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On Being Aware

by Pastor Skip

This blog entry is the beginning of a thing, not the final word on it. This subject is too BIG for a short summary, although it can be grasped for further chew!

What does it mean to “be aware” ?  The dictionary tells us it means to know something, and to be conscious about it, but these can be two very different things if you think about it!

I know a lot of things that I’m not particular conscious about , at least not at this moment. And THAT is a problem for us spiritually. For painful example, we can say we ‘know God,’ and yet go through our day completely apart from His leadership. He may be in our head, but not in our feet. 

My mind may contain information about Jesus Christ, but my consciousness is devoid of His influence in the ‘right now.’  Get it? See what I mean?

To be aware of something is to have it active, and be participating in our life. Often we are aware of something and CHOOSE to ignore it, or go a different way.  We are aware, but not guided. Our Christian walk is full of these contrasts, and I’m sure you can develop your own list occurring in your own life.

In some theological circles this is called the ‘walk of the flesh vs the walk of the Spirit.’ We’ve heard about this conundrum our entire church-going lives, and we certainly struggle with it daily. The thing is, are we AWARE? We may agree with the technical principle, but are we CONSCIOUS of it during the day? 

What hope is there for us when we realize that we agree about God’s ways of living our lives and then keep ignoring them?  “The devil made me do it!” may be the most accurate reply, but it’s really a defensive response to try to get us off the hook, which we jumped upon ourselves!

There has to be a way for us to gain victory, for us to become AWARE of Him in our daily lives, to be changed! Our faith has to be more than concept, knowledge, sets of facts and such. Our faith has to be a POWER in our lives, to CHANGE our lives, and this power has to be accessible to us in the now! The Holy Spirit of God has to be more than a Pentecostal term separating believers into ‘have and have not’ categories. We ALL need to have this have. 

As you ponder these questions, and I do hope you will, don’t hesitate to send me any comments you wish. Agree or disagree, but do engage. As a final piece of meat to chew upon, consider this:

One of the major Doctrines in Christianity is Original Sin. The ‘fall’ of man is central to his ‘restoration,’ and much of what church teaching is about is how to overcome the ‘fall.’ But something came before Original Sin. First came Original Glory! First came the actual manifestation of God, by His acts of Creation! He made us in His image, right?, and gave us dominion.  Jesus Christ came to provide the Victory for us, through His sacrifice, etc. So, are we AWARE of this? Are we allowing Holy Spirit to be a part of our consciousness? Our daily walk? Our thought life? Our foot steps?

Be aware.

Be conscious.

A Home for Gina and Heather Ann

by Jason

What would you do if you suddenly had excruciating pain in your brain and spine, and the doctor tells you to relocate? What if you also had an autistic Down Syndrome child and the house you bought at the recommendation of a reputable contractor, is a money pit?

That’s exactly what happened to Gina. She needs your prayers above all, but also your help. James 2:16 says, “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?”

Gina has debilitating pain yet is working to support her daughter and herself. She was advised by her doctor to lesson her stress, so she moved to Michigan where she has found an excellent school for her daughter. After many repairs, her home is still unlivable. She is forced to rent util repairs can be completed but has run out of funds.

Gina did her best to avoid these problems — now she needs your help. She’s been told it will take $75k to make the house livable. Please consider donating to help Gina finish repairs on their home. Search “Gina and Heather Ann” on gofundme.com

YOU CAN HELP is multiple ways: 1) Donate via GoFundMe. 2) Go to GoFundMe and share the link on social media. 3) Copy and display this flyer in any location.

Any amount is greatly appreciated. God bless you! I am writing this for the Dugan’s daughter Gina Borino — George Daskalakis

A Wednesday and Thursday Night to Remember!

by Pastor Skip

Some people keep Journals, writing down important happenings in their lives, or epiphanies they have. This is kind of like that for me, and I want to remember it.

First, a little groundwork, or foundation. Do you remember a time when you were really on fire for God? A time when you just couldn’t get enough of reading the Bible, or going to studies, or church several times a week? Do you remember a time when you spent hours with other seekers, discussing the Lord and His ways in your lives? Was there a time when you would rather be with other Christians searching for the big answers about life and the clock didn’t matter, you couldn’t get enough? Did you used to go to Christian camps, Christian movies, Christian conferences, Christian Bible studies, Christian home groups, even Christian restaurants, because you just couldn’t get enough? Do you remember a time when you were immersed in Jesus, almost continually baptized by His Presence? Do you remember a time when a friend would call you, and be so excited about a new book they just read, full of new discoveries of some kind about the life of faith, and you could talk for hours about…..the Lord? Do you remember a time when you were desperate about something and God showed up, just in time, leaving you breathless and amazed? Do you remember a time when someone asked you something about life, revealing how troubled they were and how lost they felt, and somehow, out of somewhere within you, you helped comfort them and leave them in peace, and you wondered “where did THAT come from”? Did you ever “experience God” in a way so real that no voice to the contrary could even approach you?

