Going Dark

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[1]Going dark is military lingo for the sudden termination of communication. The term used to describe a scenario in which communication appears to have ceased, but in reality, has just moved from a public communication channel, where it could be monitored, to a private communication channel that prevents eavesdropping.

Luke 5:16

16 But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. 

            If the red letters in the Gospels point to the words that Jesus spoke, then the black one’s tell us the actions that He took. Here we have a short, simple, yet profound scripture, “But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed—Jesus “going dark.” It seems that He is terminating communication, but in reality, He is removing Himself from the public to spend private time with the Father, with no eavesdropping or distractions. As His disciples we should follow His example and learn to go dark, to have moments of rest where it is just Him and us—no distractions, eyes locked on Him, listening, taking in all that He has to offer.

            In the beginning, God established the sabbath, a day of rest. With it He gave us permission and instruction to go dark—to recharge, get new vision, dream again, be restored, be strengthened, and be transformed. Here are [2]several examples of Jesus going into solitude found in scripture that I believe are worth looking into.

  1. To prepare for a major task Luke 4:1-2, 14-15. After Jesus was baptized, He spent 40 days praying in the wilderness. After this He was tempted by Satan and then began His public ministry.

  2. To recharge after hard work Mark 6:30-32. Jesus sent the 12 disciples out to do ministry. When they returned, He encouraged them to separate from the people who were following them to rest.

  3. To work through grief Matthew 14:1-13. After Jesus learned that his cousin John the Baptist had been beheaded, He went away by Himself. Yes, even the Son of God grieves.

  4. Before making an important decision Luke 6:12-13. Early in His ministry Jesus spent the whole night alone in prayer. The next day He chose his 12 disciples.

  5. In a time of distress Luke 22:39-44. Hours before Jesus was arrested, He went to the Mt. of Olives and went a short distance away from His disciples to pray. He was in great emotional agony knowing what he was about to face.

  6. To focus on prayer Luke 5:16. Many times in Jesus’ ministry He spent time alone in prayer.

Psalm 31:19-20

19 How abundant are the good things
    that you have stored up for those who fear you,
that you bestow in the sight of all,
    on those who take refuge in you.
20 In the shelter of your presence you hide them
    from all human intrigues;
you keep them safe in your dwelling
    from accusing tongues.

            This Psalm speaks of more benefits of going dark. We find refuge in God and He hides us from human intrigues, while keeping us safe from accusing tongues. Going dark, however, does not mean, isolating yourself from the rest of the body of Christ. There is value when we come together and pray for each other. James speaks clearly of this:

James 5:13-18

13 Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. 16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

17 Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. 18 Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.

            There is value in being a part of the body of Christ and receiving prayer. There is value in going dark and just focusing on Jesus. I believe that as disciples we need to be active weekly in both of these activities. Jesus is the example of how can achieve this.

PRAYER 

Jesus,

 

Thank You for being an example for me to follow. Help me reach out to those around me when I am in need. Holy Spirit help go dark and focus on Jesus so that I may be restored and strengthened. Thank you for hiding me in Your presence and keeping me safe. Thank for establishing time for You and I to connect. AMEN!

Your servant in Christ,

Pastor Nathan

[1]https://whatis.techtarget.com/definition/going-dark

[2]https://toeverynation.com/6-times-when-jesus-chose-solitude-over-people/

The Tongue and I

            One small bit can bring a horse to obedience and turn it in the direction we want it to go, one small rudder can turn a large ship in a new direction, one small spark can set an entire forest ablaze. These are the words that James pens at the start of the third chapter of his epistle. He is masterfully painting a picture, skillfully giving us objects that despite their stature have a great impact on things much larger. Then he drops the pen [mic] so to speak, when he continues to write that the tongue is no different. 

James 3:3-10

When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.

All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.

            The tongue, as James writes, is a fire that corrupts the whole body, setting the course of our life and itself on fire by hell. He definitely is not mincing words here. He is now showing us the great power in the tongue. He continues by telling us that creatures of all kinds have been able to be tamed by man, but that no human being can tame the tongue.

            For an animal to be tamed or broken it has to give up the fight; the fight of independence, freedom, individuality, it gives up on the very nature that made it what it was. The tongue according to James, however, is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. All hope is not lost and there is always a way with Jesus! After all, no mere human can ever tame the tongue, but Jesus did, and He gives us that same power and ability to not just tame the tongue but render it powerless to destroy. Instead, we will harness the power of the tongue to speak life.

Proverbs 18:20-21

20 From the fruit of their mouth a person’s stomach is filled;
    with the harvest of their lips they are satisfied.

21 The tongue has the power of life and death,
    and those who love it will eat its fruit.

            The tongue holds within it the power of life and death. It was by God’s words that the heavens and the earth were created. God spoke by saying let there be light and the power that flowed through His words brought forth light. In retrospect, satan through the serpent used the same words God spoke and twisted them to tempt Adam and Eve, “Did God really say?” (Genesis 3). There is a reason why the serpent was used, and it is found in its description: it was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made.

