Thoughts from Pete’s Message August 25, 2017

Beauty for Ashes

Perseverance in suffering is one of the themes that God has given us. In Isaiah 61 the prophet says: “THE Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified.”

1 Peter 5:6-8 says: “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time:
Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.”
“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:”

When we write a letter to God and then allow God to answer us back, men often think the letter back from God will be about reproof, chastisement and correction. However, God knows that what we really need is his grace. Men are intimidated about writing down God’s response because they think it will be their own words, not God’s. However, when our loving Heavenly Father deals with his sons, he loves to comfort those who mourn. We suffer pain, disappointment and mourning in this world. Why wouldn’t our Heavenly Father want to comfort us in our mourning? God is a God of grace and mercy…. Love is the very nature of God himself.

When God responds with a letter back to us, we will understand that when we delight ourselves in the Lord, he will give us the desires of our heart. God is a God of grace, mercy and peace. As David said in his prayer of repentance, “blot out my transgressions. Create in me a new heart O Lord.”

God delights in healing the broken hearted….when we come to him with a broken and a contrite heart. He loves to bless us and to heal us. In the midst of loss and mourning, we need to run TO him, not FROM him. As a repentant prodigal son, he will embrace us in his arms.

In Lee Strobel’s testimony “A Case for Christ,” what changed Lee’s mind about Christianity was the change in his wife’s life. He began to understand the meaning of grace. If the good shepherd is pursuing us, we might as well give up and stop resisting him. He’s the “hound of heaven” that will never stop until we give up and give in to him.

In Psalm 51, David approached his Lord with a repentant and changed heart. I Peter 5 continues, “Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.” We’re called within the body of Christ to build up and to lift up one another with the love of God. He has called each of us to abide with him and within him. Collectively we can comfort one another with the love wherewith he has loved us.

In Isaiah 61, God has called his Son Jesus Christ to heal the broken hearted. When we were in the world, we had our hearts set on an expectations that were shattered. He came to “lead captivity captive.” … To set us free from the fears and doubts that captivate our minds. Jesus Christ himself is the message of the Word of God. He is the way the truth and the life. He is the meaning of the Word. When we abide in Christ, he is the one who covers us with his grace, mercy, and peace.

Suzan was an example of grace. She learned grace from her Heavenly Father to hold up the standard of her Lord Jesus Christ. She showered this grace on her husband Pete who needed it every day. She took to heart the verse that says, “wives submit your selves to your husbands.” When Suzan’s dear friend looked through her bible, she had written that verse on a yellow note card from the amplified bible. There were several words in that verse that meant “submit.” She realized that if she were submissive to her husband even though he was “blowing it big-time” then God would bless her for upholding His word.

When we live in the drudgery of life, we need to learn to live out our faith as “oaks of righteousness.” Isaiah 61 continues: he will give us “beauty for ashes.” Pete recently received a call from San Pedro that his wife’s ashes were ready. Pete read this verse about the oil of gladness and beauty for ashes…the garment of praise for heaviness that they may be called oaks of righteousness. This the planting of the Lord that in our suffering, He may be glorified. Our God is a God of grace… His nature is loving kindness and tender mercy. He has given us his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ so that we may be made the righteousness of God in him. Therefore as the song says, “I will arise and go to Jesus. He will embrace me in his arms. In the arms of my dear savior, O there are ten thousand charms.”

May God richly bless you!
Your. Brother in. Christ,

Thoughts from Pete’s Message August 23, 2017

That’s My Boy!

We’re all on a journey. When life throws us a curve, sometimes we struggle to get back to the straight and narrow way. Our challenge is to respond to the curves in life as Jesus would. This means that we must continue to walk in his presence. As Pete remembers his wife Suzan’s ministry, her calling was to remain in the background to support her man of God. Her ministry was to allow her husband to do everything that God called Pete to do. Grace is not giving us what we deserve, but rather giving us what we don’t deserve. Grace is one of the things that Suzan taught by example. Early in their marriage, God told Suzan through a trusted friend, “Even if your husband is making a major bungle, you need to support him. God’s grace will cover to bless your life if you support your husband.” Suzan never forgot these words over their forty nine happy years together as husband and wife.

The Word says, delight thyself in the Lord, and he shall give you the desires of your heart. We cannot trust our own desires of the flesh. To have the right desires, he will direct us in all of his ways. God gives us opportunities every day to do that which he’s called us to do. Therefore trust in the Lord and do good for goodness is the nature of God himself. Dwell in the land to which he’s called you. Wherever God has called us, work the field… Whatsoever thy hand finds to do, do it heartily as unto the Lord and not unto men. He has called us to live in the land of the dying, heading for the land of the living. The hope that we have in this life is the hope of the resurrection in Christ.

