|Posted by [email protected] on December 28, 2015 at 11:10 AM||comments (2)|
For unto us . . . . a child is born . . . unto us a son is given . . .
and His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor . . . Mighty God . . . The Everlasting Father . . . The Prince of Peace . . . "
He came into a world facing similar "upheavals" we face today . . . Political unrest . . . economic uncertainty . . . civil unrest . . . people enduring private pain. Many feeling "stuck" with their "lot in life" . . . feeling "labeled" by social status or lack thereof . . . "labeled" by family . . . friends . . . or "self identifying" labels of personal inadequacies . . . failures . . . imperfections . . . etc.
Jesus came to bring us freedom from the "marks" of sin . . . self and social station. He came to give us "new life" . . . hope and a future . . . a new identity "marked" by . . . and found in Him . . . in us as we receive Him . . . His Love revealed . . . in this Prince of Peace who came as a child . . . for us.
This Christmas . . . may we all remember . . . may we all continue to receive . . . Him, for He is our Life . . . our Peace!!!!
David W Imler
Director of Ministries
|Posted by [email protected] on December 15, 2015 at 12:55 AM||comments (0)|
Wow . . . I . . . did . . . not . . . see that coming . . . !!! That was probably the last thought, going through Goliath’s mind, when David’s stone hit it’s intended target.
But, on a more serious line of thought . . . things happen in our lives . . . in our homes . . . in our business . . . at work . . . in school . . . in our community . . . in our nation . . . and we find ourselves saying the same thing. “Wow . . . I did not see that coming.” A job loss . . . a relationship that ended . . . the sudden death of a “loved one” . . . a sickness . . . loss of a major client . . .
Paul wrote a letter to the believers in Ephesus. He wrote it from Rome where he was in prison for teaching the very thing he is writing about to them. There is more than a bit irony in the fact that he is writing about the freedom and wholeness that Christ brings to our lives, while he is in prison himself. His life’s mission has been severely cut short . . . Or . . . so it seems. He is no longer free to travel and teach in the many cities where he once did. Certainly no new cities will be visited and no new people for him to share this great message of God’s Love in Christ. He could have said . . . “Wow, I didn’t see that coming!” He could have just settled back and said . . . God, why did you let that happen? He could have gotten bitter at the false accusations that put him there. He could have responded in a number of different ways . . . but he doesn’t . . . he finds a way to “make lemonade” out of the “lemon” of prison.
He writes to the people he has already given the message to. He tells them that God had settled on them as the focus of His love, to be made whole and holy by His love. Long, long ago he decided to adopt us into His family. He encouraged them to find their identity in Christ and live as God’s Child. He encouraged them to find personal empowerment in Christ and the hope of His calling.
Paul drew their attention to the drastic change that had taken place in their lives. “it wasn’t so long ago that you were mired in that old stagnant life of sin. You let the world, which doesn’t know the first thing about living, tell you how to live. . . We all did it, all of us doing what we felt like doing, when we felt like doing it, all of us in the same boat . . . It’s a wonder God didn’t lose His temper and do away with the whole lot of us . . . Instead, immense in mercy and with incredible love, he embraced us. He took our sin-dead lives and made us alive in Christ. He did it all on His own with no help from us! . . . Saving is all His idea, and all His work. All we do is trust Him enough to let Him do it. It’s God’s gift from start to finish!” Ephesians 2:1,2,8,9 The Message
In fact Christ went a whole lot further . . . He did it for people who never knew about Him and did nothing to try to reach Him. In Christ, He tore down “walls” that used to keep people at a distance from each other. “Christ brought us together through His death on the Cross. That Cross got us to embrace, and that was the end of the hostility. Christ came and preached peace to outsiders and peace to insiders. He treated us as equals, and so made us equal.” WE all belong to God and have as much access to God as anyone who calls on His name.
Paul says this is the mystery . . . Christ came so that all people from every background, ethnic origin, cultural, religious or irreligious, rich or poor, slave or free are seen in God’s eyes as standing on the same ground before God. “People who have never heard of God and those who have heard of Him all their lives (what I have been calling outsiders and insiders) stand on the same Ground before God. They get the same offer, same help. Same promises in Christ Jesus. The Message is accessible and welcoming to everyone, across the board.”
Yes, when life threw Paul a curve, he showed us how to find renewed purpose . . . renewed life . . . new hope . . . new value . . . new relationships . . . because of God’s love given to us in Christ. He shows us that God’s Love and life reaches way beyond the borders of what we thought God could do in our life. The “curve ball” in Paul’s life prompted him to share the message in the only way left to him. I’m glad he did.
