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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

 

 

Lying Lips

Posted by James Keller on 07/24/17 @ 12:57 AM

Psalm 120:2 (GW)
2  O LORD, rescue me from lying lips and from a deceitful tongue.

This verse can be taken in two different ways.  The first way is that the psalmist asking to be rescued from others who have a lying tongue.  Have you ever been lied to?  Have you ever been deceived?  Then you know why the palmist wants to be rescued.  There are many people in our world who want to take advantage us.  They lie and cheat to take what we have.  I get many phone calls every day from people with lying tongues.  “Your computer is sending out error messages.” “This is the IRS, we are sending agents to your house to arrest you right now.”  “You have won a huge cash prize, please verify your bank account information.”  And the list goes on.  All of these calls are made by people with lying lips.  Psalm 120:2 cries out to God for help.  Save us from these lying lips.  How does God save us?  By giving us the wisdom to see through their scams.  By protecting us from their lies.

But there is a second way to understand Psalm 120:2. Instead of asking god to protect us from the lying lips of others, we are asking God to protect us from using lying lips.  How tempting it is to lie.  We try to justify our lying by saying we are doing it to protect the feelings of others.  The Burmese have a word for what we call “white lies” – Anade.  It means to be polite to others by not telling the truth.  “I need your help on Saturday, can I count on you?”  “Of course, you can!”  Yet the person has no intention of helping on Saturday.  We don’t want to offend others, disappoint others or upset others.  So, we tell “white lies.” 

How different our “white lies” are when compared to Jesus.  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.  Jesus is the truth.  As followers of Jesus we should be about the truth as well.  We shouldn’t be hiding behind “white lies.”  Let’s commit to praying to Psalm 120:2. But let’s pray it for our own tongues and lips!

Christ’s slave,

Pastor jim

P.S How do you overcome the temptation to tell “white lies”?

Waiting

Posted by James Keller on 07/17/17 @ 1:26 AM

Psalm 25:3 (GW) 3  No one who waits for you will ever be put to shame, but all who are unfaithful will be put to shame.

Waiting on God is hard.  Andrew Murray wrote a whole book about this called Waiting on God.  The point of the book?  Waiting on God draws you closer to God and you won’t be disappointed.  It is a form of prayer.

Our God is a God who hears prayers and answers them.  Many people think that the hardest answer to receive is “No.”  But I believe the hardest answer is “Wait.” We want things on our time according to our plan.  But to wait on God means that we trust God, His timing and His plan.  We don’t try force God to act, but patiently wait on His good provision. 

Waiting is hard because we think it will cause embarrassment to God if things don’t happen immediately.  The truth is, we are afraid of being embarrassed.  We are afraid things will be too hard if we wait.  How can God be anymore embarrassed then by having his Son, His only son, Whom He loves, be nailed to a tree as a common criminal?  We don’t have to worry about God being embarrassed if things don’t work out the way we want in our timing.  To wait, trusting that God has the best timing and plan in place is a sign of spiritual maturity.  Growing up is hard to do.  Growing up to spiritual maturity is hard to do.  Learning to wait on God is hard.  But the waiting is worth it.

Waiting on God, trusting Him to act in His own time grows us.  We stop depending on ourselves and start depending on God.  We seek God’s presence, His will and put our will, our desires aside.  Isn’t that what we pray in the Lord’s Prayer when we pray “Thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven?”  We are praying that we would do God’s will just as the angels do His will in heaven.  We are saying that we will wait on God.

How does this look in our lives?  Here is one example of waiting on God:

God placed it on my heart and my wife’s heart to expand our Burmese ministry to include the training of other youth groups in mission work.  We desired to raise up young Burmese leaders who do this work.  That was over ten years ago.  These last few years LAMB has been able to train and utilize LAMB summer Interns.  High School students from our youth group are trained to lead.  They start out by leading in our youth group.  They then are given the authority to work with other youth groups who want to come to Fort Wayne and do mission work among the Burmese.  These young adults are given the authority and power to make decisions and learn from their mistakes as well as celebrate their achievements.  What do the adult leaders from the other groups say?  They are all favorably impressed with our interns.  They have all expressed how wonderful it was to work with them.

I was not able to implement this ten years ago when it was laid on our hearts.  We prayed about it and waited on God.  As Psalm 25 says, “We are not ashamed.”  Each year we added more interns.  Each year more young adults are trained for leadership.  Our youth are getting stronger and bolder for the Lord!  God’s timing is the best timing!

