I’m Not Alone

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My Musings – Although our troubles are temporary, while we are in them, we all have a tendency to be consumed by them.  We fix our eyes on them.  We can hardly focus on anything else.  Yet because we are in Christ, if we fix our eyes on Him, things can be different.  Hard pressed but not crushed.  Perplexed but not in despair. Persecuted but not abandoned.  Struck down but not destroyed.  Wasting away but being renewed.  With the proper focus we can see the all sufficient grace of God while still in the midst of what is pressing against us, perplexing us, persecuting us, or striking us down.

My Advice – In the less than memorable movie Noah’s Ark, starring Russel Crowe, there is one brief exchange between Noah and Tubal-Cain that I do remember quite well.

Tubal-Cain (menacingly):  “I have men at my back, and you stand alone and defy me?”

Noah (matter-of-factly):  “I’m not alone.”

Remember, no matter how desperate the situation, if you are in Christ you are never alone.  Fix your eyes on Him, not the situation.

My Fab Four

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My Musings – In many situations, the pastor needs to be a Bible teacher, accountant, strategist, visionary, computer tech, counselor, public speaker, worship director, prayer warrior, mentor, leadership trainer and fundraiser. (Philip Wagner, Lead Pastor of Oasis Church in Los Angeles).  Appreciate your pastor(s).

Today I am celebrating the “Fab Four” at my Church.  Two (Steve and Bill) have blessed me for years.  One, I watched grow up (Nate), not realizing then what a blessing he would become.  The last (Kevin), I served on the pulpit committee to bring him to our Church.  Actually, we did not bring him, God sent him, and I am learning to appreciate him too.

They will likely never become famous, as the world regards fame.  And goodness knows they’ll never get rich , as the world regards prosperity.  But these few words are what they hope to hear one day – “well done, good and faithful servant!”  In the meantime, let’s be a source of encouragement and appreciation.

“[He] loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah!  It’s you [He’s] thinking of, and you know that can’t be bad.”

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KEVIN RUTLEDGE, LEAD TEACHING PASTOR (upper left)
Kevin has a Bachelor’s in Biblical Studies, an MA in Theology, and nearly twenty years of ministry experience. His latest adventure involved starting a new church in a city with the lowest percentage of Bible-believing Christians in the United States. He adores his wife and four kids, who have served God together with him as a family. Kevin is passionate about God and His Word, and genuinely loves people. So, he lives to see people connect deeply with God through the love and amazing grace of Christ. Kevin and his wife, Sundi, have 4 children: Ryleigh, Zander, Lily and Canon.

NATE MILLER, PASTOR OF WORSHIP & TEACHING (upper right)
Pastor Nate Miller is the Associate Pastor of Worship & Teaching. Nate is a graduate of Judson University with a degree in youth ministry/adolescent studies. He is a native of Sycamore and has attended FBC since the first week his parents brought him home from the hospital. Nate’s first foray into the wild world of youth ministry came as a high school junior when Pastor Bill gave him a chance to lead the junior high youth group.

STEVE PERSSON, PASTOR-AT-LARGE (lower left)
Pastor Steve Persson is a graduate of Moody Bible Institute, Northern Illinois University, and Wheaton College Graduate School. He has served at FBC since 1974 – first as a youth pastor, then spending one year in the Philippines as a missionary, and as senior pastor since 1981. He and wife, Jaime, have 6 children: Leah (Noel), Hannah, Deborah (Keenan), Luke, Mark (Michelle) and Matthew. They are the proud grandparents of a grandson, Noel George, and a granddaughter, Karis.

BILL BADAL, PASTOR EMERITUS (lower right)
Pastor Bill is retired, but remains with us in an emeritus role. Bill moved to the United States in his early teens, having grown up in a Christian home in Baghdad, Iraq. He received his Bible training at Moody extension school. Bill and his wife, Michele, have 2 sons: Joel (Lisa) and Tim (Amanda), and they are the proud grandparents of 8 grandchildren: Noah, Joshua, Luke, Rebekah, Jacoub, Matthew, Lydia and JoAnna.

