Thoughts from Pete’s Message July 29, 2017

Extraordinary Times, Extraordinary Men

God takes ordinary men and makes them extraordinary. What separates the ordinary from the extraordinary is the Lord Jesus Christ living in their hearts. An extraordinary man lives with joy and rejoicing through the storms of life. When we lose connection with the “control booth” God will call out to us, “what am I thinking.” To know God’s thoughts, we must know his Word and our priority must be to love the Lord our God with all our heart. In the trials of everyday life we don’t need to wonder “what was God thinking.” When we walk in fellowship, His word is our word and his thoughts are our thoughts… That we may know our Lord Jesus Christ, the fellowship of his suffering, the supreme sacrifice of his death on our behalf, and the power of redemption when God raised him from the dead.

In marriage in order to know our wives, we need to spend time walking with them with intimacy in their presence. Husbands and wives need to take responsibility to love one another with the love of God. God will “gift us with suffering” according to Philippians 3. The gospels and suffering are closely linked. Jesus Christ redeemed mankind through his suffering and death. For he who was without sin became the perfect sin sacrifice on our behalf that we may be made the righteousness of God in him. To know God intimately, we must die to ourselves in order to live for him, take up our cross daily, and follow him. To understand perseverance, God designed for us to endure trials and tribulations.

Psalm 18 is about David’s rejoicing through trials because God’s love endures forever. Trials and tribulations and the pain of this world last but for a moment. Even the worldly kinds of love have a short shelf life. However the love of God endures forever. When our loved ones die, they will teach us the value of life, both in the here and now and in the hereafter. Pete’s wife Suzan reminds Pete, “we’ve had a great life and I’m ready to go.” In Psalm 18 David said, “I called upon the Lord and the Lord answered me and set me in a large place.” The “large place” is where we can see from God’s eternal perspective… where we can meditate upon the trials of life and know how to respond the way that Jesus did. Ordinary guys see from a “small place”…a short-sighted worldly perspective. They cannot see beyond their present affliction while they focus on the immediacy of the pain, distress, anxiety, and fear. However, from the large place of God’s eternal perspective, we can see beyond the cares of this world. John 8:32 says, “ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.” The context of this verse is God’s eternal perspective of salvation. Jesus Christ said that he himself is truth. Truth is forever. Truth is the only way. This verse answers all the questions of life. Jesus Christ is the truth… He is the meaning of life itself.

In the Word of God, there’s good news and bad news. The bad news is that the wages of sin is death and that without Christ all are destined to judgement and death. The good news is that Jesus Christ came to save us from the wages of sin. Because of Christ’s payment for sin on our behalf, as Isaiah said, “though your sins be as scarlet, ye shall be as white as snow.”

Paul said, “I have been made all things to all men so that in all things I may save some. I do all things for the sake of the gospel.” Ordinary is made extraordinary when we think and endure like the apostle Paul who said, “I have suffered all things for the furtherance of the gospel of the good news of Jesus Christ.” Even when we sin, God has given us forgiveness according to his grace and mercy. 1 John 1:9 says, “for if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” When we learn to run back to God for confession and forgiveness, then we can have fellowship with him and keep our old sin nature in check. Then we will live our lives preparing for difficulty, challenges, trials, tribulations and distress. When we are prepared, we will respond through the the storm like Ruth told Naomi: “Your God shall be my God and your people shall be my people.”

According to Suzan’s wishes, Pete, Suzan and their family agreed not to take any extraordinary measures to extend Suzan’s life. When they took her home they started feeding her a diet that “homeopathic experts” said would be good for her. She refused the “herbal remedies” and treatments. When Suzan refused, they decided instead to give her the pecan pie that she wanted. The lesson they learned was “let go and let God.” Let her enjoy these precious remaining days of her life with her family and friends. Suzan is living with gratitude that her life is being sustained and lifted up by the continuous prayers of her prayer warriors. As God’s extraordinary daughter, she continues to teach her family, “joy is not the absence of pain, rather, Joy is the presence of the Lord.”

