Pastor Rod's Message
"LIVING FOR JESUS"
Is there anything , really, to the idea of living for Jesus? The apostle Paul wrote, in Philippians 1:21, "For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain." What a powerful statement that is, but how meaningful is it to you as you live your life in today's society?
I find myself examining the motives for the things I do much more carefully now than ever before. The world is in such a mess right now, that every thought we have, every decision we make and every action we take has to be carefully weighed for its consequences. We are far removed from the days of "shoot first and ask questions later". I'm in a bit of an edgy mood this month, so I think I should warn you, it may take some time for any of this to make sense.
The serious nature of each news broadcast, newspaper headline and magazine article we read leaves us wondering if the entire world has gone mad and we may be the only sane people left on planet earth. How did things get so bad so quickly? The truth is, they didn't. It has taken nearly two millennia for us to tumble into the depravity and chaos in which we find ourselves today. Many of the sharpest political, financial and prophetic minds of our day agree that the world seems to be headed for some great cataclysmic event of (and I love this) "biblical proportions". Well, there may just be something to their musings.
If we believe God's word to be true (and since I believe the majority of those reading this are of that persuasion) then we must accept the premise that the prophesies of both the Old and New Testaments are on the verge of being fulfilled. I believe, strongly, that this will take place in our generation. If that is true, the Bible has a profound question to ask each one of us. The question is this: "What manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God...? (II Peter 3:11b-12a). We are to be holy in our conduct and godliness. Now, I don't know about you, but for me that's a tall order!
What people see of us and what God sees are, many times, worlds apart. I can put on a pretty good act for my family, friends, and members of the congregation and let them think that everything is just great in my life. That's not always the case. I have good days and bad days, just like most people. It's what's going on inside my heart that God looks at and that's not always pleasant. Have you ever tried to fool God? Not a good idea, especially when one considers that God already knows what we're thinking. It's a losing proposition, any way you slice it!
Then, living for Jesus is more than just a nice catch phrase used in an old hymn. The life of a Christian is an ongoing relationship with God and must be nurtured to grow to full maturity. We are constantly aware of the awesome responsibility we have to live lives that are outward manifestations of what He is doing on the inside. God is fully capable of establishing in us a mechanism which allows us to respond to Him in an extremely positive and loving way. There is, necessarily, something that we must do in order for God to produce this fruit in our lives. We must respond by saying one word: yes.
A positive response from us elicits immediate action from God. He is always willing to bless His children. We are just not always ready to be blessed. We lose out on so much simply because we do not give God free reign over our inner person. We hold back for many reasons, the chief of which is fear or, at least, that's what we call it. There may be some fear of the unknown involved, but pride seems to me to be a better word. We are fearful that God will call us to do things we don't really want to do, or, at the very minimum, things we are uncomforotable doing. One thing many Christians don't want is to be taken out of our comfort zone. "I'll do anything you want me to do, Lord, but not something uncomfortable." Once we break through that unseen barrier, there is no limit to what our Lord is capable of doing.
I've beome much more enthusiastic about turning more and more of me over to God as I have, shall we say, matured. Old, fat and bald people don't seem to have nearly the inhibitions that those who are young, skinny and possess a full head of hair do. We are much more apt to blurt out things like, "Jesus really loves you!" or "are you sure you don't want to accept Jesus as your Savior, today?" It doesn't hurt to try these tactics and you'd be amazed how many people respond in a very positive way to your sincere concern for their eternal lives.
There is not one thing, dear Christian friend, except for your life, that you will take out of this world when you die, or when Jesus takes us up to be with Him at the Rapture. All our wordly possessions will be burnt up "with fervent heat", the apostle Peter tells us, in II Peter 3. Nothing will escape that purging. A little card remains within the pages of my Bible to this day. It simply says, "Just one life, will soon be past, only what's done for Christ will last."
Are you living for Jesus the way you know you should? What will it take for Him to turn you into the "beacon of light" He wants you to be? Yes, Lord, I want to live for you and let you take total control of my life. Guess what? He will!
