Just or Only?

PGD-2020

Just or Only?

 

“We cannot all argue, but we can all pray; we cannot all be leaders, but we can all be pleaders; we cannot all be mighty in rhetoric, but we can all be prevalent in prayer.”  -C.H. Spurgeon

“In all circumstances take up the shield of faith…praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.”   -Ephesians 6:16,18

 

Frustration sets in when those we love make wrong decisions. It often leads to whacky turns down crazy avenue, and then they jump off oblivion bridge into a river of mistakes. Many times it gets worse as the aggravation segues into pain for us as we watch them wallow in misery. Pacing the floor with brooded faces, we ask ourselves, while shaking our heads, “Why did they do that?” Throwing our hands in the air, we may say out loud, “What were they thinking?”

Politics and the Pandemic also make for an unwanted irritation these days. We have been pushed to the limits of our emotional sanity and serenity. I’ve heard it more times than I care to know, “All we can do now is just pray.” Really? “Just” pray? When you repeat that excessive and contrived word, “just”, it reveals a critical spiritual flaw. It often sounds like prayer is our last resort. Prayer cannot be treated like the proverbial red-headed stepchild. Prayer should be serious business to us. I just (now that’s an accurate use of the word) don’t like it when we treat it frivolously. Let me just go ahead and say it…stop saying, “All we can do now is just pray.” Maybe the only thing we can do is pray, but not just pray.

There it is…there is a difference in just praying and only praying. Just conveys defeat or a flippant attitude, and maybe even non-belief. It signals a lack of faith in Christ and maturity in Him. Only praying elevates the urgency and sufficiency of our need in Christ and Christ alone. Aren’t Christians going to be shocked one day on the other side, in glory, that we possessed that overlooked ability to readily get in touch with Almighty God? So many are going to lament over the fact that the simple act of fervent prayer in our lives was way more important than the ability to preach before thousands. Yes, I believe there will be a certain remorse (even though I am sure there is no lament or remorse in heaven) that assuming a posture of bowing to God in silence and waiting upon Him was more essential to our lives than finding the exact right modern church with hopped up worship.

Prayer, for me, then becomes sacred…and it took me a long, long time to get to this point. When I say, “I pray for you”, that means your name is written in my prayer manual and I call out your name specifically before God. It’s sacred and serious to me these days because instead of chasing a dead-end dream of being the pastor of the coolest church in town, or being that pastor that is always at the hospital, or the pastor that sported the latest fashion while drinking Espresso with church members, I want to be known as the pastor that truly prayed for the flock he was watching. I desire to know everyone by name and be responsible to see them mature in Christ. And one more thing about prayer…it takes time, a lot of time. Time is a precious commodity, use it wisely…pray more.

 

Update: Keep praying! It’s the only way of life for Christ-followers. This may definitely be the week that we receive our permit to break ground. The Pandemic set us back a little, however, my prayer, and your prayer should be that we are in our new building by Christmas. Carpenters for Christ are still committed to come, but it may be August/September. While the world debates what’s right and wrong, let’s be faithful to our God by giving, serving, and loving. Peace…and have a Great Day, PGD.

 

 

Blessing or Curse?

PGD-2020

Blessing or Curse?

“The way to get through this world is to read the Bible, believe the Bible, pray over the Bible, live by the Bible…”   -J.C. Ryle

“See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse: the blessing, if you obey the commandments of the Lord your God, which I command you today, and the curse, if you do not obey the commandments of the Lord your God, but turn aside from the way that I am commanding you today, to go after other gods that you have not known.”  -Deuteronomy 11:26-28

 

I believe we live in a fallen world. We have disappointed our great Sovereign God by continually turning our attention to entertainment, sports, hobbies, and being wrapped up in selfish desires. These things gradually become gods to us. Little and false gods demand our time, attention, and more than likely our best efforts. The result is not so much our blatant defiance of God, rather our laziness and forgetfulness. Either way, we are, for the most part, living under the curse. It sounds horrible, but what else would you expect? Do you think we can just keep defying God and believe He is going to pile on more good stuff to our lives? Ludicrous!

There is this scene from the classic film, Cool Hand Luke, when the mean as heck warden, the “Captain” they called him, gives an unforgettable little speech. He was played by that great character actor, Strother Martin. In this one significant and memorable scene, he whips Luke Jackson (Paul Newman) for trying to escape. And he says,

“What we’ve got here is failure to communicate.

