Thursday, June 30, 2016

A House Undivided

"So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world." James 4:7-8a

Humble yourself, resist the devil, come close to God, wash your hands, purify your hearts – all of these statements are actions. They are things we must do. The Apostle James tells us that we must act. We must choose to act, strive forward, and move toward Christ. Our loyalty is divided James says, do we choose the world or ourselves. Can we claim like Joshua, that as for me and my house we will serve the Lord?

I guess the follow up question is, what does that choice look like for you and me? Where in your life are you choosing yourself, your own needs, desires, pride, over that of Christ's will? I think it's different for each of us.  And I mean in the big things – the character issues. I bet we all would say we should read our Bibles more, pray more, but where do we need to choose Jesus in how we talk, or what we do with our time, or how we treat those closest to us or those that sometimes drive us crazy? Are we choosing to be the city on the hill to the world, or are we choosing what makes us comfortable or feel better about ourselves? Are we being true disciples? Are we standing up when Jesus says go, and allowing God to stretch us for our full potential?

There is a young woman named Katie Davis who is a modern day example of one who chose to no longer be divided, but whole-heartedly follow Jesus. She is about 27 years old. When she was 18 she went on a short-term mission trip to Uganda from Tennessee. "She was immediately captivated with the people and the culture". The next year she went back to teach kindergarten at an orphanage. She was a single teenager who chose Jesus.  "As she walked the children home, she was shocked to see the sheer number of school-aged children walking along the road, playing with their friends, washing their families' dishes or digging in the fields. She learned that most schools in Uganda require school fees for attendance." She started a sponsorship program that now helps 700 children. She saw the poverty and the deaths of children to malnutrition and starvation and started the Masese Feeding Outreach which provides meals to 1200 children Monday through Friday. She started the self-sustaining vocational program to empower women to generate an income, and throughout this time became a mother to thirteen orphan girls who now have a family.

Katie once said, "People tell me I am brave. People tell me I am strong. People tell me good job. Well here is the truth of it. I am really not that brave, I am not really that strong, and I am not doing anything spectacular. I am just doing what God called me to do as a follower of Him. Feed His sheep, do unto the least of His people."  

(Information and image provided by

Maybe she isn't that brave, or strong or spectacular, but she chose on that day at 18, and every day since then, to serve the Lord and to view her life as clay molded by the Master Potter - a living instrument for the will of God. And thousands are changed because of it.

Let us live lives of action, undivided, and focused on the One who holds us close.

--Rev. Michelle

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

The Loose Leaf Bible

For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty.  For He received from God the Father honor and glory when such a voice came to Him from the Excellent Glory: "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased."  And we heard this voice which came from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain. 

And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts; knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. 
II Peter 1: 16-21

In spite of our foolish attempts to decrease God's standing to something resembling our own, the fact is that God is so completely different (holy) from us that the only possible way we can truly know Him is as He has chosen to reveal Himself to us.  That comes down to two specifics.  First He reveals himself to us in the manifest glory of creation. Then he reveals Himself through the prophets and apostles.

To be sure, the Bible is neither  culturally driven, nor is it politically correct.  It is important that our beliefs are firmly grounded in God's inerrant Word -- and not on human speculation about God. This is why we must trust the Bible as the only infallible rule of life, faith and all beliefs about God. Church councils and confessions, as well as scholarly writings, are useful and helpful understanding and communicating our Christian faith but they are the works of man and are not infallible. The 66 canonical books of the Bible are the only writings which are God breathed an infallible.  As Paul explained to Timothy: "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,  that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work." 
II Tim. 3: 16-17

This written revelation traces back to the time when God Himself inscribed the Ten Commandments on stone tablets and then instructed Moses to write Israel's Law and history in the first five books of our Bible. Living according to this written revelation has always been the central tenet of God's Covenant people. Both leaders and laity should know God's written Word, obey that Word, and pass it to the next generation un blemished and unchanged.  Our best confession (IMHO), The Westminster, has stated it this way:

"The authority of the Holy Scripture, for which it ought to be believed, and obeyed, depends not upon the testimony of any man, or Church; but wholly upon God (who is truth itself) the author thereof: and therefore it is to be received, because it is the Word of God." 

Allow me to be very clear:  Jesus and the apostles believed the Scriptures to be divine revelation, to be studied and obeyed.  When Satan tempted Him, Jesus responded with the written Word (Matt. 4).  When two disciples were on the road to Emmaus, Jesus revealed Himself to them with the words of Scripture.

Paul believed that all Scripture was inspired by God and Peter placed Paul's writing on an equal footing with the books of the Old Testament.  Accordingly, the orthodox and faithful Church correctly regards the apostles' written teaching about Christ to be the completion of the testimony of God begun by Moses. In other words, what the Bible says, God said.  All that the Biblical writers wrote should be received as the infallible revelation of God and God's direct, immutable instructions to His people.  None of us should ever treat scripture as if it were a loose leaf Gospel from which we may remove pages we don't like – or conversely into which we may add things we wish God would permit.

--Pastor Jim