God’s Delight in You

God’s Delight in You

"The Lord disciplines those He loves, as a father the child he delights in." Proverbs 3:12

God doesn’t correct us because we irritate Him. We are His delight and He wants us to be better for our own sake, not so He can like us more. You are unconditionally loved by God and totally liked; not some day when we’re mature, but as we are right now!

I was with a father this week who gave me permission to share what happened with his five year old daughter recently. She was caught hitting her three year old brother, so Dad gave her a time out. When the time out was done he invited her, as always after discipline, to sit on his lap to talk about it. But she wouldn’t come immediately. She had taken his correction as rejection, so she didn’t have confidence that his lap was safe for her.

When he saw this, his heart felt nothing but compassion for his daughter. He urged her to come and finally she gave in, so they cuddled first, and then talked about why hitting her brother was wrong. In this place of security, she was able to say she was sorry to her brother, he forgave her, and the family was restored to Dad’s delight.

Don’t ever mistake correction for rejection because Your Father in heaven is crazy about you!

Have a great week,

Pastor Tom

Finding Life in Christ

Finding Life in Christ

"I am crucified in Christ and it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me. The life I live in this body I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and died for me." Galatians 2:20

While on vacation last week we had a "soiree" one night; an event where those who wanted to present a song, a poem, a reading or any type of gift to the group, did so, one at a time. One of our presenters was Jessie Gerry, a young woman who attends City Church. She gave a poem she had written inspired by a sermon, and I asked if I could share it as a devotion. Here it is:

I finally reached the end of me
Why has it taken me so long to see?

You say that your yolk is easy and light,
So why have I made it about how hard I can try?

Put your head down and pound on through this
Is what I tell myself when I’m about to lose it

Don’t rest, keep working and never slow down;
To be the best you have to find a way to always grind it out

But what if I missed the whole point of it all?
Like Saul headed to Damascus before he became Paul

Cease striving and learn how to enter my rest
Is what the writer of Hebrews challenged us to put to the test

It’s so countercultural to what we are taught
Work hard, climb the ladder, give it all at all costs

Your word says that death results from a mind governed by flesh
But being led by the Spirit is where life and peace will mesh

If we’re led by the Spirit, then we’re children of God
We’re no longer slaves, but now daughters and sons

This isn’t about what we can do on our own,
But rather it’s laying our life at His throne

Yielding to the one who has given us life
For it’s not ’til we lose our life that we actually find
Our purpose, our meaning and why we are here
Do you see much of Jesus when you look in the mirror?

It’s not about good works and what we can do
Years ago on the cross God already proved
That his love was greater than what we deserve
Christ modeled perfection in the way that he served

He was obedient to death – even death on a cross
All of heaven is ours to gain, from that which he lost

The point of it all is that he gave us something
That we don’t deserve in exchange for our nothing

Heir of God and co-heir with Christ
Our new identity has been bought with a price

See, what someone will pay determines what something is worth
And Christ paid it all when he came to the earth

A spotless lamb being led to the slaughter
Is what Christ endured for us to be called son or daughter

He clothed us with white as our sin washed away
There’s a lot you could call it, but he calls it grace

But that’s not a free pass to just keep on sinning
If that’s what you think, then restart at the beginning

Grace is much more than undeserved favor
It empowers us to live just like our Savior

The very same power that raised Christ from the dead
Is living inside of us – that what Ephesians said

Does "resting" mean be lazy, sleep all day and not try?
If that’s what you think, read Proverbs to open your eyes

It’s not about doing nothing, but rather what powers your engine
Are YOU driving hard or does the Spirit have your attention?

