What is Your Call?

call

“In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, and saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!’” (Matthew 3:1-2)

John the Baptist was the long-awaited prophet of the Messiah. By all accounts today he was a different sort of dude.

He wouldn’t have made it past most pastor search committees, but he gives us so many glimpses of the glory of God that we can certainly see how Jesus called him, Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist;” (Matthew 11:11)

John the Baptist had what we all need, a clarity of call.

If we take a minute, we can see his message—Repent! And, we can also see his mission was to proclaim the Messiah.

We all have the same mission as him. Tell the world about Jesus. But, we do that differently.

It’s the message that we must see. This is the way we are gifted. A prophet will be an in your face, black and white messenger (like John the Baptist). Proclaiming repentance. But, an encourager we tell people about the love of God.

This is the message we have. Born into us when we were born again.

It’s also the problem we have with each other. Prophets tend to think they are right all the time. After all, we do need to repent. Right?

That’s why we must clarify our call. Most of the arguments in our churches and on social media are centered around our different gifts. Without a clarity of call, and the spiritual maturity to see our differences, we may end up being so right we think everyone else is wrong.

We need prophets. We need encouragers. We need mercy, knowledge, administration, and on and on. But we also need the grace to let others fulfill their call.

So, what is your call?

Don’t forget to pray!

Pastor Rodney

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Do you Remember all God’s Done for you?

remember

“Remember the instruction you gave your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations, but if you return to me and obey my commands, then even if your exiled people are at the farthest horizon, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place I have chosen as a dwelling for my Name.’”

“They are your servants and your people, whom you redeemed by your great strength and your mighty hand. Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant and to the prayer of your servants who delight in revering your name. Give your servant success today by granting him favor in the presence of this man.”  Nehemiah 1:8-11

After repentance, Nehemiah’s prayer centers on God remember what you said. If we sin you will scatter us, and you did. But in v.9 if we turn to you and obey you, God you will call us to you again. Remember Father and he lists three things:

1)Of His Promises­—(v.8-9)

Lord, you promised if we turn to you and obey you would deliver us.

It’s important in prayer to quote scripture. Not to remind God but to settle it in our hearts.

Lord, you said, “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Lord, you said, “Call unto me in the day of trouble,”

Lord, you said “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:”

The promises reassure us.

2)Of His Power—(v.10) “Thy great power.

When we pray we’re not only talking to our heavenly father, but also the God of everything. He said that in V.4.

Oh, God can’t deliver America—we’re hopeless. He delivered Israel at the Red Sea. God can’t save my husband, or wayward child—oh really, God delivered Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, God delivered Daniel. God even saved Nebuchadnezzar, an evil king.

3)Of His Plans—(v.11)“who desire to fear thy name: and prosper,”

That reminds me of what God told the prophet Jeremiah: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

God wants to bless us. God wants us to walk in victory. God’s plans are that we live Holy, happy lives and point the way to Jesus.

Do you remember all God’s done for you?

Keep Looking Up!

Pastor Rodney

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Do We Have a Burdened Heart for Prayer?

burdened heart

Look again at what Nehemiah did when he heard the news about his nation.

“When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven.” Nehemiah 1:4

When is the last time you wept in prayer?

You began to pray for a brother or sister in Christ or a lost loved one, or the lost in general, and wept while praying? Do you have passion in your prayer?

Is our hearts so in tune with God that other’s burdens become your burdens?

The Bible says, “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:1-2

A missionary and his family were forced to camp outside on a hill. They were carrying money and they were fearful that thieves might rob them. After spending time in prayer, they finally fell asleep.

Several months later, a man that had been injured was taken to the mission hospital. He asked the missionary if on that special night they had soldiers guarding them. The man said to him, “We intended to rob you, but we were afraid of the twenty-seven soldiers.”

When the missionary returned to his homeland, he shared this story with his home church. One of the members asked the date of that night and then responded, “We had a prayer meeting that night, and I took roll. There was exactly twenty-seven of us present.”

Oh, brothers and sisters when God’s people have a burdened heart God does miracles.

