Saturday, November 22, 2008

so be on guard, and firm in faith

1 Corinthians 16:13

13Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong. 14Do everything in love.

So if there is a daily battle going on inside of us, and the devil is searching relentlessly for a foot hold, how can we defend ourselves? We know that we are weak, we know that it is easier to give in to sin, if we do not try. So what to we do?

I believe the first thing we have to do is let go. One of the stones in our path is our need to feel that we are in control. As a result we end up looking for the advantage, and that is where the devil thrives. Just like in the story, we often find that the immediate advantage comes at a cost to someone else. The quarter always seems to drop right into our laps, and it is always easy to justify keeping that quarter. The Lord has a plan for each of us that is what we should be searching for.

This life is a constant journey, and just like any journey we have to keep our eyes on the road. If we get focused on nothing but the destination, then all too often we find ourselves tripping over the stones right in front of us. We have to be on guard, and rely on our faith. Yes there are obstacles in our path; there always will be, for the devil is always looking for a foot hold. We have to have the courage to take our hands off the wheel and let the Lord drive. We have to understand that we are weak; we cannot do this on our own. It is our weakness that will make us strong in Christ. Paul speaks to this when he tells the Corinthians in his second letter: 9But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. It is when we are at our weakest that the Lord is most able to work within us, because it is those times that we allow him to fully take control. When we understand it is OK to be weak, we can then allow more time for Christ to walk in step with us.

Lastly we should strive to do everything in love. Not some things, not most things, but everything. When we strive to make love our focus, we allow others to see the beauty of Christ. When we put love up as our motive, the snares of the devil become apparent, for anything done out of love will never cause another unneeded grief, and all of the quarters that fall into our lap will always cause grief, it will always cost someone else more than what we benefit from picking up that quarter and putting it in our pocket.

When we act out of love, we cannot fall into the traps, because our actions are for the benefit of others. If are striving to act out of love, we are not focused on ourselves, we are focused on others. We should let the Lord worry about our needs, and allow ourselves to worry about the needs of others. This is what Christ meant when he said that to be the most we will have to be willing to be the least. He will raise us to new heights, but only if we will get our pride out of the way, the best way to do that is to quit looking for the quarters, in our lives, and start looking for a way to be a blessing to others.

We should leave all of the quarters of life where they lay, least they turn into dollars. We should go out into the world on guard, full of faith in the Lord, taking the courage that comes forth from that faith, and do everything in love.

Rev. Thetford

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

no footholds allowed

Ephesians 4:26-27

26"In your anger do not sin": Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27and do not give the devil a foothold.

Often we tend to think of sin just like the first two demons in the story form yesterday. Sin is big, sin is adultery, stealing millions, lying to hurt others. Surely these are sins that are easy to identify, but they are not the ones that we fall for easily. It is the small ones that we do not think about that take their toll. Just how small am I talking about? Well I think this shows it well.

Several years ago, a preacher from out-of-state accepted a call to a church in Houston, Texas . Some weeks after he arrived, he had an occasion to ride the bus from his home to the downtown area. When he sat down, he discovered that the driver had accidentally given him a quarter too much change As he considered what to do, he thought to himself, 'You'd better give the quarter back. It would be wrong to keep it.' Then he thought, 'Oh, forget it, it's only a quarter. Who would worry about this little amount? Anyway, the bus company gets too much fare; they will never miss it. Accept it as a 'gift from God' and keep quiet.'
When his stop came, he paused momentarily at the door, and then he handed the quarter to the driver and said, 'Here, you gave me too much change ' The driver, with a smile, replied, 'Aren't you the new preacher in town?'

'Yes' he replied. '

Well, I have been thinking a lot lately about going somewhere to worship. I just wanted to see what you would do if I gave you too much change. I'll see you at church on Sunday.'

When the preacher stepped off of the bus, he literally grabbed the nearest light pole, held on, and said, 'Oh God, I almost sold your Son for a quarter.'

