Remember Jesus

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It was heartening to see so many other bloggers taking time on this Memorial Day Weekend to share their heartfelt thoughts about the importance of remembering those who gave their life for the protection of our country. As I wrote yesterday, I join my heart with yours in expressing my deepest gratitude to them all.

The preacher in me would like to take this opportunity to remind us all, including me, to remember Jesus. He too gave his life; not for the service of any one country, but for all humanity. The sacrifice that Jesus made makes it possible for sinners just like me to be welcomed into sweet fellowship with Him. The salvation that God offers is entirely from Him. I/we can not earn, nor could we ever truly deserve it on own merit. Jesus, motivated by pure love, bore the punishment that each of our wayward lives should bear.

And if that were not enough, His resurrection from the dead that we celebrate each Easter seals the deal: Jesus has won the ultimate victory over death. Whereas the brave men and women we remember during this time each year gave their only life and died, Jesus, who also died, is alive!

If, Dear Reader, you have a relationship with our Living Lord, I rejoice with you; asking only that you call to mind frequently the price Jesus purchased you with.

However, if you’re reading this and Jesus is nothing more than a historical or maybe mythical figure, I simply ask you to seek Him out. The Bible promises that He is available always to anyone who calls out to Him. Search your heart and mind and consider if there is an emptiness there that you just can’t seem to fill. If there is, won’t you consider asking Jesus to fill that void. My own experience with this process proved that there was nothing He couldn’t or wouldn’t do to fill me to overflowing with His love. I assure you He can and will do the same for you!

Once you accept the Lord’s invitation to salvation, you will find that remembering Him  will bring great joy.

Blessings and thanks for reading,

Pastor Chuck

Sorry David Clayton-Thomas, I am a little afraid

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Blood, Sweat & Tears – 05 – And When I Die – YouTube

In September of 1969 The band Blood, Sweat and Tears released the single When I Die. (Written and first recorded by Laura Nyro). I’ve included the link here should you want to give it a listen.

Being honest, I was never a big fan of their music or this song.  But like much of the music of my youth, the words of lots of songs have stayed in the recesses of my memory.  People I meet or circumstances around me will often spur one or more of these tunes to the forefront.  Such it is today with this particular song as I contemplate the crisis that has befallen us concerning the Corona virus/Convid-19

Though I realize I’ve written here before of my clearer understanding that I am closer to the end of my life at 60 than I am to its beginning, for the most part this remains an abstract idea to me.  Yes, I know what comes to each one of us.  It’s just that my Doctor says I’m in pretty good shape (for the shape I’m in) and truthfully, I’m not ready to go into the ever after just yet.

I also know that as a Christian pastor, I am to be helping folks come to their own grip with life, death and after-life.  Part of that is to bear witness to the fact that I am completely assured of my forever home because of the faith I have in Jesus Christ.  And I do have total trust that the Lord died to forgive sinners in order that we might have our eternal fate sealed in Him.  I do try to faithfully carry this message of God’s love in all I do.

Hence, my struggle as I hear this verse play in my head again:

I’m not scared of dying

            And I don’t really care

            If it’s peace you find in dying,

            Well, then let the time be near

With apologies to David Clayton-Thomas (lead singer of Blood Sweat and tears) and simply stated, I am scared of dying.  Notice I didn’t say I was frightened of what comes after I die.  What I am afraid of is facing the process of dying.  My track record on handling pain and discomfort is not so good.  This makes me worry that I may face my end times with less dignity than I ought.

Also, like so many, I have people in my life that are very dear to me.  The thought of this pandemic bringing them suffering and death shakes me to my core.  Along with this comes the dark thought of what my life would be like without them in it should this happen.

Blessedly, the assurance of the Scriptures bring more than enough comfort to deflate the fears I have.  I share some of these now in case you are experiencing any fear because of this current crisis.

Psalm 23:4 reminds us: Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.  I let that sink in again today: the God of the Universe is with me! Certainly circumstances are uncomfortable at best and dangerous at worse, but God is with us no matter what!

