Friday, September 4, 2015

Change Happens Through The New Heart

How does a person change? How does a person live and make decisions? These are big questions for all of us. Psalm 119:9 says this: "How shall a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed to the Word of God." This is how we change. We have minds, hearts, and wills. God gave us new hearts at our new birth. We are now spiritual. We may not feel like it, or talk like it, but we are spiritual. Christ has been born in us, and the Holy Spirit possesses the governmental power to rule and reign.
By hearing the Word and embracing it, something happens to our hearts.  Our hearts are governed by our minds. Conversely our new hearts result in the enlightenment of our minds and our new understanding. Our hearts and minds address our wills. There are people who address the will and tell us what we should do: lose weight, get a better job, go to the gym, take vitamins, stop taking drugs. How does a young man cleanse his way? By the Word. The Bible changes a person because it gets into the heart. The heart is amazing when it moves and governs our lives.
In Romans 6:17, Paul talks of "obeying from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered." This passage reveals the mind, will, and heart at work together. Some of you might feel like bumps on the log spiritually. You might be weary, tired, dull, or indifferent -- this gets into us. Allow me to encourage you. Hear the Word and let the Spirit move you. This happens. It gets in there. Doctrine in the heart, that is. We think about things and then our cups run over and we minister to people. It comes through our smiles, joy, relaxed attitudes; it comes from our hearts. We love each other from the heart.  There is an authority we have as the Body of Christ, to forgive, to cover people, to encourage people, to edify them, to speak faith.
Being broken and humble is God’s heart. Being meek and kind is God’s heart. Having a vision is God’s heart. I’m surprised at how obedient I am and how much I enjoy it. We know God looks upon the heart. If God can get a hold of a man’s heart and change it with the mind of Christ informing it, then our wills become powerful forces for the Lord.
If we have God's heart and His Word, we will be changed. His doctrine will be invested in us and direct our wills. We will get our houses in order; we will be loving people. We’ll say to God, "Send me to Baltimore to be a part of the solution." God’s heart has put us here. He cares about the city of Baltimore -- and all the other cities and towns and villages, too. There are dear people who need a chance. God gives us new hearts and minds and we become preachers and leaders and servants.  We make an impact on people who make an impact on other people.
We have God’s mind and God’s heart so we now do God’s will.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

The House of Mourning and the House of Feasting

One recent Saturday, I was part of remarkable wedding held on a lush, green hillside overlooking a Pennsylvania valley. Both bride and groom were from military families, and the father of each of them had lost his life overseas in the service of his country. The groom's dad was killed in Afghanistan; the bride's father perished in South Korea. The moms met at a support group for military widows and their children fell in love.
The memories of the dads hovered over this event of joy, moments from the house of mourning colored the festivities in the house of feasting.  A table set with the fathers' photographs under the flag pole occupied a place of honor. Tears, there were many for only the coldest of hearts could avoid shedding some. 
And, yet, joy reigned. Smiles shined everywhere from beneath reddened eyes.  A poignancy was there. What would the feast on this day have been without the funerals that had come years before? Mourning moments, we would like them not to happen. But death, sorrow, sickness, sadness are realities. In the house of mourning there are things that are very difficult to negotiate and manage. 
In Ecclesiastes 7:2-4, we read a striking passage from King Solomon:
"It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart.

"Sorrow is better than laughter: for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better.

"The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth."      
Those words stick out to us for the culture of this day exalts happiness and life pursuits that take us from happy place to happy place. The house of mourning is better, Solomon wrote. The wise ones are in the house of mourning. This house makes for better hearts. Bouncing from party to party to party may seem like the more desirable way to spend our days, but that is not so says Solomon, a man who had the time, money, mind, and tranquility to adventure wherever he felt moved to go.
Better is the house of mourning. I’d rather be with Christ in some trouble for good reason. I’d rather be standing in this country with Bible convictions about what our culture is saying and face reality because one day we will stand before God and give account.       

Days of joy are in our future. The Bible unveils a bit of what's to come for us in Revelation. Those days are not now, however. Some of our moments will feel as "birth pangs" -- labor pains -- Jesus said: " A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world" (John 16:21). Pain and sweat and work mark the labor and delivery time for a mother. But when the son is laid in her arms, those hard times fade right away.      
The wedding in Pennsylvania was what it was, I think, because the families had been to the house of mourning. And on some days I am sure that they find themselves there again because this is the way grief goes.  But on this day, what sweetness, what delight, what brokenness, what humility, what fulfillment came among these people of God.  Poignancy. Presence. Peace. A son took a daughter to be his bride to have and to hold. It pointed us to another day ahead when the Son will take His Bride, to have and to hold forever in His presence.  And then will come the feast.

Written by Pastor Steve Andrulonis based on July 8, 2015 message "The House of Mourning" by Pastor Thomas Schaller.

Friday, May 15, 2015

God's Thoughts on Work and Social Responsibilty

In a recent service, we approached the subject of social responsibility. We are in Baltimore City and we have witnessed and heard reactions and discussions and thoughts about justice for the people in our city.  We continue to pray for our authorities and also for justice.

More deeply and behind these facts and realities, we are citizens here. We also have our jobs, we work. What it is for the believer to work? How do we think in regards to work? How does God, in our understanding of His character, affect us in this area?

First we must consider God who is the God that works.  The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have always been serving one another. Before the creation of the world God was working.  He communicates, cares, loves and serves.  He is accountable and responsible.  After all consider that Christ was crucified (i.e. work) before the foundation of the world. - Revelation 13:9. Note also Proverbs 8:30.

We are made in His image.  Therefore, we were given the jobs of “tilling the ground” and giving names to all the animals in Genesis before the fall of man.  We are built for work.  Consider Ecclesiastes 5:18-20.