Pastor Rod's Message
"WORKING THE PLAN"
Those of you who can remember all the way back to 1967 may remember a little movie called "Cool Hand Luke". It starred Paul Newman and George Kennedy and was the story of a decorated war hero who ended up on a prison chain gang. Luke was always bucking the system and it caused him considerable trouble. Finally, he took matters into his own hands and escaped by stealing a dump truck. He and his companion (Kennedy) drove for quite a while and finally turned to Luke and asked, "What's the plan?" Luke looked at him and said, "Plan, what plan? I never planned anything in my whole life!"
Some people are good planners and others are not. It's a fact of life as immutable as sunrise and sunset. Having been in the latter category most of my life, I've envied those who have the innate ability to plan out every waking moment and, somehow, make it all count. Decision making and follow through are the key ingredients in wise planning and this is where most people run into problems.
I don't have much trouble with decisions. I'm a fairly decisive person, am not afraid to say let's do this and even have a cohesive plan most of the time. It's the darned follow through that gets me into trouble in most cases. I'm working on it, but the progress is too slow for my taste.
So, why is it so important to "work the plan"? It's simple when you really think about it. Without a blueprint to work from, it's very difficult to build a house, garage or a life. You need something to work from that keeps you focused on the job to be done and gives you the specifications for completing the task.
It's very much the same as we study the Bible. God is always working from a plan. The difference between God and us is that He knows exactly what He's doing and never, ever makes a mistake. Some people think that the sin of Adam & Eve took God by surprise and He had no idea that His "perfect couple" could even contemplate that kind of activity. God knew what they would do, the Bible says, "from the foundations of the world." Could He have stopped them? Of course He could. But then, free will for you and me would have gone right out the window and we'd all be no better than robots, doing whatever has been programmed in. I've said to myself, more than once, "How stupid could two people have been?" Then I think, "You know what, I've done some amazingly stupid and sinful things in my life." So, who am I to be talking about someone else's shortcomings? Adam & Eve were just the prototypes of who we are and of what we do every day.
There are people in this world today who consciously plan to sin. They wake up every morning looking for ways to do sinful things. Most of us, however, just slip into sinful activity. We don't necessarily have a sinful plan when we wake up in the morning, it just happens. It's usually triggered by something that someone else does or a situation that unfolds at home, the workplace, on the highway, or even in church. Someone may say something that doesn't please us and we react harshly. Without even thinking, we let the "old man" out of the box and let that person know what a jerk they are. That is a mild example of how quickly our plans go awry and all the good intentions we had for the day can go right out the window. And, I haven't even mentioned our thought life. That can be a real mess!
I know, you probably thought you were going to get an article on Easter or something at least a little uplifting. Well, I'm not done yet. I've still got space left! The point of all this is God's plan. His perfect plan for all mankind is still at work and is being carried out to perfection. I know what you're thinking: "If it's working so well, why is the world in such a mess!" It's important to read the instructions. The Bible tells us that, as we reach the last days, things will get worse, not better. With all the advances man has made in technology, medicine, and science, nothing seems to make a difference when it comes to the human heart. We are woefully inept at trying to be good people; Christians included. We stumble, we fall and we fail to measure up to the least of God's standards. That is why we have Easter.
Our loving, merciful and gracious heavenly Father knew we would not be able to attain the perfection required to enter into His presence. He knew, given the frailty of our human condition, that we were going to need a lot of help. He knew that the only way to save our eternal lives was to send a perfect sacrifice and the only individual who could meet the criteria was His beloved Son. We have no idea how God must have agonized over the decision, but, ultimatelly, it was the only choice and He made it. You and I, Christian friend, are the fortunate recipients of the greatest gift the world will ever know.
So, as you attend sunrise services (and I hope you will), sit down to Easter breakfast or dinner, relax with your family and enjoy the day, take a few moments to reflect on the plan. "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved." (John 3:16-17) Have a blessed Easter and April!
HE IS RISEN
How do I know that Christ is risen?
What proof have I to give?
He touched my life one blessed day
And I began to live.
How do I know He left the tomb
That morning long ago?
I met Him just this morning
And my heart is still aglow.
How do I know that endless life
He gained for me that day?
