The Ultimate Intervention

While teaching his disciples, on one occasion, Jesus told them the reason for His teaching was so they would have peace.  He then immediately warned His disciples about the tribulation they were going to experience as they walked with Him in this world.  It seems clear that although God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit could prevent all evil from ever occurring on this planet they have had no intention of intervening in this way until the culmination of the ages.  We would do good to remember the Godhead created this world in perfect harmony with complete freedom from any type of tribulation.  Humanity alone bears the responsibility of allowing the destructive forces of sin to corrupt God’s creation in all of its perfection.  God’s ultimate intervention was in sending His only begotten Son to break the power of sin and offer everyone the opportunity to be delivered and made completely new.
Jesus instructed his disciples to be courageous because He had overcome the world. (John 16:33)  His teaching seems to indicate that one can experience peace even while dealing with the daily trails of a world filled with tribulation.  Peace is what everyone is searching for even if they do not recognize it yet.  Learning how to walk in peace should be the goal of every Christian.  This is why we talk about the importance of having and maintaining a daily walk with Jesus.  The daily walk is where the renewal of our mind, soul and spirit occurs.  The daily walk is where courage rises up.  Peace keeps us in a place where we can calmly respond to situations , but courage allows us to act with Godly power so we can move forward to our next stage of growth.
King David understood that life was filled with dark valleys.  He had been through many dark times himself, and battled with the dark forces that hide in the shadows seeking death and destruction.  King David had to deal with the same evils we all face in this life, but He was not afraid of evil.  He knew that the One who was with Him was greater than any evil he would face.
The knowledge that God is close beside us is strengthened through our time spent walking with God.  Our daily walk with God lends itself to the hearing of His still small voice.  Walking with God leads us to divine encounters where we have opportunities to meet the needs of others and receive ministry ourselves.  The truths from scripture that bring peace beyond our understanding, and produce courage to stand in the midst of spiritual conflict are revealed and amplified as we walk with God each day.  We are never alone for God is always with us, inside us and around us on every side.  Cultivating a deeper walk with God is a daily process that will produce untold blessings and benefits extending way beyond all we can ask of think.
Pastor Jonathan

Follow the Path of the Lord – Not the World

We live in a world that is littered with injustices.  Injustices such as human trafficking, slavery, and the systematic annihilation of people groups, have pledged our world for centuries.  Many of these injustices are still ongoing today in countries around the world, and they are compounded by corrupt individuals in governments who take advantage of those they are supposed to protect and serve.  The lust for power, prestige, position and prosperity are just some of the evil forces that have consumed leaders as they have taken advantage of others in order to achieve their goals.

 Americans have a history that is riddled with injustices.  Not only did our ancestors oppress and look down upon different people groups as inferior, but we were guilty of teaching, promoting and standing by while these injustices were carried out.  Even today oppression continues to be propagated by certain hate groups, racism remains a divisive within our culture, and all the power players use race issues to stir up strife, and create divisions all in an effort to achieve their own self-serving agendas.

 Peaceful protests against injustice and racism along with rioting and violence have been taking place all across our nation.  Some believe a difference is being made while others believe the violence and rioting are making things worst.  One thing is certain, it is time for hatred in all of it ugly forms to come to an end, but how can this happen?

 We need to consider how our own actions can make a difference.  Calling, writing letters and emailing our elected representatives can help.  Getting involved in helps ministries and organizations that provide help to people in need are other ways we can be the solution. There are so many positive ways we can make a difference, but we should resist becoming entangled in envy and self-seeking, for where these exist confusion and every evil arise. (James 3:16) The most effective way is to follow the path where our Lord guides.  Pray for our leaders and all who hold positions of authority that they would act on our behalf to bring about justice for all.  Intercede for those who have been mistreated and minister to their needs and above all walk in love.

Proverbs 14:12 states, “There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.”  Holy wars were fought in God’s name, but did not honor His name. Riots and violence may seem like the only way to get results, but only produce destruction and chaos.

David said, “He guides me in paths of righteousness for His name sake.”  The New Living translation says, “He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name.”  Righteousness in this verse means right or just. We need to start asking the question again, “What would Jesus do?” He would proclaim the good news so the hearts of sinful humanity could be changed.  He would guide us in service of others and have us teach them in Christ Jesus that there is no longer any slave or free, male or female for we are all one. (Galatians 3:28) Hatred can be forgiven and overcome by the good news of Jesus’ love.

