April 1

Encouragement in Prayer from Jesus’ Prayer Life

One of the great encouragements for our prayer life is learning from the prayer life of Jesus.  In John 17:1-5 Jesus prayed for Himself in a way that connects with Philippians 2:5-11.  That important passage is known as the Kenosis Passage because the word “emptied” in v. 7 comes from the Greek word “kenosis.”  The entire passage expands on what Jesus meant when He prayed in John 17:4-5 that He had accomplished the work that God gave Him to do, v. 4, and that He prayed for the Father to glorify me…with the glory that I had with you before the world existed, v. 5.


The first part of the Kenosis Passage tells us what “the work” was that Jesus said He “accomplished.”  It involved 3 Steps Down according to Philippians 2:6-8:  1) He gave up His right to glory in heaven, vv. 6-7a (Note:  He emptied Himself of His glory, not His deity), 2) He took the form of a man, a creature, vv. 7-8a, 3) He, a sinless man, voluntarily died the death of a cursed man, v. 8.  This three-step process is how Jesus emptied and humiliated Himself and accomplished the work God gave Him.


The second part of the Kenosis Passage tells us that because of this God gave Jesus back the “glory” He prayed to receive that He “had with” the Father “before the world existed.”  That consisted in 3 Steps Up in Philippians 2:9-11:  1-2) Resurrected and Ascended, v. 9 (highly exalted), 3) Receiving universal sovereignty, vv. 9-11a (bestowed on him the name that is above every name).


What is fascinating is that these 3 Steps Down followed by 3 Steps Up concluded “to the glory of God the Father,” v. 11b.  That is exactly what Jesus prayed for in John 17:1 that the “Father” would “glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you.”  The Kenosis Passage makes it clear that Jesus’ prayer in John 17 was answered.  Now all of this is very instructive for our prayer life.


Jesus gave us the same privilege of answered prayer that He had.  Jesus said earlier in John 16:26-27 “that you will ask in my name…for the Father himself loves you.”  Because we are in Christ and Christ is in us, the Father has the very same love for His children that He has for His Son.  So the intimacy in prayer with the Father that Jesus enjoyed is given to us as well.


Our prayers should be patterned after the way Jesus prayed.  Several things become clear about how Jesus prayed.  First, Jesus one request in John 17:1-5, repeated twice, was that He would glorify God.  Therefore, the overarching request of all of our prayers should be that God is glorified by the way He answers.  If we are in tune with the heart of Jesus, the Father’s glory should be our main priority.


Second, Jesus glorified God by accomplishing the work He was given to do.  That tells us that answered prayer primarily has to do with enabling us to fulfill God’s mission for our lives to serve Him.  Praying for a job, for example, is not so that we can live independently of God and have our needs met.  We pray for a job so we can have the resources we need to live for the Lord and serve Him effectively.  Without that, prayer is little more than an exercise in using God instead of serving Him.


Third, Jesus prayed for strength to endure the trial that came with His cross, not that He would escape it.  Ultimately, in the garden, He prayed for the Lord’s will to be done which meant enduring the trial.  We may pray for a trial to be removed, but only when we are surrendered to God’s will first.  Prayer is not an escape mechanism, but a means for being strengthened for whatever God has willed.


Your friend, learning to pray, Pastor Brian (:-}).

March 1

Participating in the Ongoing Story of the Book of Acts Today

One of the great joys of studying the Bible with others is seeing connections in Scripture you had not realized previously.  The Tuesday Morning Men’s Bible Study at Perkins Restaurant just began the Acts of the Apostles.  The author Luke mentions that the Gospels teach us about all that Jesus began to do and teach, 1:1.  The Book of Acts then is the continuation of Jesus’ ministry from heaven thru the work of the Holy Spirit on earth.  The Holy Spirit is introduced immediately by Luke in verse 2 in fulfillment of Jesus’ repeated promise in the Gospels.  Many have said that the book might more aptly be renamed the Acts of the Holy Spirit because it is His ministry that guides and enables the early church.


