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A Call to Action

Posted by James Keller on 10/09/17 @ 2:16 PM

James 1:22 (GW)
22  Do what God's word says. Don't merely listen to it, or you will fool yourselves.

How much listening do we do on any given day?  We go through the day with the radio on in the background (or the TV).  It provides background noise but are we really listening to it?  At the end of the day can we really say what we have heard?

This is what James is talking about herein James 1:22. But instead of talking about the radio or music, he is talking about God’s Word.  Do you read the Bible just to mark off a box on your daily “to do” list?  Do you sit politely in church during the sermon but your mind is miles away?  Then you are guilty of James 1:22. Reading the Bible or listening to the sermon doesn’t do you any good unless you put it into practice. 

As one theologian once said, “A said faith is a dead faith.”  But a living faith is one that not only listens but obeys.  The next time you are reading your Bible (which I hope is every day) try asking yourself these questions:

1)      What did this mean for those who were there?

2)      Why did God include this in His Word?

3)      What does God want me to do about this today?

The next time you are sitting in church listening to a sermon, instead of thinking, I wish so and so was her to hear this.”  You should be asking yourself these questions:

1)      How does this sermon apply to me?

2)      What should I do about it?

3)      How can I share what I have learned today with others this week?

By asking yourself these questions and seriously answering them you are well on your way from merely listening to the word of God to doing what God says. 

Christ’s slave,

Pastor jim

P.S.  E-mail me if you would like a PDF of tips that can improve your Bible study.

Comfort!

Posted by James Keller on 10/02/17 @ 12:25 AM

2 Timothy 1:9 (GW)
9  God saved us and called us to be holy, not because of what we had done, but because of his own plan and kindness. Before the world began, God planned that Christ Jesus would show us God's kindness.

This verse brings great comfort.  Why?

1)      God saved usGod is the actor, not ourselves.  God initiates, not us.  Our salvation starts with God.

2)      not because of what we had done. Our salvation is not dependent on us or our actions.  Too many times we think that we must first do something in order for God to act.  But this verse is very clear; God acts without our doing anything.  Our doing actually interferes with God’s acting.  If we think we must first do something, it places the burden of our salvation on ourselves.  This leaves the door wide open to doubt.  “Have I done enough?  Have I done the right thing?  Can I undo my salvation by my wrong actions?”  Instead, we are assured that God saves us despite ourselves.  God saves us without our doing.  God does the saving.  We are the saved.

3)      because of his own plan and kindness.  The God’s Word translation often translates the word we know as grace as kindness.  Grace is getting the love of God that we don’t deserve.  This verse tells us that God had planned to give us His love.  God had planned to give us grace. God had planned to love us even though we don’t deserve God’s love! 

4)      Before the world began, God planned that Christ Jesus would show us God's kindness. Before Genesis 1:1, God made a plan to give us His grace.  God knew before He spoke the universe into existence that we would mess it up.  Yet He went ahead and created everything, including you and me.  God knew our every sin before anything was ever made.  God planned out how to take care of our sin before we sinned.  God planned out that Jesus, the second person of the Trinity, would suffer and die in our place.  All this before He created anything, He created the plan to save everyone.  Our sin, my sin, was not a surprise to God.  God knew in advance what my sin tomorrow will be.  God knew it and still created me.  More than that, He planned out how to save me from myself.  He didn’t leave me in my sin.  He knew that I am helpless to do anything about my sin.  God planned it out for Jesus to become my sin, to become your sin, so that you and I could be called holy.

5)      and called us to be holy.  We are holy not because of our actions but because of Jesus’ actions.  At the cross Jesus exchanged His holiness for our sinfulness.  He was cursed; we are blessed.  He died so that we would live.  His obedience is exchanged for our disobedience.  Jesus rises, and we rise with Him.  Again, this is not our actions but Jesus’ actions.  We are holy only because we are united to Christ who is holy. 

