Hi this is pastor Ken and these are my thoughts on a Thursday…Did I see that right?
In the past week there have been several things that have taken place in our nation’s capital that have caused me to wonder at times…did I see that right? Last Wednesday I watched in disbelief through the portal of my computer screen, our Capitol building being entered by a group of angry citizens in a completely unlawful manner. Tragedy followed as bedlam ensued. In the days following, there have been calls for the President to resign as many decided the demonstrators that went rogue had done so at his behest. I have also been watching as a new attempt to impeach has begun in the face of his refusal to resign, and the Vice President’s refusal to invoke the 25th amendment to the constitution that would essentially deem the President unfit for office. All of this again causing me to rub my eyes and ask myself, “Did I see that right”?
The past year has in fact given me many occasions to ask the very same question. The pandemic created a situation where governors across the nation closed businesses, public schools, colleges and universities, and even churches. As I go to the grocery store and other places of business still open and I see everyone with masked faces looking as if they are readying themselves to perform major surgery I wonder from time to time… “Am I seeing this right”? This past year as I watched coverage of complete inner cities with broken glass where organized storefronts previously displayed their wares, as I watched buildings burn as demonstrations morphed into riots, I wondered again… “Am I seeing this right”? In the past few months alone; we have seen people beaten for no apparent reason, police stations taken over by rioters, and in fact complete sections of cities taken over as “Autonomous Zones”. As the anarchy that ensued became THE story in the news outlets and other media, all sane people wondered from time to time… “Are we seeing this right”?
I don’t know about all of you but for myself and many of those I have spoken with, these events have caused us to look at the world through a new lens of distrust. We almost can’t believe we have seen what we know in fact we have seen…and continue to see. There was the election and all of the questions raised as to its fairness and validity, and the seemingly lackluster desire of our nation’s leadership to offer any meaningful examination to reinstill confidence in the system. Last week I watched as the opening prayer in the House of Representatives was ended with the Phrase “Amen and A-woman” Incredible! No I mean it, it was incredible! If someone had simply told me about it and I had not seen it with my own eyes…I would not have found that person to be credible…I would have been sure they were mistaken! But no, it really happened…I saw it with my own eyes just like the rest of the nation did…So, Ill ask it for all of us, “Were we seeing it right”?
Other than the fact that the past year has brought with it a new brand of insanity, what’s my point? I know that all of these crazy events have had me questioning from time to time, is this the America I know and love? I also know as I have spoken with many that the same question has been on their minds. These questions have elicited a gamut of emotions that span from disappointment, frustration and outright anger to anxiety and fear and everything in between. So what do we do? These things are important right? They are…but maybe we’re making them too important.
Paul wrote of this very thing in his second letter to the Corinthians. Chapter 4 is all about living in a world full of events that defy belief and that theme and what we are supposed to do in response continues into chapter 5. The answer to the question so often asked “Did I see that right?” and the negative emotions that can follow is given in 1 Corinthians 5:7 For we walk by faith and not by sight. This might seem a glib answer, but there is profound truth contained in this short verse. We can believe that we see what we see, however, should we attach such weight to what we see? Do the events we are witnessing make up the totality of our existence or are they in fact only a miniscule portion in the context of eternity? If as Paul was writing to the Corinthians in these two short chapters, we are dual citizens and the far and away greater of the two entities we hold citizenship in is the Kingdom of Heaven, what should my reaction be to the things I see? How should that understanding affect my response? If My King is still on the throne, unable to be deposed, should I not live with a visible confidence and peace no matter my personal, temporal condition? In fact, shouldn’t that peace that is seemingly unwarranted (Phil 4:7) be as it promises, to be guarding my heart and mind? What hope can I expect others to gain through the illustration of my relationship with Christ if my response to what I see looks just like theirs? Child of God, He knows what we are going through…none of it escapes Him. He sees you, His eyes are upon you, He loves you immensely and intensely and has decided that anything you experience can be used to further you in your ability to look like Jesus! And He is praying you through all it through His Holy Spirit (Romans 8:26-29)
Paul concluded 1 Corinthians chapter four with these words, and I find them so very timely today…and in fact on any day that proves I am not yet in Glory…1Cor 4:16-18 (NKJV)Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory,while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.
