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Pastor Joe and MaryHelen Martinez

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Friday, February 28 2014
Friday, 2/28/14  
 
       I read the interesting story in yesterday’s newspaper about the 300 people who marched in a western city in Mexico protesting the recent arrest of the Mexican drug lord, “El Chapo.” Musicians played and uniformed high school students held up signs that read, “We love Chapo” and “We want Chapo free.” How can this be? Don’t these folks know that this man is the mastermind of hundreds of gruesome killings in Mexico, and has caused much misery in the US and around the world? This behavior should not really surprise anyone for, after all, this man has provided jobs and services for these folks that their own government has not. So then, do I believe these folks are doing right? Of course not! Criminals are criminals no matter how many good deeds they make and should pay for their crimes accordingly.
 
       What was even more interesting to me, were the comments made by this story’s readers. One person wrote: “So what if you behead a few people here and there. Just keep giving the poor some money and all is fine.” Another person wrote: “And we want to let this ignorant folks into our country?” (note: I think it should have been these, not this.) Personally, I do not believe these people are ignorant, but if they are, ignorant folks are found in every country in the world, including the US. It seems to me, rather, that they have the “what can you do for me” mindset. We had a Spanish slang word for folks like these in the West Side. We called them convenencieros. You probably won’t find the word in a Spanish dictionary, but clearly it refers to those who follow after certain people mainly for their own convenience. Are they really that much different than those here in the US who vote for candidates they feel will do the most for them, even if they know they are crooked? This verse Paul wrote to the Romans comes to mind here: You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. (Romans 2:1)
 
       In the end, these events are typical of the direction the entire world has taken. Nevertheless, our personal responsibilities and obligations as followers of Christ remain the same. And we must continue to serve and pray for others, as well as for ourselves.
 
 
Memory verse for the week: Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. (Philippians 3:12 NIV)
Posted by: Joe Martinez AT 10:20 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Thursday, February 27 2014
Thursday    2/27/14  
 
       Two men agreed to have their argument settled in court. The plaintiff stated his case first. All during his presentation, the judge kept saying “You’re right, you’re right.” The defendant rose to his feet in protest saying, “You haven’t heard my side yet.” The judge said “Okay, let me hear your side.” When he was through, the judge said, “You’re right, you’re right.” The court clerk then rose to his feet and said, “Judge, they both can’t be right.” The judge replied, “You’re right, you’re right.” If you were to look up the word gullible in the dictionary, this judge’s picture would be attached to it, that is, if he really exists.
 
       I thought of this word yesterday when I watched TV while in the kitchen for a few minutes. Just in that time alone, I saw several political ads where it seemed to me that the politicians in question are relying on the gullibility of the viewers. Though they know their claims are misleading, they are hoping the viewers will go for the bait nonetheless. Many times, they do. Such was the case not too may years ago in the South. One politician stated in his ads that his opponent was “a known extravert,” his sister was a “thespian.” and his brother was “a practicing homo-sapien.” He added his opponent “matriculated’ in college, and even practiced “celibacy” before marriage. None of these are bad things but he was hoping the voters would think they were, and he was right. Oftentimes, people who believe they have brilliant minds, are in fact gullible. One such example is found in Jesus’ denouncement of the Pharisees and religious leaders during the time of His earthly ministry. In Matthew 23:24 NLT, He told them:Blind guides! You strain your water so you won't accidentally swallow a gnat; then you swallow a camel!
 
       Especially during this time of year, who can you believe? Well, the only foolproof source for truth is God and His Word. Paul made this declaration that is often misunderstood: Let God be true, but every man a liar. (Romans 3:4) His statement certainly did not suggest all human beings are practicing liars, but rather can be at times. Also, that if God were to say one thing and every man in the world would say the opposite, God would be true. Another safe route to take is to believe in Jesus. After all, He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. (John 14:6) In closing, did you know that if you take a whole bunch of old sneaker shoelaces and boil them in water for over an hour, out will come spaghetti?
 
 
 
Memory verse for the week: Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. (Philippians3:12 NIV)
Posted by: Joe Martinez AT 09:48 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Wednesday, February 26 2014
Wednesday, 2/26/14  
 
       A preacher started his extremely long sermon with these words: “At the commencement of my dissertation for today, I would like to apprise you forthwith that I have entitled my exhortation: “Diminutive but Incontestable Glints of Christ in the writings of His Holy Prophets.”  A few minutes into his message, he noticed a fellow in one of the back pews sleeping soundly. He interrupted his sermon and angrily called out to an usher nearby: “Please tap that man in the blue shirt and the yellow tie. I will not have anyone sleeping during my message.” The usher yelled back: “You wake him up; you’re the one who put him to sleep.”
 