Some men, you just can’t reach. 

So you get what we had here last week — which is the way he wants it. 

Well, he gets it.”

            Understand, God communicates with us with crystal precision. Everything we need to know about transformation, to change to become more like Him is found in His Word – the Bible. The failure to communicate is NOT with God, it’s with us. As sinners, we do not communicate back our obedience. Why? Because we don’t obey! God simply desires that we listen to Him…and He speaks very loudly through his Bible.

God’s blessings accompany righteous living. Here’s another way to put it: God blesses those that live holy lives; listening to Him by reading His Holy Word – the Bible. What are His blessings? Chiefly, I believe the blessings of God start with a peace that He is in control of our lives no matter what assaults us today. Sickness, pain, disappointment, slander, and even death don’t bother the Christ-follower that lives in obedience and trust in God. Yes, I believe that God also directs good things to come our way. But I wholeheartedly believe the number one thing He wants to bless is our relationship with Him, and you can’t put a price tag on that. Neither can you attach a laundry list of toys, homes, and cars. God’s blessings come with a maturity in knowing Him and how He works in our lives every day. So, read, believe, pray and live by God’s Word, and you will see His blessings galore.

Update: Thank you for your gifts and tithes and offerings that you continue to give bountifully to the ministry and work at FRESH Church. This past Sunday, as we moved Fresh Forward to what God has for us next, we were blessed with a sweet spirit of hope and strength in the Lord. The two services will be here for a while it looks like, and I love it! We are pressing ahead with our plans to break ground soon. We may be a month or two behind now with Carpenters for Christ because of COVID-19, but no sweat, God is leading us. Continue to pray, remember I pray for you each and every day. It’s my pleasure and calling to shepherd you and I can’t go a day without calling our your name before our Great Shepherd. Peace…and have a Great Day, PGD.

 

 

 

Love or Hate?

PGD-2020

Love or Hate?

“True Christianity will cost a man the favor of the world. He must be content to be thought ill of by man if he pleases God. He must count it no strange thing to be mocked, ridiculed, slandered, persecuted and even hated.”  -J.C. Ryle

 

“Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.”  -John 15:20

 

What part of John 15:20 do we not understand? How in the world did we get to the point in 21st century American Christianity where church only exists to facilitate our selfish desire to be successful in the eyes of our peers? What wrong road did we take to end up thinking God is our magic genie in the bottle and by doing, giving, and serving we move up another rung on the ladder of prosperous and profitable living? We’ve done it so long we have caught up with our global position system technology. You know, when you are in some remote area and that Australian voice you have programmed into your GPS comes on and says, “Further directions cannot be provided at this time” or something like that? Some have been living a pseudo-relationship with Christ for so long that we have become more lost from our original profession of being lost without Christ!

How can anyone read the Bible and not have some very basic conclusions? Here they are: God is a Holy and Sovereign God …period. He will not condone sin, nor leave it unpunished, no matter what degree of seriousness you attach to it. He is slow to anger, quick with mercy and kindness, and has demonstrated His love for us by sending His only Son to die a cruel death on a tree, and then to be resurrected so that we can have forgiveness, freedom, and eternal life…when we repent and confess Christ. Here it is even more concise: Jesus Christ. Eternal God. Virgin Birth. Sinless life. Substitutionary death. Bodily Resurrection. Glorious Ascension. Sovereign Lord. Coming King. Final Judge. Amen.

It’s not a little prayer we pray that saves us. Incredibly, the unsaved person will believe anything and everything about God, who He is, where He came from, and His purpose in this solar system, except what the Bible says about Him. All that being said, get ready. Get ready? Yes, get ready to be hated on by this world if you do not conform to the daily changes of man towards this earth. Most think that as our universe evolves that we will get smarter, wiser, and more tolerant of each other therefore making our circumstances and living conditions a sort of utopia. Nothing is further from the truth. God created us and placed us in something better than a utopia, it was called the Garden of Eden…otherwise known as heaven on earth. Yet, it wasn’t good enough for us. Why? It wasn’t that we wanted to be like God, we wanted to be God!

