Monday, August 22, 2016

Standing

Standing on the promises

That's the lyrics to an old hymn. One I have heard countless times. 

There are hundreds of promises in the bible. 
Promises for comfort that I cling to.
Promises of protection I count on. 
Promises of Jesus' return that I stand on.

I've been reading and studying Kings for a few weeks.  Kings 1 and 2 are great books. You can see God work in the lives of Israel thru His promises.  
Israel wanted a King, like everyone else.  God didn't want them to have a King at all but they begged and he eventually gave them what they wanted.  He loved them so much that he gave in just like I will sometimes with my kids when they beg.

One of the kings was King Omri, Omri was an awful King and an all around terrible guy. If it was bad then he had a hand in it. 
Under his rule Israel was pretty much thunder dome. 

Omri eventually died and as with kingship it was passed to his son Ahab. Ahab was surprisingly even worse. In 1Kings 16:25 the bible tells us that Omri did more bad than any other king in Israel's history.
His son and new king, Ahab gets his own description, it's identical as his fathers until vs 33 when it says not only did he do more things that were evil in the sight of God but he did more to provoke the anger of God than anyother king. 
The king at the time was Ahab and the bible says that of all the kings of Israel up to him he was the one that provoked Gods anger the most. 

When my kids do something wrong I do get mad. If I tell them specifically not to do something and then they do it right in front of me I get furious. It provokes my anger.

Israel had turned once again from a God. It had gone beyond disappointing him with their actions. 
We all disappoint God from time to time in the choices we make. The friends we hang out with the language we use.  They had under Ahab's leadership provoked Him to action. 

To say the least when Elijah enters in 1 Kings God is not happy at all with the ones that are supposed to be HIs people
Elijah tells Ahab in ch 17 that the water has been cut off until further notice.  Until he as sent back to them to give the word there would be no water. 

There was no time limit set. The usual prophet spiel about repenting and turning back to God was spared. They knew what they were doing. 

They knew who God was. I sill remember all the stories my mom has told me about things God has done for our family. When my grandma was sick mom prayed and begged God for 2 more years with grandma and by Gods will she lived 2 more years.  
I prayed that night God changed my life. These are the stories that we pass down and help us explain our faith in God to the next generation. 

The Israelites had even greater stories to pass down. The burning bush, the plagues, the parting of the Red Sea.  Still they turned from God

So Elijah passed on Gods message. No demands by God it wasn't a ransom it was a promise. No bargaining to do because it wasn't a threat it was a promise. No pleading with him because it wasn't a choice it was a promise. 
Just like that the water shut off. Just like my water would get shut off if I ignored city utilities. They ignored God simply cut it off. 
I'm not sure how much it rained usually there. They might have went weeks without it and not realized it was a punishment. Being supremely just and merciful though God wanted them to know right away and give them the chance to turn from their sin. They could save themselves the suffering by turning back to Him.  So when Elijah gave them His message he said it would not rain and there would be no dew even until he returned with Gods word. 

Who knows what would have happened if they had repented right then.  God may have opened the floodgates immediately

That however wasn't the case

3 years later they were still in this drought. There was a huge famine because of it. People and livestock died off crops were so sparse that's the king himself had to lead a party of men outside to try and find anything for the horses to eat. 

It was rough.  Promises sometimes are. 

There were according to the bible 7000 people in the kingdom that refused to worship Baal.  They still had a hard time for those 3 years but they made it thru. It wasn't easy but they made it. I'm sure they prayed for rain themselves but God made a promise and he sees ALL of his promises through. God took care of them.  I can't imagine it was easy but they made it through the drought to the rain. 
They lived in a kingdom openly defying God and they did nothing. They didn't worship Baal but they weren't actively fighting the Baal worship either. We can be confident in this because they didn't get killed and that seemed to be the preferred punishment for insubordination when it came to idol worship in the Old Testament.  They were the pew fillers. 
They made it thru to the rain. Wasn't fun but they made it. 

Elijah was a man in motion however. He was going wherever God wanted him to go. God says go to the king then he goes to the king. God says go to this hideaway by a brook and he goes. God says got to this town because I have a widow there that will take care of you and he goes there.  Elijah made it thru to the rain spectacularly and miraculously. Elijah was doing the work he was called to do. He held tight to the promise that God would eventually send him with the message. He knew God had told him he would deliver the message of rain when it was time. He had faith in that promise and was confident he would make it thru to the rain. 