       Perhaps that goofy illustration stretched it a bit, but when it pertains to church snoozers, these two are main causes: (1) The sermon is too long, and (2) Its message is not understood. Many preachers forget that when Christ preached, He used words and subject matter simple folks could easily understand and relate to. He spoke of such things as lights, sheep, doors, salt, and bread, just to name a few. In his first epistle to the Corinthians, Paul reminded them that when he had taught and preached to them, he did not use enticing words of man’s wisdom.(1 Cor. 2:4) He also told them: But in the church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue (1 Cor. 14:19) The preacher in our beginning illustration was practically speaking to many in his audience in an unknown language.
 
       The Gospel message is a simple one and when we share it with others it would serve us well to keep that in mind. Nevertheless, there will always be folks who just won’t get it, no matter what. Here are a few examples: (1) A lady started off a letter to her mom with these words: “I’m writing this slow cause I know you can’t read fast.” (2) A man told me once that he never ate turkey at Thanksgiving because it was cruel to the defenseless turkeys. When I asked him what he ate, he replied, “Ham!” (3) Another fellow told me he was moving away from San Antonio because there too many murders here. When I asked him where he was moving, he said “Houston.” Finally, (4) our boss was warning our mail carriers one hot Summer day many years ago: “Be careful; its going to be a hundred degrees in the shade today.” One of them said: “That’s it, I’m staying out of the shade today.” Even so, keep it simple.
 
 
 
Memory verse for the week: Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. (Philippians3:12 NIV)
Posted by: Joe Martinez AT 10:00 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Tuesday, February 25 2014
 Tuesday, 2/25/14
 
       Yesterday I wrote that the situations we are all in are not a coincidence but rather God ordained. They are a reflection of the purpose He has for our lives. The Lord may have chosen you to play a part in the operation of a business or organization, whether large or small, or to manage a household. No matter where He has placed you, many people in your workplace or home depend on you. I trust you always keep in mind Who it is that you really work for. This way, you’ll always be intent on serving the One whose eyes are ever upon you. And when you do that, you’ll be exceptional at what you do, and bring Him honor in the process.
 
       Believing you have that mindset, I want to remind you of one particular danger you will encounter. I am referring to Satan’s or life’s diversionary tactics. Paul wrote: See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise. (Ephesians 5:15 KJV) That simply means we should always be vigilant and aware of where we are and what we’re doing. If we want to have success or meaningful results in fulfilling our life’s purpose, concentration and focus are necessary elements. I recently cited this line from a contemporary Christian song by the Sidewalk Prophets: "forgive and forget, but don’t forget why you’re here." I take it as a reminder that we can’t forget our purpose. Jesus said in Luke 9:62 that those who look back after they’ve started plowing are not fit for God’s Kingdom. When Joshua took over as leader of God’s people after Moses’ death, the Lord commanded him to observe His law and not to turn to the right or to the left from it. (See Joshua 1)
 
       In a World Series game between the Yankees and the Braves, Hank Aaron came up to the plate. Yogi Berra, the Yankee catcher, in order to distract him told him: Henry, you’re holding the bat wrong. You’re supposed to hold it so you can read the trademark.” Aaron ignored him and on the next pitch, he hit the ball out of the park. When he crossed the plate, he told Yogi, “I didn’t come up here to read.” Apparently, he did not forget his purpose and his focus and concentration produced great results. Don’t let anything or anyone distract you. Stay focused in the execution of your life’s purpose. You too will get good results.
 
Memory verse for the week: Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. (Philippians 3:12 NIV)
 
 
Posted by: Joe Martinez AT 10:43 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Monday, February 24 2014
Monday,  2/24/14
 
       About ten years or so ago, Pastor Rick Warren wrote a book entitled "The Purpose Driven Life". It has been one of the top selling books of all time, and although it has been very highly regarded, I have never read it myself. This is certainly not an indictment of the book because how can I express my opinion of it if I have never read it? There are many good books around that I have never read either. I will say this, though: Although some folks I know encouraged me to read it, I never felt a desire to do so. Perhaps, it was because of the implication of the title. You see, I was already convinced, as I am now, that everyone of us is here for a purpose. In fact, my perception of the purpose or calling God has for my life may have something to do with it also. Besides the Bible, I spend a lot of  my reading time researching biblical dictionaries, encyclopedias, and commentaries, as well as historical writings. I also like to read devotional writings and illustrations from many of my favorite pastors and teachers. I repeat: I do it because I’m convinced that’s my purpose in life.
 
