Moments in the life of a Pastor

Walking with God

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Pandemic Perspective – Part 97 Fortress of Faith – Part 1

1 Corinthians 16:13-14 – Be on guard. Stand firm in the faith. Be courageous. Be strong. 14 And do everything with love.

In the middle of Paul’s final greetings he inserts a short but profound statement of instruction to Christians: Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love. In these few brief words, Paul states a fitting conclusion for everything he has written to them so far. Paul’s brief words paint a powerful picture for Christians who desire to stand and serve the Savior. Paul’s advice, inspired by God, is especially meaningful for us today as we experience the attack against Christianity. When it comes to our faith we must: 

  • Stay Alert

The literal translation is watch, to pay careful attention, it is a one-word imperative. In the context of all that Paul has told them to do, his final word of caution is to be spiritually on guard. The church in Corinth had a host of problems from spiritual immaturity and misunderstanding to a tolerance of sin. This led to division and factions in the church, causing arguments and strife that weakened and threatened to destroy it. This led to relational retaliation as Christians sued other Christians in civil court, the ruin of relationships as people living in sexual sin, gluttony and drunkenness and righteous relationships as people took pride in their spiritual gifts. Paul reminded them to be on their guard spiritually because he did not want them to treat merely the symptoms, but to cure the cause. He wanted them to wake up and pay attention to their spiritual lives, to be spiritually watchful instead of spiritually ignorant. The Corinthians were caught up in their devotion to a culture of competing philosophies instead of the firm foundation of faith, devotion to the one true God, as opposed to the spiritual pluralism that was socially acceptable. Their apathy and lack of spiritual watchfulness was the foundation of the Corinthian church’s sinful condition. Spiritual indifference and spiritual ignorance were the root of relational problems in Corinth. Jesus did not save us from sin only to slumber and snore, it is not enough to merely know the facts we need to know the Father. Being spiritually aware means seeing the Savior, His care, protection and love for us His children. Today the church is stumbling around asleep and unless this simple one-word instruction is followed, everything Paul has taught will have no effect. Will we follow Paul’s advice and have hearts that are awake and alert? Today are you spiritually aware? In a whirling world of worry, filled with the terrible tornados of turmoil have you internalized the spiritual truths about God’s care and protection? Do you remember and recall His promises in the face of uncertainty? 

  • Stand fast 

The call for the church at Corinth and for Christians today is to stand fast, to persevere, and to not deviate in their faith and trust. As Paul tells them to stand firm in the truth, he is reminding them of the Redeemer and everything that has been revealed. The call is to stand firm in all that Christ is and all that He represents. Like the Corinthians 2000 years later we live in a culture in which truth is regarded as relative. Our society scoffs at the concept of objective, unyielding spiritual truth, so we live in a day dedicated to spiritual and ethical pluralism. Today we worry that the world is worse, yet as we look back time has moved technology but truth, like the tide, just ebbs and flows. The same environment that existed in the Corinthian culture can creep in when we accept social teaching over spiritual truth. Today we must stand fast against the social storm of stupidity that rages all around us. This world like a magician cloaks its agenda with the tricks of tolerance and progressive thinking. Today we call sin a choice yet we choke anyone who does not agree, this is not choice it’s a charade. We celebrate tolerance for sin but when it comes to the Savior the agenda has not changed, the world still chants crucify. Don’t be fooled by the mists and magic of our modern world it only offers one choice, comply or die. We talk about progressive thinking believing we can move man forward using technology instead of truth. We believe that if we relabeled the can we change its contents, this isn’t progressive its pride.  If man can save himself then where is the proof? Today instead of proof we have more problems. Today the tide has not turned its just come in a little further and like a soldier facing the onslaught we are called to stand fast. We many get bruise, but we will not break, because sin cannot sink the ship of salvation. Yet instead of contending for the faith the world observes us fumbling as we fight among ourselves. Sometimes it seems that the gospel message of salvation, a relationship with God, is secondary to the desire to win doctrinal debates. Today we are tempted to trust in technology but its truth that triumphs. If we are to be the witnesses God wants us to be then we must follow Paul’s admonition to stand firm in the faith. Are you standing or succumbing in the struggle? 

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Pandemic Perspective – Part 96 Following in Faith – Part 3

Genesis 12:10-20

10 At that time a severe famine struck the land of Canaan, forcing Abram to go down to Egypt, where he lived as a foreigner. 11 As he was approaching the border of Egypt, Abram said to his wife, Sarai, “Look, you are a very beautiful woman. 12 When the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife. Let’s kill him; then we can have her!’ 13 So please tell them you are my sister. Then they will spare my life and treat me well because of their interest in you.” 14 And sure enough, when Abram arrived in Egypt, everyone noticed Sarai’s beauty. 15 When the palace officials saw her, they sang her praises to Pharaoh, their king, and Sarai was taken into his palace. 16 Then Pharaoh gave Abram many gifts because of her—sheep, goats, cattle, male and female donkeys, male and female servants, and camels. 17 But the Lord sent terrible plagues upon Pharaoh and his household because of Sarai, Abram’s wife. 18 So Pharaoh summoned Abram and accused him sharply. “What have you done to me?” he demanded. “Why didn’t you tell me she was your wife? 19 Why did you say, ‘She is my sister,’ and allow me to take her as my wife? Now then, here is your wife. Take her and get out of here!” 20 Pharaoh ordered some of his men to escort them, and he sent Abram out of the country, along with his wife and all his possessions.

