Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Continuing to Break Through

As I listen to conversations around me, I am struck by the number of times that I hear "Why does God allow suffering?"  "Why me?" "What did I do wrong?" It is in these questions that I find that we have an opportunity to continue to break our cycles that entangle us.

2 Corinthians 1:3-5 says "3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so can can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. 5 For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort flows." (NIV).

One of the traps that is laid for us is that if we suffer, God can and will fix everything and our troubles will go away.  This last statement is true, God can and will fix everything (though in His time and in His way).  But the trap of Satan is more that when God does not do it in our time or way, he sneaks in and forms a wedge between us and God.  And at that point he (Satan) uses everything at his disposal to widen that divide.

I want you to think about things from a slightly different perspective.  Remembering that God desires a relationship with us (way more than we show that we desire one with Him), we have to view God as an active partner in our relationship.  How many of you have ever been in a relationship where someone was the taker (only) and one was the giver (only) - or at least that is how it looked.  How long did you allow yourself to be taken advantage of - or conversely how long did you take advantage of the other person?

It is right that we should seek God in our times of trouble.  Just like it is right that we should seek Him in our times of questioning, in our times of gladness, in our times of sadness, in our times of loudness, and in our times of quiet.  The point is that we should be seeking God's face in every time and action.

Psalm 27:4 "One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all of the days of my life, and gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and seek him in his temple." (NIV)

Living IN the presence of the Lord should be our greatest desire.  If we do this, it does not mean that we will not suffer, but it will build and rebuild our centered relationship with God so that in our times of suffering, we can know peace and that God is in control.

God does not cause suffering.  But God does use suffering to stretch us, to shape us, and to guide us.

We go to God to seek comfort.  And through the comfort that we receive, we are able to comfort others.  We can not do anywhere near the greatness of God, but though receiving comfort from God, we can help others to reach for God's comfort.  While breaking out of a cycle that works against, we can enter into another that works for us.

In working with recovery, there is a tenant that states if you take something away (negative influence coupled with negative behavior) you must replace it with a mutually beneficial positive influence. 

Think about what you are adding and subtracting or deposits and withdrawals in your life. 

What are you working towards?

Who are you seeking your guidance from?

I want to leave you today with one of my favorite passages.

Psalm 121:1-2 " 1 I lift up my eyes to the hills - where does my help come from?  2 My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth." (NIV)

If you are struggling tonight, honestly assess where is your help coming from.  God desires to be with you in all things.  You just have to take the second step.  He already took the first when He sent his one and only Son to die for you and for me.  Ask for His hand and say thanks.

Blessings upon each and every one of you.  God truly loves us more than we can possibly fathom.

Pastor Jim

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Breaking the Cycle

How often do we find ourselves in a sense of deja vu?  I'm not talking about the fleeting "I think I dreamed this" but rather the type that says "Oh boy, I've been here before".  This cycle can be about anything in our lives, but generally it is a pattern of self-defeating actions that end up with us having a worthless mindset that places the blame everywhere else except where it belongs.

Life is about perspective - it may take a while to see what is the best route, but once you do see it, it will change everything.

The things of life that entangle us are placed there for a reason.  And we choose those things.  Think about the cycle that you get into...can you pinpoint its start?  Can you identify where you can break the cycle?

If we look into the Judges era of the Bible we find a cycle that many of you may recognize

1. Israel would forget God and begin worshipping idols.

2. A wave of foreign invasion and oppression would begin.

3. The people would cry out to God for deliverance.

4. God would send a deliverer, who would through God's help defeat the invaders
and for a time rule over the people as judge.”

