Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Power of Generosity for 2014!

There is an overwhelming consumer mentality that exists in our American culture. We live in a culture that often prefers grabbing to giving. The cultural message seems to say “you are what you own.”  But in the midst of this cultural mindset there are millions of people who are generous and who practice generosity daily. Someone made a quote that stated “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give!”

The dictionary defines generous as “of a noble nature, willing to give or share; large, ample.” We think of God as a generous Creator who offers life to us as a gift. We read in the Bible that a generous person is someone we should emulate. (Psalm 112:5 NIV) “Good will come to him who is generous and lends freely….” Or “A generous man will himself be blessed, for he shares his food with the poor.” (Proverbs 22:9 NIV)

In one church survey it was discovered what causes some members to be more generous than others. The most significant factor that determined why some people are more generous than others was whether the person had been taught generosity as a child. The impact of parents in  teaching their children to give was the key that opened the world of giving.  Generosity is about people, and it starts with you and me. If we are going to grow, it will be in relationship with someone else, even if it is a brief one. We must pursue opportunities to express our care and concern for others. Our commitment to grow often will require risk-taking and a willingness to move outside of our comfort zones. Jumping at the opportunity to bless someone or offer help to someone with a need.

Recently all the ministers from the Shell Lake community met for a breakfast gathering at a local restaurant. We were informed that our waitress had just moved to Shell Lake from Alaska to start a new life here with just her 2 year old son. Her child sitter was in Trego which she had to drive twice daily to take him and pick him up. The childcare fee was $3/hour. Her income at the restaurant was $3/hour plus tips. It was an obvious need and one of the pastors expressed that we should provide a large tip to help her. It was over $40 we came up with to bless her. It was a joy to see the joy that came on her face.

“When a person is down in the world, an ounce of help is better than a pound of preaching.” (Edward G. Lytton) Generosity is part of the lubrication that makes life go better by lifting our spirits and reinforcing our connection with someone else. Generosity makes a profound difference in people’s lives! The power of generosity makes a difference in the lives of those who choose to give. It’s a beautiful thing! It is something that we can all purpose in our hearts to become in 2014! A blessed New Year to all of you!           

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Christ - The Stability of Our Times!

The world, our nation, the people of the lands, and you and I need someone strong, intelligent, and wise to anchor us in these perilous times of instability and uncertainty. Bible prophecy and biblical history records the coming of a Messiah who will sit upon the throne of Israel. He will have the wisdom and knowledge to carry out all events of the future.

The prophet Micah spoke of the birthplace of this future leader to be in the small town of Bethlehem in the county of Ephrathah. He said that this ruler’s origin would be from the ancient past and would come out from the clan of Judah. Micah predicted that this ruler (Christ Jesus) would give up (the children of Israel) until the time when (the Church) who is in travail has brought forth the “man child” of Revelation 12:5. He would be brought forth to rule all the nations. Without a doubt, only the Eternal King is able to carry out these future events.

Isaiah prophesied that when “the strength of salvation comes (Jesus Christ), He will fill Jerusalem with justice and righteousness” and “wisdom and knowledge will be the stability of your times. (Isaiah 33:5, 6)  This reference speaks of the stabilizing force God will provide to the believers, even in the midst of this present age. The New Testament speaks of this Christ as the “hope that we have as an anchor of our soul, that is steadfast and sure.” Hebrews 6:19

So, let us remember that Christmas is not just some creation of the human mind to enjoy another celebration of fun and frivolity. NO! Peace on earth will only be established first in the individual heart of those who believe, trust, and place their hope in the only one who can bring us consolation.  Christ was born to become our High Priest who provided a better covenant for us and who was a perfect High Priest and a perfect sacrifice for sins. He alone was enabled by God to bring a salvation that lacks nothing.  Isaiah 32:2 says “Christ will be as a hiding place from the wind, a shelter from the tempest, a river of waters in a dry place, and a shadow of a great rock in a weary land.” Is there another who is so capable of provided us with this stability in these times? Make Jesus your aim, and you will be right on target. Make Him the center and He will take care of the circumference.

Enjoy the blessed Christ of Christmas!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Christmas in the Country = Compassion!

There is a lot of buzz about the coming “Christmas in the Country” day on Sunday, December 15th. The church has been excitedly preparing for this opportunity to reach out to the community and the area and touch some people with some very real needs.  I have always been impressed with the heart people of this congregation to respond to the call to help minister to people in need. It clearly shows the love of God and the real compassion of Christ.

Peter writes that we are all to “have compassion for one another.” Compassion is seeing someone who is in trouble or in a hard situation, making an identity with them, and responding to their need by doing something to help them. The afternoon of December 15th, we will have the privilege of serving people who will be coming into the church between 1 and 3 p.m. We will provide gifts and food and share the love of Jesus with them. At 2 p.m. there will be a Christmas musical for all who wish to attend and some surprise gifts will be given.

Our vision statement is to “Know God - Grow People - Love the World.” As “kings and priests” unto the Lord, we have a ministry of representing God to the people, and representing the people to God. Our priestly duty is to step out of ourselves and what’s comfortable for us, to touch someone else on behalf of God through the kindness and love of Christ in action. When we can better understand what others are going through, it will help us to have real compassion toward others in their need.

