Thoughts from Pete’s Message, April 22, 2016

The Higher Calling

We’re all on a journey to become like Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul said, “I want to know him and the power of the resurrection that I may obtain the resurrection from among the dead… I press toward the mark of the upward calling of God in Christ Jesus.” Our Lord has brought us to a “garden” where we can walk with him and talk with him… Where he tells us we are his own. God is continually calling his children to his upward calling both in this life and the next. According to Isaiah 55, God’s thoughts are not our thoughts and his ways are not our ways. However, he has placed his seed within us when we were born again. This is our new nature of the righteousness of God in Christ in us. We now have Christ’s heart behind our heart, his eyes behind our eyes, his ears behind our ears, his feet behind our feet, his hands behind our hands, and his tongue behind our tongue. Our prayer is that we may grow up into him, the author and finisher of our faith. Prior to the verse in Isaiah 55, the prophet mentions that God will blot out his peoples’ sin and transgressions. This was accomplished by the full payment of our debt of sin by Jesus Christ upon the cross, for he who knew no sin was made the perfect sin sacrifice on our behalf that we may be made the righteousness of God in him. Only by God’s mercy and grace can we press toward the mark of the upward calling of God in Christ Jesus. Our loving Heavenly Father has called us unto a new way of life and living… Behold all things are new. Old things have passed away for he has given us a new spiritual nature. Therefore we can rejoice as did Jeremiah, “morning by morning new mercies I see.”

Because of the hope of the resurrection, we have been called to a higher way of thinking. Therefore we can now walk in a manner worthy of him.. to give glory to our Lord Jesus Christ. Paul writing from a Roman prison penned these words to the church in Philippians 1:20: According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death. The question is not whether we will live or die. According to the Word, “it is appointed for all men once to die.” The question is whether or not I will glorify Christ in both life and death. Oswald Chambers wrote a devotional called “My Utmost for His Highest.” Regarding this verse Chambers said, “my eager desire is that I will continue to do honor to Christ by fearless courage whether I live or die. We will all be ashamed if we do not yield to him in all areas of our lives where he has asked us to yield to him. It’s as if Paul were saying that my determined purpose is my utmost for his highest… My best for his glory. To reach that level of devotion is a matter of the will, not of debate or reasoning. It is absolute and irrevocable surrender of the will at that point. An undue and insidious thought for ourselves is what keeps us from making that decision. Therefore shut out every other thought and keep yourself before God in one thing only, my utmost for his highest…to live for him and him alone.”

Therefore we preach Jesus Christ and him crucified. For it is unto them that are perishing the stench of death unto death. But unto them that believe, it is the sweet smelling fragrance of life unto life. As Paul said in Romans 1:16-17 I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ. For it is the power of God unto salvation for everyone that believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.

Paul was determined that nothing would stop him from doing what God wanted. In Philippians 1:21 he said, “for me to live is Christ, to die is gain.” Whether living or dying, Paul’s goal was to give his utmost for his highest. Before we choose to do God’s will, a crisis must develop in our lives. A crisis is the decision point to press toward the mark of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. To turn form our own wills to the high calling, we must repent and turn from ourselves and unto him. God will bring us to our knees. We can either kneel down before him willingly in prayer or we will be brought to our knees by the weight of the crises of life.

Pete’s wife Susan had carried their second baby son to term. On the ordinary day when Susan went into labor, Pete went to the fathers’ room to wait for his new son to arrive. The Lord reminded Pete, “How much control do you have over your life today?” While Pete was praying for his wife and son, God answered Pete’s prayer, “Would you purpose in your heart to give your utmost for His highest no matter what the outcome? Whether your wife and baby live or die, will you purpose in your heart to love, honor, serve and praise me?” When we’re living at a lower level, we want to hold on to things over which we have no control. The crisis forces us to make a decision whether or not we will press toward the mark of the higher calling of God in Christ Jesus. Either God’s promise is true that he will work all things for good to those who love God and are called according to his purpose or God is not faithful to his Word. Pete’s response back to God was, “Who am I to tell you Lord what to do in this situation. You, Lord are in control, not me. You who sent your own son to die on my behalf may choose to take both my wife and my son. They are in your hands, not mine. Not my will but thine be done. Father come and help yourself to my life.”

