been to a party where the decorations, the games, the food – everything was just perfect, but nobody paid any attention to the guest of honor?  There’s nothing wrong with all the extras, but the reason for celebration is not because of the party favors, it’s because of the individual for whom the party was given.

This week, I would draw your attention to Mary, the young girl chosen by God to bear the Son of God; the Savior of the World.

For the full message shared on 12-16-12 at First Church of God, Racine, WI; go to:
A Birth Party: Enjoy the Moment

Monday, December 10, 2012

A Birth Party - What will I give?

On this second week of Advent we are continuing with the series: A Birth Party, asking the question What will I give?
 
The task of identifying a birthday gift to give is handled differently – depending on our personalities.  Kristen usually receives this task with great pleasure because she loves to shop.  I on the other hand am more task oriented.  She will roam from store to store, spending hour upon hour to find just the right gift for the prospective recipient.  I will go to one place, look for the best item on hand, and walk out (usually within the same hour).

When I worked retail, I saw many different kinds of shoppers: the last-minute shopper (who forgot or procrastinated so now they had to make a rushed decision), the creative artist (who is crafty enough to make a wallet out of recycled duct tape), or the indecisive shopper who has no clue whatsoever but is unwilling to admit defeat.

True giving comes from the heart and is very much a part of who God is… and demonstrative of what He desires of us.  

“Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, 
not grudgingly or under compulsion, 
for God loves a cheerful giver.”
2 Cor. 9:7 

 Or perhaps Jesus’ example of the widow who put all she had into her gift, even though it only amounted to two small copper coins. (Mk. 12:41-44).

This morning we will again return to Matthew’s account of the Magi’s visit looking more intently toward the gifts of the Magi and how we may develop some application with regards to our own giving.  

And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the Child; and when you have found Him, report to me, so that I too may come and worship Him.” After hearing the king, they went their way; and the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them until it came and stood over the place where the Child was.  When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.  After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  And having been warned by God in a dream not to return to Herod, the magi left for their own country by another way.
Matthew 2:8-12


The Magi came prepared with gifts, with the right attitude of heart; and their gifts were expressions of value and symbolic of the Christ Child's status as King, Priest, and Savior.

For the full message shared on 12-09-12 at First Church of God, Racine, WI; go to:

Monday, December 3, 2012

Who Is Invited?

My wife, Kristen, loves planning parties for our children's birthdays.  We have 4 girls and between them she has planned 53 parties for immediate family.  When you begin to figure in parties for friends and parties for extended family; that adds up to over 100 parties.  (If you ever need ideas, she's a wealth of information.)

Every birthday party begins with the creation of an invitation list.  Who would you invite to your next birthday party?  What kinds of people will you invite?  Why?

At this time of the year our thoughts go to the birth of the Christ child, God's Son, Emmanuel.  Considering the birth of Jesus have you ever dwelt on the people He chose to invite?  Two peculiar invites were sent out, not using the mail or human courier, but celestial messengers.  The shepherds received the best singing telegram ever sent; and the magi followed the star which was better than GPS.

Neither of these were among those you would think would be invited to the Messiah's birth party.  The shepherds were included with thieves, robbers, and cheats.  They lived solitary lives often gone for lengthy times in search of food and water for the flock, which made maintaining ritual cleansing extremely difficult.  The magi were Gentiles, heathen foreigners who likely did not worship the Creator God.  Yet it was these to whom God chose to invite to His party.

Doesn't that give you and I cause for rejoicing; for God is not a respecter of persons.  If He was willing to invite the shepherds and magi to His Birth, does He not also invite you and I to join His party?

For the full message shared on 12-02-12 at First Church of God, Racine, WI; go to:
A Birth Party - Who Is Invited?

Monday, November 26, 2012

I AM the Way and theTruth and the Life




I'm curious.  What do you believe?  More specifically, in Whom do you believe?  There are many schools of thought regarding this topic.  Some encourage that you believe in yourself and your ability to do good.  Others espouse the idea of believing in karma, what goes around comes around.  There is even the idea to believe that the prayers of others will change your eternal destiny after you die.