“Christ Jesus had to become just like us in everything, that he might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people; for in that he himself has suffered, being tested, he is able to help us when we are being tested.” Jesus qualified for His priestly role by identifying with us in every way. That’s how He understands our weaknesses. Our priestly role is perfected when we take time to understand and care for others who are weak. When we care enough to understand where others come from with their needs, we will be led to a place of compassion towards them. Let’s make this Christmas a time to give the gift of UNDERSTANDING and COMPASSION.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Our Nation at the Crossroad

Dr. Billy Graham in a recent interview with Newsmax stated, “there was a headline recently about Americans tailoring religion to fit their needs; mixing a little Christianity with the religions of the world. It is called a “trendy faith”. Society does not object to this kind of faith. We have dismissed God, resulting in skewed thinking and consciences that are desensitizes to right and wrong, basing moral decisions solely on what ‘fits in’ with our individual preferences.

Graham said, “I watch the news daily and my heart is burdened. When I hear despair in people’s voices, when I see turmoil on people’s faces, it tells me that hopelessness abounds . . .  We as a nation have turned our back on God who blessed our country because its fundamental principles were grounded in the word of God. People want designer religion, but I pray that they instead will submit to their creator who longs to become their God and Savior. He has designed eternal life in heaven for all those who would receive His salvation.”

“Scripture tells us there will be signs pointing toward the return of the Lord. I believe all these signs are prevalent today; I would not want to live in any other time. The Bible speaks powerfully of trouble ahead with storm warnings that carry a looming jolt of truth. Regardless of what society says, we cannot go on much longer in the sea of immorality without divine judgment coming. We are at a crossroads, and there are profound moral issues at stake. It is time to return to biblical truth. It is time for the people of the nation and world to turn to God.”

If Billy Graham is correct that Jesus' return is near, then America is now in the process of being divinely diminished on the world stage so that the one world government of the Antichrist can arise as scripture so clearly teaches (2 Thessalonians 2:3-11, Revelation 13:1-10, 16-18). Who can deny that America is declining as the world's superpower? We have declined governmentally, spiritually, militarily, diplomatically, and especially economically. Isaiah 60:12, “For a nation or kingdom that will not serve the Lord will perish. It will be utterly ruined.” Psalms 25:6-7, “No one from the east or the west can exalt a man (or nation). But it is God who judges. He brings down one, he exalts another.”

The rise or fall of a nation, including America, must be seen in the context of God’s sovereignty. After all, He is the Lord of history, the Lord of the nations, and the Lord of Lords! He will have the last word! “All things serve Him” (Psalm 119:91).

How should true believers approach these uncertain days before our Lords’ return? Paul wrote in Philippians 4:5-7 “Be anxious about nothing but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God, and the peace of God which passes all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

God has a sovereign plan with His plan for America and the end of this age. An appropriate verse for us to live out each day is found in Titus 2:11-14. “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say ‘no’ to ungodliness and worldly passions and to live sober, upright, and Godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope-the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself to redeem us from all iniquity and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.”


Hope you enjoyed your Thanksgiving! You are loved.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Point of Agreement = The Place of Power

I shared these thoughts a few weeks ago and feel impressed to write down the importance of coming into agreement with God.

THE IMPORTANCE OF AGREEMENT

The main reason we do not have the power of God in our lives that we should have as Christian men and women is because we are not in agreement with God. We may agree in some area, and in others we are not in agreement; and perhaps more often we are not in agreement with one another.

Amos asks the question “Can two walk together except they be agreed?” (Amos 3:3) Or can men or women who are not in agreement with each other walk together? The answer is no, they cannot. Psalm 133:1-3 says “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” (dwell together in agreement.) Agreement is unity. Then it says “…..for there the Lord commanded the blessings.” The word “there” is talking about a positional place, the place of unity or agreement.

God’s Word indicates that when you are not in agreement or unity, you cannot have power in your life. I am a hunter and when I head into the woods I always bring my compass along. A compass has 360 degrees or points, which make a full circle. If we call the needle point of the compass right on north, and 2 of us are walking together, but one of us is just a fraction of a point off north, how long do you think we will walk together before we begin to separate? The further we walk, the farther apart we will become. The only recourse to come back together is to correct our agreement to the compass. The only power we have to walk together is to come back into perfect unity of direction. “The power to walk together is at the point of agreement!”

The power of God will not be fully released into our presence until there is a point of agreement. In Acts 2 the point where the power of God came down was at the point when “they were in one place and in one accord.” The power of God will not be released in the home where a husband and wife are in discord and division. God wants us to have power in our homes and His power comes into our homes as we learn to walk in agreement. How do we do that? When you agree with someone, in a sense you have a covenant relationship with them on the basis of that agreement. That is where the power lies - in a covenant agreement.

