Sunday, June 26, 2016

The Secret Place of Prayer

 Speaking to a broad range of spiritual temperaments ranging from "on fire" to "cold and hardened."
A guess: The majority are probably in-between.

What are spiritual disciplines?
1. They are ways in which we open ourselves up to receiving more grace from Jesus Christ.
     Mercy, grace and love of God are all around us, but it is up to us to funnel or channel them into our spiritual lives.

2.  They are to move us beyond surface-level living and into the depth of the spiritual life.--Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline, 1998.

How should I start practicing spiritual disciplines?
     Most disciplines start with prayer.

What did Jesus teach about prayer?
     Read from Matthew 12, Mark 8, and Luke 9.

In Luke 5:16 we learn that Jesus often withdrew to lonely places to pray.

What does it take for me to have the kind of power Jesus displayed? 
     Matthew 6:5-8 --“And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words. “Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him."

Here follows the model prayer Christ gave us.  Note, too, that Jesus does not command his followers to pray.  He said, "When you pray. . ." assuming that we will pray.

How do I develop my prayer life?
To get started you need only two basic things.

1.  You need a secret place.
2.  You need a specific time.

How am I to begin?
He knows your needs before you ask.  Your prayer is a celebration of discipline.  Jesus teaches about prayer in Luke 9.

With God prayer is His idea, not mine.   In all other religions prayer is a one-way street.
Our God is ready to hear us and He will respond.
Prayer is a conversation that is on-going.  When you enter your prayer place you are joining the conversation.

Prayer is God's gift to you.  Paul said, "Pray without ceasing."

Practical development of your prayer life.
1.  Your prayer life should dictate how you make it through the rest of your day.
2,  The more you have "going on" the more time you should spend with God. 

  Pastor Johnnie Blair
Sunday morning

Friday, June 24, 2016

Today we met with the surgeon.  Next week we meet with the hospitalist.  As nearly as I can figure, a "hospitalist" is a medical doctor who specializes in adding another layer of expense to the cost of treatment.

But I have been wrong before.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Equal Protection under the Law

"The benefits of diversity" the Supreme Court's rationale for allowing violation of your Constitutional rights.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Leading your family

The Scripture lesson is Philippians 2:1-11:
"Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy,  fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.  Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.  Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.
 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus,  who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God,  but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name,  that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth,  and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (NKJV)

This important passage presents an important description of Jesus's example in which he led with humility and sincerity. 
The King of kings and Lord of lords humbled himself to walk as an example before men.

To lead like Christ means that you understand that you must

 1.  recognize the power of your influence;
Recognize it or not, your life is a powerful influence on others.

 2.  choose to serve rather than be served;
Once a parent, one no longer makes decisions for himself alone.  He must serve.

3.  communicate feelings and instruction often, clearly, and with compassion; 
Don't allow loved ones to assume you love them.

4.  spend time investing in relationships;
Relationships are like bank accounts.  If you only withdraw without making deposits, you'll soon be in trouble.  Invest in relationships that matter most.

5.  model spiritual excellence in all you do;
Call before you dig to keep life from blowing up in your face.
[Pastor related an incident in which he cut a gas main with a post-hole digger.  No injuries, other than his pride, but instructive.]

What can you do to improve your influence, to make the spiritual atmosphere of your life better?  Tend to the little things.  Call before you dig.

What if we lived and led like Jesus Christ? 

Pastor Johnnie Blair
Sunday morning

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Political Commentary

Cock who crows before sunrise apt to be in stew pot before sunset.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Four Chairs, or Condition of the Heart

Pastor's illustrative presentation:  Four chairs lined across the platform.  For each segment of the sermon he sat in a different chair, each chair representing a heart condition.

The scripture lesson is found in Mark 4:3-9.
Jesus taught them saying, Hearken: Behold, the sower went forth to sow:  and it came to pass, as he sowed, some seed fell by the way side, and the birds came and devoured it. And other fell on the rocky ground, where it had not much earth; and straightway it sprang up, because it had no deepness of earth:  and when the sun was risen, it was scorched; and because it had no root, it withered away.  And other fell among the thorns, and the thorns grew up, and choked it, and it yielded no fruit.  And others fell into the good ground, and yielded fruit, growing up and increasing; and brought forth, thirtyfold, and sixtyfold, and a hundredfold. And he said, Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.