There are many other passages that bring great comfort in the Bible.  Why does God tell us in so many places that He loves us?  Because we need to hear it over and over again.  Why?  Because it seems too good to be true. Because you and I are weak human beings.  Because the devil wants us to doubt it.  Because God loves us so!

Christ’s slave,

Pastor jim

Dead or Alive

Posted by James Keller on 09/28/17 @ 8:33 AM

Romans 6:11(ESV) 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. 

Which would you rather be: Dead or Alive?  Notice that we are not given the option of being dead and alive.  It is one or the other.  You are either dead to God and alive to sin or you are dead to sin and alive to God.  Actually, you are either dead in sin and dead towards God or you are dead to sin and alive by God.

God is clear in his Bible that sin = death. 

Romans 6:23a (GW) 23  The payment for sin is death.

Ephesians 2:1 (GW) 1  You were once dead because of your failures and sins.

Colossians 2:13a (GW) 13  You were once dead because of your failures and your uncircumcised corrupt nature.

Yet God is equally clear that Jesus = life

John 14:6 (GW)6  Jesus answered him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one goes to the Father except through me.

Romans 6:23 (GW)23  The payment for sin is death, but the gift that God freely gives is everlasting life found in Christ Jesus our Lord.

John 1:4 (GW) 4  He was the source of life, and that life was the light for humanity.

John 3:36 (GW)36  Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life. Instead, he will see God's constant anger.”

John 6:35 (GW) 35  Jesus told them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never become hungry, and whoever believes in me will never become thirsty.

So, sin=death and Jesus=life.  the choice is clear, isn’t it?  Yet too many of us want to play both sides.  We like the sin but want the life.  Is that possible?

Revelation 3:15-16 (GW)15  I know what you have done, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were cold or hot. 16  But since you are lukewarm and not hot or cold, I'm going to spit you out of my mouth.

No, you must be either one or the other.  If you try to be both, you will only be dead.

Why would you want to be dead?  Especially when Jesus gives life?  Choose life!

Christ’s slave,

Pastor jim

Theological Theorems

Posted by James Keller on 09/17/17 @ 11:33 PM

1 Corinthians 13:4-5 (GW)
4  Love is patient. Love is kind. Love isn't jealous. It doesn't sing its own praises. It isn't arrogant.
5  It isn't rude. It doesn't think about itself. It isn't irritable. It doesn't keep track of wrongs.

Do remember properties and theorems from Geometry?  If A=B and B=C, then A=C.  As I was reading 1 Corinthians 13, I began remembering the transitive property.  Let A stand for God.  Let B stand for love.

1 John 4:8 (GW)

8  The person who doesn't love doesn't know God, because God is love.  This verse tells us that God(A) = Love (B).  [The word for love used in 1 Corinthians 13 and in 1 John 4:8 is the same word in the Greek.]

John 10:30 (GW) 

30  “The Father and I are one.”

Colossians 2:9 (GW)
9  All of God lives in Christ's body.

John 1:1 (GW)
1  In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God.

These verses tell us that Jesus (C) = God (A).  Therefore, if God (A) = Love (B), and Jesus (C) = God (A), then Jesus (C) = Love (B).

4  Jesus is patient. Jesus is kind. Jesus isn't jealous. He doesn't sing his own praises. He isn't arrogant. 5  He isn't rude. He doesn't think about himself. He isn't irritable. He doesn't keep track of wrongs.

Jesus is patient.  Jesus stands at the door and knocks (Rev. 3:20).  He doesn’t pound on the door or kick the door in.  He is patient with us.  Just think about how many times you and I forget what we are supposed to do or know.  We doubt Jesus and His love.  Yet he deals with us patiently.

Jesus is kind.  Jesus does not act in anger toward us but rather is gentle and kind toward us (Matthew 12:16-21).  Jesus does not force Himself upon us but rather draws us to Himself through love.

