Wanting to Get Well

John 5:2-8: “Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?” “Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.”

What is most remarkable about the healing at Bethesda isn’t so much the miracle. Don’t get me wrong, miracles are awesome, but when you’re talking about Jesus it almost becomes the norm. What is most interesting to me is the man’s response to Jesus. Jesus looks at this man who has been lying near this pool, begging for his very sustenance for 38 years and says “Do you want to get well?” What is the man’s response? An excuse. “I have no one to help me into the pool.” I have to make a confession – these kinds of answers are a pet peeve of mine. If I ask you where you want to go to lunch and you tell me you want a milkshake, you may be answering someone’s question, but it isn’t mine. If I ask you what your favorite color is and you tell me you hate blue, again, this helps me not. Do you want to get well? The man assumed what Jesus was asking is, “Do you care enough to get off your butt and get down to that pool?” The man answers with an excuse – “I don’t have anyone to go with me, and I’m too slow.” So often, we give God our excuses. We’re upset that we don’t have the life or relationships that we believe are God honoring. So we make excuses. “I tried, but this person…” or “I tried, but wasn’t able…” Meanwhile, if we’d called out to Jesus he would have carried us to the pool of Bethesda or simply said, “Get up and walk!”

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Wanting to Get Well

When We’re Scared

We scared the kids on Sunday.  Our Bible Story was about Mary and Joseph fleeing to Egypt because King Herod wanted to kill baby Jesus.  Joseph and Mary were scared, but they knew that God would protect them because the Scriptures say over and over again: “Do not be afraid, the Lord your God is with you always.”  Then we gathered all the kids and began our journey to Egypt (down the hall).  Just as we were turning the corner, 2 of King Herod’s soldiers (Justice and Jaylen) popped up and began firing nerf gun darts at us!  Half the kids fled to Egypt (the boy scout room).  But the other half turned tail and ran back to the K 4 Kids room.  3 boys hid in the restroom.  1 little boy came running back with a fully loaded nerf gun – ready to fight off those terrible soldiers.  It was very exciting, and we had a great discussion about trusting God even when you are scared.
And here’s what I learned on Sunday:  When God calls me to do something out of my comfort zone (pretty much anything related to public speaking, or Trunk-N-Treat, or writing blogs or …), He is not disappointed when I turn tail and run back to the safety of familiar. Instead He gently reminds me that He is right beside me.  When I try to hide out in busy work, He patiently asks me to trust in His Plan.  And when I come running with a loaded nerf gun – ready to take on the world with my own solutions – well, He just smiles.  Because He loves me.  And I am learning He will always be there.  God is the best Story Teller.
-Miss Sara
The Escape to Egypt – Matthew 2:13-15 NIV:
“When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.” So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.””
1 Thessalonians 2:11-13 NIV:
“For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory. And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe.”
Hosea 11:1 NIV:
“When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.”
When We’re Scared

Breaking Free from People Pleasing

People Pleaser – are you one?

I have on my desk a little book called The Approval Fix by Joyce Meyer; it is subtitled How to Break Free from People Pleasing.  That is a very catchy title, I think.  I am going to take you today just through the chapter titles of parts 1 and 2 with my emphases:

  1. GOD Loves YOU (This I KNOW for the BIBLE tells me so.)
  2. YOU are valuable. (Jesus created YOU in HIS image.)
  3. YOU are right! (CORRECT – 100% – CHOSEN)
  4. God is on YOUR side. (If He were the team captain on Dancing with the Stars, He would pick us for His partners.
  5. YOU’LL become what you BELIEVE. (The Little Engine that Could – I THINK I CAN.       I THINK I CAN.  I THINK I CAN.  I KNOW I CAN.)
  6. God has the right position for YOU.
  7. YOU have a PROMISING FUTURE. (Jeremiah 29:11 – this is one of my favorites – FOR I KNOW THE PLANS…)
  8. Like YOURSELF; Love YOURSELF. (I got that Jesus loved me, but I had to really learn to like myself too – to really like “being around me.”)
  9. Turn the light ON. (I want to have spiritual eyes to see – like Jesus; I don’t want to live in spiritual darkness.)
  10. You DON’T have to LIVE with APPROVAL ADDICTION. (I have a CHOICE.  Jesus loves me – this I know for the Bible tells me so.)
  11. Establish GOOD BOUNDARIES! (There are so very many, MANY books on boundaries. God’s: “Above all else, GUARD YOUR HEART.” – Proverbs 4:23.)
  12. Don’t let your FEELINGS STOP YOU. (Emotional pain can often be more serious than physical pain. Choose RIGHT.)
  13. Press PAST the PAIN of DISAPPROVAL (F.E.A.R. – False Evidence Appearing Real. The Bible says we are to set our minds on things above, not on earthly things (Colossians 3:2).  He loves us so much, He sent His only Son Jesus to die for US (John 3:16).   That’s pretty approving, isn’t it?)

Hear these words today from author Joyce Meyer: ACCEPT WHO YOU ARE AND BECOME THE UNIQUE INDIVIDUAL GOD CREATED YOU TO BE.

-Pastor Sandy

Breaking Free from People Pleasing

No Control

Many of the things you and I wish for and want different, we have no control over.  What our children do, what our company does, what accidents happen, our health, our finances and what happens in the world; we have little or no control over.  But they deeply affect our lives. Indeed, what we want may not be what we get.  What can we do if we are on the edge, or in the middle of “not what I want” in our lives?  To some degree I do not have an answer to the question.  However I would like to suggest thoughts and steps to be considered to make a difference:

1. Develop a relationship with a person who can be a spiritual mentor.
1 Thessalonians 1:6: “You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.”   