His life within is proof enough
How do I know that Christ still lives
Rich blessings to impart?
He walks with me along the way
And lives within my heart.
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Pastor Rod's Message
"COMING APART AT THE SEAMS"
Fifty years ago, as a young member of the United States Air Force, I was stationed at the Presidio of Monterey, California. I was enrolled at Defenst Language Institute in the Serbo-Croatian (Yugoslav) department. There, I would spend 37 weeks learning to speak, read and write the language of the "South Slavs". This was no easy task! I later learned that Serbo-Croatian was second, only to Mandarin Chinese, in difficulty of the 50 languages being taught there at the time.
The mission was daunting, but the accommodations and the food were excellent. I persevered and actually graduated with fairly good grades (a solid B to be exact). For any of you who know me well, anything above a C meant I studied, which was not what I normally did in school. Language school, however, was only part of the allure of the Monterey Peninsula. The main magnet that drew me to this "Shangri-La" was, of course, golf.
One day, I met a man who happened to be the president of Carmel Valley Country Club at Quail Lodge. He invited me to play there and gave me a complimentary voucher for a friend and myself to play whenever it was convenient for us. We were there the next Saturday!
We teed off on the 1st hole and proceeded to play one of the toughest courses we had ever seen in our lives. We were doing fairly well and even made some good shots. We had just reached the green on the 7th hole. I knelt down to check the line on my putt and heard the r-r-rip. I immediately felt a cool sensation on my leg and realized that there was a gaping hole in my Italian designer golf slacks, between my mid-thigh and knee. I thought, "This is great. My one chance to play an exclusive, private country club and I'm coming apart at the seams."
As luck would have it, my playing partner had a couple of safety pins in his golf bag. With a strategic placement of these wonders of modern science, I was able to finish the round of golf, enjoying the awe inspiring beauty of the Carmel Valley in the process. I know what you're thinking: "What does this little vignette have to do with the world, Jesus Christ, the church or anything I can apply to my daily life?" I'm glad you asked.
It seems to me that, just like my golf slacks, the world is coming apart at the seams and no one has any concrete answers as to how to remedy the situation. There are wars and rumors of wars all over the globe. Every time we turn around there is a new "hot spot" somewhere. We are in deep trouble, and in no instance does the pressure seem to be easing.
The safety pins kept my slacks together long enough for me to finish the round of golf and drive home, but what's the world going to use for safety pins? We are in desprate need of short and long term solutions to these major world crises. Where are the nations of the world going to seek answers and solve problems? The United Nations certainly does not elevate one's expectations for peace. Ineffective would be a charitable way of assessing its role in bringing nations together in any meaningful dialog. It seems as if many nations feel comfortable spending days, weeks, months, and even years discussing the issues, but no one is willing to make the hard decisions necessary to stop the violence and put the world on the road to lasting peace.
The Bible tells us there will be no peace until Jesus returns and establishes His kingdom here on Earth. If that's the case, what are we to do in the interim?
Christians have a unique opportunity in this time of trouble and uncertainty. People are looking for answers to the perplexing questions of our time. They are not looking for pat answers or worn out cliches. Too many political hacks and spin-doctors are trying to tell us that everything will be alright if we just "give peace a chance". That begs the question, how can we give peace a chance if the warring parties are not willing to put down their arms and try it?
Personal peace begins with an intimate relationship with God in Christ Jesus. Jesus explained that kind of relationship in John 14:23, when He said: "...If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him." If God is willing to make His home with you, it's hard to imagine a much closer relationship. Why are we keeping Him at arms length when we need Him so desperately today?
All the signs point to the return of Jesus Christ at almost any time. Are we so blind that we will not accept the fact that the things prophesied in the Bible could very well happen in our generation? If these things do come to pass while we're still here, don't you suppose that it might be a good idea to be prepared? It is my firm belief that the clock of history is about to strike midnight and there is much more at stake than a "glass slipper".
If you are not actively engaged in the process of getting the Gospel message out to others, there is no better day to start than today. Don't be afraid. God will give you the strength and courage. All you have to do is trust Him and "just do it!"
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