Who do you have a burdened heart for today? A loved one? Church family? Our Nation?

Let’s pray.

Pastor Rodney

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Two Ways to Grow Spiritually

grow

“Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.” Philippians 3:12

When Christ Jesus saved Paul that was just the beginning not the end. Except for the Lord Jesus Himself, and John the Baptist Paul was one of the most faithful men who ever lived. And Paul is saying I still need to grow.

I’m no there yet. I haven’t arrived. I still need to grow.

Paul wrote most of the New Testament, authored many of the most read books in history, and he’s saying he’s not spiritually where he wants to be.

So he tells us how to focus our lives to be spiritually mature:

1.Follow God’s Plan“Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on,”

I am not yet complete, mature in my relationship with Christ so I press on—that means to reach forward to a goal.

Well what is God’s plan? God’s goal for our lives—Spiritual Maturity. He wants us to grow up in our faith and trust in Him. He wants us to become more and more like Jesus in our daily lives.

Leonard Ravenhill tells about a group of tourists visiting a picturesque village. They walked by an old man sitting beside a fence. They asked the man if any great men were born in the village. He said, “Nope, only babies.”

There are no instant spiritual giants in the kingdom of God. Growth takes time. Too many times we as Christians forget that so and so isn’t where he ought to be spiritually.

2. Fulfill God’s Purpose“that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.”

The phrase “lay hold of,” means to seize or possess. To grab everything God wants for me because of my relationship with Jesus Christ. We must seize the opportunities in life by fulfilling God’s purpose for our lives.

Rich Stearns as a boy was brought up in an alcoholic family. Never enough work or money young Rich decided to climb out of that lifestyle. In the seventh grade he received catalogs from all the Ivy League schools.

He received a full scholarship to Cornell and in college he found the two loves of life, Renee, and Jesus.

Rich had a heart for the unfortunate. He refused to let his bride register for china because as he said, “As long as there are hungry children, we shouldn’t have china or crystal.” At there wedding Rich and Renee’ received fondue pots and Crock-pots, but no china.

Rich with an MBA and a great business mind became the CEO of Parker Brothers. Eleven years later he became the CEO of Lenox China and Crystal.

Funny how a man who had no china was becoming wealthy selling china to the wealthy. His life seemed to be drifting. He thought of retiring and going on the mission field.

Then the phone rang. World Vision a ministry that championed the cause of the poor world-wide, wanted Rich to be the CEO. He took a 75% pay-cut to take a ministry. Rich knew he found the purpose God created him for and World Vision is glad he did.

You will be glad you did too.

Keep Looking Up!

Pastor Rodney

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Does My Life Reveal Jesus?

reveal

“He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.” Acts 1:3

Here we see the Risen Savior our Lord Jesus Christ presented Himself to the disciples. The now 11 Apostles and look at 1 Corinthians 15:6, “Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep.”

He was seen by over 500 people at one time.

He revealed Himself to them and demonstrated who He was by His death on the cross, His resurrection, the miracles He did, and spent 40 days with them before His ascension to heaven here in v.9. He showed Himself to His disciples.

But, just as the first church did here in Acts, we are to reveal Him in our lives. You ever just sit back and think how good it is to be a Christian? You ever think man if it wasn’t for my Savior what would I do?

When I think of these first Christians, this first church, and what they went through, I feel so unworthy. What they suffered and the persecution they endured what have we done to reveal the Savior?

In 1904 William Borden heir to the Borden Dairy Estate, graduated from a Chicago high school a millionaire. His parents gave him a trip around the world. Traveling through Asia, the Middle East and Europe Borden got a burden for the world’s hurting people. He wrote home and told his parents God was calling him to the mission field.

When he made this decision he wrote two words in the back of his Bible. No Reserves.

After graduating from Yale he turned down several high paying job offers and he wrote two more words in the back of his Bible, No Retreats.

He completed his studies at Princeton Seminary and sailed for China to work with Muslims. He first stopped in Egypt to prepare for the work. While in Egypt he was stricken with cerebral meningitis and died within a month.

