Pastor’s Blog

susan_beckettTO TELL THE TRUTH!

By: Pastor Susan Beckett, July 29, 2017 

How many remember that classic game show, “To Tell the Truth?”  Just in case you are way too young for such trivia (it ran in the 50’s & 60’s) here’s how the show was played.  A person with an unusual occupation or experience, plus two impostors, tried to stump a panel of 4 celebrities. Who’s the “real” McCoy? The goal of the game was to try and fool the celebrities into voting for one of the two impostors.  The impostors were allowed to lie but the “real” person had sworn “to tell the truth.”

    In today’s world, I sometimes feel like we are all living in a larger version of that game show. Does anyone tell the truth anymore?  Jesus tells us in John 8:32: “Know the truth and the truth will set you free.”  I would add to that, “The truth will set you free only if you know the truth is true!”
   Strange words to be sure, but now days truth isn’t always true.  I hopped on my computer recently and typed in, “What is truth?”  I was blown away by all the ridiculous stuff I found on that topic.  Crazy stuff.  Basically these days, truth is just about anything you say it is.  

   And the amazing thing about truth is that it’s become controversial.  The common view among philosophers (our “smart” thinkers) is that there’s no such thing as absolute truth.  According to their thinking, my truth and your truth may be different, even contradict each other, but both views have equal claim on being true.  As I said, crazy stuff.

   So, if someone wants to believe that Buddha is a way to heaven and can give you eternal life, that’s ‘true.’  On the other hand, being a Christian, if I say that Jesus Christ is the only way to God the Father and to heaven  (since He alone paid the price for our salvation) that’s true as well, even though they severely conflict with each other.  Houston – we’ve got a problem!

   In Romans 1:21-22 the writer is speaking on basic God-truths and stands against other half-baked truths with these profound words:  “…they became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.  Professing themselves to be wise they became fools.”

   But getting the truth out of people is not always as easy as it may appear.  For instance, when a person takes the witness stand in a court of law they pledge to tell, “The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” 

    I used to wonder why just telling the truth wasn’t good enough.  Why do we also have to swear to tell the whole truth?  I heard it explained this way:  Joe invites Mark to meet him for lunch on Saturday.  Joe waits two hours but Mark is a no-show.  Joe is mad at Mark and the next time they run into each other, Joe admonishes Mark for blowing him off.  Mark is apologetic as he tells Joe that his mother fell of the porch and broke her wrist – he spent the entire day with her in the ER.  Now Joe feels terrible for being mad at Mark as Mark had an emergency.  Or did he?  Nope!  Turns out that although Mark’s mother did fall off the porch and he did indeed spend time with her in ER, the event didn’t happen on Saturday, it happened the previous Tuesday.  It was the truth – but not the whole truth.  As the saying goes, half the truth is a lie!  

   A major church leader was once severely criticized for standing up against abortion.  He was told to “change with the times.”  Really?  Does truth change with the times?  It’s almost like asking God to update the 10 Commandments to fit our current worldly trends in society.   As someone once noted:  “There is my truth.  There is your truth, and there is their truth.  The absolute truth is with God.” 

   And don’t think for a minute that God doesn’t care about truth.  In Hosea 4:1 God tells the people that He has “a controversy with them because there is no truth, no mercy, no knowledge of God in the land.”  Later in vs 6 He goes on to say:  “My people perish for lack of knowledge.”  And truth??

     And what is our responsibility as Christ-followers in relaying truth to people?  Do we have any?  Let’s say that at the edge of our valley there’s a raging river.  Every day people fall into the river and drown.  What should we do?  Of course we will comfort the families of those who have drowned.  But do we have any other obligation?  Well . . . we could put up a fence – that would help, but people have a choice – they can always climb over our barricade.  I believe we have a larger obligation than a fence!   Shouldn’t we be warning people about this imminent danger?  Giving a heads-up to all who will listen and take heed?

   So, in light of that, here is what I believe is the ultimate truth:  Outside the cross of Jesus Christ there is no hope for mankind in this world.  The cross and resurrection, the very core of our Gospel, is our only hope.  Only through repentance and faith in Christ can anyone be saved.  No religious activity will be enough, only truth and faith in Jesus Christ alone!