Did you ever have a time when the bullets of life were flying overhead, ready to hurt you, but you found the ‘peace that passes all understanding’ ?

Four questions may help make this personal instead of theoretical:

  1. Are you growing in your spiritual life?
  2. Or, are you treading water?
  3. Are you excited by and about God, and the life you have?
  4. Or not?

Wednesday/Thursday

I got a call from a dear friend I hadn’t seen for some time. Dear friends are the ones that you can “pick up right where you left off,” and time doesn’t seem to matter. He lives in another city but was here for a conference and wanted to get together, so we did, on Wednesday night!

For a couple hours we just chatted away, like dear friends do, each of us ‘remembering’ a time past that we enjoyed together. What sort of overtook us was talking about a book, and then more books, about the Lord and His Ways, and about life and its ways. We experienced that feeling so hard to describe where you get excited about how God works, and you hunger to learn more, and you each remember one time after another or one book after another or one epiphany after another…..each one and all of them Glorifying God and giving Him praise, all the while rejoicing not only in The Lord, but in each other! That was Wednesday night!

Then, on Thursday night, it was time for our weekly Bible study at church, a continuation on the study of Spiritual Warfare. It’s a 12-week video study which we completed in the Spring, but so amazing, for me at least, that I had to have it repeated a 2nd time, and invited any who wished to “come again” and re-visit this so needed study. I’ve told several folks that the study should be re-named “Essential Christianity” because the title “Spiritual Warfare” makes some folks uncomfortable, almost wiggy, and what it really is about is the Power of God in our lives, ie: Christianity!

We may live in terrible times, and certainly terrible things are happening all over the place, but we have an Awesome God, Who is able to do exceedingly above what we can ask or even think! Ephesians 3:20.

These times are really no different than the times of history, except that these times are OUR times, and WE are the ones crying out to God! We have the same questions as the ancients had, and we try the same ways they did to get God to do what we want Him to do! Until, of course, we ‘get it,’ and begin to yield, or surrender, to the Lordship of Jesus Christ!

And then something happens: we have an experience; or an awakening; or an epiphany; or a happening. God shows up. Jesus becomes real. The Bible becomes like food we can’t get enough of. Church even seems worth going to!

The lesson this Thursday night was on angels, and it wasn’t goofy or weird in any way. It was Bible. It was reassuring us that God is on the job, all the time, and that He has His messengers and attendants working on our behalf. On our behalf! After the video lesson several folks shared about personal encounters with angels and you could ‘feel’ the tension in the room, as each person tried to relate, even to ‘believe’ that this could happen. I realized that my own personal encounters with God are real to me, for me, but that YOUR encounters with God may seem mighty strange! Instead, we should “rejoice with them that rejoice,” and let God have His way with each of us.

I do pray that each of you can have a dear friend to share your faith with; to search together and to ponder things with; to get excited with and remember the times when God showed up! I also pray that church can become so much a Blessing to you that you hunger for it, and can’t wait for Sunday, because God shows up!

Calm is a Super Power

by Pastor Skip

It’s something supernatural. That is, it is something that is natural, in that it is about us, and yet it is so needed that we all crave it, all try to muster it up, and in doing so often repel the very thing sought.

We need divine intervention. We need the natural to be energized by the Lord God, thus ‘supernatural.’ Just the mere thought of the thing makes us pause and exhale in wonder and agreement. We then breathe in again, hoping we get it. It’s sort of a constant prayer we lift to Jesus, albeit more of a hope than a certainty, and yet we know it is part of our faith so we pray anyway, knowing He hears us, knowing He answers us, just not sure of how to ‘discover’ the answer.

Scripture presents this to us in several ways, using several words, and if we’re not careful we make the thing into a ‘work’ somehow, and that sort of defeats the entire concept. God is at work, we know, but we sure love to try to help Him out. We seem to believe that our effort will somehow move the mountain, even if it’s a shovel by shovel attempt.