If you hear condemnation in the words that I’m saying
Then you’re missing the point that’s not the track that I’m playing

Christ came for freedom – to give us life to the full
Any kind of bondage, comes straight from the devil

To live is Christ and to die is gain
This revelation has shifted the plane

Many laws have been established since the beginning of time
Like conservation and gravity, which limits our hang-time

The law of gravity says that we cannot fly
Enter aerodynamics and suddenly we can soar high

On the wings of the wind with our lift and thrust just right
This might be a clue into our Christian life …

See, the law of sin and death says we’re certainly doomed
Enter Christ in his mercy who did what we could never do

He changed the game, by bearing our sin
His victory is mine, in a fight I could never win

So how do we repay this King in his glory
In this imperfect world – that’s the point of the story

We can never measure up no matter how hard we try
The trick is to accept that he already paid the price

Now we can be like him, in word and in deed
What greater honor to give this mighty King?
Than to offer our hearts in abandoned surrender
And worship him with our all, in awe of his splendor

When I reached the end of me, I felt like I was done
But what I’ve found in Christ is that I’ve only just begun

Have a great week,

Tom

Responding to the Present Crisis

Responding to the Present Crisis

A lot is going on in our country right now, but what is God saying? How do we react to the flood of emotions we feel when racism, hatred, anger, retaliation, and fear are the currency most are trading in. My daughter, Anne Angel, wrote a poem that she read during her session at the Intimacy with God conference that I feel speaks powerfully to the present crisis. If you’d like to hear her whole message we’ve provided a link below.

Have a great week,

Tom

Poem by Anne Angel
So much in the news,
so much abuse,
So many setting fires with their too short fuse.
What’s the use? Pushing back, speaking out, standing up — For what?
To hear "Sit down" "Quiet down"
"We don’t want you in this town"
"It seems your God is not around–
Have you seen how many migrants drown?"
Orgies, incest, porn, rape –
Any help will come too late.
God! You’re too late!
And this is just hell’s starting gate
Trading strong on fear and hate – What can we do with this pain – But wait?
No.
Wait.
That gate, hell’s gate – it can’t prevail It’s done its best with thorn and nail,
And we attest that test was one big fail.
The King of life brings life from death, Light in dark and from mud, breath.
No corpse, no tomb is beyond His reach – To each He speaks, commands, entreats:
"Don’t weep."
"Repent."
"Come forth."
"Be sent…
Like sheep among wolves" – but sheep with a secret Sheep with a witness and the power to preach it:
"I was dead, too, but I’m alive – See! It’s true!
And the same God who raised me through me will raise you!"
So watch out, Lazarus! The church is about – And when they come to your grave, they’ll be bringing you out.

Link to message – citychurchonline.org

Click on "Media" and scroll down to "Intimacy with God, 2016/07/22, Young Women Preachers."

Thinking Right

Thinking Right

"But the Jews who refused to believe stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers." Acts 14:2

I just returned from mission’s trips to Belize and Mexico; two places where you can’t drink the tap water. It looks fine but is contaminated, so you can’t drink it or you become sick. A few years ago our whole team got sick and it was traced back to a restaurant where they had cooked the chicken we ate in contaminated water. You only have to get sick once to become very careful about what you drink!

Are we as careful about our thoughts? In our text we have a group of Jews who "refused to believe" the good news of God’s love and redemption through Christ and then poisoned others with their judgments. When we stop seeing ourselves and others as loved and worth redeeming, we tend to take up the enemy’s accusations instead. (Revelation 12:10) This is poison. Satan sows suspicion and bitterness toward others in our minds if we let him, and he can even use us to divide homes, friends and churches. He knows that a kingdom divided will not stand and is the master at using poisonous thoughts to bring offense, isolation, envy, and jealousy.

The judgments we make appear to be "the truth," so we justify ourselves in thinking them and even speaking them, but judgment isn’t the whole truth. God loves people and sent His Son into the world to save us, not to condemn us. (John 3:16-17) We overcome the accuser by testifying about the blood of the Lamb (Revelation 12:11) which was shed for us and for everyone we know. The whole truth, therefore, is not just what is wrong with people, but must include what God has done through His Son to make them right. (2Cor. 5:19)

When the children of Israel came out of Egypt, they drank from a water source that was poisonous. Moses cried out to God and God showed him a tree. (Exodus 15:25) He cut it down, threw it in the water, and it became sweet. God didn’t show him a different place to drink that had pure water, He redeemed that which was bitter and made it sweet. He wants to do the same thing with our thinking. Why don’t we identify our poison, bring it to the cross, and allow God to sweeten our thoughts toward even the most difficult sinners in our lives.