Jesus reminds us that we will face trouble in this life: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart! I have overcome the world. (John 16:33 NIV). The Savior Jesus Christ, the embodiment of all truth, tells us we will have trouble in this life.  But more importantly, He also assures us that He has overcome any and all things that want to prevail against us.  Though personally I would have preferred Jesus to tell us we would have no troubles at all in this life, I realize how quickly I would forget all about Him if I never struggled with things.  The emphasis needs to be seen in that Jesus has overcome! I find great peace in that today, no matter the chaos going on around me.

There are countless other Scriptures to help us in our most trying times.  Please feel free to reach out to me should you like to see more of them.

So there you have it, Faithful Reader, a look into some of the stuff that bounces around inside this head of mine.  I welcome your insights, thoughts or questions.

As always, my deepest appreciation for taking the time to read this,

Pastor Chuck

Happy (Leap of Faith) Day!

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Happy Leap Day Faithful Reader! As you might have guessed, I’ll be taking this opportunity to discuss the matter of faith today.

Faith can be a hard thing to define.  Wikipedia does a good job as they render it: A leap of faith, in its most commonly used meaning, is the act of believing in or accepting something outside the boundaries of reason.

Whether they realize it or not, these folks have come fairly close to the biblical definition of faith found in Hebrews 11:1: Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. (KJV)

I prefer this King’s James translation of Hebrews 11:1 because of the use of the word substance.  I believe this puts hope in the proper perspective.  It is not like hoping to win the lottery (it’s ok, I don’t play it anyway), or hoping that the sun shines today (it’s Upstate NY, little chance of that happening).

Rather, the hope the bible talks about is real, it has substance.  In other words, when I put my hope in Jesus Christ to be my Savior, it is the real deal.  There is no wishful thinking involved.  Instead, after carefully considering what the bible says and relating it to the experiences of my life, I can whole-heartedly rest assured in the promise of God that tells me I am a forgiven sinner who is dearly loved by my Maker.

So much so, the biblical evidence goes on to show, that God Almighty desires a relationship with me! A relationship, by the way, that I am completely unable to establish on my own.  It is only through His grace that I can experience who He is and have joyful fellowship with Him.

My oft stated purpose in this ministry I am involved with is to help people make an informed decision about Jesus Christ.  As I mentioned, I came to faith in the Lord after carefully considering both what the bible has to say about God and by taking a sober look at my life up to the point I accepted His offer of salvation.

Simply put, my life was an awful mess that was spiraling downward toward death.  By far the bigger leap for me would have been to keep going in that direction, wishing for things to change for the better.

If you have ventured to put your hope in Christ, I rejoice with you! You know full well of the hope of which I speak.

But if you have not, might I suggest you do as I did.  Start with an honest (that’s the key) appraisal of where your life is and in what direction it is going under your direction.  If you discover areas that are messed up and need improvement, may I further urge you to discuss these things with a trusted friend.  This is a vital step, no matter how difficult it is to take.  Honestly looking at ourselves for the purpose taking stock needs to be shared with another, lest we soften over some of the more unsavory parts.

From here, seek out someone with knowledge of the Scriptures (it will be helpful if they actually live what they talk to you about). As part of the process, now begin to see yourself in the context of the bigger picture.  Doing this may allow you to see though the clutter and confusion around you.

Should you desire to, now consider how this God you’ve heard about might just be able to help you.  If you can humbly admit that you recognize your need, I am here to say that He will step in to help you make changes for the better in your life.  He did it for me, He can do it for you as well!

This may seem like a huge leap to take today but please believe me, if you do, you will never regret having done so.  That has been my experience that I truthfully share with you all.  I’d love to hear your stories of what brought you to your faith journey or if you haven’t taken the above mentioned leap,  feel free to share where you are on your journey.

