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Thursday, May 26, 2011

“Fear Factors”

(part 2 of 2)

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am you God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my right hand.”

Isaiah 41:10

Most of us are familiar with these words spoken by the Prophet Isaiah. Words that God has been encouraging His people with since the earliest of times…
“Do not fear, for I am with you.”

More than just a statement made by a righteous God, these words are a promise made by a loving, heavenly Father. A promise that speaks of His abiding presence in our lives. Throughout the Old Testament, when facing a lack of water, a shortage of food, a devouring plague or an imposing army…God encouraged His people not to fear…because His presence would be with them. In each situation, God demonstrated that with His presence came provision, providence and protection. However, it was not simply a promise for those who lived in the times of Abraham and Moses. Jesus draws attention to it in Luke 12:29-32:

“And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek first the kingdom of God, and all these things will be given to you as well. Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.”

God continues, today, to bring provision to those who make seeking Him a priority in their lives. We must learn that whether we are facing a job loss, an illness, an enemy, or uncertainty that what we need most is not a career change, a cure, deliverance, or an answer. What we need to know, above all else, is that God is with us. When we are secure in the fact that God is with us, then fear cannot maintain a place in our lives.

The other avenue by which fear finds it’s way into our hearts is when we lose perspective of our relationship to God:

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name, you are mine.”

Isaiah 43:1

When we fail to realize how much God loves us, how He sees us, and how He desires to respond to us as His children we open the door to fear. Fear cripples your relationship with God by separating you from Him through rejection, consequences and failure. We disengage with Him because we fear that we have displeased Him and that He will reject us. We disconnect from Him, because in our fear of displeasing Him and others, we refuse to risk failing; burying our talents and gifts; robbing the body of Christ and those around us of the blessings God has created us with. We avoid Him, because we are fearful of the consequences that our actions have created and we must eventually face.

Ultimately we just lose sight of God’s amazing love for us:

“And we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”
1 John 4: 16-18

God’s love and promises are sure. He is with you! He has redeemed you! You are His! Do not fear!

Pastor Scott Burr

Thursday, May 19, 2011

“Fear Factors”

(part 1 of 2)

“What I feared has come upon me; what I dreaded has happened to me.”

Job 3:25

What would you do, if one day you woke up and everything you feared came to pass? That is a sobering thought, but that is precisely what happened to Job. In a moment, Job lost his wealth, his source of income, his children, and his health. To make matters worse, his friends and his wife all turned against him. Job was grieving, heartbroken and in pain, but his greatest hurt was that God seemed to have abandoned him.

Job, like all of us, had played out this nightmare scenario in his mind before. It is evident in Job 3:25 that he had thought about it and came to dread the idea of any of these things happening to him. For those of you unfamiliar with the story, Satan came to God and was given permission to test Job. He was not allowed to take Job’s life, but basically everything else was fair game:

“Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil. “Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied. “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. But stretch out your hand and strike everything he has and he will surely curse you to your face. The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, then, everything he has is in your hands, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.”
Job 1:8-12

Satan then methodically goes on a rampage destroying Job’s herds, wealth, children, health and relationships.

For a long time I felt like Satan was “randomly” attacking Job to try and cause him to curse God, but after reading Job 3:25 I realized that Satan was not being “random” at all! On the contrary, he was targeting Job in specific areas…areas in which he feared. Although God had given Satan permission to test Job, it was Job’s own fears that Satan used against him.

Everyone of us could probably make a list, like Job, of the things we fear. Scenarios that we have played out in our minds, a hundred times, that are crippling us emotionally, physically and spiritually! Fears, that if we allow them to, will stop us in our tracks, strip us of our confidence and leave us feeling abandoned.

However, God has not given us a spirit of fear (2 Timothy 1:7), but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline. In trying to get a handle on fear, I began to reflect upon all the fears, both rational and irrational (phobias), that people struggle to overcome. When I considered them all, I began to realize that all of them stem from one of two things:

1. We have lost the inward sense of God’s presence in our lives.
2. We’ve lost perspective regarding our relationship with God.

