Truth and Love

This past week I have been reading through the epistle of 1 John.  It is a wonderful letter and I encourage you to read through it as well.  I really appreciate the way John reminds the church that we are to keep the commandments of God and abide in His word.  We are to walk in the truth.  John also says that we as we walk in the truth, we are also to walk in the love of Christ.  Truth and love should always go hand in hand.  John writes in 1 John 4:19

1 John 4:19 We love, because He first loved us.  20 If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.

In a sin-fallen world where we witness and experience so many hateful things, Christ calls us to walk in love.  As Christians, others should experience and witness God’s love in us and through us – even when we disagree and even when we’ve been wronged.  We are to love.  There is no place for hating others.  There is no place for hurting others.  We are to love others.  That does not mean we have to compromise the truth.  We are to walk in truth and love.  We are called to do so and we are able to do so because He has first loved us.

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Why I Think Jesus Is God

Someone recently asked me why I think that Jesus is God.  Let me first say that I believe that the Bible teaches the concept of the Trinity even though it may not use the word “trinity” to describe the concept.  The Bible presents a picture of the Trinity at Jesus’ baptism.  Luke’s Gospel records that when Jesus was baptized “the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily form like a dove, and a voice came out of heaven, “You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased. (Luke 3:22).”  In this passage we have God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit all present at the same time.

Perhaps the main reason I believe that Jesus is God is because Jesus claimed to be God.  The gospels record four us that this claim of His was recognized by the Jewish leaders.  They understood that through His words and His teachings, Jesus was claiming to be God.  When Jesus healed the crippled man in John chapter 5, He also forgave the man of his sins.  The Jews understood that only God can forgive sins and they understood that Jesus was claiming to be God.  The Bible says in John 5:18 “For this reason therefore the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because He not only was breaking the Sabbath, but also was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God.”

Jesus was very clear about His Deity in John chapter 10 as He spoke about being the Good Shepherd.  The Jewish leaders pressed Christ further on His Messianic claims and Jesus said in John 10:30 “I and the Father are one.”  When Jesus declared Himself to be God, the Jews picked up stones to kill Him for His blasphemy.  They had no doubt about who Jesus was claiming to be.

Two of my favorite verses (and there are others!) that speak to this truth are in the gospel of John and in Paul’s letters to the Philippians.

John 1:1  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.

 John 1:14 And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Philippians 2:5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

 Jesus, who claimed to be God, performed miracles of healing, cast out demons, showed His power over nature by calming the wind and the waves, He lived a sinless life and He predicted His own death, burial and resurrection.  Jesus willingly gave His life on the cross and then demonstrated the power and authority to take it back up again.  He rose on the third day.  All of these things are evidence and testify to the fact that we can trust what Jesus says.  We can trust that He is God incarnate, the second person of the Trinity. We can trust that He can and will forgive us of our sins if we ask. We can trust that Jesus is God.  I pray that you have accepted Him as yours.

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This is the Day

This morning the granddaughters and I took the dogs for a walk.  It was a beautiful morning and not too hot yet.  I love going for a walk with the girls.  I know that pretty soon they will be growing up and will be very busy and interested in so many other things.  There probably won’t be much time to take walks together.  Who knows what the future holds, I need to take advantage of today.  It is like the Bible says in Psalm 118:24 “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”  I know I am grateful for this day.  I hope and I pray that you are too.

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The Father of All Comfort

I was talking with someone last week and they were reflecting on a difficult time they faced years ago.  They spoke of how tough it was to make it through each day and how they know that God helped them through that time.  They shared how God has since used their experience to help them connect with and be able to offer help and hope to others going through similar tough times.  As they spoke I was reminded of Paul’s words to the church in 2 Corinthians 1:3 – 4.

2 Cor 1:3  Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

In these verses Paul praises God for the comfort and strength He sends to us in difficult times.  Paul says that not only does God pull us through such times but that He is able to use these experiences in our lives in a positive way.  We are able to comfort others with the same divine comfort that we ourselves have received from God.  My prayer for you is that today, you will know and receive the comfort of God, the Father of all mercies and all comfort, and our Lord Jesus Christ.

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Working in You and Through You

I am excited that we are having another baptism tomorrow at church.  This will be the second baptism we have had this summer.  And we will have another one soon as another young man came forward last week to give his life to Christ.  I am so excited to see the way God is working in his life and in our church!

We have really been blessed as a congregation and I have been blessed as a pastor by having the Lord send us people who want to serve others, lead music, teach Sunday school and help in various other ways.  It is really a blessing seeing everyone pitch in and minister together to others in our church and in our community.  It reminds me of what Peter said about spiritual gifts in 1 Peter 4:10

1 Peter 4:10  As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.

God has supplied each of us with special gifts and abilities.  As His followers, we should be good stewards of His gifts, His blessings and His grace.  Our Lord wants to work in us and through us, all of us, for His purpose and His glory.  And it is such a sweet blessing when we allow Him to do so.

I hope that you know that the Lord loves you and that He wants to work in you and through you!  I hope that you know that the Lord can help you make a positive impact on the lives of others – now and for eternity!

Until next time, stay strong in the faith,

Pastor Phillip Stephens

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A Different Path

I took a different path,
As I went on my walk today.
And I noticed a bench in the garden,
It was hidden and tucked out of the way.

The bench was old, dusty and stained
Time and weather had left their mark.
It may have been years since someone had rested on it,
Or even noticed it in the park.

I dusted it off and took a seat
And I gave my feet a break
And as I sat there in the shade
I reflected on our choices and the paths we always take.

How many people escape our notice,
How many do we pass on our way?
And like a bench that’s worn and weathered
We don’t give them the time of day.

I vowed to be more aware,
And to open my eyes and see,
For even those who seem worn and weathered
Have a blessing they can offer me.

So I’ll take a different path
As I go on my walk today.
And I’ll try to notice those benches
The ones hidden and tucked out of the way.

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Who You Working For

I was working at the hospital the other day and I visited with one of the cleaning ladies.  I stopped to tell her thank you for the job she was doing.  She said she was glad to do it because she knows what an important job it is.  She said her job is about more than just cleaning.  She said she knows that some patients might not have any family with them and they may be nervous, scared or in pain.  She said when she walks into the room to clean, she smiles and says hello and knows that God can use her work to help the patients feel better.   Her words reminded me of what the Apostle Paul said in Colossians 3:23 – 24.

Col 3:23  Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.

Whatever jobs or tasks we may find ourselves doing, we should do them to the best of our ability.  It provides us an opportunity to thank God and show Him our gratitude for the gifts, abilities and yes, even the very work He has blessed us with.  And it also provides us with an opportunity to bless others.  I was grateful for this reminder provided by this lady.  And as I left, I thanked her again, not just for the work she does, but also for the ministry she provides.

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