Thoughts from Ryan Van Deusen’s Message March 24, 2017

Fellowship = Fellows in the Ship: Get on Board

1 John chapter 1 is about what we call “fellowship” in Christian circles. Fellowship with Jesus Christ requires “transparency” before our loving Heavenly Father. How do we portray ourselves? Do we see ourselves in light of his glorious gospel of truth or according to the darkness of this fallen world? God is light and in him there is no darkness at all. According to the gospel of John, light is anything that makes manifest; it is anything that reveals and illuminates so that we can clearly see. The light of God enlightens so that we can perceive reality from a spiritual perspective. Light reveals what already exists. If there is sin and iniquity in our lives, then these dark places in our lives try to hide from the glorious light of the gospel of truth.

According to 1 John 1:1 through 10:
“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.
And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.
This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.”
“If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth:
But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.
If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.”

Fellowship and light go hand in hand. You cannot have one without the other. Our primary goal needs to be to walk in the light as He is in the light. What some Christians think is fellowship others who attend church often think is “food and entertainment.” However biblical terms need to be defined in terms of their biblical definitions. The Greek word “koinonia” means to “share fully.” It means that we need to share fully with our savior Jesus Christ everything that he is. Fellowship denotes an intimate, participating, and sharing relationship of community and communion. As members of the body of Christ we must share the fellowship of the spirit: the righteousness of God in Christ in us.

In marriage God commands husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church. Men often have a facade of toughness on the outside because they are overly sensitive on the inside. However, as David was a man “after God’s own heart,” David’s prayer was “break my sinful heart and create within me a new heart.”

Women are often soft on the outside but tough on the inside. They are the stable ones who endure hardness and abusive relationships for the sake of the marriage commitment. Men can learn a lot from their wives in terms of biblical virtues of forgiveness, patience, long suffering and kindness.

A real man is not a man until he “runs to the king and bows down to authority.” It may be difficult to “man-up” and give in, but this is what is required to come before the throne of grace with a heart of humility and meekness. “Transparency” means to be able to divulge ourselves to those who need to be helped. In order to deal with sin, we must first identify the problem so that we can concentrate on the solution. According to 1 John, if we claim that we are in the light while we are in the darkness, then we deceive ourselves. Satan’s name means “deceiver.” If we deceive ourselves, we’re playing in the Satan’s ballpark. However, if we confess our sin, our missing the mark, our shortcomings and failures, He is faithful and just to forgive us of all unrighteousness. To come to Jesus, we must crucify our selfish selves in order to come to him with a humble and a contrite heart.

When we’re right with God in fellowship with him, our prayer for others must be the prayer that Jesus prayed while hanging on the cross: “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” As Romans 12 exhorts us, “be not overcome of evil but overcome evil with good.”

We cannot have Christian fellowship until we are walking in the light as he is in the light. When we walk together in the light then truly our fellowship is with our Heavenly Father, his son Christ Jesus, and one with another in the household of faith. The exhortation to fellowship is for fellows to get into the boat and row together with our Lord Jesus Christ. He is the captain of our salvation. When we’re in the vessel together then we can be “harmoniously fitted together.” There is tremendous energy released in a “fusion reaction” that unites many into one. We have been called collectively as the “body of Christ” so that others can witness “holiness.” Holiness or “sanctification” means to be set apart according to the purpose intended by the designer. Holiness means to “Give ’em heaven!” Ephesians 4:13 is a picture of fellowship and a fitting benediction: “From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.”

May God richly bless you!
Your brother in Christ,

Thoughts from Gary Stubblefield’s Message March 17, 2017

Truth and Tears

In the gospel of John toward the end of Jesus’ ministry, Jesus and the twelve disciples were headed toward Bethany. They were on their way to his friend Lazarus’ house because Lazarus’ sisters Mary and Martha had sent word to Jesus several days before that their brother was sick and near unto death. Jesus said to his disciples that Lazarus had fallen asleep. He then told them that Lazarus had died, and that he was going to prove the power of God. Martha rushed out to meet them and said to Jesus, “If you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Jesus said, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said, “I understand that he will rise again at the resurrection.”
“Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this? She saith unto him, Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world.”

When they came to Bethany and Jesus saw the mourners and Lazarus’ sister Mary, the scripture says, “Jesus wept.” He was overcome with grief and compassion for his friends. When you look at this story of Mary and Martha, Jesus gave Martha the truth, “I am the resurrection and the life, he who believes in me shall never die.” To Mary, he gave tears. Jesus wept. Sometimes, you say it best when you say nothing at all. Jesus’ life of ministry was a combination of truth and tears.