       We have a Fisher Lovebird who lives in a cage in our kitchen. We call him Little Bubby. He, along with his mate came into our lives six years ago. We saw the pair for several days in a tree by our front yard. We knew they were not native to our South Texas environment, so we finally put out a small bird cage with an open door and birdseed inside. Within a few minutes they flew into the cage. We brought them in, asked the neighbors if they belonged to them and checked the classifieds every day to see if they were reported. No one did. The female died two years ago but Little Bubby keeps going strong. His life is simple. He does all the things little parrots do. As soon as we turn out the kitchen light each night, he immediately climbs up to the top perch where he sleeps. When we turn the lights the following morning, he immediately comes back down to the main perch and he stretches his legs and wings. Throughout the day, his chattering, singing, and carryings on brighten our day. Two things should be obvious. First, God brought him into our lives to cheer us up a bit. I forgot to say earlier that he came a few days after our beloved Chihuahua, Tiger, died. The second thing is: even he has a purpose.
 
       If a little bird has a purpose, can you see that our purpose is of a higher level still? Look around; everything around you, and you especially are not here by coincidence. You are here for a reason and a purpose. I pray you’ll make the best of your situation and consider what you can do in it to touch the lives of those around you, and honor God in the process.
 
Memory verse for the week: Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. (Philippians3:12 NIV)
 
Correction: I wrote yesterday that my sermon, "Don't Stop, Don't Quit" would be posted on our church website. It is not. Hopefully, we can include it soon. Sorry.
Posted by: Joe Martinez AT 12:17 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Friday, February 21 2014
Friday, 2/21/14
 
       Some who are reading this blog today have had hurtful or even traumatic past experiences that have had lifelong effects. There is a wide range of personal experiences that can produce such damaging results, and unfortunately many of the victims will never completely recover. What makes it even sadder is that the ones who inflicted these wounds were often close friends or family members, those who would have been expected to offer care and protection, not pain and grief. As a result, not only the victims, but also the lives of many people associated with them have been changed forever. Even their personalities have suffered.
 
       If you are wondering why I am speaking in general terms concerning this issue, it is because I am aware that such matters are outside my area of expertise. What I do know is this: In Christ, we can not only be free from any adverse experience of the past, we can be totally free. Referring to Himself, Jesus uttered these words: If the Son therefore shall make you free, you shall be free indeed. (John 8:36) That means you can be free from any hurt, anger, resentment, bitterness, anxiety, or fear that has lingered around and has tormented your soul for all these years. That means you can come out of the shadows, truly rejoice, and start living once again. We’ve all heard about the many recovery methods and programs available to those who have been victims, but Christ was setting people completely free from their painful pasts centuries before anybody even thought about any methods or programs.
 
       If you have been a victim, and have not been able to shake free from your past, will you exercise your faith and trust God today? And please don’t use the old excuse that you just can’t trust anybody anymore. It is not a matter of trusting people; it is a matter of trusting God. If you truly trust Him, you will no longer be afraid of being hurt again. You will realize that there are people who genuinely love you. Another thing: Don’t be afraid to express your love again to those who have proven to be trustworthy. In fact, let them express it to you too. When you do, you will soon discover the difference from being partially free and completely free. In Christ, you can be free indeed!
 
 
 
Memory verse for the week: I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. (2 Timothy 4:7)
Posted by: Joe Martinez AT 10:29 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Thursday, February 20 2014
Thursday    2/20/14  
 
       A little ant went out one day to bring back some food for its colony. It found a, relatively speaking, huge crumb. There was no one around to help her so, putting up a heroic struggle, she slowly dragged it back to the colony. Traveling through a sidewalk, she soon came upon a crack in the pavement. To her, it was an enormous abyss. Sensing it would be impossible for her to carry her giant burden across, she started muttering about her unfortunate circumstance and about being all alone. She let go of her burden in disgust and to her surprise, it landed directly over the crack in the cement. She walked upon it to the opposite side, picked it up again, and then safely arrived at her destination.
 
       Life is like that sometimes. We all find ourselves in situations where we feel all alone and that nobody has a burden bigger than the one we’re carrying. The Bible says otherwise, and one verse alone has a complete and detailed explanation of that issue. This is the New Living Translation version of 1 Corinthians 10:13: But remember that the temptations that come into your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will keep the temptation from becoming so strong that you can't stand up against it. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you will not give in to it.
 
