Pastor's Blog

Listen to some verses that declare that God is faithful to his promises.

1. Numbers 23:19, “God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?”
2. 1 Kings 8:56, “Praise be to the LORD, who has given rest to his people Israel just as he promised. Not one word has failed of all the good promises he gave through his servant Moses.
3. Joshua 21:45, “Not one of all the LORD’s good promises to the house of Israel failed; every one was fulfilled.”
4. Joshua 23:14, “Now I am about to go the way of all the earth. You know with all your heart and soul that not one of all the good promises the LORD your God gave you has failed. Every promise has been fulfilled; not one has failed.”
5. 2 Peter 3:9, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”
6. Hebrews 10:23, “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.”

What are God's great and precious promises?

God has said that he will do a number of things, here are just a few:
Jesus said “I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” (Mt. 16:18)
1. Most of us are a part of that church that Jesus built.
2. It has been in existence for 2000 years and it will remain until the end.

Another precious promise of God is “I will be with you.”
1. God has made this promise to his people throughout time.
2. To Joshua God said, “No one will be able to stand up against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Josh. 1:5)
3. In the Great Commission Jesus said, “And surely I will be with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Mt. 28:20)
4. In 2 Tim. 4:16-17, Paul wrote, “At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them. But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength…”
5. That’s what God does for his people. He sticks close to them.

God has also promised: “I will strengthen you.”
1. I like Isaiah 41:10, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
2. 2 Thess. 3:3, “But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.”
3. That’s why Paul declared, “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” (Phil. 4:13)
4. I know that it’s because of God’s strength that I am who I am and do what I do. There’s no way I could do even half of what I do on my own!

One final precious promise: “I will come again.”
1. John 14:1-3, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”
2. How wonderful to know that we are saved and that we have eternal life.
3. 1 John 2:25, “And this is what he promised us – even eternal life.”
4. 1 John 5:13, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.”
5. Jesus is coming back, and he will take us to live with him…forever. That’s a promise!

How do we receive God's promises?

First we need to Prayerfully Study our Bibles.
Second, to receive God’s promises we must patiently wait.
A third aspect of receiving God’s promises is living in obedience to God’s will.
A final way that we receive God’s promises is by FAITH.

God has been faithful to our church, to our community most of all to me and my family. We need to praise God for His constant watch over us. God bless.

In Christ’s steps,
Shaker
“Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” -Luke 6:36-37

“Guilty as sin! It happened just a few years ago. The banks in New Jersey had been robbed systematically, one after the other. What made the robber stand out was his politeness. He just gave the tellers a note which said, “Please place your money in this bag. Thank you.” The newspapers called him the GENTLEMAN BANDIT.

The widespread publicity led to a very unlikely arrest - the suspect was a Catholic priest. His church was appalled but stood beside him, saying they knew he could not be the bandit. They signed petitions, held protest marches and came up with his bail. But the police were certain they had their man. All of the eyewitnesses positively identified him. And the news media dug into his past, to find that in a previous church he had left under a cloud because of financial irregularities in the parish. For a priest he had a pretty expensive lifestyle - his own apartment and a fast car. His church was probably standing up for him because otherwise they looked like dupes.

As people across the country watched the story unfold on the news, they were positive this priest had pulled a fast one. He probably had a sociopath personality so he could rob banks and preach the next Sunday without feeling any guilt. No one outside his congregation was standing up for this guy. But then a funny thing happened. The REAL Gentleman Bandit was caught red-handed. As it turned out, he was the spitting image of the priest. It’s just that he WASN’T the priest. The priest was released, his church threw him a big party, and the news media and those who had prematurely judged him felt a little sheepish.” Source: Rev. David Holwick First Baptist Church Ledgewood, New Jersey

The other day in my devotion, I came across these verses, Luke 6:36-37 and it made me think how many times we make criticisms or judgements without complete knowledge of circumstances. Many times the criticisms we feel or speak are based on facts; we can be right and wrong at the same time if our attitude is not one of mercy. 

A critical spirit is harmful to our witness because the world is watching and listening to us and they will not believe that we show a God of mercy and kindness unless we show those traits ourselves.