True Christianity is giving up self and living for Jesus. Love isn’t a feeling…it’s giving, serving, and living. I don’t know of another religion or philosophy that says if you believe our tenets, you will be hated. The world hates that. Most people these days are mistakenly looking to be loved for how we think and live, and how to rise to the top of whatever charts. All of our belief is being shaped around living for ourselves and bettering ourselves and being successful. When you live your life like Jesus…forgiving others, truly loving others, giving all you have, serving with all your heart, bowing to the will of the Father, and I could go on and on…when you live like Jesus, you are going to be hated. Why? Jesus was hated. Mark it down. Don’t you find it interesting these days that we are looking for the perfect world leader and Jesus did everything perfectly, lived a perfect life, and was still mistreated unto death? If people think you are weird for being a Christian…then you are probably doing it right.

Update: Our building plans have been creeping along during the pandemic. We believe we are still on target to get Carpenters for Christ here in July…but the window of opportunity is closing quickly. Pray for the final paper and permission that says we can enter our land to clear it in preparation for erecting our first building. Thank you for giving. God has provided. He is providing…and He will surely provide for us! Peace…and have a Great Day, PGD.

A Change in Direction

PGD-2020 

A Change in Direction

 

            “If theology doesn’t change your behavior, it will never change your destiny.”  -C.H. Spurgeon

 

            “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body….”   -Philippians 3:20-21

 

You hear it all of the time, “I don’t like change.” The Christian life is synonymous with change…that is, change in a good way. Those in Christ are being sanctified. Sanctification is a fancy theological term for transformation…transformation is a big word for change. If you walk with Jesus, He will never leave you like He found you. Constant change, preparation in holiness for maturity in Christ, is why the Christ-follower is called. Change is the name of the Christian life, make no mistake about it. It is about leaving that old sinful self behind more and more. And, and…if you don’t change to be like Him, then your future, fate, and even heaven is out of the question.

We are all headed somewhere. My friend, Tom Fillinger, claims he has coined the term, “Directional Theology.” He says whatever you believe, whatever you believe about God, whether you believe in Him or not…it is leading you somewhere. I agree. If you believe in calling all your own shots in this life, then you will end up as a sum of those decisions. If you live for money, then you may have a huge stack of it when you die, but that’s as far as it’s taking you and as far as you take it. If you live for pleasure, entertainment, fun and indulgence, then you may see a lot, experience a lot, and even have a lot of happiness, but in the end, you aren’t full of anything that really counts. If you live for health, family, to make an impact or to make a positive contribution in this old world, then you missed the point of understanding God’s Word. It’s all about Him, and to come to Him means you desire and ask Him to reshape you, or to remake you, and to transform you. A.W. Tozer said, “God’s purpose in redemption is to make worshipers out of rebels.”

The gist of the Bible, in regard to us, is that we are rebels, and without God there is no cause or effect in this universe. The word “rebel” needs no more modification or definition… we all know what rebel means. It is resistance. Our natural sin nature causes us to resist Jesus, the Gospel, and holy living… yet it’s what He requires. Being a Christian doesn’t mean we start acting nice and doing good things, but because Christ changes our hearts, we must, we truly desire to start living for Him. It’s something we want to do. For those in Christ, you have a new heart, and we realize the depth of forgiveness, and know that without God’s mercy there is no way to escape sin and death. Just as it is natural for us to sin with a sin nature, those who follow Christ, naturally want to live for Him, and obey Him.

There is only One God, and everybody else. All other so-called gods demand that you do something to achieve the status of everlasting life, heaven, or a bright destiny. Only in Christ do we find that our God has done it all for us. When we know that, we begin to experience the transformation that He desires of us.

 

Update: Look for it…wait for it…we are going back to gathering together on Sunday, May 17th. We will go to two services, 9:30 and 11am. We will practice social distancing and cleanliness. Of course, we don’t know the future, but our God does, and we gladly serve Him even if it means risking. Peace, and have a Good Day, PGD

 

Tears & Fears

PGD-2020

Tears & Fears

 

“A Jesus who never wept could never wipe away my tears.”   -C.H. Spurgeon

 

“Jesus wept.”    -John 11:35

 

For the first 4-5 weeks of the great quarantine of 2020…everybody I knew seemed to be cruising right through this thing and doing okay. And then, like dominoes, I begin to see people tip over and fall into panic. My reading on this is that we, as self-sufficient Christ-followers, can handle just about anything life throws at us…for about a month. Yeah, we can fake our way through difficult times by saying, “With the help of God, and the prayers of many….”, but after that we are struggling to stay afloat on this sinking ship called life during COVID-19. The pain of it is evident in our words that reflect doubt, fear, and conversation void of Jesus.