Blessings and thanks for reading,

Pastor Chuck

The Bible: The Ultimate Battery Charger

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Ah, the portable battery charger.  I love mine.  No cables to unravel, don’t have to line up with the other vehicles battery.  Just set the clamps, positive to positive and negative to negative, and the dead battery will come to life.  It’s convenient. I have used mine on numerous occasions to help fellow motorists with dead batteries.  All I have to do afterward is remember to bring into the house to re-charge it.

.  Days like today remind me that God’s word re-charges unresponsive things as well.  I make it part of my morning to read from the Scriptures each day, but to be honest, I can’t say my battery is charged to full capacity after every reading.  Thankfully, today is one such day that it is!  I was reading in Luke 6:6-11 how Jesus performed a healing of a man with a shriveled hand on the Sabbath Day.  The Sabbath Day was to be a day of rest, as commanded by God.  The issue at hand, pun intended, was how the religious leaders over time had twisted its meaning.  They were quite literal when they said, “no work can be done on the Sabbath.”  Jesus, as He often did, showed them what the true meaning of something was.

Jesus healed the man, right in front of them, to help prove the point that doing good far outweighs the attempt to do nothing wrong.

The Pharisees and keepers of the Law were incensed that Jesus would do such a thing, and in the synagogue no less!  These dudes needed a jolt to their system, as I admit I must also from time to time.

Here’s the problem as I see it: the religious types were totally focused on the wrong thing.  Their motivation was to do avoid doing anything wrong.  They were completely handcuffed by fear making it is much harder, if not impossible, to be doing intentional good. When your mind is pre-occupied on what man-made rules you might be breaking, the ability to move freely in other ways is compromised.

As I unhook the charging cables from my mental battery this morning, I sense in my spirit some of the peace that God promises all of us.  I find my mind has been freed (again) from the crippling fear of doing something wrong and instead reset to the place where I simply trust God to lead me where He wants me and to be ready to do what He would have me do.

Might I suggest, Dear Reader, that if your battery seems low on juice today, to go plug yourself into the source of energy that never runs dry, God’s word.  He has made Himself available to us always and everywhere so that we can do this.  As you make your plans for this day, please bring that blessed charger along; you never know when you will need its boost!

Blessings,

Pastor Chuck

 

 

2 in a Million

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Oh, what choices we sometimes make! I’m sure you know what I mean: the perfect car, the new job and neither one living up to the expectations you had for them.  We usually have clear 20/20 vision after the fact with choices like these because our mistake is often quickly evident.

But what about things that don’t reveal themselves so fast.  Perhaps a four-year course of study that ends up fruitless in the job market.  Maybe it’s that person you dated for years who you hoped would change but never did; or worse yet you made a commitment to and they did morph into a person you couldn’t stand.  Painful things indeed.

I got to thinking about these things as I re-read of God’s mighty freeing of the Hebrews from Egypt.  After 400 years of hard bondage, God called Moses to lead the people out and into the Promised Land.  Those who know much more than I do about these things estimate that the total number of men, women and children God freed was close to 1 million.

That number is what has struck me this time.  I have no idea how long a procession of 1 million people is; but it has to stretch for miles.  As flabbergasting as this figure is to me, it only strengthens my belief in God’s miracle-working power.  As Scripture proclaims: Nothing is too hard for God!

If you are familiar with the Exodus account, you know that this great horde of folks wandered for nearly 40 years in the desert before entrance to the promised Land happened.  Hence the title of this offering: Two in a Million, because only 2 of that original 1 million would ever step foot into the ‘land flowing with milk and honey.’ But it didn’t have to be! Less than two years into their journey, the new nation was at the doorstep of their destination.

The Bible tells that Moses commanded 12 spies to go into the land they were to take possession of.  Their mission was to scope out fortifications, numbers of troops and what the land produced for food.  Two of those assigned were named Joshua and Caleb.  These fellows were to be the 2 in a Million.

