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God’s Extravagant Love

Posted by James Keller on OP10er @ 10:46 PM

Galatians 4:4 (GW)
4  But when the right time came, God sent his Son {into the world}. A woman gave birth to him, and he came under the control of God's laws.

Here is an amazing truth: God the creator became part of his creation!  God the law giver placed himself under his own laws!  This never ceases to amaze me.  I can’t fully understand how an omnipotent, omnipresent God could be limited to a specific time and place.  I can’t understand it, but I can be grateful.  This shows God’s extravagant love for us, his creation.  He limited himself to a certain time and place so that we can spend time with God here and now but also for all eternity!

Christ's slave,

Pastor jim

Five Types of Living Sacrifices

Posted by James Keller on OA11er @ 11:52 AM

Brothers and sisters, in view of all we have just shared about God's compassion, I encourage you to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, dedicated to God and pleasing to him. This kind of worship is appropriate for you (Romans 12:1 GW).

What does it mean to be a living sacrifice?

 “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” 

― Dietrich BonhoefferThe Cost of Discipleship

 Whoever doesn't take up his cross and follow me doesn't deserve to be my disciple (Matthew 10:38 GW).

 It seems that the life of a follower of Jesus is one of sacrifice.  Jesus tells us to pick up the very thing that will kill us and follow Him.  Just how does this look in our lives today?

 1)      For some this literally means persecution and possible death just for following Jesus.  Many in the Burmese community are afraid to follow Jesus because of this reality.  When a Burmese converts to Christianity, he or she may be shunned by family and friends.  Some face persecution.  Burmese believers are accused of abandoning their people.  They are declared no longer Burmese.  But the good news is that Jesus brings them into new families.  He places these new believers into loving churches who stand with them.  If they are able to remain in their families, Jesus uses them to demonstrate His love.  They become living sacrifices of love to their households.  Through these living sacrifices, family and friends are drawn to Christ.

 2)      Others discover that they must give up something, something they love, in order to follow Jesus.  As we read God’s word we discover 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).  How painful it is to discover that one of the things we love to do is really sin in the eyes of God!  We are then faced with a choice.  We can either try to ignore the passage of Scripture and keep right on living the sin.  Or we can ask God to help us to give up enjoying and doing this sin.  The first choice leads to sacrificing our faith.  The second choice leads to making a painful sacrifice for Christ.  Unfortunately, many in the church today have chosen the first choice.  This is why so many churches are powerless to be instruments of God’s life changing love in the communities where they live.  Those who have made the second choice find that whatever they have given up for Christ, Christ has replaced with something better.  They feel free.  They live free.  And they lead others to the same freedom.

 3)      Sometimes Christ asks us to give up something we love only in order to give it back to us.  He did that with Abraham.  God called Abraham to sacrifice his only son, Isaac.  When Abraham obeyed, he got his son back (Genesis 22:1-14)!  Sometimes God asks us to sacrifice something important to us so that we will learn how to use that for God’s glory.  What brings God more glory than bringing others into His kingdom?  What is God calling you to sacrifice?  What is He asking you to use for bringing others to Christ?

 4)      Sometimes we are called to give up something for a short time so that we can focus more on God and His kingdom.  We might call that fasting.  Fasting often is thought of as not eating.  Certainly, that is one type of fast.  But God can call us to fast from certain types of activities as well.  During these times of fasting we should focus on God and His word.  We should spend the time we would have been eating (or playing video games) reading the Bible, praying and listening for the voice of God.  This is a time to draw closer to God.  The church year has some times set aside for fasting.  During the 40 days of Lent (the time leading up to Easter) is often a time of fasting.  The Advent season (the weeks leading up to Christmas) is also a time of fasting.  But you can fast other times as well.  I am not an expert in fasting.  But I am trying to learn more about this spiritual discipline.  It is one that often is forgotten. 

 5)      Finally, God often asks us to make a long-term sacrifice in order to follow Him.  This can mean a change in plans.  It can mean giving up what seems like a great opportunity for us personally in order to follow where Jesus is leading.  It can mean not living out our dreams in order to live for Christ. 

 Whatever kind of sacrifice we are called to make (short-term or long-term), we should never draw attention to ourselves for making this sacrifice.  This is a lot harder than it would seem.  Our sinful nature wants others to know what we are “giving up for Jesus.” We want recognition.  We want people to look at us and say, “Wow, what a super spiritual person!” 

 “When you fast, stop looking sad like hypocrites. They put on sad faces to make it obvious that they're fasting. I can guarantee this truth: That will be their only reward. 17  When you fast, wash your face and comb your hair. 18  Then your fasting won't be obvious. Instead, it will be obvious to your Father who is with you in private. Your Father sees what you do in private. He will reward you (Matthew 6:16-18 GW). 