 

Pastor Jonathan

Renew Your Strength

We are only human, and as such we need renewal and strengthening several times a day.  Many of us were raised to believe we were to eat three square meals a day, but today we are taught to make sure we have healthy snacks in between meals and that ultimately six smaller meals per day may be a healthier choice.  This is almost without mentioning the fact that we need to drink half of our weight in ounces of water per day to stay hydrated properly (about eight glasses).  If we need all of these healthy nutritious meals and clean drinking water each day to keep our bodies at optimum performance how are we getting by spiritually on a morning devotional?
David understood that God not only provided physical strength but strength for the soul. Today we describe the outer operations of the soul in terms of our mind, will and emotions, but David most likely was referring the heart of who we are in relationship to God which is our spiritual connection.  When God breathed life into man and woman they became living beings.  The breath of God in the human body brought forth the human spirit.  The Spirit combined with the human body produced the soul.  It may be important to understand their differences in certain circumstances, but we should always keep in mind the soul and spirit are interconnected.
2 Corinthians 4:16 states, “Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.”  The human body is truly remarkable in its ability to heal and sustain a high quality of life.  We do not always treat our bodies with the respect they deserve, especially when we are young, but as we age we come to realize how fragile the body really is as aches, pains and procedures begin to interfere with the quality of life.  Our encouragement should come from the good news that our inner man (our spirit) is being renewed day by day.  The human spirit has its creation in the breath of God and therefore owes its daily renewal to the fact that it is always in some way receiving strength from God.  Even those who have no respect for God and think of Him only as a crutch need to understand what life they have flows from their connection to their Creator.
Proverbs 4:23 states, “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.”  Solomon most likely learned this proverb from his father King David.  David understood there is only One who can restore the soul.  Even though the inner core of every human is renewed daily by the power of God, we need the springs of life to be released throughout the day every day of the week.   Those who call on God in faith have had the springs of life erupt into joy unspeakable and full of glory.  We need to draw daily from the well that never will run dry. 
The apostle John wrote, “Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers.” (3 John 1:2)  We may want to ask the question at this point, “How does the soul prosper?”  The soul being connected to the human spirit receives it prosperity from God.  Our mind needs renewal (Romans12:1-2), our will needs to be submitted to the will of God, and emotionally we are to follow the Spirit bearing such fruit as patience, kindness, and gentleness.  John seemed to be suggesting that we should expect to prosper in all areas of life including our health by staying connected to our source of all power.  We need to keep ourselves in close proximity to God at all times. If we need eight glasses of water per day for the human body, then we definitely need to draw from God’s “river of life” at least that many times per day.  May we continually follow the direction of Ephesians 4:23-24 which states, “Be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.”

 

Pastor Jonathan

Do Not Be Afraid

When I am afraid, I will put my trust in You. Psalm 56:3

 Throughout both the Old and New Testaments we find the phrase, “Do not be afraid.”  These words have been declared to the people of God by God Himself, by His prophets of old, the apostles of Jesus and the angelic beings.  God has issued this warning to us because He knows us better than we know ourselves.  Fear is a normal human reaction.  It is especially normal when we are surprised, caught off guard or we experience something new, different or filled of uncertainty.  Being afraid is not wrong, but God certainly does not want us to live in fear.

“We walk by faith not by sight.” 2 Corinthians 5:7  Sight has to do with everything we see happening in the world around us, but this kind of sight has more do with our perception of things.  Our perception involves all of our senses.  We may see a fire, but we can also smell it, feel its heat, hear it burning, and even taste it in the air we breathe.  With all the uncertainty of this pandemic our senses are in danger of experiencing overload with negativity and fear that fills the daily news outlets.

 What we need is a reboot.  You may notice from time to time your phone or computer starts acting sluggish.  We think our device is tearing up, but most of the time we simply need to turn it off and back on again.  What we really need is to periodically turn off what is coming at us from the world and turn on our faith toward God.  When we are afraid we need to put our trust in God.
“Do not be afraid” is how most angelic visitations begin in the scriptures.  Many believe their messages began this way so the recipients would not be afraid of them. I believe their true intention was to communicate to the recipients that there was no reason to be afraid of their circumstances because God had a word of encouragement to bring.

