Blogs, Random Thoughts On Faith as well as Transcripts Of The Audio Sermons
|Posted by Rev Amanda Bruscella on October 21, 2012 at 7:05 AM||comments (0)|
Struggling to find a theme to share with everyone today, I suddenly began thinking about the Bibe verse that is such an integral part of the Pacific Life Church. In fact, it was so special that it was chosen specifically to become part of the PLC emblem and it is found in many of Pastor Brian’s postings and mailings, as well! John 16:33,  “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
How many of us can say with certainty that they feel exactly the same today as they did prior to September 11th, 2001? I know I cannot! And while there have been literally thousands of world events that have occurred since that day, (and even before, come to think of it) there have been none that equaled that date for the sheer capacity it had to unite a generation of people. Yes, until then, most of us were content to go about the business of living lives that were ordinary and perhaps even a little mundane, as well! But never again will we ever view even something as commonplace as turning the calendar page to September in quite the same way, since that day robbed so many of the capacity of going to work every day and somehow spending those eight odd hours feeling somewhat safe and secure within the confines of our chosen professions.
However, it is important that you understand that in spite of, and perhaps even because of, the events of that day, there is still hope for us all! It is a hope that we are reminded of every time we see the Pacific Life Church logo and catch sight of that one Bible verse! You see, it is God’s promise that despite all of the world’s tribulations, that He remains with us.
Look at the original KJV of the same verse: 33 “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” Now think about the word tribulation that it contains. Did you know that in Greek, the word tribulation means, “affliction, anguish, burdened, persecution, tribulation, trouble”?
Now I don’t know about you but seeing all of these concepts for the word tribulation is frightening in many ways, and perhaps a bit depressing, as well. We are, after all, mere mortals who lack superhuman capes to fight evil at every turn. And yet, think about it for a second. You see, when you choose faith in the promise the Son of God gave by his very sacrifice on Calvary, that is EXACTLY what we are given. Well, not exactly a superhero cape. More like a promise that we will always be shielded and protected neath His protecting “wings”.
Psalm 91:1-16 He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.  I will say of the Lord, "He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust."  Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler And from the perilous pestilence.  He shall cover you with His feathers, And under His wings you shall take refuge; His truth shall be your shield and buckler.  You shall not be afraid of the terror by night, Nor of the arrow that flies by day,  Nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness, Nor of the destruction that lays waste at noonday.  A thousand may fall at your side, And ten thousand at your right hand; But it shall not come near you.  Only with your eyes shall you look, And see the reward of the wicked.  Because you have made the Lord, who is my refuge, Even the Most High, your dwelling place,  No evil shall befall you, Nor shall any plague come near your dwelling;  For He shall give His angels charge over you, To keep you in all your ways.  In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.  You shall tread upon the lion and the cobra, The young lion and the serpent you shall trample underfoot.  "Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore I will deliver him; I will set him on high, because he has known My name.  He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him and honour him.  With long life I will satisfy him, And show him My salvation."
The question then becomes what do you choose for your life? The offer is there. It is given to us all equally! But it requires an answer from us. Do you run to that place of refuge under the shadow of the Almighty, or do you leave skid marks as you rush away, in the opposite direction? It is totally up to each of us! The offer is there. He tells us as much over and over again in the verses of the scripture!
Psalm 9:9-10 The Lord also will be a refuge for the oppressed, A refuge in times of trouble.  And those who know Your name will put their trust in You; For You, Lord, have not forsaken those who seek You.
Psalm 46:1 "....God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble."
Nahum 1:7 The Lord is good, A stronghold in the day of trouble; And He knows those who trust in Him.
What will your choice be? Do you want to risk facing life and taking a chance that you are insulated against all of life’s tribulations? It seems like this is what another wants. It is that other that foists such things as AFFLICTION, ANGUISH, BURDENED, PERSECUTION, TRIBULATION OR TROUBLE on us all. In fact, he delights in creating misery! Or would you rather plan for and know in advance what living life as one of those who has chosen to accept Christ and all of His protections that faith in Him affords to you?
Just think about the benefits that choice affords! Can there be anything more glorious than Eternal Life?