It’s just a quarter, it’s just a little white lie, it’s only this one time…….these are the snares that the devil loves to use. He might get one person every now and then with theft on a large scale right off the bat, but he snares thousands daily with just a quarter. Today it is a quarter, next month a dollar, the month after five dollars…….then you look up and can’t remember just how you got so far off the path!

The devil does not need a huge door to walk through, all he needs is a foothold. Seldom does he use dynamite, it is the small jeweler’s pick that chips away daily until it is no longer a foothold. It is a hole big enough to get in to your heart.

So while we can all say we would not trade our salvation for all the gold in the world, we need to see if we have not already started selling it one quarter at a time!

Rev. Thetford

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

it's the little snares

2 Timothy 2:25-26

25Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, 26and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.

I spend quite a bit of time talking about the good dews, how all can be saved, and there is hope for all. Last week I talked about Joy, why we don’t have it, and how we might regain it. One of the things that came up was our desire to sin. This week I want to spend some time on the battle that is waged daily inside of us.

As Paul tells Timothy above, the devil sets traps for each of us daily. The devil will not lose our soul to the Lord because he did not try hard enough. One of my favorite stories that show this is….and I don’t remember where I heard it, so I can’t give the credit where it is due…. The devil was talking to three of his demons one morning, and the demons were excited, the first told a story about how he got a powerful man to turn on his peers, he swindled millions form them, and had turned his heart with greed. The devil was not impressed. He looked at the demon and told him, “I already had that man’s soul his heart was easily turned. Looking at the next demon the devil asked “what about you?” I had great luck I turned many peoples heart, I whispered in their ear the lies of self-doubt. The all believed, and turned their backs on God. Again the devil was not impressed, he said “these people have been mine for a while now, their lack of faith has condemned them for many years.” The last demon came forward, and told the devil I got one man, he was a righteous man, a man with strong belief in God. HE was fearless at first, but I did not give up. It took me 20 years, but finally, finally the man listened to the lullaby. It was not any one thing that worked, for his faith was strong, and his morals well placed. It took many years, and many small traps. It was not done in one fail swoop, but I finally got him off the path. The devil screeched with excitement, finally I have one more! And Hell erupted in celebration. Make no mistake about it, just as Christ rejoices more when a sinner turns to him; hell has a great party when one of the righteous falls! These little traps are what will trip us up on the path, and eventually if we are not careful, the traps and lies of the devil will take us all the way off the path and into the wilderness.

We are typically not turned in one day, or even in one week, it is the little snares, the little lies that the devil and his minions trap us with. This is why we must stay vigilant, not just on Sunday, but on every day of the week.

Rev. Thetford

Saturday, November 15, 2008

getting your joy back

Mark 4:18-20
18Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; 19but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. 20Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop—thirty, sixty or even a hundred times what was sown."

So the question still remains, in today’s world, how do we find joy? I think the better question is how do we get our joy back? First we need to really look at what we are trying to find. Webster dictionary defines joy as: ‘1 a: the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires.’ So joy is something we have to work for? No! The joy is ours from the day we are born. Joy is something we have to work to keep!

If we want to have a feeling of well being, success, and we want our desires filled, then we have to look at what kind of soil we are planted in. Too many of us are seeds that are trying to grow among thorns! We bought in to the lie, that only we can give ourselves joy. We believe that if we work hard enough, and buy enough things at some point we will be happy. We believe that if we can just get to the top of that corp. ladder, if we can just get that new car, or big house, then finally we will be full of Joy.

We want the crop that produces a hundred times what is sown, but we will never produce it while we reside among the thorns. The good news is that we are more than just seeds, we are Children of God. Members of the highest family through our brotherhood with Christ. If we find ourselves among thorns, we can move ourselves to fertile soil.

