Wednesday, August 31, 2016

September 1, 2016

“Which one of you, if he has a hundred sheep and loses one of them, would not leave the ninety-nine in the open pasture and go look for the one that is lost until he finds it?" Luke 15:4

“Or what woman, if she has ten silver coins and loses one of them," Luke 15:8

"because this son of mine was dead, and is alive again—he was lost and is found!’ So they began to celebrate." Luke 15:24

Luke 15 is a chapter about what moves God's heart and the thing that God is passionate about is finding those who are lost!

So, what does it mean to be lost? If we don't understand the peril of lostness we won't possess the urgency of seeking the lost.

The lostness referred to here in these stories refers specifically to the spiritual condition of the lost one.

Being lost means:
  • Being Disoriented
People were created for fellowship with God. Sin separates people from God. As Blaise Pascal insight-fully declared, "There is a God-shaped vacuum in every heart." Until He is allowed to fill that spiritual void a person is lost and disoriented.

The sheep and the son were the two antimate beings in the three parables Jesus told. They were obviously disoriented as the longing in their hearts caused them to wonder from their place of safety and security. The further away they drifted the more disoriented they became.

  • Being Displaced
The coin became lost when someone carelessly dropped it, or moved it or hid it in the wrong place. It had no way of returning to its rightful place. Until found it would remain displaced.

Lostness involves displacement. Adam's rebellion caused the human race to become displaced from the purpose and will of God. So you and me and everyone else comes into the world displaced.

  • Being Deceived
Jeremiah the Prophet wrote, "The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?"

Because we are born with flawed judgment and deceitful heart, we don't even know we are lost and drifting ever further from God. 

That is how the sheep wondered away from its shepherd. It is why the son rejected the love and lavish provision of his father fulling expecting to satisfy the evil desires of his selfish heart.

  • Being Disconnected
The result or by-product of being disoriented, displaced and deceived is a life disconnected from God's presence, God's power, God's purpose, God's peace, God's promises and God's pardon for their sins.

When you are disconnected from God your chances of connecting in healthy relationships with others greatly decreases.

The disconnected life is another sad consequence of being lost in sin.

  • Being Dead
The lost coin was lost but obviously as an inanimate object it was not dead. But the lost sheep was headed to a certain death unguarded by the shepherd. It was only a matter of time until a wolf or a mountain lion preyed on the helpless sheep and shredding it to pieces. And the rebellious son who wandered away from his generous father was gone so long that he was presumed dead by his family.

The Bible talked about the spiritual condition of a person lost in sin, "Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins." Ephesians 2:1.

Being spiritually lost is a pitiful condition. It is a perilous condition. It is a condition that you are powerful to reverse or reform. 

Only God can rescue lost people. Only His Son Jesus could provide for their salvation. That is why He came to seek and to save those who are lost!

That means you! That means me! That means once we are found by Jesus we must join him in the search for others who are lost!

Are you part of the search?

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Little Lost Boy

“Which one of you, if he has a hundred sheep and loses one of them, would not leave the ninety-nine in the open pasture and go look for the one that is lost until he finds it?" Luke 15:4

“Or what woman, if she has ten silver coins and loses one of them," Luke 15:8

"because this son of mine was dead, and is alive again—he was lost and is found!’ So they began to celebrate." Luke 15:24

Nowadays with GPS devices it is hard to get lost. It's very likely that most people under age forty have never known how it feels to be lost. That is probably a good thing but it dulls the impact of the three parables Jesus told Luke 15 because each parable is about something of great value that was lost.

When my three were little tykes I took them to Six Flags Park near Chicago. There was a ride all three of them wanted to go on in a nearby section of the park. The two oldest promised they would take special care of little Marcus if I let them go. So I agreed. I sat and waited for them to return.

Some thirty minutes later Matt and Bradi came running up filled with excitement telling me how great the ride was. As I tried to share in their excitement I couldn't help but notice little Marcus was missing. It was apparent they hadn't yet noticed.

We urgently began the search for a knee-high kid in a swarming mass of humanity. I tried not to show on the outside the panic that was overwhelming me on the inside. He could be merely lost in the crowd or he could be kidnapped and long gone by now.

I had the older two lead me in retracing the path they had taken to get from where they were to where they met up with me. I did my best to follow them, avoid the crowd, pray and look for Marcus all at the same time. By then I was in full fatherhood mode and I really think for those few minutes I had x-ray vision. Really!

