“When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, ‘Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.’” Revelation 1:17-18
In the book of Revelation, God gives
us hope as we face all our fears. He gives us a glimpse into Heaven and the
present reality of Christ's reign and His future triumph. Turning our eyes
upon our victorious Jesus gives us hope in the face of all of life's
A few things to remember...Jesus is the first and the last, He died and rose again, and He has the "keys to Death and Hades." Christ's victory isn't just a future triumph to look forward to; it's a present reality. He has conquered death and given you new life! He will make all things new.
An Anchor for the Soul
"This certain hope of being saved is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls, connecting us with God himself behind the sacred curtains of heaven. . . " Heb 6:19 (TLB)
I don’t know about you, but I love being on the water. And because of that I’ve always had an interest in all kinds of boats--large and small. I’ve ridden on a ferry large enough to carry 100 cars and a fishing boat designed for six passengers. One thing all boats have in common is an anchor. An anchor keeps a boat from drifting into danger and it keeps it securely in place, safe from dangerous waves..
The promise of hope is the promise of security in uncertain times. The Bible promises that our hope is an “anchor for our soul.” It gives us an incredible confidence in the midst of the confusion around us. Do you have that kind of confidence where it really counts? Maybe after months of the covid crisis your world continues to be flipped upside down and you’ve lost sight of hope. Or you’re facing an opportunity to accomplish something of real importance. Before you've even gotten started you’ve been engulfed by thoughts of failure. Possibly you’ve tried to break a bad habit but your first attempts were invaded by the thought that you'd not be able to keep your resolve. Hope means confidence. Not self-confidence, but real confidence.
We all need an anchor within. Without an anchor--when life is calm you'll drift--when life is stormy you'll crash. Hope is our storm anchor. Hope becomes our anchor as we enter God's presence. It reminds us that God’s promises are true and His Word can be trusted. It allows us to see by faith that the best is yet to come. It pulls back the curtain and allows us to enjoy the confidence of knowing that God’s plan is better than we can imagine and greater than we can ever fully understand.
Where do Wars and Lawsuits Come From?
Someone once said, while talking to a group of people who called themselves Christians, "To dwell in heaven with the saints in love with the Lord, that will be pure glory, but to live down here with the saints, hmm…that it is another story." He who has ears, let him hear, said the Lord.
Wars and lawsuits among Christians should not exist and the only explanation is that they are a result of our disordered and uncontrolled passions. In James 4, the author asks a rhetorical question that presupposes an affirmative answer, “Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?” The answer is obvious. Yes they do. James gives light to one of the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ when he said, “Because evil thoughts come from the heart, murders, adulteries, sexual immoralities, thefts, false testimonies and blasphemies. These things are what pollute man…” The heart of the problem is that there is a problem in the heart.
And the cause of the conflict is our selfish desires.
The true origins of a war are difficult to pin down. However, James puts the finger on the source. The lawsuits, wars, combats, battles, and disputes, all come from internal circumstances. Wars are more generalized and are continuous states of conflict. Lawsuits are shorter and specific incidents of battle. Both come from within--from each person's inner circumstances and feelings.
It is a said that "it takes two to tango." The same goes for the war. You cannot fight someone who does not want to fight--not a long war, not a short battle. Wars and lawsuits stem from our passions, pleasures, and desires to satisfy our egocentricity. In a hedonistic society like ours it is not difficult to find reasons for fights and wars.
Uncontrolled passions have never, ever been good counselors. Passions affect us so much and in such a way that it is impossible to uproot them. While we will not be able to completely rip them out of our hearts while we are alive, we can and must learn to recognize them under the various disguises and act to resist them. Passions live within us, where they are born, grow, and consume our being. So what can we do? We have to learn to control our desires or they will control us.
My prayer is that God will save us from falling into such battles and keep us from doing evil.
adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the
world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a
friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. 5 Or
do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the
spirit he has caused to dwell in us? 6 But
he gives us more grace. James 4:4-6
As we talk about conflict this week I continue to watch the world around us be drowned in it. You don’t have to turn on the T.V. for very long or scroll for more than a few seconds to see conflict in all aspects of our lives. Maybe this is why James had to be so blunt when it came to where wisdom. Worldly conflict is not a new occurrence. It was prevalent back then just as it is now and the solution remains the same. Another thing that remains the same is our tendency to rely on worldly wisdom to try and resolve those conflicts. I think that is why James has to speak in such a seemingly harsh tone. He cuts right to the point and calls us cheaters when we turn to the world for answers. Not only cheaters (adulterous) but also enemies of God. If James, the brother of Christ, took this so seriously maybe we should too. We should quit relying on our own wisdom or "google wisdom" and lean into God for answers even if that means we have to back down. This can be very difficult for me because it is not enough to just be right, but I must look like I am right to everyone around me as well. That is the pride that makes me an enemy of God in those moments. James makes this even more clear when he quotes Proverbs later in verse 6, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” So as we go about our days, whether remotely or in person, let us remember to humble ourselves and lean into God for our wisdom. Let us be bringers of peace and understanding rather than the conflict that come from the “wisdom” of the world even if that means we don’t always get to “win.” Because in the salvation that we receive in Christ, He has already won the only battle that matters. Let us find hope in that! Love you guys!