It's important what you believe in this life because it does have bearing on your eternal destiny.  Jesus said it this way, 
 “Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe  also in Me. 
In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; 
for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also. 
And you know the way where I am going.”  
John 14:1-4

It's a statement that says little but speaks volumes.  Believe that I AM.  That the Father sent me from heaven to "Seek and to save the lost."  That I have come to give you life, abundant and free.  I came to preach the gospel to the poor, to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, and to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.  Believe in Me.

So simple, yet we try to complicate things.  Believe in Me -  Paul said it clearly, "if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved." [Rom. 10:9].  Believe = have faith that I AM who I say that I am.

Of course, you may know folks who believe sincerely in something other than Jesus Christ.  Sincerity -  This is a great quality to have.  When people are disingenuous, deceptive, or hypocritical in the way they live, they are negative advertising.  But the sincere are not always right. 

Let me share an imperfect illustration:  I have been driving since I was very young having been taught on my grandfather's tractors, so I have great confidence in my driving skills.  I have lived in Kansas City (where there is frequent snow and ice storms which I have learned to navigate) and in Montana (where the snow falls in early Oct. and stays until April or later) so driving on snow packed roads really doesn't faze me.

Anyway, you could say that I was sincerely confident in my driving ability on evening as I was taking Kaitlyn out to work and see her horse.  (Some of you already know where this is heading, don't you)  Yep, my sincere confidence was tested while I was talking with Kaitlyn we came over a rise and hit some ice which impeded my ability to stop, turn, or anything else.  Sure enough, we sailed right through the corner and into the field beyond.  The snow was so deep it took some time to get out.  Needless to say, I was sincerely WRONG.

Friends, you and I come across people every day that are headed to hell, SINCERELY! 



For the full message shared on 11-18-12 at First Church of God, Racine, WI go to:

Monday, November 19, 2012

I AM the Bread of Life

Here it is almost Thanksgiving and most of us have turkey on our mind.  This year I am participating with our congregation in my first Thanksgiving dinner serving 100+ folks from our community.

Perhaps you are doing something with your family or friends or maybe you are alone during this season.  Whatever the case may be, I would like to encourage you to consider shifting your focus from the table that holds the power to satisfy your physical needs to the One who can satisfy your spiritual needs.

Jesus said,    “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen Me, and yet do not believe."



This Thanksgiving, while serving those who visit our church, my desire is to place before them the Bread of Life.  Please pray with me that they make receive Jesus Christ as their Savior.

For the full message shared on 11-18-12 at First Church of God, Racine, WI go to:
I AM the Bread of Life







Wednesday, November 14, 2012

I AM the Living Water

Jesus dealt with people that expected a lot from Him.But despite their expectations, He held true to who He was (and who He IS).


The whole reason for Jesus coming to earth was to reveal Himself to mankind and in doing so reveal God, and re-establish the relationship that was created when man rebelled and sinned against God.

Although water is not one of the “I am” declarations of Jesus He does clearly offer living water to those who thirst.  This was not His first public invitation to believe in him, nor was it the first time He used the metaphor of living water for salvation. 


Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, 
saying, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. 
He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, 
‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’”  
But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him 
were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, 
because Jesus was not yet glorified. 
[John 7:37-39].


For the full message shared on 11-11-12 at First Church of God, Racine, WI go to: 
I AM the Living Water

Monday, November 5, 2012

Who Do You Say That I AM?

Expectations.  You have them, I have them.  We all have them.

Christmas is less than 2 mos. away and already the stores are gearing up with EXPECTATIONS of pre-Thanksgiving Christmas sales.

Kristen, my wife, has EXPECTATIONS that I will participate in the hanging of the greens around the house, and I hate to let her down.

My kids have EXPECTATIONS that they will get what they want for Christmas, I have no problem letting them down.

EXPECTATIONS...

People had expectations regarding Jesus as well.  Some never thought he'd amount to much "What good can come out of Nazareth."  (John 1:46) "Is not this the carpenter's son?  Is not His mother called Mary...?" (Matthew 13:55)  Others held a higher view Him - "Some say [you are] John the Basptist; and others Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets." (Matthew 16:14)

C.S. Lewis had this to say regarding man's expectations of Jesus: “A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg – or else he would be the devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God; or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.” 