Remember, every time we find ourselves afraid it is time to stir up our faith.  We stir our faith by recalling, confessing and walking upon the promises of God.   We walk by faith when we put our trust in God and His word.  Faith means looking to God and what God has to say about every situation.  Faith is the evidence of what we cannot see.  (Hebrews 11:1)  God’s word is the evidence that changes our outlook on life.  When we put our trust in God fear leaves.  It melts away and loses its power to affect our lives any further.  If we will go to the word every time we are afraid, then Satan will give up on his schemes really quick.  “Resist the devil and He will flee from you.”  James 4:7  So, turn off the world’s opinion, and turn on God’s wisdom found in His faith building, life-giving, living and powerful word. (Hebrews 4:12)

 Pastor Jonathan
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A Shepherd’s Work

King David was the author of Psalm 23. This Psalm is one of the most beloved chapters in all of scripture. It is believed David wrote this Psalm during his reign as King of Israel while reflecting on his former calling.  David, having started out as a shepherd in his youth, could easily picture God in the role of a shepherd caring for His sheep.  David was only one of many who was led to describe God as a shepherd, but his description is the most endearing and well known of all.
 King Solomon referred to God as a Shepherd in Ecclesiastes 12:11.  Isaiah 40:11 tells us that the Lord will feed His flock like a shepherd and He will gather the lambs in His arms.   The prophet Micah invited the LORD to Shepherd His people with His staff…as in days of old. (Micah 7:14)  Zechariah 13:7 speaks of the Messiah as the Shepherd that will be struck, and the sheep scattered.  This reference from the prophet Zechariah was also found in Matthew 26:31.  Hebrews 13:20 refers of Jesus as that great Shepherd of the sheep. 1 Peter 2:25 calls Jesus the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls while 1 Peter 5:4 calls Jesus the Chief Shepherd.
 A shepherd’s work was considered the lowest of all work a man could do.  This was true in all of Israel and in many other ancient societies.  If a family needed a shepherd, it was always the youngest son, like David, who got this unpleasant assignment.  For David to assign this lowly position unto the Lord God Almighty indicates that David’s understanding of God as a shepherd was a divine revelation.
 Jesus would eventually reveal Himself as a shepherd in the words of John 10:11 “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.” Then again in John 10:14 “I am the good shepherd, I know My own and My own know Me.”
We should take great comfort in knowing our Lord has chosen the lowly position of Shepherd of His sheep because of His great love for us.  David said, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.”  We get distracted at times and find ourselves into dangerous situations, but we are safe in the arms of our shepherd.  David killed the lion and the bear to protect his sheep and God is our protector from all danger.  Our shepherd is everything we need.   What could we possibly want for, when we have Jesus?
Pastor Jonathan
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We are Winners!

Ephesians 6:12 states, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.”

The 24 hour news cycle would have us constantly believing they have discovered the individuals, companies, political parties, and/or special interest groups that are responsible for all the evils that threaten to destroy our way of life.  We, all too often, look to blame someone for perceived injustice, but the truth is our warfare has never been with people.  The reality is that our warfare is with the spiritual powers, principalities and dark forces that orchestrate schemes and plots behind the scenes.  These spiritual forces most certainly attempt to influence and manipulate individuals, groups, companies, courts and/or events in order to carry out their evil agendas.

When we look at the passion of the Christ there are so many bad actors we want to blame for the death of Jesus.  Judas is the first that comes to mind, but the Chief Priest and Jewish leaders who wanted His crucifixion are the ones who hired Judas to betray Jesus.  Pilate could have set Jesus free, so we want to place some of the blame with Pilate.  What about the people who only days before were singing the praises of Jesus yet were so easily swayed to cry out, “Crucify Him, Crucify Him.”

Imagine for a moment what we might have witnessed if we could have seen into the spirit realm during the passion of the Christ.  We would have become acutely aware that the spiritual forces of wickedness had been plotting and scheming years in advance in order to reach this moment in their scheme to kill the Son of God. We would have been able to see and understand how they had successfully manipulated all the right individuals, groups and governing authorities to get to this place.

