Persevering Faith!

Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
(Romans 5:3-5)
Yesterday, President Trump extended the time of our mandatory quarantine from April 12th to April 30th. This means we must not only face our suffering with faith but with ongoing faith, long faith or something the Bible calls perseverance. I know this time is trying but this is a great opportunity to grow, so be encouraged.
The Greek word for suffering is translated as tribulation, something that causes distress. It can range from minor annoyances that we go through every day, to major disasters that come sweeping down out of the blue and leave us stricken and smitten.
According to Romans 5, the Christian response to suffering is to rejoice. Do you mean to say that God is telling me that when I am hurting and in pain, I am expected to be glad and rejoice in that? How do you get to the place where you can rejoice in suffering? We rejoice because we know something. It is something our faith enables us to know, a kind of inside information that others do not share. We know that suffering produces and accomplishes something. It is productive. Suffering produces something worthwhile. The apostle says there are three things that suffering produces:
First, suffering produces perseverance. The Greek word literally means to abide under, to stay under the pressure. Pressure is something we want to get out from under, but suffering teaches us to stay under, to stick in there and hang with steadiness.
Second, steadiness produces character. The Greek word for character carries with it the idea of being put to the test and approved. It is the idea of being shown to be a more reliable person. Someone strong to be counted on.
Third, we find that reliability produces hope. The hope is that we will share the glory of God’s character. The hope that God is producing the image of Christ in us. This hope is a certainty, not just a possibility. We are being changed and becoming more like Jesus.
Even now look at the world around you we are more thoughtful, compassionate, loving, mellowed and thankful. We are becoming more like Christ — stronger, wiser, purer, more patient. He is transforming us into the image of his Son, so hang in there!
In His Service,
Eric Barnes

Rejoice in the Lord always!

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! (Phil. 4:4)
Yesterday in the sermon I spoke about God’s great desire for us to have peace and joy throughout this life. The question is “Do you live in God’s grace in such a way that you have true joy and peace– at all times?”. I guess another great question is “Are you one person when life is going smoothly, and another person when life is not?”.
We can all fall into this category at times but our circumstances do not have to determine our level of joy. This is because circumstances are subject to change, and God is not. And because God never changes, there is no reason to worry over issues that will change again and again.
As Paul wrote the above line, in a letter to the church at Philippi, he was in prison. Not necessarily a joyful circumstance, but this did not change his joy or his rejoicing—and it didn’t keep him from encouraging others from doing the same. So as we all find ourselves in changing circumstances from day to day remember that each day is a time to focus on God and “rejoice, again I say, rejoice.” Although the situations may change our God never does– anchor down in faith and focus on God today. Be a carrier of God’s infections joy, the world really needs that today.
Remember: We will not be having any services or studies in the church this week but we will be placing videos on ( daily! Please pray for each other and read your Bible everyday.
In His Service,
Eric Barnes

Prayer is Paramount

Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved. (Romans 10:1)
Paul was a Jew who knew the difference between Judaism and Christianity. As a saved believer his greatest desire and his ask from God was for his Israelite brothers and sisters to be saved. What is your ask? When was the last time you begged God for something? My hunch is it was probably something like please let me get this job, please let the loan go through, or please just let this surgery go well. All these are important things to pray about, however when was the last time you begged God for another person’s soul.
I shared with the youth at Bible study Sunday night about the importance of prayer in ministry and I shared a quote from Samuel Chadwick “One concern of the devil is to keep Christians from praying. He fears nothing from prayer-less studies, prayer-less work, and prayer-less religion. He laughs at our toil, mocks at our wisdom, but trembles when we pray.” The reason it makes Satan tremble is because prayer calls the power of God into the fight. So the question needs to be are you calling God into the fight for another person’s salvation? We pray for needs, surgeries, job opportunities, to pass tests, heal sickness—- but are we consistently praying for a specific person to be saved?
Every day as believers, who can tap into the mighty power of God, we should be praying consistently and specifically for the salvation of another soul. To stay in consistent prayer creates consistent opportunities for salvation to be shared which makes us more alert or aware to seize those opportunities. So as we pray for others also let God know you are available to be used in the salvation of others (it is not about your ability, but your availability. Who is it that God is laying on your heart that you are laying at his feet in prayer?
In His Service,
Eric Barnes

