Thursday, October 13, 2011

Spiritual Warfare

Good Evening Everyone! Tonight I want to address a very, very important topic. One that as Christians we tend to not to focus on enough. Its the root of many of our heartaches, the essence of the evil that swirls around us, and a great explanation when many of us ask "Why?". What am I talking about. Well, I'm talking about Spiritual Warfare. Its real, its present, and as Christians we need to understand the concept, embrace the concept, and have faith that we have the final victory through Jesus. I know some of you tend to tune out on some of my emails, skip through the verses, or skim through for the message. Please, please, please read every word of this one because for some reason this is really heavy on me right now and someone in this group (maybe even me) needs to hear the words God is giving us. Let's start with what I feel is one of the best Biblical descriptions of what is going on around us... Ephesians 6: 10-20: Finally, be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, that you may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming missiles of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints, and pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in proclaiming it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak. The war is on Brothers and Sisters! Don't believe me? Look around! Pay attention! There's a reason for the heartache you've felt. There's a reason you don't think your good enough, beautiful enough, or remotely qualified at times to make it through. There's a reason you want to pass blame, question others, through daggers, and lash out because of the hurt you've felt. That reason is the devil. He is the source of the pain and darkness. Remember this is his world, but we are not of this world nor will we stay here. His schemes are aimed at destroying us, separating us, and breaking us. We cannot let this happen! Don't believe in the darkness! It is temporary and Jesus already won our freedom! Did you hear me? WE WIN THROUGH OUR RISEN SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST!!!!! Take heart, have passion, Love the Lord Your God with all your heart, all your soul, everything that is in you. Accept the full armor of God, the helmet of salvation, the sword of the spirit, and the shield of faith. BELIEVE IT! YES, I'M SCREAMING AT YOU AND SCREAMING IN THE MIRROR... BELIEVE THAT WE ALL NEED TO BE DILIGENT AND PROFESS OUR FAITH WHEN WE FEEL LIKE FALLING! If we believe, stand firm, and pray with perseverance and petition we will not fail. Remember, the price is paid and God is with you! Next time the spiritual war erupts around you and the darkness creeps in take a moment and read the verse above, but do more than that. Say out loud "I'm a Child of God and the evil has no authority over me. I'm redeemed by the healing power of Jesus who is the Christ!" Grace, mercy, and peace to all of you Brothers and Sisters. I'm right along side of you on the battlefield. Let's rally around each other, rally around all believers, and welcome our General to the battlefield again. Join us Jesus! And onward Christian Soldiers! In Christ, Steve

Planting Seeds

Good Evening Everyone! Hope everyone's week is starting off well and that you are energized by the arrival of fall, the smell of bonfires, the beautiful color about to burst in the trees, the brisk air, and the sites of pumpkin patches littering the landscape. It is such a wonderful time of year reminding us of God is faithful and the harvest is about to be taken in. Today as I was driving around I reflected on farmers and how much faith they must have to year in and year out plant their fields and depend on God to provide. As I was thinking about that I also started thinking about the parallel that can be drawn with all of our lives. We plant seeds all the time in hopes of producing a bumper crop of financial security, family stability, and prosperity in every aspect of our daily lives. As I thought of this the first parable that came to mind was the parable of the sower. Although I truly love that parable the one that came out stronger was one focused on faith. Specifically, the following verse from Matthew: Matthew 17:20 "He replied, "Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you." How many seeds have you planted? How many times have you doubted God? How little faith have you had in Jesus? Tough questions I know. These were the questions that were swirling in my head when I realized I don't have a fraction of the faith a farmer would have when it comes to my life. "I" would rather try to handle things instead of trusting in God. "I" would rather set the time table rather than listening to him when he says "not now". "I" would rather feel like I have control over my life instead of trying submitting to a compassionate and caring Lord that guides me in the paths of righteousness. All that being said "I" will not give up on my walk and my desire to truly give it all to him. As you can tell I obviously need some work, but at least I'm trying. What about you? Where are you on your faith walk? Where are you truly at on your faith walk? I observe many of you and can tell you I'm in awe of the outward faith you demonstrate. You inspire me by your works and your dedication. You build me up with your words and actions. I could specifically mention each of you and the impact you've had, but rather I will ask you to reflect on the area of your faith that is most strong and how you will expand upon it. There are certain evangelists that focus on all of the goodness of God without focusing on the God of Perseverance, Character, and Hope. I know each of you has tough times you deal with. I know each of you have your own moments of darkness. But, I also know that each of you have it within you to do what is impossible in your eyes if you only have the faith that Jesus spoke of in the verse above. Instead of listening to what the world says will happen or must happen submit yourself to God and watch him show you his love and faithfulness. You might be surprised by what he has in store for you. And, by all means get out there and enjoy the harvest! Love, Peace, and FAITH be yours through Our Risen Savior, Steve

