And Then, What? – by Pastor John

What is your greatest ambition?

Success in business? Certainly, work is a noble thing, lauded in Scripture (1 Thessalonians 4:11-12). Authority through leadership? That too is an upright ambition, when harnessed by personal accountability (Romans 12:8). Other “greater and lesser” ambitions abound, such as fame, amusements, leisure, sports or lifestyles.

Paul cuts through the fog of greater/lesser ambitions, showing the main thing for him, and the redeemed:

Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.  2 Corinthians 5:9-10

Over my 35 years in ministry, I have seen countless slow fades of individuals or families. Another ambition—work, athletics, education, “good times,” affluence—replaced the First Love. One thing never contemplated was the question, “And then, what?”

A very popular ball player averaged half-a-million dollars per game, just in salary. That’s a lot of money to live large with. The player suddenly died. And then, what?

A rising star and supporting family poured everything into the career. There was “pro potential.” A routine doctor’s visit revealed that life would instead be short. And then, what?

A couple burned 24/7, raggedly providing endless activity for their children. Now the kids are more distant to the things of Christ than even the parents are. And then, what?

I offer two portions of Scripture to meditate upon:

Luke 10:38-42   Don’t miss Jesus in the room.

Luke 12:13-21   There is reward or loss in the reveal of our greatest priority; God determines the when.

I pray you are resolute to live out the true great ambition. God has revealed the “And then, what” answer for those who desire to please Him. That recompense is eternally rewarding, and will not fade away.

A Little Cheese With That Whine? – by Pastor Greg

Ever wonder why the tone of a child’s voice when they are whining just seems to find that last nerve? Have you ever met a “Debbie downer”?  Both statements conjure up images that are not pleasant. Complaining is a part of our experience, we all have engaged in it from time to time. It seems so natural that when things don’t go as we wish, we express our dissatisfaction verbally. Complaining is described as expressing discontentment or dissatisfaction. Most of us complain much more than we realize or are willing to admit. We verbalize our discontent or dissatisfaction almost daily and we usually involve others. I ran across an interesting study on complaining from a psychology article.

 “Research from Stanford University has also found that complaining reduces the size of our hippocampus, which is responsible for memory and problem solving. The study found that engaging in complaining or simply hearing someone complain for more than 30 minutes could physically damage our brains.”  (www.m1psychology.com/complaining-is-bad-for-your-brain)

Seems that complaining is bad for you and others, yet we still do it. In fact, we seem to be drawn to it. Entire industries are dedicated to expressing dissatisfaction or discontentment. Much of what is broadcast on the “news” channels are complaints of various kinds and the in-depth analysis as to why. I wonder if all the negative commentary that is broadcast on news channels were removed, how much news would be left? I would be willing to bet not very much. Complaining has been turned into a spectator sport and business is good! So much time is spent on verbizing why we are discontent or dissatisfied, that there never seems to be time to think about anything else. 

In Philippians 2:14, Paul writes, “Do all things without grumbling (complaining) or disputing (arguing).” The context is Paul’s admonition to be like Christ. To live as He lived, think as He thought, have the attitudes He did. When one looks at the life of Christ, we see a Man who did not grumble, complain, dispute or argue. He lived a life of humility and contentment, dependent on the Father. He was above reproach in all He did.  We too are to live like that. When I live life without the complaining, murmuring, grumbling and arguing, my life will be clean and innocent according to Paul. Now that doesn’t mean not speaking the truth or speaking against that which is wrong or evil, but it does mean I live a contented life regardless of my circumstances. In verse 13, Paul states “for it is God working in you giving you the desire and power to do what pleases Him.” My focus is to please God rather than myself. My complaints often are related to my own desires and wants that are unfulfilled and show a discontentment with God’s work in my life. Paul later in the letter states that he had to learn how to be content with his circumstances, whether he had an abundance or didn’t have enough. The lesson learned for him was, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”  (Phil. 4:13). His circumstances were not the key – it was the life of Christ in him that changed his attitude. Paul took his own advice at the end of 2:14 and didn’t argue with God. He simply accepted what God had provided even as he made his needs known. Instead of arguing with God that he deserved better, Paul trusted Him who had his best interest at heart.

So instead of complaining and getting brain damage, why don’t I trust and live contentedly? Why not shine brightly amongst a crooked generation by living a clean and innocent life without the stain of grumbling, complaining and arguing. 

Don’t Say It – Pastor John

An excerpt from our chronological Bible reading this past week:

Now the word of the LORD came to me saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, And before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations.” Then I said, “Alas, Lord GOD! Behold, I do not know how to speak, Because I am a youth.” But the LORD said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am a youth,’ Because everywhere I send you, you shall go, And all that I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of them, For I am with you to deliver you,” declares the LORD.  Jeremiah 1:4-8 (NASB)

We live in a world awash with the profusion of words. The value is to talk, though often there’s no depth to match length in speech. Politics, “news” and social media are noisy specimens. Yes, you note I did not include sermons in my examples.

You may recall a time when the value was in words few and measured, with weighty thought behind them, chosen to persuade and effect change. The shift today is value in a torrent of words, and cleverness or crudeness of phrases. The goal is not to dialogue, but to “cancel” detractors, and embolden minions holding to the “correct” view. Attacks shift to personal levels, and every perceived slight is amplified through a flood of rhetoric, designed for reaction, not reason.

So here we are. And this is the world our children inherit.

Jeremiah was certain his place was to be silent, and offered his youthful inexperience as his hall pass. The Lord counseled him with some truths that we might be sure to pass to our children, as we also live them out ourselves.

The Lord informed Jeremiah that He was sending him, and obedience was not optional. It is a good reminder that God has divine appointments for us in our days, and we are to respond to the Lord’s direction for us. Think of Noah, Abram, Moses, Jonah, the Prophets, the Disciples, Paul…

The power behind the words we speak will be from the Lord. That implies we are listening to and allowing Him to form us, in thought, deed and word. “I think” is not as weighty as, “The Lord tells us.” I know this from experience. Are we teaching our children of the importance to listen to God (in His Word, prayer, godly counsel) and then unapologetically communicating what He reveals to us?

The fear of man is a warning throughout scripture. When we walk with our Lord, and are used of Him in situations easy or stressful, we can leave the outcomes to Him as well. Our deliverance is already secured through the power of the Risen Christ, and what have we to fear, whether standing before paupers or kings?

A great example of this truth in life is found in Acts 3 and 4, where Peter and John are hauled before the authorities to give account. Their response, and the response of the believers (at 4:23 and forward) is something worth reading carefully and discussing fully with your family.

There would be more I might share, but I’ll take my own medicine, and refrain from talking further at this time…