Sometimes it takes a “curve ball” in life to get us out of the “box” we didn’t even know we were in. It is those unexpected . . . unanticipated things in life that can lead to more life . . . when we see it through the expansive and liberating Love of God in Christ . . . He is not far . . . He is near . . . in us . . . as we receive and believe Him.
Maybe, just maybe more people will benefit from your “curve ball” than if it were never thrown.
David W Imler
Director of Ministries
|Posted by [email protected] on December 14, 2015 at 4:35 PM||comments (0)|
He doesn’t believe in God . . . She’s into the “party scene” . . . They got hurt in church . . . I knew them in high school. They’re not into God . . . He’s Catholic . . . She’s a Jehovah Witness . . . They’re a . . . You name it . . . we often . . . consciously or unconsciously sort people into “boxes” of pre-conceived notions in our mind.
Paul tells these believers that he is praying that they would be strengthened deeply on their “inner person” and that they . . . being “rooted” and “grounded” in Christ would comprehend “the reach” of God’s Love. He knew that when we see through God’s eyes . . . everything changes. His Love, as revealed through Jesus, is greater than anything we can naturally perceive on our own. His whole point is not so we would be “wowed” with a “profound and deep” spiritual truth . . . but rather that we would perceive our world and all people differently.
He wants us to see through God’s eyes and fully comprehend the magnitude of God’s Love revealed in Christ for us and all people. What took place at “the Cross” is the most "far reaching" act of love ever!!!
The “Unlimited God” . . . the God of "all time" came "into time" in the person of Jesus . . . and from a point in time . . . reached into all time . . . to change everything and everyone. It was as if through some kind of "space time continuum interruption" . . . while Jesus hung on the cross, God reached back in time to every man, woman, boy and girl who had ever lived. He took their sins, sorrows, weaknesses and sicknesses . . . and brought all of it forward . . . laid it on Jesus . . . He, at the same, reached forward in time to today and all time to come . . . . He gathered all the same destructive dysfunction, which brought death and separation from God, to mankind through all the "ages". . . He took all the sins, sorrows, weaknesses, and sicknesses of every man, woman, boy and girl who would live on planet earth . . . including the 7.4 billion people today . . . at the same time reaching forward into all time future. He bought it all back in time to lay it on His only begotten Son, Jesus.
Again . . . that is the most “far reaching” act of love ever!!!
The awesome dimensions of His Love are beyond our ability to measure . . . to comprehend fully . . . Because of what God did in Christ . . .
“Now you’re dressed in a new wardrobe. Every item of your new way of life is custom-made by the Creator, with his label on it. All the old fashions are now obsolete. Words like Jewish and non-Jewish, religious and irreligious, insider and outsider, uncivilized and uncouth, slave and free, mean nothing. From now on everyone is defined by Christ, everyone is included in Christ.” Colossians 3:10,11 (The Message)
If that is true . . . and it is . . . then a fresh look at the people around us without the “boxes” . . . through the “lenses” of God’s Love as revealed in Jesus is in order!!! We have Good News. All those people who we see as far from God because of their lifestyle . . . belief system . . . addictions . . . religion or lack thereof, etc... In God’s eyes . . . There is no Box!!!!
• They already belong to Him, because He has redeemed them. Rom. 3:23,24
• There is nothing that stands between them and Him, because He has reconciled them to God, in Christ. 2 Cor 5:16, 19
• All their sins are forgiven, because He was the perfect offering (sacrifice) taking away all our sin. 1 John 2:2
Does this mean all are already saved? No, but "the way" has already been made. We have good news to announce!!!!
When the God of "all time" came into time and from a "point in time" at the Cross, reached into "all time" and "set it right" between man and God. That is our good news for anyone and everyone we know . . . everyone we meet. You belong to God . . . Nothing Stands between you and God . . . You are forgiven . . . Receive Him . . . Jesus and what He has done for you . . .
“To all who received Him, to all those who believed on His name, He gave the right to became children of God. . . . children born not of natural decent, nor human decision, or a husband’s will, but born of God.” John 1:12
Let's announce it with glad, grateful and loving hearts . . . sharing this Good News with everyone . . . anyone . . .
David W Imler
Director of Ministries
|Posted by [email protected] on November 30, 2015 at 4:55 PM||comments (0)|
Christmas is just around the corner, and you can see, hear and almost feel the push from retailers to get into the Christmas Spirit of buying. Black Friday sales are not waiting for the Friday after Thanksgiving. This year they are going even farther than previous years . . . opening on Thanksgiving is not even enough. They are offering Black Friday Sales online . . . now . . . and it’s not even Thanksgiving yet!!! This is Christmas prep . . . ?
The original historical event that we celebrate was announced to a group of shepherds by a choir of angels singing “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, good-will toward men”.
