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The SACK


“At that time Hanani the seer came to King Asa and told him, ‘Because you have put your trust in the king of Aram instead of in the Lord your God, you have missed your chance to destroy the army of the king of Aram……The eyes of the Lord search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him.  What a fool you have been.  From now on you will be at war.’ ”  2 Chronicles 16:7, 9

Chinese Christian Brother Yun, known as the Heavenly Man, tells of this happening in one of the Chinese house churches.  The Chinese believers regularly send off other believers to go into surrounding towns and villages to share the love and life of Christ.  Before each sending, the group would take up a collection for the work.  Many of those who were in attendance had nothing of material or monetary value to give. These believers, with tears streaming down their faces, when the large sack came to them, would literally place themselves in the sack.  Yun said that by doing this, these gentle folk wanted to signify to God that their lives were all they had to give and that they were willing to give all of themselves for His glory.  I’m humbled by this.  Are you?

Here in the west, there are many who are willing to give….up to a point, or as I heard one man put it, up to a tithe.  There are also those who are willing to go…..again, up to a point or a place.  How many of us are really willing to give all of ourselves to all that is Him?  When “the sack” comes to us, are we willing to put many “things” in it, but not all of ourselves?  Is giving, to us, a matter of percentage, or totality?  How many invisible lines have we drawn, and boundaries placed on how much of ourselves we’re really willing to be sacrificial with?  Who are we really more like in Jesus’ story of the rich Pharisee and the poor widow?  Jesus watched the Pharisee give a large amount of money out of his  wealth.
The widow gave two pennies, which was all she had.  The first gave out of his surplus, the widow gave all with nothing held back.  Who are we more like?  When the sack comes our way, to which heart attitude are we really drawn to?  What have we really put in the sack?  Every moment of every day, the sack comes before us.  What’s really going into it.  A percentage or a person?

This is not just a matter of our resources or time.  It’s a matter of the self.  All of the self.  The past, present and future.  They all go into the sack. Our motives.  Our dreams, desires, disappointments.  People.  Both those we love, and those we perhaps do not love so much.  All of it goes into the sack.  When the sack comes to us, we cannot stop with a check or a volunteering for some needed church ministry or job.  We cannot stop with a part or percentage.  It cannot be the part. It must be the whole.  The whole of us.

Asa the king had trusted God with much.  He could not trust Him with all.  “War” was the fruit of that.  For us, this means that all that we hold back from him will be under attack from our enemy satan, and we will spend ourselves on trying to protect in our strength what can only be kept by His.  If this is not so, just think on how much unrest is in our lives as the result of trying to bring about the results we desire by our own efforts, be they relationships, professions, and especially ministries.  Like Asa, we suffer constant “war” and have no peace because of it.

The Lord continues to search the world for hearts fully committed to Him.  As He searches, what does He find in ours? Percentages?  Bits that are His, but pieces that are not?  Asa lived in this way, and the Father called him a fool.  What does He call us?

Blessings,
Pastor O

(A special thanks to my brother in Christ and friend for allowing me to share this devotional message.)

What Is Your ALL IN?


God is so cool. Seriously, haven’t you noticed that HE loves to be in the details of our life? Last night in our Bible study we continued a conversation about our “All In’ or full surrender. For context we were discussing Jesus in the garden prior to His arrest and how it was there that Jesus surrendered His all to the Father’s plan. Knowing before hand that He would suffer unimaginable pain and that ultimately His life’s blood for all of humanity! The only thing that would resolve the Father’s requirement for the restoration of mankind back to Himself. Jesus made His commitment in the garden, it was settled.

On the heels of that we have this verse from a devotional this morning:

“After visiting Ephesus and Macedonia, the Apostle Paul got an “ask” from God the Holy Spirit to go on to Jerusalem (Acts 19:21). The Spirit warned him, however: if he went there, he’d be arrested. Paul’s friends begged him not to go. Paul answered: “What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be imprisoned but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 21:13).

We will all come to our time in the garden, some reading this may have already been in the garden.  As we discussed last evening, in this life’s journey, we will find ourselves in the garden many times as the Holy Spirit speaks to us about the things that stand in the way of our “ALL IN”.  The question is will we trust Him and surrender that which prevents us from being completely emptied of self and open to the fullness of HIM?

