Deep down we are all very much alike. Some of us cover it up better than others, but we all want to match up and blend in with someone. Most of us want to blend in with everyone. However, even those who choose to stand out in the crowd, tend to try and look like someone. It's comfortable, it's safe, and we think no one will focus on me if I look like everyone else. If you think you don't, consider your time running up and down the highway. I am a firm believer in the magic five. No cop will worry about me if I'm doing 80 in a 75. However, get me in Dallas or Atlanta and all bets are off- I'm doing 85+ like everyone else. Why? Because I'm just following along. We may follow every law on the book, but whether it be a magic five or following the flow of the busy folks, we think no one will care because, "everyone else is doing it'. Trends in fashion, speech, and beliefs are the same. They depend on peoples tendency to just "go along". I am convinced if we could break that mindset, modern art and fashion would go bankrupt, but that's just my opinion.
Paul, in our Romans text, speaks to this issue. The very fact that this is so tempting is scripturally taught. It is in our fallen nature to just repeat what we see and hear. This is probably the most easily seen in Israel's tendency to repeat the same issues over and over again. Their biggest sin, and what eventually brought their destruction, was wanting to look like everyone else. They wanted a king like everyone else, even with the Lord telling them that is a bad idea (1 Samuel 8). They wanted gods like everyone else, and worshiped them. These things ought not be. Paul tells us it will be easy for us to be conformed to the image of this world. It is the natural effect of living in this world. To be conformed is to be pressed into the mold you are in. It is of no effort of your own to be conformed- it is surrendering to be pressed into the mold, and be found in the same shape and condition. It may look tempting and shiny to be like everyone else. We tend to, however, have a very small angle view. We see the pretty shape of the cookie cutter and think it would be nice to not just be a blob of unshapened dough. Yet, the reality is, they only want us in the mold so we can be thrown in the fire and forced to stay in that shape. Any effort to change only leaves us broken. The world right now is applying major pressure to get you to conform to their idea of Christianity, morality, and thinking. Paul warns us to be aware of this pressure and not allow it to happen to us.
Rather, Paul tells us to, instead, be transformed. Be changed completely. We are, by nature, the children of wrath. We are, by nature, given to sin and following the track of this world. Paul tells us to be different- Changed into the child of God that God has called us to be. Be the child of God He has made us able to be- by the daily renewing of your mind, you can be who He has called you to be. While we would like to think God would do all of this for us, Paul tells us WE must renew our minds. Renew them daily in His word. Renew them daily in prayer. Renew them daily in walking with the Lord. You do not have to conform to the world to be like someone. You do not have to follow the path of least resistance to follow the crowd. Scripture is full of examples to follow (Hebrews 12:1). Hebrews chapter 11 is full of examples of men, women, and adolescents of all types and backgrounds being different, but the same. One of my favorites is the other text I shared above. Daniel is the perfect example of what this is supposed to look like. He and his friends were under immense pressure to blend in and be conformed to the image of the Chaldeans. The text given is a renewing moment for him. It is when Daniel purposed in his own heart that he would not go along. He did not fight the system, he didn't make a scene, he simply said he would not be changed. He was transformed from a Jew in captivity to a man of God, living for Him, right where he was. That is what we are called on to do. If we want to look like someone, look like Christ. Be like all the men and women of God, of old.
May God bless you all to live, walk, talk, and praise like Christ. Be strong in your faith and learn to help others.
Will We Give Up?