Jesus began by saying,  "Listen!"  God expects this.  He finished the story with the same admonition.

The disciples asked, "Why do you speak in parables?"  Their understanding, our understanding relies on the condition of the heart.  Hearing alone is not receiving.  Reception of the Word relies on the condition of the heart.

Each one of you is likely seated in one of four chairs, each chair representing a condition of the heart.

1.  In the first chair are those whose heart is like the stony ground on which the fallen seed is stolen away by Satan.  The stony ground is a hardened heart characterized by critical attitudes.  The enemy has stolen the joy from the heart.  If this is your condition you need a miracle of God.


( Here Pastor offered a prayer for the hard of heart.)

2.  This chair represents those whose heart received the Word with joy, but have no root.  This is the Shallow Heart.  When life gets messy, they wither.  These are characterized by the wearing of masks, superficial, looking the part.


(Prayer for those of the shallow heart.)

3.  This condition is that of the Distracted Heart.   So many other things go on in your life that you cannot maintain focus.  "Seek ye first the kingdom of Heaven."  There is no room in the heart for distraction or busyness.   
"If the devil can't make you bad, he will make you busy." 


(Prayer for the distracted heart.)

4.  The heart condition of the occupant of this chair is one of striving to achieve, to hear, to accept, and to produce a crop.  Hearing is not enough.  We must accept, let the Word take root and produce.
Are you bearing fruit of the Holy Spirit, of righteousness?
Are you sharing your faith with someone? 


We must want to be like those who occupy this heart position, like those who "get it."  There is no age requirement, just a heart requirement. 

JUST BE THE SOIL THAT ACCEPTS THE SEED.  My prayer is that God will take my heart and form it into the soil that produces fruit. 

Pastor Johnnie Blair
Sunday morning

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Waiting Room

Seated back-to-back, Little Old Lady and I have appointments with ophthalmologist.  The Mrs. seated next to me, behind her LOL's companion, her son, I think.

Son:  Plan to go camping this weekend.

LOL:  Where?  We used to go to Pokagan a lot.

Son:  I'd like to go up there, but it's so far away.

LOL:  We used to do things all the time.  Don't do anything since I married Burl.


LOL:  Don't get me wrong.  He's very good to me.  He just doesn't ever want to do anything.

(I lean into the Mrs. and whisper, "Story of your life.")

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Children of God

"I can do it myself."  
How many times has that gotten you into trouble?

Pastor related that his father was very handy and quite knowledgeable, and very willing to be of help.
 "Father is just a call away."

The scripture lesson is from Romans chapter eight.  [Reading of Romans 8]

Verse 2:  We are free from the law of sin and death. 
Living in the flesh the mind is set on the flesh.
Life in the Spirit is life and peace.

Verse 3:  God sent His own Son to stand in our stead, offering freedom from the law of sin.

Verse 15:  We receive the Spirit of adoption whereby we are children of God and joint-heirs with our elder brother, Jesus Christ.  God is our Father and we may call on Him:  Abba (Daddy).

 I John 3:1  Look at how great a love the Father has given us that we should be called God’s children. And we are! (HCSB)  We can know who our Father is!

Being children of God we have obligations.  We must grow:  We cannot be in the family of God and remain a child.

God is not our last resort.  He is the first, the ONLY resort.

Why do we suffer?  Why does God allow pain and grief?  It is part of growing.
Slaves live in fear.  God's children live in love, security, and warmth.

Call on Him.

  Pastor Joe Deckard
 Sunday morrning

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Right Answer

Met the Mrs. in the hallway a few minutes ago.  Embraced her tenderly in both arms, kissed the top of her head.

"Why don't you love me like you used to?"  Said in fun.

"Because I love you more,"  she replied in all seriousness.