Jesus isn’t jealous.  There are two types of jealousy in the Bible.  The first type is the selfish, destructive type. (Think of My Super Ex-Girlfriend.) Then there is the type of jealousy that is beneficial.  This type of jealousy is a protective kind of jealousy.  God is jealous for us.  He wants to protect us from false gods, the devil, and harm (Zechariah 1:14-16).  Jesus is not the destructive kind of jealous.  He came not to destroy but to save.

He doesn’t sing his own praises.  Jesus came to point people back to the Father.  He came to bring glory to the Father (John 14:13).

He isn’t arrogant.  Jesus was not proud, but rather humble.  He even humbled Himself to the point of death (Philippians 2:6-11).

He isn’t rude.  Jesus never was disrespectful toward people.  He did speak harshly at times but that was to call people to repentance who were secure in their sins.

He doesn’t think about Himself.  Jesus was not looking out for His best interests but rather for our best interests.  It wasn’t in His best interest to suffer and die.  It wasn’t in His best interest to become sin, the very thing He hated.  But it was in our best interest.  It was the only way that we could be saved.

He isn’t irritable.  How blessed we are that Jesus doesn’t get cross with us!  How blessed we are that Jesus doesn’t have “bad” days! 

He doesn’t keep track of wrongs.  This is a big one.  What if Jesus kept track of our sins?  What if He said, “You have exceeded your forgiveness limit!”  What trouble we would be in!  But Jesus forgives and forgets!

Take time to read 1 Corinthians 13 and replace the word love with Jesus.  Meditate on each statement about Jesus.  Think about how that applies to your life.  Then ask Jesus to help you to live more like Jesus in how you love others!

Christ’s slave,

Pastor jim

The Responsibility of Family

Posted by James Keller on 09/17/17 @ 9:26 PM

Romans 12:10 (GW)
10  Be devoted to each other like a loving family. Excel in showing respect for each other.

What are the responsibilities of being in a family?  The first and greatest responsibility is to love.  Not be loved but to love.  You are responsible for loving the other members of a family.  How do the other members feel the love?  By respecting them.  But being in the family also has other responsibilities.  I have nine children.  When you have a large family, it is critical that everyone has a job to do and everyone does his or her job.  It is the same in the family of Christ called the church.  Last week we looked at spiritual gifts.  It is everyone’s responsibility to use her or his spiritual gifts for the benefit of the family.

Our memory verse for this last week says that we are to be devoted to each other.  It is hard to be devoted (or show devotion) to each other if we do not spend regular time together.  In our family, we make it a priority to eat together at least once a week if not more.  This is a time for us to enjoy each other, reconnect, and catch up with what is going on in each other’s lives.    As a church, it means the same thing.  We gather together regularly.  We spend time together.  We gather each week as God’s children.  We sing together, we pray together, we learn together, we grow closer to our heavenly Father and to each other.  When a member of our church stays away from regular worship, they are staying away from the family of God.  They are saying, as one of my seminary professors was fond of saying, “Jesus, I love you but I hate your children!”

Don’t stay away from our weekly worship service!  Be devoted to each other like a loving family.  If you have a problem with someone, forgive them.  Don’t let the devil keep you away from your Father’s family!

Christ’s slave,

Pastor jim

Healthy VS Unhealthy Bodies

Posted by James Keller on 09/02/17 @ 1:21 PM

1 Corinthians 12:27 (GW)
27  You are Christ's body and each of you is an individual part of it.

I am overweight.  There I said it!  I am so glad to get that off my chest.  Actually, if I could get it off my chest (and belly) I wouldn’t be overweight.  How did I get this way?  Certain parts of my body worked harder while others worked less.  My stomach growled for more food and my muscles in my arms and legs did not work as hard as they should.  In other words, I ate more than I exercised.  This led to my being unhealthy.

It’s the same way with the body of Christ.  Paul says that we are all part of the body of Christ if we follow Jesus as our lord and savior.  Just like in my body, each of us has a part or job to do.  Just as in my body, if one part doesn’t do its job, it affects the whole body.  Other parts may overwork to make up for it.  These overworked parts get fatigued.  The under worked parts grow weaker.  This leads to unhealth in our church.  Everyone is needed to do their part to keep our church healthy.

