Over Under Sideways Down

This week’s Pastor to Person was written by Dan Looney.

Over Under Sideways Down is a song from the late 60’s that has been on my radar lately. This song is about worldly distractions and life’s choices. In this song, the singer is expressing distress and depression with it all.

I recently found myself in a similar place. My problem was not over under sideways or down…but with the “right” versus “left”. Last year, I became captivated with the election. The excitement was great in the beginning, but with all the social unrest, violence and unhappiness being expressed, I was becoming depressed and worried. The right versus left, liberal versus conservative…It was taking a toll on my happiness.

Seeking wise counsel is a tool all Christians need to use.  My wise counsel directed me to Philippians 4:8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 

Don’t worry about over under right or left. UP is our direction. Put your eyes on Jesus and the things of this world will fade.

Truth, Love and Dare?

This weeks Pastor to Person was written by Daniel Grant.

Be careful beloved, don’t receive and believe everything you hear. The second Epistle of John is a short, but sweet reminder of two very important things: “walk in the truth” and “love one another”. Be careful that you are, “persevering in” and “walking in” the truth. It is the truth that will guide us in bearing much fruit. These two things sound so easy and so simple, walk in the truth and love people, they are both very important and yet can be so very difficult!

Let’s be honest, loving people can be difficult and messy and downright hard work, but we are called and reminded to do it over and over again.  John is reminding the church and us, of this critical part of our DNA as Christians, that we are to be the ones who lavishly love.  John gives us two instructions concerning the truth. Walk in the truth AND be careful that you are NOT deceived.  Walking in the truth means saying hard things (lovingly), and being careful to receive and give Biblical counsel.  The warning is to walk in such a way as to NOT be deceived! Also, be very cautious of people that intentionally deceive.  Don’t be fooled, and refuse to partake in ANY falsehood.  Continue to love those that deceive, but be on your guard!  I dare you to practice those things!  May your joy in the Lord be beautifully FULL!!

The Teacher

But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him. (1 John 2:27)

Beloved, when you opened your heart to Jesus Christ, God came to dwell inside of you through the person of the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit is that “anointing” that teaches us.

The Bible says that there is a place for “teachers” in the church (Eph. 4:11), and we are to “teach one another” (Col. 3:16), but don’t forget that God wants to and is able to teach you all by Himself.

Often God chooses to teach us through our personal reading and study of the Bible. The Scriptures are God’s main tool to help us grow (2Ti. 3:16-17).  The Holy Spirit helps us to understand God’s Word in a way an unbeliever is unequipped for (1Cor. 2:14).

Sometimes God teaches us throughout the day, as the Holy Spirit brings certain Scriptures to mind.  Jesus said the Spirit would “remind” us of what He has already taught us (John 14:26).

Sometimes the Holy Spirit will put a “check” in our hearts when we hear someone teaching something that seems a little bit off.  Pay attention to those “checks” and dig into the Word to see for yourself.

Let God teach you.

Healthy Response

What do you do when you feel threatened, questioned, or challenged as a believer?  Peter tells us, But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; (1 Peter 3:15).  Peter’s response deals with three issues.

First, who is most important to you?  Are you concerned about what the other person might think?  Is their threatening tone or hard questions distracting you from the fact that Jesus ought to be Lord over your heart? Your response should start with a check of your heart. Make sure the One you’re aiming to please is Jesus, not the other person.

Second, speak up.  Be ready to share why you are a believer.  If you haven’t thought about it lately, it’s not a bad exercise to conduct.  There are intelligent reasons for being a Christian.  Despite what you read in the press, being a Christian doesn’t mean you’re an idiot.

Third, watch your attitude.  Some folks love to debate.  In fact, they enjoy devouring anyone who crosses their path.  The problem with an unloving attitude is that while you may win the battle of the argument, you will lose the war over the heart.  Responding with “meekness and fear” speaks of respect for the other person. Respond in love, not anger. Are you ready?

Sacrifice of Praise

Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. (Hebrews 13:15)

A sacrifice is a gift we bring to God. As Christians, one of the greatest gifts we can give God is our praise.  Our praise might be with words expressing thanks.  When we add music to the mix, we sometimes call this “worship”.  As a worship leader, I often notice that some folks are regularly late to church, some even arriving after the music is over.  Is that because they have nothing to “give” to God?  Some might think the music only serves the purpose of entertaining or “warming up” congregation for the message. It’s not a performance friends. Our music is meant to be a gift of love to our great king, presented by all gathered believers.  Our songs of love, devotion, and dedication are intended to help us give our hearts to God.

A sacrifice also involves a cost. If it were easy to give this gift, it wouldn’t be called a “sacrifice”. One of the hardest times to give God praise is when we’re struggling the most.  Yet it’s this act of faith that is most precious to God.

Don’t skip the music beloved.  Come and participate whether you feel like it or not.  Help us present to God the sacrifice of praise. Help us give our great God the honor He is due.