As we got near the ride they had recently left there was a sudden momentary parting of the crowd and there he stood! At six years old he had the presence of mind to stay put knowing we would eventually come back to find him.

In those desperate minutes I think I experienced the sort of heart-wrenching pain and anxiety the shepherd and the woman and the father felt in Jesus' parables.

That's exactly the point of these stories. We need to understand the angst and heartbreak God endures for each and every lost soul on earth.

We need to make sure we don't break His heart by staying lost.

And, most importantly, we must share His urgency to find those who are lost. I try to stay in touch with how I felt that day I looked for my lost boy.

That's why FredWes was founded.

That's how FredWes has grown.

That's why FredWes must do two services really well so we will have room to keep reaching lost people and loving them to life.

That's why FredWes must do what it takes to get to New Post in a larger place to have more space to reach more people in more ways.

That's why FredWes will some day launch a new congregation in a new place where more lost people can be found and claimed and loved to life.

Three simple stories remind us of why FredWes exists and what must drive us to our future - we once were lost but now we're found and we have become a search party.

As lost as there is one lost soul we can reach in NoVA we must not stop searching.

Monday, August 29, 2016

August 30, 2016

"Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming to hear him. But the Pharisees and the experts in the law were complaining, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” Luke 15:1-2

When you are in leadership as Jesus was it is not unusual to be criticized. It goes with the territory. 

To some degree, the sort of criticism you receive can be indicative of how you lead and can dicative also be of who you are leading. Some criticism is unfair and unfounded but some is right on the money! 

In this situation, the criticism leveled against Jesus was entirely accurate though done in a mean spirit. Their attempts to discredit the ministry of Jesus actually defined his ministry, and at the same time, betrayed their complete misunderstanding of Jesus. They were about religion, He was about relationship. They were about reputation. He was about redemption. They were about self-righteousness. Jesus was about salvation.

“This man welcomes sinners and eats with them" was the complaint they made against Him! Jesus' response was, "EXACTLY!" And He could have continued, "Why don't you?"

As usual for the Pharisees, in their attempts to indict Him they succeeded in exposing their selves.

If I am going to be criticized, and I will be, one of the criticisms I will welcome is, "This man welcomes sinners and eats with them."

I would be very encouraged if sinners were coming to hear me preach and teach!

I hope it will be said of FredWes, "They welcome sinners and fellowships with them."

Even if that allegation is made as a criticism I would receive it as a compliment!

What about you?

Sunday, August 28, 2016

August 29, 2016

"That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." II Corinthians 12:10

Glorying in your weakness is a foreign concept for most believers today. I have a feeling it was not largely embraced back in Paul's day either. It's a tough one to comprehend!

But, judging by what Paul says here in this verse, once you learn it and live it then you can be free of the fear and dread of adverse circumstances because each difficulty becomes and occasion for fresh grace from God!

Maybe a better way of getting your mind around this concept is to realize that we probably never would have heard about Paul or Peter or Job if it had not been for the way God's strength was made perfect in their sufferings.

Paul was the most accomplished of the three. He was highly educated, highly motivated, highly articulate and highly focused on whatever task he chose. He was one of the greatest Pharisees of his day. But how many other Pharisees can you name? Most people who knew Pharisees tried to forget about them!

But Paul is famous, and respected and beloved 2,000 years after his death! However, he is not remembered because of his strengths as a Pharisee he is remembered because of all he suffered in serving Christ and the Church!

Peter was pretty much the opposite of Paul, rough, rugged, uncultured and uneducated. He was a fisherman who spent his nights on the Sea of Galilee, his morning cleaning nets and days catching a bit of rest to prepare for another night on the Sea.

From the glimpses provided by the Gospel it seems that Peter tended toward impatience and impulsiveness. He had a knack for saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. The one time he got it right he found himself being rebuked by Jesus just a few minutes later.

Peter denied Jesus three times and eventually went back to fishing. He had an undistinguished career as a disciple of Jesus.

But on the day of Pentecost He found the All-Sufficiency of God. That was a game-changer for him and he became one of the foremost apostles. But the truth is we remember Paul more for his weaknesses and failures than for His successes. 

God's strength was made perfect in his weakness!

Job was a righteous man who seemingly had no weakness - at least no obvious ones. In fact, Job was so good God was bragging to Satan about Job. Only by allowing the devil to test and try Job did he show how to find his sufficiency in God.

When we first meet Job he is a wealthy man. The last we see of Job his wealth has been fully restored. But Job is known centuries later not for his wealth but for his weakness that he suffered at the hand of the evil one.