When the doctor came into the father’s waiting room the news was not what Pete wanted to hear, “we lost the baby.” However, Pete was comforted by the decision that he had purposed in his heart, “Lord, no matter what the outcome, I will honor and serve you.”

In the day to day routine of life, it’s easy to pledge my utmost for his highest. However, crisis situations are our wake up call to press toward the upward calling of God in Christ Jesus. These crises are “come to Jesus moments” to prove that we cannot overcome life’s trials in our own power.

God is calling us to come up higher to the upward calling of God in Christ Jesus. To the place where you were created to live and love and have your being. To the place where you shall know the truth and the truth will set you free. To the place where you recompense no man evil for evil but overcome evil with good. To the place where faith replaces fear. To the high place where living for Him frees you from the insidious preoccupation with your selfish self. To the place of the upward calling where you experience his fruit: love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and temperance. Our Father says, “Come unto me with a contrite heart of meekness and humility and I will give you rest. Come to the place of my inner chamber where my righteousness, grace, mercy, peace and love reign; come away with me my beloved.”

In the words of the immortal hymn by Will Thompson:
Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling,
Calling for you and for me,
See at the portals he’s waiting and watching,
Watching for you and me.
Come home, come home, ye who are weary come home.
Earnestly, tenderly Jesus is calling– calling, “O sinner come home.”

May God richly bless you.
Your brother in Christ,

Thoughts from Pete’s Message April 15, 2016

Why Not Pray?

The goal of a Christian man is that he may become a man of prayer. Prayer is aligning our hearts with God’s heart. Why do men struggle so much with prayer and keeping a prayer journal? One reason is that men are afraid of being alone with God in the “Inner Chamber.” Another excuse is that they are too busy. They begin well with good intentions but the cares of the world choke their desire to spend time with God in prayer. Martin Luther said, I have so much to do today that I must spend the first three hours in prayer. Another excuse men use is apathy and complacency. Another is a fear of failure… That I’m not disciplined enough to pray. I don’t want to make a commitment to prayer that I’ll break. Another excuse is being afraid to be found out that I’m not the man that God intended me to be. These men fear transparency and vulnerability before God and before their brothers in Christ. Another excuse for failure to pray is the fear of being rejected for disclosing secrets to others and to God. These men fear that someone may find their secret prayer journal and use it to expose their deep dark secrets.

According to 1 Tim 2: 1-8, I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus. Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time. Whereunto I am ordained a preacher, and an apostle, (I speak the truth in Christ, and lie not;) a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and verity. I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.

Paul the Apostle was training his “dear son in the faith” Timothy to be the next shepherd of God’s church. Paul had been persecuted and pursued because of his stand for the truth of the Word of God. Those who had not been through trials and tribulation and persecution became “soft” in their believing. They lost their heart for evangelism because they forsook the priority of prayer.. To share the weakness of my flesh is to lay down my request at the foot of the cross to allow God to intervene. Without the power of God, we are nothing. It’s not about me, it’s about him. No man is in the dark so deep as the one who thinks he’s in the light but he’s really in the dark.

God’s grace always trumps the works and accomplishments of man. For by grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works lest any man should boast. All of our goodness is filthy rags compared to the righteous robes of Jesus Christ. A prideful heart cannot pray. Repentance is to run toward God in prayer. Repentance is turning from our sin and unto the Lord… Are you weak and heavy laden, encumbered with a load of care? Jesus, Savior still our refuge; Take it to the Lord in prayer. In his arms he’ll take and shield thee, thou wilt find a solace there.

God keeps no record of wrongs done. There is no account of our sin in God’s record book. When we were born again, Jesus Christ who knew no sin balanced the account of our debt of sin by payment of his innocent blood that we may be made the righteousness of God in him. A famous picture depicts a shepherd carrying a lamb on his shoulders. The shepherd found one of his precious lambs who had wondered away from the flock and had fallen into a ditch. The lamb could not get up and was completely vulnerable. A loving shepherd will break the legs of a precious lamb to keep it from wondering off and to save it from predators. He will then throw the lamb around his shoulders. The shepherd carries the lamb until the lamb’s legs heal. The lamb after such intimacy with his shepherd will be forever bound to follow his shepherd. Sometimes our Lord “breaks our legs” so that he can carry us and heal us by reconciling ourselves back to him so that we’ll forever be bound to follow him.