Make Good Decisions,
“Submit yourselves, then, to God…Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up.” James 4:7a,10
At the age of 15 I began to feel God leading me to consider full time ministry as my life work. Our church was conducting a week long revival which involved all age groups in the church. As the revival progressed, I knew God was speaking to me about surrendering to Him and pursuing full time ministry as my life work. For about three nights of revival I was at odds with God over His call on my life. At the end of each revival service we would have an invitation where people could accept Christ, ask for prayer, or make other decisions that God had placed on their heart. During that invitation time each night I would grip the pew and hold on tight. I guess I thought God was going to yank me from the pew and that He would make me respond whether I wanted to or not. But He did not do that because He was patiently embracing me with His grace.
My conflict with God was that I kept asking the Lord, “what will my friends think if I say that God is calling me into the ministry?” Hey, I was 15 years of age and I did not want my friends to avoid me or to say, “well, you think you are better than us now.” My conflict with God was real and being at odds with Him was nerving wracking and draining. Once I responded, yielded, and humbled myself before God, I knew confidently that God was calling me to give my life to full time ministry. All that week God was drawing me closer to Him. I am glad that I did not ignore God speaking to me.
How about you? Is God speaking to you about an issue or a relationship in your life and are you at odds with God? Surrender to Him and be “wowed” by His grace.
At this, Job got up and tore his robe and
shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said: "Naked a
came from my mother's womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord
has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised." Job 1:20-21
Why do godly people suffer? Why does God allow underserved suffering? I have asked myself these questions so many times. Especially as I watched my Mimi, my best friend, slowly and painfully suffer from cancer. She was the godliest woman I knew and truly trusted the Lord with her life. I wrestled with wondering why God would allow her to suffer so much, for so long. But I have come to a place of trusting God's sovereignty in loss and suffering.
In the story of Job, it's interesting how it all begins so picture-perfect. Scripture describes to us how Job was blameless and upright. He was blessed in many ways. He had a large family, a thriving livelihood, and feared God. God was pleased with Job.
However, disaster struck in Job's life. God allowed Satan to test him. The test was to prove Satan wrong that Job's faithfulness was dependent on his riches and possessions. In the end, God was glorified. Through it all Job still worshiped the Lord despite his suffering. Job acknowledged that he came into this world with nothing and would take nothing with him. He knew that all he had belonged to God and he trusted the Lord with every aspect of his life.
I don't know what you're facing today or what suffering you have experienced, but I do know this: Although suffering is a part of life and this broken world, God can and will use our suffering for HIS greater good. God has purpose in all things. He is with us in the suffering. A day will come when there is no more sorrow, pain, heartache, or tears. Our joy will be made complete through Christ.
Thing You Have to Have to Heal Conflict
So let’s walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give. Take the mercy, accept the help. Hebrews 4:16 MESSAGE
Unresolved conflict can be disastrous in relationships. In yesterday’s message we looked at five ways in James 4 to cure conflict in a marriage, friendship, or family. But James prefaces these instructions with a six word promise that is foundational to healing any relationship: . . . But he gives us more grace. James 4:6
He starts by saying what you must have first and foremost and what God gives generously is grace. Grace to start over, to forgive, and be forgiven. Grace to keep going, to be set free from guilt, and to overlook the shortcomings of others.
There is no sin greater than God’s grace. If you want to know what grace is like, see Christ on the cross. He loved us so much He willingly gave Himself up for us. He covers our sin, heals our hearts, and showers us with spiritual treasures. Grace pours over us like rain. It floods into our lives and overflows on those around us. Whatever has been done to you, whoever has hurt you, grace can heal it.
We love because He first loved us. We forgive because we have been forgiven. We accept others because God through Christ has accepted us. Grace is the key that unlocks the door to a fresh start and a new beginning with anyone!
There are sages according to themselves, whom God in His Word calls fools. There are sages according to others, whom God in His Word praises. There are sages according to their intellect, of whom the Bible says will lose everything when they die. There are sages according to God. Many call them crazy and the Bible calls them new creatures. This last one is the real and true wisdom because it will last forever from this life to eternity. To be called wise according to heaven, you have to be called crazy by this world. To be called wise in the Lord, you must accept His Lordship in this world.
Who is wise and understanding among you? Show by good conduct your works in wise meekness. James 3:13
An old Arabic proverb says, “Don't say everything you know, don't do everything you can, don't believe everything you hear, don't spend everything you have; Because the one who says everything he knows, the one who does everything he can, the one who believes everything he hears, the one who spends everything he has, often says what is not convenient, does what he should not, judges what he doesn't see, he spends what he can't.”
James makes his comparison with a great question, Who is wise and understanding among you?