Here’s why: When the 12 spies finished their assignment they came back to report what they had seen.  The land was indeed rich and wonderful.  However, 10 of them reported that the defenses in place and the monstrous size of the inhabitants would make it impossible to conquer.  Joshua and Caleb agreed that the challenge ahead was great, but that God was greater! These two trusted God to be faithful to his promise and advised Moses and the people that they should march in believing in God’s power to do what He had said He would.

Unfortunately, the opinion of the other 10 spies was what the people heeded.  They were fearful because of the report given.  They chose to believe the opposition was too great and that they would surely die if they tried to overtake them.

Talk about your bad decisions! God then said that because of the people’s lack of faith none of them, except Joshua and Caleb, would ever set foot in the land He promised. It took about 38 years to come to fruition because that’s how long it took for that entire group to die off.

The decision to not trust God not only cost the 999,998 (approximately) the opportunity to enter that rich land, they had to wander about in the elements all that time, basically waiting to die.

I share these thoughts without any judgment on those poor souls.  To be honest, if I was with them then, I most likely would have gone along with the vast majority; too insecure and scared to take the leap of faith.

The lesson I’m learning these days is to put my professed faith in the Lord in the forefront of my heart and mind.  As I do this, it allows me to more fully grasp the depth of God’s love and faithfulness.  As I read and ponder the Scriptures, the more clearly the Almighty’s direction becomes.  I simply need to seek Him first and always and then follow His prompting.

Joshua and Caleb are heroes I look up to.  Might they be an encouragement to all of us to more fully trust God.  I still don’t know if I would be that one or two in a million; but what I do know is this: there is no numerical amount to quantify or qualify our God.  He is everything He says He is.  He has proved it, is proving it and always will!

Thanks for taking the time to read this.  May it be a blessing to you.

Pastor Chuck

Of Empty Jars and a Fuller Faith

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The thoughts for this blog are taken from the message I have prepared for Sunday September 1st, 2019.  They are based on a passage from the Old Testament found in the Book of 2 Kings 4:1-7.  It is the account of a widow who is about to lose her two sons because she cannot pay a debt she owes.  What unfolds in this passage is wonderful story of God’s provision.

When preaching this message, it is my intention to go verse by verse as I attempt to help folks see how God, ever faithful to keep His promises, can grow faith in the hardest of times.

For you, Dear Reader, I’ll be touching on highlights here (should you want to hear my soothing tones discussing this in fuller detail, please go to our website, www.lakesidechristianministries.org and click of the dropdown menu audio/video).

As always, it is good to get some background/context to the passage of scripture being considered.  Elisha, who had been the prophet Elijah’s assistant, has now assumed the leadership position after Elijah has been taken up to heaven.  He is the man of God the widow seeks for help.  As prophet, Elisha would have others working and ministering under his guidance.  One of these people had been the widow’s husband.

It’s also helpful to remember that the accepted custom of that time in ancient Israel was if you were unable to pay your debt, some or all family members would be forced to be servants of that creditor.  In essence, they could be sold into slavery to cover a debt.  If she lost her sons, there would be no one left to work the land.  Her very bad situation was going to spiral even further downward.  She would be destitute.  You get a better sense of her desperation by knowing these things, I thinkAt this point, she would be seeing more of empty jars than anything that might grow her faith.

In her grief, pain and uncertainty of the future she seeks out the prophet. (Folks even then looking for a fix/cure on their own level instead of going first and directly to God.)  Elisha had already worked miracles in his ministry; no doubt the widow would have known, hence her seeking him out to do something about her situation. She spells out her issues to Elisha, who may or may not have already known about what she was up against.

After the widow spells out her problems to him, Elisha asks if she has anything at all to work with to pay the debt. “Nothing,” she replies, “except this little but of oil.”  To us this would be like having one dollar to our name when we owed one million.  Her situation looked hopeless, having more to do with empty jars than a flowing faith at this point.

