Stand

Ephesians 6:10-17 (NASB) ‘Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth , and having put on the breastplate of righteousness , and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace ; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation , and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. ‘ 

 

Attacks will come to us from and endless number of directions and in an endless number of forms.  They come in the form of physical ailments, disease, injury and the degradation of age.  They come in the form of financial distress.  They come in the form of loss or suffering of loved ones.  The attacks materialize in the form of distressed, damaged and lost relationships.  Attacks can come in the form of injustice, lies, malicious intentions, selfish and wicked intentions by others.  The point is, attacks take many forms, and it is often so very hard to bare.  It can be very hard to reconcile the “why”.  No body wants to experience them, or see others that they care about have to bare them.  

The thing to remember is that the attacks are nothing more than an attempt by satan to derail you, your faith and your ability to serve God and the kingdom in the manner in which He would have you serve and represent Him.  It’s very easy to lose sight of Him in the midst of the storm.  It’s very easy to fall into despair, perhaps even doubt God or His love for you.  That’s satan’s goal, to render you ineffective.  

I believe as we grow more resolute in our faith, more focused on the Lord, the attacks often times intensify.  For it is within these storms that the opportunity to provide our most compelling witness to the power, glory and sovereignty of God.  How we walk through these storms, showing the world our willingness to trust God and relinquish all on faith to Him, carries tremendous weight.

In order to do this, however, our focus must be on Him, not ourselves or our circumstance.  We live this out by being firmly grounded in His word, devoting time every day to the study of scripture.  We must equip ourselves with the full arsenal God has made available to us.  We must spend time every day, intentionally devoted to conversing with, praying to and worshiping the Lord.  When we dedicate to do this, only then will we recognize the attacks for what they are, and be able to “stand”  when the time calls.  Have a blessed weekend.

In full pursuit of the greatest Trophy,

Scott Pace

Who’s the Boss?

Have you ever come up with a bright idea of a new way to accomplish a task and decided to run it by the boss?  If you are fortunate, the boss says ‘sure, give it a try’ and then the idea fails miserably.  Or maybe you are the boss, or think you are, and the same thing happens.  How many second chances of trying the same thing do you think you should take?  How many trials would the boss give you before you are told, ‘go back to the way we know that works!’  Probably no more than a couple times before you are demoted or tapped on the head and told get back to work, otherwise you have a very forgiving boss.  Sometimes the boss knows best and following orders is best for everyone.  Sometimes you quit and try to do things your own way  instead of taking orders with which you don’t agree.  Sooner or later, you figure it out.  When have you ever gone against what you have been told to do?

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.  James 4:10

If you have a good boss, or employee, or wife, or anyone else you have offended, or told off in the past, only to realize that they were right in the first place, then you either have to pretend that you were right, or admit your mistake and one way or another, ask for forgiveness.  Because if they are not very forgiving, and many are not, then they will likely tell you to get lost.  We don’t always get it right every time, and having others around us who are willing to be a little gracious to us and others is important in life.  When we are more gracious and forgiving toward others, they tend to be so toward us as well.  When we are harsh and rigid, others act the same way toward us, and we see the consequences. 

Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.  The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.  The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.  Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.  Romans 8:5-8

When God gave us rules, plans and procedures to follow, it was not just for our own benefit, but for the benefit of others as well.  It is also for the benefit and reputation of our team and the company we work for.  When we are God’s children, we represent Him and everyone else in the company and ‘the church’ as well.  He gives us the guideline of laying down our lives and letting his Spirit guide our steps in all we do in accordance with His will.  Its not always an easy thing to do, as it fights against our selfish nature, but when we practice it more and more, it shows in our lives.  When we go against God’s law and His guidance for our lives, it negatively impacts Him, us, and those around us.  Thankfully, when we humble ourselves and seek forgiveness, he allows us a second, third, and fourth chance to try to get it right.  Where is He giving you that chance today? 

 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.   Galatians 2:20

Yours in Christ,
Clark

 

Chase the Lion Part 2

When I was in 7th grade I went out for wrestling.  I was terrible!  I remember my first match, I was going as hard as I could and was winning.  I was looking at my coach for help and I remember him just laughing at me.  That season, a kid named Cody from my church went out for the team.  He was worse than me.  He went to my church and our moms were friends.  So my mom would have him over to hang out with me.  In the hallways at school he would put his arm around me and announce to the whole hallway full of middle schoolers that I was his best friend.  One day at the end of practice, the other wrestlers started making fun of him.  They were so cruel.  Cody looks at me looking for some defence.  I took the cowards way and join in the making fun.  I can still see the look on his face as his “best friend” humiliated him.