       This is what happened with the little ant in our illustration and this is what will happen in our lives too. Though our burdens may seem too heavy to bear at times, there are many others who are carrying greater ones. Yet, these things are common, and though it may seem that way, our burden is not unique. Like many others, I have come to learn by personal experience that what seemed to be a situation that would ruin me, became my greatest victory. It was like that too with the ant in our story. Her giant load became her highway to safety. The verse I just shared with you is also a promise from God. Trust Him and accept it; He will safely lead you through. And regardless of how things look now, remember that you are not alone.
 
Memory verse for the week: I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. (2 Timothy 4:7)
Posted by: Joe Martinez AT 11:03 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Wednesday, February 19 2014
Wednesday, 2/19/14  
 
       Political ads are once again bombarding the air waves and pretty soon all voters will be choosing their favorite candidates, if they haven’t already. In fact, some disillusioned folks are debating whether or not to vote at all. Through the years, we’ve come to know that once the primaries are decided, some will vote straight party ticket, no matter who’s running and others will vote for the candidates based on the issues.
 
       Although I exercise my right to vote, when it comes to knowing the candidates well or even understanding the issues, I must confess that my knowledge is quite limited. In fact, I know about as much about politics in general as I do about World Trade. Neither do I know completely the guidelines that are set forth for churches and preachers, but I’m pretty sure we can’t publicly endorse any candidate or party. Nevertheless, there are always a few that seem to find ways to show their hand, so to speak, and their choices will always be quite obvious. I’ve often been questioned, even criticized for my lack of involvement or the voicing of my opinion in the political races but there is a reason for it. Besides my adherence to the guidelines, I am totally convinced that the Lord called me to preach the gospel and watch over His flock, not to get overly involved in other matters. I don’t make a more thorough study on the political candidates or the issues, because I am obligated to devote myself more fully to the study of God’s Word. My charge is the same one Paul gave to Timothy. It reads: Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15 KJV)
 
       There is a method I employ when I make my choice for the candidates I will vote for. Regardless of their party, record, or the issues they champion, I will vote for those who do the least mud slinging, don’t try to portray themselves as being tough, and don’t say the things that are popular or those they feel the voters want to hear. To me, character is very important and I believe those who have it will do a good job once they are elected. If you vote, how do you choose your candidates?
 
Memory verse for the week: I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. (2 Timothy 4:7)
Posted by: Joe Martinez AT 09:00 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Tuesday, February 18 2014
Tuesday, 2/17/14
 
       Most of us learned from an early age that if we do not have something nice to say about someone, we should say nothing at all. Unfortunately, not everyone lives by that rule. I think it is fair to say that all of us have been slandered at one time or another, and some of you who are reading these words may be feeling it’s sting even today. It is a distressing thing to know that someone somewhere is spreading lies and vicious rumors about us and it is equally difficult to figure out what do about it.
 
         First of all, let me remind you that they even slandered Jesus. In fact, in His Sermon on the Mount, he addressed that issue with these words: God blesses you when you are mocked and persecuted and lied about because you are my followers. Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted, too.  (Matthew 5:11-12 NLT*)  By these words, these two things are obvious: (1) We’re not the only ones having to endure slander. (2) And if we endure it, a great reward is awaiting us in Heaven. Though Jesus never defended Himself from these attacks, I sincerely believe He will defend His own. I also choose to believe that when we have been treated unfairly or have endured hard times, a big blessing is on the way. If that has not always been the case with me, I would not be so bold to make that declaration. So if they’ve done it or are doing it to you right now, let God handle it. He does a much better job of it anyway. Also, get ready for a big blessing. In fact, when it gets here let me know, so we can rejoice together.
 
       On the other side of the issue, if you have been put in the unfortunate position of hearing a person you know being slandered, do him or her a favor. Don’t believe it. In fact, we should never believe a one sided story, no matter who it is that gave us that juicy bit of information. Let others play that malicious game if they must. God’s people are better than that.
 
Memory verse for the week: I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. (2 Timothy 4:7)
* NLT =  New Living Translation
Posted by: Pastor Joe Martinez AT 11:09 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Monday, February 17 2014
Monday,  2/17/14   
 
       When do you throw away your tube of toothpaste? Do you discard it when it gets close to the end or do you squeeze out every last dab? How about your bar of soap? Do you throw the last little slivers away or do you find a way to use them? I have no idea of the percentages but my guess is that those who get all they can from their toothpaste tube and bar of soap are in the minority. And if that is the case, I am in the minority. I also suspect that many who are in the majority think that those in the minority might have a cheapskate mentality. That could be, but in my case, I get everything I can from these two items because they remind me of our lives. I have often said that our lives are like a tube of toothpaste and we should not leave this world while we still have something to offer.
 