God's strength is made perfect in your weakness. Therefore, as Paul writes to the Corinthian Church, embrace your weaknesses. Don't try to impress God with your strengths but trust His sufficiency in your failures and weaknesses. When you are at your weakest God is at His best.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

August 28, 2016

"Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." II Corinthians 12:8-10

Have wondered why you don't experience more of God's sufficiency?

Was there ever a time you doubted God's sufficiency for your need?

I'm sure there were times when Paul wondered, but he found out!

I know there were times Abram did, but he found out, too!

Let me share three truths from this Scripture that will give you some hope and confidence in the sufficiency of God.

If you want to experience God's sufficiency learn to face your weakness and honestly admit it.  

When you do that you will gain a new awareness. What is that new awareness?

"God's strength is made perfect in your weakness"!

If you want to try and live by your own strength and wisdom God will let you. 

Abram and Sarai learned that the hard way when they tried to help God fulfill His promise. Sarai gave her servant Hagar to Abram and she gave birth to Ishmael. As a result, Sarai began to despise Hagar and Ishmael became a source of strife and contention.

When Abram faced his weakness, humbled himself and entered into the covenant with God through circumcision he experienced God's power! And he received a name change!

Also, if you want to experience God's sufficiency you must take a new approach.

Not only did Paul and Abraham learn to be aware of their weakness, they learned to embrace it!

This is how it worked. Anytime they found themselves tempted to take pride in one of their successes or strengths instead they chose to focus on a weakness. Changing the focus onto their weakness changed their focus from depending on self to trusting in God! 

They learned to boast about their weaknesses rather than bragging about their strengths! Imagine that!

So, you need a new awareness that God's strength can only be seen through your weakness, you need to take a new approach AND you need a new attitude.

What is the new attitude you need?

You need a circumcision of your heart.

Say what?

The ritual of circumcision which sealed the covenant with God required the cutting away of worthless flesh. Likewise, God calls you to cut away the worthless and sinful fleshly attitudes from your heart. Cut away lust, selfishness, disobedience, pride, self-sufficiency and the like.

When you are willing to cut away the useless flesh from you life it makes room for the Spirit of God to fill you and empower you!

From you death and rot comes life and fruitfulness like Abraham and Sarah became fertile in their old age and brought God's promised child, Isaac, into the world.

When you grow weary of being fruitless, frustrated and futile, God's strength is waiting to fill your weaknesses!

August 27, 2016

In my study and reading for my message Sunday I came across this devotional thought that blessed me. Please allow me to share it with you!

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.II Corinthians 12:9

When we study Scripture, there are times when a nuance provided by the meaning learned from the Bible’s original languages can rock us to the core. The Greek word order of 2 Corinthians 12:9 provides us with meaning we don’t want to miss: “Sufficient for you is the grace of me.” That is an incredible promise! Essentially the Lord told the apostle Paul, “I am the grace. I’m all the grace you need.”

God does not dispense strength and encouragement like a pharmacist fills a prescription. God never says, Here, take two of these and call Me in the morning. He is the grace. He is the strength. His presence is the power. All we need comes through intimacy with Him. No matter what we face, Jesus is the complete answer. “Sufficient for you is the grace of me.” He doesn’t give what we need and then go somewhere else. He comes to stay. “I am with you always” (Matthew 28:20).

Notice that the Lord explains how I’m all the grace you need actually works in our lives: “For my power is made perfect in weakness.” “Perfect” means fulfilled, accomplished, completed, finished. It’s the same term Jesus spoke as His final word on the cross, tetelestai, which means, “It is finished” (John 19:30). God brings His sufficient and powerful grace to the relationship; all we bring is weakness. All of this is grace because we can’t do anything to deserve what He does for us. And He makes sure the results are perfect and complete.

God wants His grace to be completed in your weakness. You never really experience the grace unless you see the need for it—and even that realization comes by grace. The power of Jesus' grace is not fully seen until weakness is fully acknowledged. The moment you are overwhelmed with your absolute helplessness is the moment you are ready to hear Jesus say, I’m all the grace you need.

Think about the place where you regularly meet with God. Is it a chair in your bedroom? At the kitchen table? Or as one father of five small children confessed, is it in the garage in the backseat of your car? In light of today’s verse ask yourself, How many times have I gotten up from that place and left God’s sufficient grace there? The Lord was there with you—holding out to you the grace for the trial you were going to face that day, as your mind was drifting off to your own plan. How many days did you run out to a busy day and leave Him there with His sufficient grace?