Crafty – clever at achieving one’s aims by indirect or deceitful methods.

            The aim of satan in your life is to use your tongue to achieve his aims: kill, steal, destroy. He achieves this via two other body parts of ours: our brain (mind) and our heart. If he can poison our thoughts and fill our hearts with bitterness, the tongue will be eager to let death and destruction just roll off of it, stealing hope and love from us.

Luke 6:45

45 A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.

 Romans 12:2

Do not conform 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.

2 Corinthians 10:5

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

            But we are more than conquers through Him who loved us (Romans 8:37). Jesus, gave us the Holy Spirit, the same Holy Spirit that strengthened Him when He was in the desert. The same Holy Spirit that brought the Word of God to Jesus’ lips when satan tried to tempt him and twist God’s words. We have that same Hoy Spirit dwelling within us and moving through us. He will give us the strength and ability to hold every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ Jesus. The Holy Spirit will transform us and renew our minds and only store within our hearts all the goodness of God. Then will be able to fill our stomachs with the goods fruits spoken from our mouths and delight in the great harvest of our lips.

            Let us begin to declare war on the restless evil of our tongue, by dwelling on things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—let us dwell on Jesus (Philippians 4:8). Let us begin to strengthen, build up, encourage and comfort ourselves through the words that God has spoken over us. These words reveal the character and power of Jesus over us. They will help us keep our eyes and focus on Him.

            Then, when we are strengthened by His joy over us, let us get up, put on the full armor of God and set others free by the power of His word rolling off our tongue—giving life, hope, and strength to those in need of it. Let us only speak life into others, let us only use our tongues to draw out the very best in each person we encounter. Let us build others up, encourage them, and comfort them so that all may come to the knowledge of the character and person of Jesus!

PRAYER

Jesus,

            Forgive me for taking eyes off of you. Forgive me for allowing bitterness to enter my heart and allowing my thoughts to be polluted. Holy Spirit bring to mind all the words spoken over me, the promises God has made to me, the dreams He has placed in my heart, the visions He has planted in my thoughts. They give me strength because they show me the character of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ: faithful and true! Dress me with Your armor and send me to those who need Your freedom. I yield my tongue to You. I give my heart to You. I surrender my thoughts to You. AMEN!

Your servant in Christ,

Pastor Nathan

Focus on Jesus

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            I want to share a gem I found today during my time with God. Be forewarned, however, this gem blesses and challenges at the same time. My prayer for you is that the Holy Spirit prepares your heart to receive the message it carries and that you are able to grow deeper in connection with Jesus. Enjoy!
 
Paper Like A Knife
Monday, April 29, 2019

A piece of paper is one of the weakest and most flimsy of substances. But paper can be dangerous. Have you ever had a paper cut? How can something as fragile as a piece of paper cut you as if it were a knife? It’s because the edge of the paper has the potential of focusing the weight and the strength of the paper into the smallest of spaces. When you focus something, it increases the force, so a paper can actually become as strong as a knife. It’s true of sheets of paper, and it’s true for your life and walk in God. If you’re all over the place, it’s unlikely you’ll accomplish great things or live a great life for God. If you’re focused— on Him, on His kingdom, on His purposes— then everything changes. The power you have gets multiplied. Paul was focused and look what He did. So set your focus; be single-minded, fixing your eyes on Messiah doing all things with one purpose. A focused life in God can cut through the greatest problems and even change the world.
 
From Message #1195 - Sharp 

Scripture: Romans 8:5

Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the spirit have their minds set on what the spirit desires.

TODAY'S MISSION - Today, be single-minded, fixing your eyes on Messiah and doing all things with one purpose.

Resource: www.hopeoftheworld.org

PRAYER
 
Jesus,
 
    Forgive me if I have focused on anything else but You. Holy Spirit, I thank You for having brought me to Jesus; I now ask that You help me to keep my eyes on Him. Empower me to increase the force of Your presence to change my home, my relationships, my work, my church, and my community. AMEN!
 
Your servant in Christ,
 
Pastor Nathan

How Reliable Are Your Feelings?

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            I recently had a conversation with a young man I have had the honor of knowing since he was a little boy. We talked about life, faith, hearing God, and how it is okay to question ones walk and faith. As we talked, a reoccurring theme was threaded into each topic—“feeling”—I remember “feeling” God when I watched this one video. I remember “feeling” God when I read this book. Why don’t I “feel” God like I used to? I don’t “feel” God in my life right now. Do any of these sound familiar? I know them all too well in my life because I am the one who said them.
            As human beings we can’t help but to feel. That is how God designed us. Feelings allow us to experience life and are not evil or meant to hold us back. If left unchecked and given full authority over our lives, however, feelings can be very destructive and misleading. I came across this article today in my reflection time with God that I wanted to share with you.
 