Jesus left no option with regards to "who I AM"; or what He came to do.  He said on more than one occasion that He was and is the Son of God and that He and the Father are one.  He said, "[I have] come to seek and to save the lost." (Luke 19:10)  Even with these clear statements, his disciples were looking for Jesus to use His miraculous power to establish His kingdom here on earth, but that was their EXPECTATION, not His (nor the Father's) plan.

In preparing the Twelve for His true reason for being here (the redemption of man), Jesus questioned them asking, "Who do the people say that I am?"  and followed up with the most important question every individual must answer, "WHO DO YOU SAY THAT I AM?"

For the full message shared on 11-04-12 at First Church of God, Racine, WI go to: 
Who do you say that I am?

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Children of Promise Sunday



In 2012, I joined Children of Promise www.echildrenofpromise.org on a trip to the Philippines.  These are the faces that are impacted by the ministry of CoP.  

Here is a portion my story of our trip to The Philippines...

video

Would you consider becoming a sponsor?  Just $25/mo. provides educational, medical, nutritional, and spiritual resources to the children and their families.

www.echildrenofpromise.org 

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Peaks and Valleys


 When I was 15 I got a summer job working at an amusement park similar to Six Flags.  I ran the Wobble Wheel.  It was a hyped up merry-go-round that tilted on its side.  Life is sometimes like that ride.  Day after day, we do the same old thing and every once and a while our world gets tilted and we get excited, but soon enough we’re back into the regular routine.

A few times, when staffing schedules required, I got bumped to the roller coasters.  Roller coasters are much different than the Wobble Wheel.  Instead of going around and around, you have this hill that you climb and at the top it’s exhilarating, and then you drop.  Some people like the drop, others prefer the hill.  Me, I enjoy the ride; beginning to end.

See, in order to safely make it through the twists and the turns, you have to begin at the top of the hill.  Not only is life like the wobble wheel, Its a lot like a roller coaster too.

 My recent trip to The Philippines was like climbing to the top of the hill.  In a way I would love to have stayed on top of the hill.  The ministry that is taking place with Children of Promise is incredible (next week Bob and I will share some of our experiences as well as what CoP is doing around the world); but my time there was brief.


Coming home I realize that there are valleys that I must travel through as well.  I could not have imagined the events of this past week, yet in this valley I am reminded not to trust in my own strength but that of the Lord

Some have expressed to me their desire to remain on the peak, but if you never experience the valley you can’t really appreciate the peak.

For the full message shared on 10-21-12 at First Church of God, Racine, WI go to: Peaks and Valleys

Monday, October 15, 2012

Mourning the Loss of a Friend

Steve and Nancy Case
This last week a very good friend and faithful servant of God went home to be with the Lord.

Someone asked me, "How do you go ahead and do church?  You can't do it the same as you normally would."  And they are right, but frankly I didn't have an answer.

As I prayed and sought advice from seasoned pastors and friends, one theme rang true; we are to worship God in spirit and in truth.

Truth be told, I didn't feel like praising God.  I felt like mourning.  I miss my friend and so do those that worship in this congregation.  We didn't get to say goodbye, we didn't get to prepare.  That is the way it is with accidents.

I was encouraged to read the account of Lazarus in John 11.  What I read brought clarity.  Mourning over the loss of a loved one is normal.  We each mourn in our own way.  But as we mourn we must also realize that death is not the end, it is the beginning.

Steve, just like every other Christ-follower, was an alien in this world; a sojourner.  Our time on earth is but a vapor.  His life and his death is a reminder of that fact.  But just as Lazarus' death was for the glory of God, so too was Steve's.  God is glorified when His faithful followers finish the race.  I'm sure Steve heard His Savior say, "Well done.  Enter into the rest of the Lord."

For the full message shared on 10-14-12 at First Church of God, Racine, WI go to:
Mourning the Loss of a Friend

Saturday, October 6, 2012

A Collision of Worlds


A COLLISION OF WORLDS (Originally written for "On safari with Children of promise")

by Pastor Ryan Reed
First Church of God
Racine, Wisconsin

Imagine hundreds of cars converging in one area at the same time . . . that is the Philippines.

Not only does that describe the traffic, but it also describes my experience here. 


 IMPACT.


One cannot come to The Philippines and not be impacted by the sights, sounds, tastes, and smells.  Much like two cars colliding, when my life collided with those served by Children of Promise here, I was a wreck.  Words cannot explain the enormity of extreme poverty in which these families exist.