       In sports, you often hear an athlete claim that he or she left everything out on the court or on the field, which implies that they gave until they could give no more. Many people, when they get into their senior years, often get depressed because they feel worthless, unneeded, and unwanted. They focus on the fact that they can no longer do the things they did before, but they fail to see that the Lord still has them here for a reason. My mom spent the last few years of her life bedridden, yet even like that, her courage and positive attitude was a huge source of inspiration, especially because of her condition. Many in my family questioned God’s purpose back then in keeping her here for so long in her bedridden state but I choose to believe it was because of the inspiration she gave to me and many others.
 
       Almost all people my age rarely have a day completely free of some pain or discomfort, but I pray we’ll all want to be like the tube of toothpaste that is used to the very last dab. Ecclesiastes 12:1 has this foreboding message: Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, “I find no pleasure in them.” That is certainly true in the human realm, but in Christ, one more day here on earth is one more opportunity to do what we can, regardless of our age. Let’s give it our all while we’re still here and make a sincere effort to end our earthly race like the Apostle Paul. His declaration will be our Memory verse for the week: 
I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race, I have kept the faith  (2 Timothy 4:7)
Posted by: Pastor Joe Martinez AT 10:33 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Friday, February 14 2014
Friday, 2/14/14
 
       I saw a man yesterday who has endeared himself to thousands of people. I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting him personally, but I know he has a reputation for being humble, caring, and generous. The reason this fact is noteworthy is that a few years ago I spoke to one of his ex-schoolmates. When I mentioned his name, he went on to say how conceited, arrogant, and disliked the man in question was during his high school years. I found it hard to believe because this man today is the total opposite of his ex-schoolmate’s assessment. I chose not to respond because this man too has gained my respect. As I was trying to figure out our totally different perceptions of the same man, I remembered this fact: People change.
 
       Two men came to mind, one real, the other fictitious. In the classic Charles Dickens story, the Christmas Carol,  Ebenezer Scrooge had a reputation for being a cruel and uncaring miser. By the end of the story, he is a completely different man. In real life, we have the story of Alfred Nobel, a Swedish chemist who became rich and famous when he invented dynamite in 1867. Years later when his brother died, A French newspaper thought it was him and promptly published his obituary in the which they condemned him for his invention of Dynamite. His obituary read, in part: "The merchant of death is dead. Dr. Alfred Nobel, who became rich by finding ways to kill more people faster than ever before, died yesterday." Reading that mistaken obituary notice of himself changed his life. He changed his will and upon his death, he left 9 million dollars to reward persons around the world annually who have made great contributions in their fields. Today, Alfred Nobel is known as the Father of the Nobel Peace Prizes, not “the Merchant of Death.”
 
       People today are still changing the perception others have of them. Many of you who are reading this article today have done that very same thing. In our case, we were only able to do so because of Jesus. 2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV says: Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! Because of Christ, our reputations have changed. If yours could use some improvement, why don't you ask Him to take control of your life as well? With Him in your life, things will be different and I bet you’ll love the new you.
 
Memory verse for the week: Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. (Colossians 3:13 NIV)
 
 
Posted by: Pastor Joe Martinez AT 09:15 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, February 13 2014
Thursday    2/13/14  
 
       Because I am old, I may have an old-fashioned way of thinking but it really rubs me the wrong way when daily I see people totally disregard rules and laws. Here’s one random example: I was in my car one day waiting for my wife to have her hair done. I was in the shop’s parking lot, very close to a bigger shopping center and couldn’t have been more than 20 feet from a busy corner stop sign where cars passed by continually. I quickly noticed that none of the cars that came to it was making a complete stop. I decided to take a little survey to see how many would, and though I don’t remember the exact count, I know it was very close to 100 vehicles. Although a handful slowed down slightly, not one of them made a complete stop, not even when other cars who had the right of way were passing. I thought: “If a traffic cop had been discretely placed at that intersection, he would have generated some  healthy revenues for the police department.” I also knew that those who got citations would have grumbled saying, “Don’t cops have anything better to do? Why don’t they go after real criminals?” Just to prove to myself that it could be easily done, when we left I made it a point to come to that same stop sign and made a complete stop.
 
       I would not be upset or surprised if a few of you think I am overreacting a bit, but I feel that when one breaks or bends a tiny rule here and there, it will progress to bigger things. Hoping I am not misapplying the principle, I feel it is the same one Jesus spoke of in the Parable of the Talents. (See Matthew 25:21) He taught that those who are faithful over a few things will be made rulers over many things. It shows progression from small to bigger things. If that doesn’t convince you, here’s another: So those who refuse to obey the laws of the land are refusing to obey God, and punishment will follow. (Romans 13:2 /New Living Translation) Living by the rules is one sure way of honoring God. One fellow who thinks I overreact to such trivial matters, told me once: “Remember, Joe, rules are meant to be broken.” I think he had rules confused with records.
 