Don’t Let Emotions Dictate Your Faith - Sarah Hahn
The key to having a strong faith even when you’re not feeling close to God.
 
Growing up having attended numerous Christian conferences, retreats and the like, I’ve heard the following phrases repeatedly by many of my Christian brothers and sisters:
 
“I feel so close to God.”
“My relationship with God is really strong right now.”
“I can definitely feel the Holy Spirit at work in my life.”
 
These expressions can also commonly be heard from recent born-again Christians who are newly on fire for God or right after someone has experienced some divine encounter, such as a miraculous healing.
It’s so easy for Christians to get fired up for God when we are surrounded by other Christians or when things are going well. Emotions run high. We really feel God’s presence. However, once we leave that place and return to our regular lives filled with distractions and responsibilities or circumstances begin to take a turn for the worse, quality time with God tends to get put on the back burner.

Thus, the above expressions are often followed by one or more of the following several weeks later:
 
“I feel so spiritually dry right now.”
“Why can’t I hear God’s voice?”
“I’m unable to feel God’s presence in my life.”
 
The problem with so many Christians is that when this so-called spiritual high begins to wane, we immediately go back to doing the exact same things we did prior to that “feeling” we had. We prioritize our books over our Bible, we would rather connect to the Internet than connect to God, and we become too “lazy,” too “tired” or too “busy” that we run out of time for quiet time. As a result, that spiritual high you couldn’t stop talking about just a few weeks ago gradually starts to dissipate only to regain strength at the next retreat. This is what happens when we base our relationship with Jesus on our emotions.

Ephesians 2:8 reminds us that our salvation comes through faith, not feelings. Feelings are inconsistent. They’re unreliable. They are generated from the heart and the heart is deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9). We can’t base our relationship with God on some wavering feeling or connection. God isn’t some cheap Wifi hotspot whose signal we mysteriously lose from time to time.

Instead of always waiting for that next spiritual high or mountain-top experience, maybe we ought to experience God more regularly in our everyday lives. How do we do that? Discipline. It’s no coincidence that discipline and disciple have the same root. When we accept Jesus as our personal Lord and Saviour we are to become His disciples. A disciple is a follower of Christ and to have discipline means to possess the self-control needed to obey Him. Rather than trying to keep up our spiritual high, we need to keep up with the basic fundamentals of connecting with God: reading our Bibles and praying. Both require discipline.

People who have lost vast amounts of weight will be the first to tell you the hardships of remaining disciplined. When it comes to working out, the difficult part isn’t losing weight. The real challenge is keeping that weight off. Just because you’ve achieved your desired body type doesn’t mean you can stop working out and expect your body to remain that way forever. You have to keep working just as hard to maintain it.

Sure, there will be days where we feel tired or not in tune with God. In our walk, sometimes God will be very audible. And sometimes, He might be quiet. But just because God is silent, it doesn’t mean that He isn’t present. What’s more, we need to remember that it is when we are particularly strong in our faith that Satan will attack the most. Jesus was tempted for 40 days immediately after being baptized. That’s why it’s important to stay disciplined; so that even in times of trial, we remain in Him.

Jay-Z once said the following about being successful: “You can want success all you want, but to get it, you can’t falter. You can’t slip. You can’t sleep. One eye open, for real, and forever.” In other words, we need to keep up the momentum.

For instance, say you are writing a book. Some days you might feel that the ideas just aren’t coming to you or that you need a break after weeks of writing non-stop. But taking a day off could easily lead to two days off, then a week and the next thing you know it’s been months since you’ve added anything to your story. True writers write even when they don’t feel like it. It could be as little as one additional word. The point is you are continuing to make progress. Similarly, reading the Bible—even just one verse—and praying even when we aren’t “feeling it” is imperative if we want to continue growing in our relationship with God. It’s not a way we gain God’s favor or love—we already have that through what Jesus has done for us—but it’s a way we keep a strong relationship with Him.

Prayer is to the spiritual life what breathing is to the physical life. When we pray, God’s Spirit begins to work in us. The word spirit comes from the Latin word “spiritus,” which literally means “breath.” Prayer is the breath of our spiritual life.