5. Back to step 1.
I want you to think about this for a moment - because Israel fell into the same patterns we endure today.
When things go well - we forget God.  We forget that the primary reason that things are going well is because of the goodness and grace of God. God wants to see his children prosper and when they do, instead of falling on our knees to give thanks, we abandon God.
Challenge yourself - think about it.  How much time do you spend in celebration with God, thanking him for the blessings that have been bestowed upon you?
When we get out of alignment with God - entanglements happen - we pull further away from God. We begin to worry. We try to fix them on our own.  We often fail miserably. We blame Him.  We cry "why me".  We look to blame everyone under the sun.
When things get hopeless - we run to God asking for his help.  We beg for his help.  We barter - if you will do this, I will follow you always.  We may for a fleeting moment, we may even truly believe. 
God sends us hope, a solution, a way out of our problems.  We say an initial thanks (if we give Him credit), then what do we do.......
Back to step 1.
Not much appears to have changed.  The cycle continues to occur.  But there is hope.
His name is Jesus.
Matthew 4:19 "Come, follow me," Jesus said, "and I will make you fishers of men." (NIV)
The path to breaking the cycle has been laid out for us in the Word of God.  Matthew 4:19 gives the simple command that Jesus gave to Peter and Andrew.  Come, follow me.  
Getting into the Word is the first step to breaking your cycle.  If you do not read the Word and accept it as God's message to you about your life, it is impossible for you to make the changes in your life that will lead you to God's plan for you.
I have a piece of homework for you.  Go to a bookstore, any bookstore.  Go to the self-help section.  Gaze on the hundreds if not thousands of different books that are present to "help" with any situation that you may be facing.  You will find a lot of them.  Some of them have horrible titles like  "_____ for Dummies".  Trust me when I say, God did not make you a dummy.  But he did make sure that you have the best help book of all - the Bible.  Notice that I did not call it a self-help book.
Asking for God's help is your second step to breaking your cycle.  The most misquoted bible scripture is "God helps those who help themselves."  Guess what, it's not in there.  But you will find countless times where you are asked to lean on God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. James 1:5 "If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him." (NIV)
For many of us, we have trust issues.  We also live in a society where we are taught to stand straight, stand tall, and stand alone.  As a boy, I was told countless times to grow up, quit acting like a baby, big boys don't cry.
It takes humility to say that you are powerless over the entanglements in your life and to truly give them over to God.  If you review your cycle right now, what are those things that you think you are keeping in secret away from God's prying eyes?  God knows every thought you think before you think it.  He knows your issues.  He awaits for you to bring them to him.
Following God's word is a third step to breaking your cycle.  James 1:22-25 says 22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves.  Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in the mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it - he will be blessed in what he does. (NIV)  God has given us so much.  He gave us the world we live in.  He has given us the air we breathe.  He gave his one and only Son as a bridge between man and God, He gave us the Holy Spirit and the Word to convict and guide us.  He also gave us a choice.
As we have seen in the lives of the children of Israel and in our own lives, without help, we can not break the cycles which entangle us.  But we have the greatest help ever found in our Lord Jesus Christ.  He can light a path for us, if we are willing to break those bonds that entangle us.  If we are willing to choose him as he has already chosen us.
Psalm 119:105 says "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path" (NIV).
Will you let God help you break your cycle?  Will you humble yourself before the Lord and let him guide you?  Will you be willing to change to follow Him when the world tries to turn you away with shiny new trinkets?  Will you let His love surround you and heal you?
Just reach out your hand and take His.  Break your cycle today.  Welcome home!!
Many blessings to each of you this day.  God love you.
Pastor Jim

Sunday, September 19, 2010


James 17 - 18 says: "17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. 18 He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created." NIV

The Bible often compares goodness with light and evil with darkness.  We live in a world of perpetual darkness, often of our own design and efforts.  The freedom that God provides, we often turn our noses up at in a moments glance.

We are granted God's grace through the sacrifice of his one and only Son.  Many of us have taken those wonderful steps to ask Jesus into our hearts to guide our lives.  Yet in times of struggle, instead of running to him, we hop in our cars and drive away as fast as we can (figuratively speaking).

One of my favorite scriptures in the Bible is James 19 - 20 "19 My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires." NIV

This anger that is generated from talking too much, listening too little, and letting our mouths write checks that we often pay without funds in the bank, is one of the main vehicles that the devil uses to drive a wedge between us and the glorious gifts that God provides.

Think about a time today when you could have used this principle;

What about yesterday?

Last week?

Last Month?

A rumour, some gossip, your feelings were hurt, you were not heard, somebody else got something you wanted, you did not get something you wanted, a memory of past pain resurfaced.

