Strength in Weakness

Posted by James Keller on 06/25/16 @ 3:59 PM

10  Therefore, I accept weakness, mistreatment, hardship, persecution, and difficulties suffered for Christ. It's clear that when I'm weak, I'm strong (2 Corinthians 12:10 GW). 

The year was 1982.  I was in the championship match of the city high school wrestling tournament.  Our team had a chance to win the city tournament.  But something was wrong.  I was not wrestling well.  I was losing.  To make matters worse, I was winded.  I didn’t know at the time that I was coming down with Mono. (I would find that out a week later in between matches of the state sectional tournament.) I just knew I wanted to lie down and rest.  But my coach kept yelling at me to move.  I didn’t think I had the strength to move.  But I tried to do what my coach told me to do.  Suddenly I was free of my opponent.  My coach yelled at me, “Take him down. Shoot! Shoot!”  I really didn’t think I could do it.  But I thought if I at least tried and failed, the coach wouldn’t be angry.  Also, if I shot a takedown and didn’t make it, I could rest for a while, curled up while my opponent tried to flip me onto my back.  But I did take my opponent down.  Two points for me.  But I was still losing.  My coach yelled at me again, “Let him up!”  I couldn’t believe my ears.  If I let him up, I would have to work hard again.  But I did what coach wanted.  One point for him.  “Take him down!”  I was sucking air.  I couldn’t see straight.  But I dove at my opponent.  “Let him up!”  I don’t remember how many times I took him down, only to let him up again.  I had no idea how much time was left.  I just wanted this match to end.   I had no idea what the score was.  I couldn’t think.  I felt like I was dying.  But whatever my coach yelled at me to do, I tried to do.  I knew my form was not right.  I didn’t care if I succeeded or not.  I just tried to do what the coach was yelling at me to do.  Finally, the Ref blew the whistle, and the match was over.  I didn’t care about the match.  I just cared about crawling off the mat and resting.  I shook my opponent’s hand; the Ref held up the winner’s arm.

 About halfway through the next championship match as I sat on the sidelines, and my mind gradually cleared up, I realized that the Ref had held up my arm.  I was the city champ!

 My strategy of just trying not to get pinned would have caused me to lose. But by listening to my coach and trying to do what he told me to do caused me to win.  He had the strategy.  I had to rely on him.  Even though my technique was terrible and I was exhausted, by listening to my coach, I won. 

Paul says that when we are weak, then we are strong.  When we are weak, when we are unsure of what to do, when we feel like giving up, we need to listen to Jesus who will tell us what to do.  Even if we don’t think we can do it, we need to follow Jesus.  Even if our technique, our knowledge, our skills are not up to the task, we just need to obey. 

My coach could see that my opponent was just as tired as I was.  He could see that he did not have the strength to keep going.  I was too focused on myself to see that. 

 Jesus sees what we do not see.  He also can and does puts limits on our opponents that we do not know about.  My coach was not able to lend me any of his strength or endurance for the match.  But Jesus promises us that He will give us strength.  Not only will He give us more than strength; He will fill us with the Holy Spirit.  In other words, when we acknowledge we are weak, we then can turn ourselves over to Jesus who will give us His strength to get the job done!

 Go out there and “Take him down!”

 Christ’s slave,

 Pastor jim

The Pain of Crucifixion

Posted by James Keller on 06/18/16 @ 3:51 PM

20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me (Galatians 2:20 ESV).

 I think that we Christians have gotten so used to the word crucifixion that we forget how awful it is.  We wear gold or silver crosses around our necks.  We even hang beautiful wooden crosses in our homes.  We look at crosses as an object of art and beauty.  We think of the cross a symbol of love (which it is).  But we forget that the cross was a symbol of terror back in the day. 

 The Romans had to come up with a means of punishment that was so painful, so feared, that people would obey the government rather than face this kind of death.  The pain of being crucified was so great that they came up with a new word that described this pain: excruciating - which literally means out of the cross.

 So when Paul tells the church at Galatia (and us) that he has been crucified with Christ, what does that mean?  It doesn’t mean a nice word picture or symbolic dying.  He is saying that in order for him to follow Jesus, he went through pain.  Paul had to give up something precious to himself, and in the giving it up, it hurt him.

 Paul tells us what he had to give up, what he had to crucify in order to follow Jesus in his letter to the church at Philippi.   4  although I could have confidence in my physical qualifications. If anyone else thinks that he can trust in something physical, I can claim even more. 5  I was circumcised on the eighth day. I'm a descendant of Israel. I'm from the tribe of Benjamin. I'm a pure-blooded Hebrew. When it comes to living up to standards, I was a Pharisee. 6  When it comes to being enthusiastic, I was a persecutor of the church. When it comes to winning God's approval by keeping Jewish laws, I was perfect. 7  These things that I once considered valuable, I now consider worthless for Christ (Philippians 3:4-7 GW).