The Prophet then gives her some strange instructions.  She is to go to all her neighbors, asking to borrow empty jars.  It is at this point we can she the widow starting to walk in faith.  This was a very humbling thing to do.  By going to all her neighbors, they would certainly know something was wrong.  No matter how they might talk about her, she was grasping at the chance to save her boys.

After collecting the jars, Elisha’s instructions don’t get any less crazy sounding.  The widow and her boys are to take them into their house and close the door.  Once they were alone, she was to start pouring the little oil she had into these empty jars.

Common sense would tell us this is futile, a heart hoping for God to do something wonderful would start pouring.  She did, and the Bible tells us the oil does not stop pouring until all the jars are full!

God has always been in the multiplying business.  Thinking about this takes me back to grade school grade school and learning the multiplication tables.  Each of these always showed that anything times zero was always zero.  That’s good for a mathematics table, but it doesn’t fit God’s character.  God continues to make something where there once was nothing!

This account was meant to grow the faith of those involved, not their pocketbooks! As you ponder it (and may I encourage you to read/re-read again 2 Kings 4:1-7), may I ask, “How can God enlarge your faith today?” You don’t need to be in the dire straits this widow was.  In fact, we should learn from her example and not wait as long as she did before seeking help. Don’t fall prey to the prideful feelings that you can a: work everything out yourself, or b: be to ashamed to admit something is messed up and you need help.

Take a spiritual inventory of what you have in the Lord and where your walk is currently with Him.  This will help you to see what you have in Him as opposed to how little you have on your own.  Let your faith grow as you ponder what God did for this obedient woman.  Difficulties might seem huge and having a kitchen full of empty jars seem of little use.  But our God will meet our deepest needs, if only we admit/ask Him to sustain us.  He’s done it; He’s doing it.  Do you have the faith He can do it for you?

Thanks for reading,

Pastor Chuck

Finding the True Balance in Life

I have written recently that Scripture encourages us to be living in the day, rejoicing and being glad to God for the unique gift that it is.  Wonderful instruction.  But I wonder, am I the only one who has trouble doing it? Good, I’m not alone!  Staying in the day has been an on-going problem.  Many of us seemed to be living in a state of constant fatigue, never getting enough rest because of the seemingly insurmountable amount of stuff that has to get done.

Take comfort, as I do, that Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world, understands that we get ourselves into this condition.  We look in vain for a semblance of balance to our days.  But if we will look to Him, He is waiting to give it to us.  In Matthews Gospel, Chapter 11:28-30, the Lord explains it this way:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart and I will give you rest. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (NIV)

Let’s examine this a little more closely to find how each of us can experience the truly balanced life Jesus offers.  First, realize that the offer is made to all you who are weary and burdened.  All means all; there is nothing you’ve done that cannot be unburdened to the Lord.  All are equally welcomed to come to Him.

“Come to me” is a call to action on our part. Trade in the old, tired ways for the new life Jesus is offering.  Acknowledging, then, that we play a part in experiencing this rest, what are we to do?

First, admit our need of this balanced life.  If we’ve honestly looked, we’ve seen that we need to have it.  Also, it’s ok to admit “I’m tired.”  There’s no shame in that, as matter of fact many of us succumb to pride when we push on through fatigue thinking we can overcome any obstacle if we work long and hard enough. I don’t know about you, but this particular approach leaves me more fatigued and stressed.  Instead, we ought to remember that Jesus has ‘overcome the world.’ He’s the only one who could.  Humbly go to Him seeking this rest.

And most of us aren’t just weary, but ‘burdened’ as well. What are you burdened by today? Finances, health, children, work, the state of the country/world, etc.? Plenty to be burdened about and they quickly become too heavy if we try to carry them ourselves.