Some would say what a waste. Not in God’s plan, because the last two words William Borden wrote were No Regrets.

Someone said, “What you are is God’s gift to you, what you become is your gift to God.”

Keep Looking Up!

Pastor Rodney

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What is Your Life’s Mission?

mission

Please, if I may, let me ask: what brings you joy? What is your life’s mission?

The Bible tells us, “The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands.” Psalm 138:8

That wonderful missionary to India and Persia, Henry Martyn, once said, “The Spirit of Christ is the spirit of missions, and the nearer we get to Him, the more intensely missionary we must become.”

I believe the church must become more mission minded. First, for the people around us who need Jesus, and secondly, become more giving and intentional about missions world-wide.

That was the attitude and spirit of the first church here in Acts. They were a church “On Mission.” They didn’t have a building, budget, committees, or choir—they didn’t even have a
Bible, but they spread the Gospel with great joy.

Robert Reed said. “I have everything I need for joy!” His hands are twisted and his feet are useless. He can’t bathe himself. He can’t feed himself. He can’t brush his teeth, or comb his hair. Strips of Velcro hold his shirts together. His speech drags like a worn out eight track.

Robert has cerebral palsy.

The disease keeps him from driving a car, riding a bike, and going for a walk. But it didn’t keep him from graduating high school or attending Abilene Christian University, from which he graduated with a degree in Latin. Having cerebral palsy didn’t keep him from teaching at

St. Louis Junior College or from venturing overseas on five mission trips.
And Robert’s disease didn’t prevent him from becoming a Missionary to Portugal.

Like Robert Reed the first church knew something we have forgotten. The mission of the church is to spread the Gospel, and to disciple believers. The first church took the Great Commission very seriously, and their model should still be our standard today.

Robert Reed with Cerebral palsy moved to Lisbon, Portugal all by himself, in 1972.

Then he stationed himself daily in a park, where he distributed brochures about Christ. Within six years he led seventy people to the Lord, one of whom became his wife, Rosa.

God has a mission for your life and for your church. May your joy be full and you life fulfilled.

Keep Looking Up!

Pastor Rodney

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Dr. James Naismith: Did God Invent Basketball?

did-God-invent-basketball

Without God’s hand on a young man’s life, we may have never had basketball. Think of the game and the terms we use like March Madness or the NBA Finals. God placed his hand on a Theologian and invented a game that reconciled Dr. James Naismith’s love of sports with his Christian integrity.

To understand how God used a man to invent the game of basketball, we need to see the back story about the man, athlete, academic, and coach James Naismith.

Good stories are rarely told today. We get caught up in the negative news cycle. We are reminded daily of the problem with athletes, politicians, police, and even pastors. But a story how a theologian who was studying to be a minister could invent a game that millions of people would play and love, that’s quite a story.

James Naismith was the eldest son of Scottish Immigrants. He was born in Ontario, Canada. He grew up playing a game called “duck on a rock.” A simple game where you placed a smaller rock (the duck) on top of a bigger rock and tried to knock the duck off with another rock. If you missed you had to chase after your rock.

The players learned to lob the rock toward the duck. This simple shot would later be instrumental in shooting.

Naismith wasn’t really a good student. He dropped out of high school and went to work in the lumber camp to help support his younger siblings. When he was a boy, both his parents died of typhoid fever within three weeks of each other.

But God intervened one night in a bar. James walked in and ordered a whiskey. Someone asked him if he was Margret’s son. James said, “Yes.” The man replied that his mother would roll over in her grave seeing him with whiskey.

James quit. He decided right then and there to make something of his life, and he knew that education was the way to succeed. God put a teacher by the name Thomas B. Caswell in his life. James graduated at 20.

College offered education and sports, and James was good at both. He played football and rugby. He was also studying to be a minister. However, in the late 1800’s, sports was viewed in a vulgar light by good church people.

Naismith didn’t see things that way. When he heard a lecture comparing sports and Christianity, he realized that it took the same qualities to become a good athlete that it did to become a good Christian. It all made sense to him.