In response to Peter’s great confession that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, Jesus said in the Gospels, I will build my church, Matthew 16:18.  When we reach verse 8 of Acts 1 it becomes clear that the Book of Acts is the story of Jesus fulfilling that promise.  Acts 1:8 reads:  But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in Judea and all Samaria, and to the end of the earth.  This verse not only gives us the theme of Acts but also the outline of the whole book.


Theme of Acts:  The empowerment of believers by the Holy Spirit to establish and expand the Church just as Jesus promised.  Outline of Acts:  The witness of the Church by the power of the Holy Spirit in 1) Jerusalem (chapters 1-7), 2) in Judea and all Samaria (chapters 8-12), and 3) to the end of the earth (chapters 13-28).  What lessons can we learn for our ministry today from this brief introduction to Acts?


The building of the Church is the most significant work God is doing in the world today.  The disciples wanted to know about future events in Acts 1:6.  Jesus immediately said the times (length of history) and seasons (events yet to come) are known only by the Father, verse 7.  God will bring future events to pass according to His plan as revealed in Scripture.  In the meantime, the establishment and expansion of His church is His number one priority in this age.  Someone has well said that Plan A is the Church and there is no Plan B.


We are wasting our lives if we are not involved in the establishment and expansion of the Church.  If every Christian is a member of Christ’s body, and if this is God’s main work in the world today, then our lives find their great purpose in participating in the work of the Church.  We all have our calling in the world to represent Christ in our various walks of life as He has appointed.  But even there our purpose is to so represent Christ that people will be drawn to Him and want to be part of His Church.  And then within His Church we have a part to contribute so the work of God on earth is done.


This gives meaning, purpose, excitement and perseverance to our daily lives and church ministries.  A friend of mine who works as a pharmacist in Lower Michigan used to say to me that the only two things that will last into eternity are the souls of people and the Word of God.  Everything else will perish.  Bringing the souls of people into connection with the Word of God is the most lasting work anyone can do.  That is what we get the chance to do as we represent Christ well in everyday life and then participate in the life of the Church.  That means every day is filled with meaning and purpose because we are involved in that great work.  It helps us persevere because we know that no matter what happens otherwise our labor is not in vain in the Lord, 1 Corinthians 15:58.


Your friend, part of the great story of Acts with you, Pastor Brian (:-})

February 1

Jesus’ Teaching on the Issue of Fruit and No Fruit

One of Jesus’ most difficult sayings to interpret is John 15:2a, 6 where He says “Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he [my Father] takes away…If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.”  There are three views of this important passage and the relationship of fruit to salvation for believers.


The view of those in the Arminian wing of the church is that this refers to genuine Christians who bear no Christian fruit and lose their salvation.  They were in the vine and vitally connected to Jesus but stopped following Him and had their salvation taken away.  The problem with this is that it clearly conflicts with other passages in John where Jesus says true Christians can never perish.  John 6:39 says, “And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.”  On the principle that God’s Word is consistent and non-contradictory we must reject this view of the non-fruit-bearing branches.


Another view, popular with some Evangelicals, but more recent in the history of the church, is that the non-fruit-bearing branches are true Christians who have their works burned up and receive little or no rewards.  These are Christians who live like the world but have no fruit to offer to God at the judgment seat of Christ.  These fulfill 1 Corinthians 3:15 which says, “If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.”  The problem with this is that it is the branch itself that Jesus says is burned, not the unfruitful works of the branch.  Also, when Jesus spoke about fruit elsewhere he made it clear that the tree is known by its fruit and that bad fruit is characteristic of an evil heart, Luke 6:43-45.  Clearly Jesus taught that Christian fruit is the mark of a relationship with Him, Matthew 7:16-23.  View two is inconsistent with Jesus’ teaching elsewhere.