Sometimes 'Home, Sweet Home' is reduced to 'Shelter, Sweet Shelter.'


"Some are barely getting by."

It is these families that are impacted when a child is sponsored.  Children stunted by poor nutrition are provided food which improves their health.  Those needing more extensive medical attention are provided the care necessary to lead a productive life.  Children also lacking the means to attend school are given that which they need.


But, most of all, these kids are taught spiritual truths that will impact their lives more just a sponsor could do.  After accepting the invitation to accompany the COP team, I decided it would be prudent to support a child.  I was provided the name of my child in the airport while waiting for our plane to The Philippines.
Her name is Shaira (Shy-ra).  From the beginning of the trip, I was looking forward to the day I would meet her.  


As we walked into the courtyard at the Das Marinas church on Saturday, I scanned the nametags looking for her name.  Unable to find her, my heart began to race.  I followed the kids into the church.  As they sat down, we entered, and were greeted with an enthusiastic "Good morning visitors."


CRASH - BANG - SMASH.


Many emotions collided within me when I saw Shaira sitting there in front of me.  As the kids sang, I could tell she wasn't as familiar with the song as others her age.  Later, she danced with some friends, and I could see she was a little more confident.


In a collision, there is the possibility of little to no damage, or completely totaling the vehicle. I was totalled when I finally got to visit with Shaira.


She was so quiet, so . . . . well,  SHY.  Her mother joined Shaira as I had the opportunity to tell her that I was her sponsor.  There was no jumping for joy, no hugs of gratitude, no great display of affection.  She simply said directly and sincerely, "Thank you, sir."  It was I who had to thank her.  Meeting Shaira and the other Children of Promise beneficiaries has impacted my life, and I will never be the same again!


                                Meeting Shaira and her mother at the Das Marinas Church of God


Sunday, September 30, 2012

A Concert of Prayer

This week's service was a little different... Okay, it was a lot different.  After wrapping up the series on stewardship last week, I was impressed that our series was incomplete if we did not acknowledge and praise God for how He has and will continue to provide for our needs.

David, King of Israel, provided the inspiration for this concert of prayer in 1 Chronicles 29.  He had desire to build a permament house for the Lord God.  God however refused David's request due to his life of war and bloodshed.  So David did the next best thing; he provided the means for his son Solomon to build the temple.

After gathering the necessary supplies and receiving the offerings of the people David then offers this prayer:

“Blessed are You, O Lord God of Israel our father, forever and ever.  Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, indeed everything that is in the heavens and the earth; Yours is the dominion, O Lord, and You exalt Yourself as head over all.  

Both riches and honor come from You, and You rule over all, and in Your hand is power and might; and it lies in Your hand to make great and to strengthen everyone.  Now therefore, our God, we thank You, and praise Your glorious name.  

But who am I and who are my people that we should be able to offer as generously as this? For all things come from You, and from Your hand we have given You.  For we are sojourners before You, and tenants, as all our fathers were; our days on the earth are like a shadow, and there is no hope.  O Lord our God, all this abundance that we have provided to build You a house for Your holy name, it is from Your hand, and all is Yours.

Since I know, O my God, that You try the heart and delight in uprightness, I, in the integrity of my heart, have willingly offered all these things; so now with joy I have seen Your people, who are present here, make their offerings willingly to You. 

I would encourage you to enter into your own concert of prayer; thanking God for all His many blessings.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Lifestyle Characteristics God Rewards

Remember those days when mom would bake cookies and bring them out only to tell you to share them with your brother and sister?  I do.

Of course, the way my economy worked was not the same idea that mom had.  She wanted us to each get an equal amount whereas I wanted to have more cookies than my siblings.

Although my actions were obedient to her command, was I truly obedient?  No, because my heart was selfish and unwilling to act in the way I knew she desired.

Isn't that often how we are toward God?  We know the lifestyle characteristics that please Him,but we only do enough to get by, or we only obey the letter of the law and not the substance of it.

So, do you desire to live a life God will reward?

For the full message shared on 09-16-12 at First Church of God, Racine, WI go to:
Lifestyle Characteristics God Rewards

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Five Ways to Give that Please God

If you heard that a wealthy benefactor, upon realizing his health was declining rapidly with no apparent heir, had decided to travel the country and divide his wealth among deserving individuals and was headed to your home to determine your share; what would you do?

