I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness... 2 Timothy 4:7 For those of you who are weary, tired, about to give up, you can't take it anymore. Well, I have good news for you. Paul the writer of a good part of the old testament felt the same way. Paul knew that his time was short, he was finished. His head wasn't quite on the chopping block but he knew he was headed that way. But Paul isn't talking about retirement here, he is talking about finishing the race of life strong. You can't live your life based on the past failures, or even accomplishments. Paul suffered through prison, severe beatings, shipwrecked, naked, hunger, thirst, cold and weariness unto death. But Paul didn't define his life on what happened to him, but by how he "kept the faith", he never stopped living for the Lord. When you live your life looking in the rear view mirror you will never see what God has in front of you. You will never know when to turn down a road because you would of already passed it. When you drive you keep your eyes on the road, you can't keep focus on everything happening around you, just like we live our daily lives, but we aren't defined by them. When you serve God faithfully, you are not defined by your past, but by how you keep running and pursuing Jesus. Your best is always ahead and not behind you, it's not what you did (or didn't do) in the past. When you read a good book, you don't go back and read previous pages, you keep reading to see what happens next, to see how it ends. Our "crown of righteousness" is the reward at the finish. It's a victory crown for those who finished. Life is a race that can't be run by looking backwards, only forwards. Keep running and looking forward to the finish line. Your crown is not too far ahead.
Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life ? Matthew 6:25-27
Jesus asked all these questions to the crowd He was teaching. It's interesting that 2000 years later the same thing is relevant. Did you know that during this pandemic anxiety medications have increased over 30%? And alcohol sales are up more than 25%. That screams fear and worry to me because so many people are self-medicating. We all have something we worry about. In fact Jesus said in John 13 that if you are breathing you will have troubles (worries) in this world. But, then He says, don't worry, I have overcome the world. Even Jesus had worry, like when He was in the garden before He was arrested. Jesus isn't saying these things aren't important, He is saying, if nature knows I will take care of them, But you are made in my image, don't you think I will provide your needs (not wants) also?
When you worry it's like standing in place and spinning around and around. The more you worry the more you spin. Sooner or later you collapse in dizziness, and you haven't gone anywhere, or accomplished anything but get dizzy. But when we focus on The Provider and not the provision, we will always lack for nothing. I like when Jesus says "and yet" because He means and yet, your bank account is empty, and yet, the rent is due, and yet, you are unemployed, and yet, everyone told me I was a failure, and yet, there is a pandemic happening!
When hurricane delta blew in last weekend with all the wind and rain I noticed something. The birds were still singing in the morning and flying around. The squirrels were still gathering for the winter. The storm had no affect on them. Whatever you spend your money, time and effort on determines your priorities. Just like your peace is determined on what you focus on. Jesus is saying take a lesson from the birds and the grass in the field. It may blow in the wind, but it will never be uprooted. So, the question is, where are you rooted? and how long are your roots? When you seek Him (The Kingdom of God) first, all these things (worries) will come to pass. When you start with God you end with God. When you start with worry, concern, fear, anxiety, you just spin and spin and end up with being dizzy and no peace. Don't worry, be Happy, He's Got This!!!
You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. Matthew 5:14-15
Question: If you asked the devil what he thinks of you, what do you think he would say? Is he proud of you, does he think you are ok some of the time? Or does he hate and despise you?
Another question: Would you call yourself a Christian which is defined as a follower of Christ? Most people in the US would. In fact, a poll was recently taken and 76% said that they are.
Jesus is saying here that when you are my follower you illuminate the world around you so that everyone knows you are my follower. It is so recognizable that it can't be hidden, and shouldn't be hidden. In fact it should be flaunted and put on a stand so that it lights up everywhere and everything in this dark and wicked world. In fact this is what causes others (including the devil) to know who you belong to.
The smallest amount of light can be seen in complete darkness. Darkness will never overcome light, light will ALWAYS overcome darkness. Jesus is calling you light in this dark world. Not that you become it after a certain time of following Him. He is saying you have a responsibility as someone who calls themselves a "Christian" to be the light.
One more question for you. If you asked God what does He think of you, what would He say? Would He call you a true follower of Him? Would He say you are just OK? BTW, OK kind of means you are lukewarm and not on fire for Him. There are a lot of people who think OK will get them into heaven. There are a lot of people who think they are a "good person" and will make it to heaven. Christ likeness not goodness causes you to hear well done my good and faithful servant.