2 Samuel 23:20 Another time, on a snowy day, he chased a lion down into a pit and killed it. (emphasis added)

In a pit- Defining moments often happen in enemy territory

Benaiah has to go into the pit to face the lion.  The pit is the lions home, for Benaiah this is enemy territory. I was on a wrestling mat with my character on the line.  For you it is at school, at work, at the party, or alone at a computer.  These defining moments rarely happen at church.  The lion you face is not a 500 pound predator. It is not even a person though often it all feel that way.

Ephesians 6:12 For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.

Your lion might look like addiction, or lust, or lying, or depression, or fear, or many other things.  The hard thing about facing those lions is your do not know what to hit at. If you are facing a lion you better go with a gun in 2018 or a spear in 2000 BC. When you look at a physical enemy you can know how to kill it.  But when it is unseen, it can feel like punching at the air. It is easy to feel stuck or defeated.  

So how do you go into enemy territory when you can’t see your enemy?  You build yourself up in the Word of God. You spend time in prayer asking God to give you victory. You show love.  You forgive. You confess your sin to God and to other people. You bring the things hidden in the darkness and bring them to the light.  The hope that we share because of Christ, is that when we do those things the enemy flees and victory purchased by the resurrected Christ avails. 

So today…  FIGHT! Find the Freedom you were freely given.  You are NOT too far gone, you have NOT sinned to greatly, your hopelessness is NOT too deep. You are deeply loved, highly favored by the Creator.  Go to Him and find freedom.

Recklessly, obsessively following Jesus

Brandon Sereg

Red Letters: Judged in our Place

I’ve recently found myself defending the idea of lent, as it has a number of negative connotations in Nicaragua. I believe Lent is important because it is a time to prepare for celebrating the greatest gift we have ever received: the sacrificial death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The events of Good Friday and Easter are so important that it’s not enough to celebrate them for only a day or two. As we head into Easter, I want to encourage us to spend time preparing to celebrate the atoning death and victorious resurrection of Christ Jesus. In my devotions during this season I’m going to focus on the final words of Jesus on the Cross, as I feel reflecting on them will help us begin grasping the greatness of the gift Jesus’ has mercifully given us. 

The first phrase I want us to reflect on comes from Matthew 27:46:

And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

We can get hung up here on why Jesus would ask this question. Let me offer two possibilities. First, Jesus was actually experiencing pain on the cross. Yes, Jesus was God in human form, but he could also experience pain and suffering. His crying out shows that he actually suffered on our behalf. Second, the question he asked is (in my opinion) as much for us as it was for God. Why did Jesus have to die? Allow me to explain in the form of a story (which I long ago borrowed from a source I can no longer remember). 

Imagine you have come to the end of your life and you awake to find yourself being taken into a giant celestial courtroom. You’re seated at the defense table, while to one side of you is an impeccably dressed prosecutor. Over many days this prosecutor describes each and every one of your sins, leaving not the slightest misstep unmentioned.  As the hours and days drag on you become ever more hopeless, realizing that you are indeed guilty of each and every sin you are accused of. After days of accusations, the prosecutor rests his case, and the judge raises his gavel to make his decision. He quickly and authoritatively declares you guilty. But then something strange happens. The judge steps down from his podium and walks towards you. He rather forcefully pushes you out of the way and declares “this person is guilty, but I will take their punishment.” He then turns to you, points towards heaven, and says “child, you are now free to enjoy eternity in my Father’s House.” 

Why did Jesus have to die? Because only the judge can be judged for the sins of the world. Jesus is the Judge who is judged in our place. He alone can judge the world, and He chooses to step in and take our punishment because of His love and grace. Thanks be to Christ, who loving chooses to be judged in our place. 

 

The Assignment

1 Corinthians 7:17 New International Version (NIV)

Concerning Change of Status

17 Nevertheless, each person should live as a believer in whatever situation the Lord has assigned to them, just as God has called them. This is the rule I lay down in all the churches.

Have you ever had a week that changed choices, decisions, or trajectory? Some of those changes can come from illness, a relationship, or something in the workplace.

This past week created a change in the trajectory of my life. I had three jobs I was doing. I was a pastor in a church. I participated in my own company. I fit Vital Ministries in between. I wore many hats.

Then my crucible moment happened. I stand back and see God’s hand in all of it. I made a choice to step away from one of the three. I am going back to God’s original assignment that he has for me. I am devoting my energy to Vital Ministries and my company. I will be among the people where I find my passion and energy. 

God has shown me so much in the past 5 years of being an associate pastor and through this I have learned so much about how God made me and what he has for me. I look  so forward to stepping back into my original call. I have freedom knowing who I am in Christ. We all have a call to minister wherever we are in life.

I believe that Vital Ministries is going to recharge and reshape and will take on a new life in raising men in strength and courage. It is an honor to serve and lead in Vital Ministries.

Strength and Courage

Michael

 

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