Psalm 91:1-2 He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.  I will say of the Lord, "He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust."
|Posted by Brian Linebarger on September 30, 2012 at 1:55 PM||comments (1)|
The 23rd chapter of Mathews Gospel is a very rich chapter, and one that every Christian, especially those who are in or aspire to leadership should not only read but memorize and apply to our daily lives. Today we are going to look at the first few verses of this chapter, and I encourage you all to read it for yourself and really try to apply it.
Many times, Jesus did not mince words. Yes He spoke in parables a lot, but there were other times when he spoke plain and did not care if those who He was speaking to or about were offended. We have to learn to do the same. To emulate The Lord in everything. There is a place for parables but there also comes a time that you must stand up and speak up.
In our Chapter today, Jesus did just that……
Matthew 23:5-8 (KJV)
5But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments,
6 And love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues,
7 And greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi.
8 But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren.
BAM……. Right between the eyes with this one. There are so many people today who claim to be Ministers and yet they fit this description. Anything and everything they do they make sure that everyone knows about it. Jesus tells us here they make “broad their phylacteries”. Phylacteries are small boxes that contained scriptures and were worn (and still are in some cases) by those of the Jewish Faith during weekday morning prayers. Of course the bigger the box the more devout they would seem… They also “enlarge the borders of their garments”. This is referring to the robes that the Pharisees would wear that denoted their status.
Now, there is nothing wrong with wearing nice clothing, and there is nothing wrong with showing respect to those who The Lord has put in a position of authority over you. These verses when taken in context, are dealing with those in the positions who let it go to their heads.
Verse 5: those who help those in need and then brag about it anywhere they can, and those who HAVE to have the most elaborate vestments, or the most expensive suits.
Verse 6: those who insist on special treatment because of the office they are in.
Verse 7: those who go out of their way when in public to make sure that those around them know that they are important, and those who insist on being called “reverend”, “bishop”, “most reverend”, etc.
Verse 8 is the one that is probably the hardest one for a lot of Ministers to deal with and is the one that is often ignored. This is a clear prohibition by The Lord against using religious titles for your own vanity.
What do I mean by that? I mean that if you use a religious title no matter if it is Pastor, Bishop, Apostle, Deacon, Evangelist, etc in order to “set yourself apart” from other Christians then you are going against the Word Of Our Lord. The same thing goes for wearing special clothing, vestments, etc.
What it all comes down to my friends is, like so many other things, intent.
If you use a title solely as a designation of the office that The Lord has placed you in for the purpose of letting people know that they can come to you when they need help (for example a Physician putting Doctor on his business card) then there is nothing wrong with using that title. If on the other hand you are using that title in order to get special treatment, because you think you deserve to be “set apart”, or you think that you are better than others because you have a Degree hanging on your wall, then you have a problem and a big problem at that…………………
4 He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself.
5 After that he poureth water into a bason, and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded.
|Posted by Brian Linebarger on September 24, 2012 at 3:00 AM||comments (1)|
Derek Redmond was one of the best athletes to ever compete in the Olympics. He had may awards, and had trained and prepared for the 1992 Olympics. He knew the risks, as he was forced to withdraw from the 1988 Olympics moments before the race he was scheduled to compete in because of an Achilles tendon injury.
Four years and five surgeries later, he was determined to medal in the 400 in the 1992 Barcelona games.
His father Jim Redmond, watched in anticipation as Derek settled into the starting blocks for the semi-final race. Derek got off to a clean start and quickly took the lead. His win looked imminent. Then the unthinkable happened. With a pop, his right hamstring muscle tore, and he fell to the ground in agony. Jim, seeing his son in trouble raced from the top row of the stands.
Determined to finish, Derek lifted himself to his feet, his leg quivering, and ever so slowly, hobbled down the track, waving away the oncoming medical personnel. He limped onward, his tear-stained face twisted in agony.
His father finally reached the bottom of the stands, leapt over the railing, and with two security officers chasing after him, ran to help. “I’m here, son,” Jim said softly, as he hugged his boy. “We’ll finish together.” Sobbing, Derek placed his arm around his father’s shoulders.
Arm in arm, they continued their painful journey. Just before the finish, Jim released Derek. He completed the course on his own. The crowd in total frenzy responded with a standing ovation. With tears in his eyes, Jim Redmond told the press afterwards. “I’m the proudest father alive. I’m prouder of him than I would have been if he had won the gold medal.”
Derek Redmond’s name will be remembered long after records are broken and medals tarnish. He persevered, and with his father’s help, finished strong.