But what do we see in the news of current events all around us? You don’t have to listen to news programs. It comes at us on Facebook, Twitter . . . you name it. We are surrounded by it. Tragic events in Paris, Syria and other places far away . . . but hit home as they talk about refugees who are looking for a new home . . . and we are concerned that some individuals or groups within those large numbers could have horrible agendas in mind for our own nation . . . our state . . . our community.
Those conversations bring far away concerns a little closer to home. It is not my intent to give my feedback on what should be done regarding these issues. I am simply describing some of the complexities we are facing on top of whatever personal or family realities are part of our daily lives. The world around us and many things in our own personal lives don’t reflect . . . “peace, good will toward men.”
Jesus is described as “the Prince of Peace” . . . He said to His followers, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives.”
The peace available to us is a “given peace” . . . it is a peace “left with us” . . .
The kind of peace the world gives is a “negotiated peace” (one recent peace treaty will cost 100 billion dollars to consummate) . . . a “peace by conquest” (waging and winning a war) . . . winning a discussion/argument/protest . . . We see how futile and ineffective those efforts are in bringing peace in our time.
James tells us where fights and wars come from . . . “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires (sin nature) that battle within you? You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God.”
This reality is not just personal but has affected family, community and national conflicts from the beginning of time.
Paul tells us how God, in Christ . . . at the cross . . . “But now, in Christ Jesus, you who were once far off were brought near through the shedding of Christ’s blood. For Christ is our living peace. (He is our Peace) He has made us both one by breaking down the barrier and enmity which lay between us.”
“For he reconciled both to God by the sacrifice of one body on the cross, and by his act killed the enmity between them. Then he came and brought the good news of peace to you who were far from God and to us who were near.” Ephesians 2:13,14,16,17 (Philips)
The peace Jesus brings is a given peace . . . He was given to us (Isa. 9:6) as the Prince of Peace . . . He gave us peace . . . He died to destroy the power of the very thing that causes conflict in us. He destroyed the power of our sin nature at the cross and thereby destroyed the wall of hostility and enmity that divides all peoples. But it is a “received peace” . . . not a “forced upon peace”.
To as many as received Him . . . who IS our peace . . . they are family.
Our political leaders are finding peace to be an elusive pursuit because they have declared that God is not welcome in public policy . . . nor can public policy be formulated that is “informed by” God’s Word or His standards. They say our public policy and laws must be formulated by what is universally accepted by all people within our community . . . our nation . . . our world. We see how that is working. This too has been true around the world from the beginning of time.
But that does not keep us . . . from living in His Peace . . . receiving Him . . . sharing Him and His peace with all those around us . . . at home . . . at work . . . in our neighborhood. Living His Life . . . in us . . . in Christ makes a difference in the world we live in. He is our Peace that has broken down every wall . . . walls of enmity/hostility . . . where ever we encounter it from day to day. Let’s learn to be “Peace receivers” and “Peace givers”.
That first announcement of the Christ child . . . “peace, good will toward men”. . . .
Let it be true in us this season and all year long!! It will bring “Glory to God in the highest”
This week . . . let’s make Thanksgiving a real time of Thanks for all He has given us . . .
Peace . . . be with You . . . and Yours!!!!
David W Imler
Director of Ministies
|Posted by [email protected] on November 17, 2015 at 12:15 AM||comments (0)|
God revealed His Love to us in Christ. He made a way for us to be fully restored to what He created us to be . . . His creation . . . in His image . . . children loved by our Father. His primary purpose in Christ was not to simply provide an example that we should then follow . . . or imitate. He knew our condition . . . we did not suffer from a "pathological" disorder that kept us doing bad things. He did not make a way to excuse or overlook our sin. We were not people who had done bad things . . . but God understands that we are weak . . . so He made a way so that He could forgive us . . . in the hopes that we wouldn’t do it anymore. No . . . No . . . and No again!!!
Jesus didn’t come to give us an “Office Depot Easy Button” or a Bad to Good switch. No, our condition was more severe. We were “Dead in our sin” . . . dead to being able to live the life He created us to live. Physically alive, but the internal “spirit” that matched His Spirit . . . created in His image . . . was dead . . . leaving us in a place where our natural desires, attitudes and behaviors no longer matched His. Paul described the condition in Galatians 5:19,20 (The Message) . . .
“trying to get your own way all the time: repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community. I could go on”
Ephesians 4:17.18 ". . . going along with the crowd, the empty-headed, mindless crowd. They’ve refused for so long to deal with God that they’ve lost touch not only with God but with reality itself. They can’t think straight anymore. Feeling no pain, they let themselves go in sexual obsession, addicted to every sort of perversion."