Likewise, reading our Bibles shouldn’t be something that we do only when we have time. It should be something we do regularly because we have to if we want to keep our spiritual life in good health. It’s not an option; it’s a necessity.
Rather than treating great spiritual encounters like a drug whose effects will wear off in time, we need to keep reminding ourselves that being a Christian isn’t always going to be easy. Following Jesus requires discipline, dedication and most of all, faith. But we can relax knowing that God doesn’t change no matter how much our feelings do.
 
https://relevantmagazine.com/god/dont-let-emotions-dictate-your-faith/
 
PRAYER
 
Father,
 
I ask you to forgive me if I have viewed my relationship with You based on my feelings. Jesus, I understand that every day, I must pick up my cross and follow You as You have commanded me to do. It will not be easy, but with the Holy Spirit I will be disciplined and obedient. Holy Spirit empower me to follow the decrees of the LORD. Breathe in me strength and help me to keep my eyes on Jesus. AMEN!
 
Your servant in Christ,
 
Pastor Nathan

Spring Cleaning

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           Spring cleaning is upon us. It’s the time of year we take inventory of everything we have and begin to purge. What about spiritually? Have you taken an inventory of your heart lately? What are some things that you may have stored in your heart that need examining? After all, [1]the heart, according to the Bible, is part of an individual's spiritual makeup. It is the place where emotions and desires begin; it is that which drives the will of a person towards action. The heart of a person as described in the Bible is primarily a spiritual organ that drives a person’s behavior.

45 A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.

- Luke 6:45

            According to the [2]Oxford dictionary here is the definition of purge - rid (someone) of an unwanted feeling, memory, or condition, physically remove (something) completely. With the help of the internet and television networks, there are many tips that help us purge our homes of unnecessary things. Now when it comes to purging our hearts, we need to look no further than our ultimate authority, the Word of God.

23 Search me, God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting.

- Psalm 139:23-24

            The first step for us to begin to purge our heart is to ask the Holy Spirit to examine it and to reveal to us things that do not belong in it. We need to allow Him to test us and get to the root of any anxious thoughts that we may have. The Holy Spirit is trustworthy and faithful, He will show us things that may be offensive and is more than able to lead us in its removal. The process is not easy, but if we submit to the Holy Spirit and trust Him, He will give us the strength and the ability to let go of these things and replace them with blessings that come from His fruit.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.

- Galatians 5:22-25

PRAYER 

Holy Spirit,

Search my heart, for You know it. Reveal to me anything that may be in my heart that is not rooted in Your fruit. Bring to light any anxious thoughts and their origin. I submit to You and ask that You help me uproot anything offensive and lead me in the freedom that You provide. In place of the things purged from my heart, I ask that You plant the seeds of Your fruit that I may produce love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. AMEN!

 

Your servant in Christ,

Pastor Nathan

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           Gena and I are foodies. We try different kinds of food from different origins in the world. We challenge each other to remain open-minded about trying new foods and celebrate when find a crown jewel of the culinary world—a food so good we are left speechless! Some may see this as silly and shake their heads, but there are some other foodies out there that are already remembering their crown jewel experience!

            So, what’s the big deal about food? It is a great motivator, a dangerous weapon in the wrong hands, and source of life for every living thing on this planet. Food plays a central role in the rise and demise of people, cities, and nations. You don’t need to go far to research this, just continue to read the Bible.

            Adam and Eve sinned by eating the fruit that was good for food and pleasing to the eye (Genesis 3:6). Sodom and Gomorrah fell because of they were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned (Ezekiel 16:49). Esau gave away his birth right for a bowl of stew (Genesis 25:29-34). Over a meal, Joseph’s brothers devised a plan to sell their brother and deceive their father Jacob into believing that a wild animal had killed his beloved favored son (Genesis 37:25-34). Hunger can drive us into doing drastic things. Without food some people experience what has become commonly known as hangry. Which by the way is an actual word that can be found in the Oxford dictionary! “FEED ME, SEYMOUR” – Audrey II

            Hangry

han·gry [ˈhaNGɡrē]

adjective

bad-tempered or irritable as a result of hunger.

I get very hangry if I miss a meal

            Yet Jesus comes onto the scene of humanity and brings life with a meal. On the last night with His disciples, Jesus shares a meal, the Last Supper. It is with this meal that Jesus begins the arduous journey to suffering, pain, and death. He does not break the bread for Himself, He breaks it for you and me. He does not fill the cup for Himself but pours it out for you and me (Luke 22:19-20).  Can you see why He urges us to remember Him in this moment, that He is broken for us, that He will empty Himself out for us? While there has been a history of abusing a meal and compromising our position for it, here Jesus is using a meal to bring about redemption and heals us of spiritual malnourishment! It is because of this exact moment that we are now invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19:9)!

            What are you famished for? What are you craving? What are you hangry about? What spiritual malnourishment are you suffering from? Spiritual food is just as powerful, if not more than physical food; and like physical food there is good spiritual food and bad spiritual food. Another thing that applies to the spiritual that is used in the physical is the following: “You are what you eat!” Those who eat bitter fruit, are themselves bitter. Those who consume unforgiveness, are an unforgiving people. Those who delight in the fruit of anger constantly find themselves at odds with everyone. We could go on-and-on about the many negative fruit and their effects on us, but one thing that is important to mention is that these all come from one seed—self-centeredness.