, For those that don't know I grew up in the backwoods of Mississippi and the foot hills of Arkansas. My favorite pass times growing up involved being outdoors. It didn't matter if it was rolling and sliding down red clay hills, or hours wading in a cold creek, fishing for smallmouth. Simply put, I wanted to be outdoors. In my early years it was just what I enjoyed. As I got older, I loved seeing God in everyday things in nature. Psalms tells us the heavens declare His glory and the firmament His handy work (Psalm 19:1). Understanding that God created and designed everything in nature makes it all that much sweeter to spend time outdoors. Sights like the tree pictured here are some of my favorites to find. In Mississippi, it would be a tall pine growing on the edge of a hollar, somehow surviving the ice storms and winds. Here in Arkansas, you often find them, and other vegetation, growing in seemingly impossible locations. Everything in nature says this tree should have never made it. Not enough soil for the roots to find nourishment. Too little light can to feed the young sapling's roots. The sheer weight of the rock should have crushed the seed where it fell. Yet, somehow in the face of all this, this little seed found the nourishment it needed, the light to feed its growth, and the strength to split the rock to grow. If you think this is no big thing, you miss the small things.
Many times in this life we may find ourselves feeling like this tree. Of all the places, or times, for God to have seen fit for us to live, why now? Why here? Every time I try to move forward and grow, the pressure holding me back seems insurmountable. I'm just too tired. I always seem to fail. Ever feel this way? If you do, let me promise you that you are not alone. As a child of God you are born into a world that naturally holds you back or even tries to kill your growth. For a child of God to reach spiritual maturity and stand strong is an exact picture of this tree. Supernatural nourishment, supernatural light, and supernatural strength are the only things that make a Christian able to grow up. The writer of our text today is a prime example of this truth.
Paul is exhorting the people of the churches in Galatia to never stand down. Never give up. We are not those that turn back (Hebrews 10:39). He lived a life of example in this truth. He grew up as Saul of Tarsus. A Jew's Jew and a Pharisee of the Pharisees. He did so in a very polarized world. The Jews and Gentiles shunned and despised each other. To cross the lines between the two was looked down upon by both sides. When Jesus rattled his cage and called him into the work of the true Gospel, he had major hurdles to cross. He had a name on the one side that instilled fear of literal death and persecutions, and on the other, hatred for being a turn coat. For this man to walk for Christ would truly be a 10 mile walk, in the blinding snow, uphill both ways, as the old adage goes. With no coat and no GPS directing him. He met opposition all the time. Yet, he managed to write the majority of the New Testament, start countless churches, and do more work in the gospel ministry than most of our modern day ministry with the help of social media accounts.
He gives us his not so secret recipe here in this verse. Faint not and do good. We are told in Isaiah that those that wait on the Lord will mount up as eagles. He promises that those that wait on Him shall grow and reap what they sow. I can imagine there were many times in Paul's life it would have been easy to give up and give in. Maybe when he was locked up in prison. Yet, we find that he would, instead, have a midnight singing service with his fellow inmates. Maybe as he stood bound before the judge looking at death coming upon him, but rather, he boldly says, "I would that you were all together as I am save these bonds." Paul had a way of never giving up, and he exhorts us to follow in those foot steps. Trust that the Lord will keep you and prosper your way if you are following Him and refuse to stop. Understand there is a promise given to us. You will reap what you sow. If you sow carnal things, expect to reap carnal things. If you sow spiritual things, expect to reap spiritual things. Also, don't expect it to be a quick return. We often give up too quickly before growth can happen. We like to picture we are sowing everything into perfectly prepared, healthy soil. However, the reality is, this world is not conducive to our growth. We are casting, often times, into these sheer rock faces, and think a fruit yielding, mature tree is going to just pop up ready to feed us and others. Spiritual growth takes hard effort, and is often a slow process . Being a Christian is not for the faint of heart. Just as Paul found, being nice will often find ridicule coming back to you from both sides of the field. However, the best form of sowing good seed is seek to do good unto all men! That is to men, women, and children of all types and shapes and sizes. They are our neighbors. It is in this that Jesus said we will be known as His disciples indeed. God is that supernatural nourishment, light, and strength that we as children of God all have access to, IF we follow Him and faint not. What is it that God has called on you to do? He can help you stand in impossible locations, split rocks, and stand the storms of life.
God bless you all and may we all learn to depend on Him for our everything.
Trust God In The Stresses.
