Pastor Keith’s Blog

The Stranger and the Wall

“Our country is being overrun with foreigners.” “Everywhere I go, I see people from different ethnicities, different cultures.”  “Maybe we should build a wall or develop a policy to keep them out.” 

These statements are sometimes thought.  But God speaks to the Children of Israel in Leviticus 19:34, “The stranger who dwells among you shall be to you as one born among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.”

God does not see ethnic diversity as a threat.  Other people groups and “strangers” were not to be ostracized from the sphere of connection but instead are to be drawn into the closeness of our families.  The Israelites and ourselves are to love the stranger as if they were a part of our family, born in our house.  This may not be easy.  It may not be what we would naturally do, however this was God’s command to His people.   Elsewhere God gave exhortations about not taking the values or the gods of the foreigners, but this did not mean that they were not to welcome the stranger and encourage them.

Perhaps if we were more loving and considerate to those that are strangers in our midst there would be more peace and understanding.  After all, we were all strangers to God, and He loved us enough to bring us into His family.  Could we not love and care for others?

Take a moment to consider who is the stranger in your midst that you need to spend more time with.  Then pray and ask our Lord to fill you with a heart of care and compassion that embraces the foreigners and the strangers in your midst.

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We Groan

There are many things which can cause us to groan from within, whether it be the pressures of life, the burdens of others or the sickness of a loved one.  The frustration or sense of helplessness within ourselves will cause us to groan over our inabilities.  In Romans 8 we are told that at times we don’t know how to pray but the Spirit groans within us, making intercession on our behalf.

2 Cor 5:4 talks about a different type of groaning.  “For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life.”  This is not groaning because of an injustice or unreachable goal, but rather a cry for something better that is still to come.  It is yearning for a future walk with God that is stronger and more tangible than what we presently have.  We often groan as we look for a change to our situations, yet God’s word tells us that something inside of us is craving for a sensing of God that will truly satisfy all desires of the heart, for in His presence is fullness of Joy (Ps . 16:11).

The nature of exciting experiences and fulfilling relationships always cause us to desire more.  There is a parallel between the fulfillment of things here on earth and the spiritual fulfillment of our walk with God.   Just as good experiences here on earth leave us yearning to have more, so too, a good walk with God will always leave us somewhat empty and unsatisfied, wanting more of a relationship with Him.  Because of our finite nature, here on earth we can never fully receive enough of an awareness or experience with God to be truly satisfied.  We need to keep coming to Him again and again to experience more and more of Him.

How do we experience God?  A good place to start would be with a desire to see and sense Him.  To this we can add:

  • Learning about the life and nature of Jesus – no one can come to God except through Jesus.
  • Reading the scriptures and asking that God would make them relevant to your life.
  • Praying for God to help you to see Him working in and around you
  • Asking for the Holy Spirit to gently drop His thoughts and impressions into your heart.
  • Seeking to be more aware of the love of God in your life, and the peace of God in every situation.

In your heart there will be groanings of dissatisfaction, wishing that things would be different.  Take time to turn this groaning into times of great satisfaction as you experience the love and nature of Jesus Christ, the one who truly satisfies.

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Alternator Repair

Google is so great.  Some time ago I had to do some repairs on a faulty alternator on my vehicle.  After a couple of keystrokes on my laptop I had step by step instructions on how to remove the alternator, pictures were included and even a video walking through the steps, how easy was that!  AlternatorThe video took about 6 minutes of time, though when watching the video it was obvious that there were some time cuts.  A 6 minute video, mechanics handbooks estimated less than an hour of time, how hard could the task be?  Well it took longer than an hour, in fact it took several removals, partial disassembly of the alternator reassembly, checking it out, and then just as many installations.  In the end a broken commutator brush and faulty ground wire on the engine was the problem, $2.50 worth of parts.

We often say or think, “Just give me the steps that I need and I’ll be on my way.”  Isn’t it interesting that the Bible does not give a list of steps, for how to walk with God.

Clipboard With Blank Check List Ticked

I often thought that it would be nice if the Bible gave simple guidelines on how to become a Christian, three steps for hearing the voice of God, seven principles for overcoming challenges.  In the church we often give such steps and principles to people, yet always there is an understanding that some form of connection with God is necessary and simple steps cannot bring that about.  Gregory of Nyssa said that “Concepts produce idols, only wonder grasps anything”.  If God were to give us a set of steps then these concepts could end up being the things which we focus upon, they could in themselves become idols unto us. Doing the steps would become more important than the end result which the steps point toward.  That is why the scriptures do not give such lists or steps.  Instead we have historical accounts of people who met with God, people who failed to meet with God, the prayers offered, the frustrations lived, the rebellion of the heart, and lives that were changed.

It is in applying the teaching of Jesus and the work of Jesus Christ to our lives, then as we examine the variety of biblical lives and observe their struggles, we see aspects of our lives in some of these people.  Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit we learn from the positive and negative examples of others in the scripture and from that we gain the results that God has for us.

Out of our relationship with Jesus Christ and our obedience to His prompting – life comes.

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How Was Your Christmas?

Looking back a couple of days, how was your Christmas?  Was it what you had expected?  Did things go as smoothly as you had wanted them to?  It is likely that all was not perfect, rarely does everything go perfectly, however have you thought about what you would have needed to have a more perfect or a more lasting Christmas?

Some of the joys of Christmas would not have lasted, the toys would have lost their appeal, the food was eaten, the company left or didn’t arrive.  Perhaps there were some hostile words spoken.  Take a moment to think about what would bring greater happiness to your life?  What would bring greater peace to your life?  What would bring greater fulfillment to you?

after-christmasIt seems like we all want more.  We tend to want more money, more possessions, more success, more love, more security, more strength, more honor, more of everything.  However in Deut. 8:2, 3, God says that when He brought the Israelites into the promised land, He humbled them and tested them “so that you would know that man does not love by bread alone. But by every word that proceeds from the mouth of The Lord.”                                                                                        Perhaps the dissatisfaction that comes after Christmas is an indication that we should not be seeking to have great fulfillment from the things we have, or from the things around us.  Instead our life is to come from the very word of God living in our hearts.  The humbling frustrations that come after Christmas are allowed so that we will seek for that which truly satisfies.

Then when God provides and blesses we are told in 2 Cor. 9:11  “You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. (NIV)”  The blessings and working of God in our life is not just for our benefit, but so that many around us would benefit as well.

This Christmas season, if you have been blessed, share some of that blessing with others.  If you have found yourself frustrated – use that experience to help you realize and to obtain the true source of life which comes from the words of our Lord Jesus Christ.

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