We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thessalonians 1:3, NIV 1984).

My Advice – Appreciate your pastors.  They carry burdens that we could never understand.  Respect them and hold them in highest regard. “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” (John F. Kennedy).  This is the best way to honor them, by living by the words they have proclaimed from the pulpit.

Spiritual Investments

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My Musings – Such is Paul’s description of two of his disciples. People he had invested his life in.  In his early ministry, Barnabas had risked his reputation and took this former persecutor of the Church under his wing and ministered with him.  Paul, in turn, invested in the lives of others.  When He could not go, he sent these two.  They had been mentored, now it was their turn to “pay it forward.”  And it’s been going on just like this for nearly 2,000 years.

In the above passage, Paul described the product of discipleship (genuine, proven, service, fellowship, commitment).  In 2 Timothy 2:2, Paul described the process of discipleship.  “You then, [Timothy] my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.”  (2 Timothy 2:2, NIV 1984).

But we should never think that it is only a one-way street.  Near the end of his ministry Paul summoned another of his disciples.  One who stumbled early on and for a time was cast away by Paul.  “Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry.” (2 Timothy 4:11, NIV 1984). One who Paul once considered not helpful at all was now considered helpful.  Once considered a bad investment, now an investment paying dividends.  Investing in others and letting others invest in us.  Iron sharpening iron.

My Advice – Grow in Christ by letting others help you and helping others do the same.  It’s proven pattern.

Today’s musing was inspired by Pastor Nate Miller’s sermon on October 13, 2019. Check it out at https://www.fbcsycamore.com/sermons. If you live in or are visiting the area, come and join us Sundays at 10:30 a.m. We’d love to be partners in the Gospel with you too.

Where Can I Go?

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My Musings – I see two possible reactions to this – Indescribable peace for those who are resting in Him and uncontrollable anxiety for those who are resisting Him.  We are either relieved by His ever-present watchfulness over us, or disquieted for our inability to escape His presence.  Comfort or conviction.  Nothing to fear or everything to fear.  Love or loathing.  There is no neutral ground of indifference.

My Advice – Seek peace, rest, relief, comfort and love.  Perfect love drives out fear.

Find The One Thing

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My Musings – “Do you know what the secret of life is? One thing. Just one thing. You stick to that and the rest don’t mean %@$&*!.” This quote is known as Curly’s Law, from the movie “City Slickers.”  Curly is a hardened and grizzled cowboy leading a trail drive for urban “city slicker” cowboys on vacation.  When asked what that one thing is, Curly smiles (probably the only time he smiled in the movie – I don’t remember for sure) and says, ” That’s what you have to find out.”

Paul found out. “But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14).  What was behind?  Originally, a life obsessed with persecuting Christians.   What lay a head?  His reward.  Such a prize, such a reward for faithful service to Christ that Paul considered that “to die is gain.

In between “what is behind” that Paul was forgetting and the prize that Paul was “straining toward” lay another obsession of “fruitful labor.”  But it came with a cost. “I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.” (2 Corinthians 11:23-28).  Ahead of all this was chains and martyrdom.

But He stuck to his obsession with “the one thing,” because he considered everything else “a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.” (Philippians 3:8, NIV 1984).  All of these things (imprisonment, floggings, beatings, stonings…) could have been “stopping stones.”  Instead, Paul used each one as a “stepping stone” “of sharing in [Christ’s] sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.” (Philippians 3:10-11).

All of these things that happened to Paul “served to advance the Gospel” and encouraged many others “to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly” from the first century until now.

My Advice – Your “one thing” can only be found in “one person.”  “That’s what you have to find out.”  Be obsessed until you find Him, and once you find Him, be obsessed with serving to advance the Gospel more courageously and fearlessly.  The cost of these obsessions might seem too high, but Paul also said, “therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles [yes, he really said light and momentary] are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”  (2 Corinthians 4:16-18, NIV 1984).