Pray for all men everywhere. God is no respecter of persons… There is neither Jew nor Gentile, male nor female, citizen, foreigner, bond nor free. God is, however a respecter of conditions. The conditions are praying and believing according to his Word. Prayer and supplication is drawing our hearts close to God’s heart. Intercession is to bring others to God’s throne in prayer. For there is one God and one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus. For we are called to be a royal priesthood to bring others before God.

Pray for kings and all who are in authority over you that ye may live a quiet and peaceable life in all Godliness and honesty. The government is not our savior, our salvation is only in Christ, the word of God in the flesh. We are not subject to man’s law… We are subject to the law of God. My times are in thy hands despite the darkness of this fallen world. When we bring those in authority to God in prayer, our Lord will intercede. The prayer is not to glorify the government, but to glorify God. According to 2 Thessalonians 3:1, Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you.

May God richly bless you!
Your brother in Christ,

Thoughts from Ryan Van Deusen’s Message April 8, 2016

Hooked on a Feeling?

When we were born again, God gave us a new spiritual nature. Therefore we have the spirit of God in Christ in us whether or not we feel like it. Was there ever a time when you, as a man of God, didn’t feel like you were the spiritual leader of your home? According to the Word of God, we men are the spiritual leaders of our homes whether or not we feel like it. God has called for husbands to lead and for their wives to follow a man of God in loving obedience to God’s Word.

God has also called us to a spiritual battle even if we don’t feel like we’re soldiers in the front lines of spiritual warfare. The war of the spirit is a reality for we wrestle not against flesh and blood but against principalities and dominions; against the rulers of spiritual darkness in high places.

We are ambassadors for Christ. Therefore we pray you in Christ’s stead be ye reconciled to God. For God made Jesus Christ to be sin for us who knew no sin that we may be made the righteousness of God in Him. Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your father which is in heaven. According to 2 Corinthians 10, for though we walk in the flesh, we walk not according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but spiritual to the pulling down of spiritual strongholds. Therefore, casting down imaginations and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, bring every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.

For everything in life there is a cause. There is always a spiritual cause behind the effects that we feel and see in the physical realm. The adversary will say that reality is limited to the things that we feel with our senses and see with our physical eyes. However, the adversary hides in the realm of spiritual darkness where those who do not have the spirit of God cannot perceive. We must have our spiritual senses exercised to discern both good and evil. The wisdom of this earth is earthly, sensual and devilish. However the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, then full of mercy and good fruits, easy to be intreated, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. We must forsake our own pride and our own worldly wisdom in order to come to God with a meek and humble heart. He will open our eyes to see reality from a heavenly perspective with a spiritual awareness and perception… The eyes of your understanding being enlightened that ye may know the hope of his calling and the riches of the glory of his inheritance of the saints.

The man of the flesh from a perspective of worldly wisdom thinks that “tolerance” means “please don’t punish me for sin.” However, to him that knows to do good and doesn’t do it, to him it is sin. Everything not done in faith is sin. Sin is missing the mark of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. The man of God with a humble heart runs to God for forgiveness of sin. For if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just fo forgive us of our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

The devil’s purpose is diametrically opposed to God’s loving purpose. The thief cometh not but for to steal, to kill, and to destroy. In contrast, Jesus Christ came that we might have life and have it more abundantly. The spiritual battle is a matter of life and death. The choice is clear… Choose life.

Jesus told his disciples a parable about three servants to whom he gave talents. One talent is 75 pounds of silver worth $18,000. The master gave his servants more than enough… more than abundant funds to invest. The master challenged to his servants to make faith based decisions to grow the Master’s resources instead of a fear based decision to bury the treasure. Likewise, we have been given great and precious resources of his gift of Holy Spirit. How do we invest these spiritual resources to the glory of our Lord? The answer is to surrender our hearts to him… I have been crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, yet not I but Christ liveth in me and the life that I now live I live by the faith of the son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.

