2019

SEPTEMBER FROM OUR PASTORS

Getting Back on Track With God

By the time you read this, you will have without a doubt dropped off your child at the bus stop four or five times already, picked him or her up from soccer, football, cheerleading, or band practice several times, and packed a few lunches. If you aren’t a parent of a child in school, maybe you help with some of the running around, or maybe you’ve noticed how traffic has gotten a little busier on your way to work. Maybe you’ve heard the sound of whistles or snare drums from your back yard. Whether you are in school or not, back-to-school affects all of us. We’re entering — indeed have entered — the season of busyness once again. 

Just as January marks the start of the new year, the end of August into September marks a change in the seasons of our life. It is the start of something new. We’re turning the page onto the next chapter, and as we turn that page and embark into the new, God grants us the opportunity to start on the right foot and get back on the right path. Perhaps you’ve wandered away a little bit. Well, today is the day you can get right with God again. Today is the day you can ask God to realign you with the purpose for which He has redeemed you — to serve Him and give Him glory. Today is the day in which you can ask God where the good way is so you may walk in it find rest for your soul.

We can do a few things to help us get back on track with God. First is giving thanks. When we give God thanks, we remind our souls that God is the giver and that everything we have is thanks to the Him. As Jesus says, “apart from Me, you can do nothing.” (John 15:5) One of the first acts of humankind recorded in the Bible is the giving of an offering (Genesis 4). In particular, Abel gave to God the fat portions of the firstborn of his flock. This was good meat from the very first animals to be born in his flock. Abel drew near in his heart to God to give Him thanks. As we turn that page to the start of the new season of life, we too can draw near to God as we give Him a piece of our time, our energy, and our resources as a thank you. In our offering, we move closer to our Father and we embrace Him with a hug and thank Him for all He has done for us. 

At the start of something new, there are usually tasks to be done, forms to be filled out, questions to be answered, and problems to be addressed. It can feel like we have no time to do anything but to get to work. To stop to do anything, especially to spend time with God, can seem crazy in the moment. But this is the model that God gives us. Before He embarked on His mission to preach the Gospel, Jesus turned to God in prayer (Mark 1:35-39). Likewise, at the start of his reign, King Solomon, did not forget God but turned to the Lord to make sacrifices to Him. It was as Solomon drew near to God by giving sacrifices that God drew near to Solomon. In a dream, God said to Solomon, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.” (1 Kings 3:5). Surprisingly, Solomon did not ask for wealth or the defeat of his enemies, but he asked for wisdom to rule in the right way. He said to God, “But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties … So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?” (1 Kings 3:7,9). Solomon called himself a little child, but he was probably about 20 years old at this time. By calling himself a little child, he acknowledged how little he knew and how much he needed God to complete the tasks ahead of him. This sincere humility and desire for God’s help pleased the Lord, and God gave Solomon the wisdom he needed. Won’t God do the same for us if we ask Him? As we turn the page to the start of this new season, things can seem overwhelming, but if we turn it over to the Lord and ask for His help, He promises to be there for us. 

One last way we can get back on track with God this season is to remind ourselves of our purpose. There are a lot of things that may demand our attention as mentioned above and a lot of things to which we might want to give our attention. But in the midst of it all, God wants us to remember why we are here:  “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10). As believers born again into the family of God, the Lord has equipped us with gifts of the Holy Spirit to help, to serve, to teach, to give, to encourage, to lead, to show mercy, and more (Romans 12:6-7). Jesus has rescued us with His blood from an empty way of life so that we may live for Him and make His name known to all. Along with our prayer for wisdom each day should be the prayer, “Lord Jesus, how can I serve you today?” 

As we begin this fall, let us take time to thank God each day, to pray for His help and direction, and to pray for Him to renew in us our purpose as His servants. Let us get back on track with Jesus and His plan for our lives. To Him be the glory, both now and forever. Amen!

In His Service, 

Pastors Garritt and Sanette 

2019

AUGUST FROM OUR PASTORS

Giving Thanks for Hardship

“For you, God, tested us; you refined us like silver. You brought us into prison and laid burdens on our backs. You let people ride over our heads; we went through fire and water, but you brought us to a place of abundance.” (Psalm 66:10-12)

Psalm 66 begins as prayer of praise. “Say to God, ‘How awesome are your deeds!’” (verse 3). “Come and see what God has done, His awesome deeds for mankind!” (verse 5). What are these deeds? Verse 6:  “He turned the sea into dry land, they passed through the waters on foot…He has preserved our lives and kept our feet from slipping.” (verses 6,9). But interspersed with an expression of thanks and praise to God for His wonderworking and deliverance, we find these verses “For you, God, tested us; you refined us like silver. You brought us into prison and laid burdens on our backs.” These hardly seem like pleasant experiences and reasons for giving God thanks. Do I wake up and give God thanks for the pain in my back? Do I thank God for the disappointment I feel when the thing I hoped for doesn’t happen? 