If you want to live by God’s sufficient grace, you’re not going to catch it falling from the sky as you hurry to your next appointment. You must go to the fountain and drink deeply. He is the One who quenches your thirst. When you read His Word and are thinking about it, His grace is flowing into you.

He is also the One who wants to go with you every step of the way. And when a trial threatens to overwhelm you, remember His promise: “Sufficient for you is the grace of me.” The Lord is a faithful friend, sustaining you. He is all the grace you need.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

August 26, 2016

"Three different times I begged God to make me well again. Each time he said, “No. But I am with you; that is all you need. My power shows up best in weak people.” Now I am glad to boast about how weak I am; I am glad to be a living demonstration of Christ’s power, instead of showing off my own power and abilities. Since I know it is all for Christ’s good, I am quite happy about “the thorn,” and about insults and hardships, persecutions and difficulties; for when I am weak, then I am strong—the less I have, the more I depend on him." II Corinthians 12:8-10
One of the reasons golf is such a difficult game is that everything about it is counter-intuitive.
For instance, if you want to hit the ball further it seems you should swing harder at it. But in fact, when you try to swing harder it causes your muscles to tense up which makes the muscles contract and it slows down your swing.
To hit the ball further you actually need to grip it lightly so you can swing it faster. Club speed develops distance not club force.
Being a follower of Christ, like golf, is counter-intuitive. That is precisely what Paul is expressing to the Corinthian Christians.
As we were reminded at the beginning of the Summer, if you want to be great you must learn to be third.
Today we learn that in order to be strong you must be weak. To know God's sufficiency you must dwell in your insufficiency.
A great illustration of this truth is seen in the life of Abraham (Abram at the time).
After he and Sarai had decided it was time to help God fulfill His promise by having a son with Hagar, things got very complicated for the next thirteen years. God went silent while they grew older and weaker.
But after 13 years God came calling and everything changed! God introduced Himself as "El Shaddai" - the "all-sufficient One". Essentially, God was telling Abram, "My grace is sufficient for you!"
"El Shaddai" gave him a new name "Abraham" and a new covenant sealed by the ritual of circumcision. 
Fully aware of his weakness and newly reminded of God's sufficiency Abraham embraced his weakness and discovered "El Shaddai"! All of Him!
When you loosen your grip on the club as you swing it to the ball, the club is free to do what it was designed to do - release powerfully through the ball to launch it high and far!
That's what "El Shaddai" did for Abraham once he loosened his grip!
And it's what "All Sufficient God" did for Paul when he learned to loosen His grip.
Whatever you are facing, "El Shaddai" is waiting for you to loosen your grip and declare your insufficiency. When you do it will release Him to apply His "All Sufficient Power" through your problem.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

August 25, 2016

"Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops. My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins." James 5:13-20

Some incredible things start happening when God's people begin understanding that prayer is a RELATIONSHIP not just a RESOURCE! Big changes happen when you understand that GOD IS your resource and not just the provider of them. You enter into a relationship with Him not to get something FROM Him but to get everything IN Him!

There is more good news! Can you handle that?

Look at what you get when you enter into a healthy relationship with God through prayer:

Personal Prayer - "Is anyone of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise." V. 13

James, in his final words, urges believers to live in an intimate relationship with God that is characterized by continual prayer. When you are hurting, pray! When you are happy, pray! No matter what is going on in your life share it with God. Center your life, your loves, and your longings on Him.

That is the foundation of a healthy relationship with God which is the foundation of all other healthy relationships.

Powerful Prayer - "Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective." Vv. 14-16

People who are in healthy personal relationship with God have a great opportunity to live in heal thy relationship with each other. That is God's great ambition for us within His Church. And when healthy people come together to call upon their God and agree according to His Word in behalf of one another - powerful things happen! Healthy things happen! In fact, health happens!

For my entire life I have heard this portion of Scripture referred to as a prescription for physical healing. Now I understand it is, indeed, that. BUT it is significantly more than that! It is the path to health!

A healthy church fellowship arises from healthy believers living in intimate relationship with God. When they come together to call up Him for a commonly agreed upon need, powerful things happen! Healthy things! Not only healing but health happens!

What do I mean by health? I refer to James' counsel to "confess your sins to each other and pray for each other that you may be healed". That sounds good doesn't it? That is a great promise on its face, but it is so much more than a one-time healing it is a prescription for ongoing health for individuals and for the church body! This is talking about two powerful spiritual disciplines - transparency and accountability. When practiced within a church prayer becomes power and the church becomes healthy!