It seems that there is a last way that we are to be living sacrifices.  We are not to draw attention to ourselves.  Instead, we should be about pointing others to Jesus.  We should sacrifice our egos, our wants, our desires.  I don’t remember who said it, but it is true, “The problem with a living sacrifice is that it keeps crawling off the altar.”

 Don’t give up!  Crawl back on the altar! 

 Christ’s slave,

 Pastor jim

 P.S.  Have you thought of another way to be a living sacrifice?  Let me know by commenting on this post.

Tadesse Gadore said...

Posted on OP7er @ 7:31 PM -
Yes of course Christianity is believing in Christ living with Christ living for Christ faith with out action tree with out fruit is died so there is no gtentity for the salvation if there is no fruit of Holly spirit Bible saying walk in spirit you are not fulfilled desire of flesh renew your mind don't conform in the world thank you man of God this is biblical truth principle for children of God blessings

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One in Christ

Posted by James Keller on OA12er @ 12:09 AM

Galatians 3:28 (GW)
28  There are neither Jews nor Greeks, slaves nor free people, males nor females. You are all the same in Christ Jesus.

For whom did Christ come to die?  All people.  All people are the same to Jesus.  We all start out as enemies of God because of our sin.  Through the gift of faith, we are all now members of His family.  Yet Sunday is still the most segregated time in America.  Why?  Because of our sin.  We choose to look at skin color.  We choose to look at ethnic origins.  We choose to look at education.  We choose to look at finances. But God chooses us.  He chooses the worst of the lot.  He cleans us up and makes us His.  If we are truly determined to live and love like Jesus, we need to stop looking at externals and start looking at eternals.  Yes, there may still be some things that keep us apart (not speaking the same language, as is the case with many in our second service), but we should all be working toward living and loving regardless of our differences.  I have seen children of God come together even when they can’t talk with each other.  I have seen Christ’s body of believers worship together even though some were uncomfortable.  But those who were uncomfortable, were willing to make the sacrifice so that we could all worship together.  Let’s make 2017 the year of united praise and worship.  Let’s make it the year that we welcome all, not just those like us.  Let us live and love like Jesus!

 Christ’s slave,

 Pastor jim

P.S.  What do you think is the key to looking beyond skin color, race, and other differences?

Pastor jim said...

Posted on OP10er @ 10:49 PM -
You are right! it is not our job to judge others. We often are wrong in our judgments because we don't know the whole story. Getting to know people, listening to their story, is important for us to understand better where they are coming from and also for us to see how much they really are like us.

Suzie said...

Posted on OP1er @ 1:47 PM -
It's something that I deal with every day at work. We can't look at skin color or tattoos and automatically think this person is "bad" and they deserved to be shot or stabbed. We have to treat each patient unconditionally. What if we judged people by the way they looked? We could be totally wrong and a lot of the times we only hear part of the story. It's not our job to judge others.

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Set Free

Posted by James Keller on OA12er @ 12:04 AM

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

Being trapped in sin is no fun.  Of course, it doesn’t start out that way.  There is a strange excitement about doing sin for the first time.  The allure of doing something forbidden.  The excitement of “getting away with it.”  But then over time, the excitement wears off.  But the “need” to continue in the sin doesn’t.  That is when we realize we are trapped.  Being trapped is no fun.  We want to get out but can’t see the way out.  We feel helpless.  We feel powerless.  The sin has all the power over us.  It still promises us fun but the reality is far from it.  Our self-esteem goes down.  Our joy is lacking.  We are without hope.

That is where our verse for this last week comes in.  The blood of Jesus sets us free from our sin.  How?  By paying the price for our freedom.  Why?  Simply because God loves us.  His love for us is extravagant.  His love for us is inexhaustible.  That is what we need to remember when we are trapped in sin.  God loves us. 

The next time you are trapped in sin, call for the blood of Jesus.  Ask God to wash you clean in the blood of Jesus.  Ask God to free you from the sin.  Not because you deserve it, but because God loves you.  On your own, you can’t free yourself form the trap of sin.  But the good news is that God never leaves us alone.  Jesus, Immanuel, is God with us.  He will come and release you from the trap.  Better yet, he will walk with you to help you stay out the next trap of sin!

Christ’s slave,

Pastor jim

Connected

Posted by James Keller on OA12er @ 12:02 AM

I am the vine; you are the branches.  Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:5 (ESV)

I don’t know much about gardening.  The picture above is an actual pepper plant I am trying to grow.  It doesn’t look too good, does it?  I know that there are some essential things that plants need.  1) Good Soil. 2) Sunshine.  3) Water.  But by looking at my pepper plant, I must be missing something.

