Friday, January 29, 2016

Tornado Clean-up

On December 26, 2015, a series of tornadoes hit North Texas. Garland and Rowlett sustained substantial damage to homes and businesses. Eight people were killed and dozens were injured. The people of Garland and Rowlett are struggling with massive clean-up projects before they can even consider rebuilding. The week after the tornadoes hit, a friend of ours, Nita Dupnik drove through the area to see what the needs were and how she could help. The following week, Nita went to Garland, along with her brother, and Nancy Powell. They spent the day removing debris from homes, sorting to find anything salvageable, and depositing everything else on the curb for pick up. After hearing from Nita in Sunday School, I worked with her to plan a day when more people could drive over to help, setting the date for Saturday, Jan. 23.  Although the idea began as a Ladies Sunday School project, we announced it to the church, and when the time came, we took seventeen people for the work day, men and women, ages from 12 to…75ish.

These are a few pictures of us getting started.

Here a few pictures to show the devastation in the area. 

These pictures are of the first home we worked on with the home-owner, Marcus. He and his wife and three young adult children shut themselves in a bathroom when the tornado hit, and were not hurt. They came out to find their home destroyed and their neighborhood in turmoil.  We moved the debris from his yard to the curb where it would be picked up.

Although we packed lunches, a group of volunteers brought us sandwiches. We stopped work long enough to eat, then, just as we finished, another group bought pizza. 

The second place we worked was home to a couple with four children. They all took cover in this laundry room, along with the washer and dryer.

After the storm, that was the only room standing. 

These home owners had saved for 15 years to buy their first home, and had lived in it 14 months before the storm destroyed it. 
When we came to help them, they were under pressure to complete the clean-up and were required to have the slab clean by Sunday night. This seemed impossible, until another volunteer group came with a small tractor! They pulled the remaining walls down and cleared it off pretty quickly. 

Here is our group getting ready to load up to head home. A few had moved on to another location for work.

We had a great day and were blessed to be able to help out where we were really needed. 

Thursday, January 7, 2016

The first temptation, always Satan's first attack

In Matthew 4:1 we read,   Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.

After his official anointing in John 3, he was led into the wilderness to be tempted. After having the Holy Spirit come and rest on him, after being praised by God as his son who was doing well, then, he is tempted. We often think that when we are tempted, we have done something wrong. While it may be true that we have put ourselves in a situation or condition to be vulnerable to temptation, it is not necessarily the case. Being tempted is not sin. We don’t outgrow temptation. We don’t become so mature and spiritual that we cannot be tempted.  It may be, and should be, that the same things do not tempt us that did at one time. You begin to realize, Oh, I have no interest in the thing that enticed me a few years ago, or a few weeks ago…….   Do not ever think that you are beyond being tempted.   BUT, when tempted, don’t be condemned. Learn how to stand strong.

Satan began his temptation assault with, "If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread."  
What is the temptation? 

Satan wants to create the question, “ Are you who you think you are? Are you the person that God said you are? Did you really hear God’s voice…did God really say???”

This was the first strategy in tempting Jesus, and the first temptation he comes with every time. Satan tempts us to question the very things that God has spoken.
We see that in the very first temptation, in Genesis 3:1 Did God really say?  

Jesus’ answer was immediate and certain.
Matthew 4:4  But he answered, "It is written, "'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'”  (Deut 8:3)

The word translated “word” here is the Greek word rhema, usually considered to be the current, personal spoken word of God. 
Not the written word, the scripture, but the spoken, breathed word of God that is personal and individual. That is the word that gives life,that sustains life. 

What word had Jesus just received from God? 
Matthew 3:17  and behold, a voice from heaven said, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased."

That is the very word that Satan called into question. Jesus said, I will live by that word, hold onto that word, believe and live by that word of God.
The word that the Father had spoken affirmed their relationship.

Satan asked, "If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread."  Satan temps Jesus to question who he is. God has just spoken to him, affirming that Jesus is his beloved son, who he is pleased with. 
Satan questions that very fact. So, IF you are the Son of God, make yourself some bread.  I mean, you haven’t eaten in 40 days, you’re hungry, you can take care of this is you really are who you think you are.
Is there anything wrong with making bread from stones????  That is not really the point.

We can become very hung up on sin, on doing the right thing and not doing the wrong things.  That is not the issue here. The issue is, “would Jesus trust his father, stand strong in his relationship, live by the very personal word of God.”  Jesus passed the test by living by God’s “rhema” word.

This is the answer. We can stand strong against temptation and live in victory when we cling to our Father, hear his voice, believe and hold fast to the words he speaks to us, and value our relationship with Him above everything else.

Monday, January 4, 2016

The Unexpected Messiah Affirmed

Matthew 3:13-15 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, "I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?" But Jesus answered him, "Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness." Then he consented.

Jesus, Messiah, Son of God, came to be baptized by John. John did not expect this. John baptized people after they repented. Jesus did not need to repent. He had no sin. He had no wrong thinking.     He had no reason to be baptized. He wanted to be baptized because it was the right thing to do. As a human, he was about to make a big change in his life. Jesus was 30 years old. He had lived in his parent’s home, worked as a carpenter like his earthly father, lived a normal life, seemingly like everyone else in Nazareth. Now, at 30 years old, he was ready to begin his ministry. His first step was to submit himself to the ritual of baptism. 

This is an important step, and act of obedience and an act of consecration. To this point, Jesus has lived a very human life, although totally sinless. His life has not been remarkable in any outward way. He worked as a carpenter, trained by his earthly father.  Now, at the age of 30, he is ready to begin his public ministry, to show himself as the Messiah. So, he begins that with this act of baptism.

 Matthew 3:16-17  And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased."

Unexpectedly, the heavens were opened.

When Mark described this scene, he used a different word
Mark 1:10 “heavens were opened”. The word translated opened here means split in two, break, divide, tear open.  There is an element of violence with that word.
The same word is used in Mark 15:38 “And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.”  The temple curtain was very thick, made up of many layers with embroidery. When Jesus died, that veil was ripped, torn apart with energy. 

When Jesus was baptized, the heavens were ripped open, a way was opened up between God and man. 

With the heavens opened, the Spirit of God descended. Jesus was receiving the anointing of the Holy Spirit to begin his ministry. Jesus was a man, a human being who operated in the full empowerment and equipping of the Spirit. 

With the heavens opened, and the Spirit descended, a voice came from heaven, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased."

The last voice from heaven recorded was when the angel announced to the Shepherds, "Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. Luke 2:10-11
Since that time, the heavens were silent. Jesus lived in obscurity, as a child who grew and matured, and as a man who worked with his hands. 

Now, once again, the heavens break apart for a special announcement. “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased." Why was the father well pleased? Jesus had not done any miracles yet. He had not taught truth with authority. He had not rebuked the Pharisees. Why was the Father pleased? 
I think the Father was pleased because Jesus had lived for 30 years a normal life, the Son of God, living out the divine life that was in him, but in a quiet, obscure way. He just WAS.

The father was pleased with the person Jesus was.

And, the entire scene was totally unexpected.