“Wise” from the Greek word sofos, indicates someone who is an expert, knowledgeable, cultivated, and truly wise in daily living. “Understood” from the Greek word epistemon, indicates someone intelligent, experienced, who has expert knowledge. For James, the wise man is not the “know-it-all” who always has an answer before every question. The wise is one who understands the nature and purpose of learning. Truly wise is he who knows why, who knows what, and fundamentally, who knows what to ignore. The understood one, in the same way, is not the one who has the capacity to understand all things, but the one who understands the nature and purpose of things and who, for that very reason, has the capacity to teach them to others.
The point is clear. A wise person will face life with humble wisdom through his actions. James explains, "Let him demonstrate by his good conduct his deeds in the meekness of wisdom.” James' desire is that servants of Christ, like Solomon, will ask God for wisdom so that they may live with humility and not focus on the ego.
Lord Jesus help us to be more like you every day and deliver us from all evil.
Pastor Roy Soto
the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then
peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit,
impartial and sincere. 18 Peacemakers who
sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness. James 3:17-18 NIV
I have struggled with being a “know it all” most of my life. I get a sense of accomplishment from knowing the answer and it has been a source of pride, both good and many times bad in my life. I remember all the way back to elementary school being the kid who’s hand shot up at every question just so I could answer first. I had the need to let everyone in the room know that I was smarter than them. I wasn’t gaining knowledge for the sake of my growth or advancement, it was all for the selfish feeling of superiority. If you had asked the younger me if I was wise I would have told you “yes” with zero hesitation. I would have believed it too because I was never wrong. I would like to say that this was a phase that I went through. That like all teenagers I knew more than anyone. All you had to was ask. Unfortunately, it followed me in to my adult life and many times the world rewarded me for it. I made sure in my jobs, my school, and even in my marriage that everyone understood how smart I was. It gained me grades and promotions and I thought it made me a better dad and husband.
Enter Jesus and the whole script was flipped. I began to understand and, more importantly, see that in my pursuit of knowledge I had never gained any wisdom. I was still a little boy who had read too many books and watched too much Jeopardy without worrying about how it could benefit anyone but me. Now don’t misunderstand, I still love to learn and I will always encourage educating yourself. My last few years in Bible College have benefited me in so many ways. But it isn’t enough. We have to learn with a purpose. A purpose of gaining wisdom that is “peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere” and putting it into action. We must “sow” that wisdom into the lives of those around us and also have someone sow that in to us. The mentors in my life have been great sources of wisdom and peace and I would encourage us all to be actively discipling others as well as being discipled ourselves. This was how Jesus taught us to grow His Church and grow in Him.
This week are you seeking wisdom for the sake of peace? Or are you trying to find information to prove someone else wrong and create conflict? Are you planting good, Godly wisdom into others? Are you getting that wisdom from someone else? I truly hope that you are because it is a blessing that will produce a wonderful harvest. Love you guys!
Make Good Decisions,
Seneca Lake Baptist Camp is located in northeast Ohio. It is nestled in the foothills of the Allegheny Mountains. The summer of 1969 I had the opportunity to work at the camp alongside five other teens from across the state. Our job was to do everything that needed to be done. We mowed, we cleaned the bunkhouses after each week of camp, we ran the snack shack which was open each evening after the worship service, we cooked--yes we cooked--we served the food family style, and we cleaned the dishes.
The camp manager was Arlie Carter. He and his wife lived on the property. Everyday Arlie was overseeing the needs of the camp and the campers. We were at his beck and call to take care of every need, making sure every camp leader and camper had a great experience. At times we, the staffers, would gather in the Carter’s home and Arlie would share with us. He had a great sense of humor and was a humble man. Arlie always spoke to our hearts.
Through that summer I was wrestling with decisions about college and ministry direction. I remember one afternoon sitting down at one of the picnic tables with Arlie Carter. I shared with him and he listened intently. Through our conversation Arlie encouraged and guided me. I will never forget how much I gained because of Arlie Carter’s investment in my life that summer.
May each of us thank God for those who invest in our lives. May we look for opportunities to invest in the lives of others.
“Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” Psalm 90:12
I thank my God in all my remembrance of
you. Philippians 1:3
Paul's letters to the church were carefully crafted and filled with thankfulness. Paul is grateful for his rivals, his hardships, and his life in Christ. And in Philippians 1 we see his immense gratitude for his friends. Paul was confident of the hope his friends had in Christ. They shared his certainty that God would move in their lives. He was confident that God was working in his friend's lives. He prayed for his fellow believers and placed them in God's hands.
Paul loved these people with the affection of Jesus rather than simple human love. This allowed their bonds to be strong and to weather storms in their relationships. Loving our friends with the affection of Jesus allows us to truly be thankful for all of our interactions with them--even during the difficult times. Loving each other, offering forgiveness when wronged, and moving forward displays the gospel for the world to see.
We can have this same mindset as Paul. We too can express this kind of thankfulness and affection for our friends. Gratitude for others helps grow our faith.