Blessing and Peace Always,

~Robert

Glory to God Alone


As a New Years Resolution, no as a LIFELONG RESOLUTION… ALL GLORY TO GOD ALONE.

In seeking a verse for this year and maybe now my life verse, I’ll wait for HIS direction on the last part, several thoughts have formed a recurring theme in my mind.  Since I’m not given to simplicity, wish that I were…, below is what is on my heart, mind, and soul for 2015 and beyond.

” Whoever speaks must speak God’s words. Whoever serves must serve with the strength God supplies so that in every way God receives glory through Jesus Christ. Glory and power belong to Jesus Christ forever and ever! Amen.” ~ I Peter 4:11

The overarching theme has been this:

Is there any work I will not do for the glory of God?

Is there any place I will not go to the glory of God?

Is there anyone I will not approach for the glory of God?

Is there any ministry I will not engage in for the glory of God?

Is there any thing in my life that does not bring glory to God?

Is there any thing in my life more important than the glory of God?

Am I truly willing to do ALL HE has and is calling me to do for HIS GLORY and KINGDOM?

At the end of these questions comes the realization that answering in the affirmative is only the first step.  I will have to be dedicated to this purpose above all else!  I will have to engage in the constant practice of being in HIS presence constantly.  I will have to rely on the power and strength of the Holy Spirit more than at any other time in my life from this very moment on.  That this dependency will necessarily grow because the reality of spiritual warfare is in full swing with this decision.

How will I be able to give “Glory to God Alone?”  There is only one way, this must be the only purpose in my walk and then only by the power God provides through the Holy Spirit.

” Whoever speaks must speak God’s words. Whoever serves must serve with the strength God supplies so that in every way God receives glory through Jesus Christ. Glory and power belong to Jesus Christ forever and ever! Amen.” ~ I Peter 4:11

I ask for your prayerful support over the coming days, months, and years.  To GOD ALONE be the GLORY!!!

In Service to Jesus and you,

~Robert

“He Leads Us On”


2015, the newest frontier for everyone today is the same.  What does 2015 hold in store?  What new challenges and new opportunities await?  How will you and I purpose to embrace all that 2015 has in store?

Make no mistake, life will happen and we must decide today to participate in the journey of 2015.  Whether we get to today only, a few days or weeks or months, or the entire year… One thing is certain, we will either join in the journey or watch it pass by.  As a child in Jesus Christ, you and I are called to embrace each and everyday of this journey!

Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” ~John 10:10  God our Father expects us to live this life to the fullest and doing so means we participate and do so with intention.

We get to know right now that God is in this journey with us!  He will provide for our every need and that regardless of what takes place this year, HE already knows what is in store for this year.  He has already provided for every mountain, valley, and obstacle.  He already knows the great heights of joy and the deepest of hurts and sorrow that we will face; these too HE has already provided the way for us to experience with HIS grace and strength.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” ~Jeremiah 29:11

Make no mistake, God is already active in 2015.  He is eager to fulfill HIS plan in our life and to see us fulfill His will for ours.  “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” ~Ephesians 2:10

God calls us to enjoy this journey we call “life” and to do so means that we must actively participate in every aspect of what is to come.  We must intentionally move toward all HE has for us this year seeking to be walking in harmony with HIS perfect will.  The “Great Commission” calls us to, “… go and make disciples of all nations…” ~Matthew 28:19.  The key word to focus on here is “GO”, participate in God’s plan.

The choice IS ours, participate or spectate.  I respectfully submit to you that the great experience will be had in choosing to join in with God.  Seek to walk in step, in harmony with God our Father to fulfill HIS plan to reconcile mankind to Himself!  The glory and honor will all belong to HIM and we will get to enjoy the moments of victory along the way.  2015 will be filled with victories and losses, make no mistake HE will be in it all and go through all of it with you and I, such a great blessing!!!

In closing, I pray that you will experience the very best that God has for you.  That you will know the depths of HIS peace as never before and that HIS blessings upon you will flow as rivers into the lives of those you encounter.  Lastly, in my quite time this morning, the following poem stood out to me.

He leads us on by paths we did not know;
Upward He leads us, though our steps be slow,
Though oft we faint and falter on the way,
Though storms and darkness oft obscure the day;
Yet when the clouds are gone,
We know He leads us on.
He leads us on through all the unquiet years;
Past all our dreamland hopes, and doubts and fears,
He guides our steps, through all the tangled maze
Of losses, sorrows, and o’er clouded days;
We know His will is done;
And still He leads us on.”

