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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The Fun Easy Topics of Prophecy and World Problems

Fires, political upheaval, extreme conditions, Covid virus concerns… Do you feel like God may be trying to get the attention of the nation or world today? Sure.
 
It’s not hard to arrive at that conclusion. But what if I were to instead ask, do you feel like God is trying to get your attention today?
 
This morning, at my computer, I was amazed at the lack of sites that offered the approach of making things from Scripture personal. In fact, some Christian sites even argued against making the Bible too personal. So, my thoughts this week stem from the notion of asking “Why, or Why not?”
 
Let’s start with some observations:
• It is easy to talk about the problems of our nation and the world.
• It is stimulating to talk about prophecy, and what is going to happen to the world.
• It is gratifying to talk about doctrines and sins that others need to repent of.
• It is comforting to talk about things that are not intended to make us personally feel uncomfortable.
There seems to be a common theme, so let’s ask this; Does God call us to the comforting task of critiquing others?
• Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect (Rom. 12:2). That sounds like it’s stressing a personal perspective.
 
Consequently, perhaps we could ask it differently; Is the idea of pointing fingers stronger in the Bible than the idea of making things applicable to you/me personally?
• But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you (Matt. 6:33). It still sounds like more emphasis on personal reflection and application than it does on assessing others (although there is a place for that in spiritual leadership –see Matt. 7:16; 1 Tim. 3:1-7).
 
How about a few other passages:
• Galatians 6:5 says we are each responsible for our own conduct.
• Matthew 16:27 tells us that Jesus Christ will reward each person according to what they have done.
 
Thus, let me ask four questions that should accompany the first four observations:
• What are you personally aware of that are problems in your own life?
• What are you personally changing about your life if Jesus were to return tonight?
• What are you personally doing to see that people are saved from their sins?
• What are you personally willing to attend to in your life that needs transformed?
 
Pastor Mike
“between Sundays”

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Homosexuality and Biblical Interpretation

Homosexual and gender identity issues are all around us. It is not even just out in the culture, but in my own circle of friends and relatives. 

As was true today, I have often been asked what I believe about homosexual issues and rights, and what I believe about what the Bible says, and what I believe about how one should communicate biblical truth. 

Let me start with the latter; I speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15), and I measure the depth of engagement upon the depth of the relationship I have with that person. The amount I am able to engage with a person I do not know well, as compared to the in-depth conversation I can have with those closer to me is based on relationship.

And as for the other two questions, for me they go hand in hand: What I believe the Bible says is what I believe about homosexual issues and rights. 

In recent years, there has been a greater emphasis by the homosexual groups to contrive connections between what the Bible says and what they desire to be true. There has been a greater push toward a “Christian gay” movement. As one writer observed, “Homosexual activists and their allies know that the Judeo-Christian sexual ethic found in the Bible is the last bastion of defense holding back the widespread embrace of homosexuality throughout the culture. They understand that if Bible-believing Christians and Jews can be convinced that homosexual behavior is no longer sinful in God’s eyes, then the battle to fully implement their political and social goals will be won” [Focus on the Family].

In addition, gay strategists Marshall Kirk and Hunter Madsen, in their landmark homosexual public relations manual published in 1989, boldly encouraged gays “to muddy the moral waters, that is, to undercut the rationalizations that ‘justify’ religious bigotry.” They go on to specify that this entails “raising serious theological objections to conservative biblical teachings.” They further call homosexuals to “undermine the moral authority of churches… by portraying such institutions as antiquated backwaters, badly out of step with the times and with the latest findings of psychology.”

This campaign of misinformation is often known as “revisionist gay theology,” and it’s presently playing out in numerous denominations.  In actuality, it sounds much like Satan’s question to Eve in Genesis 3, “Did God really say that?

I recently read an article by an author for Human Rights Campaign, who worked very hard to try to make the Bible agree with their homosexual position. The author first proposed that, “what was being condemned in the Bible is very different than the committed same-sex partnerships we know and see today.” So, in other words, they want to first propose that the commands of the Bible do not apply to them.

Secondly, this author suggested that, “Jews and Christians in the 1st century had little to no awareness of a category like sexual orientation,” and then proceeded to suggest that, in “Genesis 1 and 2, it is worth noting that these stories say God began by creating human beings of male and female sex (defined as the complex result of combinations between chromosomes, gonads, genes, and genitals) but there is nothing that indicates in Scripture that God only created this binary.” In other words, there are supposedly other categories God created than just male and female, and that transgender and homosexual were around before the Fall of Mankind.

Beyond an absolute destruction of Genesis 1 and 2, this author also proceeded to misinterpret other texts of Scripture as well: “Psalm 139:13-14’s reference to ‘being wonderfully made’ in the ‘womb,’ implies that we are all created with love and intention and that every part of us was divinely formed with dignity –both our bodies and our inner knowledge of self.”