We’re living through extraordinary times and it will take extraordinary men to demonstrate how great our God is. When the storms and wind and waves and distress of life crash upon us, our house will stand if it is built on the firm rock. Jesus Christ is the rock…the firm foundation upon which we stand. Jesus Christ himself rose to the occasion through the darkest time. He drank to the dregs the cup of suffering, separation, and death. Through this extraordinary time, he rose to the extraordinary challenge… Jesus Christ who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross disposing the shame, and is set down upon the right hand of the throne of God. Therefore walk in the light as he is in the light and we will have fellowship one with another. This is a foretaste of what it will be like in heaven. Paul said, “do all things for the sake of the gospel so that we may share fully in what God has made us in Christ.” He has saved us by his grace. Our challenge is to become extraordinary men in extraordinary times, for we are his workmanship, his great work of art, created in Christ Jesus unto good works that he has prepared in advance that we should walk with him.

May God richly bless you!
Your brother in Christ,
Michael

Thoughts from Dave’s Message July 21, 2017

Perspective, Perseverance, and Admonition

Joy and hurt are both experienced in the Lord. Grace is given through the suffering when we need it. God’s grace is sufficient for me…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. Through the pain of the moment, he will comfort our hearts as we experience the fellowship of his suffering. Walking in close proximity with our Lord requires obedience to his will. Oswald Chambers in his devotional “My Utmost for His Highest asks “What is it that God requires?” God says, “I require extreme service from you with no complaining on your part and no explanation on my part.” Within the will of the Lord, His grace is sufficient through the pain and suffering.

Pete’s friend Dave has been faithfully serving in the Middle East for twenty five years.
Dave works with Muslims in the Middle East to call them to Christ. When they’re converted to Christianity, they are “marked for death.” Baptism in the New Testament times was a symbolism of “death to this world to be raised to life in Christ.” Muslims who are converted to Christianity are taught that your commitment to follow Christ will cost you everything. In the United States, we think we know the cost of following Christ. However, In the Arab world, when former Muslims have given everything to follow Christ, they know by experience the cost of dying to self, taking up their cross daily, and following him.

Dave talks about three things in order to walk faithfully with the Lord: Perspective, Perseverance, and Admonition. These themes are illustrated in Hebrews chapters 11 and 12.

Hebrews 10:32 – 40 says, “But call to remembrance the former days, in which, after ye were illuminated, ye endured a great fight of afflictions; 33. Partly, whilst ye were made a gazingstock both by reproaches and afflictions; and partly, whilst ye became companions of them that were so used.
34. For ye had compassion of me in my bonds, and took joyfully the spoiling of your goods, knowing in yourselves that ye have in heaven a better and an enduring substance.
35. Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompence of reward.
36. For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have”“done the will of God, ye might receive the promise.
37. For yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry.
38. Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.
39. But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.”

These three themes of Perspective, Perseverance, and Admonition continue in Hebrews 12:36 – 40:
36. And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment:
37. They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; 38. (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.
39. And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise:
40. God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.”

Dave has experienced first hand the meaning of perseverance. In Jordan Dave ministered to Iraqi Christian refugees who had fled because they were being pursued and prosecuted by ISIS. He listened to their stories and prayed for them. They said, “Isis came, raped our daughters, demolished our houses, killed our fathers, and insisted that we convert from Christianity to Islam.” None of these Christians denounced their faith under this duress. Dave wept the rest of the day when he heard their stories. You would think that they would be sorrowful for everything they had lost for Christ. However, their stories and their lives were full of the joy of the Lord. They counted it all joy to suffer for the Lord. They counted all things but lost for Christ and joyfully accepted the confiscation of their property knowing that they had a better and everlasting possession and that in persevering they would receive the promise of God.

In the Middle East they anoint each new Christian with oil before baptizing them. They mark them in oil for Jesus forever. Paul said, I bear in my own body, the marks of my Lord Jesus Christ. Sometimes Coptic Christians tattoo their babies with the mark of the cross of Christ shortly after birth.

Hebrews 12:1-3 says, “WHEREFORE seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.”

The great cloud of witnesses is the witness of the believers in Hebrews 11. The cloud of witnesses continues today with the Coptic Christians who have been tortured and beheaded for their faith. The twenty three who were video taped had an opportunity to denounce their Christian Faith, but all 23 held fast to their faith and were martyred for their faithful stand for their Lord.

We run the race with endurance, not to see the results every day but to build a foundation of faith every day. The Journey is the daily walk. If we run the race with endurance we can stand. Consistence is the key to running with endurance the race set before us. In due time ye shall reap if ye faint not. The apostlic faith was inherited through the blood of the martyrs who proceeded us. Perseverance is finishing well, to hear our master say, “well done thou good and faithful servant.”

