Pastor Rod's Message
February 2019 Newsletter
"WHAT'S ON MY HEART"
Every month, I stare at an empty computer screen and wonder. I wonder about how much of what I cram into a page and a half of print actually touches hearts and lives. I wonder if people are elated, deflated, encouraged, annoyed or, in many cases, not even interested in the topic "du jour".
No one will ever mistake me for James Michener, Ernest Hemingway or Mark Twain, nor would I have the tenacity to stay on the same subject for months, possibly years at a time, until the novel or non-fiction tome was completed. No, I think about a page and a half is about the best that you can hope for from me. I would, however, hope that this month's article might touch your heart in some small way.
I just read an interesting book; a collaboration between a father, Charles Krauthammer and son, Daniel. As some of you may know, Charles Krauthammer wrote a column, every Friday, for the Washington Post. Yes, that one! He was, if not the only, at least one of the few, conservative writers on staff at that publication. Charles died last year of cancer and knowing he had less than a year to live, decided to enlist the help of his son in compiling the best of his articles from "The Post", plus collected lectures and speeches given over the last 30 years. The book, titled "The Point of It All", covered a variety of topics from politics, religion and chess to his favorite baseball teams -- the Boston Red Sox & the Washington Nationals. Earlier, I had read his first book of this type, "Things That Matter", and thoroughly enjoyed his wit, humor and honest assessment of the world we live in today. A quote from Charles conveys his approach to life: "You're betraying your whole life if you don't say what you think -- and you don't say it honestly and bluntly."
Charles was Jewish by birth, a dedicated member of his temple and frequently wrote articles about Israel and the plight of Jews worldwide. He was keenly aware of the importance of religious freedom, here in the United States, as well as the Middle East and the world at large. Several of his articles lamented the loss of honest dialog among representatives of different religious viewpoints. He seemed especially concerned about the demonization of Christianity as well as Judaism.
What has this to do with us, as Christians, in 2019? Simply this, Christians are under increasing pressure to, for lack of a better term, "keep our mouths shut" or face the wrath of those who disagree with our point of view. The attitude that Christians are not worth listening to, are somehow not to be taken seriously or, in the extreme, dangerous to society, is becoming more and more prevalent here in the United States today. We have become marginalized, maligned, castigated, harassed and threatened. The heat is turning up almost daily, in newspaper articles, magazines, blogs, social media, radio and TV. The question is what do we do to counter these attacks?
We do what Peter told us to do, "If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rest upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified... 'Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter... 'Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator." (1 Peter 4:14, 17 & 19).
The way of the world is to revile, curse and seek to harm those with whom they disagree; the way of God is to stand firm on the truth which is found only in Jesus Christ. He told us long ago, "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life, no one comes to the Father except through Me." (John 14:6).
What's on my heart? Simply this: I am determined that I will live my life, to the best of my ability -- in God's strength and courage -- as His bondservant, freely giving of myself to do His will, no matter the cost. This is what I believe with all my heart -- "For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels, nor principalities nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:38-39).
God has placed us here for His sovereign purpose and He will bring about, according to His will and purpose, that which is pleasing in His sight. Only He knows when that will take place, but when it does we who know Him as our savior and Lord will be caught up to be with Him and spend eternity rejoicing and praising His holy name. It doesn't get any better than that!
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!
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