No Fear, Here.

35 That evening, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s cross to the other side. 36 Leaving the crowd, they took Jesus along in a boat just as he was. Other boats were with him. 37 A violent windstorm came up. The waves were breaking into the boat so that it was quickly filling up. 38 But he was sleeping on a cushion in the back of the boat. So they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to die?” 39 Then he got up, ordered the wind to stop, and said to the sea, “Be still, absolutely still!” The wind stopped blowing, and the sea became very calm. 40 He asked them, “Why are you so afraid? Don’t you have any faith yet?” 41 They were overcome with fear and asked each other, “Who is this man? Even the wind and the sea obey him!” (Mark 4, vv.35-41)

There is no doubt fear is one of the enemy’s most often used “go-to” in order to get us off course. Sometimes the progression follows this model: Worry > Anxiety > Stress > Fear. Sooner rather than later, it may even seem like we are frozen, under a cloud of darkness, wondering what we should do, if anything.

For several months now, much has been going on all around us. No one can (or would) deny it. All you have to do is read the paper, follow some blogs, watch the news, or engage in a chat with a friend. There are stress points and things we should be concerned about. Many are asking questions that we may, this side of glory, never have answers for.

There are conflicts, crimes, deaths, diseases, divisions, financial woes, natural disasters, persecutions, terrorist acts, unemployment, and wars. We wonder about what kind of nation and world we will pass on to future generations. We worry about our families, our friends, everything familiar, and life itself. It is seen and observed daily, in real time.

But what does worry add? What can fear, really do? Jesus was consistent in His direct confrontation on “fear,” when He stated this question: “Can any of you, by worrying, add a single hour to your life?” (Matthew 6, v.27). He goes on there, in that segment of The Sermon on the Mount, to call out some of the things we may/might/do worry about. He asks us the same question(s) today.

Most of us have struggled (or are struggling) with fear, of some sort. It would be almost unnatural and impossible not to. But through a saving faith and with the undeniable presence of God helping me, He has taught me that the spiral to fear need not happen. The truth: He is in control; He’s got it. Now, that may not be popular or comfy-cozy at first or second bite, but it is true. Either all things are in His hands or nothing is. I’ve decided it’s all things, and I’m sticking with it.

I want to assure you…and myself too…that no matter where you are in or on your faith journey, that in time and only with God’s help, as you grow in His grace and learn more about Him: anxious thoughts will diminish; worry will descend; stress levels will be brought down; and although fear may come in and be experienced from time to time, it will not have control. With God in you, and working through you, you won’t be moved or paralyzed.

The Word of God gives life and truth, in fullness. His Word does not come back void. Often times, our belief is tested in our response: the choices we make, the decisions we cast, in the priorities we give. While we may have no idea what is coming or what the future may hold, we know the One Who does, and He knows us. Paul writes in Romans 8, v.31: “What should we say in response to this? If God is for us, who (or what) can be against us?” He gives the clear answer starting in v.32, and I encourage you to read it and saturate on it, that it would seep deeply in your very soul.

Let us be grateful, and humbled, that God is for us, because He is!

Christmas 2019

The Word records this in Matthew, chapter 2: “Jesus was born in Bethlehem, in Judea, when Herod was king. After Jesus’ birth, wise men from the east arrived in Jerusalem” (v.1). Separated by some 2,000 years from Jesus’ first advent, the wise still seek Him.

I find myself very grateful for the fact that each Advent Season and with each Christmas, we are brought back to the miracle record of God sending His Son, to us, to restore the relationship that we busted apart. Proactively and independent of anything we have done, God took the initiative and poured out His grace and love in a supernatural way. It was, and is, freely given to all who would believe and receive.

Particularly interesting to me, in the birth narrative of Jesus Christ, is Joseph. Sometimes he is relegated to a less important role, overshadowed by the others that we have in the Nativity scene. But Joseph, coupled with his very presence and role, should remind us of some very important things:

  • Joseph was an average, everyday person. He was a carpenter by trade and he was a man of faith. He had lineage for sure, but nothing in his life stood out. He was not a famous person; he wasn’t wealthy by any stretch; and he had some issues to work through so that God could use Him (see Matthew 1, vv.18-25).
  • In relation to that portion in Matthew 1, Joseph would have to humble himself and overcome the anger, bitterness, and resentment he must have felt when he first learned that Mary was pregnant, before they were married. He knew the child was not his, yet, he wanted to do things honorably – knowing what it would do to Mary, if uncovered.
  • When the Angel of the Lord appeared to him, the message was very similar to what the Angel delivered to many others through history: “Do not fear!” or  “Do not be afraid!” That changed his perspective, and from that time on, he did what he was commanded to do.
  • Joseph was faithful in a very difficult and hard situation. In short, Joseph was obedient to the purpose, to the vision, to the will of the Lord.

The rest of the story is recorded, even though we don’t hear much more about Joseph in the Gospels. He took Mary to be his wife and he was the earthly father to Jesus, who had come. Ponder this: Joseph humbly adopted God’s only Son so that we, you and I, could be adopted into God’s family. What an incredible legacy.

God is faithful! Know that you can trust Him and rely on Him even when it appears like success is the furthest thing from your life’s journey. Know that God’s definition of success compared to the world’s, are often two totally different things. It can be linked and the Lord can surely use secular things to reveal deeper, spiritual truths. He can do anything He so desires and wills. But don’t allow your life to be defined by things of the world.

Christmas is a time for celebration, for humility, and for a reset. Perhaps more than anything, we should give God complete access into our lives so that we can assess how His light, His truth, His will is impacting us and transforming us into the image of His Son. Because in the end…whether we go to Him or He returns first…this is all that’s going to matter.