How easy it would have been for this young man to just give up….. Nobody would have faulted him for it. After all, a hamstring tear (or any muscle tear) is extremely painful. He could have just lay down where he had fallen and let the medical personnel take care of him. I am sure they would have given him something for the pain and then taken him away in an ambulance to a hospital. Everyone watching would have understood. But Derek did not see it that way. Even if those watching would not have faulted him, he would have faulted himself. Why? Because even if he no longer had any chance of winning the gold, he was determined to finish the race. For Derek, it wasn’t about the gold, it was about finishing what he had started.
Our life as Christian is much like a race, but instead of a sprint, we are running an endurance race. It is critical that we know and understand the difference, and that we also understand what we are running for. If we turn our Bibles to Hebrews 12, we will get a great picture of what our race should be:
Hebrews 12:1-2 (NKJV)
Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
My friends, When you proclaim the Name Of Christ, people are watching you. They are watching every move you make. That is why we must have endurance to run our race, and we must cast aside anything that will weigh us down or slow us down, and we do our best to avoid the sin in our lives that will trip us up. When you are running a race, the last thing you want to happen is to fall down due to something that could have been avoided. Why? Again because people are watching you. People that you would not even suspect. That grumpy guy at the office, that relative that is always finding fault, your friends who don’t understand the changes that took place in your life when you became a Christian are all watching you to see what you are going to do, to see if your commitment to Christ will last, or if you will start out fast and then fade away. Our Lord had this to say in Luke’s Gospel:
Luke 14;28-30 (NKJV)
28 For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it— 29 lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish’?
In this verse, Jesus is not talking about money. Instead, He is using money as a metaphor to tell us that we must have endurance to run our race. He is telling us to count up what it cost to run this race, not in gold or silver or dollars, but in commitment to Him. Just as our athlete in the story had to have commitment above all else to be able to run that race, so do we have to have commitment first and foremost in order to live our lives for Christ. You can have all the money in the world, but that will not make you a Christian, or a true Disciple Of Christ no more than it would make the young man an athlete.
Sadly, there are many people out there who have started the race and have gotten sidetracked. They now proclaim the name of Christ, but their commitment is to winning the gold (money), not to enduring until the end. Doing this is what it means (regardless of what you may have been brought up hearing) to take the name of The Lord in vain (Exodus 20:7).
So my friends I want to encourage you to press on toward the goal. Keep running that race for The Lord. Are there times when we may fall? Are there times when we may get knocked down and injured? Yes there are, but just as the father of our young athlete in the story picked up his son and helped him to finish the race, so will our Heavenly Father pick us up, and keep us going and will see us through. All we have to do is be willing to keep on going, no matter if we are injured, hurt, upset, poor, rich or whatever. We have to keep moving, to keep pressing on, forgetting the things that are behind us, and keep moving forward, and with His help, we will endure until the end.
Philippians 3:13-1413 Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, 14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
|Posted by Brian Linebarger on July 2, 2012 at 10:20 AM||comments (4)|
On any given day if you were to go to a Hospital or Hospice facility, you would see them. Walking the corridors with a smile and a kind word. People seek them out for advice. When a loved one is near passing or about to go into surgery they are called in. Are we talking about Doctors? Nurses maybe? No, we are talking about Chaplains……….
The role of Chaplain is not an easy branch of Ministry, but it is a vital one. Chaplains perform most of the duties that a Pastor would, but many times the people that they serve they have never met before. Most times it is a volunteer position, so you must be willing to do this work without expectation of any compensation. You also may be called in to serve a person who is of a different denomination than you are, and you must be willing to lay aside your denomination and serve the people in need until a Minister from their own Church or denomination can get there.
In my time as an Emergency Response Chaplain, I have served the entire spectrum from Catholic to Pentecostal and everyone in between. When a person is about to meet The One who created them, denominations dont really seem to matter, what does matter is that there is a person of God there with them.
Many times the Chaplain is called in when people are going through some of the toughest times in their lives. It is a 24 hours a day, 7 day a week, 365 day a year Ministry.
As a Chaplain you must be willing to listen, you must have a thick skin, and you must be prepared to answer the tough questions when it comes to ‘Why is this happening to me”. As I said, it is a tough branch of Ministry, but a vital and needed one.
