Mind Control

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My Musings – No matter how “good” we were before we accepted Christ, there were certain things about that life that we need to leave behind.  A walk that we used to walk that we must rid ourselves of.  To do that we must set our mind on things “above,” on what the Spirit desires, not on what our sin nature desired in our past.  If we do not allow the Spirit to control our minds we will not be able to live an abundant Christian life, and our lives will lack peace.

It is interesting to note that the sin nature spills over into shameful outward acts, while the “Son” nature overflows with admirable inner qualities.  The former is characterized by the things we do, the latter is characterized by who we are.  The former may satisfy for a season, but the latter will last into the next life.

My Advice – The victorious Christian life is not about balancing the sin nature against the Son nature.  It is not enough that the scales tip more on the side of the Son.  We cannot continue to serve our sinful nature and expect to bear abundant fruit.  We cannot serve two masters.  Let’s make sure we are clinging to the Son by allowing the Spirit to control our minds and our hearts.

Surviving The Flames

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My Musings – There is no condemnation for those who have accepted Jesus Christ as their personal Savior (Romans 8:1), only commendation.   The only question is, what kind of commendation, what kind of reward? “Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” (Revelation 22:12–13, NIV 1984).  What we have done will be brought to light and tested by fire.  Will the quality (not necessarily quantity) of our service to Him be consumed, or will it survive into eternity?

My Advice – Work diligently for His Kingdom, so you will be able to hear these words from Him, “well done, good and faithful servant! Come and share your Master’s happiness!” (Matthew 25:23, NIV 1978).  Put your whole heart into it, “for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21, NIV 1978).  But the time is short and storm clouds gathering.  “As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work.” (John 9:3–4, NIV 1984).

 

 

 

Sow What?

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My Musings – God cannot be deceived.  We only deceive ourselves when we think we will not reap what we sow.  When we sow to please our sinful nature, our actions will obviously follow suit.  However, if we sow to please the Spirit, the fruit will likewise follow suit.  We cannot sow one thing and expect to reap something different.  Again, if that is our expectation we are only deceiving ourselves.

My Advice – We have been crucified with Christ.  What does that mean?  It means that we are dead to our sinful nature.   So why feed something that is already dead?

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.

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.”