Susan Beckett & her husband Bob pastor 

The Dwelling Place City Church in Hemet, CA

susan_beckettTHE BEST NEWS I EVER RECEIVED!

By: Pastor Susan Beckett, February 19, 2017 

What’s the best news you’ve ever received in your whole life?  Maybe, “Congratulations – it’s a girl, or, it’s a boy!”  Or, “Congratulations – the job is yours!”  Maybe, “Way to go, you got the raise!”  Or, “Congratulations – the loan went through, the house is yours!”   

   But what if you’ve been diagnosed with Stage 4 metastatic bladder cancer?  The cancer has spread to your liver, your lungs, and your abdomen?  They have already taken out a kidney plus nineteen lymph nodes . . . the doctor’s prognosis is “terminal.”    And now – what if you receive news that the cancer is gone?  Absolutely, 100% gone!  Now that’s great news and that’s the best news I have ever received!!!

    After going through chemo (which left the cancer ‘stable’) followed by three treatments on a Clinical Trial, my doctor called my husband and me one evening after a CT scan, and asked if we were sitting down.  He wasted no time in telling us, “The results are in, there is no evidence of disease.”  I almost screamed into the phone but didn’t want to blow out my doctor’s ear drums.  We could hardly believe what we were hearing.

   The following Sunday morning Bob and I had the incredible privilege of standing before our Dwelling Place congregation to share this amazing news.  Our time was limited, but we journeyed back through the events that had transpired since last April when I underwent a ten hour surgery after being diagnosed with cancer.

   So now the big question:  how is it that I am , as the doctor says, disease free?  People have asked me that and there is no simple answer to that question, but there are answers, so please allow me some space to share part of my journey with you.

   The first and foremost thing that we did was pray.  We got our prayer need out to our local churches,  other churches across America, plus — our own wonderful congregation and immediate family took on the challenge and supported us 100% in ways too numerous to list here.  Then we followed Psalm 3:6 which says, “In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.”  We felt that no matter how great our doctor and hospital were, without the Divine intervention of the Lord, the cancer would prevail.  So we prayed about every step we took, plus basically followed Biblical truths for healing, believing God’s highest and best for me was to be healed. 

   3 John 2 says, “I wish above all things that you would prosper and be in health as your soul prospers.”  God wants us to be healthy and disease free.  Taking time to study the ministry of Jesus, one will discover that Jesus healed all who came to Him for healing.  All.  He didn’t ask if they tithed, attended church on Sundays, or had prayed and fasted for a long period of time.  Matter of fact, Luke 6:18 says this:  “And the people all tried to touch Him (Jesus) because power was coming from Him and healing them all.”  

   Many people believe if they just attend church more often, give more money, pray harder, or read the Bible from Genesis to maps, they will be healed.  Let me tell you what that is called:  it’s called “works.”  There is nothing a person can “do” to earn healing.  You can’t read enough, pray enough, or give away enough money to purchase your healing!  The “work” was accomplished when Jesus died on the cross.  

   It’s pretty clear in I Peter 2:24:  “He personally carried our sins in His body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right.  By His wounds you are healed.”  The price has been paid for your healing – now it’s a matter of receiving.  The Bible teaches us that Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  That means if He healed people 2,000 years ago, He still heals people today. 

   Each morning before I got out of bed, before my cute little feet even hit the floor, I would pray.  I thanked the Lord for healing me.  I made declarations out loud declaring that my body was cancer free.  I thanked God for giving me longevity in my ministry and thanked Him for His promises to me in the Bible.  I even had a large, handwritten sign taped up on my bathroom mirror which read, “Thank you Jesus for healing me!” 

   If I could sum up all of my experience in five words it would be a phrase from Ephesians which says, “and having done all, stand.”  We did “all” we could to come against the cancer that was challenging my life.  We “stood” on the multitude of healing promises in the Word of God, we changed our diet, we prayed, and we sought direction from the Lord in every situation.  We were led to a wonderful doctor and we followed his directions.  (It may surprise you to hear that the Bible has plenty of good to say about doctors and medicine.  Among them, Proverbs 17:22a:  “A merry heart does good like a medicine…”)  God has no problem using doctors and medicines!