Kind of gives some clarity to what he wrote by the inspiration of the Holy spirit just a few short sentences later…1 Corinthians 5:7 For we walk by faith and not by sight.
So now, recognizing that what you see is only temporary…but your loving King is eternal…go be awesome!
Hi this is pastor Ken and these are my thoughts on a Thursday…You can be dead right.
When I was a teenager growing up on the plains of western New York State our school system didn’t have a Driver’s Education program. Back then parents taught their kids to drive. Although I had been driving on the farm since I was about 12 years old, at age 16 I did what every teen I knew did on their birthday. I went to the local county DMV office and took a written test that upon passing rewarded me with a driver’s permit. With permit in hand I was free to drive so long as there was a licensed driver in the car with me. Occasionally that meant I drove with an older friend but most times it meant my mom or dad were in the passenger seat. As I said, I had been driving on farm lanes so long that the fundamentals of operating a motor vehicle were already learned, unbeknownst to me however was the inconvenient fact that I needed to learn how to drive. Though the farm lanes went on for what seemed like miles and there was no lack of excuses to traverse them, I hadn’t needed to negotiate much traffic on empty dirt roads crisscrossing cornfields.
It wasn’t too long after beginning to drive on the ‘real’ roads that I left an intersection that had stop signs on every corner and began making a left turn in front of someone who was also pulling into the intersection believing that he had the right of way. I was certain that I had arrived at the intersection first and answered my mom’s gasp of fear of being in an accident with an indignant “I had the right of way”! I will never forget mom’s reply; I can still hear it in my mind almost 40 years later. She said “Ken, you can be dead right you know”. I laughed at her clever play on words, but quickly ceased when she said, “It’s not funny…I’m serious”!
Looking back, I’m not sure if I had the right of way or not, I may have…but mom was correct, you can be dead right. Pastor made a good point this weekend that reminded me of mom’s timeless wisdom. These can be trying times we live in right now. It is at the least, a very interesting time to be alive. The pandemic has brought with it many infringements on our way of life and some even seem to be stepping on our freedoms. I love being an American, and I cherish those freedoms that I have always been able to enjoy. I have lived abroad where such freedoms don’t exist in abundance and that has made them all the more special to me. Additionally, the fact that my late brother gave twenty years of his life much of it absent from the wife and children he loved fighting to defend those very freedoms also makes them precious to me. As citizens of this country we have many “rights” and it seems sometimes as of late that some of those are under attack and even being retracted without due process. In light of that it would be all too easy to become upset and say or do certain things in response and feel we were completely justified in doing so…after all right is right…right?
Not always…seems mom knew what she was talking about…you can be dead right. Just because we have certain rights doesn’t mean we can exercise them anyway we want to…and still BE right. I have the right as an American to free speech but God’s word tells me that if I don’t speak in love…I’m wrong. We can be in the right completely on one particular matter or another and yet we are instructed to treat those around us with mercy…even if by rights they don’t deserve it. As Christ followers we must take care that in exercising our “rights” we don’t become wrong. Why? Because we carry the Name of Jesus with us everywhere we go. Our job as Christians is to promote Jesus, not ourselves. Our “rights” aren’t nearly important as it is that those we interact with get the “right” impression of Christ and how our relationship with Him has impacted us.
Proverbs 28:5 says that Evildoers do not understand what is right, but those who seek the Lord understand it fully. Jesus said over and over again that words and actions of humility were always the right choice. He taught that we were to store up treasure in the kingdom of heaven and that it is by becoming humble and treating others with love that we make the largest deposits. The problem with “rights” is that they often lead to a prideful mentality which is the opposite of humility, and humility is the currency in the economy of the kingdom of God.
Micah 6:8 says, He has shown you, O man, what is good and what the Lord requires of you, but to act justly and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.
So now, acting and speaking in ways Jesus finds right…go be awesome!
Hi this is pastor Ken and these are my thoughts on a New Year’s Eve Thursday…It’s All Going to be Alright.
New Year’s Eve is always a special time. Around the globe it will be celebrated this evening as it is each year, albeit differently than it has been in most years due to the pandemic and the restrictions that imposes on our ability to gather in large crowds. I haven’t been watching the news enough to know exactly how…But I am sure it will look different in Times Square, Los Angeles, Hong Kong, Paris, and the other cities we are used to seeing the television networks show us what the celebrations looked like as New Year’s Day has made its debut around the planet.