God is in control. However, Life in this world will be tempered with tribulation and suffering. Life is a “hard row to hoe.” All of us will die. Mortality is 100%. Given these truths, our challenge and our privilege is to trust in the Lord with all our heart and lean not unto our own understanding. It’s difficult to submit our hearts to his heart. What motivates the average guy is pain. Like the Apostle Paul who prayed three times “Lord remove this thorn from my flesh,” God will finally answer our prayer for deliverance when we arrive at the place of understanding the Word of God when he says, “My strength is made perfect in your weakness, my grace is sufficient for thee.”

Pain, suffering, and tribulation are our friends. They force us to turn to the Lord…thy grace is sufficient for me. When the crisis comes and courage is required, we will be the faithful ones who trust in him. Jesus said, “if you want to be my true disciple, you must deny yourself, take up your cross daily and follow me.” As Suzan taught by example, Joy is not the absence of pain. Rather, Joy is the presence of the Lord.

The devil is prowling about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. His is the deceiver and the accuser. His job is to discourage us. The thief cometh not but for to steal, to kill, and to destroy. The antidote to fear is to trust in the Lord with all thine heart. Jesus Christ came so that we might have life and have it more abundantly. Despite our weakness and failures, we can run toward him despite our sins.

Suzan was always an encourager. Her life personified the verse in Ephesians 4, “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying that it may minister grace unto the hearers.” At Suzan’s memorial service, Chris their son told the story of how he came to his parents with a broken and contrite heart and said with despair, “I’ve gotten a girl pregnant.” His mom’s response was, “We can celebrate a new life. This is a time to rejoice.” This is the way our Heavenly Father embraces us when his prodigal son comes to him with a heart of repentance from sin. “He’s watching and waiting for us to return home. When he sees us from a distance, he runs to embrace us. He says, “That’s my boy! This my son was lost and now is found. Let’s have a feast and celebrate.”

Spending time in the presence of our Lord will make our lives an example of his grace. According to Isaiah 61: 3, The purpose that Jesus came was “unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified.”

We who have been born again have the hope of the resurrection. In Psalm 1, the conclusion is that they shall be called “oaks of righteousness.” “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 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 due season. His leaf also shall not wither and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.”

Our challenge is to be an encourager. Our job is to glorify Christ by walking in fellowship and communion with him. Suzan taught us this by the example of her life. As the psalmist said, “let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable unto Thee, O Lord my strength and my Redeemer.”

May God richly bless you!
Your brother in Christ,

Thoughts from Pete’s Message August 18, 2017

Blessed Through Suffering

Pete has received many encouraging messages since he lost his wife. One message said, “never be afraid of starting something new. Remember that an amateur built the ark but a professional built the Titanic.” Pete recalls a Christmas banquet at the high school where he was principal. The speaker brought a pretty gift wrapped box and presented it to several students and asked, will you accept this gift?” Most wouldn’t take it. God offers us a gift. Many won’t accept the gift because they don’t know and trust the one who’s offering it. Even though the Word says “you’ll be more fruitful,” most men still aren’t motivated to accept the gift. What motivates men is the prospect of losing their wives. When Pete prayed about all of Suzan’s ailments: A brain tumor, atrial fibrillation, dementia, and double vision, God told Pete, “you’re listing your friends.” When he questioned this, God said to Pete, “here’s how you tell who are your friends. When you endure the trial and look back through the ordeal, have you grown in your relationship with Christ?”

All Suzan wanted to do was to make an impact: Blessed is the man who walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly nor standeth in the ways of sinners nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the Lord and in his law doth he meditate day and night. Suzan’s son said that he never woke up and went to get breakfast without seeing the bible on the table that his mom had left open. Suzan’s secret to finishing well was to always rejoice in the Lord. She finished strong because she lived strong in the Lord.

1 Peter Chapter 5 teaches us about suffering and why God allows us to suffer. The apostle Peter wrote by inspiration, “THE elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed:
2Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; 3Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock.
4And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye”“shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.
5Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.
6Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time:
7Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.
8Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:
9Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.
10But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.
11To him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.”