That is how Christ empowered us to become believers who have inherited eternal life through Him. The Father and Son were in perfect agreement to come to earth and lay down His life as a covenant relationship with us. The power that changes our lives takes place when we come into agreement with Christ who laid down His life for us and then we willingly lay down our life to serve Him.           

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

A Psalm of Thanksgiving

Psalm 100 is a Psalm that I would encourage every believer to learn from memory. It is a song of praise for the Lord’s faithfulness to His people. It’s also a Psalm of Thanksgiving.
           
Our attention toward becoming more thankful is even more heightened during the Thanksgiving month of November. Gladness, joy, thanksgiving, and praise is the dominant theme of this Psalm. There is no other Psalm that is designated as a “Psalm of Thanksgiving,” although other Psalms are filled with gratefulness. This Psalm is known as the “jubilate” or a psalm of jubilation.
           
There are seven directives as to how to exalt the Lord and seven reasons why we should praise and thank Him. I will list the seven reasons why we should praise the Lord that are mentioned in this Psalm.

Reason #1: (vs. 3) “He made us.” We can identify our origin. ‘Who made us’ is one of the central questions of mankind and the answer determines our eternal future. God claims the role of creator in the first chapter of the Bible. (Gen. 1:26, 27)

Reason #2: (vs. 3) “We are His.” God claims all those who have been made new in Christ ‘as His.’ (Eph. 3:24)

Reason #3: (vs. 3) “We are His people.” We are corporately identified as His people, living, serving, and worshiping together in His church under the same grace, the same word and Spirit. (Romans 8:27)

Reason #4: (vs. 3) “….the sheep of His pasture.” He is our Shepherd, protector, and provider. As His sheep, we are assured of His love and acceptance surrounding us as we daily feed in the pasture of His word and presence. (John 10:14)

Reason #5: (vs. 5) “...for the Lord is good.” Goodness is deeply rooted in the character of who God is. He is compelled to do all that He does by His essential ‘goodness.’ He will forever be simply ‘good.’

Reason #6: (vs. 5) “His unfailing love continues forever.” The language to best properly express God’s heart is the words, “mercy”, “all generous love”, “loving-kindness” This love is a covenant bond that will never be broken and He invites us to live and participate fully in His “unfailing love.”

Reason #7: (vs. 5) “...and His faithfulness continues to each generation.” Faithfulness is God’s guarantee that all He is and all that He has promised will never be retracted or changed till the end of time.

Our emotions, thoughts, and hopes can all rest on this assurance and because of those reasons we can “shout with joy to the Lord,”  “worship the Lord with gladness,” “Come before Him, singing with joy,” “Acknowledge that the Lord is God,” “Enter His gates with thanksgiving,” “Go into His courts with praise,” and “give thanks to bless His Name!”
           
Take time to learn this ‘jubilate’ Psalm 100!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Be Blessed!

In Genesis 12, God made a covenant promise to Abraham which foretold God’s purpose to bless all the families of the earth. “And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (vs. 3)

Abraham was known to be a prototypical “father of faith.” In scripture Abraham is designated as the “father” of all who walk his pathway of faith. God blessed Abraham in many ways, including material blessings.

In Galatians 3:13, 14 God promises to give all believers “the blessing of Abraham,” telling us that Jesus became a curse for us, so that we might receive “the blessing of Abraham.” This blessing begins, of course, with our being born again, or becoming new creatures in Christ Jesus. But “the blessing of Abraham” involves other things as well. The Lord wants us to prosper—spiritually, emotionally, physically, and materially. Abraham’s blessing is ours by His promise.

It was Abraham’s faith by believing God’s promise that God counted him to be righteous. (Romans 4:3) We too, are justified (made righteous) by our faith and not by works or our own efforts that would compel God to accept us. Romans 3:13 says “God’s promise to give the whole earth to Abraham and his descendants was based not on obedience to God’s law, but on a right relationship with God that comes by faith.

Believing in God means acknowledging our unworthiness and depending entirely on God’s mercy. Galatians 3:9 says, “So then those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham.”

To have faith, there must be an object. The object of our faith is the blood of Christ which alone joins people to God and entitles them to God’s covenant provisions. It is the shed blood of Christ that satisfied God’s justice upon our sin and is now forever the only means of right relationship with the holy God. It is through faith in the blood of Christ that we are justified in God’s eyes!”

Abraham is called the “Father of Faith” because he believed God’s covenant promise for salvation through faith even centuries before the law was given. We are blessed with Abraham for believing our salvation is received by faith in Christ’s redemptive blood that he shed upon the cross 2000 years ago.

“For by grace are you saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works lest anyone should boast.” Ephesians 2:8,9  Believe and be blessed!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Be Thankful

We think of November as the Thanksgiving month. I want to express this month concerning the importance of being a grateful and thankful Christian in this world. A person who is thankful is one who will not be an annoyance to other people, nor one who permits bitterness to go to seed that becomes a defilement to others. My friend Larry Lundstrom wrote a cute story and some thoughts about being “thankful!”