Once Jesus was hanging on the cross and His death was looking like a certain reality I can only imagine the victory party that was ramping up and beginning to reach a fever pitch around the cross.  The evil one, who had already tried to overthrow heaven and failed, thought he was about to win his greatest victory of all time.  At that moment Jesus cried out, “It is finished!” and then yielded up His spirit and breathed His last.

If the rulers of this age had understood the wisdom of God they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. (1 Corinthians 2:8)  Satan thought he had won the victory, but in reality he was about to suffer a defeat so devastating he would never recover from it for all eternity.

Matthew’s account of resurrection morning began with an earthquake.  The Roman guards stationed at the entrance of the tomb were certainly startled by the quaking ground underneath their feet.  Suddenly, the guards witnessed an angel dressed in brilliant white who rolled the stone away.  They melted with fear as they witnessed the angel taking its seat upon the stone.  The angel seated upon the stone signified a powerful reality.  There was no longer  any need to stand to attention for all enemies had been defeated, and the victory had been won.  The spiritual warfare was over almost as fast as it had begun.  Jesus was alive again!  Death could hold Him no longer!  He had risen from the tomb to rule victoriously forevermore.

It is important that we realize the victory Jesus won has become our victory.  Paul encouraged Timothy to fight the good fight of faith. (1 Timothy 6:12)  Ours is a good fight because Jesus won the victory.  Jesus won and therefore we win.  I John 5:4 states, “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world, our faith.”  We are more than prepared through Jesus to take our stand against the spiritual forces of this present darkness.

 

 

Pastor Jonathan

A Glorious Day

The crucifixion of Jesus began immediately after His arrest. Peter had not even spoken his third denial of Jesus before the Chief Priest and the Council, having become irate with Jesus, had begun to spit upon Jesus, beat Him with their fist and slap Him with their hands.  The Chief Priest, quickly had Jesus bound and brought before Pilate.  Pilate, finding no fault in Jesus, gave the Jews an opportunity to have Jesus released, but the Chief Priest asked for Barabbas to be released instead of Jesus.

John’s gospel reveals that at this point Pilate proceeded to have Jesus scourged.  Roman soldiers stripped Him and put a scarlet robe on Him. They twisted a crown of thrones and put it on His head.  They mocked Him saying, “Hail, King of the Jews.”  They spat on Him and beat Him with a reed.

Pilate finally moved to sit upon the judgement seat and presented Jesus before the Jews. Jesus would have been a bloody mess at this point.  Pilate announced to the Jews, “Behold, your king!”  The people, persuaded by the Chief Priest, cried out, “Away with Him, away with Him, crucify Him!”Pilate replied, “Shall I crucify your King?”  The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.” John 19:1-15 

Pilate handed Jesus over to be crucified.  Once they were upon Golgotha’s hill they nailed Jesus to the cross driving spikes in His hands and feet.  The soldiers gambled for His garments before the cross. The crowd mocked Him calling for Jesus to deliver Himself from the cross.  After Jesus endured all the pain, the ridicule, and the suffering Matthew’s Gospel records how from the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness fell across the land.  Then, Jesus cried out with a loud voice and yielded up His spirit. It was at that moment the earth began to quake and the veil of the temple was torn in two pieces from top to bottom.  Herod’s temple was 40 cubits high. Although no one knows the exact measurement of a cubit it is believed that the veil separating the Holy of Holies from the rest of the temple was approximately 60 feet tall.  The veil was a seamlessly woven curtain four inches thick according to Jewish tradition.

The Holy of Holies had been the place where God’s presence dwelt over the mercy seat.  The High priest was the only person who could enter the Holy of Holies.  He could enter only once per year, and only for the purpose of making atonement for the sins of the people.  God’s presence had been reserved for a chosen few, but by tearing the veil in two pieces God emphatically demonstrated that, “The Way” had been opened by the blood of Jesus for all who believe to enter God’s presence.  The blood of Jesus has made it possible for us to draw near with boldness to the throne of grace, so we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:16

Pastor Jonathan

 

A Call to Arms!

This week’s message is by our pastor’s wife and guest blogger Jeanni Watson.

I guess you’ve heard it said, “my truth and your truth may or may not be the same”, and “what’s truth to you is not necessarily truth to me”, but in fact, we as Christians do possess the infallible truth. Ravi Zacharias, in his devotional based on his book, “The Logic of God” stated, “Scriptures are meaningful and personal because they are true, and not true just because we can wrest them to advantage or manipulate them into personal meaning. Meaning and application can be prostituted at the altar of self- gratification, but truth will stand in history when all human dissenters have said their last.”