People are watching…

In everything you do, stay away from complaining and arguing, so that no one can speak a word of blame against you. You are to live clean, innocent lives as children of God in a dark world full of crooked and perverse people. Let your lives shine brightly before them.
(Phil 2:14-15)
Even when you don’t realize it or even if you don’t want it, people watch you. They can tell who you are by how you act. If you have chosen to publicly follow Christ, people will judge who He is by how you act. You and I are a reflection of our Father. This is what Paul is addressing He wants us to be pure reflections of God’s character. This is why we are called to live clean, innocent lives so that when others look at us, they have a clear, unclouded picture of who God is.
However, isn’t it interesting, the behavior that Paul focuses on here is not what we would think of as serious sin but simply complaining and arguing. He could have chosen any number of other bad, wild, sinful behaviors, but he chose complaining and arguing. Complaining and arguing aren’t even that bad. But maybe that’s his point. We don’t see them as such destructive behaviors and we even indulge ourselves in them all the time. We whine about work. We grumble our restaurant food. We find fault with our cable company, the phone plan, our church or pastor. But we fail to comprehend that when we complain, when we argue, we mess up the reflection of God’s character in us. We give Christ a bad name by misrepresenting His character.
Paul wants us to be blameless so that no one can reject Christ because they saw a poor picture of Him in our lives. Our lives are meant to shine like lights in a dark and perverse world. That is not just by staying away from what the world sees as perverse sin, but in our daily attitudes, our demeanor, and our daily interactions with others. We need to remember to give Him full access to our hearts, hands, emotions, lips, and attitudes. We must allow Him to live His life through us since He is the one we are representing in this life.
In His Service,
Eric Barnes

Need or Want

While [Jesus] was preaching God’s word to them, four men arrived carrying a paralyzed man on a mat. They couldn’t bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, so they dug a hole through the roof above his head. Then they lowered the man on his mat, right down in front of Jesus. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralyzed man,
“My child, your sins are forgiven.”
Mark 2:2-5
Did you see that? Jesus didn’t immediately reaching out and heal the paralyzed man, instead He said, “Your sins are forgiven”. Jesus healed the need, which was not what the man’s friends had wanted. Obviously Jesus saw his physical need, the need for which his friends brought him to Jesus? Jesus recognized that the man was paralyzed. But He also saw the man’s deeper need: to have his sins forgiven.
This is the truth of all of us, we have issues or “needs” to be addressed. We tell ourselves, “What I need is (_______) then my life would be great.” We believe those areas we want fixed will make things right. In a sense these wants become our “gods.” We pray and ask Him to give us what we want, not what we really need. The truth is we don’t always know our greatest need.
The great thing about Jesus is, He loves us so much that He will not simply give us what we want. He knows that many of the things we want will not satisfy. They might even be harmful to us.
So in His great wisdom and love, He gives us what we need, not necessarily what we want. He gives us relational restoration with the only one who satisfies our every need and who forgives our shortfalls. A couple of verses later (Mark 2:10-11) we see that Jesus turned to the paralyzed man and said, ‘Stand up, pick up your mat, and go home!’ You see the one who meets our needs also has the ability and desire to fulfill our healthy wants!
In His Service,
Eric Barnes

“How many loaves do you have?”

“How many loaves do you have?” He asked. “Go and see.” When they found out, they said, “Five loaves—and two fish.” (Mark 6:38)
When Jesus said to His disciples, “You feed them,” they responded like most of us, “With what?” Jesus responded calmly to His disciples’ doubt. He asked them one simple question: “What do you have?” Then He went on to show them (and us) that we have forgotten two very critical things—1) our own resources or gifts and 2) the power of God.
We all have spiritual gifts it is clearly stated in 1 Cor. 12:4-11. There are at least five loaves and two fish in every church! Some of us are gifted to understand and teach the Bible. Others are natural leaders able to attract others to church or Bible study. The bottom line is, when we place what we have—even if it feels as if it is nothing—into Jesus’ hands, He blesses it and makes it more than adequate for the task He calls us to do.
We must also remember that “Nothing is impossible with God” (Luke 1:37). This is our most overlooked resource. We lean on ourselves and forget who is working through us. We leave the power of the living God on the sidelines. We must accept and embrace our calling to use whatever resources we have to feed the hungry sheep in our communities.
There is a population starving for the Word of salvation, though they may not realize it, yet! We may never be in a time or place in life where we can have such a tremendous impact for God. Let’s commit to offer everything we have to Jesus, relying on His power, and see what happens. What do you have to offer? Take inventory of your gifts. Bring them to Jesus. Follow the words of the wonderful old hymn “Take my life and let it be, consecrated Lord to Thee.” He will do great things.
In His Service,
Eric Barnes

Mad for Jesus!