Hardened or Humble Hearts?
Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. James 3:13
Life is hard. And storms come to all us. No one is exempt. It’s so easy to become hardened by the hurts, disappointments, and disasters of life in this fallen world.
So many broken dreams and broken hearts and broken lives. I see that happening today in this pandemic--lost jobs, stressed families, chronic fear and isolation--that seems to have no end. So often the hardness sets in.
But the godly wise choose another path. They chose not to be defined by what has happened to them. They believe by faith that God has a plan and a will and a purpose even in pain. And if I will submit my life to His will and follow His path, even if I am hurting there will be healing ahead. God is working in me, working around me, and working through me to bless others.
Wisdom says, “Above all else guard your heart. Don’t let life harden it. Don’t give in to bitterness. Don’t resent what others have. Don’t compare--be content with what God has given you. Don’t seek first for yourself and God will give you all you need.”
Unfortunately, people often choose to shut their hearts instead of guarding their hearts. Their heart grows cold, full of resentment, anger, and regret. They’re wishing for what others have. Some are seething about what they’ve lost.
James says there’s so much more. The good life is found on the path of godly wisdom. Pursue that path and you’ll not only avoid all kinds of confusion, disorder, and disharmony (James 3:16), but you’ll find the life you’ve always wanted.
be Wise and to Master Your Words
1. Think more. Most of the mistakes we make with our mouth are simply a failure to connect it to the brain first. William Norris wrote: “If you took care of your lips before speaking, five things you would carefully observe: who are you talking to, who are you talking to, how do you talk to them, when do you talk to them, and where do you talk to them.”
The heart of the righteous thinks to respond; But the mouth of the wicked pours out evil things. (Proverbs 15:28) The writer draws a stark contrast between two people. The righteous one who carefully considers the impact of their words before speaking, and the wicked who speak evil out of control. "I am not a hypocrite." "I say things like they are." Impulsive and thoughtless words almost always hurt others. But the words that are carefully considered are a blessing to those who hear them.
2. Talk less. Our chances of spoiling everything with our words are related to the amount of time we spend with our mouths open.
The Quakers [Society of Friends] have a saying full of truth, "Never break the silence unless you can improve it."
Abraham Lincoln liked to say, "It is better to remain silent and be considered a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt."
In the many words there is no lack of sin; but he who restrains his lips is wise. Proverbs 10:19
3. Listen better. We have two ears and one mouth so we can hear twice and talk once. There are many things that we need to hear and apply to our lives, but unfortunately, we do not always want to listen.
The ear that hears the warnings of life, among the wise will dwell. Proverbs 15:31
It's hard when someone tells us something we don't want to hear, but it's really the only way to gain wisdom. Have you been ignoring some tips recently? As difficult as it may be, take the time to listen to what God wants to tell you through the people who care about you.
Have you ever found yourself thinking about your answer; ready to share your opinion while the other person is still telling your story? Look what God says about that, “It is very silly and embarrassing to respond before listening.” (Proverbs 18:13) If we are really attentive to and interested in others, then we will listen more than we speak.
An anonymous poet once said, "An old wise owl lived in an oak. The more he heard, the less he spoke. The less he spoke, the more he heard." Why aren't we all like that wise old owl?
Help us God to think more, talk less, and listen better.
Be careful out there!
Pastor Roy Soto
take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong
winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to
go. 5 Likewise,
the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great
boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small
spark. 6 The
tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It
corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and
is itself set on fire by hell. James 3:4-6
Hello from Mt. Lebanon! We are so grateful for your support and prayers this week. Please continue to pray as we head home and back to reality. Continue to be in prayer for our leaders and students that the growth in Christ that we have seen this week continues long after we return home. It has been great to have a little bit of normalcy for the students and just some time away to focus on only God. That is not to say that it has been a flawless week. The enemy has been trying to attack us all week through our tiredness and irritability and we will continue to fight that these last few hours. One of the most obvious ways that we can see this discord is through the way that we speak to each other. Sunday's message provided a good word to hear right before we left for camp so that we would be on guard to stamp out any of the “small sparks” that might set our camp experience on fire. I am proud of our students and leaders for being on guard and avoiding any real fires so far this week.
This is something we see more and more, not just at camp but in our daily lives. It seems as though we increasingly divide ourselves by our words especially when we share those words through social media. As believers in Christ, we have forgotten that our differences are not what God calls us to focus on. He calls to focus on our sameness in Christ that holds us together. As we go out this week and as the students come home I pray and ask you to join me in praying that we will use our words to bring people closer to Christ and each other. To not use our words to divide us over man-created differences. Pray that Oak View continues to be a place of inclusiveness rather than exclusiveness. Pray that we will remember that we can disagree without letting our words become angry or destructive as long as we are speaking in love. Let us guard our own hearts and hold each other up by putting out those “small sparks” when we see and hear them and avoid the fire the enemy is trying to create. Love you guys!
Make Good Decisions,
Is Your Heart Listening?
