Thursday, September 22, 2016

Malachi’s Message to the Church

This last book of the old Testament contains six messages from the heart of a pastor/prophet named Malachi. At the time when Malachi preached, the temple had been rebuilt, but it paled in comparison to Solomon’s temple which had previously been destroyed by the Babylonians. The priests  and Levites during Malachi’s time were apathetic and led the people into sin, not out of it. Worshipers offered inferior animals as sacrifices and neglected God’s requirements for tithes and offerings.
Malachi confronted a people given to religious cynicism, political skepticism, and spiritual disillusionment. They expected prosperity, and they expected the new covenant promised through Jeremiah, but the saw none of these things. In the minds of many, God had failed his people.
Malachi’s message was an attempt to motivate the people to conform to God’s plan. They could neither expect nor receive God’s covenant promises through all their disobedience and shameful acts of worship.
The first message to the people is that God has “always loved Israel.” (Malachi 1:2 NLT) He had not rejected them, but they had rejected Him. God had chosen them as His own people but they spurned His covenant love.
The second message to the people was aimed at the Levites and the priests sewing in the second temple. The worship of the Father and Lord of all was dishonoring and disrespectful to Him. They had defiled altars with tainted sacrifices disregarding thoughts of offering to Him the very best. Are the altars of the church today becoming disregarded as a place to connect people with a closer encounter with God?
The third message spoke to the husbands and wives to be true to their vows of marriage. He called them to stop being unfaithful to each other and to stop divorcing. He called for faithfulness to each other. (Malachi 2:14 NLT) “You cry out, ‘why doesn't the Lord accept my worship?’ I’ll tell you why! Because the Lord witnessed the vows you and your wife made when you were young. But you have been unfaithful to her, though she remained your faithful partner, the wife of your marriage vows.” Does the rate of increase of divorce among God’s people today have an effect upon the purity of worship in our lives?
The fourth message related to God’s justice for adultery, dishonesty, in business and social affairs. God will purify the leaders by refining them in order to bring purity to their hearts. (Malachi 3:3-5 NLT)
The fifth message emphasized God’s faithfulness to His word and called His people to faithfulness in worship, especially in the giving of tithes and offerings. (Malachi 3:8-11 NLT)
The final message spoke of God’s desire for Israel to be honest and faithful in worship, in view of the coming day of the Lord. (Malachi 3:16-18 NLT)

Monday, September 12, 2016

Why A Small Group?  It’s Scriptural.

As we study the first New Testament church in Acts we see 2 strategies they used. The first is Large Group gatherings for the purpose of corporate worship and instruction by spiritual leaders. The second is Small Group gatherings for the purpose of fellowship and discipleship. Both are important. We all need to gather for instruction and worship as the larger church family and we also need to be connected,  disciple others, and be discipled. I love how the Message translation states Matt 18 -19.  “God authorized and commanded me to commission you: Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you. I’ll be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age.”    

The Benefits.
It connects me to the body of Christ. The way God designed our bodies is a model for understanding our lives together as a church: every part dependent on every other part.

2. I get a better understanding of the Bible. I can ask questions, learn from others, and share what I know.

3. Pray together. “When two of you get together on anything at all on earth and make a prayer of it, my Father in heaven goes into action. And when two or three of you are together because of me, you can be sure that I’ll be there.”    

4. Give and receive care and support. “Live creatively, friends. If someone falls into sin, forgivingly restore him, saving your critical comments for yourself. You might be needing forgiveness before the day’s out. Stoop down and reach out to those who are oppressed. Share their burdens, and so complete Christ’s law. If you think you are too good for that, you are badly deceived.”  

Expect to know you are not alone.
Expect to find other people who are new to the small group experience.
Expect to start some new relationships.
Expect that trust will deepen over time.
Expect to learn something new.
Expect to have an opportunity to use your spiritual gifts.   

Monday, August 29, 2016

Spirit Filled Believers

Have you ever thought of yourself as an “artesian well” for Jesus? Probably not. But if you are obeying Paul’s command to continually “be filled with the spirit,” you are functioning spiritually much like an artesian well functions geophysically! (Eph 5:18) “Don’t be drunk with wine, Because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit.” So, how is this so? Paul reminded Timothy “You have not been given a spirit of fear but of power and love and sound mind.” (2 Tim 1:7) The word for “power” is dunomis which gives us our English words dynamo, dynamic, etc. Dunomis speaks of power which is residing in believers by virtue of our new nature - new creations in Christ (2 Cor 5:17). The “effecting agent” of that power is of course the Holy Spirit who dwells in us now and forever throughout eternity! Paul was telling Timothy that “you are to live this new life in Christ not in dependence on your own natural strength, but in dependence on the power (dunomis) provided by the Spirit who dwells in you!” Charles Spurgeon put it this way regarding our power versus God’s Power:
Power in the creature is like water in the cistern.
Power in the creator is like water in the fountain!
What does an artesian well have to do to function effectively? Two things:
1) STAY LOW! Spiritually this is not subtle- “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” So the message is “stay humble!” Understand that in order to daily experience His power and live a supernatural life, we have to continually humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God!
2) STAY OPEN! WE have to allow the flow of the Spirit to keep flowing. Sin impedes the flow of the Spirit, so we need to be sensitive when we have offended Him by our thoughts, words, or deeds, and we need to confess and repent.
And what is the result?
Amazing grace flows down from on high and as our Lord Jesus Christ promised, from our “innermost being shall flow rivers of living water” as the Spirit flow of power is unimpeded and unhindered!
Hudson Taylor, the great missionary of China, affirmed this truth declaring “depend upon it.” God’s work done in Gods’ way will never lack supplies. All God’s giants have been weak men (and women) who did great things for God because they reckoned on His being with them. God asks men (and women) who are weak and feeble enough to lean on Him! I will sum it all up with two questions for us:
1) Am I daily leaning on Him?
2) Am I keeping short accounts?
Your answers are between you and God.
~Pastor Reg

