Between Sundays Blog

FBC Ashland Pastor, Mike Fast

consumed with self

Yesterday I was on the phone with a seasoned Baptist pastor who is disappointed with his “people’s devotion to autonomy, rights and self-rule,” and the “rebellion” in their hearts.
 
The idea of autonomy in a Baptist church began as a good thing, where the local church could make teaching and polity decisions for themselves. However, like so many other things, we humans do not tend to do balance well, so we head for the extremes.
 
Just like that seasoned pastor, I have witnessed the same tendencies through the years, where we don’t stop at just a balanced idea of an autonomous church, we want full authority for ourselves personally in all areas. We don’t want to answer to anyone. We get more hung up on attaining our comforts than in meeting the needs of others (Galatians 5:24). We get more hung up on our entitlements and rights than in serving and caring for others (Mark 10:45). We get more hung up with ourselves than in being a true disciple of Christ ready to die to self (Luke 9:23).
 
This week’s readings pertain to consistency, and we could ask ourselves; How consistent does my faith and lifestyle look if I say I imitate Christ who cared for others, when I am actually consumed with self?
 
“between Sundays”
Pastor Mike Fast

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Christmas Publicity

How would an event planner of today choreograph the arrival of Jesus? Perhaps it would be better to ask, how would it not be planned. It would not be planned in a little insignificant village like Bethlehem. It would not take place in a barn. It would not have welcomed sheep herders as the first guests, and the graveyard shift at that.
 
But then perhaps God had a different plan. He wanted to prove that His coming was not an elitist event, but that He would be the Savior of even the lowest of people.
 
An entourage of Gentile kings who later came bearing gifts, proved He also came for the wealthy and powerful.
 
Jesus came for all of us. Praise the Lord, and thank You!
How does your life demonstrate your gratitude and humility for the gift of Jesus Christ?
 
“between Sundays”
Pastor Mike Fast

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Savoring the Scriptures

“I find my delight in your commandments, which I love.” —Psalm 119:47
 
I was reading again in Psalm 119 this morning, and I found myself again focusing in on the statements where the author declared that he delighted in and loved the word of God (119:14-16, 24, 34-35, 46-48, 70, 77, 97, 113, 127, 143, 163-167, 174).
 
2022 is going to be a year of “Hearing the Word.” We will take a Stroll through the Scroll on Sunday mornings, and we will walk through the Bible in a book-by-book summary in our Wednesday morning Men’s study, and we will all participate during the week in a chronological Bible reading plan with the support of a devotional I have put together.
 
I want to encourage all of us to set aside 15 minutes each day to read through the Bible this coming year. The short devotional will help keep us on track, as it lists the chronological reading passage for the day, and includes a devotional that will correlate with your day’s reading, and each week will have a theme and thought to make it more practical and personal.
 
I am including the first week’s devotionals a bit ahead of schedule, and I will then follow up with the second week’s before Christmas. I will email them, but if you or a friend don’t use email often, then make sure to let Illis know you need a hard copy, or you could make your own three-ring binder full of devotionals for the year.
 
“between Sundays”
Pastor Mike Fast

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Do we assume the world should act as we do?

Psalm 139:13 “You, God, knitted me together in my mother’s womb.”
 
We, the followers of Christ, have an urgent prayer request before us as tomorrow the Supreme Court will begin hearing arguments on abortions after a baby reaches a certain age.
 
While believers understand the value of a baby in the womb, why do we expect the world to embrace our same values? 1 Corinthians 1:18 reminds us that the unsaved of the world do not even agree with us concerning the value of Jesus Christ going to cross for us, so why would they agree with us on the worth of a baby’s life or the value found in observing the commands of God. “The message about the cross doesn’t make any sense to lost people. But for those of us who are being saved, it is God’s power at work” (1 C 1:18).
 
The world views sin as an allowance, and one that makes no sense that we do not join them in. 1 Peter 4:3-4 observes that the unsaved do what they want, as did we when we were unsaved; “For you have spent enough time in the past carrying out the same desires as the Gentiles: living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing, and detestable idolatry. Because of this, they consider it strange of you not to plunge with them into the same flood of reckless indiscretion, and they heap abuse on you.”
 
Living in sin and disobedience to God is what the world knows and prefers. Proverbs 29:16, “When the wicked are in authority, sin flourishes…” Yet we still want the world to live as we do. One reason is that we desire to see them saved and experience something better, as Paul said in Romans 10:1, “My heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved.”
 
The second reason pertains to our personal comforts. It would be much easier to live in a world that valued the same things we do, and never challenge or persecute us for living differently. But the truth is this; 2 Timothy 3:12 “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (see also John 15:18-20).
 