We are not left with the dilemma of trying to overcome these desires thru a religious list of does and don’ts!! No . . . it is not a self effort . . . self help plan that we are responsible to pursue with a lot of help from God.
We are now “in Christ” . . . we are made alive in a New Life . . . It is now . . . God @ work in us . . . Jesus . . . alive in us. We are not changed because we turned over a new leaf or made a “new years” or “new life” resolution . . . or because we overcame our addictions by religious rehabilitation or religious re-formation. We are not the product of our own workmanship.
No . . . we are His workmanship . . . His artistry . . . and we are co-operating with His workings . . . energizings . . . in us. “In Him we live and move and have our being.” Acts 17:28 (NIV) He is making all things new . . . and like Him . . . His life. Paul describes what this looks like . . . again in Galatians 5:22,23 (The Message) . . .
"What happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely."
There are other descriptions given by Paul and seen in the teachings of Jesus . . . but none of them are to be taken as “to do lists” that we are to take up as to how we will go about “imitating” this way of life. It is “God energized” . . . Holy Spirit influencing our daily attitudes . . . desires . . . motivations . . . choices . . . behaviors . . . as Paul said “it is Him, working in us both to will and to do His good pleasure.” This is “Living out” . . . our identity . . . who we are . . . God’s . . . Our Father’s Son/Daughter . . . His Child.
His working . . . His energizing . . . His moving us toward and into His life is not limited to “spurts” here and there. His Grace, in our lives, is available like rain to a “thirsty land”. I’m thirsty for more of Him and His life in my life . . . not just on Sunday morning . . . but on “Monday, Tuesday, THURSDAY, Wednesday, Friday, Sunday, Saturday” (The Godfather) :-) Together . . . let us learn of . . . and enter into what Jesus came to give us . . . Life . . . learning to live freely and lightly in the “unforced rhythms of His Grace” . . . Grace like rain.
David W Imler
Director of Ministries
|Posted by [email protected] on November 9, 2015 at 10:45 AM||comments (0)|
Jesus told us about something that we all . . . can enter into when we receive Him. When we simply choose to receive Him and believe that He is who He says He is . . . God’s son . . . we are told that that we too become God’s child. (John 1:12) Jesus had another descriptor . . . being born again. (John 3:3-8)
This “rebirth” was not a physical rebirth, but a spiritual one. This spiritual rebirth is not us adopting a particular religious belief system. It is rather . . . a real and personal “happening” that has practical outworking and outcomes and in our lives. When we were born into our natural family, there are certain character traits . . . things that are unique to our family of birth. Some of these “ways” are passed to us by genetic makeup and others by the nurture and family interaction. In our family we say, “That’s the Imler way”. Truth be told, there are strengths and weaknesses in those “ways”. Thankfully that is not our focus in this discussion. Family “ways” . . . characteristics are.
When we are born into God’s family, there are certain and unique characteristics that begin to emerge, because our “spiritual DNA” . . . has been “reordered”/ reborn . . . or if you will our “spiritual operating system” has been “rebooted” to the original settings when God created us. This is fully a work of Holy Spirit in our heart and mind.
We are sons and daughters . . . I am . . . you are . . . a child of God . . . part of His family with new ways . . . unique to Him . . . like Him. Because of this reality, we begin to see and perceive ourselves differently . . . we perceive and interpret our world . . . our future . . . in fact we begin to see and perceive all things differently. We begin to see opportunities . . . in place of obstacles. It is not because any obstacles or challenges have been removed. It is because we now see them “in light” of God being our Loving Father and Jesus being our elder brother. He is with us and in us as we face obstacles and address all of them.
Last week, we talked about . . . how we belong to a loving Father that set His love on us long before we were born. “In Christ, we find out who we are and what we are living for.” As we learn who Jesus is and see His life . . . His way of life . . . we discover that this is what we are designed for. We were created “in His image”, but sin caused a spiritual death in us all. However now . . . in Christ we are alive to all that God created us to become.
Paul tells the believers his prayer for them includes a four-fold request . . . (Ephesians 1:17-19)
• That they would know Him better
• that God would reveal to them His calling/purpose in their lives . . .
• how valuable they were to God.
• the greatness of His empowerment in them to live out that purpose
Living out of that purpose brings hope . . . a future focus that is no longer fearful . . . nor is it driven by ambition. Rather we can, with anticipation, look forward to a future shaped by Him. Our Father is continually motivating us from within towards all that He has prepared for us. So as we “face the day” . . . “seize the day” . . . it is different than when we were working with an “it’s all up to me” perspective.
Matthew records an encounter with Jesus and some of His followers (Matthew 11:25-30 the Message) . . .