Once we have acknowledged that we are indeed weary and burdened, Jesus then tells us more that we need to do! But it will be so worth it as we do.  When Jesus said for us to take His yoke upon us, it is really an act of our will.  Are we willing to pick up what He offers?  If we do, He promises to take the brunt of the weight, thus making it possible to stand up under what is left.  It really is an invitation to learn from Him.  It’s like He’s saying, “You’ve tried the rest, now try the best!” Look over your track record with dealing with problems and difficulties on your own, or in your way or power.   If your past success rate is as low as mine in doing things your own way, you can see that we all have some things to learn.  Hence, once yoked to Jesus, we are to learn from Him; the One with the strength, wisdom, the One on the inside.

Again, there is still more action required, because of our faith, on our part.  Here it is:   We are to stand in His truth, and ask Him which ways we are to go.  Your soul can and will know the rest God offers; and during the walking out of faith in Him, not merely at the conclusion of a hard day’s work.

Lastly, this yoke Jesus is talking about is not easy because He expects less from us, rather it is light because He carries so much of the load!  In the same way, our burdens don’t lighten or go away simply because we follow Jesus, but again because He carries the majority of the load, they become so much lighter and easier for us to carry.

Jesus has told us again today that He will give us rest.  His offer is true and reliable.  He will give it, if we seek Him for it.  It really all boils down to a question of faith: Is what God’s Word says applicable to us today?  If you believe that it is indeed ‘active and alive,’ the answer is again yes.

With the truth of God activated in your heart and mind, you can know and experience the wondrous truth that Jesus Himself provides the ‘rest for our souls’ that we need.

On this day, and every day, keep all that you do centered on the Lord Jesus.  As you do, you will find that the rest He gives doesn’t just come at the end of our physical activity, but in fact is present and available to us all the time.  As you let this truth take root in your heart, you will find that Jesus Christ has and is your balance in abundance.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read this,

Pastor Chuck

 

 

 

Sometimes the Answer is Right in Front of You

Sometimes the answer is right in front of you. It didn’t take Violet long in this heat wave to find the coolest spot in the house, right in front of the fan!
Many times I find myself struggling for answers. I can research a topic so much Google sends me emails to make sure I’m alright. I can ask 100 different people for their input and opinions, hoping to find a solution. I often get myself to that proverbial place of not being able to see the forest through the trees.
Thankfully, God puts up with my mental gymnastics. He is always there to catch me as I fall. Usually it’s a simple reminder that He has promised to never leave me nor forsake me.
He is and has all the answers I will ever need. Thanks for the help Violet!
Pastor Chuck

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There is Life in Hospice

Two years ago I was asked to join our local Hospice organization as part of their pastoral care team.  I was honored by the invitation and gladly accepted.  The Oswego County Hospice has long been recognized as an outstanding provider of care to the terminally ill and their families.  I have known many people who have worked or volunteered for them, and to a person they tell what rewarding work it is.  Helping to bring dignity to the end of life has been some of their most fulfilling work.  When I joined the team, I hoped to discover this for myself.

Truthfully, though,  I wasn’t sure what to expect.  Not much of my training or experience had prepared me for what I assumed was to be a monumental task.  After all, much of my ministry background has had me with folks, both saved and not, who seemingly give little thought to their own mortality.  Our primary focus has spanned from helping people meet their daily needs to counselling and leading Bible studies.  All of these types of activities have focused on improving both physical and spiritual life.  This Hospice work was going to bring physical death squarely in my face

Thankfully, Oswego County Hospice has an excellent training program.  It taught me much concerning the physical aspects of the dying process.  This information would be valuable as I entered into the patient’s family dynamic.  Although I knew that each case would be different, I felt that the training I had been given had prepared me for what was ahead.

All this excellent training did nothing, however, to prepare me for the awesome power of God I was (and still do) see! How did God display His power you ask? Has there been miraculous healings of bodies? These are legitimate questions especially when asked in light of Psalm 77:14 where the author describes God as: You are the God who performs miracles; you display your power among the peoples (NIV).

To answer these questions, I must reply that to the best of my knowledge, I have not seen tumors removed through the power of prayer.  Yet what I do give witness to is at least equal to, or perhaps even greater than, a physical miracle.  What I have seen is unquestionably a move of God.  In His mercy I have seen estranged families reunited and lost individuals coming to realize the full life that the Lord Jesus promises.

