The Sure Foundation

Connecting Points

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Today’s Topic:  A Sure Foundation

Today’s Text:  Isaiah 28:16  So this is what the Sovereign LORD says:  “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who trusts will never be dismayed.

I must refuse to let it bother me anymore. It is the reality of the culture in which we live. It is the fulfillment of Scripture about the last days. I do not condone it, but I must not let it become such a burden on my heart that it sucks the joy of Jesus right out of me. No matter what they say or do, I will not stop believing, living, and proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ as Savior of the world.

They may not do it, but why is that surprising? They have rejected the truth and exchanged it for a lie that they think pleases them. Why should I expect them to promote my beliefs when they stand so diametrically opposed to their own? So opposed, in fact, that they refuse any presentation of the truth to avoid any personal conviction. They call it tolerance, but it is so one sided. But I must not let that become my focus.

It would be easy to get very frustrated and attempt to change the system. That would be a mistake. That would take us all further away from change, not closer to it. Change will come only as the love of Jesus and the truth of salvation are presented constantly and unashamedly before the lost people of the world. When the followers of Jesus switch from telling the Good News to trying to change the policies of society, then society becomes more firmly entrenched in their error.

Last night I attended the “Christmas” program for one of my grandson’s elementary schools. The reason I reluctantly call it a Christmas program is that there was nothing about Christ in it. There were songs about Hanukkah. There was plenty of Santa Claus. But there was no Jesus – not even one Christmas Carol.

At first that made me very angry. The double standard of claiming separation of church and state and then including non-Christian religions in the program really bugged me. It would be easy for me to focus on that. But that would not change a thing. It would only cause arguments and defensive posturing, and really bring ill-repute to the Gospel message.

Instead, I must invest in those to whom the Lord has connected me. My grandson who sang one of the songs about Hanukkah needs to be instructed about and grounded on the sure foundation of Jesus Christ. The people sitting near me need to hear me proclaiming the love of Jesus not frustration with the school system. The world’s system does now and will continue to reject the truth of Jesus Christ.  That is not to surprise us, for it hated Jesus also. How much it bothers you depends on who or what you are living for?

So today, I will choose to focus on THE Foundation of all life – the Stone named Jesus Christ. He has been tested. He successfully passed every test. He can be trusted to get us through any and every test of our lives. He will never fail us. He will never forsake us. He will never leave us. When we trust Him and Him alone we will never be dismayed.

All around us every day are individual people who are searching for something to build their life on. But what are we saying to them about the foundation of our life when what they see is dismay over the condition of the world around us? The things that cause discouragement and anger in our lives may be different than theirs, but the reality of such attitudes reveals to them the truth that our foundation is no more trustworthy than theirs. Think about it.

Once again, and with more conviction than ever, I will choose to focus on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I know that Christmas is about Jesus coming to earth as the complete and eternal revelation of God in human form. I know that He came to save us from our sin. I know that He died on the cross to pay the penalty of death that I deserved. I know that He rose from the dead to offer and guarantee eternal life to anyone comes to Him humbly and asks. But the world does not know this stuff, and if they do they are choosing to reject it. It does not accomplish God’s purpose for us to get angry and complain about what the world doesn’t believe. We are to simply, and joyfully proclaim Jesus as Savior. We are not responsible for their response to us. We are responsible for our response to them.

Pastor John

Peace On Earth

Connecting Points

Monday, December 20, 2010

Today’s Topic:  Peace On Earth

Today’s Text:  Isaiah 11:10  In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his place of rest will be glorious. 

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men…

The angels declared to the shepherds that God’s gift of THE Savior would bring peace on earth. But if our only understanding of peace is that it means the absence of war or political conflict, then we would have to conclude that God lied to us.

Peace culminates in social reform. Social reform does not create peace. Peace produces political stability and harmony, not visa-versa. Peace begins in the heart and extends outward into the activities of life. Personal peace will transform the world.

However, man’s pursuit of peace is futile. He has never found it in his own mind nor accomplished it with his own efforts. That’s because no matter what we do or think, we are permanently at war with our creator. Our very nature stands opposed to the Holy One of heaven. So try as we might, every effort to create peace of mind or peace in the world ends in failure because our hearts still ache from sin.

