PASTOR'S PEN

End of the World Predictions

posted by Rusty Guenther

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you may also be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going”  John 14:1-4  It seems like there are people in every generation for the last 2000 years that allow themselves to be consumed with trying to figure out when Jesus will return. In the 1970’s Hal Lindsey’s “Late Great Planet Earth” had everyone anticipating his return at any moment. The “Left Behind” bestselling book series were all the rage in the 1990’s. One so-called “prophet” gained fame with his “88 reasons that Jesus will return in 1988” only to “readjust” his date to 1990, then 1992 after the appointed dates passed and eventually his followers stopped listening. Once again,  as our world has faced an abundance of natural disasters recently, many so called “experts” are back in the prediction business. One popular recent theory predicts that Jesus will return this Saturday, September 23rd. Using Luke 21:25-26 alongside the solar eclipse, the various earthquakes, western wildfires and deadly hurricanes in conjunction with this year containing 2 “blood moons” and it being a “year of jubilee” on the Jewish calendar; they are certain in their prediction and have gained a large following. Jesus did promise that He will one day return for The Church and His followers but he also warned in Matthew 24:36 “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Fatherwhen asked about that day. Again, as he was ascending to heaven in Acts 1:7, he reminds his disciples, It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by His own authority.” Clearly, you and I are not a part of the “planning committee” when it comes to the time and date of Jesus’s return and we should probably stop spending so much time and energy speculating on when it will happen. He did appoint us to the “invitation committee” and that task includes getting the word out and inviting as many people as we can to “the party”. I don’t know if this is the “last generation” but I do know it will be the only generation you and I will  have a chance to invite, share and reach with Jesus’s message of love, forgiveness, grace and mercy. Instead of focusing on “when” He might return, maybe it would be more beneficial to focus on “Why” He is coming back. We need to be ready, but we also need to be focused on our task with an urgency and purpose. It is okay to long for His return, but until then—we have a job to do!  

 


Am I my brothers keeper?

posted by Rusty Guenther

“This is how we know what love is; Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with action and in truth.” 1st John 3:16-18  The headline in Monday, September 10th’s USA TODAY declared, “Faith groups provide bulk of disaster relief and recovery”.  With Florida still under the gun from Hurricane Irma, the article shares that the very same groups who were first on the scene in Texas with Hurricane Harvey are already in mass throughout  the State waiting to help. It quotes everyone from the FEMA director to people being helped but the message was the same, “people of faith” have given the most in time, talent and treasure when it comes to helping those effected by the storm, and they plan to be around for the long haul. Not just helping as the disaster strikes but staying around in the weeks, months and even years to come to offer assistance. While this may shock some who like to bash and belittle Christians it should not come as a surprise to anyone who has read the Bible from which Christians find their guidance. The Church always rises up during disasters and turmoil with generosity and grace; it is a part of its DNA, its very foundation. Jesus declared to his closest followers that “the son of man did not come to be served but to serve” and the church strives to follow His example. All throughout both the Old and New Testaments; one can find a continued command and call for generosity, compassion and giving of oneself to those in need. The Church itself is called to be a refuge for those hurting, hungry, lost and struggling; the very hands and feet of Jesus Christ to our world. It is great to see those characteristics come alive during times of crisis, but I wonder what we would happen if we were just as generous, just as compassionate, just as quick to offer our time and help when there are no national disasters. If we could be just as sensitive to the needs of those in our own neighborhoods and communities that are facing disasters of their own? We should all be quick to pray for those in Texas and Florida, to give generously to Christian organizations that will help in their recovery, and to even go ourselves as volunteers but we should be just as attentive to offer the very same things to help meet the everyday needs of those in our own back yards.  “A generous person will prosper; those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed.” Proverbs 11:25 

 


Too many Interuptions in your daily schedule?