   There’s a terrific song that’s one of my favorites and the lines go like this:  “Whose report will you believe?  We shall believe the report of the Lord.  His report says I am healed.  His report says I am filled. His report says I am free.  His report says victory!”  Thank goodness, my first report was not my last report. So, the question begs, “Whose report will you believe?”

susan_beckettTHE GREATEST GIFT!

By: Pastor Susan Beckett, December 22, 2016 

For years our church (Dwelling Place City Church) participated in the annual Hemet Christmas parade.  One year the theme for the parade was “The Greatest Gift.”  Of course, as a church, to us the greatest gift was God giving His Son, Jesus Christ, which is the entire reason we even celebrate Christmas every year.  The “Reason for the Season” as the saying goes.

   On this particular year, we built a giant float that carried our entire worship team, followed by over 80 dancers, flag & banner carriers, a Kid’s Train, our congregation on flatbed trailers, a giant red cross, plus three wisemen on camels.  In the middle of all this, one of our congregant’s dressed up as Jesus, preceded by a banner which read, “The Greatest Gift!” 

   Well, come Monday morning, the church office received a phone call from an irate mother who was extremely annoyed that we had even dared to suggest that Jesus was “The Greatest Gift.”  Apparently she and her young son had attended the parade that weekend and when she saw our church sign with the parade theme on it coming down the street, she had excitedly told her young son to watch for Santa Claus.  

   She was extremely displeased that we had suggested Christmas was about anything other than Santa and Christmas presents – apparently her idea of “The Greatest Gift.”  How sad.  Shiny new bicycles are terrific, bright new toys light up a child’s eyes, Santa’s at the mall are so much fun, and what about a new fleecy robe & slippers?!  But – none of those can hold a candle to the gift of Jesus given to all mankind over 2,000 years ago!  What an extraordinary and remarkable gift that was!!!

   But even more amazing when you consider all the fulfilled prophecies in the Old Testament concerning His birth, life, death and resurrection.  The Old Testament was completed in 450 B.C., hundreds of years before the birth of Jesus.  So hundreds of years before He was born, it was predicted that Jesus would be born of a virgin, He would be born in Bethlehem, He would be called a Nazarene and be a descendant of David, He would be fully God and fully man, a Lamb without blemish, He would be betrayed for thirty pieces of silver by a friend, He would die for mankind, even His resurrection was predicted. The list of fulfilled prophecies goes on and on and on, totaling over 300.  

   According to CBN, “Mathematically speaking, the odds of anyone fulfilling this amount of prophecy is staggering.  Mathematicians put it this way:  1 person fulfilling 8 of these 300+ prophecies:  1 person in 100,000,000,000,000,000.  I person fulfilling 48 of these prophecies:  1 chance in 10 to the 157th power.  I person fulfilling all 300+ prophecies?  Only Jesus!”

   Think about it – that every single one of these 300+ prophecies would be fulfilled by one man is not only improbable but impossible – except for the historical fact that one man did fulfill them all – Jesus!  Again, truly the greatest gift of all eternity!

   Terry Mark says it perfectly, “A gift may look ordinary but when given with love, becomes a treasure for a lifetime.  Christmas reminds us of God’s extraordinary gift of salvation and the eternal treasure we have in Jesus Christ.”   It’s been said that “Jesus is the light of Christmas, the joy of our hearts, and the hope of our world.”  You see, the magic of Christmas is not in the presents, but in His presence.

   So go ahead and sing your heart out, listen to Christmas carols, see Santa, eat too much candy, put reindeer antlers on your dog, bake cookies with gobs of icing, give incredible fun gifts, decorate your Christmas tree, put up lights and attend a church service, because we’ve got good reason to celebrate!      

   Come and behold Him, born the King of Angels.  Merry Christmas! 

susan_beckettWE DECLARE!

By: Pastor Susan Beckett, November 7, 2016 

Like most churches ours has membership meetings every so often.  We meet and give people the vision and mission of this ministry and let them meet many of the staff  If they feel they line up with what we believe Biblically and the direction of this ministry they can join forces with us.