One Thanksgiving season a family was seated around their table, looking at the annual holiday bird. From the oldest to the youngest, they were to express their praise. When they came to the 5-year-old in the family, he began by looking at the turkey and expressing his thanks to the turkey, saying although he had not tasted it he knew it would be good. After that rather novel expression of thanksgiving, he began with a more predictable line of credits, thanking his mother for cooking the turkey and his father for buying the turkey. But then he went beyond that. He joined together a whole hidden multitude of benefactors, linking them with cause and effect.

He said, “I thank the checker at the grocery store who checked out the turkey. I thank the grocery store people who put it on the shelf, I thank the farmer who made it fat. I thank the man who made the feed, I thank those who brought the turkey to the store.”

Using his Columbo-like little mind, he traced the turkey all the way from its origin to his plate. And then at the end he solemnly said “Did I leave anybody out?” His 2-year-older brother, embarrassed by all those proceedings, said, “God.”

Solemnly and without being flustered at all, the 5-year-old said, “I was about to get to Him.”

Well, isn't that the question about which we ought to think at Thanksgiving time? Are we really going to get to Him this Thanksgiving?

As cute as this story may read, there is a solemn truth… “Will we get to the real reason for Thanksgiving? Will we stop long enough between gobbles to actually take turns to express what each one of us are thankful for?” If you are struggling with what to be thankful for, here are a few thankful starters:
  • Thank God for bringing you all together.
  • Thank God for the moment Jesus came into your life. (This is a great way to share your SHORT testimony.)
  • Thank God for the bad things that DID NOT happen to you that you will never know about because of God’s hand of mercy and protection.
  • Thank God for your children and grandchildren and how you desire God will be the center of their lives.
  • Thank God for food when millions in the world are starving.
  • Thank God for providing you a home and money to pay your bills.
  • Thank God for FREEDOM to go to church, read the Bible and worship God. (It’s fragile—don’t take it for granted.)
These few thankful starters will hopefully remind each of us of the bounty that we each have to be thankful for. Psalm 28:7: “The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and I am helped; Therefore my heart exults, and with my song I shall thank Him.”

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The God of Unlimited Resources!

Every year as we approach our Missions Conference and prepare to serve the many missionaries who come to Shell Lake, I go through a little anxiety over how well prepared we are as a church to see that everything runs smoothly. This year was no exception!

We had given a lot of attention to making improvements on our parking lot and developing the new commons. So many people had given their time and financial support to making these things happen that there did not seem to be much of a buzz about the upcoming Missions Conference. In fact, with only 3 weeks to go until conference, there had been little done to prepare for the church’s biggest annual event. Hence, a little anxiety.

But God’s people in this congregation stepped up to the task. You opened your homes to house missionaries and your hearts to provide meals. You all provided food for the fellowship meals and committed to pray for God’s holy presence to fill every service.

The theme of our conference this year was called “Reign.” We asked God to “reign” and to rule over every aspect of the conference. For those who attended the packed out services can concur that Jesus was present to touch His people and to pour out major blessings upon every missionary who was present.

The speakers were anointed and spot on with the Word of the Lord every time. The worship team was powerfully anointed to prepare us for what God wanted to do in each service. It did not take long to sense that God was going to release something supernatural during the conference. And did He open up the gates!

The final evening was His point of release so that the missionaries and their many needs could be met to carry out God’s plan for the world to come to know Him. I had never seen anything like what happened here on Wednesday night! It was victory night! It was God displaying His “rule and reign” by extending His grace toward meeting needs that each missionary brought before Him to the conference.

I know that it might stagger some of you as it did astonish me with the final financial results for the entire conference. Here is the report:

The total cash offerings totaled $119,856.00! The cash offerings still to come in total $21,985.00. The monthly pledged support for this next year which are all new commitments totaled $23,760.00. These offerings from this year’s conference totaled the sum of $165,601.00!   It is very apparent that we do serve the God of unlimited resources! By the way, any anxiety that I had is all gone.

With humble praise and thanksgiving,
Pastor Amundson

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Our 27th Annual World Missions Conference

Welcome church family, guest missionaries and church leaders attending our 27th Annual World Missions Conference. We are excited and blessed to have you here.

We have been preparing by pre-praying over this conference because we know that missionaries are facing formidable challenges and new shifts in how missions work is done in this century. We also know that the needs remain great and we want to completely trust God’s provision and direction for His will to be done.

There are 2 billion born-again believers in our world today. That means there are still 5 billion people who are still lost. Standing together single-file that would make a line of people which would encircle the entire world 37 times. Romans 10:13 says, “Whoever calls upon the Name of the Lord shall be saved.” “Allah” cannot save them. “There is no salvation in any other, for there is no other Name under heaven given among men, by which we must be saved.”

Romans 10:14, 15 states: “How then shall they call upon Him in whom they have not believed?” “How shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard?” People are not going to be saved by their ignorance. “If our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost.” It is the lost who must hear the Name of Jesus! “How shall they hear without a preacher?” The sending of preachers is absolutely critical! “How shall they preach unless they are sent?”