I like the story of Ahab and Elijah because it shows God see a promise through to the end.  God said this would happen and it happened. There are lots of stories in the bible  where God faithfully keeps his promises. Stories where God protects those that are truly His when things around them seem impossible. 

After Jesus' sacrifice for you and I, we were given another promise because he loves us. If we live our lives for Him if we believe in Him and what he did we will have eternal life.  

That's the promise that produces.  

When we commit to God when we accept Jesus and daily choose to do His will we are doing it because we have faith in the promise. 

That faith produces fruit and that fruit makes even the droughts an oasis. 

A promise that through Jesus we will make it through the drought to the reign

Thanks for reading










Monday, August 8, 2016

the Sunflower Patch

It’s Monday which means time for a new blog.  Honestly there is nothing on my mind this week except Mikayla. I haven’t posted much about any of this. I just had nothing to say that didn’t speak of my sadness.  There is plenty of that to go around so I kept quiet.

Some of you knew Mikayla and some of you only knew of her.

As I was walking from the church to my office Sunday during 3rd service something happened to me.  There has been an ache I couldn’t stop. A sadness that permeated everything I did the last few days.  There have been tears and screams. There has been long conversations with God and long silences with my dear friends as we just sit.

I was halfway between the church and my office when I was overwhelmed with joy. I started laughing and crying at the same time. I was just overcome with the idea that I got to know Mikayla.  How incredibly blessed am I that I really got to be a part of her life.

As I said some of you knew her and some of you just knew of her. 
If you knew of her you knew of a girl that had a handicap. Maybe you felt sorry for her. Which was ridiculous because she never felt sorry for herself. You knew of a girl at church that got around better on her hands or in her chair better than half of us get around unassisted. You knew of a girl that never complained, never let her situation get her down. You knew of a happy kid that shared that happiness with total strangers. A girl that always ALWAYS smiled at you.

I however was blessed to get to know her.  Her love of her family and pets. Her wicked little smile when she said something sarcastic to tease me (which was nearly constantly).
I got to hug and hold her, I got to tease and pester her. I got to really know her strength and fearlessness facing the world. Her unceasing overwhelming joy. 
I loved her and I like to think she loved me. 
She was always my priority when James and Heather got to church. I had to get to Mikayla, get my high five and if I was lucky carry her in.

The sense of loss is great but today my sense of privilege is greater. I got to know her, I got to play with her and I got to love her. 
Like the sunflowers she loved so much, she bloomed bright and left us too quickly with just the seeds of memories to cultivate.  
One day I’ll see her again only then her head will be as high as the tops of the sunflowers  in the patch she is undoubtedly planting in heaven and she will run to meet me on healthy legs.  

Thank you Jesus for your mercy and comfort.  
Thank you for loaning that beautiful girl to us if just for six years.  
Thank you for reminding me how blessed we all were.





Monday, August 1, 2016

As One at 1

Family, thats what we call ourselves as a church.

Family is important, family is strong.  This week while I was away on a mission trip the enemy has attacked family.

It’s sometimes uncomfortable to talk about the Devil. Just something about it makes you feel weird. We try and humanize him. We dress him up in a cute little red costume and make him harmless.  We dress him up in a suit and make him look cool. We make a cartoon of him and we lose the idea that he exists and he HATES US.

Let us never forget this. He is real, he is on this earth and he hates you.

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.
-1 Peter 5:8

Recently families within our family and across our community have been attacked. It’s not fair, it’s not right but it’s true. He hates you so much that he attacks that which we think is safest. Our family, our bonds.  No one expects their marriage to be attacked. Especially when both husband and wife are together in Christ. We get blindsided by this. That is what is happening in our houses and it will not stand.

Tonight I ask that you join me in setting an alarm on  your phone for 1pm for the next week. At 1pm everyday ending next Monday pray for marriages with me.

Pray for families, pray fervently.  For 1 week we pray as one, at 1.

Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.

-James 5:15 (nlt)

Monday, July 25, 2016

Life is a Highway

It’s about 3 hours until we start our adventure to Ethiopia.  

I’m a little nervous, I’m responsible for this group until we make it to Addis. I’ve never been there before so I don’t know what to expect.  I do know to not expect a smooth trip. That is the biggest lesson I’ve learned on the few mission trips I’ve been on.

