Psalm 98 points us to God as the Lord of all nations, as the bringer of eternal salvation. Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth! How do we do that when our circumstances aren’t great? Listen to Pastor David’s sermon here.
The TIME is NOW! This has been an unusual summer for my wife and me, as we have been to the mountaintop and we have wandered through the valley with our experiences and our life’s journey. We were blessed and motivated as we listened to David Beam as he shared about one of our passions, the people of Guatemala and their beautiful love for the Lord. Then, Connie’s mom, a 90-year old sweet lady, began to decline in her health as she struggled with pain each and every day. Leaving her in prayer, we traveled to Oklahoma City to the North American Convention of the Church of God where we were inspired with the boldness of the message “Jesus is the Subject,” and heard that in our culture, we must be bold in our walk with Christ and be consumed by his fire and message, despite what is happening in our world. Christ is alive, doing well, and no matter what comes, His Kingdom is in great shape and He reigns in our world.
Then, as we returned, Mom was still declining, not coming out of it and requiring more daily care. Leaving her safely in the care of Connie’s brothers, we ventured to the “Leadership Summit” at Warner University in Florida where we spent the week with almost 200 of the most God-loving, fired-up and ready to serve teenagers in our country, ready to love God, love people and live it out not only today, but with their future. We heard great speakers, had wonderful family times with our groups, spent a day in missionary training at Warner’s Heart Ministry, served in the community, laughed, worshiped, prayed, cried, exploded in joy with the blessings of God and even taught a couple of sessions to students exploring the fruits of the Spirit. Wow, we had an experience of a lifetime!
Connie’s mom was not getting better. As we returned, her pain and suffering was increasing, but we saw how God’s love is always redeeming. Provisions were being made to have three people on 8 hour shifts coming into her home (where she wanted to be) to care for her, with hospice making periodic visits to try and help alleviate her pain. It looked like perhaps she would be able to cope, but then hospice advised that she be moved to another place. She knew, she agreed, but on that Saturday there were no beds and she would need to wait until Monday for a place to be. On a beautiful Sunday morning, as we were driving to church, Connie received the call that her mom had passed. She was FREE, she was with her husband, she was without pain, she was refreshed, and she was with Jesus. There was no hurry, we went on to church, I taught our Sunday School class, I chaired the service, Connie played the piano, we served the Lord as we always did, but we knew that a celebration of life was happening in the next week and we would rejoice in knowing that our place in heaven is secured and we would once again join with family members. As Connie continued to tie all the loose ends together, I visited my 81-year old Mother and just her enjoyed our time together in God’s Kingdom.
The TIME is NOW! We live in His Kingdom, which is alive and now. My task in life has been to help Christ in leading youth to a life-long relationship with Jesus and witnessing to people of His love and care. We are family and we should together be serving and bringing glory to God. My challenge to you: come to church, be part of the family, grow in your love and relationship with Jesus, bring others, serve others, be consumed in your daily walk with Christ. As September comes, come to church and be an active participant in the life of Mt. Haley, the youth ministry, the community outreach, the family of God. Love God, Love People, Live It!
As you can see, it has been a pensive, emotional, exhilarating, inspirational, exhausting and a summer of a lifetime in my walk with Christ. Thanks for listening. But remember and dwell on this: God is good, He is real, He is our strength, He is faithful, He is our shield, He is love, and most importantly, He is ALIVE!
What more could we want?
Meanwhile, we are going to Michigan Adventure on August 5th, see Pastor Jerry ASAP if you would like to go, there will be St. Louis Camp Meeting (with ice cream one night) a concert in Ithaca, and perhaps another quick activity. Labor Day is the latest it can be this year, so school doesn’t begin until September 8th and our first youth ministry isn’t until later. New permission slips for the 2015-16 year will be mailed sometime this month. Summer is still in full swing, however, the church is still opened and will always be waiting for you where we want to help you grow in your discipleship of Christ. COME!
Have you ever stopped to wonder – in the sense of being amazed – at how the Lord provides rest for his people in all circumstances? Surely our life situations are not always restful, and we might expect Christians enduring persecution in various parts of the world to wish for a little more rest every now and then. But I truly believe that the experience of spiritual rest is crucial for our health as followers of Christ.
In one of Jesus’s well-known teachings, he said:
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30, NIV)
These three verses fit into a larger context of teachings in which Jesus is challenging the status quo of “normal” religion. The people wanted to see signs and wonders, but they were unwilling to hear the message of repentance and kingdom citizenship. The Pharisees wanted to require church attendance and obedience to the law, but they were unwilling to understand how grace is more important than legalism. And in the middle of all this, Jesus calls his disciples to come to him and find rest for their souls. How amazing indeed!
I wonder – in the sense of being curious – how many people in today’s world are wishing for a little rest for their souls. And I wonder how many of them are unwilling to darken the doorstep of any church because they feel it won’t provide them with the space to find that rest. Brothers and sisters, our work as disciples of Christ should be oriented toward providing rest and refreshment to the weary, offering opportunities to encounter the Lord, making a safe place available for people to hear God’s truth. Jesus did so without compromising his radical message: that true forgiveness, healing, and eternal life are available only through believing in him. We can do the same!
Notice, though, that this rest is for our souls, not for our bodies. We find spiritual rest in the Lord, and we reach out to others to bring them into this rest. But we cannot stop there; there is much work to be done! This is, I believe, the truth of Jesus’s teaching: we can find rest for our souls in any circumstance, even the most challenging, even the most stressful. Many believers throughout the centuries have endured physical persecution while maintaining an incredible spiritual calmness. Today, the church grows the fastest where the message of Christ is dangerous and prohibited. Rest for our souls is the internal foundation from which we perform the work of the gospel.
I pray that you will find rest in all of life’s circumstances. And I pray that you will share that rest with those around you who are in similar (or even worse) circumstances. In a prophetic passage denouncing the Israelites for their unbelief, Jeremiah wrote these words:
This is what the LORD says: ‘Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.’ (Jeremiah 6:16a, NIV)
May your journey follow a similar path this week, and in the weeks to come!
In my quiet time lately, I’ve been reading through the book of Job. When was the last time you read this book? It is a pretty long book (forty-two chapters!), but it’s well worth the read. Job, a righteous man, asks perennial questions: Why do bad things happen to good people? Where is God in the midst of undeserved suffering? Those questions are as relevant today as they were thousands of years ago, when the book of Job was written.