To get our joy back the first thing we need to do is to get right with God. We have to quit believing the lies of the natural world, and start turning to the Lord first. The cars, the house, the promotion….all of them will leave us empty inside after a very short time. They are all nothing more than fluff….extras….things to be enjoyed, but we should not waste our time chasing them. All of them will fade…all of them can be taken away as quickly as they are attained. Our comfort should be viewed as a gift form God.

When you walk outside, and feel the rays of sun warm your body; are you thankful for the sun rays? Of course not, you are thankful that the sun is there, the rays are the byproduct. At some point the sun will move form us, and the warmth will be gone. This should be our view of material things that bring us temporary joy, they are not the gift, they are the byproduct. When we recognize the Lord for our success…when we give him the glory and praise, then we start to feel that true joy.

When we wake up in the morning, before we pour that fist cup of coffee, before we even get out of bed…..we already have everything we need. Everything else that comes to us during the day is nothing more than fluff. The Lord protects us; he provides for us, he sustains us. When we fill our hearts with the Lord, then we receiver the joy that the Lord has to offer. When we give him the thanks and praise, then we start to understand that He is the cornerstone of our joy, upon him anything can be built for it will be built in his honor. When we try to build without the Lord as our foundation we will always be met with ruin, for nothing in this world remains.
As John Piper says “go hard after God” find your Joy in the Lord, and all that He wants to extend. When we recognize that the Lord is all we need for true, everlasting, all encompassing, heart-overflowing, I want to share it with everyone joy, we will all find ourselves in fertile soil, and our crops will be more abundant than ever. It is not a matter of what car we have in the driveway, it a matter of what we have parked in our hearts. Start searching for joy in the Lord, the rest is just fluff!

Rev. Thetford

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

stealing your joy

Romans 7: 21- 23
21So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22For in my inner being I delight in God's law; 23but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. 24What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?

Yesterday I was talking about Joy, and how it is there for everyone to reach out and grab. Yet if it is so easy then why does it seem so hard to attain? I believe the simple answer is just what Paul is talking about in this passage. Something is always there trying to steal our joy. This is where the battle lies.

Most people seem to think of sin as external actions, yet Paul hits the nail on the head. Sin is something we battle with internally everyday. What makes things even more difficult is the fact that while reaching out for joy is easy to do, it is not as easy, nor is it as acceptable as reaching out for sin.

Sin is easy, and it will steal every bit of joy that is extended to you. Yes it is true that God loves us there is no doubt about that. However make no mistake about it. The devil is fighting just as hard. It is easier to tell a lie, than to stand up and tell the truth, it is easier to join in and tear others down, than it is to take up for someone that deserves it. It is easier to run with the pack in almost every case than it is to stand on your own. We all know, even though most do not like to admit it, that it is easier to bash God, or deny him, or maybe just remain silent than it is to speak up, and proclaim his name…..heaven forbid we be thought of as “overly religious”!

All of these things start internally, they start with the choice we make about the situation, and how we decide to handle it. Typically our first reaction is to take the easy road, because that is what we have been taught, and do not doubt it, we have been sold a lie. Our friends lied to us when they told us that it is ok to say anything as long as we really do not mean it, the media lies to us when they tell us that we have to have every new shiny thing just to be complete, I hate to say it but some of our parents might have even lied to us and told us that winning at all cost was acceptable. These are just some of the ways our Joy is stolen. We believed the lie, we chose the sin over the good. Just as Paul says “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” We know the answer, the question is will we make the call?

Rev. Thetford

Monday, November 10, 2008


Psalm 33
1 Sing joyfully to the LORD, you righteous; it is fitting for the upright to praise him

Psalm 86:4
4 Bring joy to your servant, for to you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.

Psalm 100:2

2 Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs

I am starting off with 3 Psalm quotes to make a very clear point. There is only one emotion that really gets our feeling of our relationship with the Lord across. JOY. When we offer thanks, and praise it is with Joy, when we pray we ask for the Joy that we feel from knowing God better. Joy is the summation of our feeling in the Lord, and it is a good word to express the feeling the Lord feels when we joyfully offer him praise. Nehemiah 8:10 reads : …… Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength."