Let me share three passages of Scripture because they seem to demonstrate that our listening is attached to our heart.
Proverbs 23:19 says, “Listen, my son, and be wise, and direct your heart in the way.” In this verse we have a wise son who listens and his listening is followed up with heartfelt direction. The wise son had a solid path of direction to follow if he would listen. A great verse which tells us the value of guidance from a spiritual friend. Who is speaking into your life with Godly wisdom?
Acts 16:14 says, “A woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics, a worshiper of God, was listening; and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul.” In this verse we learn about Lydia who was a worshiper of God and her listening moved the Lord to “open her heart to respond…” Again her listening moved her to action. How’s your worship attitude? How is the Lord opening your heart to His Word? How is His Word penetrating your heart, soul and mind?
Nehemiah 9:17 says, “They refused to listen, And did not remember Your wondrous deeds which You had performed among them; So they became stubborn and appointed a leader to return to their slavery in Egypt. But You are a God of forgiveness, Gracious and compassionate, Slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness; And You did not forsake them.” Here we see the graciousness of God toward a stubborn people who refused to listen. Since they wouldn’t listen they did not remember and decided to create their own leader and they wanted to go back to Egypt. As you pray, as you worship, as you read God’s Word do you turn a deaf ear and compromise? Then do you find yourself drifting into situations that are more like “slavery”?
Our listening is attached to our heart! So listen to every heartbeat because God, the Father, is telling us how much He loves us.
Grace, Grace, Marvelous Grace!
“Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them." Joshua 1:6 (NIV)
God sometimes invites us to do things that seem far beyond our abilities and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed, unqualified, and ill-equipped. That is why I love the story of Joshua. l imagine trying to step into the shoes of Moses! This was where God called Joshua. But God did not call Joshua to leadership and leave him to figure it out alone.
First, God had already equipped Joshua. He had been serving Moses and the nation of Israel for decades. Joshua knew what it would take to lead successfully because he witnessed the victory, blessings, and favor that follow a man who loves God with all his heart, soul and strength, and who walks in faithful obedience to his God.
Second, God reminds Joshua the land was already theirs. They need only move in and possess it.
Finally, God commissioned and charged Joshua for this role. Three times God exhorts Joshua to “be strong and courageous.” But God didn’t just speak the words and leave Joshua to figure it out. God gave Joshua a formula for spiritual strength.
This formula is not only for Joshua. It works for us
too. The next time God calls us out of our comfort zone let’s hold
onto God’s words to Joshua.
Power of Words
5 . . . Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. 6 The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. James 3:5b-6
I remember leading a teacher training meeting for pastors in Romania in 1990. The communist government had just been overthrown. For the first time in their lifetime, these pastor’s were legally permitted to start and conduct small group Bible studies. They were great preachers but they had never led a discussion based Bible study that used creative methods to encourage the participation of the group members. So I decided the best way to teach them was by example.
I started the session by holding up a lunch size paper bag. I told them - “Inside this bag is one of the most powerful forces in all the world. It has been the means to both transform and destroy billions of lives. No two are exactly alike, yet all of them have the same potential or good or evil.” Then I walked the bag around the circle allowing each person to reach into the bag without saying anything. The pastors smiled as they reached in and those in the circle eagerly awaiting their turn. Then we opened up our Bibles and I read James 3:5b-6 and I asked them to guess what was in the bag. The room erupted in chatter.
What was in the bag? It was a cow tongue one of the conference sponsors had secured for me from the local meat market. But hopefully what those pastors never forgot was the power of creative Bible study--and the power of the tongue to harm or heal, to help or hurt, to build up or tear down.
James says words are like these mega fires that can have a life of their own, doing untold damage. We wish we could have our words back but we can’t. Rumors and gossip, cut downs, biting criticisms, angry and hateful words all start 100’s of millions of fires a year. Once they come out of our mouths, they take on a life of their own--even the ones that roll off our tongues “accidentally.”
Here’s something we have to keep in mind when we think about others are affected by our words…
- Destructive words weigh more than constructive words.
Positive words and negative words are not equally weighted.
One positive words does not undo the harm of a negative word. The harmful and
hurtful words stick with us. That’s why there are so many warnings in scripture
about avoiding harmful words.
So this week work to remove destructive fire-starting words from your vocabulary. Start here. Replace hurtful words with helpful ones. It will change your week, and maybe even your life.
Keep building a faith that works,
Mastering my Mouth
2 Because we all offend many times. If anyone does not offend in word, he is a perfect man, also capable of restraining the whole body. 3 Here we put a brake in the mouth of the horses so that they obey us, and thus direct their entire bodies. 4 Look also at the ships; although so large, and carried by impetuous winds, they are governed with a very small rudder where the one who governs them wants. 5 So the tongue is a small member, but it boasts of great things. James 3: 2-5a
If you could find someone as described in James 3 who would always says and does the right thing, you would have a perfect person. The person who would be in TOTAL control of all other areas of his life. But the reality is totally different. This is quite evident when you enter a marital relationship.