Jesus begins by saying “Do not judge and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” Many people believe that Jesus was saying that we should never make any kind of judgement or evaluation about right or wrong in other people’s lives. When Jesus commands us not to judge others, he does not mean that we should not evaluate others actions, beliefs or teachings. What He is forbidding is an unmerciful, critical, fault finding evaluation of others. This is the attitude of harsh condemnation and not of loving correction. This attitude tends to hurt more than to heal. Jesus wants us to be very careful and be very loving in our evaluation or judgement of others faults.

Jesus in effect is saying that we are to evaluate and respond to other people’s shortcomings with mercy. We are to lovingly correct when it is necessary but we are not to condemn people or disparage them. We are not to look down upon them in our hearts or tear them down with our words because when we do that we are judging them in the very way Jesus said not to judge them.

Our goal in life in Christ is to build up people who are like Jesus. We are to be a people who show mercy, kindness and forgiveness to others especially when they fall. We should not condemn the weakness or failures of others. But neither will we ignore or excuse sin. We need to be understanding, compassionate, merciful people who will lend a helping and hopeful hand. Jesus tells us that we should not judge unmercifully so that we will not be judged unmercifully.

God’s abundant mercy in my life allows me to walk in freedom, peace, and joy. If we don’t show mercy and have a critical attitude, we will forfeit those things ourselves.

Jesus is saying that we can be especially blessed to receive mercy in the same way. He says that we will have mercy poured into our life abundantly, “a good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over.”

When you are kind, positive, good toward your enemies, and merciful, withholding judgement, we share the image of God. We are kind of like God, compassionate, tender hearted, and forgiving, we manifest Godly qualities.

My prayer is God will free us from the prison of our judgement so that we can receive and share His grace. We want to give a good measure of grace so we can in turn receive a good measure back from our ever merciful God. Enjoy a wonderful spring. God bless.

In His steps,
Pastor Shaker
"Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, 'Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?' Jesus answered, 'I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.'" -Matthew 18:21-22

Since we’re imperfect people, we’re bound to have trouble with forgiveness. I’m convinced that relationships are built not on a standard of perfection, but on our ability to ask for forgiveness, and upon our willingness to extend forgiveness. In other words, grace must impact both our friendships and our forgiveness.

If you and I want to have relationships that last for the long haul, then we must be willing to extend forgiveness to others. Here’s another way to say it: In every relationship you have, you will constantly be called on to forgive and to ask for forgiveness.

Forgiveness is costly -- it’s not easy to ask for forgiveness and it’s certainly not easy to extend forgiveness to those who’ve wronged us. Proverbs 18:19 says that, “An offended brother is more unyielding than a fortified city, and disputes are like the barred gates of a citadel.”

Forgiveness is the virtue we most enjoy and least employ. There are at least two reasons why we struggle with forgiveness: Forgiveness is not natural. That’s why it’s so hard to do. Forgiveness is not fair. Our sense of justice wants to be vindicated. Of all the people in the Bible, Peter stands out as the most mathematical of the disciples. He was a stickler for detail, always trying to pin down the precise meaning of everything Jesus said. Do you remember when Jesus engineered a miraculous catch of fish? It was Peter who sat down and counted each squirming one to find out that they caught 153. If you were to take your Bible and count the number of times that Peter messed up, you’d discover that he needed forgiveness on at least 7 different occasions.

Being a numbers-guy, one day Peter came up to Jesus and asked him a question in Matthew 18:21, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times? I find his question a bit amusing. Here’s Peter, the one who needed personal forgiveness on at least 7 different occasions himself, being concerned with how many times he had to forgive someone else. He was trying to discover a mathematical formula for grace.

When you think about it, we all have some barriers that keep us from giving the gift of forgiveness to others. We have a threshold that we don’t want to cross, a limit we won’t go beyond. I can think of at least three barriers of an unforgiving heart: To be honest, forgiving someone seven times is commendable. Most of us get frustrated if we have to forgive someone twice. Jesus isn’t suggesting that we count the number of times we forgive someone -- 298, 299, 300 -- only 190 to go! Not at all. Seventy times seven means there is no limit to the number of times we are to forgive someone. you don’t keep score when it comes to forgiveness. To forgive is to cancel the debt. When we’ve wronged someone, and they choose to forgive us, they are in essence saying, “I cancel the debt. The slate has been wiped clean. You don’t owe me anything -- I release you from ever having to pay me back.”

