Pastor Rod's Message
January 2019 Newsletter
"A RACE YOU CAN WIN"
I've always enjoyed stock-car racing! Since the times when my father took me, as a small boy, to the "races" in New Lebanon, New York, to modern-day NASCAR, racing was then and is now a thrill to me. I love the roar of the engines, the gaudy paint jobs, the bumper to bumper driving and the speed. It amazes me that these men are able to control their cars and maneuver around each other, at 180 miles per hour, without crashing more than they do. Faced with the same set of circumstances, most of us wouldn't make it a quarter mile. As I was considering this, it gave me some material for this month's article.
The world approaches 2019 with a renewed sense of optimism, a feeling of nagging fear, a determination to do better and a hope that mankind will be able to solve long standing international problems in a peaceful way. It's a lot like stock-car racing.
When the cars are on the starting grid before the race begins, everyone from the pit crew to the driver is full of confidence that they will be victorious. Everything has been checked and rechecked to make sure that the optimum level of performance can be maintained for the entire race. Nothing is left to chance. There is enough fuel on hand to go the distance. Tires are piled high in the pit area and aired-up to the exact pressure for the race conditions that day. Wrenches, screwdrivers, hammers, and every other tool imaginable are within easy reach. Hearts pound in anticipation as the command is given: "Gentlemen, start your engines!" And, before you know it, forty-three of the finest examples of man's ingenuity and design skill are roaring around the track at speeds that take your breath away. But, it is a long way from the green flag to the checkered flag! Lots of blown tires, broken valves, spinouts and crashes wait just around the next corner. It's pretty much the same way with life.
We can plan, with utmost care, a bright and prosperous future, but only God is able to see and control what lies ahead. The leaders of this world make a grave error when they do not consult the Almighty God of the universe as they plan for the coming year. If only they would read and study the Bible, they might be better able to understand God's desire that... "none should perish, but that all should come to repentence." (II Peter 3:9) Even now, as the "race of life" winds down to its inevitable conclusion, God is still calling people unto Himself and Christ is, at this very moment, preparing dwelling places for His own people to inhabit.
Mankind's best plans will still result in crashes far short of the finish line. God's plans, on the other hand, are perfect and eternal. In God's view of things, the race is already won and those of us who know Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord are clearly sitting in the Winner's Circle. The heavenly host are cheering and the angel choir is singing Hallelujah!
I truly believe that 2019 is a crucial year within God's plan for the ages. We Christians must be ready to express, at any time, what the world seems quite willing to reject: "Jesus is coming again. Be ready! Soon we will be able to say with the apostle Paul, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only, but also to all who have loved His appearing." (II Timothy 4:7-8)
You may think that the world is spinning out of control just like a racecar which has lost its grip on the track. More importantly, you may feel out of control in your life. It's a terrible feeling not to know what to do next, but there is a way to have confidence that the next turn will not spell disaster for you. Give your life to the Lord Jesus Christ. He knows exactly what's around the next corner and is able to steer you clear of any obstacle you may face. Let Him take the wheel and you'll win the race of life.
Pastor Rod's Message
December 2018 Newsletter
"THE REAL CHRISTMAS STORY"
I'm always looking for something new to put into this newsletter. Sometimes the task is easier than others. There are months when the words just flow and there are months when I stare at an empty computer screen and wonder whether or not I will ever write another word. I know what you're thinking; "we should be so lucky!" As I was saying, before being rudely interrupted by your fanciful thoughts, the flow of ideas is capricious at best and often blocked completely. This month, I am happy to report the "little gray cells" are suppling all kinds of interesting possibilties and options.
The word that keeps popping into my mind is complacency. What does complacency have to do with Christmas you may ask? Let's take a look at Webster's dictionary for an accurate rendering of the word. The 1st meaning is gratification, but I prefer the 2nd meaning; smug self-satisfaction. There are a great number of happy shoppers out and about this holiday season, not having any idea why they while away countless hours in the mall, spending copious amonts of cash on presents the recipients won't appreciate. They do it because their parents, grand parents and ancestors have done it for hundreds of years. They do it, also, because they can.
The United States sets records every year for the amount of money spent on Christmas gifts and related paraphernalia. Think of the lengths people go to each year, just to outdo their neighbors' Christmas decorations. Take a ride down Huntington Blvd. in Fresno, or Willow and Alluvial in Clovis, and see the gorgeous lighting displays. It would be hard to imagine how much is spent in those two locations for holiday "techno-goodies". People are really caught up in the idea of having a celebration.
Believe me, I'm not one to shy away from "making merry" at Christmas. It is, truly, my favorite time of year. There is, however, among Christians, a rather disturbing lack of awareness as to how to approach the Christmas season and the tremendous opportunity afforded by it. Here is where the word complacency rears its ugly head. We're so caught up in the anticipation of the event that we're unaware of what's going on around us.
At no other time of year, with the possible exception of Easter, are people zeroed in on the biblical record, the miraculous birth of Jesus, the extraordinary set of circumstances that accompanied His incarnation and the marvelous love, grace and mercy of God toward mankind in sending the Messiah to us exactly as prophesied in Isaiah, Joel, Micah and Zechariah. We're faced with the absolutely astounding realization that the sovereign God of the universe gives His people, every year at this time, 30 plus glorious days to ... "go into all the world and preach the gospel" (Mark 16:15).