"25 Abruptly Jesus broke into prayer: "Thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth. You've concealed your ways from sophisticates and know-it-alls, but spelled them out clearly to ordinary people.
26 Yes, Father, that's the way you like to work."
27 Jesus resumed talking to the people, but now tenderly. "The Father has given me all these things to do and say. This is a unique Father-Son operation, coming out of Father and Son intimacies and knowledge. No one knows the Son the way the Father does, nor the Father the way the Son does. But I'm not keeping it to myself; I'm ready to go over it line by line with anyone willing to listen.
28 "Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest.
29 Walk with me and work with me - watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you.
30 Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly."
“This is not rocket science” . . . nor is it “spooky religious stuff”. It is practical . . . everyday personally engaging with Jesus . . . learning this Father and child relationship with our heavenly Father.
You might say . . . but it’s different for us . . . for me . . . I can’t walk with Him and work with Him like they did. That was then, and this is now . . . they were with Him. So are you and I. He is not only with us . . . He is in us and we are His children. Just like Jesus . . . we are His Children. We are “wired” for this. We are Family.
It makes a difference in us and for us. It impacts our life for the better . . . in our hearts and minds . . . our family . . . at school . . . on the job . . . with our neighbors . . . our business . . . you name it . . . He makes all things new.
Let’s “keep company with Him and learn how to live freely and lightly”, in His purpose.
David W Imler
Director of Ministries
|Posted by [email protected] on November 9, 2015 at 10:25 AM||comments (0)|
There are times when we feel like we are stuck in a “box” . . . a job . . . a location . . . limited opportunity. . . limited education . . . limited financial resources . . . Other people may feel a “box” of family expectations . . . peer pressures . . . financial obligations. Still others avoid the “box” of religion . . . or may be stuck in “box” of “self effort”, “self performance” religion themselves.
There are more personal “boxes” that individuals feel they are trapped in . . . limitations because of personal choices . . . mistakes . . . failures or the impacts of outside forces like . . . financial recession . . . a spouse left . . . a trust that was broken by another person’s action or words . . . a sickness that would not let go . . . a child who determined to take a wrong path in life and you are left feeling helpless to make a difference.
These “boxes” not only speak of limitation, but brokenness . . . broken lives, relationships and broken people. Some feel the frustration of living with shame, guilt, intimidation, inadequacy . . . etc. These broken places in our lives lead to further “boxes” of isolation, loneliness . . . hiding in hidden pain, internal struggle and “mask wearing” so no one else will know. This all sounds depressing to talk about, but it is a “real time reality” for some people day to day.
This is the “reality TV” authenticity in the story of how we all got into this mess of sin in the first place. When Adam and Eve sinned . . . God found them in the Garden, hiding from Him because they were naked. This was the same Garden where they talked with God every day “in the cool” of the day. But now they are hiding and covering up. The “boxes” of shame and guilt and hiding behind masks began.
Paul is writing to people in Ephesus, who live in such a world. People who have at one time or another lived in such “self limiting” boxes, but have now come to Christ. Ephesus is a city full of pagan practices, but with a growing family of “God fearers” and believers in Christ. Paul is teaching them to keep their attention focused on Christ . . . not their past or even current human frailties.
He tells them that God has in Christ come into our fractured . . . “sin wrecked” world to heal the broken places in our lives and relationships. God is doing this, not as a “last minute . . . last ditch effort” to make right what is wrong. In actual fact . . .
“Long before he laid down earth’s foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of His love, to made whole and holy by his love. Long, long ago he decided to adopt is into His family through Christ (What pleasure He took in planning this!)”
“Because of the sacrifice of the Messiah, his blood poured out on the altar of the Cross, we’re a free people . . . And not just barely free, either. Abundantly free! He thought of everything, provided everything we could possibly need, letting us in on the plan he took such delight in making. . . . It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose He is working out in everything and everyone.”
Here in the first chapter of Ephesians he passionately expresses that we belong . . . you belong to God. God, not only made it possible, but we were . . . you were on His mind long before we ever drew our first breath. Even before sin came into the world, He had already made a plan to bring us back to Himself and free us from the captivity of self will and sin. Like the hymn says . . . “He breaks the power of canceled sin, He sets the prisoner free . . .”