Millennials often get a “bad rap.” The Admonition is to consider one good thing about this generation: that they will try anything. Sometimes the traditional church has under-challenged them by giving them a watered down seeker sensitive gospel of easy-believism. They need to be challenged to be “all-in.” Many of them risk their lives to accomplish feats of extreme physical accomplishment. Extreme sports are popular with these athletes who are all-in to push themselves beyond previous physical limits. According to the Word, physical training profits us for a short time, but Godly training is profitable for eternity. Our admonition to these Mellinials is, “Where would you be today if you did in the spiritual realm what you’re doing in the natural realm?”

Perspective from God’s point of view shows us the benefit of perseverance and the admonition to push ourselves to be all-in… to commit ourselves to follow him day by day upon the journey of life.

May God richly bless you!
Your brother in Christ,
Michael

Thoughts from Ryan’s Message July 26, 2017

Rescue Mission

Christianity is a rescue mission for desperate men. Hebrews 10:24-25 says, “And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works:
Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.”

Love is the motivation for rescuing. Pastors are sheep like the rest of the flock. Pastors are called to be under-shepherds of the flock as servants of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. The true shepherd Jesus Christ is different from us because he did not inherit the sin nature that we inherited from Adam. When the sheep are together, they have strength in numbers. Therefore, forget not the assembly of yourselves together as the manner of some is. Our encouragement is to stay with the the shepherd’s flock for comfort exhortation, and edification.

The Lord’s exhortation for missionary pastors is “don’t spoil the fruit that I’ve raised up..” The pastor’s calling is to feed the flock of God which is among you. The calling is to meet their needs according to the flock’s own calling and their own culture. They first need salvation before their lives can be changed to God’s honor and glory.

Therefore we must pay much closer attention to the Word that is spoken lest we drift away from it. How shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? Christians do not deliberately turn their backs on the truth that has been revealed to them. They gradually fall away by neglect. Our walk with the Lord must be intentional, deliberate, and purposeful according to his purpose.

Salvation is only through confessing Jesus as Lord and believing that God has raised him from the dead. We are born again not because we never sin, but because we have accepted the savior from sin. If we reject Jesus Christ, Romans 11 says that If God will not spare Israel, the natural branches, neither will he spare you. Christians have been grafted into the natural branch of Israel to whom was given the original covenant of Abraham. When we have been saved, our awareness of our eternal life in Christ will bring us through the suffering of this present world.

Hebrews 4:1-2 says: “Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it. For we also have had the good news proclaimed to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because they did not share the faith of those who obeyed.”

Our ability to endure suffering is according to what we see at the end of this earthly life. This physical life is but for a moment in time. Everything that we see in this world is temporary. 2 Corinthians 4:18 says that the things which are seen are temporal but the things which are unseen are eternal. What is it that you value most? What is it that you treasure? When we see beyond the things of this earth to the spiritual things of eternity, of walking in fellowship with him… of living for his glory and not our own, then nothing we endure can affect our communion with Him. For we have this treasure (this spiritual life) in an earthly vessel that the excellency of the power may be of God and not of ourselves. According to Matthew 6, Therefore lay not up for yourselves treasures upon this earth, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

May God richly bless you!
Your brother in Christ,
Michael

Pete’s Message July 19, 2017

Helpless and In Need of a Shepherd

Last week’s message emphasized that as followers of Christ, God will empower us when we realize that we are helpless and in need of a shepherd. As the Apostle Paul said, “Thy strength is made perfect in my weakness; thy grace is sufficient for me.” Pete and Suzan realized that they were helpless when they met with her neuro-oncologist last Thursday. The oncologist showed them Suzan’s MRI images and pointed out new cancerous tumors forming all over her brain. The doctor showed them that the cause of Suzan’s double vision was two tumors near her optic nerve. She asked Suzan, Pete, and Chris how aggressively they wanted to treat the cancer. Aggressive treatment meant going immediately to surgery to insert a port into Suzan’s brain to inject medications directly into her brain. With this treatment the best case scenario is that her life may be extended a year or two. However there would be no guarantee of any success. Without intervention the oncologist estimates that she may have a month or two to live. The doctor needed a decision whether they would elect aggressive treatment that same day. According to the medical experts, her cancer is terminal. Pete and Suzan prayed with their son Chris at the hospital. Susan had said, “If I’m in a situation where we need to make a decision to pull the plug or extend my life, then don’t do anything heroic to extend my life.” They felt an indescribable peace after they prayed. They elected not to proceed with the aggressive treatment. On Friday, they talked to an expert in Texas on what to do to help comfort her and they also prayed that God would spare her pain.