Something will happen and you will have to roll with it. At times like that you just have to let go of the wheel and trust God to get you where He wants you even if it’s not where you intended.

I do better on trips when things happen than when things go haywire in my everyday life.  It’s easy to trust God for the long run when the long run is 10 days.  When its your lifetime it’s harder to give up the drivers seat.

When Jeremy and I drove across country last month we took turns driving.  While he drove I talked, checked my phone and kept him company.  When I drove he did the same.
The naps were the best. I trusted Jeremy’s driving so much that I literally laid down in the back seat and slept for hours.

For so much of my life I borrowed the car from God. He bought the gas, and snacks but I drove.  Sure once in a while I’d let him take a turn but it was never long before I wanted back behind the wheel. I was comfortable being in control just taking the driving directions from God.

Just like the trip with Jeremy though, I found myself ignoring the turn by turn and rerouting the vehicle.  I looked good, no one on the road knew I was lost. They could see me and Jesus in the carpool lane but I knew and so did He.

I’m 38 again this year (long story) and more than anything I want to let God do the driving.  His shifts have gotten longer and longer over the last 5 years but I still manage to take a turn every once in a while when we stop for gas.

My hope for me and for you is more time in the back seat finding rest in through our faith in Jesus’ driving   (M11:29)

I’ll see you all next week. Remember us in your prayers.

Thanks for reading


Alan

Monday, July 18, 2016

Sometimes the Strap Breaks

How does a person that is on the mountain now talk to a person that is in the valley?  Does the person in the valley look up to the mountain and say to themselves “What does this guy know about the valley, he’s up there right now on the mountaintop.”  “Anyone can praise God on the mountain.”

These are the things that I worrried about recently when a friend of mine hit the valley and life seemed to bottom out on him. 

It’s easy to say to someone “pray about it” when things are going good for you.
When I was a new Christian nothing infuriated me more than someone saying that to me when I had a problem.

So today I was thinking and praying about what to say to my friend and 2 Kings chapter 6 came to my mind.  It’s here we find a story that reminds us of a simple biblical fact.

Elisha was living in a prophetic community. 

Israel had prophets and often times they were not the most popular people.  Turns out when you tell an entire race of people they are doing it wrong it can cause some problems.
There are some however that get on board right away and they sometimes would form a community. These were very poor communities and the people often sacrificed comfort in order to live a more authentic life.

The meeting hall in this particular community was getting too small to be of good use so they say to Elisha that they would like to build a new one.
A place to meet that is larger and will accommodate more of them or at least the current amount of them more comfortably.

Elisha says “Go ahead” .  Because he is kinda their leader they ask him to come along.  He agrees, and before long they are cutting wood for the structure when one man working just as hard as the others I'm sure loses his axe head in the river.  

Remember this was a small community they likely shared everything. Iron tools were few and far between and likely expensive. There was no real way for this man to compensate the axe’s owner. It’s not like today when you can run down and get a new axe at Lowe’s.

Elisha calms the man down and asks him to point where the axe head went in.  After doing so Elisha takes a stick and throws it in the river at the spot the Axe head submerged and the axe head floats to the surface.  The man grabs the axe head and the day is saved.

Sometimes we are hard at work a tool in the hand of God and through no fault of our own the strap breaks and we are flung from where God can use us into the dark.  It’s not a punishment or an indictment its just the way of this sinful broken world.
We feel like the axe head on occasion sinking further away from our purpose.  No longer useful and separated from the rest of the tools.

God has many tools he could use. There are literally millions of tools waiting to be used.   You however are His perfect tool for some job. you may not know what the job is but its you that He wants to use. 

He won't just go get another axe.
It’s in those times that we have to remember God knows where we are, he never loses sight of where we went under
He promises never to leave us or forsake us. If we seek Him and we talk to 

Him even in the mud He will float us to the top again.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Free to Question - Pastor Matt Johnson

John the Baptist was a great man from scripture, arguably one of the most significant figure in the bible. He was filled with the Holy Spirit form birth according to Luke1:15. He was the first prophet since Malachi, about 400 years earlier. His coming was foretold over 700 years before his birth by Isaiah in Isaiah 40:3-5. He was sent to prepare the way for God himself. He was the son of a priest and from the line of Aaron. He lived a rugged life in the mountains of Judea, living on “locusts and wild honey” (Matthew 3:4)

John’s ministry grew in popularity, and he spoke boldly to the religious leaders, going so far as to call them a “brood of vipers”, which Jesus echoes in Matthew 12. It was unthinkable to speak to religious leader like that in that day, but John’s faith gave him boldness in the face opposition. 

