Brexit, Presidential Elections & Righteousness

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“Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, 2 “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me.” 3 But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord….” – Jonah 1:1-3a

The decision of British voters to leave the European Union has been described as “seismic.”  Just like an earthquake, there will be several aftershocks, and time will tell the extent of the destruction – whether there will be economic collapse  or just rumbling & rattling.  Either way, Britain has decided to go its own way. This is not unlike Jonah, who decided to go to Tarshish rather than Ninevah where the Lord was sending him.

It makes me wonder – how often do you and I try to go our own way?  Where does this leave us?  How do we know which way to go?  Taking a “vote” is one way to decide.  But as we have been seeing more and more at the polls, direction is being decided by such a slim margin: 52-48, in the case of Brexit.  We see it in our Supreme Court votes, so often something like: 5-4, 4-3.  We see it in the polls for the upcoming U.S. Presidential Election in November: Hillary is out ahead, then Trump.  There has got to be a better way to decide where to turn.

Let me suggest Paul’s words to the young pastor, Timothy: “Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” (2 Tim. 2:22)  What if you and I, the British, and the next President were to make our decisions about which way to go based, not on “the evil desires of youth” (which could be anything from outright lust and covetousness – to innocent & naieve ignorance) but instead on righteousness, faith, love and peace?  What if we were to choose which way to go by first seeking the Lord and his righteousness (Matthew 6:33)?  What if we were willing to put our own selves, with our ambitions and desires, aside and seek the greater good and the Lord’s purposes?  We might just find that we would go to Ninevah first!  … Rather than make the Lord drag us there.

Pray:  God, we ask your hand upon the people of the United Kingdom and the European Union.  May you make good out of this transition.  We ask your hand on American voters & politicians.  May we decrease the rhetoric, and increase our pursuit of love and peace.  And for each of us.  May we seek first your Kingdom and your righteousness, and in so doing, may You increase our faith in You.  Amen.

Acting in Fear …

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There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.”  – 1 John 4:18, ESV

The longer I live, and the more I mature in my faith, the more that I realize how many things people do (and *I* do) are motivated out of FEAR.  Take note some time… Not only are there the obvious things like not flying in airplanes, or not eating new foods, but there are even more subtle things that people do out of fear – even church people.  For example, when people argue about music styles, or building changes, or budget, or … etc … aren’t they really just voicing something that they are afraid of?  They are afraid of losing control.  They are afraid of losing significance.  Or they are afraid they will look bad.  Or …

I could go on, but I will just say that in all of this, I have learned that fear is a terrible thing on which to base our actions.  Fear might be a good indicator that you or I need to search our underlying assumptions and even our motives.  But when all is said and done, we should not be acting based on fear.  Rather, when we feel that fear is operating in us, we should expose our fears to the light of Scripture, and to the light of God’s Love.  It is only then that we can truly see our fears in perspective, and see them for what they really are – human based fears.  We are afraid of what others might do, and we are afraid of what we can and can’t protect.  But all of these are just that – fears.

Once we realize, however, what God has to say about the thing that is causing us fear, and about us when we are facing that fear, then we then gain power to act not out of our fear, but rather out of His Love!  Truly, His love has the power to cast out our fears.  For if we know who we are and whose we are in God’s Love through Christ, then we know that whatever it is that we fear has no power over us, since Christ has conquered it.  So instead we lean on God’s power, and He gives us the strength that we need to stand up in the face of our fears – and to act out of Love rather than in response to fear.  In truth, if we are in Christ, what then is there to fear?

May God give you strength and peace in the face of anything that is causing you fear.  May His Love overpower your fears and cause you to be filled with inexpressible hope.

In Christ’s Love,

Pastor Augie

Human Limitations

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foggy morning in Carlsbad

foggy morning in Carlsbad

This morning’s fog illustrates a truth about the human mind, one we don’t like to admit – we can only see so far! We can build telescopes and we can build microscopes, but they both reveal the same thing – we can only see so far. Luckily I was made aware that this road stopped at the ravine, otherwise I might not have known. Thankfully we have God’s Word, the Bible, to reveal to us lurking dangers of which we are unaware. Have a Bible? Read, and learn the things that God knows which you and I would at best only be able to guess at!

Thanks for the warning!

Thanks for the warning!

“However, as it is written: ‘What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived’— the things God has prepared for those who love him—”  (1 Corinthians 2:9)

The Best is Yet to Come

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“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9, ESV)

I remember back when I was younger, watching the popular TV game show “Let’s Make a Deal!” Do you remember that show?  I know they did other things in the game, but there’s only one part I can seem to recall, or really cared about.  It was the part of the show where the contestant had to decide whether to take what was behind door number 1, door number 2 or door number 3 – without seeing what was behind any of the doors. – Such drama!  Such tension!

Isn’t that a little what life is like?  “You pays your money and you takes your chances” as the saying goes. Even poet Robert Frost portrayed this in his famous poem “The Road Not Taken.”  It’s a simple fact of life – we make a choice and we go down a path (or through a door) and our life is never the same after that.  Even if we turn around and go back through another door or down a different road, we are different for having taken the first path.  The detour itself has changed us.