Self-centered

self-cen·tered [ˈˌself ˈsen(t)ərd]

adjective

1.     preoccupied with oneself and one's affairs.

"he's far too self-centered to care what you do" 

            When we take our eyes off of Jesus and focus on ourselves, we find ourselves dangerously flirting with sin. Cain was warned about this by God and He warns us just as He did Cain; be careful because sin is crouching at the door to your heart and it desires to have you (Genesis 4:6-7).  When we keep our eyes on Jesus, we stay focused and connected to the good fruit. After all Jesus promises us that if we remain in Him and He remains in us we will bear much fruit (John 15:5). Not just any fruit, but the Fruit of The Spirit! 

Galatians 5:22-26 

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.

            Take close notice of what the Apostle Paul states within these verses: 1. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 2. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other. If we remain in Christ as He remains in us, we are not to be conceited and give in to our selfish desires and passions. We should not be fighting against each other. This is not fruit that comes from the Spirit, this fruit that comes from a worldly spirit. 

            Jesus Himself is our greatest example of how we are to fight against our selfish desires and passions. He says that He did not come to be served but to serve. He goes even deeper and says the greatest position we should strive to achieve is that of a servant, humble but exalted by God.

Matthew 20:25-28

 25 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 26 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Matthew 23:11-12

11 The greatest among you will be your servant. 12 For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

            So, what’s the big deal about food? Well, it all depends on what you have been craving lately.

PRAYER

Holy Spirit,

Reveal in me any spiritual cravings, desires, hunger pangs, and longings that do not line up with Your good fruit. Bring to mind anything that I need to surrender to You. Jesus, I humble myself at Your feet. Help me to keep my eyes on You and to continue to lift You up and not me. Father, I ask You to forgive me of being self-centered and not Christ-centered. I thank You for Your grace and mercy. AMEN!

 

Your servant in Christ,

Pastor Nathan

 

*I would like to thank Pastor Gena for pointing out that Jesus redeemed us and healed us of our spiritual malnourishment with the Last Supper. The Holy Spirit used her to bring this into focus and I am grateful for her obedience in sharing this.  

I love you babe, you bring out the best in me! – Nate

Letting Go of Unforgiveness

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            Forgiveness is beautiful and eagerly welcomed with open arms when we are the ones in need of it. When forgiveness is asked of us, however, it can be scary and painful—causing us to become distant and reluctant to forgive. On one hand, we know all too well the pain we cause on those around us by the mistakes we do or the wrong decisions we make. Yet on the other hand, we find the pain of being hurt too great to overcome. Our heart and thoughts gripped by fear and the trust we once had in the person who hurt us is gone.

            God knows the topic of forgiveness all too well. In fact, He is the master of forgiveness. What drives His forgiveness is the very nature of who He is—Love! (1 John 4:8). This is evident by how He showed His love to the world; sending His one and only Son (John 3:16) to give us life. God is also familiar to the sting of betrayal, the pain of being abandoned, and heartbreak of being hurt by those He trusted. He is no stranger to suffering (Isaiah 53:3).

            While on the cross, Jesus heard the same people He had ministered to, set free, healed and delivered, shout for His death. He could have ended His Suffering by giving up on us and yet He didn’t. He chose to pray for our us instead.

33 When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. 34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.
- Luke 23:33-34 

In Ephesians chapter five we are encouraged to Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” We need to follow the way of God who chooses to forgive us, just as Jesus did on the cross.

The weight and bitterness of unforgiveness is not one that God places on us. It is something we place on ourselves or allow others to place on us. The good news is that Jesus is the solution to lift the weight off of you and remove the roots of bitterness by replacing it with the joy of His presence and giving you His yoke. Why would you continue to carry this in your life? Right now, give it over to Him. He will take it and give you something better. 

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
- Matthew 11:28-30 

            God’s will for us is to bear with each other and forgive one another if any of us has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. (Colossians 3:13). The thing about forgiveness is that it is more for us than it is for the person receiving it. Yes, the person receiving it does get blessed. Think about a time you received forgiveness. It feels great to receive it. That being said, God calls us blessed and because we are blessed, we are to be a blessing to others. This is part of the covenant that He spoke over Abraham, when He told Him that other nations would be blessed because of Him. As descendants of Abraham, the same applies to us.

            Furthermore, we are to be imitators of Christ, who fulfilled Abraham’s covenant and brought us into direct relationship with Him and the Father. Therefore, we are blessed because Jesus is blessed. We bless others because Jesus blesses us to bless others. When we choose to forgive, it releases the blessings of God in our lives. That is why forgiveness is more to do with you then it has to do with the person asking or needing your forgiveness.