A disciple of Christ means you abandon everything and make Him the air you breathe, the ground you walk on, and the food and water you crave. He then supplies all your needs and wants, because they become what He desires for you, to be perfected and purposeful.
And it's not about going to church, it's about going to meet Him. It's not about singing a hymn, but about worshiping Him. Be an influential light today in this dark and wicked world. Because that is who Jesus said you are, If you call yourself a Christian!
Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow
Over the years I have figured out that God allows trials and hardships in our life for a purpose. They build strength, stamina and prepare you for something greater that God has only for you! I have a Pilot friend who does mandatory flight simulator training every 6 months. The training takes him through every disaster scenario that could happen when flying from weather, mechanical problems and even terrorist incidents. So, if a Pilot comes across this situation when flying they act (calmly) upon the situation and not react (in a panic) like the people flying in the plane. When God allows a trial, temptation, or test to come our way it increases our endurance and enlarges our capacity to handle future challenges just like that Pilot.
So, God will permit a hardship today that is going to simulate (like Pilot training) the level of pressure He knows you will face tomorrow. That is why a trial or test always feels greater than our level or preparedness. Now the good news. God uses our present challenges to strengthen us for greater conquests in the future. Our Father isn't some sadistic god that will permit a challenge, test, or trial in our life knowing that we can't overcome it. Our attitude toward troubles should be to see it as a great opportunity to build spiritual muscle and make us stronger for what He wants to do in us and in His Kingdom.
I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth.... The world cannot receive him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.
We like to sing songs pleading to the Holy Spirit to come down, and send the rain, and fire. But the truth is the Holy Spirit is already here. He came down on the day of Pentecost and He never left! We talk and teach about being filled with the Spirit, having His gifts and receiving His comfort. Yet it is possible to know these doctrines and still not know him. If I were to ask you “have you received the Holy Spirit? How would you answer? You may say yes, I received him when I spoke in tongues, that was the evidence, or when I accepted him as Lord and Savior. Receiving the Sprit is not a one-time experience. The word “receive” means to desire an expanding capacity or knowledge of who the Holy Spirit is. The Holy Spirit is not received by someone until He is allowed to take full control of that person’s life.
Paul told the Galatians you received the Sprit by faith and know Him by faith but has there been a continued “ministry of the Spirit” by faith, causing you to go deeper in the Spirit? When this happens here is what takes place.
His Word comes alive to us
He brings comfort when events and tragedies happen
He is a helper in every area of our life
He gives us power to overcome temptations and Satan’s tricks
That is why it says in John 4. Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world. The more you desire to know the Holy Spirt through prayer and desperation, the more powerfully He works in and through you! He will become your helper, comforter, bearer of truth and heavenly power to overcome every obstacle. Knowing Him and receiving Him is a daily relationship we have, just like we do with the Son.
"For by You I can run against a troop, By my God I can leap over a wall....He is a shield to all who trust in Him. "
Goliath was a killing beast. The Terminator had nothing on him. Ten feet tall, armor like body and a 15 pound spear head. But Israel encountered that same type of giants, burly warriors as they were entering into the land God promised them. When some of the leaders saw them, fear gripped their hearts by what they saw and immediately they saw the impossibilities. They said "we seem like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them"
Then, here comes Caleb and Jacob. They tell the people, the land is good, the land is ours, don't be afraid and don't rebel against God. We will devour them, their protection is gone and the Lord is with us. Then as now, possessing what is ours, and having courage requires getting past the giants that bring fear and intimidation. Like Caleb and Jacob we need to make God bigger on the inside of us than the obstacles we are facing or causing us to fear on the outside. Nothing is too difficult for God. No disease, financial trouble, job situation, hopelessness or family situation.
That is His promise. Every single one is Yes and Amen. Search for them in His word so that you can live in victory. Then, your fears will fall to your side, scatter 10,000 ways, and you can scale any wall.
You see it's all about perspective. Is the God in heaven bigger than the giants you face? Or will they cause you to stay where you are and not take what God has promised you?
"Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you."