The questions will all be the same as in years past. What will the new year bring? What will change…what will remain the same? What New Year’s resolutions will really take hold and which will fall away in the coming weeks, days…even hours?
Paul had some things to say in his letter to the Philippians that I think are timely for remembering as we ring in 2021. Philippians 4:4-8,11b-13 (NIV) Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things…for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
As I have made mention of before in recent weeks, God is always being so very, very good to us. Learning to recognize that as fact is one of the real evidences of our faith and trust in Him. I am coming to a real understanding that is what God desires for me. I think back to when I was a child. If I was with my father and he took my hand to lead me across a street or he was directing me to do something a certain way…I did not question his intent toward me, he is my dad…of course his intent toward me is good. God wants us to walk with Him in the same complete confidence. Knowing that about Him is what allows us to be at peace in completely tumultuous circumstances. In this Scripture Paul gives us some instructions on how to allow that to become the norm for all of us.
First we have to learn to rejoice…no matter what we are facing, or whatever the level of uncertainty. This is so important that Paul made a point to repeat himself. I will say it again…rejoice. Joyfulness, thankfulness, gratitude are the things positive change in our attitudes are made of. Do they always change the situation for the better…nope. Do we make better decisions about how to handle our circumstances when our spiritual position is improved? You bet we do. So as Paul instructed…rejoice.
Are you feeling anxious about anything in the coming year, month, week, day, hour? Pray. Petition God…again with a thankful heart, knowing you can be confident that whatever He chooses to do in the situation you are praying about will be best. Paul says that the result of such prayer and confidence in God will result in a peace that is literally out of this world!
Thirdly, Paul reminds us that if we want to live victoriously we have to focus on the victory. We cannot remain focused on the things that bring us fear if we want to have an overcomer’s mindset. We cannot have victim thinking if we want to have victor action. So he gently reminds us to reposition our mindset to what God desires it to be… whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. In 2 Corinthians 10:5 Paul instructs that the way we win battles of the mind is to take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ. This is the process by which we accomplish that.
Finally, Paul reminds us of something here that I find incredibly timely on New Year’s Eve as we look ahead to 2021. It isn’t about what we will have or not have. It isn’t about what freedoms we will regain and which will still be restricted. It isn’t about what we will find enjoyable and what will be less so. It is about learning to live in a state of contentedness and knowing that has not come because of what we possess or what we are free to do or not do. It comes from understanding that no matter what the circumstances of 2021 bring…we can do all things, anything…because of the strength that walking with Jesus brings.
So now, walking with Jesus and allowing that to make you view 2021 as you ought to…go be awesome!
Hi this is pastor Ken and these are my thoughts on a Thursday Christmas Eve! As I was preparing for my podcast this week I wanted to share a Christmas poem with you based on the classic, ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas written by Clement Clarke Moore in 1823. I set out to write such a work expressing the true story of Christmas but I believe firmly that among one’s greatest strengths is to know one’s weakness and while a blogger I may be…a poet I am not. So after a short search I came across this version written by one Angie Mosteller and I liked it so much I wanted to share it with you on this “Night before Christmas”.
‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, Angie Mosteller
‘Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the earth,
Every creature was stirring, awaiting a birth.
The time for Messiah was certainly near,
The prophets foretold it; the Bible was clear.
From the book of beginnings, the very first sin,
God’s word made it clear how His grace entered in.
Born of a virgin, He’d come as a man.
The Creator among us, the time was at hand.
The stars were arranged to show marvelous things,
Setting Wise Men to journey and find the true King.
Shepherds in Bethlehem gazed on the sky,
Longing to see him, their Lord the Most High.
How could they know that the very next night
An angel of God would speak words of delight?
How the Savior was born, it was news of great joy.
In a cloth and a manger they’d find the dear boy.
And a heavenly host would soon join to sing
Of the glory of God and of wonderful things.
He entered creation, set position aside
To show us how deeply his love did abide.
Sin sent us away from our almighty Lord.
He became one of us that we might be restored.
He’s the Prince of our Peace; He’s the one who makes whole.
He is Wisdom Incarnate, a Shepherd of Souls.
He’s the Author of Life; He’s the Ruler of All.
He can offer salvation, on His name we call.
The shepherds and Wise Men would bow to adore
Holy God among men, our greatest reward.