Here in the US, there is a shortage of Ministers willing to take on this role, and yet being a Chaplain is the very definition of helping others. The shortage is even more acute in Hospitals that are located in Urban areas. In these Hospitals, they are desperate for anyone who is willing to take on this role, while Hospitals in more affluent areas many times have a waiting list…… This my friends SHOULD NOT BE.
The Lord tells us in Matthew 10:8, freely ye have received, freely give. So what is Jesus telling us? If you read a little further in Matthew 10, you will find the answer…..
I have heard other Ministers bragging about how they can “clear $500.00 or more by providing communion to people in nursing homes and Hospitals”. THIS IS WRONG. These same Ministers say that they consider communion, praying for/anointing the sick and dying to be Sacraments, so why then would you charge for them??
As Christians, you are already authorized by The Lord to perform these duties, but most time the Hospitals want you to be Ordained and/or have an authorization from your Church to serve as a Chaplain. If you are Ordained through Pacific Life Church, you are authorized by the Church to serve in this capacity by virtue of your Ordination with us. It should also be mentioned that if you are Ordained by Pacific Life Church, you are Ordained by a “brick and mortar” Church, not a Church that exists solely in cyberspace (this is important to a lot of Hospitals). We will work with you and help you complete anything that you may need in order to serve. This can range from verification of your Ordination, a letter of good standing (included when you order your Ordination Credential), Photo ID Cards, filling out/Notarizing any paperwork required by the facility that you are going to work with, whatever it takes, we will help you get it done so that you can serve these people who are in need. We will also be offering a Certificate Course in Chaplaincy very soon through our Minster Training Center.
The Lord is calling, will you answer?
Matthew 25:34-40 (KJV)
Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:
Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?
When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?
Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
|Posted by Brian Linebarger on June 10, 2012 at 9:40 AM||comments (0)|
Growth In Christ- Prelude- Laying Your Foundation.
Today we are going to talk about building the foundation of your Faith. Building Faith is a process, just like the building of a house. And it all comes down to the foundation that you build on. When I traveled through England a loved going to the castles, not only because of the history that was contained in those walls, but also because of the amazing fact that even though they were hundreds of years old, the foundation was still strong, and in most cases they could be safely occupied even now with just a little cleaning up.
In our text for today, we see Jesus talking about the building of your Spiritual house and how to do it so that it will stand the test of time.
Matthew 7:24-27 (NLT)
24 “Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. 25 Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock. 26 But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. 27 When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.”
The most important things that we need to take away from todays sermon and apply to our lives……….
1. Rain and floods - represent the pressures of life.
When the pressures of life come, that's when the quality of the foundation is exposed.
Life is full of pressure. Some people are under the impression that when you turn your life over to The Lord, you are free from stress. Nothing could be further from the truth. Jesus never promised us a stress or problem free life, what He did promise is that he would always be there with us to help us through.
2. The house - the structure you build - that's your life.
These men both built a house.
And they both experienced the same rain and wind and floods.
Jesus didn't say if the rain and wind and floods come - He just assumed they would come - it's a given.
You can't escape them, no matter what people tell you, no matter who you are.
But what makes the difference to the outcome is the foundation.
The final destiny of the house is determined, not by the house itself, but by the quality of the foundation.
If your Spiritual house is built on a solid foundation, you don’t have to worry about wind, rains floods, whatever. Because your spirit will be firmly anchored in the bedrock of Christ. The winds may blow hard and it may feel like you are about to topple, but that foundation will hold strong, and you will not fall.
Some other important things to note about Foundations:
You can't just build without planning what it is you're building on.
To make sure your house of Faith is going to stand the storms of life, you have to build it on solid rock. And that rock is Christ.
We can't build the structure until the foundation is in, or we're asking for trouble.
If you try and build your house of Faith without a solid foundation, all you have is a tent and as we all know, a tent, no matter how much you try and stake it down, will blow away as soon as the first storm comes.
The foundation takes the weight of the house - if it's not done properly the house will eventually come crashing down
You cant build anything on top unless you have a good foundation. The foundation holds up the other levels. No matter if you have a 1 story house or a huge skyscraper, it has to start with a solid foundation.
Lay your foundation on the solid bedrock of Christ. Once you do this, you can build onto it. How high it will go depends on what God has in store for you, but not matter what it is you can be prepared as long as you have the solid foundation….
|Posted by Brian Linebarger on January 18, 2012 at 7:35 AM||comments (0)|
Sola Fide, By Faith Alone………………………..
