Love Affirms

Connecting Points

Monday, February 15, 2010

Today’s Topic:  Love’s Affirmation

Today’s Text: 2 Peter 1:17  For he received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” 

Well, does everyone feel especially affirmed today? Isn’t Valentine’s Day fun? I sure think so.

I love more than anything doing romantic and special things for my wife.

Early last week as we were shopping for essentials we came across two bargains – one for her and one for me. She said they could be our valentine gifts.

I agreed, with my fingers crossed.

She thought we were done.

She was wrong.

She was surprised yesterday morning when she saw a gift and card on the counter in front of the coffee pot. I had left it there before I went to the office early in the morning. It wasn’t a big thing, but it was one of her favorite collectibles. She called right away, and I was overjoyed to have brought her such joy.

I love giving! I enjoy the affirmation it brings to my life when I know I have served and encouraged another person. It helps when I know that person also loves me.

As Jesus was preparing to enter the final phase of His ministry, and begin the daunting task of accomplishing the redemptive purpose of God on the cross, His Father in heaven affirmed Him. He had spoken words of love and affirmation once before at the river Jordan when Jesus was baptized. Now again, so that the disciples could hear it, God the Father affirmed His Son.

One connecting point that sticks out to me today: the Father’s affirmation had nothing to do with His Son’s performance, but everything to do with who Jesus was. The Father did not say “With His works I am well pleased.” He did not say, “With His behavior I am well pleased.” He DID say, “With Him I am well pleased.”

It was enough that Jesus simply was for the Father to affirm Him. What a lesson I need to learn from this. How quickly I fall into the destructive trap of affirming others only when they do something. How selfish I am to think that unless their behavior or actions benefit me in some way that they do not need to be recognized or encouraged. It is so disheartening and destroys the spirit of another when they are led to believe that their worth is connected to their performance.

I praise God that He loves and affirms us simply because we are His children. We never have to do another thing to be the benefactors of God’s abundant love. Every moment, if I choose to, I can meditate on the affirmations of God’s love for me. His love is not conditional. When I am at my worst and weakest, I can wallow in the wonder of His love rather than in the pool of pity.

How awesome!!! God loves me and is pleased with me. Do you accept this truth? Do you spend every waking hour basking in its beauty? Do you realize that right now, as you read this and your thoughts are wandering into questions of worth, the God the Father is leaning towards His Son and speaking in a voice loud enough for all of heaven to hear, “I LOVE MY CHILD, AND AM PLEASED WITH HIM/HER.”

Believe it. Accept it. Apply it. Enjoy it. God affirms you just because of you!

Pastor John

Eyewitness Testimony

Connecting Points

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Today’s Topic:  Eyewitness Reports

Today’s Text: 2 Peter 1:16-18  We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.

According to several sites I researched on the internet this morning, there seems to be an attempt by those in our legal system to bring discredit to the value of eyewitness testimony. Psychologists have teamed up with lawyers to put in place serious doubts about the average person’s ability to recall events clearly and without prejudice based on personal perceptions. People don’t remember things precisely. They embellish. They filter what they see through their own set of issues. The time that lapses from the event to the testimony brings one’s memory into question. Eyewitness testimony is not viewed as very credible today.

But there is a way that eyewitness testimony becomes credible. First, it must be consistent. The event must be related the same every time no matter how far removed from the event by time the witness is. And second, it must be able to be corroborated. The testimony must be supported by other testimony and by the evidence.

Consistency and Corroboration. The same qualities that make the eyewitnesses of the life of Christ credible. The same qualities that make you and me credible witnesses.

Peter didn’t make up a story. It was consistent for the rest of his natural life. It was corroborated by all of the other eyewitnesses and the historical evidence. It continues to be.

But what about our lives? We are commissioned by Jesus Christ to be witnesses – eyewitnesses – of His saving power. Is there consistency to your testimony, both in word and deed? Can your testimony be corroborated by your lifestyle? By your friends?

Consistency and corroboration. Makes for a great eyewitness. You can be one!

Pastor John

Cleverness Exposed

Connecting Points

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Today’s Topic:  Clever Stories

Today’s Text: 2 Peter 1:16-18  We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.