How am I changing my unhealthy ways?  I am limiting my portions and increasing my exercise.  How can our church be healthy?  Only if all of us use our spiritual gifts in the church.  Does that mean our church will be inwardly focused?  No. A healthy church is also outwardly focused.  Some of the spiritual gifts have to do with evangelism and outreach.  A healthy church (and body of Christ) is one where each of us uses his or her spiritual gifts for the glory of God.  God is generous and will make sure that our church has the right mix of spiritual gifts to be healthy.  Unhealth comes in when we refuse to use our spiritual gifts.  It is that simple. 

Now it is time for me to take a walk!

Christ’s slave,

Pastor jim

Riches of Grace

Posted by James Keller on 08/28/17 @ 8:54 AM

Ephesians 1:7 (ESV)

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.

Grace is often defined as God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.  Have you ever thought about just how rich God’s grace is?  He freely gives us His Son.  He freely gives us forgiveness of all our sins.  Just that alone is a demonstration of the riches of God’s grace. 

How often do you sin in a day?  Add up all the days of your life.  But wait, you are still living.  This means that you will continue to sin.  You will continue to need God’s grace.  You will continue to be in need of forgiveness.  Are you starting to understand the riches of God’s grace?

What about all the other good gifts that God gives you?  You don’t deserve them.  Yet our loving God freely gives them.  Things like sunshine, rain, family, friends, clothing, house, food, music and the list goes on.  All those things that you and I take for granted are really examples of God’s riches of his grace. 

Today, meditate just on the phrase, “the riches of his grace.”  Let me know what you learn and how your journey of faith is impacted!

Christ’s slave,

Pastor jim

Peruse the Pronouns!

Posted by James Keller on 08/21/17 @ 12:00 AM

Isaiah 6:8 (GW)
8  Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, “Whom will I send? Who will go for us?” I said, “Here I am. Send me!”

Do you remember your English teacher telling you about pronouns?  Pronouns are not “Professional Nouns.”   A pronoun is a word that substitutes for a noun or noun phrase.  When you are reading the Bible, it is important to understand to whom the pronouns refer. 

The prophet Isaiah begins the book of Isaiah with a series of prophecies.  Then in Chapter 6 he gives us a flashback scene of his call to be a prophet.  Let’s take a closer look at the pronouns in Isaiah 6:8:

Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying.  The very first pronoun we find in Isaiah 6:8 is “I.”  To whom does this “I” refer?  It is the prophet Isaiah.  Isaiah heard the voice of the Lord. 

“Whom will I send?”  Here we have another “I.”  But this is not the same “I” as before.  The Lord is talking.  This “I” refers to the Lord.  Who will the Lord send?

“Who will go for us?”  The Lord is still talking.  So, who is the “us?”  Some people will try to tell you that God is using the “royal we.”  You know how sometimes when the king or the queen refers to him/herself as we or us.  “We are not amused!” But that is not what God is doing.  The royal “we” really wasn’t used until very much later in the history of civilization.  So, what is God trying to tell us?

God uses “I” first, and then He uses “us.”  “Whom will I send? Who will go for us?”  God is employing parallelism.  Parallelism is a repetition of the thought in the first line expressed with some variation in the second line.[1] In this case the first line is “Whom will I send?”  And the second line is “Who will go for us?”  God is telling us that He is both “I” and “us.”  How is this possible?  How can God be both one and more than one at the same time?  It has to do with the Trinity.  The Trinity is the concept that God is the three-in-one God.  God is one.  Yet He also reveals Himself to us as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  He is One God, three persons.  I don’t understand it.  I can’t really explain it. But then again, I am not God.  How can I a mortal, finite created being fully understand an infinite, uncreated being?  I can’t. 