As a follower of Christ, we persevere and must continue to live in obedience to our Lord regardless of how distorted things around us get. We pray for those things we know to be right (1 Thess. 5:17), even if they go another way. We continue to pray for those in authority over us (Romans 13:1-2), even if we don’t agree with their decisions. We continue to demonstrate the Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) and the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-11) in our life regardless of our surroundings.
 
Jesus Christ asked you to follow Him. Make it your lifelong personal agenda and passion.
 
Pastor Mike
Between Sundays

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Never Forget

King David wrote, “Let all that I am praise the LORD; may I never forget the good things He does for me.” (Psalm 103:2 NLT)
 
I have been reading some psalms lately where David, or another author, has no problem listing a vast number of things God has done. For example, in Psalm 136 the author gives a number of reasons to praise God: “Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good… to him who alone does great wonders… to him who by understanding made the heavens… to him who spread out the earth above the waters… to him who led his people through the wilderness… to him who struck down powerful kings…”
 
What is your secret for remembering all God has done for you? A few years back, Our Daily Bread contained a devotional which provided a good illustration of this. It was the story of a lady who wanted more gratitude in her spiritual life. Each evening she wrote on a small piece of paper one thing she thanked God for and dropped it in what she called her ThanksLiving jar. Some days she had many praises, and others it was a struggle to find one. At the end of the year she emptied her jar and read through all the notes. She found herself thanking God again for everything He had done.
 
It sounds like a great idea, for a year or even for a month. Personally, I am making a slight twist where I am looking for a God sighting each day (situations where God makes His presence very obvious). I am recording each day’s sighting on my phone, and will look back on the list so that “I may never forget the good things God has done for me.”
 
Whatever adaptations you make to the plan just maintain the purpose; to recognize God’s presence and protection in your life, and to give God the constant glory for it throughout this Thanksgiving season and on into next year.
 
Pastor Mike
“between Sundays”

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Degrees of Reward and Punishment

Within the last week the topic of varying levels of eternal reward and eternal punishment has come up a few times in our different Bible study groups, so I want to take the time to address the issue this way.

Let me start by reminding us that God is perfect, holy, just and sovereign. We need to be reminded of this when we want to question His methods. Suffice to say, we do not exactly know how God goes about accomplishing this perfect justice, but we believe He does. It will be meticulous, thorough, and perfect.

Let me begin by addressing those who are not a follower of Christ. Without exclusively embracing the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross for you and your sins, you will forever be separated from the presence of God (2 Thess. 1:8-9).

To those who are a follower of Christ, let me say this; you are doing yourself a great disservice if you believe that merely getting your foot in the door of Heaven is enough. Let me say it this way; whatever you do with the short number of years you live on earth will determine for you what happens in eternity. When we do well in life, we honor our Savior. It should not be all about getting into Heaven, but it is about glorifying and serving God and growing in relationship with Him.

So, now back to the issue of degrees of reward and punishment. Again, we do not know exactly how God goes about accomplishing this, but Scripture makes it clear that people are judged in personal ways by God. To coin a phrase of Pastor Erwin Lutzer, “People are judged on the basis of what they did with what they knew.”  This does not mean that doing good saves us, but that our actions in life make a difference in our eternal home. “People are judged on the basis of what they did with what they knew.”

Allow me to provide you with some Scripture to consider:

  • Romans 2:12-16; the Gentiles who do not have the law as the Jews do, will be judged without the law, and based upon their conscience.
  • 2 Corinthians 5:10; each Christian will give an account for what he/she has done, good or evil. Our sins are covered by the blood of Christ, but He will assess faithfulness or a lack thereof (see also Romans 14:10-12 and 1 Corinthians 3:10-15).
  • Luke 12:47-48; speaks of varying levels of punishment in Hell (see also Revelation 20:12-13, and Luke 10 also addresses levels of punishment).
  • Matthew 16:27; speaks of varying levels of Heavenly reward based upon one’s deeds.
  • Matthew 25:14-29; the parable of the talents illustrates how rewards are given based upon what each of us do with what we are given.
  • Luke 14:12-14; God will reward (“repay”) us after we are resurrected for good deeds we have done here.
  • Luke 6:22-23, 35; there is reward for suffering for Christ.
 

Pastor Mike Fast

“between Sundays”

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This is Good

         The atmosphere at church feels good. Perhaps King David described it best; “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!” (Psalm 133:1).

         I hope you have written out your 50 good things about this church, and are now making the opportunities to share one of those good things with someone each week.  I had the opportunity to share a few this past week, and it felt great.

         We have so many reasons to feel blessed. I have friends in ministry in Spain, and they have only within the past few weeks been able to start meeting in person. We are blessed each week that we have been able to meet in person.

         We are blessed with a warmth that encourages each other, and makes a new person feel more like a true guest than just a visitor.

         We are blessed with a church family that desires to spend time in the Word of God, learning and growing. Our midweek and evening studies are so well attended.