Pete and Suzan have had some of the best days in their lives recently with their grandchildren and with their extended family. They are in a good and peaceful place in life. Suzan described a vision of a road leading to heaven and she could hear the roar of the celebration in heaven. In her vision, she couldn’t wait to run into the gates of heaven to join in with the celebration. There’s a book entitled “A New Shade of Blue” about the 23rd Psalm. The new way of looking at this psalm is that the Lord is MY shepherd. He is personally comforting us through the trials of this life. As a good shepherd, He leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth the my soul.

Pete and Suzan’s 50th anniversary is in September and according to the doctors, it’s unlikely that they will make it to this anniversary. Before they were married, Suzan saw a change in Pete when he prayed, “Lord I know I’m not the man you want me to be. Lord please make me that man.” She fell in love with the new man that Pete had become when he dedicated his life to Christ. They have spent forty nine happy years together. Pete was a pro baseball player that Susan thought would make it to the big leagues. After his baseball career, Pete accepted a position as principal of a school. Then he was called to minister in Southern California to serve at EV Free Church in Fullerton with Chuck Swindall. His next call was to be the lead pastor of a church in Irvine. Now he has been called to serve with Influencers ministry to men. Pete and Suzan continue to count their blessings. As a pastor, Pete’s priority for the last few months has been to pastor his family as Suzan’s care giver and as an under-shepherd for his extended family and especially for their grandchildren. During this difficult season, they are seeing profound spiritual growth in their entire family.

The theme for this year when Pete prayed was, “How do you describe the average Christian guy?” The descriptive word that came to mind was “casual.” The very next word in the dictionary was “casualty.” Casual Christians become casualties in the spiritual battle. The recent trials have helped Pete understand how to combat being a casual Christian. Trials and tribulations focus our minds on what’s really important. God teaches us to maintain our focus on Him through the greatest trials of life. Are you fear based or faith based? Hebrews 11 is filled with the examples of Old Testament believers who were faith based. God looks past all of our failures and sins and celebrates the grace and faith of the believers…ultimately our faith in what Jesus Christ did on our behalf that we may be made the righteousness of God in Him. God sees men not as they are but as they will be when Jesus Christ takes hold of their hearts. When our prayer becomes, Lord make me the man that you want me to be, God will answer that prayer. When it’s not about us but about him, then God will bless our lives for his own honor and glory.

The helmet of salvation is the one piece of spiritual armor that the elect of God must put on before they can equip themselves with the rest of the spiritual armor listed in Ephesians 6. Salvation through the finished work of Jesus Christ is God’s gracious gift of the Holy Spirit when we confess Jesus Christ as our Lord and savior. According to Psalm 1, the secret to being blessed is to abide in Him: Blessed is the man whose delight is in the law of the Lord and in his law doth he meditate day and night. He shall be like a tree that is planted by the rivers of water. His leaf also shall not wither, and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper. The mission field is not what missionaries do, but rather with whom and in whom they abide. It’s not who we are but rather whose we are.

The rock of Jesus Christ builds character to joyfully respond to the trials of this life. Praising God and worshiping him is a moment by moment choice. The love we have for our Lord Jesus Christ allows us to love our wives now, in this present moment. You cannot prepare to love her when the doctors say, “you only have two weeks left to live.” Only with the love of God can you love her as Christ loved the church and know that she is clothed in dignity and strength and His divine beauty.

While Pete and his family weren’t prepared for the “bad news” of Suzan’s cancer, the only way that it makes sense is to know the suffering that Jesus Christ himself endured on our behalf. The cup of suffering that we must drink is to share in the fellowship of His suffering. When we walk in fellowship with him, he will give us the love that we need so that we can love others with the love wherewith he loved us. Jesus said that to be his true disciple, we must deny ourselves, take up our cross daily, and follow him. He said that when you do this, my yoke is easy and my burden is light. In the midst of the hurricanes of life, with Him, there is peace in the eye of the storm. In the midst of the storm our deliverance is to keep our eyes upon him. Through the storm we’re given the gift of the fellowship of his suffering.