   I always look at church membership like people buying into a business and getting one share of stock in that company.  From now on we will flow as a team working together for the betterment of the church body as well as for the church vision within the community.

   One of the things we love to do in our services is make declarations.  We have one in particular that we say together as a congregation that involves our city.  We believe that a church and its people should be a blessing anywhere they are at any particular time.  Just imagine several hundred people saying this out loud on a Sunday morning.  It’s awesome!

~  We declare the favor of God over our city.

~  We declare an open heaven over our city.

~  We declare this city a safe place for all people.

~  We declare this city a place of salvation for the unsaved.

~  We declare the life of God over our city.

~  We declare new businesses will move in and prosper.

~  We declare financial breakthrough over our city.

~  We declare our church will be a blessing within our 30 mile radius.

   So a great question here would be:  “Is there a big difference between being part of a church body from being part of a city body?”  I think not.  I think that wherever we are, we are called to work together and be a part of the solution and not part of the problem.  

   There’s an interesting verse in the Bible found in Jeremiah.  The people of Jerusalem had been taken captive and carried off to Babylon.  They were going to be there for awhile so God told them to seek the “peace” of that city.  The word “peace” in Hebrew here has an extremely broad meaning.  It literally means “health, prosperity, favor, rest, safety, and welfare.”  The Lord literally told them that when they seek the peace (health, prosperity, favor, rest, safety, and welfare) of Babylon then they themselves would also have “peace” (health, prosperity, favor, rest, safety, and welfare.)

   And guess what?  I believe it’s the same for us living in the San Jacinto/Hemet Valley.  If we, as individuals, do all we can to better our community in any and every way we can, it will be better for everyone!  If you are a part of the living church of Jesus Christ shouldn’t we, of all people, be the most positive influence in our community?  Picking up a piece of litter, opening the door for someone, giving out a smile, letting someone go first in line, painting over graffiti, rejoicing when someone gets a new job, taking time to pray for our city leaders and the people, volunteering for projects, etc. etc.

   Colossians 1:10 tells us that we are to be “fruitful in good works.”  If God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow then He is still at work when we are at work reaching out in His Name.  It was Jane Austen who said, “It isn’t what we say or think that defines us, but what we do.”  Listen – God’s not dead so we need to start acting like He will bless our outreach efforts to love our city and pray for the “peace” (health, prosperity, favor, rest, safety, and welfare) of the San Jacinto/Hemet Valley.

   Many of you probably recognize the name of the German theologian Martin Luther (1483-1546) but probably don’t realize that even he struggled through dark periods in his life wondering when God was going to step in and do something in a big way.  During one dark period his wife Katherine was worried.  Days went by with Luther locked in his study crying and praying and bemoaning the state of the world.  Finally his wife appeared before him dressed in black from head to toe.  “What are you doing?”  he asked her.  “Why are you dressed in mourning clothes?”  She calmly replied, “You, good doctor, are acting as if God were dead, so I shall dress as if He were!”

   It’s easy to look around at all the challenges in our Valley and be discouraged, but guess what?  God’s not dead – He is still at work in and through people who want to make a difference!  And that can be you.  Just love you city!!!

susan_beckettMIRACLES!

By: Pastor Susan Beckett, October 20, 2016 

Look around . . . do you see them?   Miracles.  They’re here and seem to be just about everywhere we look.  Every day it seems, there are miracles just waiting to be plucked out of the sky by people.  Think about it for a sec.  We have:  Miracle Whip – Miracle Weight Loss – Miracle Makeup – MiracleGro – Miracle Cure – Miracle Ear – Miracle Finishing Spray – Miracle Fat Burner – Miracle Mile – Miracle Mascara . . . the list is almost endless with the majority of “miracle” products in the makeup department.  (Go ladies.)

   But what do you do if you need a true miracle?  Maybe you desperately need a financial miracle, or  a relationship miracle, or you possibly need a health miracle in your life.  Where does one go for a real miracle?  Special water?  Your friends?  A psychologist??  Church???

   The #1 definition for miracle is: “An unusual or wonderful event that is believed to be caused by God.”  This would probably exclude our Fat Burner and Makeup Miracles!  But as G. K. Chesterton says, “The most incredible thing about miracles is that they happen.”