Christ’s slave,

Pastor jim

P.S.  Click here to see a video about one of our summer interns from 2016!

Love

Posted by James Keller on 06/19/17 @ 9:23 AM

2 Timothy 1:7-8a (GW)
7  God didn't give us a cowardly spirit but a spirit of power, love, and good judgment.
8  So never be ashamed to tell others about our Lord.

This is the verse that our youth have chosen for their summer outreach.  Love is sandwiched between power and good judgment. Why?  Because power without love because brutality.  Good Judgment without love becomes condescending.  Love is what keeps these tow in check.  Love uses power and good judgment on behalf of others.  Love keeps these two others from falling into the extreme of forcing our will on others.

God’s love for us is like that.  He does not force us to love and obey Him.  Instead he draws us to him with cords of love. (Hosea 11:4).  Though it saddens God when we choose not to love Him, he still loves us.  But he will never force us to love him back.  It saddens him to see the people He loves choose death over life.  God’s love for us is so strong that He won’t try to show us His love in a variety of ways.  The greatest of these is Jesus.  God became human not to experience what we experience.  God became human in order to help us understand his love for us.  God’s love for us drove Jesus to the cross.  We see Jesus’ perfect love for us in the Garden of Gethsemane.  Jesus prayed that his upcoming suffering would not take place.  This shows that Jesus is fully human.  His humanity didn’t want to go through with the suffering.  Yet his love for us gave him the power to submit to the Father’s will. 

We, who follow Jesus, are filled with the same kind of power, love and good judgment.  Jesus used his power, love and good judgment for others.  We too are called to do the same.  The greatest way we can use power, love and good judgment is to tell others about Jesus.  Our youth are doing that this summer.  We all have the opportunity to do that every day with the people God places in our paths. 

Christ’s slave,

Pastor jim

Not Ashamed

Posted by James Keller on 06/12/17 @ 1:21 AM

38 For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels. Mark 8:38 (ESV)

It seems this verse has been lived out recently in the political arena.  First, Vice President Pence was attacked because he refuses to meet with women alone.  The basis of his decision is his faith in Jesus.  He has been called many names because of this decision.  He has been accused of anti-feminism.

Most recently Russell Vought has come under attack because of his belief in Jesus as the only way to heaven.  It may cost him a key position in the government.  Some would advocate that both these men should take a more middle of the road stance publicly when it comes to their faith.  But isn’t that really being ashamed of Jesus? 

If you read the New Testament (I mean actually read it, not listen to what others say about it) you will discover that it says a lot about not being ashamed of Jesus.  Here is a sampling of verses:

Romans 1:16 (GW) 

16  I'm not ashamed of the Good News. It is God's power to save everyone who believes, Jews first and Greeks as well.  What is the Gospel?  That Jesus alone saves from sin.

Romans 10:8-11 (GW) 

8  However, what else does it say? “This message is near you. It's in your mouth and in your heart.” This is the message of faith that we spread. 9  If you declare that Jesus is Lord, and believe that God brought him back to life, you will be saved. 10  By believing you receive God's approval, and by declaring your faith you are saved. 11  Scripture says, “Whoever believes in him will not be ashamed.”  Here we are not just to believe in our hearts but we are to publicly confess with our mouths. 

2 Timothy 1:8 (GW) 

8  So never be ashamed to tell others about our Lord or be ashamed of me, his prisoner. Instead, by God's power, join me in suffering for the sake of the Good News. This is part of our current memory verse.  We are told to never be ashamed of telling others about Jesus.  But we are also told that suffering will come.  We don’t like that part.  But it is true.  Look at the public attacks on Vice President Pence and Mr. Vought.  They are being called names.  They are being called hateful.  Isn’t ironic that the Good News that Jesus died for all people to save them from their sins – news of God’s love for people – being labeled as hate speech?

2 Timothy 2:15 (GW) 

15  Do your best to present yourself to God as a tried-and-true worker who isn't ashamed to teach the word of truth correctly.  Paul is encouraging us to not be ashamed to teach God’s word correctly.  In other words, not to water it down so others won’t get upset.

