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



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”?


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!


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

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