–Nicholaus Ludwig Zinzendorf

Blessings and Peace Always,

~Robert

Always Thank God the Father…


I have a classmate from an online class that stays in contact with me.  Today’s post is the result of his challenge to me in that email.  He called my attention to Ephesians 5:20 and believing that God’s word alone can rightly divide itself in context, I backed up to start with verse 17.  I hope you enjoy this and I look forward to your comments.
Turning our attention to the passage you referenced yesterday, it is very familiar to me.  I read it though for the first time in the God’s Word translation and noticed a couple of “new” things.  Here’s the translation for easy reference: 17So don’t be foolish, but understand what the Lord wants. 18Don’t get drunk on wine, which leads to wild living. Instead, be filled with the Spirit 19by reciting psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs for your own good. Sing and make music to the Lord with your hearts. 20Always thank God the Father for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
 
First; “Instead, be filled with the Spirit by reciting psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs…”.  The NIV says, “…speaking to one another…”  What caught my attention this time is the implication that being filled with the Spirit starts with reciting psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to ourselves, first.  As with everything else in our lives, the spiritual, emotional, and physical all begin from within and work their way our in our actions, deeds, and words.  This is why is it so important that we constantly fill our heart, mind, and soul with God’s word and everything that will edify our spirit.  Jesus said, “…it’s what comes out of a person that makes him unclean.” God’s Word  The original question was about physical food and Jesus declared that what goes into the stomach doesn’t make us unclean.  But, what we take into our souls can corrupt.  So, we must be diligent to feed our souls those things which edify.
Second; “Always thank God the Father for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  I believe that Job said, both good and bad are from the LORD.  Meaning that HE allows both to come into our life.  Romans 8:28-29, “We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God—those whom He has called according to HIS plan.  This is true because He already knew His people and had already appointed them to have the same form as the image of His Son.  Therefore, His Son is the firstborn among many children.”  Everything that God allows to take place in our life has the sole purpose of bringing us into the image of Jesus.  So even though our life is filled with what we call “good” and “bad,” the best and worst of what takes place (when we are pursuing a relationship with Jesus) has purpose in God’s plan for our life and growth into the image of Jesus.  Every time that I think about this, I am reminded of Paul and Silas singing in the prison.  Arguably, to us, the worst of times for them and yet their joy in Jesus overflowed from their hearts and into the air.
I believe, if we follow God’s word and fill our spirit with only those things that edify and vocalize those same truths, we will soon find ourselves being able to live out verse 20.

John, Peter, Paul…


“Which disciple do you think you are most like?”  This was the question I recall that started a conversation not long ago from my pastor.  Honestly, I returned the question to him knowing he’d say Peter.  I am a bit impulsive and can be more than just a little direct.

Being the first-born, most first-born children will agree, you find yourself in a leadership role at a very early age. In this position you necessarily feel those burdens of setting the example and the need at times to choose a course and stay with it, believing it will work out and that you have the unction to get it done and see it through.

Then, by God’s amazing grace you discover that you need redemption, salvation, a savior who you can trust and lean on. In accepting Christ there is relief and hope. Now, all of that energy you had as the first-born becomes focused on intentionally living out this new life. So you are still the example for younger siblings except, now you are not focused on setting an example for them. Now you are focused on Jesus and in that focus, brazen statements are made. Commitments are made that without the Holy Spirit’s power can never be kept.

Over the course of my life, I have found myself joining Paul in being content in all situations. “I know how to live in poverty or prosperity. No matter that the situation, I’ve learned the secret of how to live when I’m full or when hungry, when I have too much or when I have too little. I can do everything through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:12-13 (God’s Word) We have had plenty in our life and we have had very little and eaten what we could. Sometimes, having less has been the greater blessing.

The greater struggle is in learning to be content in my spiritual walk. Knowing that regardless of what I feel, faith is not about what we feel, Christ is with me in the trenches through His Holy Spirit. When I am seeking Him with all I have and He “seems” very far away, He is closer still than my own breath. Lord help me to know Your presence at all times and in all things—to be content in Your blessed presence when known and when unknown without any doubts!