He completed his divinity degree in 1890 and moved to the United States. He got a job as a PE instructor at the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) in Springfield, Massachusetts.

During the fall and spring, the young men had plenty to do with outside athletics. So seminarian Dr. James Naismith was charged with inventing a new game because during the long winter months in New England the students were bored.

He took a little bit of everything:

passing—from American rugby
the jump ball—from English rugby
the use of the goal—from lacrosse
the size and shape of the ball—from soccer
and the “shooting” of the ball from his childhood game—duck on a rock

Naismith then asked the janitor if he could find two eighteen inch square boxes to use as goals. But all he could find were two peach baskets.

The minister in Naismith had to keep the game clean. No brawling or rough play. Rules were developed and most importantly the “foul.” After all, The YMCA stood for Christian ethics, and basketball became a clean, fun sport.

There is no way Dr. Naismith could have envisioned how popular basketball would become. But if you ever get to Springfield, Massachusetts, stop by the Basketball Hall of Fame and see how it began.

God’s man, used God’s way, to invent a game of fair play and teamwork.

Pastor Rodney

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God Has Done It!

He has done it

Psalm 22:30-31, “
Posterity will serve him;
future generations will be told about the Lord.
They will proclaim his righteousness,
declaring to a people yet unborn:
 He has done it!”



Last year, when I post a photo of my youngest granddaughter, Alexandra Nancy, on Facebook, I receive, among many beautiful and touching comments, this one from high school friend, Robb:  “Love the smile . . . Our future . . .”

He has done it
He has done it!

It moves me to tears.

Alexandra is so vulnerable, knowing nothing but surrounding arms of love, basking in the awakening to life as she grows and develops with each passing day.  Her story is one the Lord already knows, and will be one for all of us who love her to discover in time.

Our hearts are filled with promise.

Promise for the future.

But . . . 

In these difficult, trying days, when it seems the world has turned against those who first seek the Lord, the promise can become hard to hold on to.  No matter where we look, despair, depravity, and hopelessness prevail.

As Pastor Wallace warns us in a sermon:  “The world has taken over the church; the church has not taken over the world.”

A powerful admonition.

One we need to take to heart.

Because future generations must be told about the Lord and His saving grace; announced with grandeur and celebration, that they would remember.

After all, He has done it for those yet unborn.

And for His children abiding.

Our future? Believing in God’s promises.

Believing in the smile . . .

Remembering always,

God has done it!

Martha Orlando

Visit Martha @marthaorlando.blogspot.com

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So I Have to Love Them?

tic-tac-toe-love

Love done right is about giving. Giving and not expecting anything in return. Basically, love done right is about loving for the sake of loving. And therefore, giving others a glimpse of Jesus in a world that is in desperate need of Him.

If you were to ask me if loving people is a challenge for me, I would immediately say no! I persistently strive to love regardless of the level the love is reciprocated at.

Well…as long as you are referring to family and friends and people who treat me well. In fact a pretty impressive list of people comes to mind.

But then there is that one Scripture passage that also comes to mind. You know, the passage we could all do without? The one that if it was somehow removed from the inerrant, inspired Word of God, we would not raise too much of a fuss?

However, every Bible I have checked still contains these words found in Matthew 5, from the Sermon on the Mount. “You have heard that it was said , ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?”

I can proudly proclaim that I am killing it when it comes to loving those that are easy to love. (Which, by the way, is not much of an accomplishment,) But when it comes to enemies? That is another story.

In this world where rebellion is revered and absolutes are avoided, it is a good idea to remind ourselves of the good old-fashioned truth that if God tells us to do something, we should.

Period.

Loving our enemies is a bold example of loving like Jesus does. It is most certainly a time when you can safely not expect anything in return! It is against our human nature to show love toward those that have hurt us and treated us badly. ESPECIALLY when we know or suspect that the love will not be reciprocated.

I have pondered spending a little time trying to find a Biblically-based teaching on NOT loving our enemies; one that justifies gossiping about, giving dirty looks to, and silently wishing bankruptcy or a mildly sprained ankle upon my enemies. However, I would be wise not to waste my time looking for a loophole…The bottom line is: God says we need to love our enemies.