Gary often travels to Nepal in trekking expeditions and to get away and meditate. On his first trip ten years ago, Gary picked up the luggage at the airport for the trekking team. While passing through a slum area in Bombay to take the train to Nepal, Gary noticed the filth and squalor of the slum. He broke down and cried for the people in that area and at the utter depravity of their living conditions. Other times he went to Nepal, he was no longer moved by the sight of the slums. According to Lamentations 3:22-23, “It is of the LORD’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.” His compassions never come to an end…because morning by morning new mercies I see. Our compassion needs to be fresh and new every morning as though it were the first time. Jesus always feels the pain and compassion for God’s people each new day.

The heart of a man of God is truth. Jesus said, “sanctify them with thy word; thy word is truth.” A man of God is also a man of tears and compassion. Keeping our heart close to the heart of our Lord means that we must share both truth and tears.

According to Proverbs, the wisdom literature of the bible, Wisdom is the application of the knowledge of the truth. Proverbs 3:3 and following says:
“My son, forget not my law; but let thine heart keep my commandments: For length of days, and long life, and peace, shall they add to thee. Let not mercy and truth forsake thee: bind them about thy neck; write them upon the table of thine heart:
So shalt thou find favour and good understanding in the sight of God and man.
Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.
In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.”

Teaching is not just data, rather, it points to the majesty of God. The exhortation is to not forget the teaching of God. The knowledge of God needs to be constantly in our mind as when Moses gave this final charge to the children of Israel before they entered into the promised land: “When you enter into the promised land and your flocks and your houses multiply, do not forget the Lord thy God.” What we truly desire we will never forget. If we forget the Lord, then he will no longer have preeminence in our life.

The proverbs speak of the ways that the laws of God normally function. These precepts of truth are the way God designed his blessings to flow. Do not let kindness and truth leave you. Bind them upon thy neck write them upon the tables of thine heart. Kindness and truth go hand in hand. You cannot have one with out the other to reflect the character of God in your life. You will be loved and blessed when you walk with the Lord. Fellowship with the Lord reflects the nature of God himself and as you walk with him, God will bless you with those who need to be loved.

Trust in the Lord with all thine heart. This implies total abandonment. Don’t lean unto thine own understanding. The question is, “why not?” The reason is because we are not worthy to build our own lives. We’re not in control… he is. Our best understanding of the future is no more than a vague hunch. We cannot know value apart from what God says is valuable. We need to come to this conclusion: “Apart from the word of God, I don’t know.”

The human race is in an identity crisis without any frame of reference for truth. The older you get and the more thoughtful you get, the more you realize that the truth is the Word of God and that Jesus Christ is the meaning of the Word. He is the way, the truth, and the life.

Only God can make your path straight and bring you to your appointed goal. We often wonder, what will it take to get us there? Through the pressures and the tribulations of life, has God left the building? There is a story in the gospels about a storm raging while the disciples were crossing the Sea of Galilee. Jesus appeared to them walking on the water. Jesus said, “fear not.” The answer to the trials and tribulations of this life is “fear not for the Lord thy God is with thee withersoever thou goest.” Why do we experience these struggles in life? It’s because God wants to make you a person of Joy, yet easily touched by compassion. He wants to make you a man of passion and yet authentic and pure. In order for God to form you into the man of character he wants you to be, he needs to mold you and make you after his will. He wants us to experience the truth of the Word of God to prove the power of God. Through the trial God says, “Give me your weakness, and I will give you my strength.”

He continues to teach us through truth and tears. Great is thy faithfulness, O God my father. There is no shadow of turning with thee. Thou changest to not, thy compassions they fail not. Great is thy faithfulness Lord unto me.

May God richly bless you!
Your brother in Christ,

March 10, 2017 Thoughts from Ryan’s Message

What Do You Value?

What’s your value system? Jesus said, “where your treasure, there will your heart be also.” There is a parable in Luke 16 about an alleged “unjust steward.” To understand this parable, we need to understand God’s value system. There was a rich master who had a steward, a manager, who was accused of wasting his master’s resources. The master ordered an audit of the steward’s management of the master’s affairs. The steward called each of his master’s debtors and discounted each debtor’s debt. When the debtors had paid less than the amount they originally owed, the master commended the steward for his actions. One interpretation of this parable is that the steward himself made up the difference between the original debts and the amount paid. The question is, “what is valuable to you?” The world considers the most valuable possessions to be the ones that last the longest. Diamonds and houses are valuable because they are lasting in this world. However, 2 Corinthians 4:18 says that which is seen (material possessions) are temporal, but that which is unseen is eternal. The reason the steward was commended was because he used his own wealth to gain lasting friendships and relationships. The steward valued the precious and valuable relationship with his master’s customers even more than his own money. You may think that you’re giving it away, however, you can never exhaust God’s resources. The most important business relationships are personal. If you gain material things, they are temporal…here today and gone tomorrow. According to Jim Elliot, he is not a fool who gives away what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose. Don’t consider the cost, rather consider the value.

