My Fab Four

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My Advice – 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.

Nor Could The Scroll Contain The Whole

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My Musings – If the cross is not enough to convince you of God’s love, and it should be, these verses should blow you away.  Friends may abandon you when you times are difficult and you are in need (trouble, hardship, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, sword – the list is not exhaustive).  But God won’t.

It’s not that these things won’t happen. They will.  But, He loved us before, He will love us “in,” and He will love us through them.  For “neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Sounds pretty all-inclusive to me!  No room for, “but what about this.”  There is no “this” that the above does not cover.  The only “fine print” is “anything else in all creation.”  That leaves only the Godhead (not in creation) as a possible exception.  But even “if we are faithless, He will remain faithful, for He cannot disown Himself.” (2 Timothy 2:13, NIV 1984).

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” Even that screams the incomprehensibility of God’s love for His children.  Not just conquerors (one who is victorious), more than conquerors.  How can one be more than a conqueror?  They cannot.  It merely underscores the fact that no love can be more than the love God has for us. Love does indeed conquer all, if it’s the love of God.

“Could we with ink the ocean fill, and were the skies of parchment made; were every stalk on earth a quill, and every man a scribe by trade;  To write the love of God above would drain the ocean dry; nor could the scroll contain the whole, though stretched from sky to sky.” (The Love of God ~ Frederick M. Lehman 1917).

My Advice – Don’t pass up this love.  No better deal will come around.  Now is the day of salvation.

 

 

 

In My Time

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My Musings – Coming soon, to a location near you.  We’ve been blessed in the United States.  Up until a generation or so ago, the rule of law and Judeo-Christian values were rarely in conflict, with the glaring and shameful exception of slavery.  The first amendment to the U.S. Constitution reads, in part, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”  A veritable two-way street; no imposition of a state religion and no impediment to the free exercise of a citizen’s religion of choice.

That may soon be coming to an end.  The cracks have been visible for quite some time now, and they are rapidly growing deeper and wider.  And if permitted to mix my metaphors, the handwriting is on the wall and our days may be numbered. On that day, and it may be soon, we may be joining our Christian brothers and sisters in certain third-world, communist and Muslim countries where the free exercise of our faith, or at least certain aspects of it, become illegal.  Even to the point of confiscation of property, imprisonment, or even death.  This should not surprise us. Jesus said we would be hated because of Him (Matthew 10:22).  But, “we must obey God rather than men!

My Advice – “I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.  “So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”   (J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring).  All we have to decide is,  do we “obey God rather than men?” “But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” (Joshua 24:15, NIV 1984).  Who’s with me?

 

But Even If He Does Not

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My Musings – “If you can?” My doubt rarely manifests itself  this way.  I am usually confident that God can, but I am not always confident that He will.  I don’t know if this is a worse kind of doubt or not.  Is it because I believe I am not worthy of God’s help?  Or is it because I acknowledge that God might have a higher purpose?  I wish I could say  it was a faith like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who facing the fiery furnace told King Nebuchadnezzar, “we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” (Daniel 3:16-18, NIV 1984).

My Advice – Let our faith be like the three Hebrew children – yes, God always can, but there may be times that He will not.  Even in those circumstances, let’s stand firm in the faith that God is sovereign and that it is not because He does not love us.  Sometimes He will remove us from it, whatever it may be, but there will be other times that He will take us through it.  It may be as dark as the “valley of the shadow of death,” or as threatening as the fiery furnance, but no matter what “thou art with me.”

 

This Little Light Of Mine

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My Musings – Today’s musing is inspired by Pastor Kevin Rutledge’s September 29, 2019 sermon.

As You Have Always Obeyed Me – “not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence.”  Obedience, when you are being watched, can be nothing more than compliance.  Obedience, when you think no one is watching, is called character.  Especially when it is “much more.”  Obedience, when you are being watched, demonstrates the ability to act.  Obedience, when you think no one is looking, demonstrates the will to act.

Continue To Work Out Your Salvation – “with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.”  At first glance a peculiar phrase, when you consider that salvation is by grace, through faith, not by works.  But that is with respect to the initial aspect of salvation – justification (born into righteous).  But just like in our physical life we work out to condition and build up our bodies, so in our spiritual  life we “work out” to condition and build up our faith.  This is the ongoing aspect of salvation – sanctification (growing in righteousness).  We are able to work out because God is working within, transforming us into the image of His Son.

Do Everything Without Complaining or Arguing – “so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation.”  Complaining and arguing are characteristics of a crooked and depraved generation.  Blameless, pure and without fault (by the grace of God) are characteristics of the children of God, as they work out their salvation.

Shine Like Stars – “in the universe as you hold out the word of life.”  Just like stars stand out in the vast darkness of space, we are to stand out in the vast darkness of a crooked and depraved world.  Noticeable different by our character, conduct and contrast.  A prefiguration of that final stage of salvation – glorification (revealing the glory of God in our eternal state).

My Advice – These are all aspects of the higher passion we should have to the higher purpose we have been given.  Do not “run or labor for nothing.”  Run with a passion.  Labor for the purpose.  “Conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.”

You can check out Pastor Kevin’s fullsermon 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.

Continue In Faith

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My Musings – So then, just how did we receive Christ?  Did we work for it?  No, that would be earning our salvation, like receiving wages.   The only “wages” we earn are for our sins.

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23, NIV 1984).

We may think that our sins are not that bad, at least not compared to some, but that would be the wrong comparison.

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”  (Romans 3:23–24, NIV 1984).

The correct measure, or standard, is God’s glory, and all have sinned, which means all fall short.  All means all.  No exceptions.

But there is a “flip side” to both of these passages.  “The gift of God is eternal life,” and “we are justified freely by His grace.”  The “gift” is “freely” given.  That is what makes it a gift and not a wage (something earned).

One does not earn a gift.  One receives a gift.  Which brings us back to the original question: just how did we receive Christ?

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”  Ephesians 2:8–10, NIV 1984).

By grace, through faith.  We received Him by faith, and that is how we are to “continue to live (walk) in Him.” We walk by faith.  We live out our faith.  As a result we are:

Rooted – To establish deeply and firmly.

Built Up – To develop in magnitude or extent.

Strengthened – To become stronger or more difficult to break.

We are established, developed and made stronger for a reason:  “created in Christ Jesus [born again] to do good works.”  This is where works come in.  They do not result in salvation, they are a result of salvation.

My Advice – If you have not received Him, put your faith in Him and receive His free gift: the forgiveness of sin and eternal life.  If you have already received, continue to live in him and walk by faith.

 

The One You Feed

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My Musings – Two Wolves is a Cherokee Indian legend that illustrates one of the most important battles of our lives – the one between our old self and old new self.  An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.  “It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.” He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”  The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”  The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

So, which wolf are we feeding? The “old corrupted deceitful desires,” or “a new attitude of righteousness and holiness?”  The sad reality is, if we do not feed the “new self“, the “old self” will prevail.  If we do not allow the Holy Spirit to feed us with “joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith,” then Satan will try to feed it with “anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.”

My Advice – Feed the good wolf.  For “the acts of the sinful nature [evil wolf] are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit [good wolf] is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”  (Galatians 5:19-23, NIV 1984).