The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer;
3 The God of my rock; in him will I trust:
He is my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my high tower, and my refuge,
My saviour; thou savest me from violence.
4 I will call on the LORD, who is worthy to be praised:
So shall I be saved from mine enemies.
5 When the waves of death compassed me,
The floods of ungodly men made me afraid;
6 The sorrows of hell compassed me about;
The snares of death prevented me;
7 In my distress I called upon the LORD,
And cried to my God:
And he did hear my voice out of his temple,
And my cry did enter into his ears.
The Holy Bible: King James Version. 1900 Authorized Version., 2 Sa 22:2–7.
When we live life, as we all do, we find some days to be overwhelming. Not because of some big thing that comes out of left field, but just a never ending drip. They come out of nowhere and seem to never end. If it were some big thing, we would easily find courage and understanding to run to God. A sick child or loved one, a surprise bill, a new undertaking or challenge, or any number of major life altering issues quickly drive us to God. Let me quickly say that I am not speaking against that. We should seek our God in the big and terrifying. I am beyond thankful that God is ready to answer in these times. David, the one whom our text speaks of, no doubt found God in the big times. He faced Goliath, a lion, and a bear just to name some obvious times that I am sure David sought God in. However, I am curious if we are so quick to seek Him in the small. We are told to trust God in all your ways (Proverbs 3:5-6).
Today, was one of those days for me. I, like many other pastors, am a dual vocational pastor. In my secular life, I am the service manager of a quickly growing car dealership. Many days I thoroughly enjoy my job and find lots of opportunity to try and shine the light of God into the community I am in. Other days, it feels like someone opened the flood gates of crazy. The tempo is fast, the issues keep coming, and everything that comes my way is a problem. We all have days like this, and we go home exhausted. Or, maybe you are a housewife, and you are at home, and are exhausted. There is no arguing that a stay at home mom is the greatest and hardest calling there is. My wife is awesome at it, but some days by the time I get home, the very sound of the dog's toe nails tapping on the hardwood floor is maddening. We all have daily stresses in our daily life. We should seek God on these days and everyday. However, somewhere in our fleshly, fallen minds we tend to compartmentalize God to just being the God of the big. We feel we should be able to handle the small. We try to power through, just breathe, and do all we can. And, by the end of the day, we feel like we have been wading in quick sand. Today, the verses above needed to be placed as signs on my hands, and set as frontlets before my eyes (Deuteronomy 6:8).
God is our refuge, fortress, and strength. We can find a hiding place from the stress. We can find a source of strength to mount up on wings as eagles above the storms of life. Trust in Him to keep you in the small and the mighty. Remind yourself you are not in this life alone and remember the words of David, "Thou savest me". God has saved us from hell and death. He has also delivered us from this present, evil world. David tells us the secret of getting through: "I will call on the Lord, who is worthy to be praised, so shall I be saved from mine enemies". Self reliance is the enemy of walking with God. It is our enemy in this life, but God will save us from it. Stress is an enemy of our walk in peace with God. God can, and will, save you from it; you need only be still. Our cries enter into the ears of God and He will answer. Start your day early by seeking God. Spend the day seeking God. Spend your lunch seeking God. Also, trust the ones God has placed in our lives that we can reach out to on days of trouble.
Lord, grant us the comfort to cast our cares on You. Grant us the strength to faint not in well doing. And bless us, Lord, to be Your hands and feet when others need us. Amen. God bless you all, and remember we are here for you. Let us know if we can pray for you.
The peace of the nation.
These are trying times, and some days there seems to be no end in sight. I have no intention to make any political posts here or on any of my pages. However, I know that even the Lord spoke of political things when the need arose (Mark 12:17). We have just come through, according to some, 4 blessed years, and according to others 4 horrid years. I am not here to discern between the two. Again, that is something for another time or place. We are now going into a direct opposite view of the last four years. Many see the future bright and full of "about time", and many others say, "Lord help and what will these times bring". What are we as Christians to do in times like these?