Oh, and pray for them too. He does not command us to do something, and then NOT give us the ability to do it. You know what that means, right? We cannot use the excuse, “I have tried, but I just can’t do it…” when attempting to justify why we aren’t following the “Love your enemies” command. If He tells us to do it, then it is possible to do it!

With God’s help, we can love others. ALL others. Imagine: love done right can come from us. What a blessing. What a responsibility. What a gift.

Lord, help us love like You. Help us give others a glimpse of Who You are by showing this world love done right. Amen

Gwen Thielges

Visit Gwen @writewhereheleads.wordpress.com

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Do You Need A Miracle?

miracle

Have you ever heard or said the expression “It Will Take a Miracle?”

People use it in a variety of ways—to describe someone in poor health, a troubled marriage, and even a ball game if their team is behind. It is looking at an impossible situation and knowing there is a need for the Divine to intercede.

In October 1942, WWI fighter Ace, and Medal of Honor recipient, Captain Eddie Rickenbacker was on a mission in a B-17 to deliver an important message to General Douglas MacArthur in New Guinea. But there was an unexpected detour which would hurl Captain Eddie into the most harrowing adventure of his life.

Somewhere over the South Pacific, the Flying Fortress became lost and beyond the reach of radio communication. Fuel ran dangerously low, so the men ditched their plane in the ocean. For nearly a month Captain Eddie and his companions would fight the water and the weather and the scorching sun.

They spent many sleepless nights recoiling as giant sharks rammed their rafts. The largest raft was nine by five. The biggest shark…ten feet long. But of all their enemies at sea, one proved most formidable: starvation. Eight days out, their rations were long gone or destroyed by the salt water. It would take a miracle to sustain them.

There are many times in life that people or churches need a miracle.

In the summer of 1876, grasshoppers nearly destroyed the wheat crop in Minnesota. So in the Spring of 1877, farmers were worried as the temperature rose to record highs—mid-summer temps.

The grasshopper larvae began wiggling to life. On April 26, 1877, Governor John S. Pillsbury asked all of Minnesota to pray. Three days of record high temps as God’s people prayed, but on the fourth day an un-season like frost killed all the larvae…What can happen when God’s people really pray?

Prayer gives the believer confidence. Why do Christians feel like God is not doing what He should, they don’t really pray. You need a miracle…pray for one. You need God to bless your life, give you a better job, save your children, pray!

For Eddie Rickenbacker and his crew, a miracle took place. In Captain Eddie’s own words, “Cherry,” (that was the B-17 pilot, Captain William Cherry) “read the service that afternoon, and we finished with a prayer for deliverance and a hymn of praise. There was some talk, but it tapered off in the oppressive heat.

With my hat pulled down over my eyes to keep out some of the glare, I dozed off. Something landed on my head. I knew that it was a sea gull. I don’t know how I knew, I just knew. Everyone else knew too.

No one said a word, but peering out from under my hat brim without moving my head, I could see the expression on their faces. They were staring at that gull. The gull meant food…if I could catch it.”

And the rest as they say is history.

Captain Eddie caught the gull. Its flesh was eaten. The rest they used for bait to catch fish. The survivors were sustained and their hopes renewed because a lone sea gull, uncharacteristically hundreds of miles from land, offered itself as a sacrifice.

You know that Captain Eddie made it. He never forgot. Because every Friday evening, until his death in 1973, about sunset…on a lonely stretch of beach along the eastern Florida seacoast…you could see an old man walking…white-haired, bushy-eye browed, slightly bent. His bucket filled with shrimp to feed the gulls…to remember that one which, on a day long past, gave itself without a struggle…like manna in the wilderness.

It Took a Miracle—and God sent one. What do you need Jesus to do for you today?

A miracle is not out of HIS possibilities.

Remember today, “For nothing is impossible with God.”

Keep Looking Up!

Heaven is closer than you think.

May God bless your day.

Pastor Rodney

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