The final view, and one widely held in Christian history, is that the no-fruit-branches represent false believers who appear to be believers but only have an outward attachment to Jesus and have never really been born again.  Since Judas had just recently departed the upper room before Jesus spoke the words about no fruit in John 2, many Bible students believe he illustrates the kind of person Jesus was talking about.  He looked so much like the other eleven that they thought he was one of them.  But he bore no lasting fruit and Jesus said it was better that he had never been born, Mark 14:21.  He was never vitally connected with Jesus and showed no fruit of a changed life.  He was not the good soil that Jesus said represents true believers who all bear fruit but just not in the same amounts, Luke 8:15.  If this is the correct view, what do we learn from Jesus?


One thing we learn is that a relationship with Jesus is clearly life-transforming.  Not all mature to the extent they should and every believer has remaining vestiges of sin, but new life will manifest itself in new fruit.  Another thing we learn is that it is possible to attach oneself to the Christian church and even think one belongs to Jesus, and yet be self-deceived because of the absence of new life.  Such people hear in the end the Master’s words “I never knew you,” Matthew 7:21-23.  Finally, we learn that presumption is not the same as eternal security.  All true believers can and should be secure in their salvation knowing that they will never perish and their sins are eternally forgiven, John 10:28-29.  But such believers are not presumptuous believing that they can live sinfully and carelessly and still claim to be saved.  True believers heed Paul’s words, “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith.  Test yourselves.  Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!”  Happy is the believer who passes the faith and the fruit test.


Your friend, wanting to bear fruit, Pastor Brian (:-}).

January 1

Affirming Certainties in a World of Fading Dreams

Recently the pastor of Mars Hill Church, one of Michigan’s largest megachurches, announced he will be stepping down from the pastorate.  The previous and founding pastor of the church made national news for his resignation for blatant apostasy.  The current pastor said that “being a pastor is not really who I am.” 


There is no problem with that if someone feels his gifts and calling are elsewhere.  Better to make a change than to stay in a place not of God’s choosing.  But what is troubling are other comments this pastor has made, saying he is “not drawn to the Orthodox,” and that he doesn’t know “what we mean by God anymore?” (http://www.christianpost.com/news/rob-bell-pastor-kent-dobson-steps-down-mars-hill-being-pastor-not-who-i-am-151102/.)


The word orthodox simply means “right opinion” or “right belief.”  It refers to an established standard of truth that Christians affirm as being what the Bible actually teaches, “the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints,” Jude 3.  This pastor’s father and grandfather were pastors and his father was known as a very influential preacher of the orthodox faith of the Bible, even having a study center at Grand Rapids Seminary named in his honor.  Now some of the language that his son is using as he departs from the ministry is sounding eerily similar to the founding pastor who has abandoned biblical Christianity altogether.  Surely he knows the phrases he uses raise big questions about where he is heading biblically and theologically in light of where the first pastor ended up.


I can only guess at what has caused all of this doubt.  Many have said it is harder today to be a pastor than ever before because of all the changes in American society.  I remember a professor once saying that “many of the things that used to be nailed down have now come loose.”  Some Christians, in an attempt to deal with the new realities, lose their confidence that the orthodox interpretation of the Bible really has it right.  Maybe that is what is going on with this pastor; I don’t know.


What encourages me to remain true to the Bible despite disappointment is the perspective of Evangelist Billy Graham.  Interviewed by Diane Sawyer, she recounted his accomplishments through 50 years of preaching to over 120 million people face to face around the world. She then asked the world-renowned evangelist if he was pleased with his “success.” His answer startled her and surprised the vast TV audience.  He replied, “I don’t think of myself as successful at all.  I feel like a failure.” Sawyer sought clarity so she asked, “Did you think you could change the world?” Dr. Graham softly responded, “I thought maybe, after a lifetime of preaching.  But the world is worse today than when I began my ministry.”


That interview with Dr. Graham was 20 years ago.  Now approaching 100-yrs-old he has just released a new book about heaven and his certain expectation of going there according to the Bible.  His world of fading dreams has not lessened His conviction that God’s Word remains true and reliable and will not fail.  Reflecting on Sawyer’s interview with Graham 20 years later, Pastor Raymond McHenry counsels us, “Ministry for all Christians, regardless of their calling, is quite challenging and often discouraging.  Nonetheless, we must obediently persevere, as did Billy Graham, and follow his example of expectant faith.”  In the New Year some may capitulate to cultural pressures; how much better to reaffirm the certainties that we believe and encourage others by our steadfast faith that God and His Word are still worthy of our trust.