I believe this is our mandate! We have a mandate to preach the gospel to the world. Our mandate is to let the whole world know that “There is only one Name given under heaven by which men must be saved.” Acts 4:12

We have many missionaries who will be at this conference who have not permitted Satan to melt down the mandate to carry out the call God has given them to reach lost souls for the Kingdom of God.


It is to you that we give our honor and applause for staying true to the call God has given you. We humbly extend our hearts to serve you and love you as you extend your stay with us this week. We celebrate with you at this greatest time of gathering in the harvest around the world, and rejoice with you for the fruitfulness of your ministry. Many of you after years of faithful ministry. We love you all!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Path of Life

Biblical Discipleship Requires a Life of Sacrifice
by Rick Joyner


One of the great weaknesses of modern Christianity has been our devotion to making converts rather than disciples. When people are led to believe that all they have to do for salvation is raise their hand while standing in the back of a room, with every eye closed and every head bowed so as not to embarrass those who might slip up their hand, these “converts” are made to think that to be a follower of Christ will require little from them. However, true faith will require everything, including our lives. True discipleship is to no longer live for ourselves but for Him.  Biblical conversion is different than how many present it today. Those who committed their lives to being a follower of Christ were likely marked for martyrdom. Often their possessions and property were seized, and they lived their life not knowing if every day might be their last. The only way they could sustain a life like that was by growing in love for God and growing in faith. For them it was a better life than anyone else could have because their faith in God was better than any treasure or any possession.

True Christianity is the greatest adventure that can be had on this earth, and it is the most fulfilling life we could ever have, but it is also the most difficult. The integrity of the One whom we represent should compel us to be straightforward about the Gospel. Christianity is not for wimps. There is no place for self-pity or self-centeredness in the true faith. Yet, the more we are emptied of these things and our own ambitions, the richer and more fulfilling our lives will be. There is no freer person than the slave of Christ!

True Discipleship - Disciples of Christ are called to be “dead to this world.” This is where the greatest freedom comes. If we are dead, what can the world do to us? Those who live the life of the cross have no fear because what can a dead man fear? Those who are dead to this world do not fear troubles that others fear because their lives are built on another foundation.

Disciples live by the power of the age to come, not by the powers that control this present world. As this world and the powers that control it crumble, true disciples will not even be shaken, but will be on solid ground and able to pull others out of the quicksand. True disciples who have access to kingdom resources, will not be impressed by the wealth of this world. It seems from the gospels that Jesus did not even carry earthly money, He did not need to because He had access to much greater resources anytime He needed them. We will not get to this stature of faith immediately after we become disciples, but “we are to grow up in all aspects into Him.” (Ephesians 4:15) Jesus would not have called us to depend upon Him for every need if we could not attain it. We can do nothing more important than to depend on Him. This is biblical discipleship.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Way - What do you get when you follow Christ?

The theme of ministry for the past several weeks is discovering our progress in spiritual maturity by being effective in our Christian walk as disciples of Jesus Christ. It is Jesus who is the only way to God. The early church believers were called followers of the way. The life of Jesus Christ is the turning point of all history. It is only Jesus Christ who is able to grant eternal life. The most important decision we make in this life is where we will spend eternal life. When we have made that choice we’re not only ready to die...we’re finally ready to live! Spiritual life is not a “religion.” It is a relationship with God.

Two great moments in our lives are when we are born, and when we discover why we were born. We were created for a reason—a real purpose. God has a personal plan for each one of us. His purpose in our lives can only be accomplished because of Jesus Christ. Last week Josiah Hodgett spoke to us about the “lifestyle of a disciple.” He stated that the term “disciple” means “learner,” or one who learns from a teacher. For believers, the term “disciple” refers to students of Jesus.

Discipleship then refers to a disciples transformation from some other world view and practice of life, into that of the life and lifestyle of Jesus Christ. In Romans 12:2 we are not to be conformed into this world’s mold, but to have a transformed mind so that we can discover God’s will and purpose for our lives.

Is it really worth it to follow Christ?

In Luke 18:29, 30 Jesus said, “I say to you, there is no one who has left house or parents or brother or wife or children, for the sake of the Kingdom of God, - who shall not receive many times more in this present time, and in the age to come eternal life.”

Peter had just told Jesus that he and the disciples had left all to follow him and had asked Jesus in Matthew 19:27, “Therefore, what shall we have?” He was wondering, “What do we get for following Christ? Is it really worth the sacrifices we’re making? Or , are we fools to give up everything to follow Christ?” Jesus knew Peter’s need for some assurance and reminded him that to “forsake all to follow him will have many benefits.” The motivation for following Christ should not be just to get the benefits. We follow Him because He is the one who He claimed to be, the Savior and Messiah. But He does reassure of some promised benefits for serving Him.

1. You get blessings in this life. (Mark 10:30) Jesus promises that you will receive many times (100 times) as much at this time.

2. You get blessings in eternity. (Matthew 18:22) Jesus said that you will have treasures in heaven. The blessing of eternity is living in the presence of God in His glory and with His angels and His saints.

3. You get trials in life as the privilege of suffering for Him. “All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” 2 Timothy 3:12 “Faith that is tested by fire will find praise, honor, and glory on the day when Jesus is revealed to the whole world.” I Peter 1:7

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The Way - A Meek Composure

“The meek - shall inherit the earth.” Jesus said in Matthew 5:5.