The fruit of the spirt is built through living in proximity with our Lord. According to John 15:4-5 Jesus said, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.
I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.”

When we abide in him he will give us the grace, mercy, strength, compassion and faith to walk in fellowship with him and with those we love in the body of Christ.

May God richly bless you!
Your brother in Christ,
Michael

Thoughts from Pete’s Message July 14, 2017

The Lord Is My Shepherd

Christianity is reality. The words in the Word are reality. Jesus Christ himself is the way, the truth and the life. The Christian journey is filled with uncertainty and we Christians are helpless and in need of a shepherd. However, in Christ, our helplessness is our best prayer. He hears our heart’s desire as soon as we pray with humility with a heart of helplessness. His strength is made perfect in our weakness. David cried out for his shepherd’s help in Psalm 23 and the Lord heard him and delivered him.

Yesterday Pete, Suzan, and their son Chris met with the neuro-oncologist at UCLA to review the results of Suzan’s latest MRI. They looked at the image of the new cancers that were spreading throughout Suzan’s brain. The oncologist said to Pete and Suzan, “how aggressively do you want to treat this. One option is to put a port into her skull and then inject treatments directly into her brain. She won’t feel a thing because there are no pain receptors in her brain. The second path is to do nothing. If we intervene with Chemo and other treatments we may be able to extend her life maybe even a couple or three years.” Suzan had said to Pete and Chris, “if it comes to keeping me alive on life support or “pulling the plug,” don’t do anything heroic to keep me alive.” Pete’s response was, “What about me? I’ll miss you every day.” Suzan’s answer was, “The Lord will comfort you if I’m not there. I’m ready to go and be with my Lord.” Suzan reminded Pete, “we’ve had 49 good years together and our children are walking with the Lord. Your ministry is thriving and lives are being changed as a result of God working with you and through you. If you go down the path of suffering and pain, God said, “I’ll protect you in ways you will never know otherwise.”

God has prepared Pete and his son Chris for the second path. They have had many months to prepare for the pain of potentially losing Suzan. The neuro-oncologist said, “if you do nothing, she may have two months.” The best way to experience the life of faith is to, “let go and let God.” As Jehoshephat said in 2 Chronicles at the end of his long prayer, “We have no battle plan and we don’t know what to do, but Lord we’re in your hands.” The prophet answered Jehoshephat’s prayer and said, “Put the choir on the front lines when you go into the battle. The songs of praise and worship will go before you and the Lord will fight the battle for you.”

Pete and Chris prayed with Suzan for God to give them unity to put Suzan’s future in God’s hands. There was an indescribable peace in the room after the prayer. Two weeks ago when Suzan and Pete heard the results of her MRI showing that her cancer had returned with a vengeance, the Lord answered Pete’s prayer in Psalm 131 with three short verses. “LORD, my heart is not haughty, nor mine eyes lofty: neither do I exercise myself in great matters, or in things too high for me.
Surely I have behaved and quieted myself, as a child that is weaned of his mother: my soul is even as a weaned child.
Let Israel hope in the LORD from henceforth and for ever.”

What Pete heard was, “Pete and Suzan put your hope and trust in the Lord. Pete’s response was, “Our strength is only in you, Lord. We don’t concern our hearts with matters too great, too difficult, and too overwhelming for us to handle. Remind us, “don’t look unto what you’ve lost.” Instead Lord, calm and quiet our heart. Jesus said to his disciples in the midst of the storm, “peace be still.” In the hospital room yesterday, peace came when Pete, Suzan, and Chris put Suzan’s life in the hands of the Lord.

Pete and Suzan’s niece whom they raised as a daughter said to Suzan, “mom, you’ve been the best mother a daughter could ever ask for.” Like a weaned child who no longer cries for her mother’s milk, the Lord weans us away from relying on others whom we love. At that point, we find our way to the place where we lean only on Him.