            Unforgiveness makes us bitter and gives us a heart of stone; something which the LORD does not do. He is in the business of giving you a new heart and putting a new spirit in you; He will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. (Ezekiel 36:26). Stop looking at what others are doing or how they are doing it. Stop comparing their life to yours. Focus on Jesus and let go of the unforgiveness in your heart. Holding onto it is not worth the pain and suffering you will continue to live with.

 

17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!
- 2 Corinthians 5:17 

            Embrace who Jesus has created you to be, a new creation. A new creation that is free of bitterness and free of the weight of unforgiveness. Embrace the abundant life that He has promised you. A life full of blessing!

PRAYER

Jesus,

            I thank you for the forgiveness that you gave me on the cross. It is that forgiveness that makes me a child of God. I ask you to forgive me for holding on to unforgiveness. Remove the roots of bitterness in my heart, take my heart of stone and give me a heart of flesh like proclaimed. I forgive all the people who have wronged me or hurt me. I forgive myself of the pain I have caused myself by holding on to unforgiveness. I embrace the new creation that I am in You. One that is free of bitterness and full of Your grace and forgiveness. AMEN!

  

Your servant in Christ,

Pastor Nathan

Jesus: Rejected, Despised, Familiar to Pain

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           Warning: *SPOILER ALERT!

He was despised and rejected by mankind,
    a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
    he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.
- Isaiah 53:3 (NIV)

             This Sunday, God used Pastor Peggy to deliver an empowering message. Thus far, this is the must hear message of 2019! In fact, if you have not heard the message, stop reading this devotional right now and head straight to our website and listen to it at: www.calvaryalameda.org. If you were there or had a chance to hear the message via Facebook live, you can continue to read to on.

            *Pastor Peggy was reading from the book of Genesis and was telling us about Leah’s plight in trying to attain love from her husband Jacob. It wasn’t her idea to marry Jacob. It was her father Laban’s idea. She was not Jacob’s first choice. It was her younger sister Rachel, whom Jacob had chosen and desired. In fact, Leah was never in Jacob’s radar of choices. She was rejected, despised, full of suffering and all too familiar with pain.

 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.
- Romans 12:19 (NIV)

             Pastor Peggy pointed out that the LORD had not forgotten about Leah. The scriptures make it a point to tell us that the LORD saw that Leah was not loved (Genesis 39:31). She may have been overlooked and neglected by those around her, but not by God. The LORD opened up Leah’s womb and she was able to conceive a child and more notably a male child! Surely this would make everything better. Yet, Pastor Peggy points out that in her heart, Leah was still trying to gain Jacob’s love and attention by any means possible, including through this first-born son. In fact, she gets pregnant two more times after this and each time she hopes that with that next child Jacob would will love her. She goes as far as naming each child according to the hope she has in gaining Jacob’s love.

            To quote Tina Turner: “What’s Love Got To Do With It?” Everything! Although Leah was focused on Jacob’s love at first, she switched it when God blessed her with a fourth child. She named her fourth child Judah which means “Praise God”. Through it all, notice that Leah never had ill feelings towards her dad, Rachel or Jacob. She did not exact revenge. But the LORD did on her behalf. He repaid Leah all the wrong that was done to her and she was repaid through the covenant promise that God spoke to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

            You see, Jesus comes from a specific lineage. He comes from the lineage of Abraham, Abraham’s son Isaac, Abraham’s grandson Jacob, and Abraham’s great grandson Judah. In fact, the scripture even refers to Jesus as the Lion of tribe of Judah: “Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.” (Revelation 5:5 NIV).

            It was not a child of Rachel that the Messiah would come from, but of Leah. This is why the book of Isaiah says that Jesus is familiar to pain, rejection and being despised. It was in His bloodline. His pedigree would bring honor to Leah and give her and all world the love that she was denied. God never forgot her. He never forgot what she went through.

            Do you realize that this is the same God that now stands by your side? What have you longed for in your life that you feel was denied? How have you been rejected? How have you been despised? Take comfort in knowing that Jesus sees and knows your plight. He hears the crying of your heart and feels your pain. Jesus is no stranger to what you are going through. He will repay everything that was taken from or denied to you. There’s one more thing, like He did with Leah, He will also bless your children, your grandchildren and the generations that come from them. Jesus will repay them what is also going to be prepaid for you. How truly wonderful, faithful, merciful, and worthy of all our praise is Jesus!

PRAYER

Jesus,

 I thank You for Your suffering, Your rejection, the pain that You endured on the cross so that I could be redeemed. You set me free. You fill my life with hope and purpose. No matter what gets denied to me or taken from me, I will keep my eyes on you and I will continue to lift Your name up with praise and thanksgiving. Thank You all that You will repay me and my descendants after me. Holy Spirit, remind me of my Saviors faithfulness when I am tired, weak, confused, or hurting. Comfort me during these times by reminding me  of all the times that Jesus has come through for me. AMEN!