Your friend, seeking to remain true, Pastor Brian (:-}).

December 1

The Self-emptying of Jesus to Come for Us at Christmas

The Sunday after Thanksgiving I had the opportunity to preach twice in the Marquette Branch Prison.  Back in the 1990s the Pope made national news when he visited one of the worst prisons in Rome. It was the first time in ninety years that a pope had gone to a prison, and in greeting the prisoners he said, “You could not come to me, so I have come to you.”


That little incident illustrates the heart of the gospel—that we were desperate prisoners, condemned and locked up for crimes we have committed, who could not go to God and never had the hope of Him coming to us.  But in the person of His Son God did what we could not expect.  He came to us.  And He did more than just visit us; He ransomed us by the payment of His own blood for our crimes against Him.  What did it take for this to happen?


Philippians 2:5-8 answers that question with a very intriguing word.  The passage says that Christ Jesus emptied Himself.  Verse 7 reads, Who made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  The phrase “made himself nothing” comes from one Greek word—kenosis.  This passage is called “The Kenosis Passage” from this word.  And the question is “What did Christ empty Himself of in order to come to us as a man?”  Several answers can be given.


He never emptied Himself of His deity.  Verse 6 says that Christ was “in very nature God” in eternity past before the incarnation.  God can never become less than God or else He’s not God.  So the Son of God did not give up or empty Himself of any of His divine attributes.  The incarnation was not a giving up of His divine nature but the addition of a human nature.  Jesus was always fully God and fully man.


He left His exalted position in glory to take a lowly position on earth.  The hymn writer Francis Havergal captured it just right when she penned these words about Christ:  My Father’s house of light, My glory-circled throne, I left, for earthly night, For wand’ rings sad and lone; I left, I left it all for thee, Hast thou left aught for Me? (I Gave My Life for Thee, verse 2)


He subjected Himself to human weakness.  The only time Jesus used His divine powers was in subjection to the Father’s plan.  So He gave up the self-use of His attributes and subjected Himself to our human limitations.  So on one occasion He asked for a drink.  The Creator of the oceans was thirsty.  He was so weak after His beating that He fell under the crossbeam.  The One who made the elephant had no strength.  On another occasion He was so exhausted from work that He fell asleep in a boat.  The One who never sleeps or slumbers slept form exhaustion.  That’s how little He became.  Though he retained all the powers of the Father, He never exercised them for His personal use but lived with our limitations.


What is so astounding about this incomparable condescension is that Christ Jesus’ example is set before us to follow.  We are told in v. 5, “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.”   While Christmas is a time to celebrate the self-emptying of Christ for us, it is also a time to long to be more like Him—giving up our rights, humbling ourselves, serving others.  Hast thou left aught for Me?


Merry Christmas, Pastor Brian (:-}).

November 1

All True Change Begins with Repentance

Many years ago I heard Pastor John Guest, then a pastor from Pittsburgh, say that all true change begins with repentance.  Though I heard him preach for an entire week, that was the one thing that sticks in my mind these many years later.  We could define repentance this way:  sorrow for sin leading to a changed mind about sin resulting in changed behavior toward sin.  Notice that all three dimensions of our personality are involved in true repentance.  The emotions are grieved over the sin we have committed.  The mind agrees that a change is needed.  Finally, the will acts taking a new direction towards God.


2 Corinthians 7:10-11 is possibly the clearest explanation of how true repentance works:  10 For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.  11 For see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you, but also what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what punishment! At every point you have proved yourselves innocent in the matter.


Verse 10 is one of the best explanations of the difference between Judas and Peter.  Peter rejected Christ, as did Judas.  Peter denied Christ, as did Judas.  Judas died lost, while Peter was restored.  The difference was that Judas had a worldly grief in which he was sorry over the consequences of sin.  He felt bad that he had betrayed innocent blood and was unable to face the shame and humiliation it would bring.  Rather than turning to Jesus in real repentance for forgiveness, he took the selfish way out and ended his life.