Have a great week,

Pastor Tom

Whose House?

Whose House?

"Submit to God, resist the devil and he will flee." James 4:7

One day the owner of a beautiful house heard a knock at the door and when he opened it he found the Lord of glory, Jesus Himself, waiting to be welcomed in.

"Do you want to come into my house?" the man asked in wonder. "Please come in; I am so honored to have you in my home."

Jesus came in and then the man thought quickly before leading Jesus to the best, cleanest room in the house for Him to live in.

The next day, there was another knock at the door and this time it was the devil. The man slammed the door shut, but the devil got a foot in the door, pushed it open, and began to wrestle with this home owner. The wrestling match went on all day long until finally the man got Satan back out the door. He was totally exhausted and couldn’t help wondering why Jesus hadn’t done anything.

The next morning, he heard the knock again and purposed to ignore it. But there was something alluring about the knock so he decided to take a small peek. He opened the door a crack and, before he knew it, the devil was back in. While wrestling all day, he couldn’t help but be offended with Jesus. "Why isn’t He doing anything?" So, when he finally got Satan out the door, he walked up the stairs and knocked on Jesus’ door.

The Lord of glory opened the door, and the man was careful to be respectful: "Sir, I didn’t want to disturb You, but I thought You should know the devil’s been here the last two days. I have exhausted myself fighting him and was hoping to get some help in the future."

"My Son," Jesus said with love in His eyes, "you have invited me to live in your house, but the truth is that I have already paid for this house with My own blood. Why don’t you get the deed and give it to Me so instead of Me living in your house; you live in Mine."

The man was happy with this arrangement even though it meant Jesus would now have access to every room.

The next morning the knock came again and fear grabbed the man’s heart. He was so tired he didn’t know if he could resist the knock or get the devil out again if he opened the door. Then he heard steps on the stairs. It was Jesus and He didn’t look happy.

"Son," he said, "I want you to open the door and not just a crack. I will stand right behind you. Ask him what he wants." There was fire in the eyes of Jesus.

The man opened the door wide and there was the devil in all his hideousness.

"What do you want?" he asked.

The devil started trembling. "Nothing," he said as he turned to flee.

Have a great week,

Tom

The Dangerous Circle

The Dangerous Circle
by Pastor Greg

Years ago, as a young man and minister, I attended a large conference with outstanding plenary and workshop speakers. After one particularly inspiring session, I was eager to attend a specific workshop that I hoped would help me grow deeper in my relationship with Christ. With great enthusiasm, I found my way through the convention center to a fairly small room with chairs arranged in circles. As inexperienced as I was, I knew almost intuitively that this configuration would demand much more from me than I was willing to give at the time. Without a moment’s hesitation, I reversed course in search of the much safer configuration of rows.

In the many years that have passed since that time, I’ve thought much about the topic. Why would one-without a moment’s thought-reject an apparent opportunity based simply on the configuration of the furniture? I think the simple answer is this: Rows are safe and circles are dangerous.

Rows are safe because they create a sense of order, of structure, of neatness, and efficiency. One seems to know intuitively what is expected when in a row. Your focus should be on the front of the room. To engage those around you is considered impolite by some, especially by those at the front. In rows, one does not have to interact, to be vulnerable or accountable. If I desire, I can be virtually anonymous!

Circles, in comparison, can be very dangerous. In a circle everyone can be seen and heard. A circle turns us towards each other, towards communication and collaboration, in ways rows don’t. The circle invites interaction and communication. The circle is far less about efficiency, than it is about patience, depth, and reinforcement. In a circle, everyone is equal and everyone is included.