 

Your servant in Christ,

Pastor Nathan

I would like to give special recognition to Peter, from our Fire Starters LIFE Group, for bringing to my attention what the scripture says in Isaiah 53:3. Peter you are an amazing man of God and I thank Jesus that you are a part of Calvary Alameda. 

Unlearn Fear

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“The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.” – H.P. Lovecraft

Did you know that we are all born with only two innate fears? The fear of falling and the fear of loud sounds. So where did all the other fears come from? They are learned by influence of environment, culture, and experiences. This is good news for us! Why? Well, simply put, what can be learned can also be unlearned. So how does a child of God begin to unlearn fear?
In the physical realm studies show we can overcome or unlearn our fears by continued exposure to them. One of my fears is/was the fear of spiders. It is because I have a healthy fear (respect) of the spiders, that I know are harmful. Was a fear because I have learned to be careful of certain spiders and to hold ones that are docile. This was not an overnight experience, but gradually over time. There even came a point in my life that I owed a Chilean Rose Hair Tarantula. 
In the spiritual, we can also unlearn fear by continued exposure, but with continual exposure to God’s Word. God’s Word has more than enough truth and when we know His truth, it will set us free (John 8:32). In fact, if you keep reading on in John chapter eight, you will see that it says that if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed (verse 36).  God also tells us that He does not give us the spirit of fear. The Spirit He gives us is the Holy Spirit.

For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. - 2 Timothy 1:7 (NIV)

In the Greek, timid comes from the word deilós which means fear. The word for power used here in the Greek is dunamis, which get this, means (miraculous) power, might, strength. The love spoken of here is agapé which is unconditional love. Likewise, self-discipline comes from the Greek word sophronizo; discipline, i.e. Self-control -- sound mind. So, the scripture tells us that the Spirit that God gave us does not make us fearful, but gives us miraculous power, might and strength, unconditional love, and sound mind. While we are talking about love, look at what God’s says about love and fear.

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 4:18 (NIV)

    We have the love of God residing with in us, so fear has no place in our lives because Jesus drives it out of our lives. Also, take notice that God says fear has to do with punishment. God sent Jesus into the world to save it and give those who believed in Him abundant life. Furthermore, He says that the person who fears is not made perfect in love. To fear the unknown or anything else is to be made in the image of this broken, fallen world and not in the image of Jesus.
    Fear has a way to stop you dead in your tracks. Fear is a tactic of the enemy to steal, kill, and destroy the power, love, and sound mind that God blesses you with. Fear of the unknown is another sneaky ploy of the enemy. It seems logical to have a fear of the unknown at first, but it too robs you of God’s blessings. For example, when God says I have healing for you if you want it and you think, “What if?”—What if I say I want it and I don’t get healed? This takes your eyes of God and puts them on you. You need to trust God, believe that He truly desires to heal you, and take a step of faith by receiving your healing.

PRAYER
Father,

I thank You for the freedom, power, love, and sound mind that You give me through Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Jesus, I thank You for setting me free and for the gift of the Holy Spirit. Holy Spirit, thank you for empowering me to face fear and overcome it. Help me grow a desire for the scriptures so that I may learn more about the blessings that You have for me. AMEN!

 Your servant in Christ,

Pastor Nathan

Press on toward the goal to win the prize

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          This Sunday during worship I felt like there was a feeling of dredge in the environment—a passive laziness and no zeal. I pressed in towards the Holy Spirit and asked Him to change the mood, but He instead asked, “But if not you, then who?” I realized that action needed to happen, but it was not action from the Holy Spirit that was required, but action from us, God’s people. There was a need for God’s people to “Press on toward the goal.”
 
Philippians 3:13-14 (NIV)
 
13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
 
          Then Mercedes said that sometimes you have to do something in the physical to see it in the spiritual.  I felt like everyone needed to get up and start walking around the sanctuary, creating a spiritual whirlpool effect, because—“If not you, then who?” You want to see your partner have a relationship with God, then start walking and praying. You want to see your child start making better choices, then start walking and praying. You want healing and provision, then start walking and praying! Because, “If not you, then who?”
 
          I saw a vision of this during worship. Once everyone started walking, some even started running, it created a whirlpool effect.  A stirring. A movement.  So much so, that those who walked into the church were getting caught up in His movement. Even those amongst us who were too tired to walk or run were still able to move because of the heavy current of the whirlpool pushing that came from the others in the tribe, walking and running. It’s beautiful because the faster the whirlpool turns it creates a funnel and that funnel gets us closer to the center. The more we move, the closer we get to the center, the closer we get to Christ, the center of our lives.
 