One of the most important aspects of discipleship is that of a meek composure. Meekness. What is meekness? Is it a milksop, faint-hearted, spineless kind of timidity? Not at all! Moses was nothing like that, and scripture says Moses was the meekest man on earth. (Numbers 12:3)

Clearly, meekness is not weakness. As a matter of fact, meekness is strength under control. The idea is closely related to the expression “poor in spirit” in Matthew 5:3. Both expressions speak of humility. But meekness is the aspect of humility that is manifest in mild, longsuffering, patient disposition.

Meekness is often characterized as the polar opposite of an angry personality, and I think that gets close to the truth. Jesus was meek. He “did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.” (Luke 9:56) When He formally entered Jerusalem as King, it was not on a stallion decked out for battle. He was riding on the foal of a donkey (Matthew 21:5). He came with the express purpose of dying, not subduing others by force. And He left us an example to follow: “Who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth; who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously.” (1 Peter 2:22-23)

Meekness, to sum up, is where humility and self control meet. It’s one of the most attractive and indispensable aspects of true Christ-like character. May each one of us walk hand in hand in meekness.           

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Way pt. 2

Jesus not only invites us to come to Him, but He also tells us to “take His yoke upon us so that we may learn of Him.” (Matthew 11:29)
           
Our first act of becoming a complete disciple of Jesus Christ is to “deny ourselves and take up His cross.” (Mark 8:34) This means to so surrender our will to the Lord Jesus that we obey Him and follow Him in everything. It means to say no to ourselves. Saying no to our own desires, ambitions, and pleasures. It isn’t easy is it? To say no to self is never easy. It is contrary to our very nature. We all want our own way.
           
A former president of Indonesia once said, “I love my country, I love women, but most of all I love myself.” You might insert something else in the place of his first two loves, but if you are honest you probably would have to say along with him, “most of all I love myself.” Seriously, we can choose to deny ourselves or we can choose to defy ourselves. We can become our own gods. We can govern our own lives. Or we can abdicate the thrones of our lives and let Jesus be Lord. If we are going to be disciples of Jesus, we must begin by denying ourselves.
           
HIS YOKE - What does it mean to take Christ’s yoke upon us? The picture of a yoke is that of a harness used over the necks of two animals to train them how to pull together to be successful. The yoke illustrates submission. Submission to Christ’s yoke is never easy because it costs the yielding up of your will to Christ’s will. It is only as we submit to Christ, and learn of Christ that we receive from Christ the rest that He promises in Matthew 11:29. “Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Verse 30 “For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
           
Jesus did not say that His yoke is heavy. It only becomes heavy when we resist it. It is when we, like Saul of Tarsus, kick against the goads and resist submitting to God’s way that our walk with God becomes a toil and labor.
           
How does the yoke of Christ work? The more fully committed we are to follow Christ, the more we will have rest and peace. Peace and rest are by-products of unreserved surrender to Jesus Christ. When we are pulling with Christ by submitting ourselves in obedience, our burdens will be lightened and our joys and victories will be complete. We are designed for obedience. We were created to do His will. When we follow Him in obedience it brings refreshing renewal to our minds. (Romans 12:1, 2)
           
Submission to Christ’s yoke is never easy. It means death to self and that is always hard. Submission is contrary to our nature, and our nature is rooted in rebellion. But it is only as we come to Christ, submit to Christ, and learn of Christ that we receive from Christ the rest from the wearisome toils of life. He invites you to come!        

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Way

Our theme for the next few weeks is to discover, or rediscover what a complete disciple of Jesus Christ looks like. Jesus used two great symbols for Christian commitment. In Mark 8:34 He said, “Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” The first symbol is a cross. The second symbol is a yoke. He spoke of the yoke when He said, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me.” (Matthew 11:29)
           
The cross and the yoke symbolize for us the two different aspects of commitment. The cross is an instrument of death; the yoke an instrument of toil. The cross is an instrument of sacrifice; the yoke is the symbol of service. The cross suggests blood; the yoke suggests sweat. A complete disciple of Christ is one who is ready for either the cross or the yoke.
           
When we follow Jesus it should be with such absolute surrender that we are ready to die for Him, or we are ready to work for Him. We are ready to suffer, or we are ready to serve – whichever He may require.
           
I think if we were to draw a symbol for commitment to Christ, it would be a picture of a cross on one hand, a yoke on the other, and a Christian on his knees between them saying, “Ready for either.”
           
When Christ called for His followers to become His disciples, He was making a call for full commitment to follow Him. The first step to commitment is to recognize Jesus Christ as the Son of God and make the decision to follow Him. The kind of decision that Christ calls for to be His disciple is to “deny ourselves, and take up His cross, and follow Him.”
           
What is self-denial? For Jesus, the cross stood for death in the most agonizing way. He uses the word cross to help us to understand what it really means to be committed to Him.
           