But God so loved us, that He sent His One and Only Son Jesus to solve the sin problem. Jesus paid the price for our sin on the cross, suffering the total wrath of God against everything that stood opposed to His holy nature. Then He rose from the dead and conquered the consequences of sin forever. Anyone – absolutely anyone – who believes in Jesus Christ and repents of their sin is forgiven and the sin nature of man is replaced with the Son nature of God. Hallelujah!

For those who are in Christ Jesus there is peace. Through Jesus Christ we have peace with God and the peace of God that surpasses all understanding, no matter what is going on in the world around us.  

The peace of God gives us hope – hope in the promise of peace on earth. And peace is coming. I think the eleventh chapter of Isaiah is required reading at Christ and throughout the year. When Jesus came the first time, He came to provide an entrance for sinful man into a peace relationship with our Creator. We now await His second coming when He will bring peace around us on the earth. If you are looking for peace around you before discovering the peace of God within you then you will be consistently and permanently disappointed. But when we know the peace of God within us, we patiently wait in certain hope of Jesus bring peace on earth.

Read carefully the description of peace on earth in Isaiah 11 –

Righteousness will be his belt and faithfulness the sash around his waist. The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. The infant will play near the hole of the cobra, and the young child put his hand into the viper’s nest. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea. In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his place of rest will be glorious. 

That is the hope of everyone who knows the peace of God in their heart today. Do you? You can. You can stop the frustrating and futile pursuit of peace because it is already available to you through Jesus Christ who will save you from your sin if you ask Him. Won’t you ask Him today? You can experience the peace of God when you have been brought to peace with God through Jesus, the Savior of the world.

Pastor John

Left Out

Connecting Points

Friday, December 17, 2010

Today’s Topic:  Left Out

Today’s Text:  Isaiah 11:1-3  A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him—the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD—and he will delight in the fear of the LORD.

Early in December my wife and I were trying to decide if we should buy an artificial, pre-lit Christmas tree. It was a hard decision. I love the real tree, and so does she, but it is getting so expensive every year to buy one. A very nice artificial tree would pay for itself in 4 years with the real tree savings. But we just couldn’t force ourselves to spend that much money up front. So we bought a real tree again, which smells and looks wonderful, but we are going to watch the closeout sales on the artificial ones and if we can get the right tree at the right price we just might do it. (There’s one we want at Menards so if anyone sees them go on clearance before Christmas call me right away.)

Anyway, while we were looking at trees, we were also picking up other Christmas gifts. One of the items we were looking for was a stable for the display of one of my wife’s nativity sets. She collects them and has a variety of them from all over the world and different places we’ve visited. The hand carved one we got from Swaziland is very special and she wanted a stable to display it.

We were in particularly “red” department store and didn’t see any nativity sets or stables or mangers. We decided to ask a clerk where they might be. His response shocked us but is truly indicative of the spiritual state of things in America. He said, “We don’t have any. We didn’t even order any this year for our stock.”

Imagine that – Christmas without Christ. What’s left? Mas? What is mas? Well let me tell you what mas is in different languages.

In English, mas is a symbol used in astronomy. So? Well, if we leave Christ out of Christmas we may see and study the stars but miss the Star that leads us to Christ.

In Iceland it means chit chat or small talk, which describes the depth of relationship we experience with people and with God when Christ’s love is left out.

People in Indonesia know mas as gold, which becomes the pursuit of everyone who leaves Christ out of Christmas. We learn to trust human resources rather than God. We become takers not givers.

The Italians use mas as an acronym for a motorized attack ship – a torpedo boat. War will be the result leaving Christ out of culture.

Finally, in Danish, the word mas means trouble. As a verb it means to crush. When we choose to leave Christ out of Christmas we are inviting the troubles of this world to crush us. Without Christ there is no wisdom or understanding. Without the Messiah there is no direction for life – no counsel. Without the humanly powerless baby in a manger we will never experience the limitless power of His eternal presence. If we reject the Child that was given to us at Christmas we will perish for lack of knowledge.