I bring joy to the forefront because that is what we are here for. We always hear how people just want to be happy. If they just had, or if they only could….yet that joy is never attained. People are always left wanting. The reason for that is we are looking for Joy in the wrong places. Our Joy starts with the Lord, and flows from there.

The Lord does not ask much from us, he really doesn’t. However through out the bible he is pretty clear that he wants us to worship him and only him, it is the one thing that brings him joy. Here again, that is why we are here Not some other God, not fat bank account, not a new house. We should be seeking joy form the Lord it is a mutually joyful experience! The closer we draw to him, the more he will find joy in us, and pour out his grace and love on to us.

Think about that just for a second. What if life could be that easy? I will tell you it can be just that simple! What if we were to start seeking joy, by drawing closer to God, by reading his word, by modeling our life after Christ’s. What if we spent more time looking for the Lord and less time looking for the next get rich quick scam? The Lord wants us to be happy, he wants to see us full of Joy. He delights in it! The gift is right there, well within our reach. The lord did not set the bar high, He made the ultimate sacrifice so this joy could be available for everyone that wants it. Joy is yours for the taking, but you have to start looking for it at it’s true beginning, and that is in the Lord.

Rev. Thetford

Friday, November 7, 2008

Slaves to Christ

Romans 5: 15-18

15What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! 16Don't you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted. 18You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.

Slaves of biblical times were not slaves in the terms that we tend to put on slavery today. When we think of slavery today, we think of people held against their will and forced to work at back breaking labor, people stolen from their land, and forced into a life they did not choose. In biblical times this was not so much the case. Yes some people were forced into slavery against their will, but a quick read through Exodus 21 will show that was not the case, nor was that type of slavery acceptable. For many slavery was a way to protect themselves, and their families. If you were not born into a wealthy house there was no certainty of what your life would hold, if you found yourself in debt, and could not pay it back, an option was to “sell” yourself into slavery. Many people would even continue to be bondservants after the debt was paid. The point being, they willingly were slaves. They chose to live under the roof of someone else for their protection, their welfare, or the reward of having a better life under the rule of someone, than they would have had on their own.

When we have that understanding, then read this passage we understand what Paul means by offering ourselves to sin or to Christ. It is a choice, and it is a choice that we make that decides how we will live our life. Will we live it as a slave to sin, or a slave to Christ? We offer ourselves to a master each and every day. I always quote Dylan when I think of this choice. “You’re gonna have to serve somebody, it might be the devil, or it might be the Lord, but your gonna have to serve somebody.” This is what Paul is telling us, when we sin, we make ourselves slaves to sin. Just because Christ died for us, and gave us the hope for eternal life, we sill have to choose who we will serve. We do not have a ”kitchen pass” to act however we would like. We cannot “sin because we are not under the law, but under grace”, we must continue to choose to offer ourselves…..better yet, make ourselves a slave to Christ. Not a slave as in modern terms, but as biblical slaves. People who choose to give their lives to Christ, because we can see that living in Christ produces more joy, more satisfaction, and a better, whole, God loving life, than we would ever have on our own.

Rev. Thetford

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

every day, not every four years

Romans 15:5

5May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus.

This morning we wake (well some of us stayed up for it) to a new future. This morning there are winners, and there are losers. This morning one thing has not changed, and that is our hope, and faith in Christ. Some might be “red” and some might be “blue” but we are all Christians, this is the only unity that counts, the unification of Christ. This party of Christ transcends any and all party lines. It does not matter this morning if “your guy” won or lost. We are not in the drivers seat. As always, we do what we can do, and then we let the Lord do the rest.

