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Pastor’s Corner

Strength For Today Psalm 62:1-8

We stand in unchartered waters. We do not know what tomorrow will bring.  However, in the midst of everything I give thanks to God for I know and trust in the one who holds tomorrow. Before us lay new possibilities, new opportunities forged out of the struggles of today. Within each of us lies the strength to press forward in spite of what we are bombarded with in the daily news.Not because there is something special about us but because what God has placed in the faithful is special.1 John 4:4b tells us that Greater is the One that is in you, than the one that is in the world.This is the mantra that should be on our lips each and every day that we are confronted by this virus that seeks to do injury to the world and the ones we love. We must continue to keep in front of us that God is the source of our supply.

In God is the provision that we can feast upon that will give us the spiritual nourishment to weather any storm. In Him are the promises and the assurances that will give us relief from the dread that seeks to impale us upon walls of fear and doubt. To those who are anxious comes the gracious reassurances that He will see us through. If God is the source of grace and mercy, then grace and mercy will never fail us. There is no situation, there are no circumstances will cause Him to forsake us. No enemy can separate us from the love of God that keeps us safe and protected. It is in God that all of our hope and trust must reside. It is in God the Rock of our Salvation that any and all rescue resides. Remain steadfast in your faithful so God can enable you navigate through these uncertain yet hopeful times. Be blessed and remain safe

– Pastor Gool

Romans 8:40

I did not grow up with a tennis racquet in my hand. Nevertheless, I played for many years and the game taught me many lessons. It taught me how to accept loss; that when we lose, even in the worst of circumstances, we are never alone. As hurtful as that moment may feel, we are not alone. There have been others who have traveled this road before us. They too have lost. They have looked victory in the face only to have defeat snatch victory from their grasp. Not only have others been before us, but there will be others who will follow behind us. And they too are not alone.

It has been the ones who have gone before me who have taught me the most. It is to them that I am most indebted. They are the voices that I hear when defeat wants to me pull me under.  It is to those who have stood where we all sometimes stand that pulled me through. They are the sages of yesterday that guide me through the storms when the rains of loss and devastation attempt to cut through my very being. Sometimes the rain is so heavy. Sometimes it is so intense as it seeps into every pore of my body. It is those who have traveled that road before me that I hear and long to hear the most. It is the voices of yesterday’s teachers that I treasure as they speak to me, not in concert, but each in their individual and relevant way. It is that voice that is heard above the storm. It is that voice of experience that catches my ear and guides my footsteps. It is those voices of testimony that resound so clearly and speaks to my pain. They tell me “You are not alone.”

I have taken this lesson with me in other areas of life. The lesson that says to me “You are not alone.” So when difficulties rudely interrupt my peaceful existence the lessons of God’s word resound in my ear. God tries to tell me that I am not alone.  In fact if we are honest, God insists that we are not alone.  In the midst of the trial God is always present with us. It is much more the case that we are not aware of God’s presence. I have learned of others who have walked these roads in these times of extreme trouble. Yes, some will say, this is my road. Yes, this is my trial. But there are some saints have been through the pain and anguish, been through the hell you are going through right now. These people have something to tell you. They have something to teach you. They have something to share with you.  They will tell you that you may feel alone, you may feel abandoned, but God does not abandon His own.  Circumstances may cause your knees to buckle and cause your heart to break, but the same God who kept Israel will keep you too.

It is normal, even natural to sometimes feel abandoned in times of trial and conflict when we have no answers – at least no answers that make sense to us. It is not a sin to feel forsaken or lost. It reveals our humanity and our need to have God’s power in our lives. The God we serve is not offended by our frailties. It is because of our weakness, our shortcomings, that God extends His grace and mercy.

The Word of God has lesson after lesson about how God has kept His saints. There are people in your circle who can testify how God has been a present help to and for them. A present help means, not only was God helping them, not only was God rescuing, but God was present. You felt God’s presence. There are those in our circle who have experienced God’s rescue and can tell you firsthand how God showed up. Just listen to the sick and shut-in reports.  Allow a neighbor to speak to you about their praise report.  God has been moving. God is acting. Sometimes God acts by giving us strength. Sometimes God acts by giving us the strength to endure.  Sometimes God just plain delivers. However and whenever the situation unfolds, God is there.