I found a quote this morning from someone named Principal Denny of Scotland. After several internet searches, I can’t find out anything about him. But what he said is powerful.

It pierces to the heart of our self-centered nature.

It smashes to pieces the elaborate and deceptive disguises that have been erected to resemble churches in our so-called progressive church age.

It minimizes the attempts of modern day preachers to maximize attendance with creativity rather than truth.

It puts to death the philosophy that man’s ingenuity will eventually conquer all social ills.

In its simplicity is embedded the complexity of truth.

Are you prepared for something simple to challenge your thinking in every part of your life, work, and church? I wasn’t, but it has. I hope it does the same to you.

Here it is in its splendid simplistic beauty:

You cannot at the same time show that Christ is wonderful—and you are clever.

Pastor John

 

What’s Your Heritage?

Connecting Points

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Today’s Topic:  What’s Your Heritage?

Today’s Text: 2 Peter 1:15   And I will make every effort to see that after my departure you will always be able to remember these things.

Oh the heart of a shepherd! Peter’s passion was people. It hadn’t always been that way. Before he finally surrendered to another Lord – THE LORD – he had tried to be lord of himself. To quote the words of Lord George Noel Gordon Byron (1788–1824), “Lord of himself—that heritage of woe.”

Peter discovered a better heritage to pass along – the heritage of the knowledge of God, not self. He made a commitment to live out his life passing along that heritage to those he had mentored. He wanted to be sure that the things he taught become so much a part of their lives that they would never forget them.

The heritage we leave is important. We start leaving it the moment we begin having any sort of influence on others. Even children, who are learning what their heritage will be, are actually passing along what they learn from an early age. That’s why God places such an emphasis on parenting in the Scriptures.

Remember the words of God through Moses in Deuteronomy 6?

“These are the commands, decrees, and regulations that the LORD your God commanded me to teach you. You must obey them in the land you are about to enter and occupy, and you and your children and grandchildren must fear the LORD your God as long as you live. If you obey all his decrees and commands, you will enjoy a long life. Listen closely, Israel, and be careful to obey. Then all will go well with you, and you will have many children in the land flowing with milk and honey, just as the LORD, the God of your ancestors, promised you. Listen, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD alone. And you must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” 

It has always been and will continue to be the primary responsibility of the family to pass along the heritage of true faith in the one true God, the LORD of all, to the next generation. It is essential to the health of a church to pass along the heritage of truth to all that are brought to saving faith in Jesus Christ. It is imperative to us as individuals who truly love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, and strength, that we commit ourselves to teaching God’s love to others both in word and lifestyle.

We must become keenly aware that every one of us is passing along a heritage of one form or another. The heritage of the past is the seed that brings forth the harvest of the future.

So what kind of seeds are you planting in the people around you?

Pastor John

Constant Reminders

Connecting Points

Monday, February 08, 2010

Today’s Topic:  Constant Reminders

Today’s Text: 2 Peter 1:12-15   So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have. I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body, because I know that I will soon put it aside, as our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. And I will make every effort to see that after my departure you will always be able to remember these things.

Pastor Roger relates this story in Christian Reader magazine. His 5-year-old daughter, Ashley, was tracing her hand on a piece of paper. “Jesus died on the cross,” she said, busily at work. “This is his hand.” Then pointing to a dot in the center of the drawing, she added, “And that’s where the nail was.”  Tears welled up in his eyes. He was reminded again that we can’t hear enough of the greatest sacrifice ever made for mankind.

If you were to pick up your Bible for devotions today and it happened to flop open to this passage, your initial thought would be to just start reading there and keep going. We do that a lot when we “study” the Bible. I put that into quotation marks because we really aren’t studying if we do that. How can we read that Peter wants to constantly remind us of these things if we don’t go back and look at what He has just written so we know what the “things” are?

So take a few minutes and go back again over the first eleven verses. You will discover again the incredible promises of God and His purpose for your life. But go into it with a correct attitude. Here’s what I mean. We are easily tempted into believing that the proof of God’s existence, power, and presence is found in great big things He does. We tend to need miracles. We are no different than the people of Jesus’ day. We are no different than the Israelites standing at the edge of the Red Sea. We are just like those who require to be shown before they will believe.