         We are blessed with an atmosphere of true worship as we celebrate Jesus and His being in the midst of us as we gather. It makes every gathering that much more special.

         We are blessed with a long history in a community that needs to hear and see the gospel of Christ.

         We have so much to be grateful for.  Thank you, and as Paul says, may we all keep up the good work. “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:11).

Pastor Mike

“between Sundays”


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Is the End Near?

Imagine yourself sitting in your pew on a typical Sunday morning, as a homeless looking man walks down the aisle with a large, rugged cross on squeaky wheels foretelling the coming of Christ. What would you be thinking?
 
Well, this happened one Sunday morning early in my ministry, and I will tell you what I was thinking. As a pastor, I wondered who this man was, and why didn’t the deacons stop him at the door?
 
If this happened today in your church, how would you respond to him and his message? Do you think your deacons would stop him at the door?
 
In the last year many of our perspectives about “the end” have changed. I know mine has. I sense the coming of Christ is very near, and I know many Christians are awaiting Christ’s return.
 
My wife shared an article with me that caused her to think about this. The author asked several penetrating questions that really need to be pondered by each of us:
  • Are we focusing more on the antichrist than the return of the King? (1 Thessalonians 1:10)
  • Are we more concerned with the mark of the Beast than being marked by Christ’s love and presence? (Isaiah 41:10)
These questions are really asking if we are immersing ourselves in fear rather than hope. You see, if we focus on the spiritual conflict around us instead of the hope of Christ’s return that is assured us in God’s Word, then we are immersing ourselves in fear. (Psalms 34:4)
 
Yes, the end is near, but the end of what? As a Christian it is the end of life in this broken world, the end of the enemy’s reign, and the end of the effects of sin. As a Christian the end brings the beginning of life in the presence of Almighty God! It is the beginning of life without pandemics, hopelessness, and struggle. It is the beginning of life in perfect unity with God, experiencing perfect love, hope and joy in a new Heavenly home for eternity.
 
So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God, I will strengthen you and help you: I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10)
 
– From a recent article by Pastor Steve May,
serving with Village Missions in Meadview, Arizona

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Weed Control Fabric

I am in the middle of a lavender planting project at home, where I have dug and prepared six rows of 26 holes each (156 holes). I am now doing some raking and will soon lay out 500 feet of weed control fabric.
 
The fabric is a simple material that will benefit my planting in a variety of ways. It is good for keeping things where they should be, even preventing some erosion issues. It also retains moisture in the soil, and helps the soil warm faster. And, of course, it is good for preventing weed seed sprouting on the surface, and reduces the growth of weeds under the fabric.
 
Today I was thinking of the parallels I could draw between it and the benefits of the word of God and a life that walks with God. Psalm 1 says, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands around with sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.”
 
The individual who walks with God, and lives by the word of God, is one who—in a spiritual sense— avoids problems with sliding erosion, and maintains a healthier and consistent soil within, and averts giving into the temptations of the weeds of sin. This is the person who will grow well in their faith, with a right understanding of who they are and who God is. This is the person who is better equipped to continue to live for God.
 
May we delight to walk with God and benefit from His care as our gardener.
 
Isaiah 58:11, “The LORD will guide you continually, giving you water when you are dry
and restoring your strength. You will be like a well-watered garden, like an ever-flowing spring.”
 
Pastor Mike
“between Sundays”

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God still has the same plan

In Isaiah 46:9-10, God declared, “I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose.’”
 
Do you believe in a God like that? I hope so.
 
One year ago today, some of you lost your homes in the Almeda fire. Twenty years ago this week, nearly 3,000 died in the terrorist attacks. We will never understand the full picture and meaning of all God has allowed, but we can definitely understand that there are some things we can take away from our experiences, and apply them to our daily life. As James one affirms we will go through trials and they will evaluate our faith and mature us, so Second Corinthians 1:3-7 states that we will be able to comfort others better as we experience the comfort of God; “All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ. Even when we are weighed down with troubles, it is for your comfort and salvation! For when we ourselves are comforted, we will certainly comfort you. Then you can patiently endure the same things we suffer. We are confident that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in the comfort God gives us.”
 
Recently we have witnessed the pain brought about from Covid, and other fires, and hurricanes, and even political decisions. But the question for us is this; What kind of people are we to be? Second Peter three reminds us of the patience of God as He waits for more people to be saved, but the end is coming. “The day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming… make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation.”
 
I challenge you this week to make every effort to speak, act, and think as one who is more concerned with the welfare of others than yourself (Phil. 2:3-4), meaning you do not fear death, but instead you spend your days sharing and demonstrating the love, compassion, and comfort of God toward others. May our sovereign God observe us living godly lives.
 
Pastor Mike
“between Sundays”

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