2. Learn the power of thankfulness and be thankful. 
I Thessalonians 5:13: “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

3. Learn the power and discipline of being content.
Philippians 4:12: I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” 

4. Find a place to serve others.     
Mark 10:45: “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”     

5. Develop one year goals and strive to achieve them by the grace of the Lord Jesus. 
Proverbs 16:9: “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.”

6. Study and learn from those who have walked by faith in the past and put into practice what worked for them.    
Hebrews 12:1-2: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.”

I do not have the answer to deal with the things you and I want and do not have, yet have no control over.  But I do know this: the God of the Universe is in control and I am called to live out my faith in action and courage daily.

-Pastor Daniel

No Control

God will never give you more than you can handle

Welcome to one of the most popular statements God never said! I hear it so often: “God will never give you more than you can handle,” but I’ve never found these words in the Bible. Let me confess: I wish it were true. I really, really, really wish God actually said these words. I find—in my life and in the stories others share—that God often gives more than we can handle. The question I find myself asking is: Do I engage with Him when a heavy load is on my shoulders, or do I run from Him? Do I run from the challenge?”

One of the unique experiences I have as a pastor is my involvement in funerals. When I first began pastoral work I was scared to death of funerals. What should I say? What if I say something really stupid? Often it is at a funeral where I am face to face with a family that has just been given more than they can handle. Maybe this has been true for you as you find yourself in a tailspin after the loss of a loved one.

There is a place where God says to us, “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13). This verse comes in the context of a warning that new Christians should not fall back into a lifestyle that dishonors Jesus. Even though Christians live in a fallen world and the temptations to go back are always there, God is stronger and gives us the strength to keep moving towards Jesus.

Honestly, the Bible—and our church—are full of real stories where God does give us more than we can handle. Sometimes this comes in a loss or in tragedy. Sometimes this comes as a consequence of our personal choices. And sometimes it even comes as a gain or a promotion that really is beyond our capacity to handle with maturity. But in any of these circumstances, God still has a purpose: that you and I would discover the strength of his grace. He says to us, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). So next time you feel overwhelmed—that God has given you more than you can handle—consider praying, “God, I’m in over my head. Will you display your power in me?” It is always tempting to just walk away from the big challenges in life. But when you engage with God’s mighty grace, you might be amazed with the power God reveals in you.

 

God will never give you more than you can handle

Tuesday Series continued: 10 Things Americans Worship (and Shouldn’t)

sneeches4) The Group

Tribalism is a sociological phenomenon with roots entrenched deep in society’s long historied soil. Humans are widely varied, and actively seek out those of like visage and proclivity for the perceived “safety” of homogeneity (sameness). Superficially this isn’t a serious problem (in many ways, this is how we are designed), but it can (and has) become one. When groups begin internalizing the superiority of themselves over others, and then act on it by seeking to subjugate or destroy those other “inferior” groups, tribalism transforms into something akin to racism — a virulent, aggressive phenomenon; fertile for hatred, violence, and destruction. It is a particularly nasty form of collectivism. Esteemed statesman and medical doctor Ron Paul explains:


Racism is simply an ugly form of collectivism, the mindset that views humans only as members of groups and never as individuals. Racists believe that all individuals who share superficial physical characteristics are alike; as collectivists, racists think only in terms of groups. By encouraging Americans to adopt a group mentality, the advocates of so-called ‘diversity’ actually perpetuate racism. Their intense focus on race is inherently racist, because it views individuals only as members of racial groups.


In America, the group rhetoric is getting out of control. Look at this headline (from just last year) published by popular left-wing website Salon.com.

whitemenstopped

Rhetoric like this is not only dishonest, but unfair (and highly inflammatory). Human beings are individuals. Individuals are not responsible for things that other individuals have done. The one who hallows the status of the group however, feels free to attribute blame for any member they put in that group to any other member they feel belongs there — effectively allowing them to blame anyone they want, for anything that has happened in the past, to benefit whoever they want. These types of people are lobbying for (and most probably would use) the power of the government to pick winners and losers at their discretion — much like the great tyrants of the 20th century did (in Russia, China, Cambodia, Japan, etc).

There is only one group in Christ — his people (all of them).


“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” – Paul the Apostle (Galatians 3:28).

 

Tuesday Series continued: 10 Things Americans Worship (and Shouldn’t)

Dead to Sin, Alive in Christ

Ephesians 2:1-5:

“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.”

This is one of the most powerful passages in all of Scripture. While this was written to the church in Ephesus, the words are just as powerful to us today. Not a single day goes by that I don’t try to remember the importance of these words. “As for you, you were dead in your sins…”

– Each of us was dead, both spiritually and physically. Spiritually without a relationship with Christ, and physically because the penalty of our sin is death. “All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh… Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath.”

– We have sinned. Because of this, we aren’t owed anything. We’re not owed kindness, we’re not owed forgiveness. We were, by OUR nature, deserving of wrath. “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved.”

– God, because of his mercy, provided a way. We did nothing to earn it. God’s motivation was his love, not just a general love, but his specific love for us. We didn’t get ourselves out of our sin first, but while we were still dead in our sin, God’s grace found us. How does this transform you? For me, this is the single greatest text for an individual to hear.

Dead to Sin, Alive in Christ