We live in a society where "speaking your mind" is encouraged.  While I am not advocating that one should never speak, I am advocating that what you say should be pleasing to God.

I have taught several classes on professional boundaries and one of the tests for employees to try their statements against is "Would I repeat this in front of: another client, their parents, my boss, etc." 

What James strives to remind us is to take this stance with everything that we say.  And remember, God knows what you are going to say before you say it.

There are many great directions from the Lord in the Bible for mankind to follow. 

Matthew 18 - 20: "18 All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you." NIV

1 Corinthians 13:13 "And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love.  But the greatest of these is love" NIV

There are more, but one of the most challenging comes again from the book of James.

James 22 "Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. DO what it says." NIV

Think of all the blessings that have been bestowed upon you.  You have life everlasting.  Life will not be easy, but you have the Counselor of all Counselors, you have the King of all Kings, you have the greatest Defender of the weak to walk with you.

You have been granted the authority to carry forth the word of Jesus Christ to all nations.  You have been challenged to share his love and his grace with those who do not know him.  You are commissioned to open your arms to those who would rather smack you than talk to you.

Follow the light of the Lord. 

Open your ears.

Open your heart.

Guard your tongue and your anger.

Let God's love and grace flow through you.

Someone around you needs the enlightenment of God.

Blessings to each of you this day.  God loves you.

Pastor Jim

Sunday, September 12, 2010

What is a friend?

Have you ever taken the time to look back on life and wonder "Where are those friends who said they would always be there?"  Where are they now that I need them most?  Were they really friends or just acquaintances?

In today's modern world, the word friend is too easily tossed around, similar to another word love.  The social connection  websites phenomenon have helped create this facade of friendships, yet it seems that the world can be a very lonely place.  Even for those with many friends.

What is a friend?  How do we make them and keep them?

The Bible offers us a great example of friendship with Jonathan and David in 1 Samuel 18. 

Jonathan was such a friend to David that he gave him the clothes off his back, his sword, his belt.  He gave David his love and affection.  And when the chips were down, Jonathan warned David that his father Saul was going to try to kill him.  Jonathan stood up to his father in defense of David.

What a friend!

You see, friendship is much like any other relationship,


It takes a lot of work.  That is if you want to get anything out of it and actually have friends that are more than just status symbols on Facebook.

Creating and maintaining a friendship takes quite a few things, but I will focus on 4.

Friendship takes:

1. Investment - Investment comes in many forms.  The most important investment is time.  In order to keep friendships alive and well, you have to invest time into them.  While you can not do this and perhaps pick up on an old friendship down the road, it does not have the same pizazz as one that you are continuously putting effort into.

2.  Committed investment - Committed investment means that you have to care about your friend. Have you ever been in a relationship where you (or the other party) only talked about themselves.  They never really ask about what you need and neither do you?  Committed investment is about caring and sharing and loving in good times and bad. 

3. Vulnerability - This is in your committed investment.  Have you ever had that friendship where you could share your darkest, deepest, most painful moments?  Not only that but they didn't run away and stop speaking to you?  They did not judge you?  They simply loved you?  Have you taken that chance?  If they do run, is that the friend you really need?

4. Mutuality - Somewhat referred to in the committed investment.  True friendship is a two way street.  It is based on mutual love and respect.  It is an ability to both share openly.  To have the ability to challenge each other to grow and to be more than you thought you could be.  A willingness to put the other one first.

Proverbs 27:17 says "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another" (NIV).  While many use this as only a statement of how men should hold themselves accountable, I also believe that this one little statement helps us transcend the bounds of friendship as well.

Who are your earthly friends?  Have you put the work and effort into your relationships that you need to in order to forge bonds and share God's love?  What do you need to do to repair some that you have damaged?

How friends behave has definitely changed throughout the years.  I remember the work that my Grandparents put into their friendships.  They played cards together every week.  They alternated houses each week.  They got together for several hours an evening and eventually they played cards.  They went to flea markets together every Sunday.  They broke bread together.  And when my Grandparents passed, those friends arrived, with tears in their eyes, but with joyous stories pouring from their mouths.