This is no surprise to God!  In fact, He has designed and created us with a sense of exploration, and an imagination of “what might yet become.” Perhaps this is part of what it means for mankind to be made in “God’s image.”  The only thing is, God can see what’s beyond the doors and what’s down each path;  We cannot!  Does that mean that we must merely drift through life aimlessly and purposelessly, subject to the whim and fancy of blind chance and lost opportunity?  Absolutely not!  Why is that so?  Because we have a guide!  We have someone to guide us along life’s paths, to beckon us to move in certain directions, and to walk us through certain doors as well as to guide us to avoid others!  That guide is Jesus Christ, and the path is His Word.

And where does that path take us?  The book, The Best Is Yet to Come, suggests that God’s paths and His doorways will lead us to spiritual growth!  At Redeemer, we are going to take 10 weeks to explore seven doors of spiritual growth.  Those doors are outlined in Acts 2 as: witness, worship, connection with other believers, prayer, Bible study, giving, and serving.  As we move through each door, we will discover what God has in store for us beyond that door – it’s more than your eyes have seen, your ears have heard, and more than your heart can conceive!  Come on a journey with us as we see what God has prepared for those who love Him!  We start on September 15th – the doors are open and ready for you to move through them toward spiritual growth in Christ!

Friendship with God

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You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. (James 4:4, ESV)

Observation: James is famous for his comparison and contrast of faith and works.  He says “faith without works is dead.” (James 2:26) Ouch! He also reminds us that we are to be “do-ers” of the Word (James 1:22).  We are not just to hear the Word and then ignore it.  No, the Word should both affect and infect the way that we do life!  Everything from what we ask God for (chapter 1), to the way we treat others (chapter 2), to the way we speak (chapter 3) is to be guided by the Word of God.  In chapter 4, James adds to the list even those things that we desire.  He points out to us that we often ask God for things that we only want for selfish reasons.  In fact, we do this because we are too tightly bound to this world.  Indeed, we are friends with the world! However, our friendship with the world comes at a cost; it pulls us away from God.  James encourages us to change our affinity and allegiance, and instead “Draw near to God” (James 4:8)

Application:  Drawing near to God comes with a cost – we have to let go of the world and the world’s way of doing things.  We no longer mourn the way the world does. Instead, we have hope even in death.  Likewise, we mourn at what the world rejoices over (James 4:9).  The world finds joy in flagrant disregard for God and His Word.  This, however, causes us to mourn and weep.  James is truly calling us to pick a side. Either we go after the things of this world – which are here today and gone tomorrow (James 4:14), or we seek God – who provides life, salvation and hope!  Drawing near to God comes with a cost, but it also comes with a promise.  If we draw near to God, we are promised that he will draw near to us!  When we loosen our grip on the world (and therefore its grip on us!) we are able to cling more tightly to God.  The less we are friends with the world, the more we are friends with God.  Which is better to be?

Prayer:  Lord, help me to withdraw from this world – not from the people in the world or the needs of the world, but from the pull and lure of this world.  May I set my sights on that which you value and draw nearer to you in my daily walk.  May I be as good of a friend to You as You are to me!  Amen.

Spiritual Decoder Ring

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Scripture: “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.” 1 Corinthians 2:14

Observation: This section of 1 Cor. 2 has the subheading “Wisdom from the Spirit.” Paul is laying out in a variety of ways that the wisdom from God, through the Holy Spirit, is greater than the wisdom of the world.  He says it’s greater than the “wisdom of this age” (v. 6).  It’s a wisdom that is “secret” with God (v. 7).  In other words, it would be hidden with God forever, if it had not been reveled to us in by His Spirit (v. 10) through His Word!  No one could have understood it otherwise (v.8)!  Paul says if they HAD understood it, they would not have crucified Christ!  How much do we do today that we would not do if we had the mind of Christ?  And so the Spirit gives us not human wisdom, but Spiritual Truth in Spiritual words (v. 13).  Consequently, a person who does not have the Spirit of God by faith cannot understand or “discern” (v. 14) the things of God.  But THANK GOD we, by faith and the Spirit, have the mind of Christ (v. 16)

Application: I remember a toy that was in cereal boxes when I was a kid.  It was the MAGIC DECODER RING!  Just thinking about it now brings back memories of the commercials.  (They sold more cereal by the toys inside the box than the food value, I think!)  Even if you don’t remember the magic decoder ring, the concept is a simple one.  A “secret” message was written in a code, using the “key” of the magic decoder ring.  You needed the ring to write a message, and you needed that same ring (or key) to read and understand that message.  My son is taking an “encryption” class in college for his computer science degree.  It’s a bit more complicated, but internet security works on the same concept.  This passage of Scripture makes me think of the magic decoder ring.  God has written a message for us to receive – but that message was encoded by the Holy Spirit.  We speak of the Bible as being “inspired” by the Holy Spirit; that’s kind of like the encoding process.  The Bible was spiritually written or encoded by the Holy Spirit.  So, much like the magic decoder ring, we need the same Holy Spirit to decode and understand that message.  It makes sense then that the Apostle Paul would say that a person without the Holy Spirit would not be able to understand spiritual things that are revealed by God and must be spiritually discerned.  In other words, they need the “magic decoder ring” of the Holy Spirit to understand the spiritually encoded message of the Bible.  But since they don’t have faith, they don’t have the Spirit, and can’t understand God’s message – it remains foolishness to them.  (see also 1 Cor. 1:18)

PrayerThank you Lord that we as believers have the Holy Spirit and can understand your message of wisdom that you have revealed to us in Your Word.  Help us to truly appreciate this gift, and to share it with others.  May more people receive your Spirit and therefore comprehend your message of Good news.  Amen!