I’ve said for weeks that this deadly global disease is good for the church. How? Well, I have a long list of reforms that will benefit the local church, however, that’s not the point of this little piece of literature. A more important question is: Apart from escaping the sickness and ultimate payoff of the Coronavirus, how is it good for the Believer, the Christian that is? I hope that it brings us to the point of tears because then and only then does it seem like we really wake up about the brevity of life and its purpose.

One main Bible passage often overlooked is the one immediately after the Jesus’ triumphal parade. It’s that scene of Jesus riding in on the foal through the Mount of Olives right before Passover and the people throw down their coats and palm branches out of reverence and worship for the Son of God. Yet, as soon as Jerusalem was in site, Jesus says these haunting words as He weeps, “If you (Jerusalem) had only recognized this day, and everything that was good for you! But now it’s too late. In the days ahead your enemies are going to bring up their heavy artillery and surround you, pressing in from every side. They’ll smash you and your babies on the pavement. Not one stone will be left intact. All this because you didn’t recognize and welcome God’s personal visit.”

            The words hard to digest are, “…But now it’s too late.” It’s not too late for you, it may be for some. It may be for some people…but it’s not for you because right now God speaks to you right where you are. He knows your hurts, habits, and hang-ups. He knows your pain, sorrow, and loss. He knows you doubt, daydream, and double-down on your resistance. Nevertheless, He loves you and He has cried over you and your sins.

The writer of the New Testament book of Hebrews captures Jesus’ heart right before He went to the Cross to die for our sins, “While he lived on earth, anticipating death, Jesus cried out in pain and wept in sorrow as he offered up priestly prayers to God” (Hebrews 5:7 – The Message)He knows your pain today and the secrets you have suppressed deep down. Because He got on His knees in that Garden and cried out to God on our behalf before He went to the Cross, we need to get on our knees today and cry out to Him to rescue us! Why? Because one day, the Revelation says, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4).

Yes, it may hurt today brother and sister in Christ, but one day there will be no more tears and no more pain…that should make you smile!

 

Update: Things are changing rapidly. We will tape on Thursday, April 30th at 6pm. I am going to preach to a group on the stage. If you would like to be a part of this worship time and the taping of the message this week…email me at gregdowey@gmail.com  I will give you the details and if it is possible to have over 10 in the meeting (depends on the Governor’s statement today).

 

 

                                                                       

 

Works, Sin, & Grace

PGD-2020

Works, Sin, & Grace

 

“Can one king be dethroned and another crowned in your soul, and you hear no scuffle?”  -William Gurnell

 

“For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.”   -Romans 6:14

 

Christians want to know when they are doing well. Yeah, we desire to know we are pleasing to God…so, we often slip into a “works” mentality. In other words, we begin to count the things we do for God, such as going to church, serving, praying, giving, feeding the hungry, ministering to the homeless or down and out, loving the unloved, etc. We count them as we count our stock or money in the bank, and every now and then when things are going tough for us and we don’t hear from God the way we want to hear, we open our spiritual checkbooks and try to prove our point to the Sovereign God. Our plea to God sounds like this, “God, I have been working for you, doesn’t that count for something?”It’s a “works” attitude. We are saying, “God, I rubbed your back, why don’t you rub mine? God, I helped you, why don’t you help me?”

Our response to God because He sent His Son to die on the Cross for us, should be to simply respond in love. God rescued me…as sinful as I was…so I need to love others with a forgiving heart. God loved me, I need to love others. But so many times we still live in this conditional mindset where we will do good things if the conditions are right. Which we find they rarely are. You see, I believe in the modern church’s haste to build a congregation, to build a budget, and to build a building, we have simply undermined the true Gospel. Pastors, teachers, and spiritual seekers have cheapened grace and we have a lot of unbelieving believers sitting in church today. People think they are Christians because they have done some paperwork, but they’ve never allowed God to do the heart work.