We can “live outside the box” of sin . . . of addiction . . . broken relationships . . . broken trust . . . and a myriad of other “boxes” that keep us from all that God has for us. Does that mean all goes smooth from here on. No, we know better . . . but it does mean . . . and God wants us to know . . . we are part of His family . . . we belong!!! We belong because He took great pleasure in making plans for us to be a part of His family . . . before we ever drew our first breath and before we ever sinned our first sin or “blew it one more time”. The point will become even clearer when we enter into the reality that we are “In Christ” That is the opposite of being “In Adam”
You and I are His children!! WE belong!! Let’s tell others . . . there is room in the Family!! God had them in mind too . . . Some may say . . . “I don’t believe in God!” but we can say . . . “That’s alright, He believes in you!” Before you ever drew your first breath, God revealed his Love for you and me through Jesus. Our Good News invitation to them is Receive Him . . . God’s Love revealed and given through Jesus . . . Believe on Him who is your life.
David W Imler
Director of Ministries
|Posted by [email protected] on October 24, 2015 at 3:40 PM||comments (0)|
When I was young, my Dad told me a story about a young man who went to a successful business man to learn how the man became so successful. He asked the man, “How did you get to where you are today?” The man replied, “Right choices.” “Well, how did you know how to make right choices?” “Experience.” “Ok, How did you get experience?” “Wrong choices.”
By the time Sarah died and a wife for Isaac has been found, Abraham has a lot of “experience” under his belt. 140 years of cumulative choices. But he has not made these choices in isolation. Just like us, his choices were influenced by . . . nudged by . . . family heritage . . . forces of nature (famine) . . . people he encountered along the way . . . his own natural “self preservation” instincts . . . his “alpha male” “git er done” tenacity . . . among many many other influences. But more significantly, God actively engaged with Abraham. Abraham did not find God. God came to him. God called on him to leave where he was, to go to place God would show him . . . and Abram began a “new to him” nomadic journey.
It was a journey of choices that included what he would do with these “God nudges”, the promises of blessing . . . having a son . . . We see Abram, renamed Abraham making choices to . . . leave “comfort zone” and family heritage . . . living . . . believing . . . waiting . . . respecting and revering God . . . receiving . . . waiting some more . . . tested and finding miraculous provision. At the 140 year old mark of his life, he has decades of experience . . . right and wrong choices galore. All the way . . . God was actively working . . . nudging . . . never stopping even when Abraham messed up. That journey of choices included Abraham entering into and actively engaging with . . . the “nudges” of God working in him and on his behalf. That’s how Abraham entered into God’s promise and purpose in his life.
The result was Abraham becoming a different man than the one who started the journey. Both he and his life journey was “God shaped”.
After Sarah dies . . . this “God shaped” man, at 140 years old decides to marry again. He marries Keturah. She is probably about 40 years old. This new couple proceeds to have six sons and Abraham raises a whole new family. Wow!!! We know he lives another 35 years. So that means he gets to teach 6 new sons . . . how to be a man . . . how to hunt . . . plant crops . . . raise sheep . . . do business with neighbors . . . fight off wild animals . . .
He dies at 175 years, so he is with these boys, “doing life together” into their 20s and 30s. Again . . . Wow!!!!
Before he dies, he sets his affairs in order. How he does it shows something about his “core values”. . . how he looks at his past . . . present and future. He left everything he owned to Isaac, showing that He esteemed the God Promise and Covenant in his life that was to continue through Isaac. But while he was still living he gave gifts to his other sons. He set them up to succeed and turned them loose to make a living in the east.
Then he dies. At his funeral, Ishmael and Isaac are there to bury him. It is interesting to see Ishmael there. When Abraham sent him away . . . there were no parting gifts . . . it was water and some food. Yet here he is . . . he comes back for his father’s funeral. We do not know what happened between Ishmael and Abraham in the intervening years, but something must have. Perhaps Abraham apologized for having sent Ishmael away in the manner he did . . . or some other reconciling activity or event. All we do know . . . is that he is there with Isaac to bury their father. Abraham died having made wrongs, right. At the end of Abraham’s life . . . there remains a record . . . a testament . . . a legacy.
The legacy is not one of perfection . . . but a legacy of a life well lived . . . a faith, growing, tested and vibrant . . . right through to the end. No “finding a place in the sun” for his final years. He was as productive in his last years as he was in his early years.
Your age is not measured by the years you’ve lived. Your age is better measured by how much life you have left inside . . . or as Sachel Page said, “How old would you be, if you didn’t know how old you are?”
Abraham’s story . . . and him entering into what God was doing for him . . . isn’t just a Bible story. It’s our story too. “We are God’s workmanship (artistry) created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10 (NIV)
We have choices available to us today. How will we finish? Have you got lots of life left in you? What does God know about your days ahead? Let’s pursue that relationship with Him and ask . . . believing He will show us. Let’s make those choices that bring us into the fruitful and productive outcomes He has for us!! He knows . . . Let’s listen and choose . . . Let’s live well . . . Let’s finish well!!