And along come the super heroes, with their super powers, entertaining us with their ability to do the impossible, defeating all enemies with their strength and grace. Well, sometimes not so graceful. I haven’t seen most of these movies, and not because I object on spiritual grounds, it’s just I don’t like the comics so much. But I do like the idea of super heroes and super powers. We all like to dream of being a hero with incredible power to go out and do good! It’s all about the super power!

And so, all of this, to share with you a saying I saw on the back of a car the other day, sort of like a bumper sticker. Because a picture is worth a thousand words, and I’m not supposed to write a thousand words in a blog, make these words into a picture and ponder the thousand words! Here it is…for you to ponder….to study…to embrace:

    CALM IS A SUPER POWER

It’s Saturday. But Sunday’s coming!

by Pastor Skip

In church calendar lingo we know that Thursday of Holy Week is called Maundy Thursday; the Last Supper was held, and Jesus washed the feet of the disciples, demonstrating not only Love, but Humility. Much more happened on Thursday…

On Friday….Good Friday of Holy Week….we remember the crucifixion. We remember the suffering, the nails, the crown of thorns, and the Blood, shed for us, so that we could live eternally with the Father. We remember, but do we comprehend. CAN we comprehend? Perhaps we stand at the Cross, along with all the others, in almost disbelief that the one we thought to be Savior somehow perished at the hands of mere men. And yet, we DO remember all the times we spent with Him; all the miracles we witnessed, or even read about! All the Love we received….that unexplainable Love. But He’s dead. They’ve taken Him down, put Him in cloths, and laid Him in a sealed-up tomb. Something’s not right. Something doesn’t make sense. We KNOW in our knower’s that God must be up to something! And it’s only Friday.

Saturday is a hard day for us. It’s still Holy Week, and we are grieving, yes, but we are also troubled and disturbed that the facts right in front of us don’t seem to line up with our hearts, full of hope, are saying. What is going on, on Saturday? The Scriptures tell us that Jesus descended into Hades, and led out of there those held captive, as He and they ascended. Saturday, it turns out, was a busy day. The grip of hell has now been broken, and cannot hold those who choose the Kingdom of Heaven through faith in Jesus Christ.

And NOW it is Sunday! Oh Glorious Day!

It’s called Holy Week to make sure we pay attention, but we’d be better off to remember these things all through the year. We celebrate Holy Communion more often, to remember, to keep our hearts current, to keep our hope alive and well. Let’s remember, also, that before Jesus left us He sent His Holy Spirit to us, for us. This HOLY Spirit is available 24/7/365….to lead us…to comfort us….to Resurrect a fallen day.

Happy New Year 2019

by Pastor Skip

Happy New Year, 2019!  In my ‘walk with God’ one of the things I look forward to is discerning how to approach the new year with the church. It’s good to have a ‘framework’ of some kind, a plan, if you will, of how we can corporately move through this spiritual journey.

    Because we are committed to God’s Word we follow a specified reading plan week by week so we can ‘be on the same page’ as a community. It works well for people with busy lives because missing a Sunday or two doesn’t leave anyone behind in the journey.

    To help make the reading more applicable to our everyday lives I provide an ‘assignment,’ so that as we read we are ‘looking for something.’ The idea here is to make reading that which one has read before have more purpose this time through, so the mind doesn’t shut down thinking it has ‘been there – done that.’ In 2018, for example, we were looking for ways the Bible reveals not only a Living God, but for how He stirs up in us a Living Faith.

     For 2019 the assignment is to intentionally focus on Epiphany, the revelation of Ah Ha moments in our lives. To Discover the Wonder, as God leads us, personally, and as we read the Bible.

     Think of it this way: have you noticed that when you read the Bible there are certain verses, statements of some kind, that seem to jump off the page? Do you find that you sometimes underline certain ones as especially impactful? We know that this is how God ‘speaks’ to us, and then we ponder what He really said and what it actually means to us personally. It’s very wonderful.

     Wonderful means ‘full of wonder.’ God wants us to be not just exchanging air all day long, but to be engaging with Him and His creation! He wants us to be ‘on mission,’ not just plodding along. He wants us to be ‘dependent upon Him,’ not so self-sufficient that we think we need nothing, until some crisis happens that we know we can’t handle by ourselves! ‘Giving up’ is not God’s desire for us. He wants us to ‘run to Him’ and ‘enjoy His Presence’ in our lives.

     All of this (and much more) leads to the Plan for 2019, that as we read we seek to Discover the Wonder that God has for us. Not just reading so many pages a day or week, but actually discovering new things in and about God’s Kingdom, and about God Himself, and about our own Souls!