How each individual interprets the truth should be by rightly dividing scripture with the help of the Holy Spirit.  We should always pray for revelation and check application by comparing scripture to scripture.  Unfortunately, there will be challenges to our faith if we don’t hold fast to the truth and teachings of the Word.  Paul warned Timothy, “But the Holy Spirit distinctly and expressly declares that in latter times some will turn away from the faith, giving attention to deluding and seducing spirits and doctrines that demons teach.” 1 Timothy 4:1

God has given us the Holy Spirit to help guide us in all the truth. So many times in our “self help society”, we are confronted with many falsehoods that sound good and appear as wisdom.  If I remember correctly, while attending Seminary, Jonathan was given a poor grade from a Professor just because he would not compromise the truth. I believe our society in which we live is becoming more and more secularized. There is an enemy who appears as an angel of light, who wants to bring confusion to our hearts and minds.  John 10:10 states, “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy…”  It’s alarming, but we can make a difference with prayer.  We need take up arms by praying, not only for ourselves, but for our youth and for the future of the church.

 

Where is Your Confidence

“Blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence.” Jeremiah 17:7 NLT

Learn to Trust God First

My wife Jeanni wrote a beautiful little praise chorus years ago before we started dating.  I remember the first time I heard her sing it. My heart melted.  Her beautiful chorus asked two pointed questions.  “How can I give to Jesus the way He gives to me? How can I give to Jesus when the greatest gift is He?”

I remember feelings of conviction as I thought about how much God had done to show me His great love.  God gave His Son for us. Jesus gave His life for us.  Jesus then gave us His life, His Spirit, His gifts, His blessings, our eternal inheritance and so much more.  We could never begin to out-give God and we are not supposed to be able to out-give Him. What we can and should do is respond to God by placing our trust in Him.

Trust is something that must grow in a relationship.  Trust deepens, it matures and as a result change occurs.  Jeremiah believed those who trust in the Lord made Him their hope.  When two people fall in love the trust that is built between them grows to the point that it allows them to entrust their futures to each other.  Jeremiah had apparently come to this same place in his relationship with the Lord. He had made the Lord his hope, but he did not stop there.  He also made the Lord his confidence.

Let Your Confidence Grow

So many people struggle with confidence.  Many feel they do not have anything to give.  We as a society spend millions upon millions of dollars per year trying to build our confidence.  Many people think, “If I could lose some weight”, “If I had a better job”, or “If I was a little smarter, then I would feel better about myself.”  Our efforts usually create very little lasting change in our overall confidence.

When our trust is in the Lord our confidence in Him grows.  Next, our own confidence begins to change, and soon we can begin to make Jesus our confidence.  With Jesus as our confidence we can give our faith to others and help them realize their own worth in Christ.  With Jesus as our confidence we can be the ambassadors for Christ He has called us to be in both word and deeds.

Pastor Jonathan

Happy Valentines

A litte history lesson…

St. Valentine was a 3rd century Roman Saint. He was a clergyman who was instrumental in the release of captive Christians.  It is believed that he was summoned to the home of a judge who asked Valentinus to pray for his daughter who had lost her sight.  Valentinus laid his hands upon her and prayed for her sight and she was healed.  The judge having been humbled, released all the Christian prisoners under his control and asked what he must do.  Valentinus instructed his to destroy all the idols in his home and fast in preparation for baptism.  St. Valentine witnessed to the judge and baptized he and his entire household of 44 people.

Valentinus Martyred

Sometime later, Valentinus was arrested for evangelizing.  He eventually found himself before the emperor of Rome Claudius Gothicus (Claudius II). While before the emperor Valentinus shared the gospel with him in an attempt to convert the emperor to Christianity.  Claudius refused and condemned Valentinus to death, commanding that Valentinus either renounce his faith or he would be beaten with clubs and beheaded. Valentinus refused and Claudius’ command His execution February 14, 269AD.

Last Word

I wonder how history devolved from remembrance of a Christian martyr to a small fat angel that shot arrows of love?  The love of St. Valentine is a testimony of the love of Christ.  May we love in all our relationships with the love of the Lord.

Pastor Jonathan