posted by Rusty Guenther

Then Jesus Said to his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me’.” Matthew 16:24 This statement from Jesus is found in all four of the Gospels that record his earthly ministry and seems straightforward. Yet if you were to ask various people what it means to “follow Jesus” you would get a multitude of answers; “love others”, “be forgiving”, “strive to Honor and Worship God”, “apply the Bible to your life”, and while all of those responses would be correct, the way we follow them can be subjective and look different to different people. The best way we can learn how to “follow Jesus” would be to look at his life and how he lived it and do likewise. There are plenty of examples of how he lived out each of the examples above to follow and apply  but there is one thing he did that many people overlook or do not take notice of that might very well be the most important aspect we need to apply when striving to “Follow Him”.  Jesus did not mind interruptions! Matter of fact a majority of His ministry and outreach to others came in moments of unplanned interruptions. Today, we think of interruptions to our busy and planned out days as being a bother, a nuisance, something we rush through to get back on track. Yet Jesus saw interruptions as an opportunity.  Think about the miracles Jesus performed; almost every one was a result of an interruption, they were not planned. Those times he healed the lame, brought sight to the blind, brought a daughter back to life, fed the 5000 on the mountainside, calmed the stormy water—each time was the result of an interruption. Someone pushed through the crowd to touch Him, some cried out to him while he was on the road, the disciples ran out of food, one time they literally dropped a lame man through the roof while he was teaching—even His very first miracle of turning water into wine came at a party he was attending with some friends and was interrupted by his mother asking for Him to step in. We don’t think of them as interruptions today , they were miracles—but to many who were with Jesus, you could tell they viewed them as interruptions by their responses.  What they viewed as interruptions, as a distraction from their schedules; we now view as vital examples of Jesus deity, of His mercy, His Grace, His Love! If we truly want to follow Jesus, maybe it is time we started viewing our daily “interruptions” as “divine appointments” and instead of rushing to move past them, become more “present” in them. “Whoever claims to live in him, must walk as Jesus did” 1st John 2:6—and sometimes that means stopping when He stopped and being engaged with those in need around us!

 


From Hate to Racism to Division in America

posted by Rusty Guenther

“You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourself in Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:26-28  This week it seems we are being bombarded with news of racial strife, hate filled language and ugly scenes of those trying to incite riots. The internet and news shows are overflowing with talking heads, pointing fingers and opinions as they try to place blame and fault. It is easy to blame the so called Neo Nazi’s with their torches, Nazi and racist banners and hate language; without them their would not have been a march in the first place. But where did they come from? It would be easy to dismiss them as generational racist whose hate speech has been passed down through their families and cultures but there are over 350 groups in the Unite States identified as Hate Groups, and the objects of their “hate” is too numerous to list. The Bible is clear that every person on this earth is created in the image of God; regardless of skin color, background, nationality, education or economics and to separate someone out and judge or condemn them because of one of these factors is not only against God’s wishes and desires—it is unbiblical! It is not enough to label someone as a racist, or call a group a hate group, or to even counter protest. We must address it at its roots; and the root of all of this hate is prejudice. Prejudice simply means to “pre-judge”, to allow our preconceptions and stereotypes to cause us to look at someone through a certain lens. We all struggle with it in some form or fashion; we judge people by the way they dress, their skin color, the way they talk, their education, where they are from and we allow these generalizations to influence how we think about them or the group they are with and over time these “prejudicial impressions” become a part of our thinking. Sadly, even in humor, the way we joke or talk about these stereotypes passes on a prejudicial mindset to our children and perpetuates the problem. This cannot be for someone who claims to be a Christ follower. We are commanded to love our neighbor; in mind and action and that starts by “seeing” every person we come in contact with as a child of God and created in His image— including those on both sides of the conflicts this past week. We need to stop focusing on how we are different, and celebrate how we are similar as children of God. Perfect love will always drive out and defeat hate but that kind of love can only come from a humble heart striving to rid itself of any “prejudice”; seen or unseen. “Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness” 1st John 2:9

 


When is it time to speak up?

posted by Rusty Guenther

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devils’ schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realm.”  Ephesians 6:10-13

As we turned on the television this week we were once again reminded that we live in an evil and fallen world. A world were cowardly representatives of a hate filled, false religion of death strap on a bomb with the goal of killing innocent teenage girls, their parents and grandparents. The tragic murder of over 20 with more than 50 injured in Manchester, England slaps us with the reality that not only does evil exist, but we are surrounded by it.  This is nothing new; evil has always existed since the garden of Eden and always will exist until the Lord calls an end to the world as we know it. But it’s continued existence does not give us an excuse to ignore it. This week we feel sadness, hurt, compassion and hopefully anger and righteous indignation at what has occurred and is occurring around the world; but two emotions we cannot allow a place in our lives are fear and apathy. The goal of evil is to cultivate fear and when we allow these heinous acts to plant fear in our hearts, we diminish our faith that God is in control as David reminds us in the 23rd Psalms “though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death—I will fear NO evil”! God, whose is the righteous judge will repay evil and those who sow fear will reap His judgement. But even worse than fear, is the feeling of apathy or indifference these acts seem to bring about. We must never grow comfortable or complacent with injustice, with evil and with those who practice it. We must pray, we must speak up, we must speak out, we must stand up and call these acts for that they truly are; evil! The Bible does promises us that love conquers evil and that love will ultimately overcome all evil in our world, but that does not give us an excuse not to act. This is a war, both physically and spiritually and it is naïve to think the answer can be found in everyone coming together, holding hands, singing kumbaya, and hoping it goes away. We must be diligent, directed and confident in our prayers and we must do all we can to stand up for righteousness, to stand up for those facing evil firsthand, and expose it for what it is! Edmund Burke’s quote is just as relevant today as it was 200 years ago, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil, is for good men to do noting”.   