   Our problem with miracles is that we tend to easily believe incredible miraculous events and happenings in the Bible but have trouble translating those same type of miracles into our lives today.

   How easy it is for us to believe the blind man in Mark 10:52 had his sight restored through a miracle, or how easily we believe the ten lepers in Luke 17:14 received a miracle and were completely healed, and how easily we believe Lazarus in John 11 was raised from the dead. Yet another miracle!   I imagine that most of you reading this article would readily agree that Jesus made these miracles all happen – plus many, many more!

   But what would you think if you ran into your next door neighbor at the mailbox tomorrow and they told you they had experienced a miraculous event in their lives earlier that week?  What if they had severe back problems and went up for prayer at church and the Lord totally healed their back?  Would you believe them?

   As some of you know I am fighting cancer.  This summer I was diagnosed with another type of cancer in my bladder.  We went in for our appointment with the urologist and actually saw the cancer on a screen in his office.  We were told that this type of cancer wouldn’t be taken care of by the chemo I was currently taking – different match-up – so surgery was scheduled.  We started praying and many of our friends started praying, believing that the Lord could totally take care of this new cancer.  To make a long story short, when the surgeon went in to take out the cancer he couldn’t find it.  He told us he spent three times the normal amount of time looking for it but it was just gone.  He was totally baffled speaking to my husband about what could have happened.  Needless to say, my husband was quick to tell him that we were Christ-followers and had been praying and believing for a miracle.  Hallelujah!  We got it.

     I will be the first to admit that I don’t know why we don’t get more miracles.  I don’t understand it all but have seen enough of them to believe that they happen on a regular basis.  I have seen backs healed and ears opened up as well as many, many other miraculous healings.  

     Sometimes we tend to think if something doesn’t happen immediately then it won’t happen at all.  Wonder how many of us loose our miracle by giving up too soon?!  As someone once said, “Every miracle in the Bible first started with a problem.”  Maybe, just maybe, that problem is getting worked out while the miracle is slowly unfolding and we just don’t recognize it right away.  

     Other times people pray for miracles that don’t line up with the Word of God.  In James 4:3 it says “we ask, but receive not, because we ask amiss.”  It’s kinda like needing a financial miracle so you pray the Lord will miraculously grow you a money tree in your backyard.  But you can’t miss in prayer if you pray the Word of God but that takes getting into your Bible and understanding what it says.  

   Job 5:9 tells us that “He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed.  Miracles that cannot be counted.”  The Lord has your best interest in His heart and is sometimes just waiting for us to come to Him in faith and believe that He does awesome and incredible deeds.  It’s in His DNA.  It’s in His very nature to work stunning and amazing miracles.   Love Mark Batterson’s one liner on this topic: “If we want to see crazy miracles, sometimes we need to pray crazy prayers.”  Amen!  Let’s go for it.

susan_beckettFIRE-LIGHTERS!

By: Pastor Susan Beckett, September 8, 2016

   

 

For a time, many years ago, our church held an annual pit B-B-Q.  Our guys dug the large pit, lined it with rocks, piled the pit high with wood and watched it burn for hours and hours.  After the wood was reduced to mere ashes, the readied meat was put into the pit overnight to slowly B-B-Q.  The result, of course, was a delicious mouth-watering meal for our congregation.

   One year, the pit was dug, the fire was roaring and we had one of our guys, Ray, watching the fire to make sure it stayed contained within the pit.  We had carefully cleared the area of debris and Ray was settled into his lawn chair with wide-brimmed hat on head and book in hand.  He looked like he was doing time at Newport Beach. 

     Unfortunately, Ray had placed way too much wood on the fire and was more attentive to his book than with watching the fire and all it took was one little spark and a slight breeze and a telephone pole was on fire.  Fortunately, just about the time the fire hit the ten foot mark on the pole, my husband Bob poked his head out the office door!  The results of that fire could have been catastrophic,  given the nature of fire!