Allow me to share some of the ways God has moved through Mary (not her real name), her family, friends and even some strangers during her time under hospice care.

I met Mary a little over a year ago.  As with anyone under hospice care, she faced the certainty of impending death.  On my first visit, she asked me what was going to happen to her when the inevitable happened.  Given this wonderful opportunity, I shared with Mary the Scriptures pertinent to salvation and the promise of eternity in heaven.

As Mary listened, a peace came over her.  Though I did not know it at the time, she had been a regular at a bible preaching church years ago before slipping into what she referred to as ‘the wild side of life.’ Hearing the words of John 3:16-17 and Romans 10:9 stirred in her the truth she had known so long ago.  I could tell that the issue of life after death was settled in her heart.

It was what happened since that initial conversation that has showed God’s power at work.  Mary, with her faith renewed in the goodness of her Lord, has become a powerful advocate for Him.  At any given time in her home there are extended family members, neighbors and acquaintances present.  Each and every time I am privileged to be in her company, any and all others with her are invited to pray with us or to be prayed for by me.

One such occasion allowed me to pray for a young man, Danny.  One look at him as I walked in told me much about him.  He was in a dark place, wallowing in self-pity at the turn life had taken on him.  He was homeless and obviously on the downside of whatever he had taken most recently.  A friend of one of her grandkids, Mary let him sleep on the couch, no questions asked.  After she and I finished our scheduled meeting, Mary asked him if it was alright for me to pray with him.  With a ‘what’s the use look,’ Danny agreed.  We held hands and I prayed.

I don’t have a formula for praying, I simply attempt to quiet my mind so that God can work through me.  I prayed for Danny in this way.  In this case I have no recall of what I said specifically and when I finished, I wasn’t sure what to expect.  At my Amen, Danny looked at me with tear filled eyes and told me that what I had said moved him deeply.  I thanked God and him for allowing me to pray with him.

Though I thought of and prayed for Danny frequently, several months passed with no word about him.  As always, God is working even when I don’t know it! My next encounter with this young guy nearly blew me away.  He had a big smile on his face, was cleaned up and generally had the look of someone who knew he had come through something awful into something far greater.  He excitedly told me about his new job and the nice place he had found to live.  His life had taken a 180-degree turn, at he counted our first meeting as the place it started.

I relate this account to you my friends in order to tell you that God is indeed still in the healing business.  The lesson it teaches me is to be looking beyond what I consider needs to be healed and to anticipate the greater thing God is up to.  There is life and there is joy in hospice care, for all involved.  God is healing.  The bible says that nothing is too hard for God.  Oh, and by the way, Mary has been discharged from hospice!

Thanks for reading and be encouraged, God is working!

Pastor Chuck

Peace by Peace: The Full Armor of God

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I put my armor on first thing today.  No, I’m not re-enacting a joust or trying to blend in at a Renaissance Faire, I’m referring to the full armor of God that the Apostle Paul wrote about in Ephesians 6:10-18

It might seem peculiar to some that the God of peace, love and forgiveness would also make a soldier’s armor necessary.  However, if you have been a follower of Jesus Christ for any length of time, you know all too well the battle that rages on around you.  Thankfully, nothing about this struggle is a surprise to the Almighty.  Therefore, He gives us access to all we need to carry on each day.

Paul knew full well the spiritual battle that was happening in his time.  He used the familiar picture of a Roman, dressed in full battle regalia, to describe what and how God was providing for our spiritual protection.  The Apostle then describes why we need it:

Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 6:11-12) NIV

Paul establishes that there is an unseen battle going on around us and that we do have a common enemy, the devil.  Not to give the old liar too much credit, but he is a powerful and nasty adversary who wants nothing more than to cause strife and division, especially among those who profess faith in Christ.