But then Scripture implies that: The words would be used, since they are not only abundant but powerful. (v.v. 3-4). 3 Here we put a brake in the mouth of the horses so that they obey us, and thus direct their entire bodies. 4 Look also at the ships; although so large, and carried by impetuous winds, they are governed with a very small rudder where the one who governs them wants." How is that a small bit piece of metal of just a few ounces can handle a 1000-pound animal? And a rudder is small compared to the size of a liner or cruise ship. But they are both guided by the small thing. That is the truth about the words based on the first verses of James 3.
What you say will guide you to where you want to go.
Words matter. Words are directional. The more focused you are on your words the more fixed your direction in life. If you alter your words they will start moving you in a different direction. There are so many things in our lives that we cannot change. But we CAN change what and how we say. We can start a new habit of directing our life through our words. This is absolutely true in a marriage, with family, or in a friendship.
Do you think your relationship is stagnant or going in the wrong direction? Do you want to start again? Change your words and how you say them. Break your old habits. Think about what you should say. Pray about it and choose the words that give life.
A person's words show their true nature.
Pay and ask for help: "God, help me pronounce words that give life, that build. Words that help and show that I care. Give me words that take my relationships in a new direction."
Pastor Roy Soto
A Request for Prayer
1 As for other matters, brothers and sisters, pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored, just as it was with you. 2 And pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil people, for not everyone has faith. 3 But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one. 4 We have confidence in the Lord that you are doing and will continue to do the things we command. 5 May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance. 2 Thessalonians 3:1-5
As we prepare for camp this week I am thankful for a message on prayer. In this strange summer of change and confusion we have an opportunity to take our students to a place to completely focus on God. This did not come easy and I believe was a result of many prayers among our church. We must continue to be diligent and follow the words of Paul and pray for the students and leaders next week. Prayers to “protect (us) from the evil one.” We will be under attack next week as we come together to strengthen both leaders' and students' relationships with God and hopefully forming brand new ones (pray for this as well). We understand that this is something the enemy is aware of and threatened by and so we must prepare for it. We also know that verse three says, “the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen and protect” us through any attacks that we might encounter. So as the students and leaders leave this Sunday we leave with confidence in the Lord knowing that we are backed by a church that is praying for us and we love you so much for it.
If you are at services in person this weekend we will have prayer bracelets available as reminders to pray for each of our leaders and students. If you are joining us online feel free to contact me and I will send you a name of a student or leader with their grade or age group they will be leading. Love you guys!
Make Good Decisions,
My God is So Big!
There is a great kid’s song with the following refrain, “My God is so big, so strong and so mighty. There’s nothing my God cannot do. My God is so big, so strong and so mighty. There’s nothing my God cannot do.” When you add the hand motions to the song it is a fun one to sing. Think about the four profound biblical truths in the refrain of that song. They are God is Big, God is Strong, God is Mighty, and All Things are Possible with God. Forty years ago, J.B. Phillips wrote a book titled Your God is too Small. Phillips explains, “the trouble facing many of us today is that we have not found a God big enough for our modern needs. In a world where our experience of life has grown in myriad directions and our mental horizons have been expanded to the point of bewilderment by world events and scientific discoveries, our ideas of God have remained largely static.” Yet 1 John 4:4 tells us, “You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.”
Is your walk with God fresh and vibrant to where you can proclaim in your daily routine, “My God is so big, so strong and so mighty. There’s nothing my God cannot do. My God is so big, so strong and so mighty. There’s nothing my God cannot do”?
Jesus -- God's Ultimate Revelation
"In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also He made the universe." Hebrews 1:1-2
Have you ever experienced what you perceived as silence from God? I have had days, weeks, even months of feeling like His voice was nowhere to be found. As I've grown closer to Him I have learned that even in the silence we have the blessing of His Word in our hands. His Word is accessible and alive -- and never silent!
After His final messages in the Old Testament the Israelites would wait 400 years in silence. When God broke that silence is was through the cries of His Son and everything changed for His people. Jesus' life and ministry became the ultimate revelation of God's plan and purpose for His people. It shouted of His glory and His passion.
The writer of Hebrews begins this letter by establishing Jesus' work, words, and ministry. Hebrews paints this as superior to anything that had ever been seen before this time! This includes His earthly ministry and physical miracles, along with His eternal work. He is the heir of all things, He owns it all, and He controls it all!
When God's people waited, prayed and begged God for communication, Jesus became the ultimate proclamation they had hoped for. He is Jesus, God's ultimate revelation.
Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.” Jonah 3:1-2
Aren’t you glad God gives us second chances? Can you remember the first time God gave you a second chance?
After Jonah defied God’s initial call to go to Nivevah, God called on Jonah a second time. Even after Jonah rebelled and ran, God showed mercy and grace and gave Jonah another chance to get it right. This time God told Jonah to go to Ninevah and await further instructions on what to say. He wanted Jonah to focus on obedience one step at a time.