1 Peter 2:4-6 (GW) 

4  You are coming to Christ, the living stone who was rejected by humans but was chosen as precious by God. 5  You come to him as living stones, a spiritual house that is being built into a holy priesthood. So offer spiritual sacrifices that God accepts through Jesus Christ. 6  That is why Scripture says, “I am laying a chosen and precious cornerstone in Zion, and the person who believes in him will never be ashamed.” Peter quotes from the Old Testament to show that believing in Jesus will not cause you shame.  People may treat you shamefully, but you won’t be ashamed to call Jesus Lord.

1 Peter 4:16 (GW) 

16  If you suffer for being a Christian, don't feel ashamed, but praise God for being called that name. There could be lot said about suffering for the name of Jesus and considering it an honor.  I may not agree with all of Vice President Mike Pence and Mr. Vought’s politics or decisions, but I do applaud them for their stance as followers of Jesus. 

I could list the verses that encourage us to be bold in sharing our faith.  But hopefully you are getting the picture.  We are not to be ashamed that we follow Jesus.  That includes not watering down what we believe so as not to offend others.  But we should present the truth of Jesus in a loving way. 

Christ’s slave,

Pastor jim

Living Forever or Eternal Life?

Posted by James Keller on 06/05/17 @ 1:35 AM

54 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. John 6:54 (ESV)

Do you want to live forever?  Many people would answer “Yes!”  Much of modern medicine is designed to prolong life.  But there is a difference between living forever and having eternal life. Living forever means never dying.  But it does not mean never growing old.  My father is 83 years old.  He has dementia.  He is not able to stand or walk much.  One of his favorite sayings is, “Old age ain’t for sissies!”  You see, he wants to live, but not as he is now.  He knows he is getting older and weaker.  His body doesn’t do what he wants.  He needs a lot of help.

That is why God sent Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden after they sinned.  He didn’t want them to eat of the tree of life.  If they did, they would be always living but also always growing older and more decrepit. 

God placed an angel and flaming sword to guard the tree of life so that no one could eat of its fruit.  What happened to this tree of life?  It was replanted on a hill outside of Jerusalem.  Its fruit is the body and blood of Jesus.  Instead of an angel and a flaming sword, it was guarded by Roman soldiers. 

Our Bible verse for this past week tells us that now we do have access to the tree of life.  We can eat of its fruit.  But instead of living forever while still growing old, this fruit gives eternal life.  Jesus tells us the difference between this new fruit and the old fruit found in the Garden of Eden.  and I will raise him up on the last day.  This fruit gives life, but it gives new life.  Jesus promises to raise us up on the last day.  Not in our aging and decrepit bodies, but in new bodies that won’t grow old or wear out.  We will live forever in perfect bodies that won’t need doctors or nursing homes. 

Come, let us eat this fruit from the tree of eternal life!

Christ’s slave,

Pastor jim

Wise or Dumb?

Posted by James Keller on 05/29/17 @ 1:16 AM

Proverbs 12:1 (GW)
1  Whoever loves discipline loves to learn, but whoever hates correction is a dumb animal.

This statement is a slap to the face.  Nobody wants to be called a dumb animal.  Our Karen members were offended by this statement.  They thought I was calling them animals.  That is an insult to be called an animal.  Many years ago, before the missionaries began working among the Karen people in Burma, that is what the Karen were called – animals.  They were considered lower than humans.  They were mistreated and disrespected.  Then the missionaries brought them the good news of Jesus.  The missionaries took their oral language and gave them a written language.  The missionaries taught the Karen how to read and write in their own language.  The missionaries started schools.  At one point in the history of Burma, Karen made up over 50% of all university students.

The Karen are an example of how the Gospel transforms lives.  They are also an example of Proverbs 12:1. Prior to the Gospel, they were considered animals by the government and were mistreated.  But, they listened to the gospel, they changed the way they thought and acted (repented) towards sin and God.  They showed that they loved discipline and correction.  Their status was raised.  More importantly their status as children of God was raised.  Communities were changed.  Families were changed.  Standards of living improved. All because they were corrected regarding their beliefs.

This same Gospel, the good news that Jesus loves sinners so much he is willing to take their place on the cross, still transforms lives today.  But only those who love discipline.  Those who refuse to change the way they think and act (repent) are no better than dumb animals.  Why?  Because like dumb animals they only live for the moment.  They only think about what brings pleasure for the moment.  They don’t see the consequences of their actions.  They don’t learn from their mistakes.  Dumb animals don’t think ahead.  They don’t plan for the future.  They are trapped in the present and limit their options.  Dumb animals miss the best for what they think is the good right now.