We sing the song “Your grace and mercy has brought me through. I’m living each moment because of you. I want to thank you and praise you too, Your grace and mercy has brought me through.” This song speaks to the “ever present God” in our lives. When we sing, “I’m living each moment because of you,” we are saying that God is our constant companion. That every moment I live, I live because of His involvement in my life. I live because of God’s power in my life. We are saying God is there with us all the time. God does not move away from regardless of how we see ourselves. Our awareness of God diminishes but God’s presence does not. We have come to know this over time. Even though we sometimes become fearful and doubt never doubt God’s presence.

It is the lessons taught to us by those who have gone before us. The testimonies of those who have gone ahead of us. The praises of victory of those who have lit the way we are called to travel. These lessons speak to us and teach us that God is always faithful. These are the lessons that remind us that we are never alone. Sometimes, it is through the testimony of their overcoming. Sometimes, it is through the strength of their prayers. Sometimes, it’s a kind word, a gentle touch at that right moment. It is all a demonstration of God’s presence in our lives. It is a statement that says no matter how you feel, no matter how dark the moment, you are not alone. God is there.

God bless and remain safe,
Pastor Gool

Seeking God’s Peace, Philippians 4:6-7

When we seek presence, we call it company. When we see a permanent fulfilling presence that brings peace and wholeness to our lives, we long for that moment where everything around us and in us is content, filled with peace. And for that one moment, our inner self experiences a sense of Oneness with the Almighty, the Divine. We feel a sense of peace. However, we know that the peace we feel in this moment will pass. How do we know? Because nothing lasted before and what’s different now? So, we find ourselves moving to the next diversion, the next thing, the next person, the next drink, the next activity, the next one-night stand or date, seeking that ever-elusive peace that comes from a relationship with the Almighty. We are in search of anything that might fill this ache, this emptiness that haunts us, chases us wherever we go. It finds us in whatever we do. We finally do what we can to avoid that low grade storm we feel pulling us down. Sometimes we succeed, only for a moment; quite often we do not.

This feeling, this sense of emptiness, this wholesale anxiety we experience is a part of every life that seeks spiritual wholeness in a secular world. We see God using society’s value system. We see God using society’s rules for success and as result, we often confuse pleasure with fulfillment and find a temporary, superficial, and synthetic peace. Consumed by the secular, we are unaware that pleasure always comes from the outside. It is an activity or an engagement with the outside in the pursuit of the physical expression that gives you temporary pleasure. Pleasure because it communicates with out bodies in the form of our senses. Pleasure is always sensual and can never touch the spirit.

However, we have a longing, a spiritual longing for God that penetrates to the very depth and core of our being. A longing, a need that only an encounter with the Almighty can fulfill. We seek this peace, God’s peace, this serenity on the outside of ourselves, but it cannot be found there. We know, we understand that nothing on the outside of us, nothing external can meet the needs, the yearnings of the human spirit and nothing that our spirits long for can be satisfied by anything that is not itself spiritual. Peace is more than the absence of conflict. We seek a peace that is pervasive in the midst of conflict.

We long for wholeness, we long for a peace without realizing none can be found without a connection or acknowledging God as being the Source, Power, and strength of our lives. This acknowledgement of God begins to say, begins to embrace God as all important in this pursuit of peace.

It is this relationship with God that recognizes that God is the source of all peace. That no peace can be realized or gained apart from a true and genuine relationship with God. It does not matter how much we possess; anxiety will find you. It does not matter how smart or intelligent you think you are; emptiness will come upon you. It does not matter how many friends you have or the number of parties you attend, loneliness will stalk you. It does not matter how much money you acquire; poverty of spirit will invade your life. When we seek the eternal among that which is temporary; when we seek fullness in that which is empty; when we seek something lasting in that which is perishing, only the transience of life will be found, never to be overcome.

Anxiety arises out of a fear of what might happen. Our fear sees the threat, our anxieties imagine the threat, something that is not lasting or something we want to last come to an end. Philippians 4:6-7 speaks to a about life lived on the extremities. During this pandemic more people than we realize have been living life on the edges. In their search for peace, they searched for something lasting, something permanent, something that would remove the pain, the anxiety, fear, the numbness of living. It could not be found in drinking, it could not be found in sex, it could not be found in any of the activities they engaged in. So where can you find this peace?

Philippians 4:6-7 gives the answer we search and long for. I read somewhere, “Some people see the problems of the world and wring their hands. The faithful see the problems of the world and bend their knees.” Philippians tells us to “be anxious about nothing but in everything by prayer and petition with thanksgiving present your request to God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus.”