     Eugene Peterson has said that “the Self is the Soul minus God.” Ponder that one for awhile and I promise you will Discover some Wonder!

End Times

by Pastor Skip

Jan 6 is the Day of Epiphany, celebrating when the Magi visited the baby Jesus and realized He was, indeed, God come in the flesh. This ‘realization’ is what we now call ‘an epiphany.’ A knowing, given to us by God, thus supernatural.

As we grow we experience numerous epiphanies. Things we didn’t understand become more clear. Like algebra!

I experienced a strong epiphany a few years ago while reading through Ecclesiastes. I didn’t like the Book, and I felt guilty about it. It’s God’s Word, right? Obviously I was in error, but I couldn’t shake how I felt about the word Vanity and how it was used over and over. A newer translation used the word Meaningless, which only made me feel worse. I was having a crisis trying to understand how or why God would speak that way about life.

Finally I decided to do more research and discovered additional ‘meanings’ for the original Hebrew word translated Vanity and Meaningless. First came Vapor, which kind of softened things a bit, understanding the issues of life are like a vapor. But then came the epiphany, the revelation, the ah HA! Another translation of that word can be Temporary. Get it? Is the veil lifting? This life is not vain or meaningless, but temporary. Our hardships are….temporary. Our frustrations, hurts, etc., are temporary.

I won’t take the time here to develop this more, but you should. It’s amazing how the Book of Ecclesiastes will come alive to you with new meaning and understanding when you put ‘temporary’ in all the places it now has ‘vanity’ or ‘meaningless.’ It will absolutely change how you feel about God!

The most recent epiphany has come to me while studying the Book of Daniel, and all the other Bible ‘places’ you will be taken when trying to understand this amazing prophecy. It connects directly to my own personhood, in that I’m now dealing with a diagnosis of cancer.

The subject that comes up for Bible students is the study of the End Times. It’s interesting that so many write so much about what they know so little. We can’t help it. We are so intrigued just pondering the End Times that we put forth all kinds of speculations, all quoting various Scriptures to try to validate what we think is happening. In these current times we have all sorts of Doctrinal explanations of what the Bible speaks about the End Times, albeit guarded by the realization we may not have it correct!

Combine the Bible study with one’s own mortality and the End Times get personal. Do I get three-score and ten, or four-score because I’m ‘strong’? The older we get the closer to our personal End, so the End Times become even more applicable to us, and raise all sorts of questions. Some people don’t want to talk about it at all, and others can’t stop talking about it, but this is a big deal!

I remember getting the Summary from my doctor after my annual physical, and at the end, after all the lab results and comments, was an intriguing ‘mortality index.’ It gave a percentage estimate of years of life left, something like 90% to live 15 yrs., or such. I can remember thinking this was an odd thing to include, and gave it little mind. Now that I have a cancer it becomes more important to me. I’m no longer immortal! What now? Now, you see, my own, personal End Times come into more focus, and more conversation with others. The things ‘we don’t talk about’ start coming up, as do the concerns, as do the fears.

I don’t like fear. I don’t like being fear-based when approaching something. I also don’t like anger, and I’ve learned that anger is a secondary emotion, the primary emotion being fear, although this is often hidden. Thus, what makes you angry has a fear component, such that if you could eliminate or minimize the fear then the anger could resolve before you did something unfortunate.

How can this apply to one’s mortality, much less the Biblical issues with the End Times?

Epiphany! Ah Ha! Here’s the deal! (and any other way you can be enlightened)

When the Bible speaks of the end, what is it saying? End to what? End of whom? What is ending? Times, seasons, ages, periods, etc.

The thing is, truly, what is happening is that something is ending. Over. Done with. And all the wrangling about it doesn’t change the fact. All the anger doesn’t make it different, although whatever was feared is probably done with too!

Because, you see, something comes NEXT. For us Christians, what comes next is wonderful. Amazing. Exciting. Eternal. The so-called ‘end’ is just a segue [seg-wey] to the next! And the next is supernatural. Words can’t really speak about it very well, but ‘after’ the End Times, the Next Time begins, with God Almighty victorious, and with YOU a part of His doings.

Blow the trumpet. Make a joyful noise. Rejoice and be glad, not confused and sorrowful, because Jesus is Lord and He loves you. His ‘what’s next?’ for you is pretty spectacular, and not to be feared, but to be welcomed, because He knows best! The End Times include the end to suffering, to tears, to all sorts of lack. The End Times include the end of the enemy of our souls, by what happens NEXT. Heaven, in fact, is NEXT, which, come on, is pretty cool!