How can we be sure that this “us” in Isaiah 6:8 is a reference to the Trinity?  Back up a few verses in Isaiah 6:

Isaiah 6:1-3 (GW) 

1  In the year King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a high and lofty throne. The bottom of his robe filled the temple. 2 Angels were standing above him. Each had six wings: With two they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. 3  They called to each other and said, “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of Armies! The whole earth is filled with his glory.”

What do these angels cry out?  “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of Armies! The whole earth is filled with his glory.”   God is holy.  So why do these angels cry out “holy” three times?  Is it to emphasize the holiness of God?  Or is it a reference to the fact that God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit?  To be holy means to be without sin.  When God refers to His own holiness, He only mentions the word holy once. (See Leviticus 11:44-45.)

Let us return to Isaiah 6:8 and look at the last pronouns.  “Here I am. Send me!”  To whom do the “I” and “me” refer?  The prophet Isaiah is speaking, so again these pronouns refer to him.  But as we read the Bible, it is not just a book about past events.  It is also a book about us.  We should read the Bible and ask ourselves, “What does this have to do with me today?”  When we read about the call of Isaiah (or any other Old or New Testament person who was called), we should ask ourselves, “How would I respond?” 

God still calls people today.  He calls us to faithfulness.   He calls us to follow.  He calls us to go.  God is still calling today: “Whom will I send? Who will go for us?”  My prayer for us is that we each would respond like Isaiah, “Here I am. Send me!” 

Christ’s slave,

Pastor jim

P.S.  Don’t forget to watch the pronouns in your Bible reading this week!

[1] See Lane Burgland’s How to Read the Bible with Understanding page 66.

Snatched from the Fire

Posted by James Keller on 08/14/17 @ 2:49 AM

(pictured above is the young Rhoads family: Father Boyd, Dorthy, Ronald, Mother Myrtle)

Jude 1:23 (GW) 

23  Save others by snatching them from the fire {of hell}. Show mercy to others, even though you are afraid that you might be stained by their sinful lives.

I have been doing some family research.  This means going through the attic and looking through boxes.  I came across a box with some very old pictures in it.  I also came across the typed testimony of my grandfather’s cousin, Ronald Rhoads.  Here are some excerpts from his testimony:

“I was born in the year 1907, the oldest of family of four children.  At an early age it was discovered that I had a crippled left hand…About a month after I started on my seventh year of school, and just a few weeks before I was to pass my thirteenth birthday I became sick which was destined to remove my hearing. My sister at first became ill; and the doctor said it was tonsillitis, then I became sick and became very bad…it was scarlet fever at its worst…the doctors gave up hope and left one night saying I could not live till morning. But that wasn’t God’s plan.  I pulled through and after being bedfast for six months I was about, learning how to walk again, and how to live without hearing.

As my illness had left me in a weakened condition I did not attend school for a year, until I was fourteen. In the fall of 1922, I entered the Indiana School for the Deaf from which I graduated two years later….

In June 1929 I was forced to have an appendicitis operation.  It was performed at a Catholic Hospital, and hanging on the wall, at the foot of my bed was a cross with the likeness of Jesus upon it.  The sight of this made me sick and I wanted them to remove it.  I mentioned this here because it is to play a large part in the later part of my story.

In November of the same year I became sick with a terrible earache or the doctor classed it as such.  So severe was it, drugs were used to keep me quiet.  After a week of suffering and I became very weak, it was decided that a operation was the only relief.  As I was too weak to withstand a mastoid operation, a minor operation was performed to temporarily relieve it.  Again I was in the same hospital, with its cross and likeness of Jesus at my feet, and again it was sickening.

As I regained my strength the doctor insisted that a radical mastoid operation must be performed or the same trouble might arise again and prove fatal in a very short time…I was afraid I would not get well, and I feared death.  A friend of mine, a friend whom I will never forget because of what she did for me told me to trust God and pray that I might get well.  This I did not fully understand for I had not yet come to fully believe and trust in God.  I went to the hospital and to the table still thinking of what my friend had told me, but I could not pray because of my unbelief. After four hours on the operating table I awoke and again the cross with its likeness of Jesus was before me, but it no longer made me sick, but it seemed to be the most beautiful thing I had ever seen….That night because of the severe pain I was out of my head and I am told that I kept begging Him to take me up there where there is no sickness, or pain, all the while pointing upwards, but my time wasn’t yet.