Memory verse for the week: Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. (Colossians 3:13 NIV)
Posted by: Pastor Joe Martinez AT 09:33 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Wednesday, February 12 2014
Wednesday, 2/12/14  A Well Hidden Enemy
 
       A Sunday School teacher was reading and explaining a classic story of pride and arrogance to the children in her class, Jesus’ Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector. [The story is found in Luke 18 and I suppose all of you are familiar with it. The parable begins in verse 9 and reads: To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable. It tells of two men who went to the temple to pray at the same time. The religious Pharisee thanked God that he was better than other men, especially the tax collector who was nearby. The other fellow acknowledged he was a sinner and just prayed that God would have mercy on Him. Jesus said it was the tax collector who went home justified that day, not the Pharisee.] Upon ending the story, the teacher told the children: “Now, lets pray and thank God we’re not like the Pharisee.  
 
       Pride is like that. Many who have it are not aware of it, much like the new Christian who glowingly told the church in his testimony: “Before Jesus saved and transformed me, I was very proud and conceited; now I’m one of the nicest guys around.” I think many will disagree, but I am inclined to believe that, like a few other bad traits, we all have pride in varying degrees. To make it even harder, the triggering mechanism is all around us daily. In his first letter to the church, the Apostle John told of these three things in the world we should guard against: the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does. (1 John 2:16 NIV) The KJV calls the last one the pride of life. Not coincidentally, all these three pitfalls were present in the Garden of Eden and Eve fell to all three. She desired the fruit when she sawit because it looked luscious. She just knew it would be very enjoyable. She even believed it would make her wise, perhaps dreaming of the day when many would tell her: “Wow Eve, you sure are wise.”
 
       How can we best protect ourselves from pride’s subtle attacks? The answer lies in praying and staying close to God. Knowing the destruction the sin of pride can produce, David prayed:  Keep back thy servant  also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright, and shall be innocent from the great transgression. (Psalm 19:13 KJV)  Presumptuous is “an exaggerated sense of one’s importance.” Simply put, David was praying, “Keep me safe from the sin of pride.” We should too. And if we stay humble, we won’t easily tumble.
 
Memory verse for the week: Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. (Colossians 3:13 NIV)
Posted by: Pastor Joe AT 10:58 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Tuesday, February 11 2014
Tuesday, 2/11/14  Forgive and Forget (Part 2)    
 
       If you haven’t forgotten some past incident(s) when someone did you wrong, yet deep down in your heart you know you have forgiven him or her and hold no grudges, don’t let that thought bother you any longer. As we covered yesterday, it is very possible to forgive those who wronged you in the past, even though you’ll always remember the event. If there is absolutely no hate, resentment, or bitterness in your heart today, very obviously you have forgiven and have satisfied God’s requirement in that regard. He only requires that we forgive those who have trespassed against us, period.
 
       Unfortunately, there is a great misconception regarding forgiveness, one that prevents many from offering it. Many believe they will never be able to do it due to their dislike of the offender. To put it another way, their heart is not in it. The truth is that forgiveness is not an act of the heart nor its emotions. It is an act of the will. In a court case where a jury has found the defendant not guilty, the judge has to release him even if he personally dislikes him. Why? Because that’s the law. God’s law demands that we forgive those who have wronged us. We do it because God commands it. If you’ve had trouble with that issue, obey God first. Declare it with your mouth as you pray to Him, even if you have to grit your teeth while you’re doing it. That’s it! Let the Lord handle the rest. You may still have trouble after that believing that you've settled the issue, but you have. That's what your faith is for. And remember that we live by faith, not, by sight or our feelings. With God's help, the feelings will kick in later. Just trust Him; it'll happen. You’ll see.
 
       As we mentioned yesterday, Joseph’s brothers worried that he would never forgive them. Talking amongst themselves, they said: What if Joseph holds a grudge against us and pays us back for all the wrongs we did to him? (Genesis 50:15) Well, if Joseph had indeed held a grudge against them, that would have clearly indicated he had not forgiven them. That was apparently not the case because Joseph completely forgave his brothers. He never forgot what his brothers did to him but I suspect it was mostly because they were always bringing it up.
 