Sometimes we make obedience too complicated. The word of the Lord comes to us a second time. He tells us to keep going when we’ve given up. He commands us to start over where we’ve failed. Instead of focusing on that first step, we get ahead of ourselves. We imagine all the things that could go wrong. We become overwhelmed by our lack of resources and paralyzed by our fears.
Jonah was determined to make the most of his second chance. He put the past behind him and moved ahead in faith. His first step was to get to Ninevah. Once there, God would tell him what to preach. His job was to be faithful, not successful. And God gave him a second chance to learn this valuable lesson.
Don’t you love the fact that Jonah gets a second chance? It reminds us that with God our failures are never final. No mistake is unredeemable. Our past need not define our future. And for those who are in Christ, the best is always yet to come. Our God is a God of fresh starts and new beginnings. And Jonah is the patron saint for anyone who has ever thought that God has given up on them. He hasn’t and He won’t.
In the midst of this unpredictable and often painful crisis, know that whatever you’ve done and not done, God is always giving you a second chance to follow His plan and purpose. What is the first step you need to take towards obedience? Maybe it’s to give those who have hurt and disappointed you forgiveness from the debt they owe you.
See You Sunday,
Genuine Faith is More Than Just Emotion
15 Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, 16 and you say, “Go in peace and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? 17 So you see, faith by itself is not enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.” James 2: 15-17 NLT
James affirms that the faith of those who say they have faith, but have no works, it is not true faith. It is a useless "faith" that has no power to save. It is a "faith" that is not real. The example James gives is of a “Christian” who encourages another but does not give him what is necessary for that spirit of encouragement to be effective. It reminds us of the lesson Jesus Christ gave about the judgment of the nations in Matthew 25:31-46.
But in this instance described in James, it is the brother or sister who is naked and hungry, and who is dismissed with only a word of encouragement, without giving them what is necessary to dress their nakedness or calm their hunger. With a rhetorical question, James says, “…what good does that do?” (v. 16) James affirms that this word of encouragement is of no use!
The expression “go in peace” represents an ancient Jewish greeting based on the Hebrew word shalom, which in addition to meaning peace, means health, prosperity, a state of complete tranquility, contentment, satisfaction. It is a contradiction to tell someone to leave content and satisfied when they do not have the necessary elements to produce that contentment and satisfaction. They were not provided either.
The contradiction is accentuated because they are greeted so rudely by adding “stay warm and eat well,” almost as if the terrible situation of need was being mocked. Instead of receiving clothes that can warm them up, and food that would satisfy, the person in need only receives empty words of compassion and sincerity. With that you can neither be warm nor be satisfied. Such a faith, if it has no works, is a faith that is dead in itself.
Because of the way the phrase is formulated, the expression could also be translated "if you persevere in not having deeds" or "if you continue not having works." What James is trying to illustrate is that this attitude of discourtesy and inattention to the person in need is not due to simply being distracted, or not paying attention during this one time, but rather is a continuous and repetitive attitude.
This disproportionate verbal "faith" is dead in itself. This expression can mean both "in itself" and "on its own behalf." The meaning in both cases is the same: it is useless, it has no life. Faith is dead in its possibility of internal life and in its manifestations of external life.
That is why genuine faith is more than just emotion. It is an action! God save us from falling into that feeling and move us to do something when we see need in front of us. It is my prayer for myself and for the church.
Blessings! And stay safe!
Pastor Roy Soto
a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If
one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does
nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In
the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. James 2:15-17
When I heard we were doing a series on James I was excited because it is my favorite book in the New Testament. It fits my personality and my story in ways that truly helped me in my walk and continue to do so today. If we haven’t met (feel free to contact me I would love to introduce myself) then you may not know that I tend to be a pretty high energy guy. My wife can vouch for my inability to sit still for longer than a few minutes (please pray for her) which has been a real struggle during the past few months with shelter in place and other restrictions. I have been that way as long as I can remember, but it was only when I accepted Christ as my Savior I saw what that “gift” was truly meant for. All of that energy was transformed into a way to spread the kingdom. My “fruits” looked different. This was not because I wanted to look good now that I was in church, or that I was embarrassed about the way I used to live now that I was around different type of people. It was because God transformed my heart into something completely new and that was evident in the way I treated people, loved people, and especially in the way I worked. Understand that these things changed because I was transformed through my salvation. I was a new man! How could I look like the old me if I wasn’t that man anymore? It wasn’t a one day process and I still look like the old me sometimes, but hopefully a little less each day.
Something else changed as well. That restlessness I talked about earlier felt different. I used to not sit still because my brain was in overdrive and I was bored. In these times of isolation and separation my restlessness feels different because it is based on a longing to serve. It's a longing to serve others in the way that God has called us all to do. That is what James is talking about in these verses. We have been called to show God’s love in the way that we serve others, not because it earns us anything, but because we have already been given the ultimate gift. Even when it is a little more difficult to do we must push through and find different and better ways to show this lost word the love of our God. I am proud to be a member here at Oak View because I have seen exactly that in the last few months. Brothers and sisters stepping up when it is most difficult through their serving, giving, and loving. Many times in very different ways than they are used to. We grow in these uncomfortable moments and it makes the body of Christ that much stronger! As we continue through these uncharted waters we continue to be called to do more. To do more than just social media posts or passing clichés. We are in a time when people, both believers and the lost, are hurting and we need to serve them the way Jesus would serve them. The best way to share the Gospel is to show the Gospel! Love you guys!
