On the Journey

“Are we there yet?”  Do you remember that question?  I remember asking that question as a child and hearing it as a parent.  I recall that my Dad often planned to travel at night when we headed out for a long trip…probably to avoid hearing that question!

We all, individually and as a church, are on a journey.  Often we get impatient and want to be at our destination already.  The trip can be tiring and we may encounter obstacles or problems.  However, I have found that the journey itself can be beneficial.  We can learn, grow and gain strength along the way.  We will encounter amazing places and wonderful people.  We will encounter God on our journey also.

Thousands of years ago a man named Zerubbabel led a group of the Jews from their Babylonian exile to return to the Promised Land to rebuild a temple that had been burned and broken down.  This was 70 years after the previous temple had been destroyed.  (You can read about this in the Bible books of Ezra, Nehemiah and Haggai.)  They encountered challenges and difficulties, but also saw the Lord work on their behalf in miraculous ways as their temple was completed!

In February we met with representatives of our Design/Build team, including our Architect.  We are still “on the journey” of working on our Master Site Plan and the design of our Phase One building.  We hope to be able to present concept drawings of these plans sometime this Spring.  After that stage we will present the plan for funding this exciting project.  So please pray with us that God will continue to guide us so that we can make the best use of the blessings God has given and will give us!  We want to be faithful to “Reach the World and Teach the Word with Passion for Christ and Compassion for All!”

On what journey are you traveling?  What obstacles or problems have you encountered?  How has God been with you on the journey?  Let me encourage you to seek to follow Him and He will guide you to your destination…eventually!  But remember the journey itself will be worth the effort!  Join us on the journey!

A New Beginning (with a History)!

We are beginning a new year, 2008! Millions of folk have celebrated the new year in Times Square and around the world. Everyone likes to think that each year we get a new lease on life. A chance to start over, to start fresh! They are right! A new year is a gracious gift, a hopeful promise! Of course, there is no guarantee that we will get to live to see the end of the year, or that we will make good use of the time we will be given. But “here’s hoping!”

What many people forget is that this new year has a foundation: all the years before. What this year will become is not limited to, but is dependent upon what came before. I saw an example of this in Mark chapter 1, verses 1-2. Marks begins his Gospel by saying, “The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the son of God.” Wow! That’s a loaded title! It marks a new beginning! He says this is “gospel,” which means, “good news!” This good news is about Jesus who is the Christ, or the Messiah, the Savior promised by the Jewish prophets. Some ancient manuscripts record Mark as testifying that this Jesus is the “Son of God!” A divine savior who fulfills the promises of the ancient Jewish prophets…now that’s a new beginning with a history! But this new beginning, built upon a foundation of history, was not limited to that history. Jesus himself said that he came not to abolish the law or the prophets (what had been built before), but to fulfill them (cf. Matt. 5:17).

Mark follows verse 1 with quotations from Malachi 3:1 and Isaiah 40:3, who are Old Testament prophets. Mark shows that this new “beginning” has a history.

So, what does that mean for us?

Often we try to get away from our past, but find ourselves tied to it. Many folk find themselves repeating the past, despite their feverish attempts to distance themselves from it! How do we move beyond the past?

First, Mark’s words show me that I can never move beyond my history until I face it. As we start this new year, it may be helpful for us, hard as it may be, to review our life to this point. Ask yourself, what lessons have I learned thus far in my life? What lessons should I have learned from my mistakes? Honestly assess where you are, where you have failed and where you have succeeded.

Second, Mark’s words show me that even if I have a past, I can, with God’s help, have a new beginning! In fact, another apostle, John, quotes Jesus as saying, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10b). We are not defined by our past. We need not suffer an eternal curse because of our history. In fact, Peter is quoted in Acts 10:43 as saying about Jesus that “All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” What an amazing gift that Christmas has given us! A Savior who is willing to forgive us of our sins! The writer of the book of Hebrews (10:17) reminds us of the promise of Jeremiah 31:34 “Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.” In God’s eyes, our history is wiped clean!

Third, Mark’s words show me that my future has its meaning in Jesus Christ. If I want to make a new beginning in my life, it needs to be about Jesus Christ, the Son of God. He is the center of history. The numbering of our year, 2008, is tied to His birth. His birth was the watershed event of history. If I want my life to be meaningful, it must be connected to the One who gives meaning to life! Ask Jesus to come into your life, bringing forgiveness for your past sins, helping you to learn from the past, becoming a companion to bring you joy in each day, and providing guidance and purpose for your future.

Now that’s a New Beginning with a divine history!

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40 Days of Purpose – Day 27

This is the devotional for Friday, May 26, 2006 which is Day 27 of our 40 Days of Purpose. Our devotional today offers a summary of the material in Chapter 27 of Rick Warren’s best-selling book, The Purpose Driven Life.

Click here to listen to the podcast version of this devotional. Visit http://www.buildyourfaith.net to read the previous days’ devotionals or to subscribe to the “FaithBuilders” podcast.