James is advocating that we not settle just for physical healing but that we press for spiritual health. He expresses his belief that unhealthy spiritual and emotional issues contribute to many of our health problems. We do this by being transparent enough to confess to those in spiritual authority the sins that hold us in bondage. He tells us that when we do this and when we pray for each other for these sins healing and deliverance happens. Not only are we healed but we become healthy!

Prevailing Prayer - "Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops. My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins." James 5:17-20

One of the most revered men among the Jews was Elijah. Rightly so! He was a powerful prophet who was mightily used of God and who was rewarded with one of the awesome exits any human being has experienced - remember the fiery chariot thing?

Who can forget his great victory on Mt. Carmel? James reminds us of how he caused a 3 1/2 year drought that led up to the victory on Mt. Carmel. He was one of the supernatural visitors who appeared with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration. This guy was special!

But James is saying we can be special too if we do the hard work of having a healthy relationship with God - a personal relationship and powerful relationship together. The reason that is true is because we serve the same God Elijah did. The same power is available to us if we will seek God and godliness has he did.

Elijah's passion was to call sinners back to God. In particular, he wanted to call the people of God back to their God. Everything he did was for that purpose. The dramatic events on Mt. Carmel we for that end. And that is the point of what James is saying here, "We need the spirit of Elijah in prevailing prayer for lost or straying people!" That prevailing prayer can only happen when God's people in God's Church will enter into healthy personal relationship and into powerful healthy fellowship and then God will encourage them in prevailing intercession for the lost!

That my friends is a healthy church! That is what I envision. That is my passion. That is better than healings and it will become a healing place!

You, my friend can be as powerful like Elijah! If you want to......

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Better Be Running

"Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall." Psalm 55:22

You have probably heard this: "Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning a lion wakes up. It knows it must outrun the slowest gazelle or it will starve to death."

The moral:

It doesn't matter if you are a lion or a gazelle. When the sun comes up, you better be running.

No one enjoys being fearful, but fear is a powerful motivator. In our verse for today, the Psalmist offers some great advice, "Let your anxiety drive you to the Lord."

Recently there have been some anxiety-producing events. We have a Presidential campaign that is so surreal if it was a movie you wouldn't know whether to label it as comedy or fiction. Terrorism is on the rise around the world with increasing frequency in our nation. The economy is hanging by a thread and healthcare is imploding. How are you supposed to cope with these fearful developments?

"Cast your cares".

"Cast" in Hebrew means: to throw out, throw down, throw away, to hurl. It does not mean to take back what you have cast, nor to cherish, or keep - but to cast, toss, throw away from yourself.

"Cares" in Hebrew means: whatever is given by providence. That means every part of your personality, talents, thoughts, body, emotions, worries, burdens, joys, and gifts.

"LORD" as used here in Hebrew means - Eternal, Jehovah, self-existent. The One with no beginning and no end. "I am the Alpha and the Omega," says the Lord God, "Who is, and Who was, and Who is to come, the Almighty." Rev. 1:8; 21:6; 22:13.

Piece all these truths together and you get: "Throw and hurl everything that has been given to you onto the Lord. Everything that has been given to you, you are to throw onto the Lord and not to take it back."

That is your part. If you will do your part, here's what God will do:

"Sustain" in Hebrew means: "To keep in and contain, To abide, remain with and reside, To receive, comprehend and guide, To feed, nourish, make provision for and provide sustenance for."

God makes this personal - "You" - means God is willing and able to do this for you, just the way you are. No changes are needed to come before the Lord God Almighty.

Putting this all together: The Lord Jesus Christ will do all these thing for the one who casts to Him all that they have been, are now, and will be. Every facet of your life must be given away for Him in order for your joy to be full. God Himself will nourish and help you through what you are going through, no matter what it is!

"Fall" in Hebrew means: "To waver, slip, shake, fall; To be carried, cast, be out of course, be fallen in decay."

Add it up like this: The Lord God Almighty will never ever cause the just, clean and righteous person to slip and fall or be carried, cast, or be out of course and be fallen in decay. The Lord God will keep His child, that means the one who trust in Him and loves Him and obeys Him in Spirit and in Truth, He will keep that child cared for and nurtured, steadfast in His Love and protection.

What kept you from sleeping well last night? What caused you to awake with anxieties today? You can carry that again today or you can cast it on Him. Your fears can drain you or they can drive you to Him.

Listen to the Psalmist!