How does God see our prayer when we ask for a miracle of healing? What is the value of our physical bodies in the eyes of God? Are we seeking to feel good, or are we asking for God’s desire? From the eternal perspective, our prayer is not my will be done, but rather, Thy will be done. The Word says, “beloved above all things I desire that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospers.” Our ultimate healing will be realized at the return of Jesus Christ when this physical, mortal, and corruptible body shall have put on incorruption in a new resurrected spiritual body. Through the trials of this life, God values our fellowship with him above the physical well being of our earthen vessel. According to Psalm 119, “let me not enter into presumptuous sin.” Presumptuous sin is to seek the blessing instead of the Blessor. Often the miracle in the gospels is not physical healing, but rather salvation through Jesus Christ. Jesus healed the sick and raised the dead. However, Jesus said, “the works that I do shall they do and greater works shall they do because I go unto my Father.” The greater works is the miracle of the new birth. Salvation through Jesus’ finished work on the cross and by his resurrection from the dead is the greatest miracle of all. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world but loses his soul?

If you reject your eternal inheritance, you’ll miss the physical inheritance. How do you allocate the wealth with which God has blessed you? It is he who has given us the ability to get wealth. All I have needed thy hand hath provided. Jesus said, “he who is faithful in that which is least shall be also faithful in much.” The point of the parable of the alleged unjust steward is that “he that is trustworthy in the material things, the physical treasures of this world, will be entrusted with the eternal things of the spirit of the living God.” The question is not “how good are you at managing your funds, but rather how are you managing the things of God.”

What are true riches and the currency of heaven? Ye were bought with a price. The true riches are those whom God has called to be a living sacrifice. I beseech ye therefore brethren by the mercies of God that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice holy and acceptable unto God which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your minds that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

What is highly valued among men is detestable to God. The root of all evil is the love of money. Ye cannot serve both God and mammon. Money is not evil in itself, rather it’s when we love and worship money and the things that money can buy as the source of our provision. At that point the true God is no longer our provider… He no longer has preeminence in our hearts. The motto of the United States is “In God We Trust.” It is ironic that “In God We Trust” is printed on US Currency, for money itself is the “God” that many Americans trust. The scripture says, “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of things which he posesseth.” God says to give of our material riches so that he can bless us in return. The blessing is in seeking him as the source of our sufficiency and not our money. Therefore, Give and it shall be given unto you. For with the measure that you give it shall be given back to you pressed down, shaken together, and running over.

The most valuable things in this life and the next are the things that money can’t buy. It’s not about the cost, rather, it’ s about the value. Like the credit card commercial says, “what is the value of taking your daughter to a baseball game?” Two tickets behind home plate: $150.00. Two hot dogs with peanuts and drinks: $30.00. One baseball cap: $25.00. One souvenir bat and ball: $50.00. One precious evening spending time with your daughter: priceless.

How valuable is our relationship with God our Heavenly Father as his sons and daughters? Our fellowship with him is priceless. For his only begotten son Jesus Christ who knew no sin was made the perfect sacrifice for sin on our behalf that we may be made the righteousness of God in him. Jesus paid our debt of sin on the cross because we could not afford it. What does God value most? God values our fellowship with himself, his son Jesus Christ, and one with another in the household of faith. We are in this journey together: for what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God.

May God richly Bless you!
Your brother in Christ,

Thoughts from Pete’s Message March 3, 2017

The Fellowship of His Suffering

Two weeks ago Pete and his wife Susan found out that Susan has a brain tumor. She was having mild dementia and memory loss so they decided to have their family doctor run an MRI. Since then, God has been working in their lives. In the crises of life and in life’s cataclysmic moments, only God can sustain and guide. Casting all your cares upon him for he cares for you. In the short amount of time since the MRI they have made a decision to go to Houston so that the head of neurology, a renown neurosurgeon can perform surgery on Susan’s tumor. They don’t know what to expect except that the tumor is about 1/2 inch in diameter and is full of fluid. It’s imbedded deep within her brain. Life is a series of choices: We can choose our attitudes and our actions. Joy in the Lord is a choice. Susan’s favorite quote is, “joy is not the absence of pain, rather it is the presence of God.” In the midst of the crisis, God expects us to be faithful through the storms of life.