Three action steps if you’re in need of forgiveness.

1 - Face Your Friend. The first step you need to take if you’re the guilty party is to meet with your friend or foe face-to-face. In Matthew 5:24, Jesus put it this way, “If your brother has something against you... go and be reconciled to your brother.” Is there someone you need to “go” to this week? Anyone you need to call? Do you need to stop over to someone’s house or office?

2 - Own The Wrong. The second step, after you’ve faced your friend, is to own the wrong that has been done. There’s a phrase I use when I play basketball that I think is applicable here. When I lose the ball out of bounds or miss a shot, I often point to myself and say, “My bad.” It’s my way of saying that it’s no one else’s fault. I messed up. Friends, when we mess up in our relationships, Jesus wants us to own the wrong, to say, “My bad.” It’s not enough to just acknowledge a mistake -- we need to own it.

3 - Ask For Release. After facing your friend and owning the wrong, the next step is to ask for release. I suggest that you actually say the words, “Please forgive me.” If your friend says something like, “It’s no big deal, don’t worry about it,” you might want to say, “I appreciate that, but I need to have your forgiveness. Do you forgive me?” It’s really important to be released from the debt. 3 Reasons to Forgive Because we’ve received grace and forgiveness.

An unforgiving spirit inflicts torment Forgiveness frees people including ourselves.

C.S. Lewis has said, “To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.”

*Article from Sermon Central Media

To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be his holy people: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.” - Romans 1:7

We are beginning a new year. We have been given a whole new year to fill with all the things which are going to happen to us as individuals, families, church and the community. The most exciting thing is that we don’t have to do it alone. God will guide us through. As you read, most of Paul’s letters start very positive. In the above verse, Paul is writing to the Roman church and he shares five privileges that belong to all Christians:

1. They are loved by God.
2. They are called.
3. They are saints.
4. They are the recipients of grace.
5. They are the recipients of peace from God the father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

(1) We are loved by God. There is nothing more to be said beyond that. God simply loves us because of who HE is and not because of who we are or what HE sees in us. God loves His own. We read in Deuteronomy 7:7-9, “The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. 8 But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath he swore to your ancestors that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. 9 Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments.” It says HE is keeping His covenant of love. 

We are Christians for one reason only and that is that God has set HIS love upon us. 

(2) The second privilege is that we are called by God. Paul says that Christians are called in Romans 1:7, “To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be his holy people: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.” All mankind is called to turn from sin and turn to Jesus Christ. God wants us to, gives us the opportunity to follow Him, and does not force us. Secondly, this allows us as a Christian to choose to live and take advantage of all our privileges.

(3) The third privilege that belongs to us is we are called saints. “Saints” does not mean that we reached a certain level of holiness and therefore worthy of special treatment. In the Bible, being a saint always means separated by God to God and to HIS work. This is what Paul said of himself in Romans 1:1, “set apart for the gospel of God.”

We are loved by God, called by God, then set apart to HIM to live for HIM and work for HIM in this world. The ones who do not know CHRIST should be able to see the difference in our lifestyle. 

(4) The fourth privilege is that we are the recipients of God’s GRACE. Paul emphasizes that our father and Jesus Christ gave us the Grace. In Ephesians 2:8, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—” we see it as a gift.

(5) The gift privilege that belongs to us is that we are again the recipients of the Peace of God. Paul says in Romans 5:1, “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” This is a marvellous privilege of the Gospel, that we have peace with God. This peace eludes the ones who do not know Jesus Christ. 

Paul shares these five privileges belonging only to Christians. And I do believe it belongs to each member of First Baptist. So let us claim them in 2017. God will be honored and glorified in and through us.

God bless,
Pastor Shaker

“Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!” - 2 Corinthians 9:15

Christmas is right around the corner, and most of us are busy getting ready to find the right gift to give each person on our list. Sometimes we even exchange the first gift because we find a better one. We forget that the first Christmas was very simple, Joseph and Mary looking for the right place to bring the baby, who would one day bring salvation. Should we be asking, are we putting so much time and energy on things which are fleeting? Should we be thinking of how we are to relate to a child who is asking: what is Hanging of the Greens all about or what is advent? Maybe we should be thinking more of the event when God gave us the gift of HIS Son.

