Pastor’s BLOG

Word for the Graduates

On the Sunday when we recognized our graduating high school seniors, I shared with them eight values that I recommended they cultivate as they grow into adulthood. I used the word G-R-A-D-U-A-T-E as an acrostic for those values. A number of people asked me to share these words in the newsletter, so here we go!
The apostle Paul said that the person who “sows bountifully will also reap bountifully” (2 Cor. 9:6). What this means is that generosity breeds generosity. When you are generous with others, you will find that you will also be the recipient of generosity. Generosity is a primary quality because it expresses the very nature of God and His Love for us.
As a follower of Jesus, you can stand out and live out your faith by granting respect to all people as children of God – even if you strongly disagree with that person. If you need to argue about issues, do so; but don’t assume evil intent in the person with whom you disagree. Give them respect, and you will distinguish yourself as a follower of Jesus.
Simply this means practice what you preach, walk the talk, or be real. There will be so much pressure in this world to make you be something you are not in order to get ahead. However, a follower of Jesus lives what he or she says and is true to God and self. Be who God created you to be; and don’t allow anyone to make you conform to any image other than that of Christ.
To be diligent is to work hard, be persistent, and characterize all you do as a calling from the Lord, and then use all your energies to accomplish it. In the letter to the Colossians we read: “Whatever your task, put yourselves into it, as done for the Lord and not for your masters, since you know that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward; you serve the Lord Christ” (Col 3:23–24.)
To be unwavering is to be steadfast in the face of the effort to make you give up. It is the inward strength to withstand stress to accomplish God’s best even when it is hard and even when it costs you something. Paul writes: “So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up. So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith” (Ga 6:9–10). In the face of the fallen world, when it seems like evil and wrong are winning, do not waver or weary in doing what is right.
Scripture calls us to be alert in two general areas: First we are to always be alert for the movement of God in our lives. If we are not looking for God’s work, we will miss it. God’s movements in this world and in our lives are often subtle. We have to develop the discipline to be watching for Spirit’s prodding. And we do this by becoming alert. Secondly we need to be aware of those things that are taking place around us so that we can respond well to it. As a follower of Jesus, cultivate the ability to look at the world with the eyes of Jesus and work to bring the love of God to people who are in desperate need of it.
A follower of Jesus is thankful to God for all the many things God brings to his or her life. He or she cultivates a thankful attitude and strives to express that thankfulness to those around him. When you develop a thankful response to the things that come your way and not worry about the things that don’t, you will be blessed with happiness.
Enthusiasm is a feeling of energetic interest in a particular subject or activity and a desire to be involved in it. This is about finding joy in the things of life. It is expressing in your soul the joy of the Spirit of God. Peter wrote: “Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (1 Pe 1:7–9). Approach everything with enthusiasm knowing that you only get one life to live, so live life to its fullest as you seek to glorify God in all you do.
These eight words are good for all of us to cultivate as we seek to live out our faith in Jesus and become more like Him. May the Lord so enable and empower us to do so.
Grace and peace to you!
Your friend and pastor,
Pastor Lee