Spiritual leadership has lost a lot of its authority in the United States over the last forty years that Pete has been ministering. Biblical standards aren’t valued like they used to be. In the model of the apostles in the first century church, Peter called himself a fellow elder among the other elders. Peter and Paul ordained elders in the churches that they established as they planted new churches. Peter exhorted his elders because their role as servant leaders was essential to the church according to God’s divine design.

What should a believer look for in a new church? In any Christian endeavor, you’re putting yourself under the leadership, provision, and care of the shepherd of the flock. You need to find out if he has a depth and understanding in the knowledge of his Lord Jesus Christ. When he preaches a message, does he inspire you to follow the Lord? After you take him to lunch, you need to find out if he has a shepherd’s heart. Elders and pastors have a calling and anointing to be overseers of the health of the church. These are the leaders that Peter is addressing. Peter warns them that the quest for power is a downside of church leadership. Leadership in the church is to serve the flock of God with a servant’s heart. “Not as being lord over God’s heritage, but being examples to the flock.” If the church has lost its impact, it’s because the spiritual leadership has failed. As Men of God we have been called to be elders within the church. How much pain does God have to bring to get our attention?

Cancer didn’t kill Suzan. The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord. The trials that we endure are designed for our growing in the faith. We still have work to do for which he’s called us. There’s a balance about grief. There’s a time for getting busy to minister but it won’t cure the aching sadness of profound loss. Our prayer is, “God make me a better man through this trial.”

We serve the flock of God not of duty or compulsion, or dishonest gain but of a heart to serve God’s flock, as an example to the flock. The unfair and unjust things that happen to us are “friends” that teach us humility. They teach us to be submissive to the Lord. They also teach us to be humble to others. Men of God were never “men of distinction.” They were humble, taking the form of a bond servant like Jesus Christ who humbled himself even unto death on the cross. Jesus Christ himself was an example of a “servant leader.” A good shepherd takes care of his sheep. Jesus Christ, the chief shepherd, leadeth me beside the still waters, He restoreth my soul.

God doesn’t grade on the curve. We cannot be proud in our own conceits. Therefore humble yourself under the mighty hand of God and he will exalt you in due time. In Isaiah 41:10 The Lord says “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.”

Casting all your cares upon him for he cares for you. Casting is to throw it onto something else. There is no rest unless we cast all our cares upon him. At the cross of Christ, God allowed his own son to drink the cup of pain, separation, and death. According to Romans 8:32, “He who spared not his own son how shall he not also freely give us all things.” Job never was told the reason for all of the attacks he endured. Job said, “even if he kills me, I’ll trust him.” Job’s wife was distraught and had lost hope. She said, “why don’t you just curse God and die.” Job’s response was, “the Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” God’s grace is sufficient for me.

Pete’s friend Rocky spent five days with Pete after Suzan’s memorial service. That Saturday, they decided to go to the beach to meditate. They took a cue from the men’s retreats to write letters to God and then write what God dictates back in response. Here is what God responded: “I have called Suzan home because she accomplished everything in this life that I had called her to do. Rest assured that she would accomplish more for me by calling her home. I have helped myself to her life as I did my son Jesus Christ. I’ll show you greater things than you’ll ever know as you trust in me. Draw upon the resources of my grace. Heaven rejoices when you go through trials with a singing spirt. My heart is cheered when you endure trials without questioning my motives. My glorious radiance will shine through you and my Grace will be revealed through you.”

The chief shepherd Jesus Christ was given to us so that we can praise and bless him through it all. Casting all your cares upon him for he careth for you.

May God richly bless you!
Your brother in Christ,

Thoughts from Ryan’s Message August 9, 2017

The Cost of Death

Last week’s message was about the grace of death. Death itself is given by God so that we would be enabled to enter into His holy presence clothed in the righteous robes of our Lord Jesus Christ. The closer we get to death, the more precious life is. When we no longer fear death, then we can walk in the newness of life. In order to see the grace of death, we must have evaluated and accepted the cost. Having the right mindset about death is having the right mindset about life. Everyone was born to die. However, we who believe in Christ were born again to live. The prospect of death calls us to the repentance from our sin nature. For he who was without sin became the perfect sin sacrifice for us that we who were dead in trespasses and sins may be made the righteousness of God in him.

When we view life through the prospect of death, we will be able to focus on the things of eternity and not on the temporal things of this world. For now abideth faith, hope and love, but the greatest of these is love. We live in this life because of the faith we have in our Lord Jesus Christ. We have hope for eternal life because of the resurrection… When Jesus Christ conquered death on our behalf. Now and for eternity abides the love of God for this is the nature of God himself.