Hardship, trials, pain are not fun things to go through, and no, they are not always caused by God. In the book of Genesis, Joseph finds himself bruised and abandoned in a well not because God desired him to go through suffering, but because Joseph’s brothers, filled with jealousy, wanted to get rid of him (Genesis 37:19). 

But sometimes the burdens on our backs are from God. Not only are they sometimes from God, but we might also consider them a gift of God. They are God’s method for preserving us, protecting us, and making us more like Him. The Bible refers to these kinds of hardships employed by God as discipline:  “God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in His holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” (Hebrews 12:10b-11). As the verses say, no discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. A broken foot, a sickness, a separation from family or friends — none of these things seem good at the time. But when the wound begins to heal, when relationships begin to be restored and we begin to see how God has shaped and sculpted our character, as we reflect on the lessons we’ve learned, we can see that God was loving us all the way through that trial. In fact, He was loving us more than if had He done nothing, more than if He had not stepped in to do His work. His discipline in itself was an act of love. 

In the face of trials, let us not give up hope, but let us turn to God in obedience and faith. And let us be encouraged by God’s words:  “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, and faithful in prayer.” (Romans 12:12)

In Jesus’ Love,

Pastors Garritt and Sanette 

2019

JULY FROM OUR PASTORS

STRENGTH THROUGH PRAYER

Where does his strength come from? We might wonder this about Jesus as we study His encounters with the Pharisees in chapters five and six of the Gospel of Luke. In these chapters, the Pharisees try to pin down Jesus with argument after argument. First they challenge Jesus for eating with sinners and tax collectors (Luke 5:30). Then they question Him about what they perceive to be His and His disciples’ lack of spiritual discipline (5:33). Next they criticize Him for working on the Sabbath, first by plucking grains (6:2) and then by healing a sick man (6:11). It’s one battle after another. Even though Jesus wins these battles, we are left wondering, “What is He going to do the next time? How long can He keep going?”

How long can He keep it up? Just as Jesus was fully God, He was “fully human in every way” (Hebrews 2:17). Jesus “suffered when He was tempted” (Hebrews 2:18). And so if Jesus suffered in the experience of temptation, as He was tempted by the devil on the mountaintop (Luke 4:1-13), then He also must have felt beaten down and fatigued at times by the relentless opposition He received from the Pharisees and others who opposed God’s message. “You unbelieving and perverse generation. How long shall I stay with you?” (Matthew 17:17). Jesus spoke these words as yet again someone didn’t believe in the power of God. Jesus did get tired and weary in His labor for God. 

How did He do it? How did He keep going? Where did His strength come from? After the repeated jabs and punches from the Pharisees as outlined above, we read this:  “And it came to pass, in those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray and spent the night praying to God” (Luke 6:12). Yes, He may have been weary, but Jesus did not give up hope. To get the strength He needed — to be replenished — He turned to His Father in prayer. It had been several rounds in the ring with the Pharisees, and so to get His strength back, Jesus spent several rounds in prayer with the Lord. After His time in prayer, Jesus came back refreshed and refilled to serve God. He started by naming the twelve disciples (6:12-16) and then by preaching a sermon in which, among other things, He encouraged the disciples to take heart when they are being persecuted, because great is their reward in heaven (6:23). 

We see how not just here but in other instances, prayer is Jesus’ go-to for a recharge. He spends an evening healing a village of people; the next morning where is He? — in prayer (Mark 1:35). After feeding the five thousand, Jesus dismisses the crowd, and what happens next? He goes “on a mountainside by Himself to pray” (Matt. 14:23). Just before He goes to the cross, where does He go? He goes out “as usual to the Mount of Olives.” To do what? To pray (Luke 22:39). 

It’s at the Mount of Olives that Jesus reveals a secret about prayer. He says to the disciples:  “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation” (Matt. 26:41). There are very real pressures of fatigue and weariness that will come and that will tempt us to give-in and give-up. But those things are a signal to us that we need prayer more than ever. Prayer is the antidote. 

It is during Jesus’ prayer that an angel comes to give Him strength (Luke 22:43). God ministers to us through the time we spend with Him in prayer, giving us answers, strength, direction, help, and deliverance. 

Sometimes we get to the end of the day or the end of the week and say, “I just need to decompress.” “I need to lie down.” “I need to watch some TV.” All of that is OK. We need to stop sometimes and separate from our stress. But to really make it through, to really keep on going, to truly be restored, we need something more:  we need time with God. We need time in prayer. 

This month, do not forsake Jesus’ invitation to you come away with Him and pray. In prayer, He will restore you, help you, and give you the strength you need. Amen. 

2019

JUNE FROM OUR PASTORS

Lord Teach Us How To Pray

In Luke 11:1-13 the word of God says, “One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.” He said to them, “When you pray, say:” “Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth.Give us day by day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses; as we forgive those who have trespassed against us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil…” For Thine is the kingdom and power and glory forever and ever amen. 