Forever Priest

Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. (Hebrews 7:25)

A priest is a person who stands between God and man.  At times he will speak to people on behalf of God, and at times he will speak to God on behalf of people.  We call that latter part intercession.  While the Bible teaches that all believers are “priests”, we often look to older brothers (pastors) who will help us on our way in life.

One of the problems with priests is their lack of longevity.  Priests die. There may be a pastor in your life that you appreciate and look to from time to time, but that pastor is a simple human being just like you.  One day he will be gone.  Many of us looked to Pastor Chuck Smith for guidance, but a few years ago, Chuck passed away, and we can no longer lean on him. Some of you look to me for encouragement, but one day I too will be gone.

Jesus is a different kind of priest.  Jesus is a forever priest.  Even after He ascended to heaven, He never stopped being a priest. He is still at work praying for us. It’s good to have people in your life to help you along the way, but beloved, don’t neglect the One who will never leave you.  Be sure your dependence is upon Him.  He is always there for you.  He’s praying for you.

Love that Refreshes

For we have great joy and consolation in your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed by you, brother. (Philemon 7)

As Paul thought about his buddy Philemon from Colosse, he found himself grinning. What was it about Philemon that brought Paul joy?  It was Philemon’s love for others.  The Greek word translated “love” (agape – “a-GAH-pay”) is an unconditional love that is demonstrated by action.  It’s about making a choice to value another person and then doing something about it.

Philemon’s “love” was special to Paul because the hearts of those in Colosse were “refreshed” by him.  The word translated “hearts” has to do with the seat of a person’s emotions. The word translated “refreshed” speaks of a person being allowed to pause from their labor and given a chance to recover and rest.

While we all have “needs”, there are some folks that are nothing but “needy”.  Even when their life is going relatively well, they focus only on themselves and how they can get the attention of others. They are a drain on the emotions of others.

Philemon didn’t drain others, he refreshed them.  He focused on encouraging others more than on his own needs. People were built up rather than depleted. Hanging out with Philemon was like being on an emotional “retreat”. May your love refresh those around you.

Welcome

Even them I will bring to My holy mountain, And make them joyful in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices Will be accepted on My altar; For My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations.” (Isaiah 56:7)

It’s been said that Sunday morning at 10:00 is the most segregated hour in America.  It’s sad but probably true.  It seems that it’s our tendency to want to hang out with people who are like us.  It’s not always a racial thing, though sometimes it is.  Sometimes we prefer people who are in our same age range, our same family status, or our same financial ballpark.  Though this may be what makes us comfortable, it’s certainly not God’s heart.

Isaiah was writing in a time when the leaders of Israel were lazy, greedy son-of-a-guns (was that possible in 700BC?).  The priests had developed strict rules about who was allowed into the Temple precincts.  Those who were “different” were not welcome. God replied that there was a day coming when all those who were “different” would be accepted and their prayers heard.

The place where God’s people gather is supposed to be a place where all are welcome.  It is a place where those who are hungry and thirsty for God find not only Him, but acceptance with God’s people.  Keep your eyes open for the stranger.  And welcome them.

Fear Not

Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’ (Isaiah 41:10)

There are certainly plenty of things in this life that cause fear and anxiety.  Natural disasters seem to be everywhere.  Hurricanes, earthquakes, fires, and floods.  Nations rattling their sabers. And then there are the things a little closer to home.  Relationships are stressed, families struggle, and finances seem a bit short.  Even closer can be the health issues we might be facing.  Sometimes it all can seem just a little bit overwhelming.

There is Someone who wants to take you through the things you are facing.  It’s true that with just a word, He can make all the problems disappear.  Yet He might not choose to keep you from the difficulties.  Sometimes He prefers to walk with us through them.

You may no longer have a parent you can talk to, or a friend who knows the answers to what you are facing, but you don’t have to be alone with your fears.  God longs to be an intimate part of your life.  He wants to help guide you through the days ahead.  He delights in His children.  He wants to take us by the hand and remind us that He not only knows what we’re going through, He wants to take us there.  Hold out your hand and grab His.

Not Shallow

And you became followers of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit, (1 Thessalonians 1:6)

The apostle Paul didn’t spend much time in the city of Thessalonica (Acts 17), but during the few weeks he was there, a small, vibrant church was born.  The church took root in a city that was not open to the gospel.  It took root in a hostile environment.

That hostility against the gospel didn’t keep a few from believing.  They received the truth about salvation through Jesus Christ with much joy.  Even after they were persecuted, they kept believing.

Jesus told a parable about how some people are like shallow soil.  When the seed of the gospel is planted into their life, they are joyful at first, but after persecution hits they wither away (Mat. 13).  The Thessalonian church was not made up of shallow Christians.

Today the gospel is not a popular topic.  Some folks become quite hostile when you mention the name of Jesus.  The Thessalonian church is instructive in two aspects.  First, it’s a challenge to us who believe.  Don’t be shallow in your faith.  Deep faith endures hard times.  Second, don’t be discouraged. Even in days of persecution, there will be some who will respond to you sharing the gospel, and they too will believe.