So if your guy did lose, so be it, there is no need for hatefulness, there is no need to act wounded. If your guy won, there is no need to boast, there is no need to try and “rub it in”. We will learn as time goes on what the true outcome will be, we will see if this man is a leader or just another politician, but one thing is for sure……. we will see the Lord’s plan unfold. It is the unification in Christ that counts, and that battle is fought daily, not every 4 years!

Rev. Thetford

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Hope against hope

Romans 4: 18-21

18Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, "So shall your offspring be." 19Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah's womb was also dead. 20Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, 21being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.

We all have defining moments in our life. We face challenges that seem hopeless; the task before us seems unachievable, perhaps even impossible. When we are faced with those high thick walls that are set before us, we should think of Abraham. Against all hope, he hoped. When everything in the natural world told him that this task would be impossible, he did not waver in his faith. He gave glory to God, and increased his faith! He believed, he hoped, and he had unshakeable faith that God could, and would do exactly what he had promised!

Oh the wonderful, fulfilling, warming, empowering, and conquering power of faith!! When you feel you have nothing left to give, faith will recharge your soul, when you are weak, and feel trapped in temptation, faith will give you a way out. When the world has beaten you down, and you want to lie on the floor and give up, faith will bring you back onto your feet. With faith in the Lord, nothing is impossible, yet today; we find doubt, easier to listen to. We hear discouragement, and believe in our mediocrity!

Folks, I encourage each of you not listen to the world around you, do not listen to the doubt, and discouragement, Fill yourself with faith….fill yourself to the point that it overflows, and runs out like a spring, filling those around you. Be fully persuaded that God has the power to do what he has promised!

Rev. Thetford

Monday, November 3, 2008

sometimes you have to say no

Exodus 18: 14-18

14When Moses' father-in-law saw all that he was doing for the people, he said, "What is this that you are doing for the people? Why do you sit alone, and all the people stand around you from morning till evening?" 15And Moses said to his father-in-law, "Because the people come to me to inquire of God; 16 when they have a dispute, they come to me and I decide between one person and another, and I make them know the statutes of God and his laws." 17Moses' father-in-law said to him, "What you are doing is not good. 18You and the people with you will certainly wear yourselves out, for the thing is too heavy for you. You are not able to do it alone.

Jethro had already learned the important lesson in life. We cannot do everything, for everybody by ourselves. Moses was a great man, and God was with him, there is no doubt of that. However even great men have limits. Even great men can only give so much of themselves before there is nothing left to give. When we do not take time for ourselves, we as individuals suffer. Our relationships suffer; our personal relationship with the Lord suffers. I sum it up to say we cannot clearly hear the Lord whispering in our ear, if we are so busy telling everyone else what to do, that we do not take time to listen.

We have to learn to say no. Yes that even means sometimes we have to say no when we do not want to. That means the Church might have to find someone else to head up that next project, or your friend might need to find someone else to help them out this time. I am by no means saying that we should push away from our duties, but we do have to realize our own time constraints. When we try to do too much we become ineffective at most of what we are doing, and everyone suffers. We get so busy trying to do everything, that worst case nothing gets done correctly……or best case we skim over everything, and do not devote enough time to the important work that needs to be done.

This is the situation that Moses is in. He feels that he should be the one to handle everything. Since he is the one person everyone goes to for a ruling, the Israelites as a whole have to put all of their disagreements on hold until they can bring them before Moses. Not only is this quite a burden to place on one person, it is quite a burden to place on the people. They deserve better as does Moses. The wonderful idea that Jethro gives to Moses is an idea we can all use. Find people you can trust, and give them the smaller part of the responsibility.

We all know at least one person that cannot say no. If you do not know anyone like that…..well maybe you are that person! What we have to realize is that while the Lord has a plan for all of us, I can promise you, that the Lord does not expect you to accomplish his entire plan by yourself! We each have a part, and that is all we can do, when we see the need for more to be done, that is when we should be turning to our friends, and asking for help. When we find ourselves stretched too thin, that is when we should turn to the Lord, and ask for help…..and the strength to say no!


Rev. Thetford