If you did not get to hear the message this week, or even if you did . . . here is the link . . .it’s worth the listen again.
David W Imler
Director of Ministries
|Posted by [email protected] on October 17, 2015 at 5:35 PM||comments (0)|
Abraham, 62 years of God encounters . . . following God’s direction . . . no one place to call home . . . believing His promise . . . making mistakes . . . fighting for extended family’s safety . . . family dysfunction and rejection . . . more God encounters . . . seeing a city destroyed because of its’ wickedness . . . another mistake “rerun” . . . received God’s promised son . . . “gut wrenching” faith test with his son . . . now Sarah dies .. . . and a little later, Isaac needs a wife. He is living in a place where the people are friendly, but do not share in or have the faith journey that Abraham has been living.
When you stop to think about it, you and I are living in a similar “state of affairs”. If we have been following Jesus for 1 or 50 years . . . or if you are reading this and are still making up your mind about the prospect of following Him . . . We all have our own “ups and downs” in life. We have our moments when faith may be strong and other times when we wonder . . . or wander . . . or struggle. We all face significant and signature moments in our life, that require “signature” choices. We may live in a harmonious way with the people we encounter every day. Do we just do what everyone else does or is there another “path” that will serve us better, today, and for the long term?
Abraham deals differently with burying Sarah than the locals. He doesn’t withdraw, but refuses to accept their generous offer to bury her in their “family tombs”. Why? He has a uniquely different view of life . . . and death. The culture viewed death and the afterlife as a departure from this life to live with their ancestors. He engaged with his neighbors without speaking negatively about their differing beliefs. Abraham respectfully requested that he be allowed to purchase the place where he would bury Sarah. It is not the purpose here to detail the differences between Abraham’s beliefs in God as compared to those around him. It is not the specifics of the differences that are the issue here. It is that Abraham knew that he and his family had been uniquely “set apart” to bless others. That blessing was not experienced in conforming to the surrounding “Normal” or being a “snapchat” moment of sameness. Even in death, he knew his journey was different. He “dared to be different” as the whole community watched. It was a “Facebook” memorable life event.
The next significant life choice was finding a wife for his son Isaac. He instructed his servant not to get a wife from the Canaanites, but to go to his family of origin and bring a wife back to where he now lived. Specific instructions were given, not to take Isaac back to the family, but a girl from there should be willing to come to where Isaac was. In Abraham’s heart and mind, he had determined . . . my family and our legacy is not conforming to the culture around us or even to go back to where I came from.
In our day, some believe that if marriage is one of tolerance, then we can live together in our differences . . . we can agree to disagree and easily cohabitate, but marriage is not simply a matter of agreeing to cohabitate and agreeing to disagree.
Marriage is a covenant . . . “a living promise” . . . where two become one . . . in God’s eyes, “a new life form” . . . one hope . . . one purpose . . . one direction . . . one mind . . . one God!!!
Back to the story. . . Abraham told his servant “He (God) will send His angel before you so that you can get a wife for my son from there.” His servant had been with Abraham long enough to “catch his faith”. He prayed when he arrived in that distant place. “Oh Lord, God of my master Abraham, give me success today . . .” He got specific. “May it be that when I say to a girl, Please let down your jar that I may have a drink, and she says, Drink, and I’ll water your camels too - - let her be the one you have chosen for your servant Isaac. By this I will know that you have shown kindness to my master Abraham.”
Before he finished praying, a girl came to the well . . . she did exactly what he had detailed in the prayer . . . and in addition, it turned out . . . she was from Abraham’s family line . . . she agreed to come back with the servant . . . she became Isaacs wife. Again we see . . . Abraham’s journey is a “God Story”, not an “Abraham Story” His choices here, demonstrate that his walk with God chooses differently than the people around him in ways that separate him from the crowd. But it is a difference energized by faith . . . what God is doing for him. It is the active, energizing, influencing, Love of God that has led to “life transformation”.
In death in life I’m confident and
Cover’d by the power of your great love
Higher than the mountains that I face
Stronger than the power of the grave
Constant in the trial and the change
On and on and on and on and on it goes
It overwhelms and satisfies my soul
And I never ever have to be afraid
One thing remains
One thing remains
Your love never fails
It never gives up
Never runs out on me
That’s the love that surrounds all of us . . . has done all that is required to bring us to Him . . . is working in us . . . will finish what He started in us. If anyone asks you? I’m In!! I believe you are too. Let’s bring others with us!!!
David W Imler
Director of Ministries
|Posted by [email protected] on October 17, 2015 at 5:15 PM||comments (0)|
“Abraham!” . . . “Here I am.” . . . “Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.” This brief exchange took place between God and Abraham sometime after Abraham sent Ishmael away with Hagar into the desert. God had given him direction to let go of Ishmael and let Him look after him. That was really hard . . . now this!!