Notice, the disciples didn’t say, “Lord teach us to preach.” The also didn’t say, “Lord teach us to lead.” Nor did the disciple say to Jesus, “Lord, teach to heal.” Rather, of all that that they could have asked Jesus to teach them, they ask Him to teach them how to pray. They must have noticed that there is power in praying. Jesus, whom they witness exhibiting the power of God to heal, cast out demons, bring the dead to life, is the same Jesus they witness spending quality time in prayer to the Father. 


Notice also that they mentioned John The Baptist as having taught his disciples how to pray. They would have known and believed that John the Baptist was a prophet send from God, equipped by God, and in the model of one of Israel’s greatest prophets, Elijah. So here they are witnessing two people who are filled with the power of God, and they notice that their power came through prayer. “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.” 


When we pray, our Heavenly Father changes our perspectives, our attitude, our resolve, our vision, our heart, and our hearing. Every one of our senses are altered. Hence the reason why, when we commit things to prayer we are able to better discern what we are to do, we are able to love even the person who slaps us on one cheek, we are equipped with wisdom to know when to be still and silent versus when to move and speak. Prayer also releases us from the burden of sin and the weight of the various trials in life that we are experiencing. 


It’s not that the disciples didn’t know how to pray. In fact they grew up in a praying society. Jewish worship and rituals consist of a lavish prayer life. They were constantly praying. Even today, if you travel to New York City and have have the privilege of being on the subway with an Orthodox Jew, you will see his or her torah (bible) open and in hand and see him or her moving in forward and backward, praying through the Psalms. 


However, the disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray because they recognize that they did not know how to pray with the kind of authority with which Jesus and John the Baptist prayed. When Jesus and John the Baptist prayed, everything changed and that’s how the disciples wanted pray. They wanted to pray by the authority of God the Father in Jesus Christ, and NOT by the authority of their flesh and earthly wisdom. Notice the difference? 
Ask the Lord to teach you how to pray and what to pray about concerning anything that you are going through. Don’t just pray, but pray according to the authority of our Heavenly Father, whose name is Holy (Hallowed). Amen.

2019

MAY FROM OUR PASTORS

Pray Before You Act

What am I going to do? How am I going to afford this? What if I don’t say something soon? Will there be anything left? Why does he always do this to me? I wish she would feel the way I feel.

Questions and thoughts like these often plague us, and they function as symptoms of the emotions of anxiety or anger that we feel from time to time. In the heat of the moment, we often end up feeding into these emotions and acting in ways God does not intend for us to act. Driven by the emotion of fear, we act too quickly or in a way that may feel good for the moment but in the end will make the situation worse. Driven by the emotion of anger, we lash out at another person with condemning words rather than constructive words. These are the real life consequences of acting out of the flesh and not the Spirit of God.

While sometimes God might use His Holy Spirit to move us to give an immediate response in a situation — which is different than our flesh-driven responses mentioned above — more often than not, God instructs us to first bring our flesh under submission to Him before we take any action. In 2 Corinthians 10:5 we read this instruction: “take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ.” What does this mean? It means that whenever we are thinking something, before we hang our hat on it, we ask God, “Is this true?” Perhaps a friend or a spouse hurts our feelings, and in our mind we start to think, “He never hears me” or “She always does this.” Before we write off on this conclusion, God wants us to invite Him into our mind and ask— “Is that true? Does he really never, or are there instances when he has been thoughtful or considerate or kind?” Often, what our feelings want us to think is not true. The person acting inconsiderately may be doing so for the moment, but this behavior is not indicative of his or her character as a whole.

Or maybe it’s a decision as to whether or not to act in a given situation. Abraham and Sarah faced this dilemma. God had promised them a child, but as time wore on and the child didn’t come, they began to wonder if they should do something. With no success in bearing the child on her own, Sarah is at the end of her rope, and so she suggests to Abraham to have a child with her slave, Hagar. “Perhaps I can build a family through her,” Sarah says (Genesis 16:2). Abraham does as his wife suggests. Hagar does have a child by Abraham, but this child leads to jealousy between Sarah and her slave and a whole host of problems and pain that follow. God had a plan for Abraham and Sarah, and He eventually fulfilled it, but the couple struggled to wait and pray for God to unfold the plan in His ideal way.

When we’re pressured, when we’re afraid, when we’re angry, often we want to act, but God means to draw us into conversation with Him in prayer. This can feel incredibly inefficient.

Incredibly counter-intuitive. Incredibly distressing to us, we who are without patience. But did we ever think that through prayer, God might give us patience? That through prayer God might give us strength or wisdom or peace? We can be assured that the result of prayer is in fact peace, as we’re told: “Donotbeanxiousaboutanything,butineverysituation,byprayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace that transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7).

We can also be assured that through prayer God can in fact give us strength. Jesus prayed in deep anguish in Gethsemane, distressed to the point of sweating blood, but God, His helper, came to meet Him: “An angel from heaven appeared to Him and strengthened Him” (Luke 22:43).

It is through prayer that we are given direction, that we are given hope, strength, patience, goodness, gentleness, self control. Prayer is how we are able to have fellowship with God and receive the gifts His Spirit imparts to us. Let us not forsake it! Let us wait upon the Lord in prayer and renew our strength.