God has called his men to be holy. Holiness is to be set aside for the purpose intended by the designer. According to Ephesians 2:10 We are God’s workmanship (Greek word poema) created in Christ Jesus unto good works which he has prepared in advance for us to walk in them. We are God’s masterpiece, his poem, his great work. When we advance as his soldiers in the spiritual battle, as his ambassadors in the midst of crooked and perverse nation, as his stewards investing his resources into his eternal Kingdom, we are fulfilling the purpose for which he designed us. Our prayer is, “Oh Lord, make us the men that you designed us to be… Lord, come and help yourself to our lives.”

Our feelings will deceive us. The reality is in aligning our hearts with our Heavenly Father’s heart in prayer. He will open the eyes of our spiritual understanding so that we can see that reality is fellowship with the Father, his son Jesus Christ and one with another in the household of Faith.

May God richly bless you!
Your brother in Christ,

Thoughts from Pete’s Message April 1, 2016

Prayer is the Priority

Prayer is aligning my heart with God’s heart. Sometimes God’s answer to prayer is for us to dance… Unashamedly and unabashedly. Rejoice in the Lord always and again I say rejoice. Rejoice Evermore. Pray without ceasing. For this is the will of God concerning you.

In Luke chapter 11, the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray. Jesus said after he had driven out the money changers, “my house shall be called a house of prayer.” Why are many churches no longer houses of prayer? “Ichabod” in the scripture means “God is not here.” When the church doesn’t pray, it’s name is changed to “Ichabod.” Prayer brings us into close proximity with our Heavenly Father. To know him and to understand God’s purpose for our lives we must abide with him and within him in prayer.

If you were discipling a brother in Christ, what one thing would you teach him? Sharing the faith, witnessing, teaching the Word? The hub of the wheel of discipling is prayer. Jesus Christ said, “come to me all ye that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.” The Word of God is profitable for doctrine, for rebuke, for correction, for instruction in righteousness. Men of this world are taught to avoid entering God’s presence. That’s why it’s so important to teach your children to come boldly before the throne of grace while they’re young. The first principle is to approach a loving God with meekness and humility… To acknowledge that all I need is thee. This is diametrically opposed to the world’s “man code” that says, “You cant’ cry. You can touch but not be touched. You are self sufficient and independent. You shall stand alone on your own two feet.” The world’s conditioning teaches men to be fearful to be found out that we are inadequate in our own power. This code of manly behavior has not served our culture well. It leaves men incapable of turning to the Word of God. The first requirement for entering God’s presence is to forsake our pride, and approach the throne of grace with a heart of meekness and humility. The emotion that trumps fear is regret. This is why there are no atheists in foxholes. Life’s greatest regrets are the sins of “omission.” I would have, could have, and should have. The greatest challenge in life is to live with no regrets.

To overcome the sins of regret, prayer is the answer. Prayer is drawing our hearts closer to God’s heart. The way to the prayer room should be a well worn path. To pray is to be prepared for the heat of the spiritual battle. We need men who are eager to come boldly before the throne of grace. Jesus Christ died so that we could enter boldly into the holy of holies and to approach our Heavenly Father without guilt, shame, sin or iniquity.

Blessed is the man who walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But in his delight is in the law of the Lord and in his law doth he meditate day and night… And he shall be like a tree that is planted by the rivers of waters that bringeth forth his fruit in his season. We run to God in prayer because when we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us of our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. To know the heart of God, we must spend time in his presence… This is the essence of prayer. In learning to journal, tell God about the storm you’re going through. Then write a letter from God to you. This is the answer to your prayer. God knows our hearts. He knows our weaknesses and the struggles of our sin nature that we inherited from Adam. The first line from our Father’s answer is “My child I love you, and my son Jesus Christ died for you that you may be made my righteous child.”

To approach the throne of God we must repent, turn from our sinful selves, and turn our eyes upon Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. Therefore humble thyself under the mighty hand of God and he will exalt you in due time. The question is, “do I want to spend the rest of my life learning to become just like Christ?” If this is my sincere desire, my need will be to draw closer to Him in prayer. What a friend we have in Jesus, all our griefs and pain to bear, what a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer. Therefore, be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God that passes understanding shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus our Lord.

God has called his men to be men of prayer. Therefore, turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in his wonderful face; and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.

May God richly bless you!
Your brother in Christ,