1 Peter 5:7
There isn't one of us who doesn't have worries, cares, anxiety or a fear about something. We like to mask it with words like "concern" and "apprehension" But Peter says something interesting here. God is concerned about YOU and not that fear or concern which occupies your life. In Matthew 6 Jesus said stop worrying about these things, I already know what you need. Seek first my kingdom and these things will come to pass. Why does He say this? Because He cares more about you and the relationship you have with Him than daily cares.
This word "cast" is meant to throw something with effort. It says that this thing is so heavy and bulky that I need two hands and all my strength to throw it on Him. I like the way Charles Spurgeon put it. It's like we lay this blanket of problems before God, He looks at it, picks it up and wraps Himself in it. He wears your burdened blanket while He wraps His loving arms of love around you.
God does really care for you! Every burden, anxiety, fear, hurt, despair, and broken heart. That word care is more than an interest, it's an expression of love. So, let's do a little exercise. Let's change “care” for love and put your name in the place of "you"
Cast all your anxiety (fear, hurt, despair, oppression, burden, brokenness, hurt) on him because he cares (loves) for you (insert your name here)
Later He appeared to the eleven as they sat at the table; and He rebuked their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they did not believe those who had seen Him after He had risen. And He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.
I find it interesting that Jesus rebuked the disciples for unbelief, tied it to a hardened heart, and then commanded them to Go and preach the gospel to all creatures. It's no different today. Unbelief and misunderstanding is not an excuse or an escape from our responsibility to tell the world of Him. Jesus didn't say wait until the time is right, or until you find a spouse, raise kids or have spare time. He didn't say it's only for missionaries, pastors or evangelists.
This is a command not a suggestion. It's not an elective you take but something you major in.
You see this world needs something you have. Humans are a spiritual being and we are made for eternity and what they decide about Jesus determines where they will spend it. There are people at your work, neighborhood, and businesses you frequent who are crying for help and you have the answer. Jesus didn't say Go only if they listen, Go only if they accept you or don't go if they reject you. He didn't say go only if the believe. Our job is to obey marching orders, take the hill, slay goliath.
If you are a Star Trek fan it's to "Go where no man has gone before".
If you are a Star Wars fan it's in the words of red leader to "stay on target, stay on target !"
The Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom
2 Corinthians 3:17
Even though I knew the Lord in my teen years and early adult years, my life was messy. But God called me His son while I was still a mess. He made me feel loved, wanted, and cherished - something I never had before. My being His son lifted shame, pride, worthlessness, and hopelessness. But it didn't happen at one instance. But once it was lifted, I had to choose to replace my identity, either as a casualty of the past, or a Son of the King!
You see Jesus sets you and me free when we surrender and submit everything to Him. The shame, pride and worthlessness is gone. It isn't only forgiven but forgotten. Like it never existed. But now you have to choose to stand up and walk out of that open prison cell. Change your prison clothes to a robe of righteousness. You have to choose to walk out into the future shame-free. Sometimes that is easier said than done.
Because being set free and walking in freedom are not the same thing. You can have the prison doors open but some people never walk out. You can have the shackles removed but you still live like their still attached.
You can't expect different results if you keep making the same decisions. If you plant corn, you will harvest corn, not wheat. Choose to walk in freedom, relying on His strength, His grace and His Spirit. Then you will run in fields of freedom. We love you, and you have Pastors that are here to lead you into what God has destined for you!
"speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ."
As celebrate the new year, reflect what God has done in your life this past year, remember His life-giving truths that causes us to be the head and not the tail. We know that He forgives and redeems but look at this list.
Fear is banished (1 John 4:18)
Good Triumphs over evil (2 Corinthians 2:14)
Every need is met in Christ (Philippians 4:19)
Captives are set free (Luke 4:18)
Hope can be restored (Romans 5:5)
Diseases will be healed (Matthew 8:17)
Peace prevails (John 14;27)
Joy reigns (John 16:24)
You are more than a conqueror (Romans 8:31)
This isn't just for you but a dying and hurting world who need these truths. When you grow to maturity you are putting off the old and taking on the new. The old is shame, fear, hopelessness, guilt, unforgiveness, addiction and idolatry. You are not a product of your circumstances, you are a product your decisions. But the decision is easy, so accept and believe these kingdom principles and know that most people give up their authority in Christ because they think they don't have any. You are what you read above, and more!
Pastor Michael Garcia
Overseer and Pastor at First Assembly HOEN