Memory verse for the week: Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. (Colossians 3:13 NIV)
 
 
Posted by: Pastor Joe AT 09:22 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Monday, February 10 2014
Monday,  2/10/14   Forgive And Forget  
 
       Has someone embarrassed, offended, or hurt you deeply, recently or even years ago, and you just can’t seem to forget it or shake it off? When you shared the incident(s) with others, were you ever advised to “forgive and forget”, even hear that the Bible tells us to do it? How about this quote: “If you haven’t forgotten, you haven’t forgiven”? A young man told someone recently: “I learned to forgive and forget; I forgave myself for being stupid and forgot that you exist.” And I’m sure you’ve heard people angrily, but proudly say that they will never forgive or forget. There is even a line in a contemporary Christian song by a group called the Sidewalk Prophets that says: “Forgive and forget, but don’t forget why you’re here.” I suspect many of you have heard it and know it well. That is a noble thought, but is it even possible to forgive and forget, and does the Bible teach that we should? 
 
       The Bible clearly and repeatedly tells us to forgive, period. Whether we forget it or not is another matter. To address  a previous question: Yes, it is possible to forgive and forget, but only with God’s help. If it were not so, nobody could honestly claim that with God, anything is possible. Here is another question: Can you forgive and still not forget? Again, the answer is “yes” because with God’s help, all things are possible.
 
       In yesterday’s message in church, Pastor Mike reminded us of the Genesis account where Joseph did that very thing with his brothers. Even though they sold him as a slave, many years before, he openly and publicly forgave them. That he never forgot the incident is pretty obvious to anyone who reads his story. The last chapter in Genesis shows that Joseph’s brothers were still afraid that he would always hold a grudge against them. Joseph wept that they would still feel that way so he said: You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don't be afraid. I will provide for you and your children. (Genesis 50:20-21) So even if you can’t forget what others have done to you, with God’s help you can forgive them. Trust Him. More, tomorrow.
 
Memory verse for the week: Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. (Colossians 3:13 NIV)
 
 
Posted by: Pastor Joe AT 10:14 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Friday, February 07 2014
Friday, 2/7/14   Angels (Part 2)    
 
       I knew a lady whose mother was gravely ill in the hospital. Doctors had given her no hope at all. She was spending the night at her mom’s bedside, and one night, way past midight, a man walked into their room and asked if he could pray for her mom. When she readily accepted, the man prayed a very short prayer and left immediately. The following morning the sick woman ate breakfast claiming she felt better than ever. When the doctor examined her later that morning, he was flabbergasted and ordered that she be released. Before she left, the daughter went to the nurse’s station to ask who the man was that came to pray the night before. She wanted to thank him personally. One of the nurses who had been there all night insisted nobody came through those halls after 9PM and even after she described him in detail, no one there knew any man that fit that description.
 
       Even today, nobody knows for sure if the man in question was an angel of God or just an ordinary man. Think about this, though; does it really matter? In the daughter’s mind, he was an angel, whether he was from Heaven or from Earth. It should be pretty evident that both types play a big part in our lives.
 
       As touching the angels of God, Hebrews 1:14 tells us that they are ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation. In other words, God has sent them forth to minister to all who believe in Him. Part of their responsibility is to defend, protect, and watch over us. Because David knew this, he wrote: The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers (saves) them. (Ps. 34:7)
 
        As far as I know, I’ve never met a heavenly angel. I think I would love that very much. I must confess that I get a little bit jealous when I hear the stories of those who have. Nevertheless, I choose to believe that I will meet one, or maybe two, before I leave this earth. In fact, as a child of God, the promise is for you too. Remember the biblical account of Lazarus the beggar? Luke 16:22 says: And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom. Imagine this: Not only will we meet them, they will personally escort us back to God. What a day that will be!
 
Memory verse for the week: But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. (Luke 15:20) 
Posted by: Pastor Joe AT 09:40 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, February 06 2014
Thursday    2/6/14   Angels (Part 1)
 
       Folks who have claimed to have had contact with or have been abducted by aliens from outer space, become the target of much ridicule and skepticism. I suppose most people don’t believe they exist but, whether they do or not, others will think twice before they go public with their story. That takes us to the matter of angels. In their case, the Bible makes it quite clear that they do exist. A very interesting and enlightening truth regarding angels is found in the Book of Hebrews. It reads: Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it. (Hebrews 13:2 NIV) Wow, did you get the implication? Can you see that you and I may have had contact with an angel and never knew it? If you’re wondering how it is possible to meet with an angel and not know it, the answer is really quite simple. Remember the classic Christmas movie “It’s A Wonderful Life”? One would hardly expect an angel to be someone like Clarence. BTW, in that movie; Clarence’s character type was about the only thing they got right in portraying a genuine angel.
 