The problem with most of us is that we have no clear picture of the God whom we long to worship. Our heart’s desire is that we may come to know him. Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice and they know me and they follow me and I give unto them eternal life. Neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.” David paints a picture in Psalm 23 of his longing to know the Lord. As a shepherd himself, David penned these words that we can all relate to: “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.” The shepherd led his sheep. He did not drive them. When we wonder away, the shepherd will brake our legs and then carry us as a little lamb around his shoulders until we heal. When God uses pain to break our hearts, when he heals our broken heart, we as sheep will not leave our shepherd’s side. The ultimate lesson in this life is “all I need is thee.” We can be thankful and praise him as he leads us from the turbulence of this life to the quiet waters and into the path of righteousness for his name’s sake.

While we grieve at the suffering and the mortality of those we love, we grieve not as others who have no hope. As God said to Paul, “my strength is made perfect in thy weakness, my grace is sufficient for thee.” Psalm 23 concludes, “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… Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

May God richly bless you!
Your brother in Christ,
Michael

Thoughts from Pete’s Message July 7, 2017

Running With Patience

Pete’s son Chris is visiting from Scotland where he pastors a church. He’s also a fitness trainer there. Chris has followed in his father’s footsteps and ministers to a unique congregation at a church known as Mosaic. A mosaic uses scraps: rejected and broken pieces, to produce a work of art. Chris’ congregation in Scotland is a mosaic of people from his community. They minister to everyone from world renowned physics professors to homeless people. This is a place that is intentionally designed to minister to “asylum seekers” from all walks of life. They cater especially to refugees from other countries. One refugee came to their church and said, “I want to get involved.” He did not profess to be a Christian but has become “infected” over the last few months. He will be baptized in the faith when Chris returns back to Scotland.

Chris came back to the States with his wife and two daughters to spend time with his mom Suzan who’s battling cancer. Part of Chris’ ministry is helping his own daughters through this ordeal. Suzan is her grand daughters’ heroine and they are sharing in the joys and the griefs of this ordeal.

When we experience the pain of this world, we don’t quite understand the plan for us that our Heavenly Father is orchestrating behind the scenes. Yesterday was such a day. They received a report from Suzan’s neuro-ophthalmologist with the results of her latest MRI and spinal tap. The doctor put the images on the monitor and showed Pete and Suzan that the cancer has come back with a vengeance. Although previous tests showed no new cancers, these new tests reveal new tumors beginning to grow “everywhere” in her brain. They have a follow up with another neuro ophthalmologist next week to discuss treatment plans.

When God called Adam and Eve after the fall of man, God told them that there would be pain and suffering in the fallen world. However, there is a promise of life in the suffering. Unless a seed falls to the ground and dies, it cannot rise up from the ground and bear fruit. Even in our fallen state, the hope of life after we die is that we will be raised again in righteousness, goodness, and true holiness. To navigate this life, we must view this life from God’s eternal perspective. According to Ephesians, from God’s eternal vantage point, we’re already seated in heavenly places in Christ. From our finite earthly perspective we cannot know what God has in mind from his eternal perspective. Two thousand years ago Jesus Christ stepped into history for one purpose: your redemption and mine. There are bigger things going on in heaven than the temporal fleeting things of this world. Although the things of this world overwhelm us, we need to be prepared for good news or bad news from the world’s perspective. These things knock us off balance for a season. However, with a Christ centered eternal perspective we will overcome the temporary setbacks of the news of this world. We need to prepare our hearts to focus on God’s eternal perspective: To spend time in his Word…to journal what God is teaching us day by day…to be instant in prayer in season and out of season…to live to walk in fellowship with our Heavenly Father, his son Christ Jesus and one with another in the household of Faith.

God says I will never leave you nor forsake you. He says that everything works together for good to those who love God and are called according to his purpose. We look forward to God’s judgement of our faith where we trust in him to take us through the trials of this life. We can finish strong in the Lord or we can go out bitter and resentful. Our challenge is to remain faithful and look forward to our Master’s encouraging words, “Well done thou good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in the temporary things of this world, enter now into the Joy of the Lord.”

Hebrews 12:1-3 says, “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,
Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.”

This passage was written after the great “hall of faith” chapter in Hebrews 11. The great cloud of witness was the testimony of Old Testament believers who put their faith and trust in Him. Life is hard because of the sin nature that encumbers us…that says “I’m the center of my own life.” In order to run faithfully the race that is set before us, we need to look to the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. We run together with those in hot pursuit of our Lord Jesus… We live to choke the dust of those whose heart’s desire is to run focused on the prize of the upward calling; their eyes fixed upon the prize. He’s the one who conquered the grave and finished the race before us. He for the Joy set before him endured the cross, finished the race and is set down upon the right hand of God. Although life is filled with disappointments and heartbreak, Jesus Christ endured for the joy of your redemption and mine. The ultimate goal is our eternal fellowship with Him. 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.