Galatians 3:23-29 (NLT)
23 Before the way of faith in Christ was available to us, we were placed under guard by the law. We were kept in protective custody, so to speak, until the way of faith was revealed.
24 Let me put it another way. The law was our guardian until Christ came; it protected us until we could be made right with God through faith. 25 And now that the way of faith has come, we no longer need the law as our guardian.
26 For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes. 28 There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And now that you belong to Christ, you are the true children of Abraham. You are his heirs, and God’s promise to Abraham belongs to you.
The Faith and works debate. It has been going on for a long time, and will continue to go on. Continuing our study of Galatians, we will find that Faith and Grace are the only things that you need to be Saved, but that works will play a part. Works will be there, they are just not necessary to salvation. Rather, they are a product (fruit) of true Faith in Christ.
In our verses today, Paul is explaining things to the Church that he founded in Galatia. He is writing to tell the people in the Church to not listen to those who came into the Church and tried to bring them back to the old ways of the law. As we look and see what was going on, we will have a better understating of Paul’s writings.
So in the start of our verses, Paul is addressing why the Mosaic law was there in the first place. The law, or the Jewish traditions were put in place by God as a way to redeem His people. They were a way to redeem them from their sins until Jesus came. That is why Paul is saying that the law kept them under guard. The King James translation says that the law was our schoolmaster, keeping us safe and teaching us until Jesus was born. Under the law, Faith played a smaller part. You could have Faith, but still you had to sacrifice animals on the altar, you had to go to the High Priest in order for your sins to be forgiven. Once Jesus came to this earth, we “graduated”. We no longer needed a schoolmaster to keep us safe and instruct us. We could go directly to God through Jesus. We no longer needed a schoolmaster or a guardian. We were like a baby bird that is ready to fly. We needed to be pushed out of the nest and test our own wings.
There has been much made of the perceived contradictions in the teachings of Paul and the teachings of James. Paul taught and lived a Sola Fide (by Faith alone) Gospel, it has been argued that James on the other hand taught a works Gospel. To understand this, and to clear up any confusion, and also to show that there is no contradiction, we have to understand that Paul and James were from totally different backgrounds, and had totally different experiences with Christ.
James was one of the first Disciples to join Jesus. He (along with John) was called directly off their boat and told to drop everything and follow Jesus. Paul of course, persecuted peoples like James for a living, and it was not until Jesus appeared to Paul after His death and resurrection, that Paul literally saw the light (so much so that he was blind for three days) that he started to preach the Gospel. We also have to look at the people that both of them were writing to. Paul was generally writing to Churches he had planted. James was writing to the twelve tribes of Israel that had been scattered. Both were Jewish, but had totally different experiences with Jesus, so it stands to reason that if you look at both letters (epistles) in context, they will be different in their scope and composition because of the people they are meant to reach, and because of the way that these two men came to know Jesus.
So back to Galatians. This letter was written to a Church that was largely made up of pagan converts, and it was being “infiltrated” (for lack of a better term) by those who tried to bring the converts back under the Mosaic law. Much like what is going on in the Church today, this type of thing would cause a lot of confusion, and would cause new believers to just give up and go back to their old ways. Paul was very concerned about this (as we should be today), and he took action in the form of this letter to the Galatian Church. What Paul is saying to the Galatians is that Faith alone is all that you need to be saved. By Faith you accept the Grace of God that is a free gift to all, and by accepting this gift, you become a child of God, and a rightful heir to the kingdom. You are not longer Jew or Gentile, you are no longer male or female, you are only a child of God, and a such, you are entitled to share in the promise that God gave to Abraham. You are entitled to be a child of the King Of Kings. You are entitled to everything a father would give his children. In short, you are entitled to it all.
As a child of the King, you will as a matter of course, do good works. You will want to do good works. But unlike those who teach that works are required in order for you to reach Heaven, you will do these works out of love for your Father and out of love for your neighbors and those in need rather than out of an obligation. And when you do something out of love not out of obligation, your reward will be so much sweeter, your sense of satisfaction will be so much greater because you have done something because you wanted to not because you had to……….
|Posted by Brian Linebarger on January 6, 2012 at 2:40 PM||comments (0)|
Galatians 1:11-17 (NLT)
11 Dear brothers and sisters, I want you to understand that the gospel message I preach is not based on mere human reasoning. 12 I received my message from no human source, and no one taught me. Instead, I received it by direct revelation from Jesus Christ.