Faithfulness is not being able to keep your vows but having your vows keep you. For I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that he is able to keep that spiritual deposit which he has committed to me against that day of righteous judgement. For I was 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 in the son of God who loved me and gave himself for me. Our commitment is to walk in fellowship with him one step at a time. Dealing with mortality is healthy and helpful when we put our rest and our strength in him. Cory Ten Boom said, “No pit is so deep but that God is deeper still.” Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for thou art with me, thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me. Pete reminded Susan, “if God takes you home, you’ll never miss me for a moment. However, I’ll miss you and grieve for you.” Men would rather grieve in private and not show others how much they are hurt. However, when we understand Jesus’s grief, sorrow, and pain in the Garden of Gethsemane, we will come to the same conclusion that Jesus did: “Not my will, but thine be done.”

The purpose of the walk with Christ is to get to the point that we say, “Lord, no matter what the cost, I’ll follow wherever you lead.” A true disciple is a disciplined follower of Christ. It’s like when we men get married: we don’t realize until after the vows are said that will be under surveillance by our wives for the rest of our lives. We will need to forsake our selfish selves. Wives think they will trust their husbands before the marriage but after the vows are said, our wives will find that we’re not the ideal men they thought we were. Oswald Chambers said, “God requires extreme service from you with no complaining on your part and no explaining on his part.”

Bad news in life is an opportunity for God to turn what man meant for evil into good. For all things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to his purpose. Chambers in “My Utmost for His Highest” said “ye are not your own.” Our life is hid with Christ in God. Our invitation to others is to invite them to enter into the fellowship of his suffering. Our highest calling is to want his glory not ours, the comfort of the Holy Spirit, not the comfort of the flesh. Jesus knew only what his father told him to do. As followers of Jesus Christ, God expects us as sons to follow in the master’s footsteps. What does it mean to really love God? Love means to give up the rights to yourself. It means that “thou shalt have no other gods between your face and God’s face.”

According to Isaiah 6, the prophet had been a friend of King Uzziah who was a Godly king who loved God. However Uzziah used the temple for a wrong purpose and was struck with leprosy and died as a result. In the year in which Uzziah died, God revealed to Isaiah a vision of the seraphim’s saying, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty. The earth is filled with his glory.” Isaiah was undone in the presence of the holy God. Nothing upon this earth can hold a candle in comparison to the glory of God.

Jesus is preparing us through the trials of life to understand what Paul said in Philippians: when one member of the body hurts, all of the body hurts. However, our attitude is within our own control. Paul said that even though I’m in a Roman prison, my circumstances are working out for the furtherance of the gospel. God who created the heavens and the earth is still in control. Despite our circumstances, when we see life from his perspective, all is well that ends well…and we know the ending of the book. We also know that His perspective is the view from the cross. The scales of our righteous judgement were balanced at the cross of Calvary… 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.

Hard lessons of life are learned in the fiery crucible of life. When we are forged in the fiery furnace as earthen vessels, formed to by the potter according to his Devine design, we will be fused together, each vessel a fitting, fit for the master’s use… We are fittings within the body of Christ fitly framed together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth according to the effectual working of every part to building up of the body of Christ in love. The closest fellowship is the fellowship of suffering together. When we’ve been through the fire together, we will be fused together, our hearts knit together in love. Jesus said enter into fellowship with me. If God can know us through the sufferings together with Christ, God will use us to will and to do of his good pleasure.

God’s will is that his will be glorified in our lives. If our identity is not in Christ, we will never be able to stand before our just and loving God, clothed in his righteousness alone. Our purpose in life is the purpose of his redemption that we may be made the righteousness of God in him. The greatest opportunities in life are to display his joy, peace, long-suffering, and his mission in the midst of the trials of this life. For he who loses his life for my sake, Jesus said, shall find it. Life lived with no regrets is a life lived trusting God. For goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of this life. For the Lord is good, his mercy is everlasting, and his truth endureth for all generations.

God’s will not my will, God’s glory not my glory, his mission is according to his purpose not mine. For we were bought with a price. Our life is not our own, we have been bought with the priceless precious blood of the innocent Lamb of God. The purpose of our life is not who we are but rather whose we are.

Make me a captive Lord, and then I shall be free.
Force me to render up my cross and I shall conqueror be.
I sink in life’s alarms, if by myself I stand, Imprison me within thine arms and free shall be my stand.

May God richly bless you!
Your brother in Christ,