God is the greatest giver. The truth that Jesus Christ is the “gift” of God who had far reaching impact on the world. Not just at the time of His birth, but even today. By forgetting that Christ is a gift, we tend to forget the Father’s compassion for us. Secondly, if Christ is the “gift” of God then we should acknowledge the Father’s GRACE. There was no obligation of God to mankind who had strayed away from the creator. As sinners we do not have any right to expect such a “gift.” It is altogether unmerited and undeserved. The Father giving the Son was an expression of the purest form of GRACE.

If Jesus is the “gift” we can see the concern of the father to bring us back to Himself. He gave His son to die on the cross so our fellowship will come to a full circle back to Him. So one thing is obvious that only those who have received the “gift” can become part of the family. Romans 8:32 says, “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?”

Christ was a king who came not to take, but to give. His gift was the ultimate sacrifice and therefore each of our Christmas gifts bring the focus back to where it should belong.

So, let us remember what the “Gift” is--this Christmas season. Here is a Christmas prayer to go along with our gift. “Please Lord Jesus forgive me for being so grumpy as I trudge through the never ending tasks set before me this holiday season. My to-do list seems to keep growing with shopping, church services, and family gatherings--and I’m running short on time! Restore the joy of Christmas to my heart...and help me to relax each day and make time for YOU...my one true source of Joy. In the name of Christ my Lord, Amen.”

Have a Merry Christmas from the Samuel Family!

“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” - Lamentations 3:22-23

As I’m sitting and pondering what I can say for the newsletter it came clear to me what Jeremiah said in the above verse God’s “compassions never fail.” They are new every morning: great is your faithfulness. It is dreary and cold outside but in my heart there is “SONshine,” because of what Jesus did for me on the cross.

I’m reminded of a story I heard of two friends who bumped into one another. One of them looked sad, almost on the verge of tears. His friend asked “what has the world done to you?” The sad fellow said, “Let me tell you, three weeks ago my uncle died and left me $40,000.00. Two weeks ago, a cousin I never knew died and left me $85,000.00 free and clear.

The friend interjected, it seems like you have been greatly blessed. But the sad fellow said, “You don’t understand, last week my great aunt passed away and left me $250,000.00. But, the friend said, “Why are you still looking so glum and sad.” The sad friend announced, “But this week I have not received anything.”

Trouble with receiving something on a regular basis, we eventually come to expect it. We have gradually fallen into an “entitlement mentality” in our Christian life. We have been blessed so much that we become complacent and are not willing to give thanks for anything we receive from God.

“Attitude is everything.” Well it is no different when it comes to Thanksgiving. The attitude we carry with us through life is of great importance. We are to truly live lives that show gratitude toward God for His many blessings in our lives.

It may be gray and cold in my world this morning, but I need to learn to give thanks to the life HE has given me.

Jesus is an amazing example. In Matthew 15:36, “Then he took the seven loaves and the fish, and when he had given thanks, he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and they in turn to the people.” Jesus gave thanks before HE fed the five thousand in Luke 22:14-20. He gave thanks for the Calvary and cross twice, which was going to bring pain and suffering to Him, but life for us.

John 11:41 says, “So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me.” Jesus gave thanks for answered prayer. Let us focus this year on what we have and improve our attitudes and give thanks to Him. Some suggestions to give thanks:

A: Be thankful when we make mistakes, they will teach us valuable lessons.
B: Be thankful for each new challenge, because it will build strength and character.
C: Be thankful for limitations because they give us opportunities for improvement.
D: Be thankful for difficult times, during those days we grow.
E: Be thankful when we are tired because it means we are making a difference.

It’s easy to be thankful for good things, but a life time of fulfillment can come to those who are thankful for setbacks and hardships can become blessings in time.

This year, as we celebrate Thanksgiving, may we each see God for who HE really is and see ourselves as who we really are; people who have been blessed beyond measure and people who need to give thanks to the giver of all good gifts. Have a blessed Thanksgiving!

In Christ’s steps,
Pastor Shaker