13 You know what I was like when I followed the Jewish religion—how I violently persecuted God’s church. I did my best to destroy it. 14 I was far ahead of my fellow Jews in my zeal for the traditions of my ancestors.
15 But even before I was born, God chose me and called me by his marvelous grace. Then it pleased him 16 to reveal his Son to me so that I would proclaim the Good News about Jesus to the Gentiles. When this happened, I did not rush out to consult with any human being. 17 Nor did I go up to Jerusalem to consult with those who were apostles before I was. Instead, I went away into Arabia, and later I returned to the city of Damascus.
Continuing on with our study of Paul’s letter to the Church in Galatia, we will this week look at the background of the letter to get a better understanding of it’s full context and scope, and we will start in on the foundations of our Faith that are laid out in this important book.
Of all the Pauline letters, the letter to the Galatians is the most powerful and the one that truly reveals what Paul taught. It is also the only Pauline letter who’s authorship has never been questioned, and it is used to test the other Pauline letters for authenticity.
Galatians forms the basis of Paul’s teachings, and by extension, the true teachings of the Christian Faith. Among its many topics is the recurring theme that by Grace alone we are saved. Galatians was also written with a sense of urgency. We can therefore safely assume that there were serious problems going on in this Church, and Paul felt he needed to address them right away, and since he could not hop on a plane or in a car, traveling there was not practical, so he wrote this letter and sent it by emissary (there were no mailmen or FedEx, UPS etc then either). You immediately get the urgency of this letter because (unlike most others), Paul give’s only a perfunctory greeting (5 verses), and gets right into the “meat” of what he has to say.
Today’s study is going to look at Paul’s explanation of how and why he started his ministry. We will look at what he did following his conversion, and how we, as Christians need to follow Paul’s example in order to realize our full potential in Christ.
There were some in the Galatian Church that questioned Paul’s authority to teach the Gospel. They accused Paul of “sugar coating” the Gospel by teaching “Sola Fide” (salvation through Grace alone). You will find that there are many parallels between what was going on in the Church in Galatia at the time of Paul’s writing, and what is going on in The Church of today.
So, what did Paul do following his conversion? We know that an encounter with Jesus (after His resurrection) changed Paul’s life. The Lord revealed himself to Paul directly. This was such a powerful thing that Paul immediately started preaching the Gospel. He did not first go to the Church leaders to get their approval, he did not seek approval from any human. Instead, he took the knowledge that Jesus revealed to him, and started preaching. He started traveling to distant lands and sharing the Good News with those who were not Jewish. This was the calling that The Lord gave him. You will notice that he says that by Gods Grace, he was chosen before he was even born. So it is with us. We who are Christians have a calling on our lives. This calling was ordained by God while we were still in the womb. Just as Paul did, we often times will do other things, will even run from the call, but sooner or later The Lord will reveal himself to us and say GO. When this happens, we must go. We cant worry about what men say, we cant worry about people saying we need to do this or do that or we need to wait until we “grow” in order to share the Good News. We need to JUST DO IT. When I left the denomination I was born into and moved to the Seattle area, I started attending a “Mega-Church” there. I was eager to continue my ministry, but in a non-denominational setting. I had finally found out what it meant to be free in Christ, and I burned with a passion to share that with the world. I went to a meeting with the Pastor of this Church (it took a month to get an appointment, and then I was only given 15 minutes), but I was eager to get his “blessing” to start ministering in the Church, and to preach the Gospel. Well I found out that I had made a mistake in seeking his approval. Instead of being supportive of me, and encouraging me to continue on, I was told that I needed to take classes at a certain Bible college, to conform to certain rules and guidelines that he and the Church board had come up with etc. I was offered the post of substitute Sunday School teacher. I was told that after 5 years of working in the Sunday school/nursery, he would consider licensing me to preach…. Needless to say, my tenure at that Church soon came to an end, and The Lord lead me to another avenue of ministry. I should have followed Paul’s example, and just started ministering to people without seeking approval from the Church leaders. I have nothing against a Christian education, and I firmly believe that if you are going to teach others, you should study the scriptures and fully understand them. If The Lord leads you to go to a Bible college, then by all means, go, but sitting in a Bible class, learning a denominational take on scripture IS NOT a requirement to preach the Gospel. The only requirement to preach is that you be totally committed to The Lord, and that you have a heart for ministry. The best Bible teacher you will ever know is the Holy Spirit, and if you let Him, He will open your mind to scripture in a way that no human being can.