Peter, on the other hand, had a godly grief not simply over the consequences of sin but over the fact that he had committed sin.  It was the sin itself that caused him to go to a solitary place and weep bitterly.   When he told Jesus three times that he loved Him, he admitted he was wrong wanting a new direction.  That was true repentance that led to his restoration by the Savior.


What are the marks of this kind of repentance either in a nonbeliever for salvation or a believer for restoration?  Verse 11 explains what true repentance does as well as any verse I know.


There is earnestness or eagerness to no longer be indifferent or complacent about sin in one’s life when we realize it.  Then there is eagerness to clear yourselves.  This is the desire to make things right and remove the stigma that the sin has caused.  Next there is indignation which is displeasure at what has been offensive to the Lord and harmful to others.  There is also fear, the healthy reverence for the Lord that does not want to continue offending Him.  There is longing, which is the desire to restore relationships with those affected.  There is zeal for that which is right, the opposite of one’s wrong.  This leads to punishment, the willingness to accept the consequences that may come and see justice done where required.  Finally, this shows one to be innocent, the Greek word for holy or pure.  The end result of repentance is a real concern for restored innocence and the pursuit of a blameless or pure life once again.


God loves to see these marks of repentance because He knows they will lead to the good He has planned for us.  He does not want us to live in regret, but salvation and restoration.  Praise Him.


Your friend, thankful for God’s work, Pastor Brian (:-}).

October 1

Experiencing Peace thru Prayer

One of the great promises of the Bible is that believers can experience peace through prayer even when circumstances remain unchanged.  Philippians 4:6-7 is where such a promise occurs.


6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.


The Old Testament often illustrates truths in the New Testament so we can have real life examples.  It is here that Psalm 7 is very helpful.  David was fleeing for his very life from King Saul who hounded him for eight long years.  So David prayed, save me from all my pursuers and deliver me, v. 1.  We don’t know at what point during the eight years David prayed Psalm 7, but clearly by the end of the prayer it remained unanswered.  Yet David could say in the final verse of Psalm 7, I will give to the Lord the thanks due to his righteousness, and I will sing praise to the name of the Lord, the Most High, v. 17.  David clearly had the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding.  He was praising God and at peace after his prayer which still remained unanswered.  How could this be?


Please not the connection between David’s thanks in Psalm 7 and with thanksgiving in the Philippians passage above.  That is very key.  How do we truly know when we have placed a matter in God’s hands in prayer?  The answer is that we can thank God for the answer before it has been given.  When we have that kind of peace that we can thank God for what He is going to do even though circumstances remain unchanged, then we have truly given the matter to Him.


Our natural tendency is to place a matter in God’s hands and then take it back again through worry and anxiety.  We’ve given it to the Lord in prayer, but our anxious fear shows we have taken it back again.  Our lack of peace indicates that we have not really lain our requests before the Lord confident that the matter is under His control.  How did David get to that place?


The answer is found in the opening line Psalm 7 where David says O Lord my God, in you do I take refuge, v. 1.  A refuge was a cave where someone could go in a thunder storm and feel safe.  So David felt safe with God as His refuge and so was at peace even while fleeing from Saul.  We have the same refuge but often do not feel safe even though we pray like David did.  Why?


This is the first time in the Psalms that Lord (Yahweh) and God (Elohim) appear together.  Yahweh speaks of God’s love and faithfulness to His children.  So our refuge is a welcoming one.  God invites us to come.  Elohim speaks of God’s creative power.  So our refuge is a strong one.  God is able to act on our behalf.  It is clear that David knew his God and believed that He was loving so He would care for him, and that He was powerful so He could care for him.


This is always the key, isn’t it?  When we know our God and believe what He says about Himself, then we know He will care for us and can care for us.  Knowledge of God + trust in God = the peace of God revealed by thanks to God.  If it worked for David, it can work for us.