In our text, we find a prophecy given to the people of Israel about the coming judgement on their lands and people. Very soon, a nation was coming to destroy their homes and to take them captive. They would then proceed to seek to wipe out their history, change the way they speak, think, worship, and act. See Daniel chapter one. No matter what side of the political realm you are on there have been times like this, or now is that time for us. I will quickly remind you that all of this came on them because of their failure to follow Him and His commandments. Nothing brings swifter judgement on a nation than this. Especially one that should know, and has shown that they know better. Even though this judgement was due unto them, God gave them this commandment, and it would do us well to remember it ourselves. Plainly stated, God told them, Do Not Quit Living. There will be rises and falls in leaders around us, and in those who have authority over us. The entirety of the book of Daniel spoke to this end. Many kings took power and they were reminded that worldly rule is temporary at best and often forgotten by generations to come. We as children of God are to keep living. Build hoses and plant gardens. We are to plan for and prepare for the future. Why would we do that when it seems everything is falling apart? God told us in the book of Genesis that until the end there will be seed time and harvest. God promised there will be a tomorrow unless He returns. That is the guaranteed, and only, end of this world. Because of that we are to live as if another day is coming. Another day we can serve God. A day to continue in our efforts. Build our lives as things will continue, do not throw your hands up and say why mess with it. Take wives and husbands and have children. The family unit is sacred and the essential building block of all community and nations. We are to continue that focus and stand for it. In times of trouble it is still time to stand up for family first. God was telling them to continue to be the children of God He had called them to be. Raise the next generation to follow God. Do not leave our children's moral compass and understanding of God up to the world to teach. The world, just as Babylon, will seek to replace Godly understanding with knowledge and science, so called. Daniel proves that you can learn these things and still keep God first, but it takes an amazing man of faith to do it. Do not leave your children's understanding to chance. There is nothing greater that we can hand down to our children than a love and understanding of God. They are the greatest preparation for the future we can invest in.
Further than that even, He says, pray for the nation you are in. Please notice God did not put a precursor on this statement based on what nation they were in or the leader in charge. We as Christians, just as the people of Israel, need to remember we are children of God first and Americans second. God has born us again, and even in these times, I believe in the greatest nation in the world. However, even if this nation turns upside down and becomes unrecognizable and stands for everything we know to be wrong, we are to pray for this nation. The nation Israel was taken into served and worshipped idol gods, mocked the one true and living God, and committed abominable things, yet God said pray for that nation. Could they have been more removed from right? We are to pray for the peace of this nation no matter the circumstance. Our efforts to seek the peace of the nation are not based on the nation we dwell in nor the leader of that nation. It is based solely on the God that we serve and the amazing works He has done, is doing, and will do in our lives and the lives of those around us. God tells us that even in wicked nations, in their peace we will find peace. Even in crooked and perverse nations we can increase and not diminish. God help us to be those that seek Your peace in the nation that we dwell. God bless us to be lights in a world darkened by sin. God bless you all and God bless this nation with amazing peace.
One Spirit, One Body
1 Corinthians 12:12–13 (KJV )
12 For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. 13 For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.
In reading this text over the last week a portion stood out that I had not considered in depth before from this text's view point. Paul is making the comparison of the church and her head that is Christ. Anyone who has spent any time in the church knows you will find all kinds of people there. People from all kinds of backgrounds, experiences, temperaments, likes, and dislikes. However, when you gather with them during worship they find their way to unity in seeking the Lord. Or at least that is how it should be. Paul uses our literal bodies and how they are made up to show how the church should work. When you consider our bodies I doubt anyone would say that your lungs and your heart look, work, or react the same. Either one of them if you reversed them could not operate. If you fill your heart with air death will occur, and so goes if you fill your lungs with blood. The two could not be more different from each other. Yet in God's design they work together to provide the oxygen that is needed in the blood and the blood that is needed in the lungs, and they do it together to the betterment of the body. So goes the body of Christ in the church. Paul tells us no matter if you are Jew or Gentile (This comparison in scripture is major. The two could not be more different. So much so that it took the work of Christ to bring them together.) bond or free we are all made to work together in the body of Christ. This teaches us that everyone is needed in the house of God and the work of the body could not be performed without each one of coming together to do our part.