Hebrews 6 contains some heavily contested verse. Spurgeon once said that the person who doesn’t believe that he’s sick will never take his medicine. Likewise, believers must be convicted of sin before they can repent and turn to the savior from sin. Hebrews 5:12-14 says,

“For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat.
13For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the”“word of righteousness: for he is a babe.
14But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.”

All believers should ask God for discernment and wisdom as we mature in the faith. Discernment according to the Word of God is the antidote to the influences of the world.

Hebrews 6:1-2: “THEREFORE leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, 2Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.”

These verses encourage us to grow up and move away from the foundational doctrines of the faith that we learned when we first believed. We who are maturing in the faith have learned by experience and have partaken of the five things mentioned in these two verses. 3 And this will we do, if God permit. 4 For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, 5 And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come,6 If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.
7 For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God: 8 But that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned.”

Good land that has been turned into bad land shall be burned. This talks about God given resources that were once productive but have become unproductive. The unproductive land will be purged by fire. Some interpret this passage to mean that it’s possible to “lose your salvation” because it says that you can’ t repent again if you’ve “fallen away.” The question in verse 4 is, “Why is it impossible for those who have “fallen away” to renew them again to repentance?” The answer is in the context of Hebrews chapters 6 and 7. It’s impossible to renew them again unto repentance because repentance unto salvation was completed once for all time when we were born again. If we could “sin away” our salvation, then the payment that Jesus Christ made on our behalf would be insufficient for salvation. Since we were gifted with a new spiritual nature when we were born again, we are no longer slaves to the old nature of the flesh…the nature of sin and death. Therefore, in order to view death from God’s perspective, we must count the cost. The cost was the payment that Jesus Christ made on our behalf because we could not afford it. How can we who have been made free from the bondage of sin live any longer thereby? To live for his honor and glory we must “reckon ourselves dead to sin.”

God will protect us from the consequence of sin once we have been born again. According to verse Hebrews 6:9, “But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak.”

Therefore we are sure of better things and we don’t need to worry about “losing our salvation.” When we chose to walk according to the spirit instead of according to the flesh we will be able to walk in fellowship with our Lord Jesus Christ.

There is a parallel passage in Luke about salt. Luke 14:25: And there went great multitudes with him: and he turned, and said unto them, 26If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.
27And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple. 28For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?
29Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, 30Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish.”

33So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.
34Salt is good: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be seasoned?It is neither fit for the land, nor yet for the dunghill; but men cast it out. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.”

What is it that people value? Health, time, things, life in this world? Luke 16:15 says, “And he said unto them, Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God.

We must count the cost according to God’s value system. Is the value worth the price?

According to Philippians 3:10-11: 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.”

When we “die to self” and the things of this world, then we can live for him and the things of eternity. For I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, yet not I but Christ liveth in me and the life that I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.”

May God richly bless you!
Your brother in Christ,

Thoughts from Pete’s Message August 11, 2017

The Lord Gives and The Lord Takes Away. Blessed be the Name of the Lord

When the body of Christ comes together, the assembly is a manifestation of God’s love. Sometimes the assembly is a special occasion. Many of Pete’s best friends were in town this week to attend his wife Suzan’s memorial service. During these times of reflection and grieving we can most acutely hear the comforting voice of our Heavenly Father. While we are grieving, we can tune into his voice of comfort and love. These are the times that we can focus on Ephesians 6:8 knowing that when we do good for others, God will bless us in return. When we’re hurting, we minister best in the midst of pain when we turn our affections on things above, not on the pain and grief of those we’ve lost in this present life.

Pete’s friend Rock Fleming says that Oswald Chambers’ daily devotional in “My Utmost for His Highest” is taken from 2 Kings 2:11-12. “Elijah went up into heaven in a whirlwind and his protege Elisha saw him no more.” We must continue without the “Elijah’s” in our life. We must put to the test what we’ve learned while we were with our Elijah. We must now face the challenges to cross the Jordan Rivers of life without our mentors. When we come to the battles of Jericho in our lives, we must remain true to what we’ve learned while our Elijah was with us. When we come to our wit’s end we must learn to rely on God himself, just as our teacher Elijah did. Elijah has “passed the mantle” to us…We’re his Elisha’s.