Day 27 – Defeating Temptation

There is always a way out!

“Don’t be so naive and self-confident. You’re not exempt. You could fall flat on your face as easily as anyone else. Forget about self-confidence; it’s useless. Cultivate God-confidence.” 1 Cor. 10:12 (Msg)

You may sometimes feel that a temptation is too overpowering for you to bear, but that’s a lie from Satan. God has promised never to allow more on you than he puts within you to handle it. He will not permit any temptation that you could not overcome. However, you must do your part too by practicing four biblical keys to defeating temptation.

REFOCUS YOUR ATTENTION ON SOMETHING ELSE. Ignoring a temptation is far more effective than fighting it. Once your mind is on something else, the temptation loses its power. So when temptation calls you on the phone, don’t argue with it, just hang up!

REVEAL YOUR STRUGGLE TO A GODLY FRIEND OR SUPPORT GROUP. Authentic, honest fellowship is the antidote to your lonely struggle against those sins that won’t budge. God says it is the only way you’re going to break free.

RESIST THE DEVIL. Without Christ we are defenseless against the Devil, but with “the helmet of salvation” our minds are protected by God. Remember this: If you are a believer, Satan cannot force you to do anything. He can only suggest.

REALIZE YOUR VULNERABILITY. Given the right circumstances, any of us are capable of any sin. We must never let down our guard and think we’re beyond temptation.

Don’t carelessly place yourself in tempting situations. Remember that it is easier to stay out of temptation than to get out of it.

Visit FaithBuilders Podcast at buildyourfaith.net to listen to this devotional or to read or hear previous episodes. This podcast is a ministry of Faith Church of the Nazarene in Jacksonville, NC. Visit our website at jaxnaz.org for more information about our church.

Build your faith today by finding the path of victory over each temptation!

40 Days of Purpose – Day 25

This is the devotional for Wednesday, May 24, 2006 which is Day 25 of our 40 Days of Purpose. Our devotional today offers a summary of the material in Chapter 25 of Rick Warren’s best-selling book, The Purpose Driven Life.

Click here to listen to the podcast version of this devotional. Visit http://www.buildyourfaith.net to read the previous days’ devotionals or to subscribe to the “FaithBuilders” podcast.

Day 25 – Transformed by Trouble

God has a purpose behind every problem!

“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” 2 Corinthians 4:17 (NIV)

He uses circumstances to develop our character. In fact, he depends more on circumstances to make us like Jesus than he depends on our reading the Bible. The reason is obvious: You face circumstances twenty-four hours a day.

Your most profound and intimate experiences of worship will likely be in your darkest days—when your heart is broken, when you feel abandoned, when you’re out of options, when the pain is great—and you turn to God alone.

Everything that happens to you has spiritual significance. Everything! Romans 8:28-29 (NLT) explains why: “We know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son.”

You see, every problem is a character-building opportunity, and the more difficult it is, the greater the potential for building spiritual muscle and moral fiber. Paul said, “We know that these troubles produce patience. And patience produces character.” Romans 5:3-4 (NCV)

What happens outwardly in your life is not as important as what happens inside you. Your circumstances are temporary, but your character will last forever.

Visit the FaithBuilders Blog/Podcast at buildyourfaith.net to subscribe to this devotional as a podcast or to read previous editions. This podcast is a ministry of Faith Church of the Nazarene in Jacksonville, NC. Visit http://www.jaxnaz.org for more information about our church. Build your faith today by letting God build your character in every circumstance!

40 Days of Purpose – Day 10

Welcome to FaithBuilders Podcast at buildyourfaith.net. This is Pastor Bill Crane.

This is the devotional for Tuesday, May 9, 2006 which is Day 10 of our 40 Days of Purpose. For these 40 days we will be posting daily devotions based on the material in Rick Warren’s best selling book, The Purpose-Driven Life. We invite you to get a copy of the book and read chapter 10 with us today.

Click here to listen to the podcast version of this devotional. Visit http://www.buildyourfaith.net to read the previous day’s devotionals or to subscribe to the “FaithBuilders” podcast.

Day 10 – The Heart of Worship

The heart of worship is surrender!

“And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice – the kind he will accept. When you think of what he has done for you, is this too much to ask?” Romans 12:1 (NLT)

In today’s competitive culture we are taught to never give up and never give in—so we don’t hear very much about surrendering. If winning is everything, surrendering is unthinkable. We would rather talk about winning, succeeding, overcoming, and conquering than yielding, submitting, obeying, and surrendering. But surrendering to God is the heart of worship.

As Joshua approached the biggest battle of his life, he encountered God, fell in worship before him, and surrendered his own plans. That surrender led to a stunning victory at Jericho with God’s plans. This is the paradox: Victory comes through surrender.

Nothing is more powerful than a surrendered life in the hands of God. “So,” as Paul says, “give yourselves completely to God.”