We can freely tell the good news of the Savior's birth to our neighbors, friends and relatives, in most cases, without their getting mad or even mildly irritated. As a matter of fact, many people are looking for an excuse to go to church at this time of year and actually look forward to hearing the Christmas story.
Our big error, as Christians, is the mistaken belief that others are hearing the story of Christmas the way God intended. We become complacent in the assumption that their picture of Jesus is very much the same as ours. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
For the unsaved person, the story of Jesus in the manger with the shepherds kneeling at His side, Mary and Joseph looking on adoringly and the Magi arriving with their gifts, ends with the opening of the presents and Christmas dinner. We've allowed ourselves to believe that, through some sort of process of osmosis, the vast majority of people will understand that Jesus came into the world to save sinners and they'll all get on board the "glory train". That's just not reality.
The truth of the matter is that, because of the commercial nature of "the holiday season", very little of the true meaning of Christmas filters down to the lost souls who need to hear it. They're waiting and open to receive the gospel message, but it's being drowned out by Satan's craftily constructed barrage of half-truths and outright lies. He doesn't mind if people get together with family and friends, eat to much, drink too much, and have a good time and even talk about peace on earth. He definitely does not want anyone to make the connection between the babe in the manger and the crucified and risen Christ who reigns supreme with His Father in heaven. He also has no desire that the unsaved ever find out that Jesus Christ is able to snatch them from the jaws of death and hell.
Christmas is your golden opportunity to get the Word out. Don't miss it!
Pastor Rod's Message
November 2018 Newsletter
When it comes to Thanksgiving, I can speak with some authority on the subject. After all, I was born in the state (Massachusetts) where the whole thing got started. You all know the story of the Pilgrims and the hardships they endured the first few years in the New World. I'm quite sure that, were you to subject a colony of 21st century settlers to similar conditions, they would head back to their native land and its relative comforts in short order. Let's look at the facts.
In the first year alone, over half the population died from disease or exposure to the harsh elements. Supplies from the motherland slowed to a trickle and they were forced to live on meager rations which, had it not been for the Native Americans and their generosity, would not have been sufficient to sustain life. Much of what they had brought with them from England was gone and to many of the people it seemed hopeless. I'm sure that, in their most private moments, the leaders of the group would despair of ever surviving, let alone establishing permanent homes in this harsh and inhospitable land. How they must have longed for England (despite the King and his cruelty) and a nice hot cup of tea from time to time. So, what did sustain them and how did they get through those difficult months before the Thanksgiving feast of 1621?
I think that faith is the operative word here. These folks believed that God had preserved them, first from the tyranny of the King of England, then, in spite of harsh treatment from the Dutch, and finally, through the rigors of an Atlantic crossing and unbelievable loss in the New World. The apostle Paul tells us, in I Thessalonians 5:16-18, "Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you."
Did they give thanks that ten of the 17 male heads of families died in the first few months? Did they give thanks that, of the 17 wives, only 3 survived the first 3 months? No, I'm sure they were devastated. Notice, though, what William Bradford writes in his journal less than one year later, "all things in good plenty". I'm sure most of us would have been moping around, wringing our hands and having a large "pity party". Not the Pilgrims! They knew God would bring something good out of a bad situation. All they had to do was stay faithful to Him and wait for His providence.
After the great loss of life in the early stages of their soujourn in the New World, everyday survival was seen as reason enough for gratitude. But, after the abundant harvest of the following year (accomplished, in no small measure, with the help of the Native Americans like Squanto), what they had been through was perceived as a trial by God, a test of faith and a triumph of the Holy Spirit, guiding the will of men.
Had they trusted in their own ingenuity, strength and common sense, they would, in all likelihood, not have survived. They, however, knew and trusted the word of God. King Solomon penned these words, some 2500 years before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock: "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths." (Proverbs 3:5-6). Solomon knew, as did the Pilgrims, that his destiny was not in his hands. He was one of the greatest kings who ever lived and yet, all his wealth, fame, honor among men, wisdom and strategic alliances could not add one second to his life span nor affect his relationship with God. The Bible tells us that God does what is pleasing in His sight. We may not always understand it, but one thing we can be sure of, it will be perfect. And if it's good for God, it has to be good for us.
We've been through a pretty tumultuous year in these United States of America, along with our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world. We are told in God's Word that, "....In the world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world." (Matthew 16:33) If we truly believe that God is who He says he is and that He is in complete control of the universe and the affairs of mankind, then our course is clear and our task well known. Jesus said, "Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature." (Mark 16:15)
Now, the New Year is on the horizon and only God knows what the future holds. Let's take a few moments, as we approach Thanksgiving, to count the many blessings the Lord has laid upon us and rejoice. If He didn't forget the Pilgrims in their hour of greatest need, He certainly will not forget us as we move forward with Him into the great future he has prepared for us.
Give thanks with a grateful heart!
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