Your friend, seeking peace thru prayer, Pastor Brian (:-}).

September 1

Jesus’ Hard Saying on Radical Discipleship

One of the hardest sayings of Jesus is His call to radical discipleship in Luke 14:26:  If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.”  For Jesus to make such a demand says something very unique about Him, for no ordinary person would be so bold.  This also tells us that following Jesus will at times be costly putting us at odds with our own families.


Jesus is using at least two figures of speech in this demanding call.  The first is hyperbole which is exaggerating something for effect.  If I say, “I hate being late,” I am using extreme language to let everyone know how much I value punctuality.  Jesus does not mean literal hate but is using extreme language to show us the serious demands of discipleship.


The second figure is metonymy which literally means to “change names.”  It substitutes one thing for another associated with it, like cause for result.  In this case the exaggerated emotion of hate (the cause) is substituted for the result which it produces such as “esteeming less” or “choosing second.”  My friend Dr. Dwight Perry as a Chicago Bears fan once told me he hates the Packers.  He was using hyperbole because he was very calm when he said it, and he was also using metonymy substituting the cause (the exaggerated emotion of hate) for its result (that he chooses the Bears above the Packers as a fan).  So, we can read Jesus words this way, “If anyone comes to me and does not choose second (or esteem less) his own father,” etc.  Let’s apply this.


Our parents’ care is not the issue.  Caring for our parents when they become dependent is not the same as them contradicting God’s will.  The 5th Command calls us to honor our parents including caring for them when they can’t themselves.  Jesus did this for His own mother while dying on the cross setting an example for us.  Sometimes sacrifices have to be made to insure this, but in such cases those sacrifices are the will of Jesus.


Jesus must come first in our affections or desires.  A Jewish friend of mine became a Christian because as he was reading the Gospels he said, “I fell in love with Jesus.”  Christianity is not only a set of doctrines we believe, but it is a relationship we enter into based upon love.  Sometimes loving one person supremely (like a spouse) means loving others less.  If we have really come to know Jesus we will love Him supremely over others we still love, but less.


Jesus’ will must exceed family if need be, and our own personal desires also.  Jesus means we must esteem our families less than Him or choose them second to Him, as we also do our own selves.  It is not an emotion that is really at issue (hate), but the choice that Jesus calls us to make.  We can love our parents dearly, yet choose to follow Jesus when they disagree with Him. Discipleship then is a matter of obedience rather than feeling or convenience.  Disciples obey.


Jesus’ demand must be right if He is God.  Since God is the greatest good there is, His will must also be our highest good.  Whatever He requires is right and true and our highest duty.  Since Jesus is God He can do no other than make this radical demand or He would devalue His own person.  As hard as some choices may be we know they are right because He wills them.


Your friend, seeking to follow Him, Pastor Brian (:-}).

August 1

Our Weapon Against Discouragement

When one studies the armor of God in Ephesians 6 it becomes clear that each piece of the equipment is designed to defeat a particular strategy of Satan.  The belt of truth, for example, counteracts the comprising of our integrity.  Satan knows that if he can lead us into dishonesty or duplicity he can inflict all manner of trouble in our lives.  An old Chinese proverb says, “When wealth is lost, nothing is lost; when health is lost, something is lost; when integrity is lost, all is lost.”  Satan knows that full well, but the belt of truth keeps us living a truthful life.


What battles against discouragement?  Which piece of the armor?  Let me put three verses together and it becomes clear.  Then let’s consider this piece of armor.


Take the helmet of salvation, Ephesians 6:17a

For a helmet the hope of salvation, 1 Thessalonians 5:8

Hope does not disappoint us, Romans 5:5


Note that it is clear that the helmet of salvation refers to final salvation, what we are still hoping for.  Salvation in all its totality is in view, but particular emphasis falls on our future glorification which we are still hoping for when Jesus comes.  And this hope will not disappoint us because Jesus cannot be defeated and will bring about the completion of our salvation when He returns.