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

All About Relationships

Good Midweek to Everyone! First of all let me apologize for my tardiness. No excuses... just consumed by all that's swirling around me. This week I want to touch on something that can be so often overlooked by all of us and that is the power of love. And, I'm not talking about the romantic oooohhhhh/ahhhh makes my heart flutter love. I'm talking about love that is there when its hard, love that looks at the character of a person rather than their actions, love that is not judgmental, love that is not fair weather... unconditional love. I've had many conversations lately about relationships including friendships, family, and work. There seems to be a common thing that seems to arise in every circumstance where something is failing. Any guesses on what that is? The common theme is the devil. I find that in every broken family relationship, friend relationship, or work relationship there is an underlying jealousy or hatred that leads one party to attack the other. This verse came to me as I was exploring Proverbs recently:

"Hatred stirs up dissension, but love covers all wrongs." Proverbs 10:12

Do you agree? Well, I don't expect you to on the surface, but if you dive into the depth of this verse I think we could go many places with it. How about our Messiah laying down his life to cover our wrongs for one. But, I think there is another very important truth in this short verse. That truth is that if both parties chose to put "God" aka LOVE in the center He has you covered. The sad fact is that you can only control what YOU do and not the other person, right? Well, yes to an extent.

I'm going to go out on a limb again and issue a personal challenge to myself and all of you. After you read this email I want you to take a moment and pray about that relationship in your life that is not the way you would like it. I want you to pray that God will take control of the situation. Pray that God will give you the strength to approach the situation with the other person in a Biblical or Christian way. Pray that his words will flow from you as you interact with the one that challenges you most. Finally, ask that the hatred be covered by love. There's nothing like a fresh snow to make things look all bright and pretty. Let God make your interaction white.

I mentioned above that in a relationship you can only control what YOU do. Let's not forget that God controls all, knows all, loves all and is ALL! There is nothing too big for God. Talk to the other person. Tell them what you feel and how you plan to approach it. Invite God to the conversation and watch him work for you. And, don't get discouraged. This isn't on your clock, remember? God has a plan that is much bigger than any of us. Give him time to work miracles. And, cast satan out whenever you can. Remind that snake that we are ALL Children of God! And, we deserve relationships with our Brothers and Sisters accordingly!

Now for my last and possibly CRAZY request (nobody ever accused me of being normal). Hug that person when you get a chance. Yes, I said HUG THEM and tell them that you are going to make this work for both of you.

Love and Peace Always from Our Savior,

Ever Feel Weid?

Eph 6:10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.

Good Evening and regarding the title I'm not talking about stomach upset, physical ailments, or anything like that. Tonight I want to talk about being labeled or looked at like you are weird because of your faith. I'm starting a study on a book related to the subject this week, but wanted to give you my initial thoughts before diving in deeper.

We are constantly challenged by many competing forces in our lives to do things a certain way, speak about subjects a certain way, or just "be" a certain way. You know what? I DON'T FIT! I NEVER TRULY HAVE! Why? I can't answer that question, but can tell you that all my life I've been different. And, not always good different. I've been the subject of jokes, the topic of whispers, and someone that people just "don't get". Well, I guess my only explanation is that I've never fit into the box the world creates for me. I don't allow conventional wisdom and the interjection of Satan to tell me what I can do. Therefore, I'M WEIRD!

Many people will say that you can't make everyone happy. I say you can. They will say that you can't be everything to everybody... maybe not, but God can. They will say that you've failed by the standards of the world because you don't do what the world expects... You know what? "THEY" are wrong!