Definition of whirlpool: 
 
A whirlpool is a body of rotating water produced by opposing currents or a current running into an obstacle. Small whirlpools form when a bath or a sink is draining. More powerful ones in seas or oceans may be termed maelstromsVortex is the proper term for a whirlpool that has a downdraft.
 
          Jesus said, “Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” (John 7:38 NIV). When the currents of the storms in your life try to discourage you and tear you apart, the currents of the living water within you will create a whirlpool, whose sole purpose is to get you closer to Jesus! When obstacles stand before you, release the living water within you, it will run into those obstacles and create a whirlpool that will get you closer to Jesus.
 
John 4:10-14 (NIV)
 
10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”
11 “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”
13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
 
-Pastor Gena Batres

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Bible Passage: 1 Corinthians 11:23-26
 
23 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
 
Big Idea:
           Communion keeps our focus on Jesus and becomes a weapon of breakthrough in our lives.

 INTRODUCTION
           The Apostle Paul teaches us about the power that communion has for the life of a believer. This is not to be a thing that we do because “it’s what we are supposed to do”, but as an act of thankful worship for what Jesus means to us.
 
EXPLANATION
           The key to celebrating communion can be found in verse 24 of this chapter. It was only after Jesus had given thanks that He took the bread and broke it saying “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” It is important for us to always give thanks as we approach the Father with our prayers and worship. Being thankful helps us focus on what really matters in our lives—JESUS! With our focus on Jesus, we render our problems, worries, and stresses powerless over our lives.
 
ILLUSTRATION
            Peter experienced the power of being able to focus on Jesus when He walked on water. Look at the conditions that they found themselves in—in the middle of a storm and on top of that, they see a man walking on the stormy waters. The scripture says they were terrified thinking that Jesus was a ghost and cried out in fear. Yet Jesus calls out to them and says to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
            What is Peter’s response? He focuses on Jesus and tells Jesus, “Lord, if it is you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” Jesus immediately calls Peter out to him and Peter obeys and walks out of the boat and unto the water. For that brief moment that Peter’s focus was on Jesus he walked in freedom and safety in the midst of the storm around him.
            As we approach celebrating communion with thankfulness we declare the goodness of Jesus in our lives. We declare His presence in the midst of the darkness surrounding us, the storms we find ourselves in, the worries that weigh us down, the stresses that keep us up at night. Where the Spirit of the LORD is there is freedom (2 Corinthians 3:17).
 
Matthew 14:22-33 (NIV)
 22 Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. 23 After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, 24 and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it. 
25 Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.
27 But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”
29 “Come,” he said.
Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”
31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”
32 And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. 33 Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
 
APPLICATION
           When you find yourself troubled by the storms of life that come against you, all you need to do is begin to praise Jesus for who He is in your life and for what He has done for you. The Apostle Paul tells us to go even deeper in our thankfulness and boast about the fact that we are weak in the midst of the storms. He says to delight in our weakness, insults against us, hardships we face, persecution we endure, and difficulties we find ourselves in. This is key because in our weakness Jesus is made strong.
 
2 Corinthians 12:9-10 (NIV)
9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
 
          When you celebrate communion in the midst of your storms you are preparing yourself for battle. Praising Jesus for who He is in your life and what He has done for you, invites Him to walk upon the turbulent waters of your life. This helps you to keep your focus on Him and not on the things that trouble you. When you take the bread in remembrance of Him you declare the very words He spoke on the cross: “It is finished.” He completes you in every way and provides you with all you need —hope, strength, power, love, forgiveness, peace, joy, etc. When you take the cup you declare the power of the blood of Jesus over the situations you are dealing with. The cleansing power of the blood of Jesus that washes sin away will wash stress, anxiety, worry, and fear away from you.
          All you need to do is ready yourself with communion. Everyday. Several times a day. As often as the storms, worries, stresses, and anxieties come to mind, you confront them with praises unto to Jesus for who He is and what He has done in your life. Thank Him that He is made strong in your life at that moment. Rejoice that He is walking on the waters of your storm. As you praise Him take up the bread and cup and ask Him to call you out to Him. Praise Him as you walk out on the turbulent waters of your storm. Keep your focus on Him. Then bask in His presence as His peace washes over you, taste and see that He is good, and watch Him deliver breakthrough in each and every area of your life!
 
PRAYER
 Jesus,
             I praise Your holy name. Jesus there is power in Your name. I thank You for being my salvation. I thank You for all that You have done for me. I thank you for personally interceding on my behalf. I thank you for taking my place on the cross and shedding Your innocent blood that sets me free and cleanses me. Jesus I invite You to be with me in the storms of my life. Come walking upon the waters and call me to You. I want to walk in victory with You. I lay all my troubles at Your feet and walk in freedom with You. AMEN!!!
 
Your servant in Christ,
 
Pastor Nathan

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