What about you?  Are you living for the moment and missing the best?  Or are you willing to be corrected by the gospel?

Christ’s slave,

Pastor jim

 

Fear of God or Just Being Afraid of God?

Posted by James Keller on 05/22/17 @ 2:12 AM

1  Since we have these promises, dear friends, we need to cleanse ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit and live a holy life in the fear of God. 2 Corinthians 7:1 (GW) 

Have you ever wondered about what the phrase “fear of God” means?  Martin Luther began the explanation of each of the Ten Commandments with the words, ‘We should fear and love God.”  How can we both fear and love someone?  Fear in this case does not mean what we think it means.  It does not mean to be terrified of but rather a reverential fear.  Luther explains it this way: We fear God above all things when we revere Him alone as the highest being, honor Him with our lives, and avoid what displeases Him.[1]

How do we revere Him alone and honor Him?  Our memory verse tells us we do that by holding onto His promises and cleansing ourselves from everything that contaminates us. 

Here is the kicker, one of His promises is that He will do the cleansing.  You see, we are really too weak to do any cleansing of our lives.  We like our sin too much.  That is why God sends the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit makes us spiritually alive.  The Holy Spirit washes us clean.  The Holy Spirit begins making the changes necessary in our lives so that we can live as God’s redeemed children. 

What is our part?  Stop fighting against the Holy Spirit.  It seems easy but oh is it hard to do.  Our selfish pride gets in the way.  We think we can do it on our own.  We think we know what is best.  But that is really our sinful nature rearing its ugly head.  That is why Luther talks about daily drowning our old Adam (sinful nature).  How do we do that?  By remembering our baptism.  God made some promises to us in our baptism.  He promised to wash us clean from our sin.  He promised to write His name upon us.  He promises never to leave us alone.  Which brings us back to our memory verse: Since we have these promises…

Live in the promises of God!

Christ’s slave,

Pastor jm

[1] An Explanation of the Small Catechism, Question 22 A.  (1991 Edition) http://www.mtolivelutheran.info/uploads/5/9/1/6/5916933/explanation.pdf

Following His Footsteps

Posted by James Keller on 05/15/17 @ 1:08 AM

21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. 1 Peter 2:21 (ESV)

There are many tours of the Holy Land that offer you a chance to walk in the footsteps of Jesus.  Many who have gone on these tours have expressed how much they have grown in their understanding of Biblical geography.  They have a newer appreciation of the New Testament and the Old Testament.  But that is not what Jesus calls us to do.

Jesus does not call us to go back to the old ways, to the old places.  No, He calls us to follow Him.  Jesus doesn’t call us to the familiar but rather to be familiar with Him.  We are not to stay around those people and places we know, but rather to go to those people who do not Him.  That is the Great Commission.  18  When Jesus came near, he spoke to them. He said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19  So wherever you go, make disciples of all nations: Baptize them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. 20  Teach them to do everything I have commanded you. “And remember that I am always with you until the end of time” Matthew 28:18-20 (GW).  Notice that the verb in verse 19 is go, not stay.  Jesus did not stay, but He went.  He did not stay in heaven, but He came to earth.  Why did He come? 28  It's the same way with the Son of Man. He didn't come so that others could serve him. He came to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many people. Matthew 20:28 (GW)

Jesus came to serve.  He came to save.  He came to give up His life for us.  Peter tells us in our memory verse that we are to follow in His steps, following the One who leaves the place of comforts, following the One who serves, following the One who suffers, following the One who dies for us.  Following is not easy.  But it is rewarding.  Following His example means living the way He lives, doing the things He does, and being with the people He is with. 

Being a Christian is not walking an aisle, making a promise, memorizing a book or even performing a rite.  Being a Christian is following Jesus.  It is a way a of life.  It is living differently than the world.  It is living in the footsteps of Jesus.  Being a Christian is literally being a little Christ.  It is a good thing that Jesus does not leave us alone. We follow in His footsteps.  He leads.  But He also walks beside us and even carries us. 

When Jesus calls us to follow Him, he literally means follow, with our entire being, our entire life, all that we have.  But if we keep our eyes on Jesus, we will be able to walk in His footsteps.  And the world will never be the same!

Christ’s slave,

Pastor jim

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