Wouldn't you research and figure out what pleases giver?  If your research mentions his love for beef, would you serve him chicken?  Or if he liked classical music would you have country playing in the background?

Now I'm not saying you would present a false impression of yourself, but wouldn't you go out of your way to please him?  I would.  If I thought I had a chance of earning part of his fortune so that I could bless others with it, I would find out everything I could to make his visit pleasant and comfortable.

Consider this...

The King of Kings desires to come into your home.  If you are a child of the God, you have the King of Kings and Lord of Lords residing within you.

So, do we seek to know what pleases God?  Not to earn our salvation (that is solely based in the blood of Christ), but do we do that which pleases Him or do we live to please ourselves?

God's Word reveals what it means to please Him and how we may give to please Him.

For the full message shared on 09-09-12 at First Church of God, Racine, WI go to: 
Five Ways to Give that Please God

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Christ in the OT - Abraham


 I recently read of an old Christian woman whose age began to tell on her memory. She had once known much of the Bible by heart. Eventually only one precious bit stayed with her. “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I committed unto him against that day.”

By and by part of that slipped its hold, and she would quietly repeat, “That which I have committed unto him.” At last, as she hovered on the borderline between this and the spirit world, her loved ones noticed her lips moving. They bent down to see if she needed anything. She was repeating over and over again to herself the one word of the text, “Him, Him, Him.”

She had lost the whole Bible, but one word. But she had the whole Bible in that one word.

Christ can be found throughout Scripture.  I once heard that you should be able to see Jesus on every page of the Bible and if you don’t you need to read that page once again.

 Last week we began a study to see Christ in the OT.  We spent the service looking at Creation and I believe we saw Him there.  Now many events fill these pages and I encourage you to spend time studying each of them: the relationship between Cain, Able and God; the corruption of Man & the call of Noah; the Flood & the Rainbow; the Descendants of Adam and the Building of Babel.  Yes, in each of these we can see Christ.

 However, this morning I would like to draw your attention to the life of Abram, or Abraham and see Christ.  In the OT there are certain individuals that seem to be magnets for Christ sightings; Abraham is one such person.

For the full message shared on 08-12-2012 at 1st Church of God, Racine, WI go to: Christ in the OT - Abraham

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Christ in the OT - Creation

A while back I was reading in Luke, reviewing the account of the death and resurrection of our Lord, when I came across a verse I’m sure you have read before.  In Luke 24, the doctor tells of two disciples who are traveling to Emmaus after hearing of the witness of Mary and the other women and Peter.  But instead of rejoicing, these men are seemingly depressed.  They are all caught up in the injustice of his trial and subsequent crucifixion.  They had plans for this Jesus; He was going to redeem Israel, release them from the oppression of Rome.


Jesus, the resurrected Son of God, joins them as they travel and we are given just a glimpse of the conversation.

And He said to them, “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! “Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?” Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures. Luke 24:25-27
Beginning with Moses He began to teach them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.  I was convicted that I don’t spend enough time in the OT.  Here is this wealth of revelation concerning Jesus and other than reading the Psalms for encouragement I really don’t pay it a lot of attention.  So for the next few weeks I am going to spend some time looking at Christ in the OT.

In the first three chapters in Genesis and I see Christ in Creation, Christ in Relationship with Man, and Christ in the Curse.


CHRIST IN CREATION
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. [Gen. 1:1]

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.  All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.  And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. [John 1:1-2, 14] 


CHRIST IN RELATIONSHIP WITH MAN
“The LORD God planted a garden toward the east, in Eden, and there He placed the man whom He had formed.” [Gen. 2:8]

The man said, “This is now bone of my bones, And flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, Because she was taken out of Man.”  For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. [Gen. 2:23-24]


CHRIST IN THE CURSE
“…between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall crush you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heal.” [Gen. 3:15]




For the full message shared on 08-05-12 at First Church of God, Racine, WI go to:
Christ in the OT: Creation

Declaration of Dependence: Pursuing Happiness

"All men are endowed with inalienable right, among which are the Right to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness." 
         ~ The Declaration of Independence 1776

What was Thomas Jefferson thinking when he penned these words?  What is the Pursuit of Happiness?