In time I recovered from the experience, but it left me with a troubled feeling…Again it was my friend who showed me the way out.  After telling her how I felt she brought forth her Bible and for the first time in my life I found an interest in it.  Later she succeeded in getting me to go church, and though I heard not a word I seemed to feel at ease while there, my troubled feeling seemed to leave me.  One Sunday evening while attending revival services, though hearing not a word, that feeling of ease again came over me, stronger than ever.  As the minister began asking all to confess I began trembling all over.  Another friend came up to me, put his hand upon my shoulder and asked me to go.  I went, gave my troubles to God, and almost instantly I felt at peace, I no longer had that troubled feeling.  Only one thing troubled me, I wanted to see my parents saved.  A short time later they also saw the one way to salvation.

Today I no longer fear death and I find my greatest joy in telling others about Him and helping others to understand His teachings.  For to live without Him isn’t living, but just existing.  My life has taught me that.”

This unnamed friend of Ronald Rhoads snatched him from the fires of hell.  Ronald snatched his parents.  May God use each of us to snatch someone too!

Christ’s slave,

Pastor jim

Becoming a Person after God’s Heart

Posted by James Keller on 07/31/17 @ 1:40 PM

Psalm 51:10 (GW)
10  Create a clean heart in me, O God, and renew a faithful spirit within me.

David was known as a “man after God’s own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14).  Why was that?  What did David do to be called that? 

It wasn’t his faithfulness in marriage.  David acquired many wives and concubines.  He also stole another man’s wife and orchestrated his death in in battle.

David certainly wasn’t a perfect parent.  One of his sons raped his half-sister.  Another son murdered his brother.  A son tried to kill him and take the throne by force. 

It wasn’t because David was such a great king.  He took a census of the people against God’s wishes.  God offered him three choices of punishment.  David chose the plague that killed thousands.

Despite all of this (and the list could go on), David was known as a man after God’s own heart.  Why?  Because David knew he was a sinner who didn’t deserve God’s love.  David knew he couldn’t earn God’s love or forgiveness.  David knew he was helpless when it came to his relationship with God.  David knew only God could take care of him.  Only God could provide forgiveness for him. 

David wrote Psalm 51 after his shameful sin of stealing another man’s wife and sentencing him to die on the front lines of battle.  What does David ask of God?  Create a clean heart in me, O God.  David knew that his heart was black as sin.  David needed a new heart.  He needed God’s heart.  That is what he asked of God each time he sinned.  Each time he was faced with the consequences of his sin, David repented.  That is, he changed the way he thought and acted toward sin and God. 

David asked for a new heart.  But that wasn’t all. The rest of the prayer is and renew a faithful spirit within me.  David knew that his spirit was not right.  He desired things that were against what God desired.  His spirit was corrupted.  He needed God to renew his spirit so that he would desire what God desired.  David knew his spirit was dead.  He needed a living spirit.  He needed the Holy Spirit.

Do you want to be known as a person after God’s own heart?  Then be like David.  Admit your sin to God. Admit your need for God to change you.  Cry out for God to renew your spirit.

I sin every day.  I am constantly in need of forgiveness.  I need a new heart daily, if not more.  I need my spirit to be renewed daily.  I mess up as a husband, father, and pastor.  Only God can change me.  Only God can forgive me.  That is why, like David, I cry out, “Create a clean heart in me, O God, and renew a faithful spirit within me.”

What does God promise when we pray Psalm 51:10?

Psalm 50:15 (GW) 

15  Call on me in times of trouble. I will rescue you, and you will honor me.”

Christ’s slave,

Pastor jim

 

 

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