I recently read a devotional and agree with the author that, God sets a grand tapestry before us for our pleasure to view. He also sets before us a field of harvest that needs workers. I pray in both that He will fit me for His use and that I will always be found faithful to be available and submissive to His call and will.

Blessings and Peace Always,

~Robert

FAITH is a Verb!


Faith is declared to be a noun according to Webster’s Dictionary and yet it acts like a verb. Faith is used as a name and, as such, it makes perfect sense to be a noun. However, when we say he or she has faith or is exercising faith, this is an active statement for faith. Faith involves unquestioning belief, complete trust, and loyalty.

Unquestioning belief is the state of believing or having no doubt. This unquestioning belief is the driver of faith. The active part of faith is the state of being. We say, you exercised your faith today when you approached that individual and witnessed to them about the good news of Jesus. Your faith enabled you to share the Gospel through the action of faith. “What does Scripture say? Abraham believed God, and that faith was regarded as the basis of Abraham’s approval by God.” Romans 4:3 “Then Abram believed the LORD, and that faith was regarded as the basis of Abram’s approval by the LORD.” Genesis 15:6 (God’s Word) In both cases his belief and faith are the same; the action of his unquestioning belief, his state of being, and having no doubt was faith.

Complete trust is a matter of being confident and having assurance in someone or something. How often do we display complete trust? The answer is daily: in things like the brakes on our car or truck; when we want to stop we simply put our foot on the brake pedal and press the brakes into action. We display our faith in each other in varying degrees, our spouse to be faithful or our doctor to know how to help us get well. “Faith assures us of things we expect and convinces us of the things we cannot see.” Hebrews 11:1 (God’s Word) Faith is the action that builds our confidence and assurance into complete trust.

Loyalty is dressed in the faithful adherence to the word of God. We learn as we grow in our journey with Jesus; faith is a companion who works along side us in our endeavors to fulfill the great commission. “And remember that I am always with you until the end of time” Matthew 28:20b (God’s Word) Our best friend is Jesus and he has promised to be with us always! God faithfully adheres to His word. This faithful adherence of God is shown through Jesus Christ’s sacrifice for the remission of our sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit to lead and guide us always…this is loyalty.

Because faith is unceasing belief, absolute trust, and devotion, we know that faith is a verb. Sure we are able to say, “Hello Faith, how are you today?” and calling her by name is placing faith in the context of a noun. When we then say that Faith displayed her faith in the word of God, faith was a verb.

Blessings and Peace Always

Resolutions…..


Do you make resolutions along with the majority of people throughout the world?  With them, do you find yourself failing to keep them?  How easy it is to make statements like, “I’m giving up, such and such or this or that”; I’m going to….. Fill in the blanks and regardless of your age, you’ll most likely find you’ve “committed” to at least one new resolution every year since you were ten years old, maybe earlier or later.  I’m right at the head of the line here and know that I’m in great company!

Why do we make statements, generally without actually planning to be successful?  Are we still allowing peer pressure to drive how we think and act?

Here’s a link to fifteen verses in God’s word concerning New Years Resolutions.  http://www.openbible.info/topics/new_years_resolutions

As you read through these verses consider a couple of things.  Not just at the beginning of a new year, but daily we should resolve to be completely available to our Father for His work.  We must plan and prepare to complete His work; at home, on the job, at church, in our neighborhood and wherever He leads.  Planning to be ready at all times and prepared by studying His word and by prayer and through fellowship with those who strengthen and encourage us.

I started another devotion which is only four days in length through YouVersion titled, “One Word That Will Change Your Life”.  The goal is that instead of “making a resolution” for this year, we seek God for a single word for the new year!  That this one word will through continued focus, become the point of our year.  Whatever the word He gives or you might choose… be it one of the fruits of the Spirit, consecration, discipline, character trait, etc. having a singular focus will change our lives.

Instead of the grandiose, simplify.  Dial back and ask God to help you select the one word to focus on for this year and allow Him to develop that in us.  This is my goal, my resolution and over the next day or so, I believe He will show me my word for the year.  I will share this with you and ask only that you help me stay accountable.

I wish you a very Happy New Year filled with HIS all.