Our Father In Heaven, Hallowed be Your Name!

There is a widespread view in today’s world that there is no connection between public and private morality. Surveys show that generally speaking people can act as if there is no connection. But the bible knows no such distinctions. As far as God is concerned morality is one and indivisible. What a person is in private he or she is likely to be in public life.
“They pant after the dust of the earth which is on the heads of the poor and pervert the way of the humble. A man and his father go into the same girl, to defile My Holy name. They lie down by every altar on clothes taken in pledge, and drink the wine of the condemned in the house of their God.” (Amos 2:7,8)
I remember my grandfather once said: “If a man who works for me cheats on his wife, then he is likely to cheat on me.” It may be convenient for those in public life to argue otherwise but the truth is there is no real division between private and public.
Israel’s leaders, as we see from the book of Amos, are judged  for oppressing the weak, vulnerable, and helpless. These verses also show us that both the boardroom and the bedroom are subject to God’s law! As we see, in not only the political but in most public scenes, God is scandalized by the culture today. What is most serious is that, by their actions, God’s holy name is profaned across the countryside and the world. By choosing Israel to be His show piece nation God has put His reputation on the line. Such behavior as Amos now exposes drags God’s good name into disrepute. For this, Judah was sent into exile 150 years later. No wonder Jesus made it first priority for His disciples to pray that God’s name would again be hallowed in Israel. Nothing more matters to God than the honor of His name! Let us all honor the name of the Lord in everything we do, and in every place we do it!

Pastor Reg

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

What to do when you find yourself in a pickle

My friend and evangelist Tom Shanklin and I communicate quite regularly. He sends articles that he writes and I always enjoy his comments. These words today are being share from his last article that he sent to me. I believe these words will bless you.

“Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.” Philippians 4:6, KJV.
I have found a very effective solution when I find myself in a dilemma. Pray!
The other day Susan and I were at the mall where we walk and pick up our mail, and when we were ready to leave, the car would not start. It had been an intermittent problem for a several weeks.
My car operates without a key. You simply have the key in the car, and then you use a push button on the dash. Fancy! However, from time to time it simply would not start. Then we would push the button again and again and finally it would start. This time, however, it would not start. So here we were in the parking lot next to the mall. It was very hot and the sun was shining through the windshield and my car wouldn't start. In that situation, there’s a temptation to be upset, fearful, angry or frustrated. 
But then I remembered Philippians 4:6. So in heat of the moment (literally), Susan and I prayed. I quoted Philippians 4:6 to the Lord and committed the problem to the Him. Then I called the shop and they were able to get the car in right away, which is unusual for them.
Within a short time they called and said the problem was the brake light switch. The brakes must be engaged in order for the car to start. Even though it was very late in the afternoon, they were able to get a new switch and install it before the end of the day.
I cannot tell you how many times this verse has gotten me out of a jam. It just seems that God honors His Word when you apply the Scripture in prayer. Many times I have found myself fretting over a situation and wondering what to do, and then I will remember this scripture. Then I will say, “Lord, you said. ‘Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your request be known unto God.’ So I bring my petition to you concerning this issue. Thank you Lord for working it out. I can’t solve it, so I give it you and I thank you for it and for all you have done for me through Jesus your Son. Amen."
Many times, the answer comes very quickly, as it did with my car. But there are also times when it takes some time for things to change. Thanksgiving will help sustain your faith while you are waiting for the answer to manifest. The power of thanksgiving is a great tool in releasing your faith in prayer. Faith takes hold of the thing that you are asking for BEFORE you see the manifestation of it. As Jesus said, “Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.” Mark 11:24, KJV.
So when you make your request and you believe you receive the answer, it’s time to start praising God. As Paul said, “…with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.” Philippians 4:6, KJV. So don’t leave out the “with thanksgiving” part. Start praising God immediately for the answer. 
Think of it this way. If you made a request to the Lord for a need in your life and Jesus walked in your living room and sat down and said, “Your prayer has been received and I am giving you what you requested,” the normal thing would be to start jumping up and down and praising God for His love and miraculous provision. Well, the truth is, He has come into your house and spoken to you! He has come to you through the Word of God. As the scripture says: “And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.” 1 John 5:14, 15, KJV.
So when you pray, it’s time to shout the victory. “Praise God, I have my request! Praise God, it’s mine! Thank you Jesus! Hallelujah!!! Amen.”