Our commitment to become a disciple of Jesus begins with a funeral. It is when we die to ourselves and begin to live for Jesus. Christ’s own great conflict between His own will and the will of His Father was settled in the Garden of Gethsemane. There on His knees Jesus said no to Himself and said yes to God. He prayed, “Not my will but thine be done.”
           
Self-denial means to say no to ourselves and to our own desires, appetites, ambitions, and pleasures. Well, that’s never easy is it? It is so contrary to our own nature. We all want our own way. We want to do our own things.
           
Self-denial is a practical expression of the Lordship of Jesus Christ. It is so surrendering our will to the Lord Jesus that we obey Him and follow Him in everything.
           
This is the first step to complete discipleship. It’s the step of self-denial! The second act of commitment to becoming a complete disciple is to take His yoke. Continued next week!                    

-Pastor Amundson



Tuesday, September 10, 2013

God Blesses Families

God made a covenant promise to Abraham that foretold the coming and purpose of Jesus Christ. Since God made this statement in Genesis 12:1-3, He has been in the business of blessing families. God’s purpose in Jesus coming was to bless all the families of the earth.

“Now the Lord said to Abram, ‘Go forth from your country, and from your relatives and from your father’s house, to the land which I will show you; and I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great; and so you shall be a blessing; and I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’”

The primary unit through which God has committed Himself to work is the family. God is the “blesser.” The devil is the “curser.” Through Jesus Christ, God is intent on blessing all the families of the earth.

The meaning of the word “blessing” is “to receive, accept, ascribe high value to, and consider a person as a success.” The Hebrew verb used for the word to bless is “Baruch.” A primary meaning of this word is “to empower to prosper!”

What does it mean to prosper? In our culture we primarily think of prosperity in terms of money. But that is not all this word entails. A better definition of this verb “to prosper” is to thrive, to succeed, to do well. It’s a word that primarily means “to have a pleasant journey.”

To enjoy a pleasant journey in life one must be empowered to prosper through praise, affirmation, and value. Blessing is meant to impart God’s image of identity and destiny into each member of our family.
           
The Role of Parents
Parents hold a powerful key to the future lives of their children in blessing and cursing. Parents can literally empower their children to prosper and thrive as adults in their marriages, family relationships, businesses, ministries, health, and finances. Parents can also mar, cripple, and literally prevent their children from thriving and prospering in all these same areas of adult life. Parents are God’s ordained agents through whom identity and destiny is imparted.


Once again, the key that parents have in empowering their children to have a pleasant journey in life is to impart God’s image of identity into them by valuing them and affirming them. Speak to their destiny by blessing them with forgiveness and assurance that through even mistakes and failures, they are accepted, loved, and forgiven. This is a God’s protection for preserving our inheritance and heritage for our children. 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Fool!

The 53rd Psalm describes the foolishness of ignoring the existence of God and is almost an exact repeat of Psalm 14. “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’”

The first half of Psalm 53 is quoted in Romans 3 which makes the opening verses of this Psalm as one of the rare sections of the Bible where God speaks the same thing 3 different times. When God speaks the same thing in multiple passages we should consider it to be very important. God knew that atheism would be a major philosophy for modern man, and those Psalms speak directly to that issue.

When a people or society believe that there is no God, it permits that people to begin a fall into depravity that has no limits.

The Fallen Race - The Psalmist describes humanity as “corrupt, who have done abominable works, there is none who does good. The Lord looks down from heaven on the entire human race, he looks to see if there is even one with real understanding, one who seeks God. But no, all have turned away from God; all have become corrupt, no one does good, not even one!

In the book of Romans we are told that all of the children of Adam are infected with sin. “When Adam sinned, sin entered the entire human race.” (Romans 5:12) The heart is the innermost part of man and what we confess there determines the course of our life. In this Psalm, the person has declared ‘there is no God’ and it leads to a life of corruption, evil, and the complete lack of goodness.

THE FREE SALVATION - Psalm 14 begins with the complete depravity of the human race, but ends with the Messiah coming from Zion with deliverance and joy. “Oh, that salvation would come from Mount Zion to rescue Israel! For when the Lord restores His people, Jacob will shout with joy, and Israel will rejoice.” 

Jesus has come to restore fallen humanity and to break the captivity of sin for all who believe in Him. “We are made right with God when we believe that Jesus shed His blood, sacrificing His life for us.” (Romans 3:25) “For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God.” (Romans 10:10) What we say and believe in our hearts determines our eternal destiny and affects the quality of our live on this earth.

The final picture of this Psalm is that of Jacob shouting and Israel rejoicing over the amazing salvation given to us by our Lord. It’s the picture of God rescuing us from a fallen race through His Son to rejoice before Him forever. “Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into the place of highest privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.” (Romans 5:2)

The wise have said in their hearts “There is a God” and He is worthy of our highest praise!


                                                            
-Pastor Amundson

Monday, August 19, 2013

Image of God

It is from the very first chapter of Genesis that we begin to see what makes humanity unique in creation; human beings are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). Being made in the image of God is one of the foundational theological starting points for those in the Christian faith when we come to examine our place in the universe. It is because of our “image of God-ness” that we believe that each human life is sacred.