Jesus tells us in this last week’s memory verse that we need to stay connected to Him.  If we are to bear much fruit (grow in likeness of Him and grow His kingdom by telling others about Him), then there are some essentials we will need.  What are those essentials in order to stay connected to Jesus?  1) God’s Word. 2) Prayer.  3) Worship (alone and in community) 4) The Sacraments.  Hey wouldn’t that make a great sermon series?  I think it did.  We called it: The Basics.  Watch our media tab for the Basics to be loaded up, then listen to it again (or for the first time).  We are in process of retooling how we list sermons so please be patient.  In the meantime, can anyone tell me what I am doing wrong for my poor pepper plant?

Christ’s slave,

 Pastor jim

Standing with Confidence

Posted by James Keller on OA12er @ 12:36 AM

Luke 21:28 (GW)
28  “When these things begin to happen, stand with confidence! The time when you will be set free is near.”

Have you ever faced a tragedy and felt calm?  Have you ever been in a life or death situation and yet wasn’t afraid?  In a way, that is what this verse is talking about.  When it seems that your life may be over, yet you are calm or even joyful when you should be scared.  How can this be?  Because of Jesus.  His death on the cross takes the sting out of death.  His extreme suffering on our behalf lessons our suffering.  We look to Jesus and suddenly we are not afraid.  We look to Jesus and a strange peace comes over us.  We look to Jesus and we can have joy in the midst of sorrow.  I don’t understand it.  But then again, I don’t have to understand it.  I just welcome it and stand in awe when it happens.  Has this ever happened to you?

Christ’s slave,

Pastor jim

Wearing Jesus

Posted by James Keller on OA12er @ 12:53 AM

Galatians 3:27 (GW)
27  Clearly, all of you who were baptized in Christ's name have clothed yourselves with Christ.

There is a saying that “Clothes make the man.”  Our Bible verse for this last week says that clothes make us free.  When we put on Christ we are free from sin.  Free from death.  Free from fear.  How does that work?

Baptism connects us to Jesus.  It connects us to his death on the cross.  It connects us to his burial.  It connects us to his resurrection.  When we are baptized, we are covered with Jesus.  Have you ever put on a religious t-shirt and went to the store?  Maybe while you were at the store you were tempted to be impatient, rude or unkind.  But then you remember you are wearing a religious t-shirt.  How would it look to others to see you in that religious t-shirt pitching a fit over something?  That thought stops you from acting out on our thoughts and feelings. 

Galatians 3:27 reminds us that wherever we are, if we have been baptized we are wearing something better than a religious t-shirt.  We are wearing Jesus.  This thought should stop us in our tracks.  “Do I really want people to see me doing this while I am wearing Jesus?”  It is when we forget that we wear Jesus that our sinful nature reigns.  But our baptism is good for all eternity.  When we forget that we are wearing Jesus, we need to ask for forgiveness, confident in the fact that our sins have been washed away in the waters of Baptism.  Not because we deserve to have them washed away.  Not because we can do something to earn our forgiveness.  But because Baptism ties us to Jesus’ death on the cross, the one place where are sins are paid for.

Remember your baptism!  Remember, you are wearing Jesus!

Christ’s slave,

Pastor jim

Can’t be Shaken

Posted by James Keller on OA12er @ 12:42 AM

28 Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe Hebrews 12:28 (ESV)

Many people are worried about the upcoming elections.  People are prophesying doom and destruction if their candidate is not elected.  But the writer to the Hebrews reminds us that we have a kingdom that cannot be shaken.  What is that kingdom?  God’s kingdom.  No matter who wins or loses in any of the elections that take place this Tuesday or in the future, God’s kingdom will last and cannot be shaken.  WE who are followers of Jesus are members of that kingdom.  Our place is assured.  Our inheritance is secured.  Not matter what happens on Tuesday, God is still on the throne.  That is reason enough for us to worship Him with reverence and awe!

Christ’s slave,

Pastor jim

3 Responses When God Rescues Us.

Posted by James Keller on OA12er @ 12:32 AM

Psalm 50:15 (GW)
15  Call on me in times of trouble. I will rescue you, and you will honor me.

This verse seems simple enough.  But really, there are three responses that we can make when God rescues us.

1)       We ignore the fact that God has rescued us.  We think that it was blind luck that got us out of trouble.  Or we think that our ingenuity paid off.  This response is the one that simply refuses to acknowledge that God was involved in our rescue, even if we did call upon Him and ask him for help.  What happens when we do this?  The next time we call on God for help, he may refuse to answer or help us.  Why should he?  We were ungrateful at best and denying his ability at worst.  If we don’t really trust God to help us (or give Him the credit when he does), why do we get so angry with Him when he doesn’t help?   The good news is that God is merciful and will often help us even when we don’t deserve it (which really is all the time).    God’s grace, His undeserved love for us, is just that undeserved.  But the danger is when we take that grace for granted.  When we turn grace into law, “God you have to help me because if you don’t then you really don’t love me.”  We demand His help while denying him the credit for helping.  That is pretty messed up!