Rocky Fleming relates the metaphor about Gabe, a character in his book, who represents the character of God. God will bring the world to the doorstep of a man of Influence. We who have grown up in the Faith have had many “Gabe’s” in our lives. Suzan was “Gabe” for many of the people in our Influencers Band of Brothers. We can also be that Gabe for others when we deliberately and intentionally and purposefully walk in close proximity with our Lord Jesus Christ.

The Lord gives and the Lord takes away, Blessed be the name of the Lord. Our sovereign Lord will work in ways we cannot know this side of heaven. When we lose those we love, the reason for living does not die. The purpose of our life is to accomplish the mission which he’s committed unto us. The apostle Paul when he was leaving the Ephesians, was glad that they were sad to see him go. There are precious times when we get to spend with our loved ones. Suzan always prayed for Pete before he gave a message, “go give ’em heaven.” Her legacy still lives on. The devil did not take her life. It’s appointed for all men to die. Suzan was never afraid of death. She never cried about the pain and suffering or the treatments that she had to endure. Her tears were tears of gratitude about the love of her prayer warriors. She knew personally that God requires extreme service from us with no explanation on his part and no complaining on ours. Pete looks back on the many years of blessing that he was privileged to spend with his beloved wife Suzan.

God taught Pete that when God gives us a precious gift, our blessing is to steward that gift with love and affection. Suzan refused to leave this world until her good friends Sally and Holly came to see her a week ago Monday. She left this world two days later. The precious moments they spent in fellowship together were a gift from God.

Pete didn’t know what he needed in a wife…but God did. When they were newly married, Pete’s friend and mentor said to Suzan, “are you prepared to stay out of the way of what God’s prepared for your husband to do to minister for God?” She always cherished these words as she supported Pete for forty nine years.

Jesus won’t spare us from going through suffering as we walk in close proximity with him. The greatest opportunities we’ll have to glorify God are when we share in the fellowship of his suffering. Through these last six months ministering to Suzan, God has taken Pete through the pain and tribulation of coming to know him more intimately. If God had told Pete that his wife would have a brain tumor and all of the pain and suffering that comes with such a trial, they would not have known the meaning of Jesus’ words, “whoever wants to be my true disciple, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me.” That which can be shaken will be shaken. He will remove anything that comes between our face and his face. His question to us is, “can I trust you with this trial?” When the crisis comes and courage is required, God expects us to be the reliable ones. When Job’s riches, possessions, and family were wiped out, his declaration was “the Lord giveth and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” We cannot know this declaration of faith until we’ve come to know by experience that all things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to his purpose.

If you have a question about why the innocent suffer, you need to go to the cross of Christ. There we will find the answer that thy strength is made perfect in my weakness… Thy grace is sufficient for me.

Suzan was ready to be in the presence of her Lord in eternity. She embraced going through the door of death to experience eternity with her Lord. The gift of life upon this earth is but for a moment. We have been given a this precious gift of life so that like Suzan, we can live for His honor and glory.

May God richly bless you!
Your brother in Christ,

Thoughts from Ryan’s Message August 2, 2017 – Fullerton

Eternal Fire Protection

Luke 9:59-60 says, “And he said unto another, Follow me. But he said, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father.
Jesus said unto him, Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God.”

The question is, “What’s the cost of following Jesus?” Most have not counted the cost. These people are represented by the rocky soil in the parable, where the seed is the word of God and the rocky soil is those who receive the word but they have no depth of fertile ground. Because they had no depth of soil, the seed sprouted but the sprout quickly withered when the sun came up. When the roots are heated and cannot dig deep into the soil for coolness and rest from the sun, then the plant will be scorched and die.

In Hebrews, the only way to enter into God’s rest is by faith and not by sight. If we’re walking by sight, we will never rest. Rest is only in Him. Therefore according to Jeremiah judge righteously, not according to what our eyes see and our ears hear. For that which is seen is temporary, but that which is unseen is eternal. To rest in God sometimes means that we will not be comfortable in the things of this world. Our comfort is in the rest of the Holy Spirit and not in the comfort of the flesh. God warned Israel in Deuteronomy, that when you enter the promised land and gain wealth, don’t think that by your own strength you’ve been blessed. Remember that God has given it to you. Israel was driven from the land of promise because they never allowed the land to rest according to the sabbath rest that God designed. When Israel was led through the desert by the cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night, God sustained them. God prepared the way before them. When Israel strayed from God’s protection, they were outside of God’s mercy, grace, and rest.