We do not question that God made us as human beings physically but there is some question as to what it means to our being created in the “image of God”. We do know that because of this image there is an interconnection of relating with each other and with our Creator.


But what is our connection with “God’s image”? In Paul’s letter to the Colossians he writes that “Jesus is the image of the invisible God, the first born over all creation” (Col 1:15). And to the Corinthians he writes, “the God of this age has blinded the mind of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Cor 4:4). So how are we made? To be made in the image of God is to be embodied and embedded in the story of creation. Paul speaks to this in Romans: “For those whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that we might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters” (Rom 8:29).


Adam was first created in God’s own image. He fell from God’s image and glory through his sin. When we were born, we were born in Adam’s sinful image. But God’s purpose is to redeem and restore man back to His image and to reflect His glory and divine character.


God sent His son, Jesus, to restore His glory through mankind and return man to His likeness and image. Jesus descended from the glory of God to this earth so that we could receive His glory in us and be restored to the image and likeness of our Creator.


The Bible says that our relationship with God personally, and experiencing the love, joy, peace, and fellowship with Him has come at the expense of Christ’s death on the cross. That’s how we become acceptable to God. “God made Him (Jesus) who had no sin to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor 5:21).


God’s plan and purpose is to make us into His image. Our purpose is to be conformed to the image of Christ in the manner in which we live, breathe, think, act, worship, and glorify God. I find it interesting that scripture does not focus so much on the “stuff” that we are made of as it does on what we are made for. We are made to live our lives so that we continually are being conformed to the image of Christ. Hence, fulfilling God’s purpose of being made in His image.


- Pastor Amundson


Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Big God!

It was amazing to view the vast and complex universe during the presentation of “Indescribable” last Sunday on DVD. I think all of us felt very small and humble as we viewed the gigantic expanse of the universe that lies beyond our own galaxy. With so many shapes and colors of the stars thousands of light years away—trillions of them, all in their own orbit, truly we do have a BIG GOD!

God said, “My hand has laid the foundation of the earth, and my right hand has stretched out the heavens.” Isaiah 48:13

In the Psalm of David we are reminded of the bitterness of man and the greatness of God. “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have ordained, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you visit him?” Psalm 8:2-4

Even though man is miniscule in relation to the immense universe, he is still the pinnacle of God’s creation and the object of His watchful care. In fact, God is watchful and interested in everything about us. Psalm 139 tells us that this Big God “knows everything about us. He knows when we sit down or stand up. He knows our every thought and charts our path ahead. He tells us where to stop and rest. He knows where we are every moment.” (vs. 1-3)

It is an awesome thing to know that God who created the universe also understands everything about our actions, thoughts, and motives. How does God know us so well that He knows what our thoughts are before we even speak them?

In Psalm 139 we are told that “God made all the delicate, inner parts of our bodies which He knit together in our mother’s womb.” God forms and possesses our secret parts, the seat of our desires and longings, which the word for “secret parts” in Hebrew is called the “reigns” or the seat, the tenderest and most secret emotions. The all-powerful hand of God guided the wonder of our conception.

Today we honor our GREAT BIG WONDERFUL CREATOR GOD who made us. Job said that “you guided my conception and formed me in the womb.” (10:10) God formed and fashioned us as a unique emotional, rational person possessing a nature that would continually grow into the likeness of Christ. “You must display a new nature because you are a new person created in God’s likeness – righteous, holy, and true.” (Ephesians 4:24) “I will praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made!”

- Pastor Amundson


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Stewards of our Bodies

In 1 Corinthians 6:19 Paul states, “do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?”

What does the statement “you are not your own” mean? It means that the believers physical body is not created to be self-serving or self-sustaining, but that our bodies belong to the Lord and is a member of Christ.

This scripture calls for the members of Christ’s body to be good stewards over our own bodies. Verse 20 says, “For you are bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.”

For some first-century Greeks, the body was of secondary importance; what really mattered was the soul. With a libertine philosophy of sex, and surrounded by temple prostitutes, the subject of fornication was bound to arise. Paul had taught the truth of Christian liberty, and lest the Corinthians falsely misapply the fundamental freedoms of Christian liberty to include immorality, Paul presses this point. He emphasizes that God has an ordained purpose for the body apart from satisfying the base appetites for food and sex. Our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit and were designed for the purpose of glorifying God.

Since Christ lives in us and He is one with our spirit it is unthinkable to involve him in immorality. Verse 17 says, “he who joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him.” Verse 18 says, “ . .he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body.”

Immoral conduct demeans the price paid to redeem sinners and diminishes the glory believers are to bring to Him who loved so purely and powerfully. As God’s stewards over our own bodies we do not give ourselves to immorality or to destructive habits that dishonor these body members that belong to Christ. “. .you were bought with a price!”


God purchased the believers body and spirit with the precious shed blood of Jesus Christ. Let us be diligent to remember that our bodies belong to the Lord – purchased by His Son and inhabited by His Spirit. “Oh, how He loves us so!”

- Pastor Virgil Amundson