Putting this together the helmet of salvation is the piece of armor that keeps us from discouragement.  Knowing that we cannot ultimately be defeated, that Who we have placed our confidence in cannot fail, gives us hope and confidence in the times when life in a fallen world does disappoint us.  We can keep our head up for we know our ultimate victory will transcend every discouraging thing in this life.  Let’s consider three applications of this.


Satan is already defeated at the cross, John 12:31-32.  Jesus said that at the cross the prince of this world would be judged and “will be driven out.”  Jesus said that He “will draw all men to myself.”  So Satan is already a defeated foe.  The decisive battle has been won.  Only the final sentence upon Satan awaits to be carried out.  We are not called on to defeat Satan, but live in the victory already provided by wearing the armor.


We may lose spiritual battles, but not the final war, John 21:15-15.  Peter lost a spiritual battle when Satan sifted him like wheat as Jesus predicted, and Peter denied his Lord three times.  We can lose spiritual battles too.  But, like Peter, Jesus can restore us and we can go on living for the Master once again.  Despite failure we will still share in His victory.


God always has a remnant of faithful believers, 1 Kings 19:18.  God told discouraged Elijah that there were still 7000 faithful Israelites.  That was a small remnant but God was still working through them to accomplish His will.  All faithful believers belong to Jesus remnant and so are His tools to accomplish His will.  Since this is always the way God has worked, we can take great courage in knowing He is still working through us in that way today, outnumbered as we often feel.  So, let’s put on the helmet and face down the discouragement of our day.


Your friend, fighting with the weapons, Pastor Brian (:-}).

July 1

Plans during Sabbatical

The Elders at Bethel have graciously allowed the pastors to choose a one month Sabbatical to refresh, relax and invest in spiritual renewal.  The term Sabbatical comes from the Old Testament Sabbath referring to the seventh day as the day of rest and renewal.  Counting my three years as a youth pastor I’ve been privileged to be in the ministry for 31 years.  This is my first official Sabbatical so I am very grateful.  What to do?


A nice development in the publishing world has been the opportunity for unknown writers to publish manuscripts through small market companies.  I have one pastor-friend who has already published two books through this very means.  A member of Bethel has a pastor-cousin who has written several books this way.  Since I enjoy writing I thought the Sabbatical would be a good time to try my hand.  What to write?


Several years ago I was teaching the Cornerstone ABF on the subject of Christian Ethics.  A large part of that study focused on the 10 Commandments.  Out of that grew an awareness that the 10 Commandments undergird all Old Testament and New Testament ethics and morals in the Bible.  Wherever you go in the Scriptures, moral and ethical teaching always relates back to the 10 Commandments.


As I realized this it gripped me that I had never preached on all 10 Commandments.  When I learned that the two tablets of stone given to Moses are the only part of the Bible not written through human authors but by the very finger of God Himself, it seemed to me that every pastor at some point in His ministry ought to do a series on the 10 Commandments.  Two years ago I did that series.


What I learned felt literally like the joy of discovery.  There were so many discoveries that I couldn’t wait to share the messages in the pulpit.  At the close of the series I was presented with a lovely quilt of the 10 Commandments by three ladies at Bethel who started the quilt unbeknownst to me along the way.  Their appreciation was the most visible response I’ve ever received to a series of sermons.


Since the research for that series is done, I’ve decided to try my hand at publishing it in book form.  I find research is very hard work, but writing is more stimulating and enjoyable.  So during the days of the week for this Sabbatical I will enjoy writing the research in chapter format and renewing the truths I’ve learned before.  How far I can get in a month will be a new experience.  A dear friend has provided me a get-a-way where I can enjoy privacy but not be far from home.


During the evenings and weekends I’ll be relaxing with my family and pulling our camper to various places where Jay may be having Legion baseball tournaments.  The “camper that never leaves the church” may get a little more use this summer.  Swimming and camping are the hobbies that refresh me so I look forward to plenty of that during the Sabbatical.  Thank you to the elders for this opportunity.  I’ll miss my church family and rejoice to be back in late July.


Your friend, thankful for a Sabbath, Pastor Brian (:-}).