But the proof of God’s presence in you and purpose for you is not found in some miraculous epiphany. It is found in the simple yet powerful work of the Holy Spirit in you to create the character of Christ. Here’s how Henri J. Nouwen puts it:

Our salvation comes from something small, tender, and vulnerable, something hardly noticeable. God, who is the Creator of the Universe, comes to us in smallness, weakness, and hiddenness. I find this a hopeful message. Somehow, I keep expecting loud and impressive events to convince me and others of God’s saving power; but over and over again I am reminded that spectacles, power plays, and big events are the ways of the world. Our temptation is to be distracted by them and made blind to the “shoot that shall sprout from the stump” [Isaiah 11:1].

In the words of the Psalmist – “Be still, and know that I am God.”

We must stop ourselves from demanding big things from God in order to prove He’s still there. Instead, we are privileged to sit at His feet and learn from Him. As children of the Father, we are qualified to be cuddled in His arms. As those baptized by the Holy Spirit into the family of God, we are uniquely equipped to carry the character of the One and Only Son of God.

We are the living proof that God is and always will be. We are the visible evidence that Jesus saves. People will be drawn to Jesus as we live our lives faithfully in front of them. Not because of miraculous experiences of supernatural power. Not because of our success or wealth. Not because we have all the answers to mankind’s questions. No, none of these things are the true evidence of God’s presence.

We are the living proof of God because we participate in the Divine nature (vs. 4). People will be drawn to Jesus by watching the life of Jesus be lived through us (vs. 5-8). The unsaved of the world will start asking us about the hope that lives within us (1 Peter 3:15) when we start living like we are sure of it ourselves (vs. 10-11).

Be still today. Allow the Holy Spirit to penetrate all of the conflicts imposed upon your mind by the world. Listen for the voice of God. He will be telling you who to be, not what to do.

Pastor John

What to Do with Doubt

Connecting Points

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Today’s Topic:  Be Sure

Today’s Text: 2 Peter 1:10-11   Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

I remember my first job. I was only 15. A man named Jack from the church my dad pastored owned a gas station. I don’t remember any interview, just an invitation. He approached me in church one Sunday and asked if I wanted to work on Saturday’s as a pump attendant. That was way back in the days when gas stations offered full service. My job would be to pump gas, clean windows, and check the oil and fluid levels.

I said yes. He said he would pick me up at 7:30 a.m. on Saturday and return me home at 6:30 p.m. Lunch would be provided.

When I got home from church I was so excited. I had been invited to work for someone. I had no idea what he saw in me, but I didn’t let my insecurities ruin the opportunity. I was just super excited to be asked. I couldn’t wait until Saturday.

As the week went on the excitement built. Every day at school I would find it hard to concentrate because I was making lists of what I was going to do with the $13 I made every Saturday. That’s right; I made $1.30 an hour. First, I would buy my first set of golf clubs. That only took two weeks. I paid $17 for them. Then I would buy a bag, then golf balls, then a membership, and here I am today.

Well, Saturday arrived, and I was up early. I listened carefully during the 25 minute drive as Jack told me about my responsibilities at the station. I followed him closely as he showed me around once we arrived. I asked questions. I was thankful my dad had already taught me how to care for a car so I knew how to do everything already, but wanted to make sure I was doing it Jack’s way. After all, I was serving him and his customers. I was representing his reputation as the business owner.

 The day went great. I pumped gas, washed windows, and did everything and anything Jack asked me to do. Lunch was the best. He called me into the shop and there was a bag for me. I don’t remember the name of the restaurant, but it was the best double cheeseburger I had ever eaten. I think that’s because it was the first double cheeseburger I had ever eaten. I felt so blessed. I stood in the shop with all the other guys and felt like I was part of a team. I was accepted by men twice my age and better.

There had been times during the week prior to my first day of employment that I wondered if this invitation was real or not. I started to question my ability. I doubted my worth. How could I be sure that I was needed and accepted?