2)      We acknowledge that God has helped us but we turn around and start complaining or worrying about the next big trouble that may come our way.  “Thanks God for taking care of this today, but don’t forget I may be in trouble next week.  That is what I am really concerned about.”  If you think about it, that is really a back handed thank you.  We should be rejoicing that we were rescued today.  In fact, the trouble we are worried about for next week (or even tomorrow) may never happen.  Why should we cry to God for help over a problem we don’t have yet?  That almost sounds like the little boy who cried wolf.  Instead of worrying about what might happened, let us rejoice over how God did rescue us today.  Let God worry about tomorrow.  This is really the devil’s way of trying to rob God of honor and us of the joy of being rescued. 

3)      The final response is the simple meaning of the verse.  Thank God for what He has done.  Yes, we can say thank you.  But Jesus often told those whom he had helped, “Go and tell your friends and family what God has done for you.”  That is really bringing honor to God.  Telling others how God rescued you, how awesome He is, is the best way to honor him.  Go brag to your friends about God and his rescue of you!

I suppose there is a fourth response.  That is not asking God for help to begin with.  Trying to do it on your own.  To be honest, most of the trouble I find myself in is of my doing.  So, to rely on myself to get myself out of the trouble that I caused is like a drowning man trying to rescue himself.  It just doesn’t work!  Sure, there are times when the trouble I find myself in is caused by others, but again I don’t want to be the one left alone to face it and overcome it.  Isn’t it great that we have God who doesn’t leave us alone?  Isn’t that what this verse is all about?  God wants us to call on him in our troubles.  He actually wants to get involved in our mess, not to point fingers but rescue us! 

Need a hero?  Call on God!

Christ’s slave,

Pastor jim

 

5 Points of Keeping God’s Word Alive!

Posted by James Keller on OA8er @ 8:59 AM

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.

Being a pastor gives me plenty of opportunity to be in God’s word.  I study the Bible in order to write sermons, Bible studies and devotions.  The hazard is that the Bible becomes a textbook.  The Bible is more than just a “how to” manual for life.  The Bible is the living word of God.

How do I as a pastor, or anyone else avoid the trap of seeing the Bible as a textbook? Here are some things you can do to help you keep your focus on the Bible as God’s living word:

1)      Stop reading snippets of the Bible.  We like to read a verse or two at time.  We pull verses out for whatever situation we are in.  Yes, the Bible has application for our daily lives, but it is meant to be read in context.  Think of it as the difference between snacking and sitting down for a meal.  If you just snack on the Bible you will not get the full and deeper application and meaning. But if you sit down to feast on it, you will discover the many different flavors and see how the Bible fits together as a whole.

2)      Read the Bible devotionally.  I have many devotion books.  Most of them take a verse or two from the Bible, tell a short story and then try to apply that verse.  This is not what I mean by a devotional reading of the Bible.  I mean sitting down and reading a chapter or large section of the Bible at a time.  Start with prayer, asking the Holy Spirit to help you understand what you are reading.  Then read a section of scripture.  See if you can work up to reading a whole chapter at a time.

3)      Memorize scripture passages.  This might seem to go against my point one.  But as you memorize scripture passages, they will help you to understand what you are reading.  These memorized passages will also help you to see the unity of scripture.  You will discover that the passage you memorized or the principle it contains, is found elsewhere in scripture.  Memorizing scripture also has the benefit of helping you when you face temptations, uncertainties, and hard times. 

4)      Read the whole Bible.  When we read the whole Bible, we get a better understanding of the overall picture of the Bible.  We see the sweeping narrative of God’s redemptive plan.  We discover how each book in the Bible fits together as a unity.  We discover new insights reading the New Testament after we have read the Old Testament.  Most of us will not be able to sit down and read the Bible cover to cover in one sitting.  That is OK.  There are many good Bible reading plans out there. (click here for one year downloadable plan)

5)      Read the insights of others.  Many Bible scholars, pastors, teachers and others have written some wonderful books that will give you new insight into certain books of the Bible, stories of the Bible, history of the Bible and characters of the Bible.  Reading what others have discovered can enrich your own understanding.  It is true that there are some bad books out there that have flawed teaching.  You might want to ask someone you trust for a recommended reading list before you pick up a book. 

Here are a few books I have read and recommend:

  1. How to Read the Bible with Understanding by Lane A. Burgland
  2. A Man in Christ by James S. Stewart
  3. Has God Spoken? By Hank Hanegraaf
  4. Poet & Peasant and Through Peasant Eyes by Kenneth E. Bailey

What other points would you make?

Christ’s slave,

Pastor jim

 

 

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