Jesus reminded his followers to count the cost. Following him must be the priority in life. Everything else we must “hate” in comparison to loving him and following him. Then our joy will be in the Lord and not on the things of this earth. No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God. Like Lot’s wife who looked back longingly at Sodom and Gomorrah, those who are not committed to seek first God and his Kingdom will suffer destruction and loss.

In Isaiah 25: 7-8, it says that something will be swallowed up and destroyed. “And he will destroy in this mountain the face of the covering cast over all people, and the vail that is spread over all nations.
He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from off all the earth: for the LORD hath spoken it.”

Two things shall be swallowed up. The first is the Vail that separates us from God. This is the shroud that covers up God’s glory. For who can endure the “everlasting glory of God’s consuming fire?” Psalm 24 says, the one that shall live and endure in the presence of God is “he that is righteous and walks in the way of the righteous.” The Vail that separates mankind is the grace and the mercy of God. Without the vail all men would be consumed by the fire of God’s glory.

Death is the second thing that will be swallowed up. Death and destruction is the result of sin. It causes “corruption” in this world. Without the covering of death, we would face the fire of God’s glory without a “vail.” We can either be prepared or unprepared for the fire. We need to change our works from combustible material: wood, hay, and stubble, to incombustible material: gold, silver, and precious stones. Therefore put on the Lord Jesus Christ, our robe of righteousness. Clothed in his righteousness we are protected us from the consuming fire of God’s glory. Death to the old nature of sin and death gives us the opportunity to be clothed in the robes of the righteousness of Christ. The decision to accept Jesus as Lord and savior will allow us into God’s eternity. For the old nature of sin and death was crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live (in the spirit,) yet not I but Christ liveth in me and the life that I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the one who loved me and gave himself for me.

The conclusion of Hebrews 12 says, “Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear:
For our God is a consuming fire.”

The lyric to a great hymn says, “On Christ the solid rock I stand, All other ground is sinking sand… Clothed in His righteousness alone, Faultless to stand before the throne!

May God richly bless you,
Your brother in Christ,

Thoughts from Ryan’s Message August 4, 2017

Where’s Your Treasure?

The bible says in Matthew 6, “lay up for yourself treasures in heaven… for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” To deal with the temporary trials of this world, we must focus on our fellowship with our Lord. Pete’s wife Suzan ended her battle with cancer two days ago. We who have been through this ordeal with Pete and his family have experienced the joy, pain, and grief of finishing well. When we walk with our Lord as men of God, we don’t need to worry about the finish line. We focus our minds on the next step. Life is a journey. According to the New Testament, a “sabbath day’s journey” is the distance we walk in a day. The journey is a moment by moment, a step by step walk with our Lord Jesus Christ.

Isaiah 25:7-8 says that the vail that separates us from God is death. In the Garden of Eden, God said to Adam and Eve, “the day that you eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt surely die.” Death started the concept of time. Without death, there is eternity. Death is the result of sin. Sin and death separates us from God. When Adam sinned, this sin resulted in corruption, decay and death. Jesus Christ came to to redeem us from sin.

Without death we would step into the presence of God without a vail. No one can stand before God who is a consuming and everlasting fire. Those who step into his presence without holiness will be consumed. Combustible materials: wood, hay, and stubble will be consumed. Righteous materials: gold, silver and precious stones will be refined and purified by the fire. To confess means to “agree with reality.” It. Means to “speak the same word.” To speak the truth of the word, we must understand the truth of the Word… We must know and confess our Lord Jesus Christ for he is the way, the truth and the life. The word doesn’t say, “get treasures in heaven.” Instead it says, “lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven.” Acquire that which God says is important. Set your affections on the Lord Jesus Christ and everything else in this life will be covered.

In Luke 9, Jesus said that whoever puts his hand to the plow and turns back is not fit for the kingdom of God. What is your priority? Like Lot’s wife who looked back longingly at Sodom and Gomorrah, we will be destroyed if we cherish the things of this world above the things of heaven.

We mourn when we lose a dear brother or sister in Christ who has passed away. But we grieve not as others who have no hope. According to Hebrews, there is a rest for those who have finished the race. 1 Corinthians 15 says that we believe in the resurrection. In order to live in eternity, we first must die. Death is the entrance into eternity. Death is God’s mechanism whereby believers enter into his presence. Death, where is thy sting, O grave, where is thy victory? At the resurrection, death will be swallowed up in victory. This is the hope of life everlasting: to leave the sin that doth so easily entangle us. Therefore, 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 and is set down upon the right hand of the throne of God.

As the song says, 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,