 


Here I Come to Save the Day

posted by Rusty Guenther

Some trust in chariots, some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.
 Psalms 20:7

The empires of the Egyptians, the Persians and the Greeks were considered the greatest of their day and one of the key factors that allowed them to conquer and control such vast lands was the creation and development of the chariot. The chariot was the tank, stealth bomber and armor carrier of it’s day. An army mounted on chariots controlled the battlefield and the rumbling sound as the ground shook beneath the wheels of thousands of chariots struck fear in the enemy and brought comfort and hope to a besieged ally. A more modern equivalent would be the horse cavalry in all of those Westerns we grew up watching. Just when all seemed lost; the distant echo of a bugle would sound as the Cavalry came over the hill to save the day.

While we no longer put our hope and trust in chariots or even the cavalry to save the day; we have replaced them with all manner of modern things. From a political candidate to the perfect job, from an experimental medical treatment to winning the lottery, all come with the promise of “saving the day” only to never quite reach that goal. Like the sound of that cavalry bugle; we convince ourselves, get our hopes up, that this time it will all work out—only to be disappointed when our “savior” doesn't come through.  In Psalms 20, David came to understand this reality. Sometimes chariots break down or don’t show up; sometimes the miracle drug doesn’t come with a miracle and sometimes the problems are bigger than a political candidate can solve. David declared the only thing we can truly put our hope and trust in is God; He will never disappoint, He will never disappear and He is always right on time. One of the great hymns of faith echoes David’s declaration;  My hope is built on nothing less, than Jesus blood and righteousness; I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus name. On Christ the solid rock I stand; all other ground is sinking sand”.

What or who have you placed your hope and trust in?  When times are difficult, when you back is against the wall; are you listening for chariots, for the bugle call of some modern savior—or do you hear the still small voice of a Creator that whispers into your heart that He loves you and is in control?  The cartoon hero Mighty Mouse used to declare, “Here I come to save the day” and I fear today, many Christ followers are so busy looking around for someone to save the day that they forget to look inside themselves to the One who holds the day in the palms of His hands.  Just a simple reminder that “All other ground is sinking sand”.


I Cannot tell a Lie

posted by Rusty Guenther


“We don’t expect eloquence from fools, nor do we expect lies from our leaders” Proverbs 17:7 Message Bible

In 1809 a man by the name of Parson Weems published one of the first biographies on George Washington. Weems was a neighbor and friend of the Washington family and while his biography was written ten years after Washington’s death, it was very popular and for a long time considered one of the best glimpses of our first president. At the time, George Washington was considered “larger than life” and to help elevate his stature, Weems included a few “legends” along with the facts and over time as the lines blurred, these legends were passed down as truth.
As children, most of us were taught and could probably recite one of these legends. It tells us that as a child, young George was playing around outside with an ax and ended up cutting down his fathers favorite cherry tree. When confronted by his father, young George proclaimed, ‘I cannot tell a lie” and admitted his wrongdoing. Because of his honesty and integrity, His father did not punish George but rather commended him for always being honest. We were taught this lesson in school to encourage us to follow George’s example of honesty and integrity but it also engrained in us an expectation that those in leadership, those who we entrust to lead us must “always tell the truth”, or at least be “honest”.
If you are like me, as you grew older and this story faded from memory , the reality of politics and most politicians scrubbed away the lessons of that cherry tree and young George. We find ourselves today with the understanding that all politicians “lie” at least a little, or might make promises that they have no intentions of keeping because that is just the way the game is played. So my thought for the day is; Who is to blame for where we find ourselves as a nation where more than half of the country consider both candidates for president to be dishonest and untrustworthy? Is it the candidates fault for their lies and dishonesty or is it our fault for lowering our standards by accepting,  rationalizing and justifying their lies?
“The Lord detest lying lips, but He delights in those who are truthful” Proverbs 12:22

 


Character Matters

posted by Rusty Guenther

“Do not be deceived; God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows”  Galatians 6:7