All glory and honor is due to this King.
Let all join in worship; let every tongue sing.
Jesus is Lord, all creation proclaims.
He’s the first and last, He is always the same.
History turned on the first Christmas day,
When God became man in a humble display.
As we think of the manger in which He was laid,
Let our hearts welcome Him to the world He made!
How wonderful a gift has been given to each and every one of us from our loving Heavenly Father. One we didn’t deserve, can never match, and can share with everyone we will ever know and never deplete the fullness of what has been given to us. This Christmas Join Lynn and I as we express our thankfulness to God for all He has given to us.
So now, Celebrating Jesus this Christmas…go be awesome!
Hi this is pastor Ken and these are my thoughts on a Thursday…Tasting goodness
As a PK or a pastor’s kid I lived in many different places. Our family moved away from the area of western New York state we knew as home when I was 4 years old and wouldn’t return in a permanent sense until 8 years later. When I was 12 years old my dad began serving a church in a small farming community near Rochester, NY. One of the things I loved about that move was that it placed us within an hour of most of our extended family. After eight years of being away from all of them it was wonderful indeed to live near them and see them much more often, this was especially true during the holidays. There had been years during our hiatus that we had not been able to return “home” for the holiday season and to be able to see grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins each Christmas was nothing short of wonderful.
One of the traditions during the seven years we lived in that area that I always looked forward to was the December morning each year that my aunt Judy would show up early with a back seat full of bags from the supermarket. She and mom would spend the entire day mixing and baking a plethora of various kinds of Christmas cookies. There were big ones and small ones. Flat ones and some that resembled small snowballs. There were sugar cookies, chocolate chip, you know the ones with the Hershey’s kiss in the middle. Some were made with nuts, some made with candy, some made with frosting, some without. When the day was over we seemed so rich! The table was covered with various plates loaded with cookies covered with red and green plastic wrap to be delivered to all of our family members. I knew this would mean that we were going to visit with some of my favorite people, and they would welcome us in and unwrap those wonderful plates and we would be invited to share them. But the best part of that day wasn’t seeing my mom and her sister having fun working together in the kitchen all day. It wasn’t the smell of baking cookies and fresh brewed coffee permeating every corner of the house. It wasn’t even the table covered in plates of yummy goodness or the promise of family visits. It was the mistakes. We were allowed to eat all of the mistakes! We weren’t told to have just one, no we could have as many of the broken, or slightly over or under done cookies we wanted. Mom and aunt Judy wanted the plates of cookies that would be shared to be perfect…so we got to enjoy all of the ones that didn’t make the cut. Tasting all those delicious examples of their work…the imperfection confections…that was the best part of the day!
This year hasn’t been what any of us expected when it began. I can say that with confidence. I don’t think a single one of us thought that it would be at all what it has turned out to be. There have been more twists and turns in the road that has been 2020 than could have ever been anticipated. Through all of it one thing has been as advertised…God has been so very, very good to us. Sure we have had to endure some things we have not liked. We have had to withstand much we would not have chosen, but it has been on my mind a lot as of late just how good, so very good God has been. His goodness is all around us. He has been giving us opportunities all year to become more like Jesus. Some of those opportunities we would not have chosen. Some of them we would characterize as problematic, troublesome, maybe even downright detestable. But just like the cookies that didn’t pass muster to go on display they have not lacked all recognizable value. Think about the parts of this year you could have done without, and then consider what God has taught you through those things. Think of the lessons He has presented you with and the value that has brought to your life. The book of James tells us to count it all joy when we fall into various trials knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work that you may be perfect and complete lacking nothing.James 1:2-4 (NKJV) In other words we need to learn to welcome the trouble that comes our way because it means that we can enjoy a healthy dose of being perfected if we are willing for it. What we might want to reject may be what is intended to perfect. My experience as a child taught me that the ones cast aside can still be quite tasty. Psalm 34:8 tells us to Taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who trusts in Him. That Psalm was not written to people who were experiencing a trouble free life, quite the opposite. It is directed to those who are experiencing trouble, difficulties and things they would not choose to go through. Sound familiar?
So as 2020 comes to an end, and as we look forward with hope that much of the trouble it ushered in…will be ushered back out with it, I encourage you to take joy in the trials knowing what good they have produced in your lives. Taste and see that the Lord is good…and has in fact been being good to you all year long…and enjoy all that He has been doing in your life!