As Paul said, for me to live is Christ and to die is gain. We look toward the upward calling of God in Christ Jesus. We’re here to fix our eyes upon Jesus so we’ll get to the finish line together. We draw strength from each other and from our brother our Lord Jesus Christ who blazed the trail before us.

May God richly bless you!
Your brother in Christ,
Michael

Thoughts from Pete’s Message June 30, 2017

Blessed to Be a Blessing

The call to worship for Israel in Deuteronomy says, “the Lord your God is one Lord. Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all they heart, with all thy soul, and with all thy might.” As we move ahead as Christians upon our Christian Journey, we encourage each other to look ahead. We cannot rest upon our laurels. When we record our failures, we remember that these are the stepping stones to success. When we miss the mark we can triangulate toward the mark of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Our mission is to create an environment where men can be encouraged in their faith… Where our prayer is “Lord come help yourself to our lives.” Not looking back to that which is behind, but pressing forward on path that God has prepared for us to walk. In this life, mortality is 100%. Between now and then we are encouraged to make our lives count for Christ. The beauty of walking with the Lord is that morning by morning new mercies I see. God’s gracious goodness is new each day. Each new day is a clean slate to walk in fellowship with him. Our sins are not held against us, 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.

Our adversary the devil us up to his old tricks. We are still in the midst of the spiritual battle that has raged since the fall of man. Secular leaders influenced by the “God of this world” continue to lead in the wrong direction. The right direction can only be viewed through the eyes of our Lord Jesus Christ, for he said, I am the way the truth and the life. It’s not what we stand against that matters, rather, it’s what we stand for. Therefore stand fast in the Liberty wherewith Christ has made us free and be not entangled again in the yoke of bondage.

Jesus himself was “narrow minded” when he said, “I am the only way.” Today Christians are attacked for being narrow minded. They are ridiculed and ostracized from political correctness because Christians follow the truth of the Word of God and not the word of man. Holiness or sanctification means to be set apart for the purpose intended by the Creator. We are called to be discriminating and to set ourselves apart for God’s purpose. God’s still in charge whether or not the “Priests of secular humanism” the prevailing religion of our land acknowledge his sovereignty. This is no different than when the prophet Ezekiel reproved Israel in Ezekiel 25: 26, “Her priests have violated my law, and have profaned mine holy things: they have put no difference between the holy and profane, neither have they shewed difference between the unclean and the clean…” Sanctification starts with discrimination: understanding the difference between the righteous standard of the Word of God and the world’s standard where “everyone did right in his own eyes.” In this world we will be tested every day. Life is a series of choices. As Joshua said, “choose ye this day whom ye shall serve. As for me and my house we will serve the Lord”

A man of God is Christ-centered. We need to understand who we are, but more importantly, WHOSE we are. In life’s decisions, the question is “what’s the cost and what’s the benefit.” Ultimately decisions are not about the cost but rather about the value. What is it that you value? The Lord says, “seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these other things will be added unto you.” How do we seek the Blessor instead of the blessing? We seek the Blessor by blessing others. The love of God is made perfect when we give it away. This is the example of Jesus Christ himself. Jesus prayed to his Father in the garden of Gethsemane, “If there be any way, let this cup of suffering, separation, and death pass from me.” He was praying about the injustice of the sins of the World and separation from his Heavenly Father by death. God’s answer is that Jesus would have to drink the cup. It’s through suffering and pain and death that Jesus paid the price for sin on our behalf. Jesus Christ for the joy (of our salvation) that was set before him endured the cross and is set down at the right hand of God. The heart of the gospel is that 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.

God makes good on his promises. He will make it good on his timetable and not ours. He will clean the slate and give us grace and mercy for our redemption according to the truth of his Word. The love of God gives unconditionally. When we pray for our enemies, we reflect the nature of God himself. For in that while we ourselves were yet sinners, Christ died for the ungodly.