One way to know if you are pleasing to God is your hate for sin. Yes, Christians will sin, but you cannot stay there. True Christians hate sin. Repentance has to be an everyday thing because we live in a sinful world. Here’s a test: If you call yourself a Christian, and let’s say you sinned in some way today…and if you are comfortable or happy in that, it’s the first sign that you are not a Christ-follower. If you justify it by saying, “God will understand, or He knows me, or just one little sin won’t hurt”, then you are probably not a God-fearing believer. If you walk away from sin feeling and saying, “I hate I did that! I need to seek forgiveness” then you have a good understanding of a life of righteousness towards God. Or, if it just makes you sad, sick, angry, and have feelings of separation from God, then you have a healthy understanding of the holy life that God requires we live. God desires and requires holy living.

Here’s another way to know you are growing spiritually…John Owen, that incredible Puritan preacher of 400 years ago asked this question to give folks an indicator of growth in God: What does your mind default to? When your mind is idle, after a long day, after work, after play, after family time, what do you catch your mind thinking about? Owen said it’s a good gauge for spiritual formation. Understand, there is a constant battle for your mind, and the enemy attacks every day. You must put on the breastplate of righteousness to cover your heart. And believe me, you will hear the battle cries from both sides. Make sure you crown Christ as King in your life and not sin!

 

Update: God is good. His steadfast love endures forever, the Psalmist (136) says. Our giving and serving during this pandemic has been fantastic. We fed those in extreme need this week by collecting groceries and delivering them. Pray for two things: 1) A Student Minister (we are looking to hire someone to lead our teenagers and to grow a dynamic ministry). 2) The Building – we continue to plug away at the minutia and details of getting it off the ground. The enemy tries to scare us by the numbers and cost, but we fear only our God…and with Him we are fearless to this world.

Forgiveness or Forgetfulness

PGD-2020

Forgiveness or Forgetfulness

 

“It is in our forgiveness of other people’s sins against us that we reveal the fact that we have been truly forgiven by God.”  -Alistair Begg

 

“…but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”  -Matthew 6:15

 

You don’t have to be in financial prison and debt but just once to determine within yourself that you aren’t going back there…for nothing! The constant demand for payment wears on the mind and after a short while will break you down. More than 189 million Americans have credit cards. The average household debt excluding a home mortgage is $38k. Total consumer debt in America is close to 14 trillion dollars. And if you are late with a payment, then expect the phone to start ringing, the emails arriving, and the agony of thinking you will never catch up to start to build.

How does this continue to happen? We all know how much we make, and we all know you cannot live on more than you make. Yet, the lure of the stuff purchased on credit is too good to pass up for many. You can have it now, and pay for it later. The thing they don’t explain to you upon receiving of those items and goods is that the “pay” is going to cost you more than currency. It begins costing you sleep, health, and peace. In reality, if you are in debt, you have most likely arrived there because you chose to surpass your income bracket. You exceeded your wealth, and the painful payoff is the prison of guilt and agony of paying the price.

Sin, disobedience to God, breaking His commandments, and breaking His heart because we want to do our own thing is surpassing the boundaries. There is another name for it – trespassing. Before trespassing was a sign on private property preventing unlawful hunting, it was an apt description of our offense against God. The Bible says that everyone has encroached on God’s holiness and righteousness by acting flippantly in His presence and on His creation. The only answer is true forgiveness, the total erasing of that ugliness, and the expungement of the human heart. Jesus is the only answer. Jesus went to the Cross, and suffered and died for our sins. When we confess and turn around and follow Him, the record is wiped clean! We are forgiven.

I know many people who bask in the sunshine of the love of the Father and His promised forgiveness in His Son, Jesus Christ. However, I know many who claim it, but have no clue what it means…or they just forget. They are still holding someone’s trespass against them over their heads. They wallow in that pain because their pride of superiority won’t let them let go. They want revenge, restitution, and reverence to come to them. Their excuse is non-existent, but convenient forgetfulness abounds. Jesus says if that is the way you feel, then you don’t understand forgiveness. And if you don’t understand forgiveness, then you haven’t been forgiven yourself. If you are playing the forgiveness bill collector with people in your life, and holding their trespass against you over their heads, while demanding remuneration…watch out…watch out…because it really means you are not forgiven yourself! Forgive and you will be forgiven…it’s the only free way of life.

 

Update: We are praying that we will meet together again soon. If there ever was a time to commit to pray for our building on our property, it’s now! We can’t depend on anyone but God to see us through this process. Thank Him for what He is going to do in the days ahead, but pray today asking Him to do it! Join us this Sunday online again for God’s message to us about the church! Peace, PGD.

God is taking us deeper to take us farther!