Merry Christmas to you and yours. May you know the hope, love, joy, and peace that He alone gives and continues to pour out. Let’s be grateful, for God is with us!

Porter

 

Renewed

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing, and perfect will.” (Romans 12, v.2)

Every once in a while, you get asked a question that will take you a bit off guard. I should qualify that: the longer you’ve been around, the more prone you become to questions that can seemingly come out of no where, and occasionally, take you aback. Once such question came my way, yesterday, about 15 minutes after our corporate worship ended.

As I was greeting people, interacting, and after handing off a precious 3-month old baby, it came soon after. Here is how it was presented to me, after delivering a Message on “Being a Holy Church” and sharing in The Lord’s Table, together: “Do you think it is possible that some who call themsevles believers go through all the motions, do and say all the right things, but haven’t made Jesus the Lord of their life?”

My direct response: “As heartbreaking as that is to even think about, yes – it is possible and it does happen.” Then I offered this, “We must pray that we do everything we can, with God’s help, to eliminate its possibility.”

I pondered that on the way home from worship on Sunday, through the afternoon and evening at different points, and here I am writing about it on a Monday afternoon. I must say: it is one of the things that will keep you up and weigh heavily on your heart. Not that we, any of us really, are responsible for the actions or inactions of others. We can’t decide for anyone else, although at times we would very much like to do so. Yet, we have a desperate, urgent responsibility to magnify Jesus Christ and be His hands and feet to a lost and fallen world, at every instant. We are His Church, His representatives, His brothers and sisters charged with taking His mission outwardly and giving it away. We are delivery and logistics. We are to be “broken bread and poured out wine in His Name,” as Oswald Chambers states.

How do we do this? How can it possibly be accomplished in an effective way?

Read that passage again, at the top: Romans 12, v.2We have to be renewed, we have to be transformed. We have to be reborn by and into the Spirit of the living God, by way of the saving grace of Jesus Christ. We are renewed in His image; that is how! Because it is at this point where we can fulfill our God-given purposes, according to His will (not ours).

Together, we are the Church: His body, His bride, His children, and His people.

Together, we honor Him, love Him, serve Him, and worship Him.

Together, we are available to each other, build one another up, pray for the needs of others, and serve alongside our brothers and sisters to further His Kingdom. Sure – we do much more than this, but this is a beginning. It is to be continued moment by moment, day by day, week in and week out.

It begins with being renewed, allowing the transforming power of God to make us into who He truly desires us to be. Our God is faithful and His invitation has been extended to you and to me. Let me encourage you: It will change your life, forever (in the best way possible). I’ll leave you with this passage, and I invite you to reach out at any time if you would like to learn more: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His one and only Son, so that whosoever would believe in Him would not perish, but would have everlasting life” (John 3, v.16). Now, insert your name where “whosoever” appears. It is that personal, and it is that fulfilling.

Be blessed in the renewal only He can deliver and give!

Porter

 

A Timeless Quote

AW Tozer

The post today is credited to the great man of the faith, A.W. Tozer. He was a key figure in the Christian and Missionary Alliance and was known for his “deeper life movement.” The excerpt shared below was posted recently on a page that I follow, and I felt compelled to share it. Not to discourage, but to have us really examine the essence of what he is alluding to: heart and life transformation. From a Message he delivered, titled: “Game of Pious Words,” here is Tozer in his own words. May the Lord use them to saturate our souls and move us to holiness:

“Do you realize that most men play at religion as they play at games? Religion itself, being of all games the one most universally played. The Church has its ‘fields’ and its ‘rules’ and its equipment for playing the game of pious words. It has its devotees, both laymen and professionals, who support the game with their money and encourage it with their presence, but who are no different in life or character from many who take no interest in religion at all.

As an athlete uses a ball, so do many of us use words: words spoken and words sung, words written and words uttered in prayer. We throw them swiftly across the field; we learn to handle them with dexterity and grace – and gain as our reward the applause of those who have enjoyed the game. In the games men play there are no moral roots. It is a pleasant activity which changes nothing and settles nothing, at last. Sadly, in the religious game of pious words, after the pleasant meeting no one is basically any different from what he has been before.”

 

To Live is Christ

To Live is Christ

For a few weeks now, through the summer heat and humidity, and all the unique, seasonal challenges that the summer brings, God has been speaking loudly. It really began the week of July 4th and has seemingly continued each day since. What is very interesting, and often consistent in how God works, is that He shows up, speaks, and reveals in the seasons and times when we least expect.

The summer. A time when school is out. People are traveling and on vacation. Families and friends are visiting. The water is a great getaway. A somewhat slower schedule is often welcomed. And then, perhaps when we may not expect it: God shows up, He speaks, and He gets our attention. Not saying He can’t when we are physically exhausted, overloaded, or under pressure; but rather, I sense His unbelievable patience waits until He can get through to us, so that we hear/receive more clearly.

This is what I feel going into this Series: “To Live is Christ.” It has been curating now for a while, week in and week out. God knows what He is doing, all the time. His ways are far better than my ways; His plan is far better than my plans. I say all of this, to make this point:

This Series belongs to Him!
It is surely a God-ordained, Jesus-led, Spirit-filled journey
that will, with His guidance, lead us into more intimate
relationship with Him.

I would like to encourage you and invite you to join us. Consider that a heartfelt invitation. More than anything, I feel it will delight the heart of God and be a beacon of hope to you, in your life right now. It begins this Sunday 8/4/19 @ 10 am and will continue for several weeks.

I hope you will come alongside us for “To live is Christ.” Remember, the journey is the destination. Blessings and peace to you and yours. Hope to see you Sunday!

Porter