~ Tom Shanklin

Friday, July 29, 2016

Turn Toward God

I picked up some timely thoughts while reading Pastor Max Lucado’s booklet on “Remembering Our Foundations.” Especially after listening to the disparity on the differences between the two parties of the Republican and Democratic conventions held in the last two weeks. It is so evident that we need God to heal our land.
Pastor Lucado tells about the spider who dropped a single strand down from the rafter of an old barn and began to weave his web. The wee web grew as the months went by and was able to catch all kinds of bugs and insects.
One day when the spider was traveling across his web he noticed a single strand stretching into the rafters. He wondered why it was there and thought, “It doesn’t serve to catch me any dinner or add to my pantry of insects.” He thought the strand really wasn’t necessary so he climbed as high as he could - - and severed it. That resulted in the entire web falling upon itself and tumbling to the floor, taking the spider with it.
Could we, as a nation, make the same mistake as that foolish spider? Can a country spin a great web and sever it? Can she grow so successful, so smug, so self-sufficient that she forgets the strong strand that supports her? Could she look at her liberty, her strength, and her prosperity and respond not with gratitude - - but with arrogance?
Are we forgetting the strength that holds us? What happens when a nation forgets God? Psalms 9:17 says “The fate of all the nations that forget the Lord will be turned into hell.”
Israel of old also seemed prone to forget. Moses sternly warned them to “beware in their plenty that you do not forget the Lord your God, - - - do not become proud of that time and forget  the Lord your God - - - If you ever forget the Lord your God and follow other gods, worshipping them and bowing down to them, you will be destroyed.” Deuteronomy 8:11-14, 19
God defines all boundaries for “He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed lines and the boundaries of their habitation.” Acts 17:26
I believe that God determines national leaders. Leaders don’t determine the future of countries; God determines the hearts of leaders. Proverbs 21:1 says, “the king’s heart is like a stream of water directed by the Lord; He turns it wherever He pleases.” The king (or president) may think he calls the shots, but he doesn’t. God holds sway over his thrown. “It is God who makes nations great, and destroys them; He enlarges nations, and guides them.” Job 12:23(NLT)
So, America exists by the power of God. Can we afford to forget this? Can we afford to sever this single, silver strand that supports the whole framework of our republic? Only at the terrible risk of destruction!
Our heritage has been given to us by God, not for our glory, but His. Not for our comfort, but His cause. Gods’ ultimate commitment is to His reputation, not ours. We may think God exists to bless America, but according to scripture, America exists to bless God.
During this time of divisiveness and confusion in American politics, there is a specific prayer that we all can pray and God will answer. “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14)


Pastor Amundson 

Monday, July 25, 2016

First Fruit Offering

First Fruit Offering
The old testament introduces a clear cut plan for prosperity and blessing. It is revealed in Exodus 13. It is known as the “Law of First Things.”
Every first-born child was to be consecrated to the Lord. Every first-born animal that was male was given to the Lord. In Exodus 23:19, the first of the first-fruit harvest of the Lord was brought into the house of the Lord. These were brought unto the priests who set it before the Lord as an act of worship.
In Deuteronomy 26:13 the first-fruit offering was called a tithe (tenth). It was called a “hallowed thing” and served the needs of the priests, the widows, and the poor.
In Proverbs 3:9 it says, “Honor the Lord with thy substance, and with the first-fruits of all thine increase.” To honor God this way, brought glory to Him. The attached promise to the tithing principle in verse 10 says, “So your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will overflow with new wine.”
God receives honor and glory and He blesses His people when they recognize Him as the source for all that we have and when we give Him the best part of what we have. If God is first in our lives, then all is in order. If He is not, then all is out of order.
Principle of Putting God First
When Isreal moved into Caanan, there were ten cities for them to conquer before they could settle in the land. The first city they conquered, God told them that they were not to touch anything in that city. Everything in it belonged to God. They could have everything in the next nine cities. In Joshua 7 Isreal was judged harshly because someone had violated God’s word not to touch anything or keep anything for themselves. It all belonged to God. Achan couldn’t trust God’s provisions so he stole something from that city, which belonged to God.
In Leviticus 27:30, God said that “all the tithe is the Lord’s.” God never changed His mind about honoring Him first. His promise is to take care of His people. God wants this church to be fully resourced from within. Giving is such a big part of growing. Giving always produces increase.
Giving tithes and offerings does not buy God’s blessings. It does release God’s blessings upon our lives. When we started the church in Shell Lake I was 30 years old. I left my secular job to move into full-time ministry. We started out with the least amount of money we ever had in our life. We wanted God to be first in everything. We started out by giving a tenth of our income to the Lord. God put missions on my heart so we began to add another tenth of our income to be given to missions. This came from our limited income. God released a miraculous flow of blessing upon our finances to meet all of our needs. Generous giving is proof of our faith and love for God. More scriptures on tithes, offerings, and giving are found in: Malachi 3:10-11, Proverbs 11:24, Luke 6:38, and 2 Corinthians 9:6-8.

Pastor Amundson