One time Jesus entered a house, and the crowds began to gather again. Soon he and his disciples couldn’t even find time to eat. When his family heard what was happening, they tried to take him away. “He’s out of his mind,” they said. (Mark 3:20-21)
Most people in this world are a little crazy. But most of the time we are not really believed to be crazy. However, Jesus’ family had great cause to think that He really was out of His mind. His claims about Himself were unbelievable. He called Himself the “Son of Man.” He claimed to forgive sins and to be the fulfillment of the Scriptures (see Matthew 26:63-64; Mark 2:10-11).
If our friends declared they were God, we would have a right to believe they were crazy. His claims about Himself eliminate the option that He is a good teacher or a great prophet. He is either nuts, or He is who He claims to be: the Son of God.
The real question we must answer is, have we ever had anyone believe or call us “mad” or “crazy” because of Jesus? Are we living so radically for Christ that we get called “insane” or “out of our minds” as Paul did in Acts 26:24? As we live our faith, our personal beliefs and our choices do we reveal a mindset that is radically different from that of the general society? Does our love for God extend to the castoffs in life? Are we insane enough to use our time and gifts taking the Gospel as Jesus did to the lepers, Samaritans, tax collectors, and prostitutes? Let us live in such a way that if the world will call us mad or crazy let it be about Jesus, for Jesus, and because of Jesus. Let God be your sanity and your madness— live only in Him and for Him.
In His Service,
Eric Barnes

He who has the Son has life!

“He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does
not have life.” (1 John 5:12)
Today I just wanted to share a great illustration story, you may have heard it before but it is still a great reminder of how God works. Many years ago a devoted father and his son traveled together and collected fine art. As years passed they collected many priceless treasures. However it was the many years together and the late night conversations with His son the father enjoyed most– the son was the priceless work of the father.
The day came when the son had to leave the father to go fight for his country in war. One day the horrible news came to the father, that his only son whom he loved so much had been killed in war while helping save another soldier. The father was devastated. Years passed and one day the father heard a knock at the door, it was the saved soldier, he spent much time telling the father of all his son’s valiant acts in war. He also had a gift for the man in the trunk of his car. He gifted to the man a portrait that he had commissioned of the man’s son. This portrait became the father’s most prized work of art.
When the father was sick and dying he arranged an auction of all of his collected art pieces. When the auction began the first item up for bid was the portrait of His son starting at $100. No one bid, only murmurs about this not being a recognized piece. Finally one elderly man, who knew the family, wanted the picture but didn’t have enough for the starting bid. He offered all he could and at the closing of that piece the auctioneer said “this concludes our auction”. The people became agitated and asked when the good stuff would be auctioned. The auctioneer cleared the confusion by stating “According to the owner, whoever takes his son gets all he has.”
This father was like God. He desires to make all the riches of His inheritance available to you, but you must first accept His Son.
In His Service,
Eric Barnes

Double Vision

[Jesus and the disciples] came to Bethsaida, and some people brought a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him. He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. When he had spit on the man’s eyes and put his hands on him, Jesus asked, “Do you see anything?” He looked up and said, “I see people; they look like trees walking around.” Once more Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.
(Mark 8:22-25)
Why did He do that? This is an interesting story in that Jesus did not heal the man all at once. He did it in two stages. Was Jesus not powerful enough to heal the man the first time?
This story has two levels of meaning: one involves the man’s physical blindness, and one involves a deeper message about spiritual blindness. Jesus wanted to teach us about the deeper healing of spiritual blindness.
Many events in our lives have both a physical (visible) level and a spiritual (invisible) level. Our physical eyes allow us to see what is visible. Our spiritual eyes allow us to see the invisible things—things like love, grace, truth, mercy, holiness. If we are spiritually blind, we see only half of reality, like trying to see through a window that has a film of dirt on it. We don’t see the full picture, the full truth.
Spiritual blindness prevents us from seeing God’s love for us, His acceptance of us, or His forgiveness. If we are blind to those realities, we end up feeling hopeless and worthless. If we are blind to God’s protection over us, we live in fear. If we are blind to His understanding, we live without his direction and leadership. Like the man in the story, we need to come to Jesus and allow Him to open our eyes so that we may have full vision, to see everything clearly both physically and spiritually.
In His Service,
Eric Barnes

Belief is the Starting Line

Those who obey my commandments are the ones who love me. And because they love me, my Father will love them, and I will love them. And I will reveal myself to each one of them. John 14:21
While God wants our belief, He wants us to move beyond belief to obedience. We who accept Jesus as our Savior and Lord must dig deeper and expand our understanding of who He is and then act on those beliefs. If I really believe being fit is important I will watch what I eat and exercise consistently.
What about our belief in Jesus? Can it move from simply acknowledging the existence of a supreme being to real faith in a God who knows our names and the number of hairs on our heads? Are we willing to study God’s Word and see it as the “owner’s manual” for our lives? Are we willing to surrender our lives to Him as our Lord, our Master? Are we willing to desire His will and obey what He wants us to do with our lives? Now we are getting down to it! So what does it mean to receive Christ as the Lord of our lives? It means He is in charge. He’s the boss. God says of Himself, “Believe in me and understand that I alone am God. . . . I am the Lord, and there is no other Savior” (Isaiah 43:10-11).
We work in partnership and trust with the Lord, but our role is to joyfully obey. For those of us who have problems with authority figures, we need to remember that Jesus is a loving Lord, not a self centered, power-hungry master. We can trust Him with our lives. Belief is the starting line, trust and obedience are the next two legs of the race.
In His Service,
Eric Barnes