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Archive for May, 2016

Seasons in our Lives

The book of Ecclesiastes points out that there is a time (or season) for everything. In Chapter 3, vs. 1 – 4, it reads’…”to everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to reap (harvest) that which is planted.”

So, what is a season? For our purposes, a season in our life is a time frame that has been allotted for something to happen. God has so arranged it so that things here on earth and in our lives operate in seasons. Seasons are basically divided into two types… seasons of seedtime (preparation) and seasons of harvest (reaping from what has been sewn during the season of seed time). During a season, things around us are orchestrated in such a manner that our efforts are supported. Consider the farmer…. his goal is to produce a large crop of something, sell it, and receive money for it. We see that he cannot however; get to the money until he properly goes through the seasons required to produce a crop to harvest. As he goes through each season, he must do the right things… (cultivate the soil, fertilize etc.) otherwise, he won’t successfully produce a crop that will bring him the reward he desires. So it is in our lives. When we desire to be successful, we must observe the seasons that we are to go through and perform properly (do the right thing) as we pass through each.

What happens when we miss a season? Basically we don’t have the wind at our back, helping to blow us in the direction that we’re trying to go. We are in a particular season of life here at First Baptist Church of Palos Verdes. There were times in our past when the harvest was plentiful, a full sanctuary, a youth program, Pastors who served faithfully for many years. Just like the farmer however, seasons change. There are years when a field must lie fallow, or unplanted, so that the soil can rejuvenate. During that season, that field will produce no crop but the farmer is not worried. Nor is our God. He knows that once the soil has rested for a period, it is ready and able to return to the cycle. Seedtime (preparation) for us is deciding who will be our members going forward, discerning how to reach those people, and preparing our church to be a welcoming place for them. If we cultivate and seed appropriately, nourish with hard work and water with prayer, God will bring the harvest.

What happens when we get ahead of a season of God in life? In the book of Genesis, we find the story of Abraham and Sarah. God promises, in spite of their old age, that Sarah will have a son. They were happy but doubtful. So, they decided to get ahead of God – to get ahead of their season. Of course we know that Sarah gave Abraham her slave girl, who them bore him a son. But then…. the true season of God came to pass and, Sarah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. It was through that son, Isaac, that the promised legacy would be fulfilled. However, this getting-ahead-of-God cause great strife between Sarah, Hagar, Abraham and their sons. The sons of Isaac would become the Hebrews, and ultimately lead to Jesus. The sons of Ishmael would ultimately become the Muslims. This has had consequences to this very day. So when we get ahead of seasons of God in our lives we can open ourselves to hurt and permanent damage.

Let’s decide what God wants us to do today, here, now. Let us be faithful in preparation so that we will be blessed in the harvest. Look to our own lives as well and ask ourselves, what season does God have us in? And are we prepared to follow him through the seasons he has set before us in faith?

Blessings,

Pastor Rich

 

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What is the Church?

Did you know the word church is not found in the Old Testament. The first person that I know of that used this term was Jesus himself. He is the one who initiated the concept of church. In the New Testament the word church is used 73 times. It is a New Testament concept.

Before we look at what the church is – let me say what it is not. It is not a social club. It is not a business. It is not a museum. The church is not even a building. Did you know that that the first Christians did not even have the concept of the church as being a building? How could they – they had no buildings – but they still had churches. What is the Church then?

The Bible says the church is a FELLOWSHIP

Fellowship is not just something the church is – it’s something we do. What is fellowship? You’re all headed in the same direction. You get to know each other and associate with one another because you’re going in the same direction. That’s what fellowship is. Fellowship is all of us together heading in the same direction. As Christians, we’re all headed to heaven. God wants us to be in unity with one another. Think of this: We are all going to spend eternity with one another; shouldn’t we get good at getting along?

In First Peter we find: “Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing” 1 Peter 3:8-9

The Bible says the church is a FAMILY Did you know that when you become a Christian some things change? God becomes your Father, Jesus becomes your Savior and other Christians become your brothers and sisters. We are part of God’s family – that is why we can pray together the Lord’s prayer and say, “Out Father who art in Heaven…” How do families operate? They operate on the basis of relationships, like a family – that’s what the Bible says. The Bible says we’re to treat each other like a family because we are children of God. We are to get along like brothers and sisters in Christ. And, yes, brothers and sisters sometimes squabble but in the end, they have each other’s back. We are to treat each other with respect. We are to listen to our Father and obey Him. We’re not a country club. The Bible says we are family.

The Bible also says the church is a FLOCK This was Jesus’ favorite description of the church. He called it “My little flock”. Therefore, the church is cared for and led by shepherds. Shepherds lead, feed and oversee. In a church a pastor is to take care of a flock. My primary job is to lead, feed and oversee. The shepherd is to take care of the flock. I want you to notice something in John 21. Not one time did Jesus ask Peter if he loved sheep. He asked Peter if he loved him. I think what Jesus is saying is if you love me – love my sheep also. In the New Testament we are told to – greet one another – encourage one another – live at peace with one another – build up one another – comfort one another – admonish one another – love one another. A flock is to watch out for one another. So it is in the church. We are to watch out for one another. We are a fellowship, we are a family, we are flock.

Loving my little flock, my church family

Pastor Rich

 

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What do we do about Easter?

I was reading some of Billy Graham’s thoughts about Easter and I wanted to share this question and answer exchange with you.

Question: I have a friend who doesn’t bother with God or church most of the year, but as Easter approaches she suddenly gets religious—goes to church, observes Lent and so forth. Do you think she’s a real Christian, or is it all fake?

Answer: Only God knows your friend’s heart, and whether or not she sincerely wants to follow Jesus and has committed her life to Him. Perhaps a seed of faith was planted in her heart as a child, and as Easter approaches she senses a need to have it grow.

However, the Bible does warn us against simply going through the motions, but not allowing God to touch our hearts and lives. In other words, if Christ means nothing to us most of the year, it may well mean that our faith is not real, and our sudden burst of religious activity isn’t genuine. The Bible says, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says” (James 1:22). After all, if we truly understand who Jesus is—the divine Son of God who died for our sins and rose again by the power of God for our salvation—how can we treat Him casually? How can we live as if He were unimportant? Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). Pray for your friend, that during this Easter season she may come to understand how great God’s love is for her, and respond by giving her life without reserve to Jesus Christ. Pray, too, that as we approach Easter this year you also may see Jesus in a deeper way, and commit your life more fully to Him.

Clearly Dr. Graham’s advice to pray for the friend is critical. Notice also though, his admonition to commit our own lives more deeply to Jesus. We talk a lot about those who “only come at Christmas and Easter”. Do we have some responsibility in that? I know we often reach out to friends and family to come on the big holidays but what about all those other Sundays? Paul tells us in Romans 10:17, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ”. WE are the heralds of God’s Word and are called upon to speak it everywhere.

Jesus is not a guest speaker that comes through twice a year, he is here EVERY Sunday. Consider your own dedication to the church. Are you there every Sunday? Are there other things ‘more important’ that come up that takes you away on Sunday morning? Don’t forget that this issue is bigger even than your own personal walk with the

Lord. When your seat in the pew is empty, newcomers that may visit see a church that is weak and anemic. Its own people don’t show up so why would I want to come here?

This Eastern season let’s get started early on those ‘come to Easter Sunday’ invitations but commit to make that same kind of outreach through the year. And don’t forget that there is Bible Study on Wednesday and teaching classes on Thursday nights. Don’t just tell people about these things, come and bring them with you!

Blessings,

Pastor Rich

 

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