I want to leave you with one other thought this evening, a homework assignment if you will.  I want you to make a new friend (or perhaps reacquaint yourself with Him). 

If you do not have a copy in your house, look up "Footprints in the Sand".  You will find about 415,000 results.  I want you to read it.  This is an even greater version of love and friendship than the story of Jonathan and David.  Do you know why?  Because this one includes you and the greatest friend of all, Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.

Blessings to each of you this day, God loves you.

Pastor Jim

Sunday, September 5, 2010

How do you know?

One of the struggles that I have faced this past week has been the title of today's sermon - How do you know?  This past two weeks has been the first time that Get out of the Boat has been announced to more than just immediate family members.  You see, I started to feel uncomfortable, as if I had done something wrong.  This was not a feeling from God.  I have no doubt that what I am doing here has been directed by His hand.  But how do I know?  I think that this ends up being the debilitating thought that keeps Christians from doing what God ordained plan that He has for them.

That fear is what grounds us to forget that God desires us to soar.  God desires for us to do great things.  God desires that we are stretched and that because of that stretching we are able to provide glory to our Maker.

Being a person that did not grow up in a church environment, I have been astounded at the subculture that exists in the "Christian" realm.  The concept that life is more about the reward than the race.  Yet it is the race, with Jesus at your side that gets you to the reward at the end.  What is that reward?  Often that appears to depend on who is doing the sermon.  Is the reward your own personal mansion?  Is it a room in a mansion with many rooms?  Is it silver? Is it gold?  Is it a combination of all these things?  Or is heaven about sitting in constant communion with our Lord and Savior, with God, with the Holy Spirit.  Sitting together, praying together, learning from Jesus? Strikingly again, I believe it relies on who is conducting the translating.

It is much the same with hell.  Is hell divided into seven different layers?  Each more torturous than the one before it?  Is it filled with sulfur and fire?  Or is the total emptiness that is present when God is not?  A total blackness, devoid of all emotion, feeling.  Devoid of love and grace.  Again does it rely on the translator and translation?

How do you know?

The answer may be simplistic in form, but drastic in the depths of its requirements.


Hebrews 11:1 - Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. (NIV)

Two words describe faith: sure and certain.  These two qualities need a secure beginning and ending point.  The beginning point is believing in God's character - he is who he says.  The end point is believing in God's promises - he will do what he says.  When we believe that God will fulfill his promises even though we do not see those promises materializing yet, we demonstrate true faith. (Student application Bible)

When God calls you to do something how often do you turn away?  How often do you diminish what He is doing in your life?  How often do you not give Him the glory of what he has and continues to do for you?

One of the most difficult things I have struggled with recently is why would God choose me?  Then today it dawned on me about faith.  It does not matter.  God has directed me to do it.  So therefore, I am compelled to do it.  My faith says that I must follow what God has directed me to do.  And in doing so, let me act as foolishly as I can for God. 

Ephesians 5:18 - "Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery.  Instead, be filled with the Spirit".  (NIV)

2 Samuel 6: 21 - 22: 21 David said to Michal, "It was before the Lord, who chose me rather than your father or anyone from his house when he appinted me ruler over the Lord's people Israel - I will celebrate before the Lord. 22 I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes.  But by these slave girls you spoke of, I will be held in honor." (NIV)

When you start to doubt God, I have some passages for you to read about faith.  Read Hebrews Chapter 11.  Use this as a jumping point to go back through the Bible and learn more.  For those that do not remember, Hebrews 11 recaps some of the greatest cases of faith from the Old Testament.  True men and women that embodied the principle of faith.

When you think that those around you are jeering at you, doubting you, making fun of you, and that you look foolish, ask yourself - "Am I doing what God wants me to do?"  If so, be willing to celebrate even more foolishly.  If not, ask Him and be willing to follow his directions.  Then celebrate his glory.  Be willing to make a fool of yourself for Him.

God loves you.  God desires a relationship with you.  That is why he sent Jesus to save us.

Give thanks that God has given you a purpose, a plan, a mission in His name.

Ask God to guide you.

Praise Him through song and dance. 

Honor Him with your words and deeds.

And again Give Thanks.

Blessings to each of you.  I love you.

Pastor Jim