“God how could you . . .?” That’s a question I could see myself asking, if I were put in the same situation. Now . . . you and I have the end of the story, but Abraham didn’t, at this point.
What was Abraham’s response? The next morning, he loaded up the SUV, donkey, I mean, with wood . . . took two servants and his son Isaac . . . cut wood for burnt offering and set out for the place God told him about. Just like that!!! WHY?
Some have said, he trusted God so much by this point is his life that he believed God could not only raise Isaac from the dead, but would even bring him back from the ashes of a burnt sacrifice. God did tell Abraham, “it is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” Maybe that’s true . . . maybe Abraham had developed such a dynamic faith that he was seeing beyond the trauma of sacrifice to the “sign and wonder” it would be to see his son “on the other side” of a traumatic event . . . alive, restored and with him for the rest of his life. Hebrews 11:19 does give part of that interpretation. However, an interpretation that measures the “stature” of his faith, says more about what we want faith to be for us than it does about what God had in mind. God said . . . “all the nations of the earth will be blessed because you have obeyed me.” Genesis 22:18
But let’s get back to the story . . . he traveled three days; looked up and saw the place from a distance. Told the servants to stay there . . . “while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.” Abraham took the wood and placed it on his son Isaac and he carried the fire and the knife. “As the two of them went on together, Isaac spoke up and said to his father, ‘Father? The fire and wood is here, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering? Abraham answered. God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering my son.”
Talk about a “trust walk. “They arrived at the place, God told him about. Abraham built the alter there . . . arranged the wood on it” . . . and here’s that unimaginable part . . . “he bound his son Isaac” . . . I can’t get my head or my heart around this even though I know the outcome . . . “and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood” . . . my insides cringe at the image of this . . . and then it gets worse . . . “then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son.” The imagery here is almost unbearable for me. I’m seeing and feeling as though that was one of my sons. What is in Abraham’s heart and mind . . . and what about Isaac? It’s is here that the question . . . “God how could you . . .?” screams the loudest. But let’s come back to that in a moment.
It is here at this “crisis moment”, the Angel of the Lord calls out from heaven . . . “Abraham! Abraham! . . . Do not lay a hand on the boy . . . do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.” I can only imagine the moment . . . The long exhaling sigh with eyes closed; then opening . . . to see a ram caught in the “thicket”. “Abraham grabbed the ram by the horns and sacrificed it on the altar.”
Let me add one more caveat . . . historians say Isaac was in his early 30’s when this took place. Two consenting adults are involved here. No modern era critic “child abuse” claims are valid
Let me reach forward in time . . . maybe this begins to answer the question . . . about 1,904 years later a cry went up from a high place about a half mile from this very spot . . . “My God, my God why hast thou forsaken me!” It came from God’s own . . . only begotten Son hanging by nails and crowned with thorns. Yes, you got it . . . God, how could you . . .? Had God forsaken His only begotten Son? No . . . but for the first time Jesus . . . God’s Son was experiencing the separation from God that sin brings. There . . . “we considered him stricken by God, smitten by Him, but He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities, the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him and by His wounds we are healed.” Isaiah 53:5 (NIV)
God how could you . . .? is answered . . . because He loved us . . . When we read the story of Abraham being tested . . . God knew the outcome . . . but He also knew . . . what He would do Himself on that very mountain. He led Abraham and Isaac on a journey that “pointed” to a future day . . . The Apostle Paul tells us in Ephesians 1:4-12 (The Message)
“4 Long before he laid down earth's foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love. 5 Long, long ago he decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ. (What pleasure he took in planning this!) 6 He wanted us to enter into the celebration of his lavish gift-giving by the hand of his beloved Son.
7 Because of the sacrifice of the Messiah, his blood poured out on the altar of the Cross, we're a free people - free of penalties and punishments chalked up by all our misdeeds. And not just barely free, either. Abundantly free!
8 He thought of everything, provided for everything we could possibly need, 9 letting us in on the plans he took such delight in making. He set it all out before us in Christ, 10 a long-range plan in which everything would be brought together and summed up in him, everything in deepest heaven, everything on planet earth.
11 It's in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, 12 part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone.”
Every time we take communion, we remember Jesus. He is . . . He was from the beginning of time . . . and will be till the end of time . . . God’s Love revealed . . . given to us and to every man, woman, boy and girl in Lillian, Elberta, Pensacola, Baldwin County . . . We have Good News . . . They are Loved . . . Let’s tell them and let them believe and receive.
David W Imler
Director of Ministries