I am eternally grateful that our God is more powerful than Satan.  (Spoiler alert: if you read the Bible all the way to the end, you’ll see it proved forever!) Having said that, the Bible also teaches that the devil is still active in this world.  Peter describes him as a roaring lion prowling around looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8). Knowing this, putting on the full protection of God’s armor seems like a no-brainer.

Let’s go through the various pieces of this God-given armor to see how they work to protect us.

The belt of truth is the first piece.  Whereas if may sound weird to us to put a belt on first, in this case it makes sense.  A Roman soldier put this piece of his armor on first because all the rest of his gear would be attached to it.  This holds true for our spiritual protection as well.  We must be able to ‘wear’ the truth of who God is if we are going to be able to stand at all in the battles we encounter.

With apologies to those who hold that truth is a relative thing, the truth of God is all encompassing and unchanging.  God is who He says He is and does what He promises to do.

The truth is that Jesus is the Savior of the world; there is no other way to heaven accept through His death and resurrection.  This has to be firmly buckled into our being if we are to put on the rest of the armor of God.

The breastplate of righteousness then attaches to the belt of truth.  A soldier’s breastplate protected his vital organs from harm.  This piece of godly armor does the same for us.  Righteousness, a term that sometimes gets thrown around in Christendom, simply means to be in right standing with God.  The position of being righteous in God’s eyes is necessary because He is perfect and without sin.  I, for one, am not.  The bible says He imputes righteousness to believers and I could never hope to be in His presence if He didn’t.  Because of this breastplate He provides, I am protected from His wrath.  God hates sin; the breastplate of righteousness keeps me shielded from the eternal consequences of it because He provides it to those who have put their faith in Him.

Verse 15 of Ephesians Chapter 6 then tells us that our feet are fitted with readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.  I love the fact that this is fitted to each of us personally.  God’s peace, which we cannot fully grasp, is tailor made in such a way by the Master that even though we don’t understand it, we can live and move about with the assurance of the peace that salvation brings.

Once our shoes are on, we are to take up the shield of faith because by carrying it we can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.  The Roman soldier’s shield was curved in such a way that things would bounce off it.  As we carry our shield of faith, the lies and deceptions our enemy throws at us will also be deflected, bringing us no harm.

With our bodies now protected, we are instructed to put on the helmet of salvation.  Helmets, of course, are designed to protect the head.  The helmet of salvation does the same in a spiritual sense.  By donning it, we are to keep in the forefront of our mind the salvation God has given us.  By staying mindful of the of the grace of God that has been poured out on us, we are better able to stay focused on Him.  As we go through our days in this way, we are far less likely to fall victim to wrong thinking of the deceitfulness of the world around us.

As we are now fully clothed in the armor of God, we are then to pick up the only weapon we need, the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God (Eph. 6:17).  Much as a sword was the common weapon of the foot soldier in Paul’s day, the word of God is for us.  However, this sword has no equal.  In fact, the writer of the letter to the Hebrews describes it thus: The word of God is living and active.  Sharper than any double-edged sword (Hebrews 4:12), God’s infallible Word is unmatched by any other weapon or tool.  It contains the very essence of God, making it supreme to all things.  What weapon would we possibly want to carry in its place?

Paul concludes this teaching of the full armor of God by reminding us all that once clothed in it, we must never forget to pray.  The list of what we could pray about is endless, but in this context, I would recommend praying to have awareness of the battles going on around us, and the wisdom to now when to engage the enemy and when to wait for re-enforcements.  It is then a very good idea to be praying for others that are on the battlefront, that they too are fully protected and moving within the will of God.

There you have it, my friends.  The full armor of God.  As was recommended to me years ago, I pass on to you.  Get into the practice of thinking about putting on this armor every day.  As you do, consider what each piece represents and how God has supplied it for you and the specific battles and struggles you are up against.  Remember, He who has made this armor is perfect.  What He makes is also perfect and perfectly molded to fit your needs.  All that is left is for us to put it on.

Thanks for reading,

Pastor Chuck