Now the author has opened up another can of worms, that of “orientation” (and gender identity, which I don’t have the time to presently address).  “Orientation” is the diplomatic way of describing one’s feelings. “If I feel this way, it therefore must be okay.”

I had a 17-year-old boy and his mother visit with me one day, to discuss why it was alright that this young man was homosexual. Their family were regular attenders at church, but they did not agree with our stand on biblical truth. They informed me, that since Bob (not real name) had the feelings and desires he did toward other boys, that therefore his actions and decisions were acceptable.  I responded by asking them, “If a person felt the desire to steal, would that therefore make it acceptable?”  They quickly realized they were standing on shaky ground.  “If a person felt the desire to be a wife-beater, or a pedophile, would that make it okay?”

The Bible is clear that all of us have an inclination to sin, and all of us have different areas in our life where the temptations to sin are greater than someone else’s impulses in that area. Furthermore, all of us are masters at trying to justify and rationalize our sins and weaknesses.

So, where does all of this bring me back to?  It comes back to the fact that speaking the truth in love (Eph. 4:15) requires a balance of love and a commitment to truth.  To love is to be concerned about a person’s eternal future, and is not a broad tolerance that overlooks and enables sin. Part of loving someone is making them aware of what God’s truths are regarding our sins, and that He wants to save us from them. 1 Tim. 2:3-4, “God our Savior, wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.”

 

Bible Passages about Homosexuality (I will just list 3 from OT and 3 from NT):

  • Genesis 19:1-11… The account of the homosexual perversion of Sodom, which led to its destruction.
  • Leviticus 18:22; “Do not practice homosexuality, having sex with another man as with a woman. It is a detestable sin.”
  • Leviticus 20:13… similar statement, and accompanied punishment.
  • Romans 1:18-32… This passage describes how sinful mankind claimed to be the wiser, and they proceeded to follow their sexual desires and perversions and homosexuality, proving they did not care what God wanted.
  • 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 (a great passage); “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”  God wants to restore us.
  • 1 Timothy 1:8-10; “We know that the law is good if one uses it properly. We also know that the law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, for the sexually immoral, for those practicing homosexuality, for slave traders and liars and perjurers—and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine.”
Pastor Mike

“between Sundays”


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Three People, Three Perspectives, One Provider

Psalm 68:10, “O God, out of Your goodness You have provided for Your needy people.”
 
I crossed paths with three people this week who were all of a low-income level, and yet all had a place to sleep and a car to drive. Furthermore, all three persons were Christians, followers of Christ, but their perspectives on God’s provision were all quite different.
 
Person A. This individual spoke often of what they should have, but did not have, and yet the things this person did have, they overlooked and disregarded. There was no recognition of God’s provisions.
 
Person B. This individual believed they needed more, and made unwise decisions to acquire more, and yet God still patiently and graciously constantly provided for their needs. This person did recognize God, but primarily as the One to whom anxious petitions were made.
 
Person C. This individual had many needs—financial and physical—and they acknowledged that God met their needs. They verbally praised God for His provisions.
 
What difference did it make in their lives? Person A is often upset at the lack of things they don’t have that they want, Person B is often anxious about God providing again, and Person C maintains a joy and peace that God gets the glory for.
 
Two questions come to mind: 1) Which Person would you like to be? and, 2) Which Person would others describe you as?
 
Philippians 4:19, “And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.”
 
Pastor Mike
“between Sundays”

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A Prayer for us

My thoughts this week center around the spiritual health and direction of our church fellowship, and with that is a prayer found at the conclusion of our men’s study from Relational Christianity. I would ask that we would all pray this prayer, and make our hearts receptive and prepared to worship and draw close to God.
 
Father, draw us to Yourself. We have looked for answers in our methods and for power in our programs when what we need is You. Forgive us. You are the Spring of Living Water and we thirst for You. Grant that we might drink from the Source and not downstream where the water is muddied by words. Remind us that You are real. Reveal to us that You are here, with us. Father God, we are Your prodigal children and we long to come home. Receive us by Your great grace and tender mercy. Rekindle in us the fire of Your life. May our lives be the wick upon which the flame of Your love burns and thus bring the light of Your love into the darkness of our world.
 
Lord Jesus, move upon Your church by the power of Your Holy Spirit. Touch your Body and make it healthy, alive with Your presence. Express Your love to Your Bride and wash her with the water of Your Word that she might be beautiful in Your sight, without spot or blemish. Come and revive Your church, Lord. We love You, Father God.
 
In the Name of your Son, Jesus, Amen.
 
-Pastor Mike “between Sundays”

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