Like many things in life, however, growth and achievement rarely come through playing it safe. Although circles are dangerous, countless choose them because of the many benefits. Here are just a few:

  1. Circles provide the opportunity for connection. As hard as churches try, Sunday morning services cannot supply the necessary connections that people crave and Jesus desires.
  2. Circles provide an opportunity for everyone to participate. Often in a large group setting, only a few get to participate in the actual ministry to others. Circles not only provide more opportunity for ministry, but more ministers as well!
  3. Circles provide an optimal environment for care. Relational care is far superior to professional pastoral care. The most difficult situations are often those where people are not connected in circles. Circles provide a space where care can be received and given.

Although the church has met in rows since the time of Constantine in the 4th century AD, it has not always been that way. The early church gathered from house to house in circles to worship and minister. In these days where anonymity and independence are chief virtues, let us not forget the important example of the early church and their commitment to the dangerous circle.

Poem inspired by the book of Amos

As I continue to grow and mature in my relationship with Christ, I have enjoyed spending time reading some of the “out-of-the-ordinary” passages of Scripture. I’ve found this to be a very rich and rewarding practice that often goes overlooked. It’s invigorating to discover more about the depths of God’s character, the fullness of His love, and the magnitude of His plan. There is so much that he longs to reveal to us, and I hope to make the most of every opportunity to glean from the Scriptures!

Not long ago, I read the Old Testament book of Amos, and I wrote a little poem regarding its contents. I hope you enjoy the poem, and are inspired by the Holy Spirit as you contemplate the truths therein.

God still longs to use ordinary people like us to do extraordinary things for Him.

Happy Summer!

Dave Bechtold

There once was a humble shepherd
an ordinary guy named Amos
He seemed to be a simple man
neither popular nor famous

One night as he watched his sheep,
using the ground as his bed
The Lord began to speak to Amos,
and this is what he said:

My people are acting strangely!
They have turned away from God.
My children are ignoring My love
which is foolish, dangerous and odd.

They disrespect their friends and dishonor My name;
They’ve traded My truth for lies.
Instead of worship they have rejected Me,
but they are in for a big surprise

You see, once people begin seeking power
and forget what the Lord has done…
Their selfishness will lead to sadness,
and PAIN WITHOUT GOD IS NOT FUN.

Like the story of Robin Hood,
when the rich stole from the poor
These people were greedy for money,
but our Heavenly Father wants so much more

You see, we can forget
that God is awesome and amazing.
Things like money, pride and selfishness
can make people violent and crazy

God’s children were ignoring Him.
They kind of “put Him on a shelf”.
But remember, He is a jealous God,
He wants His children for Himself.

Can you believe that?
The one who made it all
Wants to be with you no matter what,
even when you fail and fall.

God is like a lion,
He roars against his foe.
The devil might seem to have his way with us,
But the Lord will give him the final blow.

It is so very important
That you and I do our part
To be careful what we see and hear,
And above all else, guard our heart.

The music that we listen to,
The things we let our eyes see
Can slowly make us a slave,
OR they can help to set us free.

This might seem kind of silly.
Why would God care what I do?
Jesus knows how strong temptation is,
And He knows what’s best for you

So be smart, and make good friends!
Friends that will help you do what’s right.
Say no to sin, and flee temptation,
And you will sleep well at night.

However, the most important friendship
Is knowing God’s only Son.
Jesus loves you and wants to forgive you,
He can fill your life with power, hope—and fun!

And just for the record,
God cares for you too!
The joy of knowing our Maker
is available to you.

Your life won’t become perfect;
Your troubles won’t all flee.
But you’ll be with the one who loves you,
And HE will set you free.

So will you say yes
to God’s plan for you?
Would you trust Jesus
and let him lead you?

It’s actually quite simple
to ask God to forgive your sin.
Just say you’re sorry, thank Him for the cross
And let Jesus come on in

So back to our shepherd named Amos,
He did just what God asked him to.
He warned the people to turn from their evil,
And encouraged them just what to do.

In the end, God promised those people
To restore their hearts, and their land.
He would replace his anger with mercy,
And lovingly lead them with His mighty hand.

Our Heavenly Father is a jealous God,
And His promises are true.
The next time God has a message to give…
He just might give it through you.

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