   When you stop to think about it, fire is an amazing substance.  I recently came across a thought-provoking analysis of fire that you might have to read through a couple times to really catch.  Get ready to be challenged.  Here ’tis: “In my biology class we’d talked about the definition of life: to be classified as a living creature, a thing needs to eat, breathe, reproduce, and grow.  Dogs do, rocks don’t, trees do, plastic doesn’t.

   Fire, by that definition, is vibrantly alive.  It eats everything from wood to flesh, excreting the waste as ash, and it breathes air just like a human, taking in oxygen and emitting carbon.  Fire grows, and as it spreads, it creates new fires that spread out and make new fires of their own. 

   Sometimes when I watch people trudging through their daily routines, I think that fire is more alive than we are – brighter, hotter, more sure of itself and where it wants to go. Fire doesn’t settle, fire doesn’t tolerate;  fire doesn’t ‘get-by.’”   ~ Dan Wells

   Wow! Pretty mind-boggling. Could this perhaps be the reason the Bible advises us to be “filled with the Holy Spirit and fire?”  Just think about that Biblical line for a minute – “filled with…FIRE!”  Pretty amazing statement.  But maybe, given the above definition of “fire &  life” this is exactly why the Lord wants us filled with His fire!

   This is the fire that’s fully alive and active and fills us with zeal and enthusiasm for God and life and people.  People filled with this God-fire are contagious in their faith for the Lord.  I like to call these contagious people “fire-lighters.”  (Verses “fire fighters” who try to subdue and contain the God-fire in people.)  They have an energy that is clearly being downloaded from God. I mean, what in this world could possibly be better than a dose of Glory Fire?!

   But the question begs to be asked, how does a person get this incredible, living fire? Only one way:  The Bible tells us in Matthew 3:11 that Jesus is the One who gives the Holy Spirit and Fire.  If the fire is something that Jesus wants us to possess, then why wouldn’t we pursue it?  

   There was a study done once by someone who wanted to find out what the top commands of Jesus were.  Not word-for-word but the general tone of the commands.  He found that the commands Jesus gave the most weren’t necessarily the most important ones but figured if they were said often, they were said often for a reason.  

   The study found that the third most spoken command was “Fear not” followed closely by number two which was “Believe.”  But the number one command Jesus taught was, “Be made whole.”  I believe part of that number one command would be fulfilling Jesus’ desire for us to be filled with the Holy Spirit and fire!  Filled with His Spirit and His Fire would certainly be part of “Being made whole” in my book.  I want to do everything possible to pursue, take hold of, and obey His word and will for my life, because life is always better with God!  

   Don’t forget, we are not human beings having a spiritual experience.  We are spiritual beings having a human experience. So go for it.  As Les Brown once said: “No one gets out of the game of life alive.  You either die in the bleachers, or on the field.  So, you might as well come out on the field and go for it.” 

susan_beckettIT’S ON FIRE!

By: Pastor Susan Beckett, August 11, 2016

   

 Let’s pretend for a minute that we can travel back in time.  The year:  1909.  The place:  Los Angeles, California.   More specifically:  312 Azusa Street.  A new ministry has begun and rumors of blind eyes being opened, legs being lengthened, and the deaf hearing again are circulating.  The place is packed.  Often as many as 1500 people are in attendance.  

   You cautiously approach the building – the service already in progress.  The music is awe inspiring as you almost feel it being carried down the street as you walk to the meeting place.  But then something truly incredible happens.  You look up and see flames of fire shooting out the top of the building.  You hear sirens as the fire department races to the scene.  But on second glance, as the fire continues to burn, nothing is being burnt.  How can this be?!

   It’s been said that during the time of the Azusa Street Revival, fire was witnessed many times coming from the rooftop of the building.  Tommy Welchel was a man who spent years listening to eye witnesses share their testimonies of the amazing miracles and healings that happened during this remarkable time.  “The glory of God would start rising and it would fill the whole building.  And then a flame would shoot up out of the roof – a big flame, and the fire department got called many times.” 

 [From his books:  “True Stories of the Miracles of Azusa Street” & “They Told Me Their Stories.”]