 In other words, Paul had to give up everything he had based his identity on in order to follow Jesus.  Paul allowed Jesus to crucify everything that stood between Paul and Jesus, which really was Paul himself.  This was a painful and scary thing to undergo.  Everything that he held on to for security was taken away.  But what did he receive instead?  The assurance that his sins were forgiven.  The promise of eternal life in heaven.  A personal relationship with the God he had feared. 

How did the pain of being crucified compare to the joy of knowing Jesus?  8  It's far more than that! I consider everything else worthless because I'm much better off knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. It's because of him that I think of everything as worthless. I threw it all away in order to gain Christ 9  and to have a relationship with him. This means that I didn't receive God's approval by obeying his laws. The opposite is true! I have God's approval through faith in Christ. This is the approval that comes from God and is based on faith 10  that knows Christ. Faith knows the power that his coming back to life gives and what it means to share his suffering. In this way I'm becoming like him in his death, 11  with the confidence that I'll come back to life from the dead (Philippians 3:8-11 GW).

 Don’t hold on to your old way of life.  Yes, you are comfortable in it.  But that is because you are used to it.  As my father likes to quote his father, “You can get used to anything, even hanging, if you do it long enough.”

 When I lived in California, I was quite happy.  I was a preschool teacher and director.  I had a nice house (with a pool) and a growing family (two kids with a third on the way).  But I felt God wanted me to go into the ministry.  I didn’t want to give up the comforts I had.  I had to allow Jesus to crucify my wants and desires (boy did it hurt) so that I could receive what he wanted for me.  Only after the pain of being crucified could I experience the joy of the new life Jesus had panned or me.  That new life includes New Life Lutheran Church and working in the Burmese community.

 When you allow Jesus to crucify your old way of life, you receive a much better way of life.  But you can’t have them both.  One must die a violent, bloody death.  It will be painful, but it is pain with a purpose.  The purpose is to make way for the new life in Christ!

 Go ahead and recite Galatians 2:20.  But say it like you mean it!  Experience the joy of resurrection to a new life in Christ!

 Christ’s slave,

 Pastor jim

The Six Benefits of Freedom

Posted by James Keller on 06/11/16 @ 12:45 PM

1  Christ has freed us so that we may enjoy the benefits of freedom. Therefore, be firm {in this freedom}, and don't become slaves again (Galatians 5:1 GW).

Our memory verse for this last week talks about being set free.  Galatians 4 ends with Paul talking about the difference between being a slave to the Law and living under the promise of God (Galatians 4:21-31).  Galatians 5 begins with the words of our memory verse.  We are to live as free people.  The Law is meant to point out our sins.  The Law is meant to show us our need for a Savior. 


When we have faith in Jesus, faith in his death on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins and his resurrection from the dead, we are set free.  Galatians 5:1 says that we are set free so that we may enjoy the benefits of freedom.  What are the benefits of being set free?


Ephesians 1:7-14 (GW) outlines the benefits of this freedom.
7  Through the blood of his Son, we are set free from our sins. God forgives our failures because of his overflowing kindness.


1) We are set free from our sins.  Jesus said that “Whoever sins is a slave to sin” (John 8:34).  Jesus sets us free from being a slave to sin.  This side of heaven we will sin.  But we no longer have to let ourselves be ruled by sin.  We can and should ask for forgiveness.  We should live as people who have been set free from sin and its eternal consequences.

8  He poured out his kindness by giving us every kind of wisdom and insight
9  when he revealed the mystery of his plan to us. He had decided to do this through Christ.


2) The God’s Word translation of the Bible calls God’s grace kindness.  Grace is God’s undeserved love for us.  We are told that God pours his undeserved love for us into us.  We are filled with God’s love as opposed to receiving God’s anger and judgment.  Our sins made us deserving of God’s anger and judgment.  God’s judgment against sin is death, not just physical death, but spiritual death.  The end result of this death is always dying but never dead in hell.  However, through Christ we no longer receive anger and judgment but rather love and blessings!

10  He planned to bring all of history to its goal in Christ. Then Christ would be the head of everything in heaven and on earth.


3)Christ is now our head.  In other words, Christ is our leader.  We take our marching orders from him.  This is actually quite freeing.  We are no longer bound by human standards.  Standards are constantly changing with the winds of time.  Fashions change; technology changes; political landscapes change.  But Christ never changes.  We don’t have to guess what Jesus wants us to do.  That always remains the same.  There is freedom in being able to say, “We must obey God rather than people” (Acts 5:29).