This is not the part that caught my attention though. The thing that caused me to slow down and look at was the statement "so also is Christ". In considering our Lord and Savior I strain to see and divisions in Him. I know that he was flesh and blood even as we are but I don't believe that is what Paul is writing of here. The differing parts of the body are individuals that come together for the purpose of worship. In comparing Christ to that he is saying there are different parts coming together for the work of Christ. Jesus Christ is an amazingly complex individual. There are those that make Him all God and He is. There are those that want to make Him all man and he is. Jesus is a perfect picture and reality of the trinity. John 1 tells us that Jesus, the Word, was with God from the beginning. He has always existed and was not born of a virgin. He is completely God in power, in mind, and in authority. This is why we are told He was born King of the Jews. This is why John the Baptist even though he was 6 months older than Jesus says Jesus came before him. This is how he is the root and seed of David. That is one part of our head that is Christ. There is another by the name Jesus that was born of a virgin. That has a beginning of about 2000 years ago. This is the man Jesus of Nazareth. He is all man and is how we explain a Jesus that tires out and takes naps, thirsts and askes for drink, and even how we have a Savior that dies on the cross. These two came together for the purpose of our salvation. The two could not be more different. One is spirit without beginning or end, omnipresent and omni powerful. The other conceived and born, and in need of growth and learning. Yet they worked together for us. There is a third part involved and that is the Spirit. We are told here in the text that even as it is the Spirit that works in us to bring us together for the purpose of worship. It is the Spirit that worked with Christ to bring them together for our Salvation.
Now where the Spirit is working in us to overcome our differences, with Christ he was working in unison with the two parts of Christ. He is indeed our perfect example of How we should be in our daily lives and in the church. It is amazing to see how perfectly He is our example in all things. We too have this Spirit working in us both to will and to do of His good pleasure. We have this Spirit in us crying out Abba Father. We can work together in the worship of God. May God bless us to come together and learn to follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
When I created this page for the church two years ago, I wanted to start this process. As a whole, I tend to be very quiet; a man of few words. On top of that, I tend to write even less. However, I am reminded over and over again in the back of my mind of the words of a wise father in the ministry: I was told a congregation will rarely, if ever, exceed the temperament of the pastor. I want to, in the coming year, begin writing on this page on a weekly basis. I want to share with you all some of my musings, thoughts, and comments on what I'm reading. I want you all to be comfortable commenting and joining in on these discussions.
This last year has been a lot of things. We have all experienced and, I trust, learned so much. I am, however, amazed that looking back over the last year I can see God's hand in so much. I am reminded of all the times in the days of Israel that, on a worldly view point, things were falling apart at the seams; yet, as we look at it today, we can see how God was truly in the matter. Possibly no greater example of this would be the 70 year captivity. The nation was in shambles and His people were dragged into foreign lands. Many at this time would easily say it has never been this bad. Possibly even thought this is the end and we may as well just give up. Thankfully though, for those of faith, they could remember the words sent by His prophet. For I know the plans I have for you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end (Jeremiah 29:11). The process and the time frame were painful, yet God promised a good end for His people. Those that continued to live and to seek Him came out on the other side better and came out of that darkness. Many times that God leads us through may be the valley of the shadow of death, yet He promises to never leave or forsake us. God is not finished with us, God is not finished with His church, and God is not finished with you. Things may look dark as we stand in the here and now, but God is still on His throne. This was a promise repeated over and over again in the book of Daniel, the prophet through the 70 years. We need to be those reminding everyone around us of the same truth. May God bless you all as we close out 2020 and as we boldly go into that which God already knows in 2021.
Thank you for reading and I ask for your prayers in the year ahead.
Elder John Staten