    In the Bible, fire often represents the presence of God.  Moses experienced it with the burning bush, Elijah experienced it when God sent His fire down to completely burn up a sacrifice, and the New Testament tells us that we have been given the Holy Ghost and fire!  Since the Word of God also tells us that God is the same yesterday, today and forever, shouldn’t we expect a little fire in our lives  – even in 2016?!

    Many years ago our church teamed up with another church in town for a series of prayer meetings.  We would meet each week  – alternating meeting places. One week we were at the other church with the pastor opening in prayer when my husband Bob leaned over to me and whispered, “Frank thought the meeting was at our church tonight, but when he went by, flames were shooting out of the sanctuary doors.”  “Wow,” I whispered back excitedly, “If the fire is at our church, why are we siting here?”  Bob calmly replied, “Don’t worry, the fire department’s on the way.”  Stunned, I loudly shot back, “Our church is on fire?”  “Yes,” Bob answered.  “I just told you that.  Don’t worry.”

   Ah, sad but true.  Someone had indeed set our church on fire.  What a disappointment.  I thought we were really getting a dose of the Holy Spirit and Fire.  But could it happen?

   There is a fire that God wants each of us to possess – it comes with the gift of the Holy Spirit of God.  I like to call it a “God Fire.”  It’s a fire that has an energy to it that gives a person the joy of the Lord, enthusiasm, excitement, and zeal, plus makes a person contagious for the Lord wherever he or she goes.  This fire just never quits!

   William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army, composed a now famous poem in 1894 entitled, “Send the Fire.”  Booth was keenly aware that only the fire of God is truly ageless and that every single one of us need the zeal and fire of Almighty God.  Here are just a few of his celebrated lines:  “O God of burning, cleansing flame, Send the fire.  Your blood-bought gift today we claim, Send the fire today!  God of Elijah, hear our cry, Send the fire.  And make us fit to live or die,  Send the fire today!  To burn up every trace of sin, To bring the light and glory in.  The revolution now begin, Send the fire today!”

   A theologian once said, “My fear is that people will become content to live without the fire, the power, the excitement, and the supernatural element that makes us great.”   The fire of God is kinda like your American Express card: You just don’t want to leave home without it.

susan_beckettTHE GREAT GOD OF HOPE!

By: Pastor Susan Beckett, July 9, 2016

     I love cowboy!  Anything cowboy.  Growing up I was a member in good standing of the local “Orange Acres Backbreakers” 4-H Club.  Had the horse & saddle, hat, boots…all the cool cowboy stuff.  

     Being ‘grown-up’ I still love cowboy.  Our home is decorated in a Western bend and we love it.  We’ve got steer horns, cow hides, boots  — even have a set of spurs on our coffee table.  

     One day a gal at church told me that she and her family were going to “Cowboy Camp.”  Cowboy camp!?!!  I was so excited for her.  “I didn’t know there was such a thing as ‘Cowboy Camp’” I told her.  “So what do they do there? Do they teach you to ride and rope, take down a calf?  How to groom your horse . . .?”  

   “No,” she laughed. “Not Cowboy cowboy.  Dallas Cowboy.  As in Dallas Cowboy Football Camp!”  Football cowboys?   I could hardly compute this in my cowgirl brain.  What a let-down.  I couldn’t believe it!  Football cowboys. It seemed that things were sure not what they had first appeared to be!! 

   But actually, when you think about it, that’s probably a good thing.  What if everything we encountered at first glance was really the way it was and the way it stayed — for good?  What if there was no “hope” for something better to come, hope for a better future, hope for that bad situation to change for good; hope for the broken relationship to be mended, or hope for that financial situation to be fixed?  

   I once heard of a gentleman who had prayed for a lady to receive healing in her body ask her if she felt she was healed.  She replied, “I hope so!”  He promptly told her, “Then you’re not!” And with that he walked off.      

   Hearing of this encounter I did a mini-Bible study to find out if “hope” was all that bad and what I found out was truly amazing.  First off,  I found that God is called “The God of hope” in Rom 15:13. 

In Hebrews, this God-hope is referred to as an “anchor of the soul” and Psalms sums up those two great verses by telling us that the man who hopes in the Lord his God will be happy.  (Joyful and blessed.)   Can’t beat that!!