Tonight I want you to follow my lead and stop trying to be normal. I want you to take a step, take a chance and live your lives the way God would want. Don't be afraid to make your situation "happy". Did you hear that? I didn't say you necessarily have to change or change your situation, but you do need Christ. Put him in the center and enjoy the benefit of being Weird. Because Brothers and Sisters... Christ was also considered "WEIRD" to many ... so much so that they crucified him! But, we know the TRUTH!

Let's all start living like we are Children of God and being WEIRD is in!
Love and Peace from Our Risen Savior,

The Silent Few

Good Evening,
Hope everyone is off to a great start to the week. I apologize for taking last week off. I truly was on vacation. Tonight I want to talk about something I will call the silent few. Do you have anyone in your life that inspires you, assures you, and lifts you by their actions? If your like me you do and those around you might not even know their names. Why? Not because you don't care about them, but rather because you don't highlight their significance. Tonight I ask you to pray that all of us together can put these individuals more front and center in our lives and recognize them for the gifts from God that they are. It may seem awkward as first, but I encourage you to acknowledge them to their faces and to others in you life so they are "the best kept secret". They arte living sources of God's love. I can think of a bunch of verses, but let's consider 1 John 2:10 "Whoever loves his brother lives in the light and there is nothing in him to
make him stumble".
Love in Christ,

Give Me the Ball

NLT Hebrews 10:35 "So do not throw away this confident trust in the Lord. Remember the great reward it brings you! ".

Ever wonder what the Bible says about confidence? Well study your concordance and you will find great things. I recently came across this one. I found it very applicable to my own faith walk and have prayed over it much lately. This may come as a surprise to some of you that think I'm very secure and even cocky at times. The real me has been relegated to much less than that over the past 8 months. The real me has taken many blows and if it weren't for words from you my Brothers and Sisters and THE Word I would have believed that I was meant to stay where I've landed. The good news is I believe I'm finally getting my footing and ready to get back in the game. In the movie the Replacements there is a great quote. To paraphrase it, the coach says "when the game is on the line winners want the ball in their hands". So give me the ball! I'm ready to win this one.

Anybody else with me? Are you tired of being just average? Are you tired of being less than you can be? If you are, get in the game! Make things happen and be living examples of what being a Christian is all about. Yes, you heard me right! Being a Christian affords you confidence. Jesus has already won the battle and the devil is under our feet, but we have to BELIEVE IT! So I say BELIEVE, WALK, GRAB A HAND ... time for us to march! Time for us to win!

And If your fast enough you can tackle me before I do my touchdown dance ;o)

Love and Peace through Our Risen Savior,

Mountain Top

Good Evening!

Tonight I'm going to write about something that came to me over the weekend as I was relaxing at Snowshoe, WV. We had the tremendous opportunity to ride on the oldest steam powered train in the U.S. at Cass RR, go hiking, paddle boating, swimming, and just relax inside our condo. Now that in itself would be enough to write about as a "Mountain Top" experience, but it certainly wasn't the only one for me. And, in case you wondered you do not have to be on a mountain to have a "mountain top" experience. Its just a moment in your life when you feel that life doesn't get any better. A time when all is right with the world. They aren't things that you don't deserve, time that you've borrowed, or dreams. They are purely a small glimpse of just a piece of what Heaven will be. When did you have your last one? What did it feel like? And, finally ... Did you take the time to recognize that all of it came from the Creator and thank God for it?

Proverbs 10:22
The blessing of the LORD brings wealth, and he adds no trouble to it.

I used the verse above to demonstrate that wealth is not always material. And, I'm guessing that your mountain top experience had little to do with money. How rich are you? Well, take a moment and think of your mountain top moment... let it sink in. Yep, you have more than you deserve, don't you? I know that I do. I don't deserve what I have. I don't deserve half of it or a quarter of it. But, I'm slowly learning not to question the gifts and blessings that are literally laid at my feet and to cherish them as I should. Guess what? I've been able to recognize many more blessings and even notice a couple more Mountain Tops... hope you can too.

To borrow from a card that Pastor John distributed at his last sermon at UALC "Jesus is the same, yesterday... today... and, tomorrow". And, we have been so richly blessed by his ultimate gift. Now, its time for us to hold onto the others and see them for what they are.

Love and peace from Our Savior and All Praise to Him for all of our blessings! And, may a mountain top experience be in your near future!