On January 26,1998 the sitting President of the United States went on national TV and gave a speech in which he parsed and redefined the definition of  several words to try and prove that he had not lied about an extra martial affair. While some were shocked at the rationalization, the lies, and the behavior; most of his political supporters and many in the national media justified it all by saying that his personal behavior had nothing to do with his job or title. While we had been on a slippery slope for many years; this incident became a defining moment where we as a nation no longer examined a persons character to determine their ability to lead or serve in a place of authority. The response to any question of character was answered with “What does it matter?” Webster’s dictionary defines character as; “the mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual”. Character is a culmination of our values and morals that are exhibited through our thoughts and actions. For generations, a persons character defined them and spoke to their ability to be trusted with responsibility and authority; but not any longer in the United States. The natural result (what we are reaping) of this choice is finding ourselves in an election year where our choices for President  are a proven dishonest liar and a thrice married philanderer.  The Bible promises that we will always reap what we sow and in a culture that has decided that character is not important, we find ourselves reaping the results. Through it all we need to remember that God is in control; none of this has caught Him off guard and His will continues to be done but we also need to be reminded that there are consequences to our choices. For the follower of Christ, character matters. The Apostle Paul encourage us that “your attitude (character) should be the same as that of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 2:5) and that it is through our character that people will see “Christ in Us”.  Better a poor man whose walk is blames than a rich man whose ways are perverse” Proverbs 28:6

 


Are You Ready for Some Football?

posted by Rusty Guenther

“You Shall Have no other Gods before me”  Exodus 20:3

Even those who are nominally in church know this one. It is probably the most destructive and dangerous sin listed in the Bible. One can’t read through the Old Testament without seeing the consequences of breaking this Commandment, yet so many Christians today struggle to keep it. If Christianity has Easter, Judaism has Passover and Islam has Ramadan, then the highest of holy days here in America, and especially in the South would be Saturdays and Sunday’s in the fall. The houses of worship are the largest buildings in the country where up to 100,000 people gather for worship, the tithes given are in the millions and the worship is enthusiastic, passionate and committed. The object of worship is a small cylindrical piece of leather and the men who use it. If their was ever a national religion in America it would be football (college and professional depending on where you live) and the season of worship is upon us. All of that sounds pretty hyperbolic and over the top but when you compare our enthusiasm and dedication for football and our teams to our commitments to our church or even our worship of God it seems spot on—whether it makes us uncomfortable or not.

Idolatry is defined as reverence, adulation and even veneration and worship is defined as “ascribing worth” then what are we really giving the most adulation and ascribing worth to? We “worship” or ascribe somethings worth to us by the amount of time, treasure, effort and energy we put into it. So how does your “worship” of God match up with “worship” of football. If you are expending  more time, treasure, effort and energy into anything more than your worship of God, it is idolatry—plain and simple. Think about what you spend more money on or give more money towards? What are you more committed to? Who do you talk about more? I love college football and love Saturdays in the south, but is it any wonder so many Christians are struggling in their devotion and walk with God? Is it surprising that we rarely see the power of God released in our lives? What does it say about us that we are quick to complain when the preacher goes 5 minutes long and we have to stay in church past noon and yet we are thrilled when a 5 hour football game goes into overtime? Maybe we should at least be honest with ourselves.  It would be nice if we were just balanced; but even balanced would be idolatry. God alone is worthy of our worship and our lives and even our recreation time should see that proved out.

“My dear friends, flee from idolatry” 1st  Corinthians 10:14

 


Where is your Faith?

posted by Rusty Guenther

“The Disciples woke him and said to him, ‘Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Peace! Be Still!’ Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith” Mark 4:38-39
              The disciples and Jesus were crossing the water and a storm came up while Jesus slept and the disciples began to fear for their lives and ended up waking Jesus up and in return Jesus calms the storm. Most have heard the story and we like to take comfort and focus on the fact that Jesus spoke to the storm and calmed the rough waters as an indication that Jesus can confront any storms of life we might be facing; and that is true, but we miss the key lesson in the story. The issue is not that Jesus can calm the storm—He is the creator of all things and that was done with the wave of his hands. The real point of the story is the lack of faith of his followers. Had they forgotten who He was? Had they forgotten they claimed to place their total trust and faith in him, believing that He was in control of everything? Yet, even with him in their midst, they allowed a few waves and some wind to take their eyes off of their Savior. All of us will face  strong wind, storms and some even the hurricanes that life throws at us, the question is do we really believe that God is control and wants what is best for us and do we trust him? It is only with complete faith in God that we will find peace in the midst of the storm, knowing we are in His hands! People like to say, “God will never give me more than I can handle” and they are wrong. We are given more than we can handle every day! The truth is God will never give us more than HE can handle! With him onboard, what is a little wind and waves?

 


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