Paul could be considered a non-conformist. He did not care what the Church leaders in Jerusalem thought of him or the message he preached. He just went and shared the Good News of Jesus, and I urge you all today to do the same. Don’t worry about pleasing a group of humans. Just strive to please God………….
Next week we will continue in Galatians, and will get deep into Sola Fide, and how Paul responded to those in the Galatian Church that were trying to pervert the Gospel of Jesus by making the Christians there conform to the law and to works instead of relying on Grace Alone.
Until next week, may God richly bless you.
|Posted by Brian Linebarger on December 28, 2011 at 7:35 AM||comments (0)|
Another new year is upon us……………
In just a few days we will say goodbye to 2011 and hello to 2012. Right now, many people are writing down their new years resolutions. My prayer is that you keep it simple, keep it real, and set obtainable goals for yourselves.
As we look forward to a new year, its good to look back at the year that has just past. But, when looking back, we must be careful not to get hung up on what has happened in the past. The past is just that, it is past. It can not be changed. The best we can do is learn from our failures and mistakes, and build on our triumphs and successes. You must not let your past failures control your future, and on the other side, you must not let your triumphs define who you are. Each day is a new day, full of its own failures and triumphs, and too many people try and ride the “coattails” of what they have done right in the past, and beat themselves up over what they have done wrong.
Take each day as it comes. Make each day count. If you fail one day, try again the next. If you succeed one day, savor the moment then put it on the shelf and look for the next triumph.
Live each and everyday to its fullest, because we are not promised tomorrow. All we have is right here, right now.
So reflect and learn, but keep looking ahead. Give it to God and He will lead you where He wants you to be. Keep on moving, and keep the faith. Strive to be all things to all men, that by all means needed you might save some.
Forgive those who have done you wrong, do good to those in need, obey the leading of The Holy Spirit. No one can know what the new year holds, but we can know that with The Lord by our side, it will bring what He wants it to bring.
Strive to obtain 2 Timothy 4:7:
I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:
There is no better goal than this……………
God Bless you all and Happy New Year. May the Lord of all creation bring you light and peace in 2012.
|Posted by Brian Linebarger on December 19, 2011 at 9:30 AM||comments (0)|
And all through the mall, people were seeking the best gift of all. The parking was all gone, so a long way they walked, looking for a sweater, a movie or clock. While the stress mounted, and medication they took, all He wanted was them, He didnt care how they looked...........
1Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem,
2Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.
We all know the story of the wise men or the Kings who came to worship and present gifts to Jesus. They are as much a part of Christmas traditions as the Christmas tree, gifts and Reindeer.
Little is historically known about these men, in fact there are debates that go on until this day as to the number of wise men, where they came from, their names and other things about the traditions that have risen around them. We will not be focusing today on who they were or how many of them there were, rather we are going to focus on what they DID…………..
This much is clear. They saw something out of the ordinary in the sky. Matthews Gospel describes it as a star. They knew that this star was of great importance, and they set out to follow it. Being learned men, they would have been exposed to the Old Testament prophecies of the Messiah, also, it is not to much of an assumption to think that God moved on them to follow this star to Jesus, as they play an important role in keeping Jesus safe from the wrath of Herod.
Some artwork portrays them as alone, but this is very unlikely. It is much more likely that an entire caravan was assembled to travel to Jesus. This is especially true if they were in fact Kings. In any case, they set off on a long journey, guided only by a star. Of interest here is that the start, what has come to be known as the Star Of Bethlehem, appeared to them before they left, and led them to Herod. They asked him where they could find Jesus (called the King Of The Jews), he didn’t know, so he called for the scribes and the Pharisees to interpret the scripture about where the Messiah would be born. The answer of course, was Bethlehem. Herod sends them away and calls the wise men back to him for a private audience. He grills them about the time the star appeared, and send them off charging them to find Jesus and come back and tell him. Herod of course, has ulterior motives. He intends to kill Jesus.