His message was also growing in popularity, so much so that he had to warn his disciples, “I am not the Christ but am sent ahead of him.” (John 3:28) He had reached such high acclaim that many thought he was the Messiah, but John was quick to bow to Jesus saying, “He must become greater; I must become less.” in John 3. 

John recognized Jesus for who he was at His baptism proclaiming, “I need to be baptized by You and You are coming to me?” He saw that Jesus was without sin, and that he was unfit to baptize the spotless Lamb of God, his own savior. This is a man that Jesus said this about: “I tell you, among those born of women there is no one greater than John.” (Luke 7:28)

John knew, and believed whole heartedly, that Jesus was Messiah saying , “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” John was serious about his faith, and lived his life to point others to Christ. He was fearless. He stood firm in his faith no matter the circumstances, even to the point of death. It was his speaking out against King Herod that landed him in prison and ultimately lead to his death. 

But this great pillar of faith doubted…

This gives me great encouragement in my own walk. In Matthew 11, John sent his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?” Jesus tell John’s disciples to go back and tell John about the miracles they have seen and heard there. Jesus could have easily said, “John, know that I am God.”, and John would have known exactly who Jesus was and followed without question. But it is our questions that strengthen our faith. Jesus knew the power of free will and the importance of us working through our doubts and figuring out the answers for ourselves. It is our questions the make our faith, and our God is big enough to stand up to those questions not matter what they are. So take heart, we all question God. But it is in the seeking that we find Him. 

Thanks for reading,

Pastor Matt

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

The Day I Met a Lawyer

The Peter moment, what is it?
Peter was told he would deny Christ.  Then after arguing with Jesus (that’s a blog for another day) still didn’t think he would.  
We all know he did, its mentioned in all 4 gospels. In all but one of them Peter immediately breaks down weeping.
The Peter moment is when when your failure is met with the light of the truth.  Even if its only exposed to you too have no choice but to do something about it. 

The Peter moment spurs change.

That is how it was explained to me on a hot summer day at Rosemont Elementary School by Irma Cobian

Irma was once a pretty high powered lawyer for one of the top ten law offices in the country. Her boss later went on to work for a President.

One day while she was working, her boss asked why there weren't more people like her working in law?  
She thought he was talking about women and commented back that there were plenty of women in the field of law.
It was then that he handed her a copy of the Wall St Journal where there was an article the said only 45% of latin people graduate high school and only 5% went to college.

That was Irma’s peter moment.  She was face to face with the truth that there were so many she could help besides herself.

Shortly after that meeting Irma Cobian, stepped down from a high powered very lucrative job to become a school teacher.  

That was roughly 28 years ago and since her Peter moment Irma has helped countless kids find a better life through education. The passion she has for not just latin american but kids in general is truly amazing.

Irma Cobian is a hero to so many kids that have no idea the life she gave up just to help them.  

Irma was well aware of her Peter moment and she chose to make a change.  She chose others rather than herself.  Knowing it was going to make life more difficult for her.  

I want to talk to you quickly about another Peter moment.  A second time Irma followed in the footsteps of Peter.  A time that she may have not even realized it but a moment we can all learn from.

See, Irma compared herself to Peter at his moment of failure. It was his weeping for his mistakes that resonated with her so deeply that she chose a new path.

I don’t see it like that. I see Irma more like the Peter of Matthew 4:19-20. Jesus said follow me and “at once the left their nets and followed him.”
Thats the Peter I see in Irma’s example.

Irma heard the voice and she put down her nets, nets filled with the success of the world and carved out a great life helping others and following Him.

Look at your past and the things that made you turn to Jesus. The things that finally allowed you to hear His voice.  Irma had a realization that changed so many lives.  A lot of us don’t have a realization without rock bottom. You hit the bottom and you find Jesus is there waiting.  It wasn’t the circumstances and your mistakes that lead you to the bottom that changed your life. 
Don’t give those things the power. Jesus called you out of them and your mistakes are gone.
Your mistakes didn’t change your life, Jesus did.

Thank you for reading.