But add Christ to mas, and in any language it means hope. It means salvation. It means life. Look at what the prophet says about the Messiah Jesus Christ. The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him—the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD—and he will delight in the fear of the LORD.

In Latin the word mas means man. Christ the man, the Son of God. Without Christ all hope is in man. With Christ man’s hope is in the Savior of the world. Life without Christ leaves us hopeless. Life with Christ gives us everything we need – for today and for eternity. Don’t leave Christ out of Christmas.

Pastor John

Unending Peace

Connecting Points

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Today’s Topic:  Unending Peace

Today’s Text:  Isaiah 9:7 Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his Kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.

Warning! I am NOT trying to start a political debate this morning, but would like to make one observation based on the last 50 years of my life: the bigger government gets the more problems we have. Big government means either big tax burden or big debt. Big government means less personal liberty. High taxes, huge national debt, and less personal freedom will result in political unrest that brings social injustice and violence.

However, that does not have to be the case. There are two factors that determine if big government succeeds or not – justice and righteousness. Not legislative justice or legal righteousness imposed upon the citizens, but rather moral justice and ethical righteousness emanating from the heart of those in leadership and manifested in every political action they take. Unfortunately, no such leader exists today, and never will until Jesus Christ returns to reign as King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

When Jesus comes back to re-establish the Kingdom promised to King David of Israel, we will have a political leader who is also spiritually perfect. He will rule with perfect justice because He is perfectly righteous.

But prior to His return, Satan himself will try to accomplish that kind of reign. He will attempt to duplicate what Jesus is about to do. He will fake a resurrection. He will indwell a human, whom He will set up as the political king of the world and then demand that the world worship him as God. Everything He does is a counterfeit of the Truth. And the world will follow him – right to destruction.

But to us a Child is born. To us a Son is given. The government of the world is promised to Him, and it will be big government. Jesus can pull it off. No one else ever could or ever will. Every political leader is ultimately bound to the injustice or unrighteousness of his own heart or the hearts of those with whom he serves and leads. But Jesus needs no approval from anyone else. He needs no compromises to accomplish his agenda. He accepts no back-stroking and never participates in back-stabbing. He is righteous to the core, and is just to everyone.

As a result, His government will have no limits, and will always – that’s right, always – be at peace. There will be no political adversaries. There will be no kingdoms to conquer or that will attempt to conquer His. There will be no social unrest. There will be no wars, no crime, no taxes, no need for a social security trust fund, and no corruption. No earmarks on legislation, because there will be no need for laws to be passed. Jesus will propose and enforce every law, and every citizen will accept those laws because they will be written into the very fabric of their heart as they surrender to the reign of One they can completely trust.

WOW! What a contrast to today. But rather than try to change today, we should be praying for the return of Jesus and working to bring as many people into His kingdom as possible. Many who are alive today will never see such a kingdom. They will pass into a Christ-less eternity because they reject the King today. We have a huge mission. It is not to change our government. Our mission is to introduce people to the One and Only King so they can live eternally under His reign.

Let’s get to work.

Pastor John

What’s In A Name?

Connecting Points

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Today’s Topic: What’s In A Name?

Today’s Text: Isaiah 9:6 …and He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

According to a story in the publication Christian Reader, a little church in the country had a problem with the reading of the liturgy one Sunday. The person who put together the church bulletin every week frequently used technology to make the work easier. She would take computer shortcuts when possible using the “global search” feature. One week, technology backfired when she commanded the computer to change the name of the Scripture reader from “Will” to “Murray.” The reader’s name came out fine, but the “global search” did its job a little too thoroughly: in the Lord’s Prayer, “Thy will be done in earth” became “Thy Murray be done in earth”!

There is a lesson in that mistake that is deeper than the obvious ones about proofreading and not taking shortcuts.  Can my name be associated with the will of God? When people say my name, do they think of Jesus Christ? When people observe my behavior do they see the grace and holiness of God? Does my name really mean anything?