What does Baltimore, or any city, or any group of people need?  People to rightly understand God’s nature and then to act on His nature as He has ordained.  When we work we are not excusing ourselves, we are finding responsibility and acting on it.  God has made us to know Him in our trouble and then show up based upon His great grace.

God is there for you. He is able to answer your prayer, to carry your burden, to care about your future, to forgive you of your sin, to speak to you at night, to show up in your crisis. He can do so because He is God and He is a working God, a serving God, a responsible God with an amazing amount of authority to do all things. We also, being like Him enjoy the sense of responsibility in caring for our world.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Cooperating with God's Plan - Proverbs 16:32, 21:22

Recently we put our attention on this verse, "And the spies saw a man come forth out of the city and they said unto him, Shew us we pray thee, the entrance into the city and we will shew you mercy.”

The historical reference to the story is important to understanding the verse and its application.  The Jews were instructed by Moses in military conquest of the Promised Land.  Inhabited by people of other tribes, these tribes were targeted to be overcome, driven out, killed and destroyed.  If not they would become “…thorns in their eyes…” (Numbers 33:55)

Though the New Testament believer does not wrestle with flesh and blood (Ephesians 6:12), he does deal with mental concepts that contest God and His revealed truth (2 Corinthians 10:5).  Too often we compromise and allow these cities or strongholds to stand in opposition with God’s people.  The spies said correctly, “Shew us the way (secret passage) into the city.” 

Sometimes we are unwilling to cooperate with God’s spies.  They represent God’s reality.  Be sure to cooperate with it.  Some people prefer to escape or rebel.  

My strong encouragement for us is to cooperate with God’s plan and do things God’s way.  Surely, as we enter the city with God’s authority we are amazed at the joy, freedom and love of His purposes.  We make spiritual progress by overcoming these demonic strongholds.  2 Corinthians 10:2-5.
We see God put our enemies under our feet.  Ephesians 1:23

Monday, November 24, 2014

Be a Witness

In Ecclesiastes, we have the writings of a wise man, Solomon, the king of Israel who also is called the preacher. He was greater than all kings that came before him. Yet, he found life to be empty and without purpose. He was searching for fulfillment. He describes this sense of purposelessness.
Without direction and without understanding, I could make a living but wonder why am I living? I can collect money, have a girlfriend, have a family. But the question remains - why am I living? I am alive to be a witness for Him.

God Himself gives us His life. The Son was sent to live in this world with a testimony and a witness in a dark world. Then, His Spirit was sent in Acts 2. The disciples spoke with authority and power for the Spirit had power over the tongue. They shared the Gospel in languages they didn’t know. Peter stood up and witnessed to the reality of the Resurrection and  3,000 believed.This happened not by personality, human persuasion, or argument and debate but by the presence of God. The visitation of God was there in the witness. It is a witness born of God's grace, and it is for the church today. We talk to people with the wisdom God has given us, not a purposeless knowledge that puffs up our self life. We have the witness of Christ - it is real and powerful and

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Gambling at the Foot of the Cross

Life is filled with light stuff. One picture in my mind hit me the other day-the soldiers gambling for Christ's tunic. Didn't that tunic come from King Herod's mocking soldiers? Wasn't it royal purple and somehow valuable because it was woven without seam? Was it one of Herod's "throwaways?" Isn't it fascinating that we have so much detail about a secondary subject? How easily we are distracted by light stuff. "The tunic, the tunic, feel it. It is genuine. If we evenly divide it into four pieces it will be ruined. We'll gamble for it, winner takes all." The intrigue, the adrenaline, the sense of covetousness take hold of the soldiers' attention.

We can imagine the emotional energy when they toss and roll the dice. One soldier pushes the other out of the way with his arm so the dice won’t hit anybody's feet. (Or, did the soldiers draw lots?) Can you hear the guffaws? Another hopes he can win the tunic so he can trade it for imported Italian wine.

Blood sprinkles on one soldier's shirt sleeve from the Man bleeding over his head.

In the context of God becoming a man, dying for us, paying for our sins, do we get life wrong? Our minds and hearts may cheat us when an entirely new world, a large powerful world is "over our heads" saying, "I am your GOD. I will give you more than you could ever imagine or think" (Ephesians 3:20).

We experienced this in our service recently. After the rap session, we had another rap at the Dunkin' Donuts until midnight. We could not stop enjoying Christ. Others are "gambling at our feet."  We have been there.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

What Christ Did Not Say On The Cross

As Bible readers, we find instruction throughout all of the Scripture.  We are fascinated by all parts, from general discourses to specific words.  Isn't it fascinating that we have recorded the seven specific sentences that were said by Christ on the cross while He was dying?  One historian recorded, “We know more about Christ, His life, His death than any man who lived in the ancient world.”
Regarding the seven statements said by Christ on the cross, there is also another lesson found in what Christ did not say.  This is instructive because we are students of His character.  In the message "Pay Attention -- He is Risen"  (April 20), we reflect on three Old Testament saints and what they said when they were in distress:  Moses, Joshua, and Elijah.  Though these were great men, they buckled under pressure and did not want to go on.
Moses said, “I am not able to bear all this people alone, because it is too heavy for me,” in Numbers 11:14.
Joshua said, “Alas, O Lord God, wherefore hast thou at all brought this people over Jordan, to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us?  Would to God we had been content and dwelt on the other side of Jordan! “ in Joshua 7:7.
And in 1 Kings 19:4, Elijah requested to die; and said, “It is enough; now.  O Lord, take my life; for I am not better than my fathers.”
We find Christ's character to be exceptional.  There was not self-love, self-pity, or the fear of death or failure.  He died like no other – He was our Lord.