For the world, happiness is found in that which brings pleasure.  Lusts of the Flesh, Lusts of the Eyes – these bring happiness of a temporary sort.  But true happiness cannot be found in worldly pleasures.  

My friends, I am sorry to announce true happiness is outside your grasp.  You cannot be happy without looking to the One who paid the price for your happiness and mine.

Our pursuit of happiness is directly linked to our pursuit of God 
and becoming more like Christ every day.

Jesus, some 2000 yrs ago, on a mountainside near the Sea of Galilee, shared eight steps to true joy.  These were written down by Matthew, on of the disciples, in an order inspired by God that offer us a progression to true joy.  This is the Pursuit of Happiness and our happiness (or joy) is Dependent on God.

For the full message shared on 07-29-12 at First Church of God, Racine, WI go to:
Declaration of Dependence: Pursuing Happiness

Ask yourself: On whom am I depending?  The following song was written and sung by my dear friend, Kate Anderson. <Video pending>

Monday, July 23, 2012

Looking for Peace


This week the violence that fell upon Aurora, CO has caused many of us to pray for the victims and their families as well as the family of James Holmes, the suspected gunman behind this tragedy.



Unfortunately, this is nothing new.  The evidence can be traced all the way back to the book of Genesis.  Ever since Adam and Eve sinned, man has been at war.  Our rebellion against God (sin), developed into war against one another.  Cain, jealous of his brother, killed Able.  And so our conflict has continued even to this day.  One might say that man has always been predisposed to conflict.

Some of us have clashed with so many people that we don’t really know how to live peaceably with others.  I have heard of people who are so comfortable with conflict that they are not happy unless they are fighting with someone.

Paul admonished the church in Rome, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.” [Rom. 12:18.].  

How do we find peace?  How do we become peacemakers?  Peace is a hard thing to get a hold of… we want peace – peace at home; peace at work; peace in the church…peace everywhere, no war, no conflict, no tragedies. 

In the midst of conflict, Jesus speaks to the Jewish crowds gathered and said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the Sons of God.” [Mt. 5:9].  The Word of God in fact is a book of peace.  Peace means to bring reconciliation between two or more parties that are in conflict.  Man, as I said, has been in conflict with God since the Fall and the Bible is God’s instructions on reconciliation.


For the full message shared on 07-19-12 at First Church of God, Racine, WI go to:
Looking for Peace

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Declaration of Dependence: For Liberty

In the United States, the month of July marks our birth; for it was in this month on the 4th, 1776 that the Second Continental Congress ratified the document known as the Declaration of Independence.  In this Declaration, Thomas Jefferson penned one of the most influential statements of the English language.  He wrote, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Today marks the second of three messages in a series: Declaration of Dependence.  We shall look into the inalienable right of Liberty.

What is liberty? Wikipedia defines liberty as ‘the ability of individuals to have agency (control over their own actions).’  Synonyms include: autonomy, birthright, emancipation, self-determination, sovereignty.  The word that comes to my mind is FREEDOM - Freedom to live and act as you choose.

Our base text for today is found in 2 cor. 3:17 “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.”  The liberty, or freedom, talked about here is more political freedom, religious freedom, or financial freedom.  It doesn't matter whether you are red, yellow, black, or white; rich or poor; male or female, citizen or alien – liberty is available to all.

Men fight for freedom, for liberty, but the battle has already been fought.  .”  Spiritual freedom is the most powerful freedom that there is – it is the freedom of being free from sin.  How many of us have felt the grip of sin in our lives? How many of us have felt the oppression that sin can cause? How many of us have felt guilt – and remorse because of sin? I would venture to say that all of us have felt the bonds of sin at one time or another. We have all been slaves to sin. 

Let there be no doubt in your mind that God has the power to set you free. He has the power to set you free from the slavery of sin. He has the power to set you free from the penalty of sin. He has the power to set you free from the guilt of sin. He has the power to set you free from the death of sin.  May we never forget – “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is Liberty.” There is freedom.The price for freedom has been paid.  Your liberty is secure, but it is dependent upon the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross.

For the full message shared on 07-12-12 at First Church of God, Racine, WI go to:
Declaration of Dependence: For Liberty

(Thanks to Charles Spurgeon for inspiration and content for this message.)