So far, in just three short prophecies in the book of Isaiah, the coming Messiah has been given specific five names and one intimated name. He will be called Immanuel, or God with us. He will be the great light that shines in the darkness. He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. The names of the Messiah mean something.

  • Immanuel – God Himself, with no degree of diminished Deity, becomes completely human to relate to us and redeem us.
  • The Light of the World – showing people the way out of the darkness of sin and into the eternal glory of the Father
  • Wonderful Counselor – Jesus is an extraordinary consultant. That’s what it literally means. No matter what is going on in our lives, Jesus not only knows it, but He understands it because He pre-approved it for our good and for His glory. He will help us to understand and accept it as a gift of His love if we will seek His wisdom and not live according to our own understanding. (See Proverbs 3:5-6).
  • Mighty God – He is able to manage and/or conquer anything in our lives. Years ago a dear older woman in our church who is now with the Lord gave me a little sign to put on my desk. It said, There is no problem so great that God cannot handle it. Jesus personally brings the eternal power of God to us.
  • Everlasting Father – With no beginning and no end, Jesus comes to us as the complete and personal revelation of Jehovah. He is the great I Am. And as Father, he created us, then re-created us in His own image when we were saved, and now provides us with protection and provision. He alone is worthy of our love and respect as Abba, Father, our spiritual Daddy!
  • Prince of Peace – He is Lord! He is the supreme ruler of all eternity, and the product of His reign is peace. Even though for a time now the world does not accept Him as Sovereign, and we must live in the realm of the enemy, in our hearts we have set Christ apart as Lord and know the indescribable and unfathomable peace of God. We have been placed into an eternal relationship of peace with God through Jesus Christ our Lord, so that we now know the peace of God in our hearts.

May God use this very brief outline of these names of our Blessed Redeemer Jesus Christ to challenge you to think deeper about His Names and what they represent to us. May it also stimulate us to think deeply about what our name means to others, and whether or not we are trying to make a name for ourselves or living up to the new name we have been given in Christ Jesus.

Pastor John

 

 

 

Lead Like Jesus

Connecting Points

Monday, December 13, 2010

Today’s Topic: Lead Like Jesus

 

Today’s Text: Isaiah 9:6 …and the government will be on His shoulders.

“The lure of power can separate the most resolute of Christians from the true nature of Christian leadership, which is service to others. It’s difficult to stand on a pedestal and wash the feet of those below.”

 

Those are the words of a man who once had power, and it cost him dearly. He was in the inner circle of a United States presidency. But the “lure of power” sent him to prison. The desire to be in control cost him his freedom. He has since learned that true power is found in serving others. His name is Charles Colson.

There is no greater example of leadership in all of human history than the story of Jesus Christ. In three short years He transformed the world. He didn’t recruit a huge army to conquer lands and people. He didn’t start a political movement to overthrow the current administration. He wasn’t sophisticated. He wasn’t culturally charismatic. He simply started a grassroots organization called the church and became its eternal leader by serving the members and ultimately sacrificing Himself for the cause.

It is in serving others that the strength of a leader is best observed. In describing Himself Jesus said, “The Son of Man has come not to be served, but to serve.” We are most like Jesus when we serve others. We are the purest reflections of His heart when we sacrifice ourselves for the sake of those we lead. Whether it be in the home or in the workplace, serving others makes us the greatest leaders. In fact, a leader does not begin to serve as a leader until he puts serving into his leadership.

That’s who Jesus was – a servant leader. It is because we know Him as such that we can be excited about the proclamation that the government will be on His shoulders. We can trust His leadership because we know He is serving us. Jesus never set Himself up above those He led. In fact, He was born in a lowly manger in strange town to an unmarried woman and His first visitors were shepherds. He came to serve the least recognized and those with repulsive reputations.

Great leaders never set themselves above their followers—except in carrying out responsibilities.

I saw that happen during the snowstorm we just experienced. I saw young men and women from our church piling into a pickup and heading out onto the unplowed streets to voluntarily shovel out buried cars and plugged driveways. They did it only for the thrill of serving others with no expectations of monetary reward.