   It’s said that the famous Smith Wigglesworth, before his meetings, would pace back and forth repeating over and over, “Faith is action! Faith is action. Faith is action.”  (It’s documented, by the way, that Smith raised 14 people from the dead.  Some say more.)  Faith is definitely an action word but I believe hope inspires action too.  Hope motivates us to act and enables us to keep going even in the bleakest of circumstances.

   Let’s pretend for a moment that you are driving through the desert and decide to turn off on a deserted road, thinking it’s a shortcut.  It’s 115 degrees in the shade and you run out of gas — you are out in the middle of nowhere, miles and miles and miles away from the main road.  No food and no water.  You try desperately to call 911 on your cell phone – no connection.  “Can you hear me now?” is just not happening.  Things are desperate!  

     What is the one thing that keeps you from just curling up in a little ball and calling it a day?  After all, the possibility of anyone driving by is pretty much zero.  Are you thinking of your job, or your last vacation, or those new shoes you’re dying to wear?   No – you are hoping against hope that something happens to change your dire circumstances.

     It’s hope that sustains people through the loss of a job, or supports someone going through a difficult health situation, or keeps them moving forward after a huge loss. It’s hope that gives us a glimpse into a future that could be better.  

   Someone once said, “Hope is faith holding out its hand in the dark.”  What an amazing way to put it.  But doesn’t that just sound like something the God of hope would do?!!  And that would be a yes!!

   P.S.:  By the way, just to ease your mind, a crazy motorcycle rider comes blazing down that desert road and finds you just in the nick of time!  Hope lives!!


THE CHALLENGE

By: Pastor Susan Beckett, June 11, 2016

     Challenges!  They come to us at every level don’t they?!  When you were a kid you were probably challenged in grade school to a foot race around the school track or challenged in a tennis match.  Most of us rallied up and ran the race or played the match with all we had in us.  Why?  Simple:  we wanted to win!

     As we grew up, the challenges changed  – some got silly – like who can chug-a lug a bottle of Coca-Cola the fastest, (or some other substance) or maybe you were challenged for a job promotion within your company or if you’re a guy maybe you were challenged to a street race with your new car.  Usually whatever the challenge, the desire was the same – we wanted to win!

     I remember once when I was a teenager, at a family picnic, my cousin Bobby challenged me to a footrace.  He was an athlete and was wearing tennis shoes.  I was also involved in sports but happened to be wearing flip-flops.  But – I always love a good challenge so the race was on.  And guess what?  I beat him!  I was, of course, thrilled and he was, of course, truly bummed and begged me the rest of the day for a re-do.  Not to happen.  

    Chances are pretty good that if you are reading this you are facing some sort of challenge in your life.  If not, may I suggest that perhaps you ought to check your pulse to see if you are alive and breathing.

    Jesus said in John 16:33 that “In this world you will have tribulation: {difficulty, trouble, pain, trauma, grief, adversity, challenges} but be of good cheer; for I have overcome the world.”  So the interesting thing about challenges in our lives will not be that we have them but how we handle them. 

    I guess a question we should be asking about challenges is – since we all get them – what do we do with them? Especially, how do we handle the tough, more difficult challenges of life? Do we back away?  Mope?  Lash out in anger?  Or do we take the sage advice the Bible tells us in Phil 4:13 that there is no trial or temptation that has come upon us that the Lord will not make a way of escape.  In other words – how does the Lord want you to tackle the challenge before you?  

     Martin Luther King, Jr once said, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

     I was recently given a diagnosis of cancer.  The challenge of my life right now.  I plan on winning this one.  How am I handling it?  I’m doing exactly what the Word of God tells me to do.  Since His plan is the best plan I am literally doing Proverbs 3:6: “In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your path.”  

     The best news ever is that the Lord never meant for us to tackle tough challenges alone.  Besides family and friends who rally for us, pray for us and stand in the gap for us, God is also on our side!!  Hallelujah!!!   I want to be like the guy who once said, “Don’t believe in miracles — depend on them.”  I am doing all I can in this earthly realm – then I am looking to Jesus, my Redeemer, for the rest.  Or as Osho Rajneesh says, “Be realistic:  Plan for a miracle!”  Love it!!!