For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21, NIV 1984).

Today’s musing was inspired by Pastor Kevin Rutledge’s sermon “Fueled Relationships” on September 15, 2019. Check it out at https://www.fbcsycamore.com/sermons. If you live in or are visiting the area, come and join us Sundays at 10:30 a.m. We’d love to be partners in the Gospel with you too.

 

 

 

 

In My Life, I Loved Him So

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My Musings – The above picture was taken three years ago today.  We had gotten dad into DeKalb County rehab for what we thought would be a short stint to get his strength back.  His heart condition had been worsening, but we had no idea how near the end was.  He looked pretty good that day, but my dad died from heart failure on September 15th, less than three weeks later.  The man who used to carry me on his shoulders, was carried away by the Angels to his reward.

In My Life
The Beatles

There are places I’ll remember
All my life though some have changed.
Some forever not for better
Some have gone and some remain.

All these places had their moments
With [family] and friends I still can recall.
Some are dead and some are living
In my life I’ve loved them all.

But of all these friends and [family]
There [are few who] compares with you.
And these memories lose their meaning
When I think of love as something new.

Though I know I’ll never lose affection
For people and things that went before.
I know I’ll often stop and think about them
In my life I love you [still].

Songwriters: John Lennon, Paul McCartney
© Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC
For non-commercial use only.

One of my favorite Beatles’ songs.  The lyrics move me.  “In my life” I can recall many male roles models that have helped shape my life.  But Dad, there is no male role model that “compares with you.”  We often “stop and think about” you.  The void left by your passing can never be filled. Gone, but never forgotten, and we’ll “never lose affection.”

Time has allowed the grief to dull a bit, but not completely.  But we do not “grieve like the rest of men who have no hope.”  For “according to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words.” (1 Thessalonians 4:15–18, NIV 1984).

My Advice – We are encouraged by these words. My wish for you is that you share the same hope.  If so, be encouraged.  If not, you can share in this blessed hope by believing and receiving Jesus Christ as you personal Savior.  My series of musings on “The Born Again Experience” (see archives) can show you how.

For an inspiring version of the above song, google  “In My Life” by Selah.  It will give you chills.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Two Powers

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My Musings – “It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger, they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass.”  (Sam Gamgee, The Two Towers, by J. R. R. Tolkien).

All the great stories are full of darkness and danger.  Good pitted against evil. Suspense over which would prevail, as they were equally balanced against each other so that the outcome balanced on the edge of a razor.  Good did not always triumph.  Evil was never fully vanquished – only for a season before it took shape once again.

What about our great story?  In these “last days” as the darkness grows, “how could our end be happy?”  “How [can] the world go back the to the way it was, when so much bad [is yet to come]?” It cannot.  But that does not mean evil wins. Evil has been doomed from the beginning. Even though very powerful, it “will be [overthrown] by the breath of His [Jesus’] mouth and [destroyed] by the splendor of His coming.”   “In the end, it’s only a passing thing.  Even darkness must pass.” Because light always extinguishes darkness, chasing away even shadows.  Darkness cannot dispel light.  With all the power this “tower” of darkness has, it does not have that power.

My Advice – There stands two towers.  You must swear allegiance to one or the other.  No choice is a choice for the tower of the prince of this world.  As we’ve seen, his time is short.  In the end, he is the one who loses.  That end has never been in doubt.  Wouldn’t you rather stand with the tower in God’s Kingdom?  Choose Christ and His Kingdom of Righteousness.  It’s coming.  He’s coming.  Can’t you hear the trumpet sounding?  Can’t you hear the shout of the Arch Angel?  Look to His coming, look to the east for “The Return of the King.”  It won’t be much longer now.  It is sooner now than when we first believed.  “Amen, come Lord Jesus!