Pastor Scott Burr

Thursday, May 12, 2011

“Dying to Live: The Resurrected Life”

(part 3 of 3)

“On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! “
Luke 24 1-6

As I meditated on this passage I identified a couple marks of a resurrected life that I believe are relevant for every born again child of God! The first thing that I perceived was that Jesus, after His resurrection, refused to stay among the dead! The angel asked the women… “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here. He is risen!” Resurrected people don’t live in cemeteries. Although we lived among the dead at one time, God has called us by His grace out of that old life:

“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions - it is by grace you have been saved.”

Paul goes on to say in Ephesians that God has raised us up with Christ and seated us in heavenly places! You can’t live in heavenly places if you are still trying to live among the dead! As you move away from that dead way of life you can be certain that there will be those to whom news of your “resurrection” will seem like nonsense:

“When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others. It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James and the other with them who told this to the apostles. But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense.”

Luke 24: 9-11

It isn’t characteristic of a “dead person” to leave their tomb! That is why Peter upon hearing their words ran to the tomb. Gazing inside he saw all the things associated with a dead man… the stone, the slab, the linens, but the dead man was gone. Scripture tells us that Peter left the tomb “wondering”. You see, a resurrected life is one marked by uncharacteristic changes. A dead man is lifeless, stationary, lacks creativity and is unable to reproduce. A resurrected life looks different and acts different. A resurrected life is full of life, hope, and passion. After Jesus’ death, the disciples were locked behind closed doors when Jesus appeared to them. Luke 24:37 tells us:

“They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost.”

The last picture they had of him was beaten, bloodied and hanging on a cross. They didn’t recognize him…ALIVE! Likewise, there will be lots of folks to whom news of your resurrection is going to seem like nonsense, because they only remember you as being “dead in sin”. They won’t immediately recognize the changes in you. Like Jesus, you will carry around the scars of your past life, but you will also carry with you the life that is in Him too!

Pastor Scott Burr

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

“Dying to Live: The Crucified Life”

(part 2 of 3)

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”
Galatians 2:20

Before Christ demonstrated a resurrected life, He first exemplified a crucified life. A life that we are called to imitate. What then is a crucified life? I think the passage above defines it for us best… “I” no longer live!” To live a crucified life is to die to the “I” in each of us! The “I” is that part of us only concerned about ourselves…our needs, our desires, our ambitions and our plans. Scripture calls it our old nature or the flesh! It is what Jesus went to the cross put down.

That is why the cross is such a powerful emblem. It opposes the flesh and stands in stark contrast to the “I” in each of us. The flesh doesn’t want to suffer, be inconvenienced, give up anything, or better anyone else. The cross, however, stands as a beacon of another way to live. The world, which caters to the flesh, hates the cross. The world provokes the cravings of the sinful man, enflames his lusts, and bolsters his pride:

“Do not love the world on anything in the world. If anyone loves the world the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world- the cravings of the sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does-comes not from the Father but from the world.”
1 John 2:15-16

All of these stand in clear contrast to the love of God demonstrated by Jesus Christ on the Cross of Calvary. Before the cross there were only types and shadows of how we should live nestled in God’s Word, but the cross of Christ created a unmistakable distinction between the flesh and God’s will. It is why James wrote:

“You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes and enemy of God.”
James 4:4

There is no gray area! We cannot love the world and love God! In Galatians 5:24, the apostle Paul tells us that “Those who belong to Jesus Christ have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.” If your “I” has been crucified, then the world will have nothing to offer you that you want. That is how you determine what part of your “I” has yet to be crucified. What does the world have to offer that still interests you…music, movies, sex, alcohol, drugs, power, position, money?

If we truly see the crucifixion as a significant spiritual event in the life of Jesus, then we must also value the distinction it established between the things of God and the things of this world. We must no longer conform to the pattern of this world:

“Therefore, I urge you brothers, in view of God’s mercy to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God- this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is- his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

Romans 12:1-2

In light of the cross, It is time we start examining the “uncrucified” parts of our lives!

Pastor Scott Burr