Be Prepared

On Pentecost Sunday, I challenged the youth who were being confirmed to “be prepared” for whatever life might bring their way. I used the parable of the Ten Bridesmaids where five were prepared with extra oil and five were not prepared. I gave the youth four practices to undertake as they prepare themselves for the life ahead. I have had a number of people ask me for the four challenges, so I thought I would review them here in our newsletter.
1. Surround yourselves with supportive Christian Friends who hold you accountable.
Developing close friendships with Christian friends during the easy times of life will help prepare you to lean on them when the inevitable difficult times will come. Not only can they encourage and support you, they may even counsel you and help prevent you from making stupid mistakes. I have a handful of close friends who will challenge my thinking and make me consider things from different perspectives.
2. Allow the Word of God dwelling richly in you.
Do this by hiding the word of God in your heart. Memorize important verses of scripture. The day may come when you don’t have access to your Bible. The more you immerse yourself in the word of God, the more able the Holy Spirit is to bring to your remembrance things that you need to hear at any given moment. I often recite in my mind the first passage of scripture I memorized: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6).
3. Develop a consistent prayer life.
Do not let your prayer life just be a 911 call to God in the moments when the oil runs out. Cultivate it, nourish it, and practice the presence of God. Prayer is the chief exercise of our faith and it will sustain you in the difficult times if you have done a good job of cultivating it as a practice in the regular times of life. Ultimately, prayer is not about asking for things; it is about cultivating a relationship with God which will sustain you through all the travels of life.
4. Live a life of self-sacrificing service
When we follow in the serving footsteps of Jesus, we become more like Jesus and have a broader view of life than the immediate issues we are facing. We realize that meaning in life comes from making a difference in the life of another person not in the acquisition of things.
These are good words for all of us to hear!
Grace and peace to you!
Your friend and pastor,
Pastor Lee

Discerning God’s Will

In a sermon a few weeks ago, I reflected on the challenge of discerning the work of God in the world around us. Sometimes what we think is from God is really the world presenting a photo-shopped image which deceives us. Drawing from the book “The Power of a Whisper,” I shared five questions we should ask ourselves to see if something is truly from God.
The first question is: “God, is this truly from you?”
Ask God candidly if the word or direction squares with who you know God to be, and whether or not it is consistent with God’s character as you understand it.
The second question to ask is: “Is it scriptural?”
If you think you’re hearing from heaven on a situation you are facing in life, first try to imagine Jesus as we know him from scripture taking the action you’re considering taking. If you can’t picture him doing whatever it is you’re about to do, chances are the prompting is not from God.
The Third question to ask is: “Is this wise?”
There is an entire book in the Bible devoted to wisdom. In the book of Proverbs, we learn many things that are wise and many things that are unwise. If you believe God is instructing you to do something that seems unwise, you should definitely question the origin of the prompting.
The Fourth question is: “Is this prompting in tune with my character or wiring patterns?”
In other words, does the input you’ve received seem to correlate with the person God created you to be? If you receive what you believe is a direction from God, and it stands in stark contrast to your journey to this point in your life, slow down, scrutinize it from all angles and ask God to confirm through a variety of other ways that it was God’s voice that you heard.
The fifth and final question is answering the question: “What do the people I most trust think about this prompting I have received?”
In my life, when I have felt the Lord leading me to a major life change, I have consulted with mature Christian friends and asked their input on it. The counsel of faithful brothers and sisters in Christ can truly help process the leading of God.
As we seek to discern God’s work in our lives, let us remember the words we read in 1st John: “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God” May the Lord help you as you use these questions to “test the spirits.”
Grace and peace to you!
Your friend and pastor,
Pastor Lee

With Us and For Us

“What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us?” – Romans 8:31
Indeed, if God is for us, who can be against us? This is a wonderful promise of scripture that reminds us that no matter what circumstance we find ourselves in, we can be assured that it is no match for the power of God. God is for us, and God is with us.
In Jesus, God is for us. If you ever have any doubt that God is on your side or wonder about God’s love for you, just reflect on this truth: God loved you so much that he sent Jesus to this earth to conquer the power of sin and death and provide a way for abundant and eternal life. This truth should give each of us confidence that God is on our side no matter what comes our way.
Jesus, our Emanuel, is also God with us. He promised to be with us to the end of the age and never forsake us. We have not been given instructions and then left on our own. Jesus is present and always available through the Spirit. When we have a difficult task to undertake, all we have to do is remind ourselves that He is with us in the task. This truth gives us courage to do what needs to be done.
The message of Easter that life conquers death through the power of God is an encouraging word. Whatever dead place you have in your life, know that it can be resurrected because God is for us, and God is with us. Knowing these truths give us hope, confidence, and courage.
May the joy of Easter stay with you all year!
Your friend and pastor,
Pastor Lee