Make Good Decisions,
Let Me See Your
Math was not one of my strong skills as a kid. I agonized over learning the multiplication tables and when I got into Algebra I was praying that Jesus would return before I had to go to class. I always remember hearing the teacher say, “let me see your work.” The fact that I had an answer to the problem was not sufficient but I had to show how I got to the answer.
What if Jesus’ time on earth was just about faith? Or maybe we can phrase it “I know there is a God,” but Jesus never did good works. For example, the sick would not be healed, the lame would not walk, the blind would not see, the daughter would not be made whole, the demoniac would not be redeemed from torment, the disciples would not respond to Jesus’ words, the woman at the well would not come to know Christ as Savior, the thief on the cross would not be in paradise with Jesus.
You see even the cross was faith and works. If Jesus had not gone to the cross there would be no redemption, no eternal life, no Pentecost, no church, no body of believers, no prayers answered, etc.
So what works are revealing your faith? Are you attending worship, are you praying, are you reading your Bible, are you tithing, are you serving at Oak View, are you working to build up the Body of Christ? Do you recognize the blessing that your good works are for the advancement of the Kingdom of God?
Let others see your good works. To God be the Glory!
Who is wise and understanding among you? Let
them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that
comes from wisdom. 14 But if you
harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about
it or deny the truth. 15 Such “wisdom”
does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where you
have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil
practice. 17 But the wisdom
that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then
peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit,
impartial and sincere. 18 Peacemakers who
sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness. James 3:13
For many years I have prayed for wisdom—and still do—because I desperately need a lot of help and recognize God’s wisdom (and exercising that wisdom) is key to living victoriously!
When individually or as a society we are self-consumed and self-centered (“It’s all about me!” attitude), we plant seeds of bitter envy and selfish ambition, reaping disorder, chaos, confusion and every evil practice. (Hmmmm…does this slightly sound like our culture?) Therefore, I must ask myself daily, which “wisdom” do I most want operating in my life. The wisdom of this world which is full of bitter envy, selfish ambition, and all the unspiritual and demonic activity accompanying those choices, or the counterculture of the kingdom of Jesus Christ dominated by humility, purity, peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial, sincere?
To live productively, to add value and meaning to others, to live in ways that positively impact people in the short-term and the long-haul, to live a fulfilling life…wisdom is key!
Blessed are those who find wisdom, those who gain understanding, for she is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold. Proverbs 3:13-14
Choose my instruction instead of silver, knowledge rather than choice gold, for wisdom is more precious than rubies, and nothing you desire can compare with her. Proverbs 8:10-11
For through wisdom your days will be many, and years will be added to your life. If you are wise, your wisdom will reward you; if you are a mocker, you alone will suffer. Proverbs 9:11-12
Where there is strife, there is pride, but wisdom is found in those who take advice. Proverbs 13:10
Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Ephesians 5: 15
If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. 6 But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8 Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do. James 1:5
Father, I need wisdom! Thank You for giving it generously! I receive and exercise Your wisdom in Jesus’ name!
Personal Note. Last Sunday I announced that after a brief and
distanced exposure to someone who later tested positive for Covid-19, I’d be
staying home until I could be tested. Wednesday I got the results that my test
did come back negative. Thank you for your prayers and concern. We’ve been
blessed at how God has protected our people from this virus and countless other
dangers - more than we could ever know.
The Blessing of Dual Citizenship
But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior. Phil. 3:20
Tomorrow is Independence Day, the day we celebrate the 244th birthday our country - the United States of America. Our nation was birthed by the courage, vision, and blood of patriots who dreamed of a government “of the people, by the people and for the people.” We are blessed to live in the most free, most prosperous, and most generous nation--possibly in the history of the world. But the freedom and prosperity we enjoy has come at a great cost. Since the founding of our nation, more than one million Americans have died for liberties we so often take for granted. Take some time this weekend to thank God for the sacrifices of those who have gone before us and His gracious gift of forming and sustaining our great nation.
If you are in Christ, you are doubly blessed. You are a citizen of this nation and of heaven. The first is temporary, the second lasts forever. Our country is limited by it’s borders, time, and resources. The Kingdom of heaven has no limit. So we participate in our earthly citizenship by voting, paying our taxes, and helping to make our communities better. We pray for our government leaders, we help our neighbors, and we honor our country. But our ultimate citizenship is in heaven. It’s up to us to bring many of our fellow citizens with us to heaven by introducing them to our Savior Jesus.
It doesn’t get any better than this!!