The answer was simple – show up for work. Accepting invitation was the first step, but acting upon it was vital. If I hadn’t shown up, the invitation would have been withdrawn.

Now, except for the part about the invitation being withdrawn, this situation is a pretty good illustration of our salvation. God, the creator and owner of the universe and everything in it, has invited us to be His servants. His invitation, once accepted, is permanent. But it is our responsibility to conquer our doubts about that invitation.

Doubts happen. We question our worth. We wonder if we are qualified. But we must remember that the invitation had nothing to do with our qualification, just as my invitation to work didn’t. God did no interviews. There are no spiritual resumes.  He invited us as an act of grace.

Showing up for work eliminates doubts. That’s what Peter is saying in this passage today. Be careful not to let this verse confuse you. We are not responsible, nor are we even able, to make God’s calling and election sure. We are responsible to make ourselves sure of it by doing what Peter taught us in the previous verses. We do that by growing in the knowledge of God and increasing in the character of Christ. When we do, we remove doubt, and we gain a rich reward when we enter glory. We do not show up for work to earn our entrance – that’s already guaranteed by the invitation we accepted. But the welcome we receive when we get to heaven does depend on the quality of work we do today as servants of the King.

Remember, your life represents the reputation of Jesus.

Pastor John

Remember Your Salvation

Connecting Points

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Today’s Topic:  Remember Your Salvation

Today’s Text: 2 Peter 1:9   But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.

Early this morning I was at the hospital with a very dear friend who is having a valve replaced in his heart today. In six months he will be 80 years old. As I drove to the hospital I asked the Holy Spirit to lead me to a passage of Scripture to read to him before he went into surgery. When I parked the car and picked up my Bible I was led immediately to these words in Psalm 89:

I will sing of the LORD’S great love forever; with my mouth I will make your faithfulness known through all generations. I will declare that your love stands firm forever, that you established your faithfulness in heaven itself. The heavens praise your wonders, O LORD, your faithfulness too, in the assembly of the holy ones. For who in the skies above can compare with the LORD? Who is like the LORD among the heavenly beings? In the council of the holy ones God is greatly feared; he is more awesome than all who surround him. O LORD God Almighty, who is like you? You are mighty, O LORD, and your faithfulness surrounds you. Your arm is endued with power; your hand is strong, your right hand exalted. Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; love and faithfulness go before you. Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, O LORD. They rejoice in your name all day long; they exult in your righteousness. For you are their glory and strength, and by your favor you exalt our horn.

What a wonderful time I had with some of his family as we gathered around the Word of God and declared our confidence in His faithfulness and love. What a blessing it was to be with those who have learned to acclaim the LORD and who walk in the light of His presence. The LORD is our glory and strength, and by His grace He exalts us.

I hurt for the people who have forgotten the splendor of their salvation. I am ashamed of the number of times that I have become nearsighted. It is hard to see how many people have degenerated their regeneration and become blind to spiritual things when they have the right to see the glory of God. How it breaks my heart to realize that there are brothers and sisters in Christ who will live today solely for themselves surrounded by the anguish of their dreadful circumstances and not once remember that their sins have been forgiven.

Yet we must remember this – while they may have forgotten that God has forgiven their sins and made them His child in Christ Jesus, GOD HAS NOT FORGOTTEN! Peter never says that the person who stops growing loses their salvation. HALLELUJAH for that, or we would all live in the bondage of fear. But that person does miss out on the incredible blessings of fellowship with the Father through the filling of the Holy Spirit.

So much pain could be eliminated from our lives – pain caused by our constant struggle for self-exultation – if we would just remember that the LORD is our glory and strength, and that He exalts us.

So today, begin a mind and body renewal program. Here’s the starting point – fix nearsightedness by fixing your eyes on the LORD. His love endures forever. His faithfulness extends through all generations. The LORD is more awesome than all who surround Him. He is mighty, and mighty to save. In His arm is power. In His hand is strength. With His right hand he lifts us up and exalts us. Fix your eyes on the LORD, and walk in the light of His presence. You will be renewed by His righteousness. You will replace despair with rejoicing. You will see the glory of God.

Pastor John