Blessings & Peace Always,

~Robert

Different, Yet the Same


“Just as God formed each rock to look different-some smooth, and some not so-he formed us in the same way. Some of us, like me, were made with rough edges. This toughness allowed me to navigate the streets of a not-so-nice neighborhood, to survive a teenage pregnancy, and to be strong and protect a younger brother. He also toughened me for the ministry to which he would eventually call me.”

via Different, Yet the Same.  ~January Marshall

There is tremendous value in knowing which “rock” you are and how this fits into your place in where you are; home, work, neighborhood, school, work, etc.

We have been uniquely designed by our Father in heaven above and yet He created us all the same.  Where we are the same is in our physical make up, yet we don’t all look the same.  Our personalities are unique, and yet we can experience the same events in life and no two individuals will be impacted the same!

The rough and smooth stones exist together and some might say, the rough ones help make the smooth ones… Can one exist without the other?

If I am a smooth stone, can I stay smooth without the rough stones?  Can the rough stone have a complete purpose without the smooth stones?

The truth is we are all made up of rough and smooth parts.  Some with rougher parts and some with smoother, yet we ARE still the same.  We need each other, no doubt!

Recognize which you are and then apply yourself appropriately!  Ask God to show you how to help glorify Him by being the best you are created to be.

“So then let us follow after things which make for peace, and things with which one may edify another.” ~Romans 14:19

Be the instrument in God’s hand to build up and encourage on another.  He will use you just as you are and where you are, just seek HIS direction in all you do.  He uses us where we are, rough or smooth.  We need only be available and follow HIS leading!

Blessings & Peace Always,

~Robert

Blessings Flowing


So often in our journey through this life, we lose sight of our blessings.  The last couple of months have been especially difficult around our household.  Without going into all the specifics, we lost my mother-in-law on November 4th.  Our loss is heaven gain and we take comfort in the knowledge that her struggles are now at an end.

While she struggled over the past year with cancer and then recovery, we were all witness to her strength and fight.  It was truly inspiring and frustrating at the same time.  Still she endured until our Father called her home.  She was 78 years young and spent 59 years with her love Bus or Mac, depending on who you were talking to at the time.  Together they raised three children on a dairy farm in Cossayuna, NY.  Anyone who knows anything about a dairy, knows this takes a special commitment, it is a life style of long dedicated days and sometimes nights.  She is survived by my father-in-law, their three children, four grandchildren and four great grandchildren.

Blessings Flowing… with mixed emotions, a heart that is at the same time filled with all HIS goodness and a heart ripping sense of loss, yep our Blessings are indeed Flowing!  We were blessed over the past year to see Florence’s strength, fight and humor.  You can’t be a farmers’ wife and be a wimp and you most certainly must have a sense of humor.

Our blessings included being able to see her several times, some under circumstance less than ideal.  The point is our Father made a way for us to meet the needs of my wife’s parents and my wife desire to be there!  We could have missed so much were it not for our Father’s loving care and abundant grace.

“And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of HIS glory in Christ Jesus.” ~Philippians 4:19

We were blessed to be a part in the sharing of memories old and new.  Joy in the remembering that turned such a difficult time into a blessing that was shared by family and friends.  The blessing of seeing how she poured her life into so many lives that were touched and blessed by her actions and words.  Kindnesses, graciousness and love met lives any so many ways, Blessings Flowing!

Here we are a few weeks removed and while our emotions are still swinging up and down, the blessings are still flowing.  Bus is doing well and his cousins have stepped in to help him adjust, plus it’s deer season and a regular crowd is coming and going at the farm.  Since Tracy’s brother lives in Florida and we are in Virginia, her sister is left to help.  She and her husband are dairy farmers and the demands don’t change even though life takes a dramatic turn, Blessings Flowing!!

Back here, cards are still coming in and we have our first service at church complete.  Sometimes the blessing of love from our brothers and sister in Jesus is overwhelming.  We wouldn’t exchange the hugs and expression of compassion for a moment, Blessings Flowing!!!

By HIS grace and supply, we are going to head back for Thanksgiving…. We will give thanks!  HIS provision, grace and love will be known and shared.  We will laugh and cry, share great stories and solemn moments.  Still blessings will be flowing!

Thanks to everyone who has loved us through these difficult times.  Your prayers, words of encouragement and hugs of comfort…BLESSINGS FLOWING

Blessings & Peace Always,

~Robert

Image

Florence P. McIntyre

July 14, 1935 – November 4, 2013

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