The “meat” of our sermon today, and what the wise men can teach us, and what we can apply to our lives to live in the fullness of Christ can be summed up in 3 points:
1) Seeking and worshipping the Son of God was their highest priority. The wise men were seekers. They had a passion to follow this new star and discoverfor themselves where this “new” king might be. For them it was a long, tough,taxing journey. It took many months and more resources than we can even imagineto find their way, and yet, they persevered and found Him. So must we be. The lord shows us our own “star”, something that will lead us to Him. We must be like the wise men and follow it no matter the cost. Seeking Him out must be our highest priority.
2) When they found him, they humbled themselves and gave Him the best. The gifts they brought were not common items, rather they were rare and precious that would have commanded a high price. In short, they were the best. The gifts given to Jesus and his family were so precious in fact, that it was most likely with these items that they financed their travels into Egypt when fleeing Herod. The point is that in addition to our worship (which we OWE Him), he wants a gift from us, and that gift is our humility and lives. In other words, the very best that we have to give.
3) They followed the leading of the Lord. Verse 12 tells us that they were warned in a dream not to return to Herod. God showed them Herods intent, so they returned to their own country a different way. Of course they knew that disobeying an order from the king would make him mad, and even have subjected them to retaliation had they not returned to their own countries, and of course, had Herod sent soldiers after them while they were returning to their own countries, they would have faced it, and yet they followed the Lords instructions regardless of the cost, or what could have happened to them. We must be the same. When the Lord tells us to do something, we must do it without worrying about what might happen. We must follow without question, trusting that God will take care of us.
As we move into the final week before Christmas, as the parties and celebrations continue, as we plan our celebrations and begin to think about the new year and maybe even our resolutions, we should keep the wise men in mind. We should try and follow their example, and not let anything get in our way.
WISE MEN STILL SEEK HIM!!!
Copyright 2011-,Brian Linebarger, Pacific Life Ministries, Inc. All Right Reserved. This work may be distributed free of charge for non-commercial use by Churches or any other religious organizations or by individuals who need to build their Faith or the Faith of another (just don’t sell it )
|Posted by Brian Linebarger on December 17, 2011 at 8:15 AM||comments (0)|
Today there are 8 days before Christmas…. As we know, it is most likely that Jesus was born in the summer months, but still, no matter what month He was born, Mary & Joseph had to make the journey to Bethlehem, so it would have been about this time (8 days before His birth) that they would have started their journey.
Now this was not an easy journey. Even though it was 70 miles or so, they couldn’t get in the family station wagon and make the trip in a little over an hour. Instead, they had to walk, and Mary rode on a donkey due to her pregnancy. This of course, meant that Joseph had to walk.
They most likely traveled with other members of the family, and although they would have had people to pass the time with, it did not make the journey any easier.
They had to contend with wilderness, wild animals, and the fact that they could travel a maximum of 4-6 miles a day (stopping for meals, etc, and as top ramen had not yet been invented, meal times were a long affair).
Suffice to say that it took a lot of effort to get there, and Joseph, as head of his little family, was charged with and expected to protect Mary (and most likely others in the caravan as he was on older man, but still young enough to be strong and be expected to provide protection)
The mind must wander then to what hazards they faced on that trip. Waking up in the morning to continue the journey, he would have been expected to plan how to provide food and water for the journey, as well as make sure they were on the right track (again, with no GPS to guide them, it was a little more complicated).
Adding to the stress that was inherent in traveling long distances in that era, was the fact that Joseph already knew at this point that the baby Mary was carrying was the son of God. So how much more would he have made sure that Mary was protected and as comfortable as possible.
Of course, after all this, when they finally got there, they had no place to stay. No comfortable bed, no labor & delivery room, not even a midwife to help with the delivery. It was just them……….
They went through all of this, made all this effort for the protection of Jesus, and yet today, a lot of people have a problem getting up and going to Church when it is only a few miles away, and they can travel in an hour what took them a week or more. Somewhere over the years, we have become lazy. We want everything done on our schedule, and if God interferes with that, we tend to put Him on the back burner.
The story of their journey can teach us a lot about persevering and making the effort to do what God wants us to do. The next time you are needed at a Church function or service, or The Lord wants you to make an effort (even if it gets you out of your comfort zone), because He needs something done, and before you start to make up the excuses as to why you cant do it, just think back to that journey and the effort it took for them to make it.
I can guarantee that whatever you excuse you can come up with will pale in comparison to what they went through so that Jesus could be born, so that He could show us how to minister, and so that He could die, opening the way for us to come to God……….