Sunday, February 24, 2008

Courageous Dependence

What God wants from us is dependent trust. But not blind trust.

Ezra, looking out toward the west from the Ahava Canal, did not step blindly in the direction of Jerusalem, walking off to an unknown precarious future. The journey ahead would be hard and full of peril, but God had already laid a foundation for trust. Read through Zechariah 8 (NIV):

Again the word of the LORD Almighty came to me. This is what the LORD Almighty says: "I am very jealous for Zion; I am burning with jealousy for her."

This is what the LORD says: "I will return to Zion and dwell in Jerusalem. Then Jerusalem will be called the City of Truth, and the mountain of the LORD Almighty will be called the Holy Mountain."

This is what the LORD Almighty says: "Once again men and women of ripe old age will sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each with cane in hand because of his age. The city streets will be filled with boys and girls playing there."

This is what the LORD Almighty says: "It may seem marvelous to the remnant of this people at that time, but will it seem marvelous to me?" declares the LORD Almighty.

This is what the LORD Almighty says: "I will save my people from the countries of the east and the west. I will bring them back to live in Jerusalem; they will be my people, and I will be faithful and righteous to them as their God."

This is what the LORD Almighty says: "You who now hear these words spoken by the prophets who were there when the foundation was laid for the house of the LORD Almighty, let your hands be strong so that the temple may be built. Before that time there were no wages for man or beast. No one could go about his business safely because of his enemy, for I had turned every man against his neighbor. But now I will not deal with the remnant of this people as I did in the past," declares the LORD Almighty.

"The seed will grow well, the vine will yield its fruit, the ground will produce its crops, and the heavens will drop their dew. I will give all these things as an inheritance to the remnant of this people. As you have been an object of cursing among the nations, O Judah and Israel, so will I save you, and you will be a blessing. Do not be afraid, but let your hands be strong."

This is what the LORD Almighty says: "Just as I had determined to bring disaster upon you and showed no pity when your fathers angered me," says the LORD Almighty, "so now I have determined to do good again to Jerusalem and Judah. Do not be afraid. These are the things you are to do: Speak the truth to each other, and render true and sound judgment in your courts; do not plot evil against your neighbor, and do not love to swear falsely. I hate all this," declares the LORD.

Again the word of the LORD Almighty came to me. This is what the LORD Almighty says: "The fasts of the fourth, fifth, seventh and tenth months will become joyful and glad occasions and happy festivals for Judah. Therefore love truth and peace."

This is what the LORD Almighty says: "Many peoples and the inhabitants of many cities will yet come, and the inhabitants of one city will go to another and say, 'Let us go at once to entreat the LORD and seek the LORD Almighty. I myself am going.' And many peoples and powerful nations will come to Jerusalem to seek the LORD Almighty and to entreat him."

This is what the LORD Almighty says: "In those days ten men from all languages and nations will take firm hold of one Jew by the hem of his robe and say, 'Let us go with you, because we have heard that God is with you.' "

How do we know we can trust him? Because he's given his word. What promises speak to you about well-placed dependence?

Next Sunday, we dig deep into Ezra and into our own spiritual identity. We'll be taking a strong, possibly painful look at holiness -- not the easy, breezy kind, but the holiness that makes you squirm.

Have fun fasting this week.

Pastor Ron

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Grace upon Grace

This morning as we got ready to hit the ice for church, Jon asked me, "What're you preaching about, Dad?"

"Grace," I said.

"I should have guessed! That's kind of your 'theme' isn't it? Grace?"

Oh yeah. That it is.

Here's one to talk about. If you come up with answers, please let me know.

Mankind was made to live best -- to thrive -- in an environment of grace. But because of The Fall, we would much rather dig out of our situation ourselves. God has never abandoned his original plans, and has provided a way, through the sacrifice of his own son, to provide the grace environment for us again.

As applies to church life, how can we create an environment of grace in which people can thrive? Can we? Have you ever been in a place of grace? Have you ever been in a church that provided that environment? How did it work?

Next week at GCF: We'll open up Ezra 8 and learn about Courageous Dependence.

Have a warm week.

Pastor Ron

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Facing the Opposition

On the way out of the building today someone asked the insightful question: So what are we supposed to do about Satan?

Always a good question, based on the evidence. He's always going to try to derail God's work, and he does not want God's plans in us to succeed. So what are we supposed to do?

The answer is alarmingly simple, but not easy.

Imagine walking through a dangerous jungle. Alone, you are vulnerable and open to attack. But if you take someone with you, you might be able to avoid harm. If you are accompanied by a guide who knows the jungle thoroughly, you're even better protected. If you're walking alongside someone who created the jungle, knows every path, every beast, every detail, and has the power over every circumstance you will ever face in the jungle, you can be quite confident and assured of safety. And if that's the case, it just makes sense to stay as close to that person as you possibly can.

So it is with Jesus. We could try to turn around and battle the enemy on our own, but that's not always going to work. Instead, it makes sense to stay as close as we can to Jesus, who has already been victorious over Satan, and trust in the safety of his love and power.

How has Satan caused discouragement in your life? How have you been able to deal with it?

Next Sunday, we'll be looking at Ezra 6: "The Ezra Method."

Enjoy your week.

Pastor Ron

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Celebrating With Joy


Have you been practicing your chedvah? Good.

"The joy of the Lord is my strength." How?

This joy that brings strength proves powerful when it springs up in a person. It is like a big wave when it multiplies through a group of people. Can you imagine this kind of joy invading Grace Christian Fellowship? Can you see what that could mean?

How does joy operate? How do we find it, grow it, share it, show it? How do we practice the joy that leads to strength?

Next week at GCF Sunday: Facing Off with Opposition from Ezra 4-5. Have a good rest of the week.

Pastor Ron