       The biblical account in the 25th Chapter of Matthew suggests as much. In it, Jesus speaks of the righteous people who are welcomed into the Kingdom because in their lifetime they provided for the poor, thirsty, and hungry. They could not believe that it was the King himself who had come to their door. It is no different for you and me. On the day when we helped a stranger who may have appeared to be an outcast, it may have been an angel or even the Lord himself. We may have not thought too much about it back then, but if we ever get the chance to help another, lets keep in mind that it just may be an angel in disguise.
 
       May God help us to remember that He has no favorites, that all people are the same in His eyes. It is our obligation to treat everyone in the same manner regardless of their appearance or standing in life. In fact, perhaps we should go out of our way to be especially nice to those who need a friend the most. And even if they aren’t an angel of God, perhaps we can be an angel to them.
 
Memory verse for the week: But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. (Luke 15:20)
 
 
 
PS: A very special thanks to those of you who take the time to email your kind remarks and well wishes. They are sincerely appreciated.
Posted by: Pastor Joe AT 11:50 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Tuesday, February 04 2014

Tuesday, 2/4/14    Storms

       The account of Jesus walking on water is found in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and John. Matthew 14:22  reads: Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. There are several notable events related to that story but today I choose to focus on the violent storm Jesus’ Disciples encountered on that day and how it relates to all of us. First, it is apparent that Jesus practically forced His disciples to get on the boat that would take them to Bethsaida, a town that was on the opposite side of the Sea Of Galilee. That is interesting when you consider that Jesus knew full well that they would find themselves in the middle of a storm later that night. There are two things we can gather here: One is that the Disciples were not aware of what was waiting for them out in sea. Our storms are like that too; they often come without warning. The other thing is that God knows exactly when we’ll be encountering a storm in our life but it is His will that we go through it anyway. A line from an old Andre Crouch song, “Through It All” comes to mind here. It says: “For if I’d never had a problem, I wouldn’t know that God could solve them; I’d never know what faith in God could do.”
       Nobody wants to go through a storm, but what the song line I just shared declares is true. How else would we know that God will see us through if we have never gone through a difficult trial and survived it? Many of us have learned what the Disciples learned that night, that though it did not seem like it at first, they were not alone; Jesus came to them.
       If you are going through a rough stretch in your life, don’t be afraid; you’re not alone. Jesus will come to you too. And if you listen with your heart you too will hear Him say: Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid. (Mt. 14:27) After you hear these words and truly believe them you will soon realize that your storm is past. 

Memory verse for the week: But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. (Luke 15:20)

Posted by: Pastor Joe AT 02:31 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Monday, February 03 2014
Monday,  2/3/14    Hug Somebody      
 
       Some time back, I read the story of a young lady who was traveling in an old compact  car from Alberta, Canada to the Yukon Territory. She soon realized that the mountain road she was on was not made for normal cars so she stopped at a small diner by the road to consider her options. Two truckers were having breakfast there. When she told one of them where she was going, he replied: “The only way you’ll make it there is if you’ll let me and my friend hug you.” When he saw the look of fear after he told her that, the trucker laughed and said: “No, not that kind of hug.” That was a trucker term that meant one of them would lead, her car would be in the middle, and the other would follow behind in his rig. She was very grateful when she safely arrived at her destination. Life has been like that to most of us. We have had many who have led us, as well as those who have been behind us all the way lending their support and ensuring our safety. Our list may include parents, siblings, teachers, coaches, teammates, fellow employees, or just good and faithful friends. Regardless of who they may have been, we should never forget and forever be grateful to them for it.
 
       Regarding physical hugs, those of you who know me know that I’m a hugger. I wasn’t always like that. In fact, I used to be the opposite. I never really mastered the social graces and were it not for Christ, I’d still be the same stiff and awkward introvert I was once. When His love came into my heart, it made all the difference. If we apply it to Jesus, there was a lot of truth in a line from an old Doris Day song that said: “And I love everybody since I fell in love with you.” Hugs are warm, loving expressions when they are motivated by the leading of God's Spirit and not the desires of a carnal spirit. An old local TV weatherman of long ago would end all his forecasts with this line: “Hug somebody; it’ll make you feel good.” Back then, I used to cynically think he was just an old lecher, but now I can see I may have been way off. Today, in Christ, I can see the truth in his statement. When you hug somebody you sincerely care for, it really does make you feel good. In most cases it makes the recipient feel good as well.
 
Memory verse for the week: But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. (Luke 15:20)
Posted by: Pastor Joe AT 08:04 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
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