So now…with a mouth watering, to taste His goodness…go be awesome!
Hi, this is pastor Ken and these are my thoughts on a Thursday…Fire Tested Faith. I was reading in Daniel today and came across one of the accounts that I loved to hear about as a child in Sunday School. In Chapter three you can read the account of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and their refusal to worship the golden idol built by King Nebuchadnezzar. I would suggest reading the entire story soon, it is a real faith builder.
As you will recall, King Nebuchadnezzar had erected a statue that was nine feet wide, ninety feet tall and clad in pure gold. He then sent out a decree across the land that everyone was to come out and see this amazing thing that he had built. The king then commanded that whenever certain music was played, everyone was to stop what they were doing, bow down to the statue and worship it. If they did not do this the King warned, they would be thrown into what was likely the furnace designed to melt all of the metals used in the construction of the idol. Soon after, some men reported that several of the King’s officials who were Hebrew were not bowing down to the golden image when they were required to do so. Enraged, King Nebuchadnezzar called for Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to be brought before him. Because of his fondness and trust in the three men, he gave them another chance to bow down and worship the statue or be thrown into the furnace. Daniel 3:16-18 records their answer, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.”
We know how the rest of the story goes. In a fit of anger, the king had the furnace heated up seven times hotter than usual. If this was indeed the furnace used to construct the image and it had been used to melt the gold it would need to be able to reach temperatures in excess of 1,945 degrees Fahrenheit. Seven times this temperature would have meant the furnace had been heated to nearly 14,000 degrees. Whatever the actual temperature…it was hot! So hot in fact that it consumed the lives of the men who were chosen to throw the three young men bound hand and foot into the fire. As you will recall, when this was done King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished to see not three but four men in the furnace walking around as if on a leisurely stroll. When the three men who were thrown into the fire were called out the Bible tells us they did not have so much as a blister on their skin, there was not a single hair singed, their clothes were not burnt, and they didn’t even smell like smoke! What an amazing story! Not only were Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego saved, but the king made a new decree that no one was allowed to speak a single word against their God…our God…from then on. Oh yeah…and they got a promotion.
Sometimes when we read accounts such as this, and there are many because we serve a mighty God, we look at the outcomes and then speak of the faith that brought such things to pass. That is fine except that I believe it inadvertently teaches an incorrect lesson about faith. Did Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego have faith that God would have them walk back out of the furnace with no signs of having ever been in it? I’m not sure they did. Let’s review their answer to the king when faced with the ungodly command to bow and worship anything other than God. “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. I believe that they did not offer the king an answer because they didn’t know definitively what the answer was going to be. We don’t read that they held a prayer meeting and prayed that God would send His Angel (I believe the pre-incarnate Jesus) to walk with them in the fiery furnace and keep them from experiencing any of the results of the immense heat, and then be called out of the furnace unharmed…oh and also that they would get promotions at work. No, they just told the king that If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. I imagine that they understood that they were making it known to Nebuchadnezzar that it was their God, not he who had the final say as to the end of their story. The completion of their answer said as much. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.”
I don’t think these three men were at all knowledgeable of what the outcome would look like. I don’t imagine that as they were in all likelihood praying internally, they were asking for the ultimate outcome to be exactly what it was. I think they were praying that God would have His way whatever that might be and that they were confident in whatever He chose to do. Sure there are times when we think we might know what God wants to do, there are times when we know from His written word what his will is and that we can pray specifically to that end. But most times I think we need to get a lot more comfortable praying just what Jesus taught us to pray…”May Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven”.
As I said last week as I shared my thoughts with you, God is always being so, so, very good to us. We can trust that His will is better than our will. If we always are asking God to do this or that, just the way we want it to happen, whose will are we asking to be done? God is God…we are not. We need to stop reducing Him to a celestial grandpa in the sky of whom we ask that he make our wishes come true. Know that the Lord, He is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; We are His people and the sheep of His pasture. Psalm 100:3 (NKJV) He is our God and just like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, we can trust Him in total faith and confidence to do what is best for us.
Faith is not believing God will do what you ask Him to…Faith is believing that whatever He does is best for you.
So now, in real faith, even as it is becoming fire tested…go be awesome!