11  God also decided ahead of time to choose us through Christ according to his plan, which makes everything work the way he intends. 12  He planned all of this so that we who had already focused our hope on Christ would praise him and give him glory.


4) God has a plan for our lives.  There is a freedom in knowing that God has a plan for you.  You don’t have to wander through life trying to find your way.  God has already planned it out.  This is not a rigid, narrow plan but rather a plan designed by the God who loves you so much He was willing to take your sins upon himself and suffer your punishment so you wouldn’t have to.  Would a God that loves you that much then try to make your life miserable by planning out something you wouldn’t enjoy?  Our response to this plan is to give God praise and bring Him glory.  We praise him by coming together to worship him.  We bring him glory by living the life of freedom He has set us free to live.  But as we live this life of freedom, we always point to God as the one who has set us free.  Our lives should always point others to this loving God who can set them free as well.

13  You heard and believed the message of truth, the Good News that he has saved you. In him you were sealed with the Holy Spirit whom he promised.


5) We have God’s Word as a benefit of this freedom.  God’s Word is a great benefit for us.  God’s Word does not change.  God still speaks to us today. 

12  God's word is living and active. It is sharper than any two-edged sword and cuts as deep as the place where soul and spirit meet, the place where joints and marrow meet. God's word judges a person's thoughts and intentions (Hebrews 4:12 GW).


God’s Word continues to set us free.  It continues to point out where we are falling short of what we are meant to be.  It continues to point us to Jesus.  It continues to strengthen us to live lives of freedom. 


14  This Holy Spirit is the guarantee that we will receive our inheritance. We have this guarantee until we are set free to belong to him. God receives praise and glory for this.


6) We have the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit is the one who gives us the gift of faith.  The Holy Spirit is the one who makes us spiritually alive.  The Holy Spirit is the one who enables us to live lives of freedom.  We are told that this Holy Spirit is our promise or guarantee that we will receive an inheritance. 


What is an inheritance?  It is something you receive after someone dies.  That someone is Jesus. He died on the cross.  He left you an inheritance.  The promise of this inheritance is the Holy Spirit.  And what a promise it is!  You not only have the Holy Spirit with you, but He literally lives in you!


So what is the inheritance?  Our inheritance is eternal life in heaven with our God!  This side of heaven we are still struggling to live as the free people we are.  We still struggle with sin and often fail in that struggle.  But in heaven we will truly be free people.  The best part is that we will have all of eternity with our Lord Jesus to discover what living as free people really means!


Christ’s slave,


Pastor jim

Through a Revelation

Posted by James Keller on 06/05/16 @ 9:05 PM

12 For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.  Galatians 1:12 (ESV)

 At first glance, Paul seems to be advocating only listening to Jesus apart from the Bible.  But that is not so.  If we read Galatians 1:1-11 we see that Paul is concerned about false teachers who have come into Galatia and are leading the people astray.  Paul is trying to show that what he taught was form God not the opinions of men.

 Paul grew up studying the Old Testament scriptures.  Right after he became a follower of Jesus he began proving that Jesus was the Messiah (Acts 9:20-22).  He proved this by using the Old Testament Scriptures (Because the New Testament was still being written).   Paul was not anti-bible.  In fact he was just the opposite.  2 Timothy 3:16 (GW) 16  Every Scripture passage is inspired by God. All of them are useful for teaching, pointing out errors, correcting people, and training them for a life that has God's approval.  Those people who say they don’t need the Bible because they hear directly from Jesus or the Holy Spirit are actually the kinds of people Paul speaks out against.  They are dangerous people.  They are dangerous when it comes to salvation as they lead people away from Jesus rather than towards him.

 So what does Paul mean by saying that he “received it through a revelation from Jesus?”  For Paul, he had a direct encounter with the risen Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9).  But Paul also had a thorough understanding of the Old Testament. 

 A “revelation through Jesus” is not one that is apart from Scripture but rather one that is in agreement with Scripture.  This is evidenced by the time that Paul was driven out of Thessalonica and fled to Berea.  Acts 17:10-11 (ASV) 10  And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who when they were come thither went into the synagogue of the Jews. 11  Now these were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of the mind, examining the Scriptures daily, whether these things were so.

 We see that the people of Berea searched the scriptures (Old Testament) to make sure that what Paul was teaching was correct.  So how does Galatians 1:12 apply to us today?  Whenever we study the Bible we are applying Galatians 1:12 to our lives today.  Whenever we check what our pastors are saying in the sermon against what the Bible teaches, we are living Galatians 1:12.