Abraham focused on the Promises not the problems and secondly on the Provider not a plan and thirdly on

  • Faith not Failure

The challenge is not just to start out in faith, but also to stride forward in faith; faith isn’t just the start of the journey it is the sustainer in the journey.  The Bible describes the next painful chapter in Abram’s life, one that resulted in failure, when he departed from the path of faith. Abraham started out wonderfully and then he wondered away, heading down to Egypt because of a famine. This famine tried Abram’s faith and as he started to focus on the food, he lost focus of the Father. No Scripture shows him receiving any direction from God about this; he just pulled up stakes and moved. Whenever we stop living by faith, we start doing what we think is smart or what circumstances dictate. God had told Abram to sojourn in the land of Canaan that was God’s will for Abram. The test for Abram was not really about food, the test was could God care for him in that land even though a famine had arisen. Abram failed the test because he forsook God’s will for food, turning to Egypt for aid instead of the Almighty.  Abraham turned to the world believing that it could support and sustain him. Like Abraham we too can start off well but then end up out of God’s will because as we choose to react to our circumstances instead of Christ. Today our famine may come in the form of an economic pinch and the question that will arise will be “will our faith fail in the famine or will we lean on the Lord?” Sometimes we walk away from faith because we don’t really trust God, other times it’s because our pride causes us to trust in self. Either way we get into trouble quickly and soon find ourselves in a weakened position. When we forsake God’s will we also end up forsaking our time of devotion and fellowship with Him. You never see Abram at the altar in Egypt, it’s only after he comes back to Canaan that we see him return to the altar. One act of disobedience can kill our devotional life, because disobedience brings guilt which causes us to fear God and run from Him rather than to seek Him. When we forsake the will of the Father, we forfeit the assurance of the Father. Up until this point in his life, Abraham was not afraid of the inhabitants of the land, he was trusting in God’s promises. Now, when he wasn’t where God wanted him, he didn’t have that assurance. Fear always replaces assurance, the fear that God doesn’t love us any more, the fear of getting caught, or fear of the future. When we forsake the will of God we also end up adopting and walking in the world’s ways, Abram ended up trying to lie his way out of the situation. When we walk away from God’s plan it also effects other people, as they neared the Egyptian border, Abram took one look at his beautiful wife and said, “Sarai, I see some problems down the road. Pharaoh and his men will desire you, and they’re going to kill me in order to have you, so we’d better lie and say you’re my sister instead of my wife.” That little scheme only half-worked, the world’s ways always create bigger problems than they solve. Abram avoided losing his life, but poor Sarai was led away to join the royal harem. What an outrageous and low-life thing to do to your own wife, he saved his own neck, but risked Sarai’s virtue and future. Sarah was not the only one hurt by her husband’s actions, Lot watched his uncle and learned some bad habits. Not just those around us but generationally, his son Isaac later committed the same sin of deceiving, as did his son Jacob along with many of his son’s. Believers who adopt the world’s ways will hurt those around them. What a remarkable lesson that in the life of faith, we can wander from the promises and plans of God, we can fail miserably but we don’t have to stay there. Abraham got back up and back on track, which required coming back to the place where he left God. How do you do that? Acknowledge that you should never have walked away and this calls for humility and honesty. Admitting you left “Canaan” is called confession, God, you are right and I am wrong, and that is the first step. He also had to act upon his confession and that’s called repentance, turning away from the world and back to the Father. When Abraham came back to the place where he had built the alter, he worshipped God. We need to come back and call upon God, to reconnect and rebuilt the prayer altar of our lives. Before fire fell at Mt. Carmel and revival took place the altar had to be rebuilt. The greatness of Abram was not in his perfect walk but His pursuing walk. Too often we worry about me instead of walking with the Master. We worry about who is forgetting us, who is not giving us credit, who is reaping benefits at our expense, we become anxious about things that are better left in God’s hands. Worry always nips at the heels of faith and tries to drag us down. Faith deals with the invisible things of God. It refuses to be ruled by the physical senses. As Abram came back, God met with him, ready to forgive and restore the relationship. Just as the prodigal’s father waited and longed for his sons return so God waits and longs for you. If you have “gone down to Egypt” why not start afresh today, repent and return, follow in the footsteps of the father of faith. God has promised to receive everyone who comes to him through Jesus Christ our Lord. Don’t hesitate because of how far away you have strayed or what you did while you were there. Don’t be afraid when you don’t know exactly how God will lead and supply, instead, hold onto his hand of hope. So, what’s your next step, will it reveal the footprint of faith?