These are the future leaders of our churches, and they are already qualified. They do not serve to get ahead. They do not serve to accomplish their own agenda. They do not pre-qualify those whom they will serve. They do not stop serving because they might feel unappreciated or unrewarded. They do not quit because the job is too hard. They make whatever sacrifice is necessary to meet the needs of others, because their heart is the heart of Jesus who was focused on others and not on self.

I want to lead like Jesus. I want to always be ready to serve others, no matter who they are. I want to be ready to sacrifice anything I have, including my time, to meet the needs of others for the Glory of the One who gave His life for me. I want to become the least of the least so I am the most like the Greatest!

In closing, here’s a comparison between leaders and bosses. I know there are parts of this that hit me pretty hard. I’m sure if you take a moment and evaluate your own heart you might see some similarities also. Together let’s correct our personal, family  and business lives so that we are leaders and not bosses. Let’s lead our families, our churches, our ministries, and our businesses with the heart of Jesus. Let us lead like Him.

 

 

Bosses…………………………………………. Leaders

A boss creates fear                                          Leadership breeds enthusiasm.
Bossism creates resentment                       A leader creates confidence
A boss says, “I”                                                 A leader says, “We.”
A boss fixes blame                                           A leader fixes mistakes.
A boss knows how                                            A leader shows how
Bossism makes work drudgery                   Leadership makes work interesting
A boss relies on authority                             A leader relies on cooperation
A boss drives                                                       A leader leads

 

Pastor John

To Us!

Connecting Points

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Today’s Topic:  To Us

Today’s Text:  Isaiah 9:6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given,

To us. To us. Twice stated as the direct objects of the verbs. To us a child is born. To us a son is given. To us!

I am fascinated by the word “us”. What a significant word. I am not sure I can adequately express the thrill I feel when I use the word to describe my relationship with God. Maybe this story will help. I found this old story in a magazine years ago and it spoke profoundly to me today. It is from the memoirs of Margery Tallcott.

When our son Pete was six, it was a Depression year and the bare essentials were all we could afford. We felt we were richer than most people, though, in things of the mind and imagination and spirit. That was a comfort of sorts to us, but nothing a six-year-old could understand.

With Christmas a week off, we told Pete that there could not be any store-bought presents this year—for any of us. “But I’ll tell you what we can do,” said his father with an inspiration born of heartbreak. “We can make pictures of the presents we’d like to give each other.”

For the next few days each of us worked secretly, with smirks and giggles. Somehow we did scrape together enough to buy a small tree. But we had pitifully few decorations to trim it with. Yet, on Christmas morning, never was a tree heaped with such riches! The gifts were only pictures of gifts, to be sure, cut out or drawn and colored and painted, nailed and hammered and pasted and sewed. But they were presents, luxurious beyond our dreams: A slinky black limousine and a red motor boat for Daddy. A diamond bracelet and a fur coat for me. Pete’s presents were the most expensive toys cut from advertisements. Our best present to him was a picture of a fabulous camping tent, complete with Indian designs, painted, of course, by Daddy, and magnificent pictures of a swimming pool, with funny remarks by me. Daddy’s best present to me was a watercolor he had painted of our dream house, white with green shutters and forsythia bushes on the lawn.

Naturally we didn’t expect any “best present” from Pete. But with squeals of delight, he gave us a crayon drawing of flashy colors and the most modernistic technique. But it was unmistakably the picture of three people laughing—a man, a woman, and a little boy. They had their arms around one another and were, in a sense, one person. Under the picture he had printed just one word: US. For many years we have looked back at that day as the richest, most satisfying Christmas we have ever had.

US! God sent Jesus to make “US” possible. How hopeless we were when the “us” only included you and me and a few friends. But God sent Jesus to “us” so we could join His “US”. We have received the greatest gift we could ever get when we accept God’s gift of Jesus who personally places us into the eternal “US”.

To us a child is born. To us a son is given. We needed it. We admitted it. We repented of our sin. We were forgiven for our sin. We received God’s Gift, and now – just think of the wonder of this – now we are included in God’s glorious “US”. He accepts us. He honors us. He changes us. He lives in us. We are God’s “US”!

Pastor John