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Monday, September 29, 2008

Rant and Rave or Trust and Obey

The following reflections are from Jason Argo, Family Life Pastor at the Stroudsburg Wesleyan Church. Pastor Jason and his wife Nicole have been a part of our chuch family for about 15 months. They also have an adorable 1 year old daughter named Rowen.

Most of us remember the story of Joseph in the book of Genesis. God had incredible plans for Joseph! He communicated to him through a dream that he would be elevated to a high position over his brothers. Since he was the second youngest of 12 boys, this didn’t sit well with his brothers. Their jealousy got the best of them and they ended up selling Joseph into slavery.

Genesis 37:26-28 says, “Judah said to his brothers, “What will we gain if we kill our brother and cover up his blood? Come, let's sell him to the Ishmaelites and not lay our hands on him; after all, he is our brother, our own flesh and blood.” His brothers agreed. So when the Midianite merchants came by, his brothers pulled Joseph up out of the cistern and sold him for twenty shekels of silver to the Ishmaelites, who took him to Egypt.”

This obviously wasn’t the end of the road for Joseph. God does elevate him to a position of power in Egypt and soon enough, his brothers come before him asking for help.

“His brothers then came and threw themselves down before him. "We are your slaves," they said. But Joseph said to them, "Don't be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” Genesis 50:18-20

Even though he was sold into slavery, the Bible tells us “the Lord was with Joseph.” And slowly, God brought Joseph to a position of great responsibility in Egypt. Because of this position of authority, Joseph would provide a safe place for his family in Egypt.

Eventually, Joseph’s brothers felt sorry for mistreating Joseph; but Joseph looked at his troubles from a different perspective. Joseph said, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good…” Think about it. After all the mistreatment and abuse Joseph experienced, God’s hand was working to bring about good.

How do you react when people or circumstances mistreat you? Do you rant and rave, pointing out your predicament to anyone who will lend an ear? Or do you act like Joseph, stepping back and letting God’s hand work to make things better. The next time you are mistreated, try following the example of Joseph. You’ll be glad you did!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Got Holy Spirit?

I have been reading the biblical book of Acts devotionally over the past few weeks. Acts is the chronicle of the earliest Christians describing how they lived in community and mission together. After Jesus ascended into heaven, he sent the Holy Spirit to guide His followers. Many things happen once the Holy Spirit comes upon God’s people, but everything that happens can be summed up under two categories. When the Holy Spirit comes he moves the church toward more intimate COMMUNITY with each other and more intentional MISSION to the world. Simply put, when the Holy Spirit comes upon a local church the people in that church will begin to experience vital relationships with each other and outreach to the world that bears fruit.

There are many people out there who claim that when the Spirit comes weird things happen like people barking like dogs or getting gold fillings magically to appear in their teeth or they simply begin to levitate or something weird like that. But that is not what happens when the Spirit come according to Acts. The Holy Spirit is much more purposeful.

Go ahead and read Acts. You will see that the Holy Spirit moves Christians to love each other enough to share resources, spend lots of time together, support each other through tough times, and celebrate together during the good times. You will also see that when the Holy Spirit comes, Christians begin to love those outside of the church enough to go out and proclaim with boldness the good news about Jesus, even if they get arrested or beaten or mocked because of it.

Here are a few questions to consider. How do you know if the Holy Spirit is filling your life more and more? According to Acts you will love your brothers and sisters in Christ more, even when they are difficult to love, and you will begin to live a missional life that embodies the gospel for those who have yet to believe in Christ. So, where do you see the Holy Spirit evidenced in your life and/or where do you see the Holy Spirit evidenced in your church in the areas of your community or mission together?

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Are You Ready To Share Your Resurrection Story?

I said in this past Sunday’s sermon that I see people at SWC who were once dead but are now walking around fully alive because of what Christ has done for them. “When we were dead in our sins…God made us alive with Christ” (Col. 2:13). When people ask me questions about my faith in Christ, I usually end up describing how I was once dead but Christ has brought me back to life. I recall the details of my dead life without Christ using descriptive words like empty, lonely, purposeless, hurting, and hopeless. I describe my new life in Christ with words such as joy, love, peace, and purpose.

In Scripture, we run into people who share, in just a few words, the difference that Christ has made in their lives. The blind man in John 9 says “One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!" The Apostle Paul says 1 Timothy 1:13 “Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy.”

What would you say to someone who asked you to share your death to life, before and after story? In other words, share in 1-2 sentences what Christ has done for you. The Apostle Peter challenges us in 1 Peter to “be prepared to give a reason for the hope you profess in Christ, but do it with gentleness and respect.” So, here is your chance to be prepared. In 1-2 sentences, share how a relationship with Christ has brought you from death to life.

Looking forward to your resurrection story,

Pastor Lenny

Monday, September 1, 2008

What's Your View of God?

Over the years I have discovered that one’s view of God, even if not consciously articulated, has a way of affected one’s relationship with God. I have also discovered over the years that some of my own God-views have been way off base. 18 years ago I began a quest to know and love the God who knows and loves me. While I think I’m beginning to get an accurate picture of who God really is, here are some inaccurate views of God that many, including myself at various points in my quest, hold.
God is a sheriff, out to get me with his six-shooter once I mess up. The only thing God cares about is whether I break his law or not. If I do, I’m dead meat!

God is a happy clown, totally harmless and only concerned with making me happy- not holy. I can pretty much do anything I want and this God will simply laugh and support whatever makes me feel good- even if it means sinning against Him or others in the process.

God is an old man, powerless and impotent. He is sweet and mannerly, but is too feeble to do anything powerful. He is totally harmless.

God is so holy and austere that he is completely inaccessible. He certainly wouldn’t want to hang out with a sinful loser like me.

God is my buddy, who exists to give me the thumbs up on whatever I want to do and whatever I want to be. No matter what I want, even if it’s harmful to me or others, he is there to simply give me the thumb’s up.

Make a comment to this post by clicking on the word “comment” below and let me know which one of the God-Views above describes how you once viewed God.