God has set us in the body of Christ so that we can live to be a blessing. We need to be thankful for the opportunities to give and bless others unconditionally. Our attitude of gratitude is based on his sacrifice for sin on our behalf. We love him because he first loved us. When we come to know our Lord Jesus Christ, we can love others on his behalf. The narrow way is living in the land of blessing as we live to bless God by blessing those to whom he has called us to minister. We give and love unconditionally when we live to edify, comfort and encourage others according to the Word of God.

Therefore, the Lord thy God is one Lord. Thou shall love the Lord with all thy heart, with all thy mind and with all thy strength. Honoring the first commandment is “thou shalt have no other God between your face and my face.” When we walk in fellowship with him, the gates of Hell shall not prevail against the true church and the truth of the Word of God. The sacrifice of Jesus Christ made this available. 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 faith in the one who loved me and gave himself for me. Therefore may our prayer be, “Lord come help yourself to my life…take my life and let it be consecrated Lord to Thee.”

May God richly bless you!
Your brother in Christ,
Michael

Thoughts from Ryan’s Message June 28, 2018

Why Suffer?

In Philippians 3:8-11 the Apostle Paul wrote, “Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:
That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.”

Paul wrote these words by inspiration and revelation from a prison cell. He was speaking both literally and figuratively when he said “I have lost all things for the excellency of the knowledge of Jesus Christ my Lord.” Our question for today is, “am I living for this life or the next?” Paul had his priorities in order and understood about the primary importance of our resurrection from the dead. This topic is the theme of 1 Corinthians 15. The judgement in Romans 14:10 is about the judgement seat of rewards for Christians… those who have been born again of God’s spirt. When we leave this earthly life, the next thing we know is that we are ushered into the presence of the Lord. Our bodies will be changed in an instant at the return of Jesus Christ.

The common English word “martyr” is translated directly from the Greek word “martys.” However, this word is normally translated “witness” in the King James version of the bible. The biblical meaning of the word “martyr” isn’t “one who dies for his cause.” According to the bible, the witness, or martyr, has died to self in order to live as a witness… as a living testimony for Christ. 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 in the flesh I live by the faith of Jesus Christ who loved me and gave himself for me. If we’re not living in Christ and for Christ, it’s impossible to be a witness… To be martyrs giving up our lives in service to him. To understand what it means to “take up thy cross and follow him” means to know what it means to be a “disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ” and a “witness of his resurrection.”

What does it mean to be a “living sacrifice” in Romans 12:1? It means that we give our lives gladly in service to our Lord. It means, “take my life and let it be consecrated Lord to Thee.” If he’s Lord, then “thy wish is my command.” We live to do according to the “good pleasure of His will” when we delight ourselves in the Lord. Giving in service to our Lord becomes a pleasure and a privilege and not a duty or obligation. With this attitude of awe and gratitude we can have the boldness and audacity to follow in our Lord’s footsteps.

David in the Old Testament had boldness to follow his Lord God Jehovah. David was “a man after God’s own heart” and ran to the battle lines according to the will of his Commander in Chief. He did not hesitate to follow his Lord. He was not concerned about “suffering” for his cause. David knew that the battle belonged to the Lord. When he confronted Goliath, David’s battle cry was, “Who art thou to defy the armies of the Living God?” He rejoiced at the opportunity to gladly run to the battle in service to his Lord.

“Suffering” according to the Word of God is a positive rather than a negative term. Jesus himself was “made perfect through suffering.” Through the fellowship of his suffering we are also made perfect according to the will of God. Romans 5 says that we glory in tribulation also. For tribulation worketh patience, and patience experience, and experience hope, and hope maketh not ashamed because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given to us. James says that when trials that produce patience have their perfect work, we will be perfect and complete, wanting nothing. We have been called as Christ’s “witnesses” that we may know by experience the fellowship of his suffering… that we may know that the Lord our God is our SOUL provider and our SOLE provider. God is the source of our sufficiency and not the things of earth. Suffering is our greatest opportunity in life to advance God’s kingdom, to become strong in the faith, and to show the world the greatness of our God. Through suffering we can rejoice like Paul did when God revealed to him, “My strength is made perfect in your weakness, My grace is sufficient for thee.”

Through suffering we learn to “seek the “Blessor” and not the blessing. Psalm 136 repeats the theme: “the Lord is good and his mercy endures forever.” The blessing is not in the things of this world but rather in walking in fellowship with Him. When we turn our eyes upon Jesus we can rejoice in him 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,
Michael