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

A Declaration of Dependence: For Life

This past week we celebrated one of the most famous of declarations, the Declaration of Independence, written and ratified on July 4, 1776.

In Jefferson's declaration, he addresses three inalienable rights: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.  These rights are not rights but gifts of grace granted by the Sovereign God Almighty.

We often think of ourselves as independent, but are we?  I mean, who among us can create life?  Sure, we may be able to procreate, but we cannot create life.  And who among us can sustain life?  The very breath you just took was a demonstration of God's grace in sustaining your life.  We are so dependent!

Paul, in His letter to the church in Ephesus, clarified what it means to have life.  In Ephesians 2:1-10, he makes it clear that humanity is born to death.  Not born to die; born into death.  When we are born, we are born without Christ, and we remain so until God breaths the breath of life into our spiritually dead corpse.  It is only then that we are able to respond to His prompting and act on the faith He has given to us to receive the gift of life He offers.

Life is only possible through faith, by grace, in Jesus Christ (This is also known as salvation.)  Our salvation is dependent upon God, it is not by any work of man. (Remember, we were dead.)

So, if we are going to celebrate, let's celebrate our dependence on God.  To God Be The Glory!!

For the full message shared on 07-08-12 at First Church of God, Racine, WI go to:
Declaration of Dependence: For Life

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

It's Time to Take Out the Trash

Hoarding is classified as an obsessive need to acquire and keep things - even if the items are worthless, hazardous, or unsanitary.  


For the Believer the effects of hoarding (spiritually speaking) tend to be unfulfilled, fruitless lives.  They are trapped in a cycle that is "like being swallowed alive."

Although hoarding typically is related with material items, we often hoard that which is unseen - sin.

Today, it's time to take out the trash.

For the full message shared on 07-01-12 at First Church of God, Racine, WI go to:  
Time to Take Out the Trash

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Love is the Basis of Unity

I was driving down the road the other day and I saw this bumper sticker that I had seen in the past but today I had to stop and ponder:


The message is clear.  "Can't we all just get along?"  Basically the assumption is that all roads lead to God and that one religion isn't any different from another, so let's all just 'coexist'.

We do co-exist in meaning we all live on this planet.  But the desire here is that we live in unity, and that can't happen when you have the world on one side and the Christians on the other.  I know this is not the popular or politically correct thing to say, but it is the TRUTH.

It is no surprise that the world is angered by the exclusivity of the Gospel regarding Jesus Christ for He said of Himself, "I am the Way, the Truth, the Life; no man comes to the Father except through Me." [John 14:6].

What does surprise me however is the number of people who profess to be followers of Jesus Christ yet do not love one another.  Love is the basis for Unity.  This is the command that bears witness to our decision to follow Christ: "By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another." [John 13:35].

So if God is love (and we know He is because He has said so) and we are His children - the proof is in the pudding as my grandma would say; then shouldn't we (the church - white, black, asian, hispanic, etc...) love one another.  Anyone who professes the biblical Jesus Christ as their Savior and holds to the foundational truths of Scripture is my brother/sister and I MUST love them.

WARNING:
Love requires DEVOTION.  Love says, "I'm there through thick or thin."  Love can be messy.  Sometimes it's your mess, sometimes it's not; but love bears each others burdens.  We may confide in someone and they spill the beans.  That doesn't mean you stop loving. Or trusting.  It just means you find someone trustworthy with whom to share your burdens.  Love also doesn't say, "We're an Urgent Care Center, but don't come in here bleeding."  We need to reach out and compel those brothers and sisters who are injured to come find safety with the church.

Love requires DEMONSTRATION.  "We love because He first loved us."  [1 John 4:19].  Love in action doesn't come naturally; it is a gift from God.  Love for one's brother/sister is evidence that we have entered into God's family.  Love, true love only comes from God.

Love requires DYING.  Dying to ourself; to our wants, our desires, our priorities.  Jesus demonstrated how we are to love, He died on the cross.  "Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends."  [John 15:13].  And then Paul exhorts, "Be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma." [Ephesians 5:1-2]

So what does love look like?  Look in a mirror - for if you are a child of God, it looks like you.

For the full message shared on 06-10-12 at Faith Church of God, WI COG Unity Service go to:  Love is the Basis of Unity