 Each Sunday after the second service the Karen ladies meet as the Bible Women.  They study the Bible together with the purpose of being able to teach it to the children.  Because of their faithfulness in studying the Bible, some of the men are now also studying after church.  Between the services we have many children studying the Bible (we call this Sunday School).  Pastor Dave is leading a Bible study during this time for the adults. 

 Due to space limitations, we are not able t this time to have everyone study the Bible during our Sunday School hour.  So we want to offer more times outside of Sundays for Bible study.  We want our church to be like the people of Berea.  But we also want people to be reading or listening to their Bibles every day.  For some this is a scary thought.  Many don’t think they can read or listen to the Bible on their own for fear that they will misunderstand something.

 My good friend Rev. Lane Burgland has written a book called “How to Read the Bible with Understanding.”  If you are interested in being a part of a group that reads this book together, let me know.  The more time we spend reading the Bible, the more time we spend memorizing scripture the more we live Galatians 1:12!

Christ’s slave,

 Pastor jim

Walk in the Light!

Posted by James Keller on 05/29/16 @ 12:16 PM

Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (Ephesians 5:7-8 ESV).


Why do we memorize scripture?  Because we want God’s word to be in us.  As we get God’s word in us, it will guide us.  It will change us into the people that God intended us to be.  How does that look in our lives today?


Our memory verse for this past week was Ephesians 5:7-8.  The emphasis is that you and I live as children of light.  That we walk in the light.  How does that look in your life?  Last week I visited one of our members in the hospital.  He was just waking up from a procedure.  He cracked open an eye and saw me.  Then he began to talk.  Struggling to wake up he began to tell me about the staff who were taking care of him.  First there was a nurse whom he had given a pocket New Testament.  He had taken the time to explain that in the front of this New Testament were some helps.  He showed her how to use these helps.  She was very excited about this.  She had received pocket New Testaments before but no one had ever explained how to use the helps.  Next he told me about the person who cleans his room.  She had recently moved back to Fort Wayne.  She was looking for a church to worship at.  He had invited her to attend New Life. 


I read our memory verse to him.  I explained that he was doing exactly what the memory verse said.  He refused to live in darkness (he could have been very depressed about being in the hospital) but instead he was walking in the light.  When we walk in the light we bring light with us.  He was bringing the light of Jesus’ love into the lives of his caregivers.  That is putting our memory verse to work in our daily lives. 


How did you bring Ephesians 5:7-8 to life this past week?


Christ’s slave,



Pastor jim

Somewhere U.S.A.

Posted by Elexio Support on 05/01/14 @ 4:29 PM

Be Good At Something Different

Posted by Elexio Support on 05/01/14 @ 4:27 PM

In ministry, most churches and leaders try to be good at what everyone else is good at doing. We’re trying to improve our preaching, youth groups, kids’ curriculum, worship, environments, etc.

The problem is that we’re not blessed with the same gifts or called to the same types of ministries. Why not give yourself permission to be good something that few others are striving to do?

Maybe you can be phenomenal at digging water wells, sponsoring kids, or impacting the world through 6 a.m. prayer gatherings. Maybe you’re called to serving your community with radical generosity, doing evangelism through Facebook, or leveraging your wealthy suburban church to support three struggling inner city churches.

Rather than being good at the usual ministries, be good at something you’re uniquely positioned to do. Be good at something different.
What is something different you (or your ministry) can do?

Be Unreasonable

Posted by Elexio Support on 05/01/14 @ 4:26 PM

I bet you have heard this many times… “Be reasonable.”

Truthfully, under many circumstances, “Be reasonable” is sound advice—but not always.

As Christian leaders, there are times to be unreasonable.

When you pray, you might ask God to do something most consider impossible or unreasonable. Pray unreasonable prayers.

When you seek God, He might lead you to do something others consider undoable. Empowered by God, do unreasonable things.
When you lead, some people might think you’re making unreasonable demands. Lead passionately and pull unreasonable results out of reasonable people.

Being unreasonable all the time would certainly be a mistake. But if you aren’t being unreasonable every now and then, you probably aren’t leading by faith.

All Our Hope Is You

Posted by Elexio Support on 05/01/14 @ 4:25 PM

One of my favorite worship songs from this past Sunday. Thanks worship team for what you do.

Which is your favorite?

The Most Important Word

Posted by Elexio Support on 05/01/14 @ 4:25 PM

In many cases, the word “no” is more important than the word “yes.”

To say “yes” to the best things, you’ll have to say “no” to the good things.

In ministry, you will be overwhelmed with many good opportunities. But if you say “yes” to all of them, one day you won’t be able to say “yes” to the most important things.

Just because you could do something, doesn’t mean you should do it.

It may sound odd, but if you want to do more to make an impact, it often starts with the word “no.”

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