Anxiety is us worrying about what is going to happen next. Is someone going to shout at me? Am I going to lose my job? What is the doctor going to say to me? These are all worries about what is going to happen. But in everything – not some things – in everything, in the things we desire as well as that which we do not desire – in everything, with prayer and petition/supplication, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. There is no need to fret about the ways things are. The only solution we have is to give the problem over to the only One who can do anything about them. We are called to pray in every situation. We are asked and expected to give thanks to God for what God has already done.

God does not promise to do everything we request. Prayer is about God giving up the peace we need to handle any and every situation we encounter. Prayer is and always has been about changing us. Getting us ready to have the spiritual courage to face whatever is in front of us. It is in this spirit of thanksgiving, this spirit of gratitude, of thankfulness that God changes our perspective regarding what is in front of us. It is in this spirit of thankfulness that God’s peace is given. It is God’s peace that passes all understanding that guards our hearts and minds. God does not promise to change every situation to our liking. What God does promise is to give you the strength you need to endure it. God promises to give you the courage to face it. God promises to give us the peace we need to handle it.

When you look at the word peace it means quietness, rest. The Amplified Bible says the “Peace that reassures the heart.” This is a peace that reflects the attitude and character of God. This peace that guards your heart is a peace that watches your heart and mind. When you surrender, when you admit you are powerless to handle the situation yourself, that is when you give into the power and authority of God that you are able to rest in the security and protection that God provides. It is then that you will know that all things will work out for your good because you love the Lord enough to trust Him and you understand that you have been and are called according to His purpose. This means the outcome will serve His purpose – not yours – and you are good with that because you love the Lord.

Mr. Clarence Haynes Jr. put this formula together to explain Philippians 4:6-7. Let’s call this ‘God’s formula for how to experience the peace of God which transcends all understanding’ promised in Philippians 4:6-7: Prayer + Petition + Present Your Request + Do all three with thanksgiving = Receiving the peace of God.

In prayer, you acknowledge your need of God’s help.
In petition, you make God aware of your situation.
In presenting, you ask God to solve the problem.
In thanksgiving, you accept His response, (whatever it may be) before the problem is solved.

When these things are present in your life there is no room for anxiety because God floods your heart and mind with His peace. When God is placed in charge of the situation -any situation – there is peace. You know God is in charge when there is no worry.

God Bless and remain safe,
Pastor Gool

Continue to Trust God, Psalms 138:7

Though I walk straight into trouble, you preserve my life, stretching out your hand to fight the vehemence of my enemies, and your right hand delivers me. (Psalms 138:7)

In the book “Streams in the Desert” the author, L. B. Cowman, sets forth a faith position we all should embrace, as well as trust that it would be helpful in times of trouble. In the book, Cowman says in times of difficulty God will always show up. God always comes to our rescue.

The Hebrew rendering of the Psalm 138:7, “the straight of trouble,” is the center or thick of trouble – when trouble swallows you up. What descriptive words. These words describe the conditions upon which we reach out to God. We call on God in our time of trouble; we seek His rescue in times of great conflict, we plead with God to keep His promise of deliverance, but when no deliverance has come; what are we to do? The enemy continues oppressing until the circumstances are overwhelming and the weight of the moment is beyond our ability to bear when the one we believe is supposed to come to our rescue, is asleep on the boat. Jesus is near, but asleep on the boat and the disciples are in trouble.  How do we handle our troubles when the one we believe is supposed to rescue us is asleep on the job? Martha had similar feelings when her brother Lazarus died, and Jesus was a no show. Martha said, “Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother would not have died.” Our Lord met her lack of hope with His promise of rescue, His promise of deliverance, “Thy brother shall rise again.” And when we walk “ in the center of trouble” and are tempted to think like Martha and his disciples that the time of deliverance is past, He meets us with a promise from His Word. “Lo, I am with you always.”

Though His answer is long delayed, we may continue to push “go on, go forward” into the midst of trouble, because we continue to trust in God in the midst of the conflict, in “the center of trouble” – the place where the heat is unimaginable, and our trust is unflinching in the places where the fire is the greatest. Our faith is unwavering because we have learned that this is the place where God shows up. This is not the place where He fails us. It is in the center of our struggle, in the center of collapse, it is in the midst of the breakdown that God shows up. God never fails when the conflict is the greatest. God does not disappear when the Child of God needs God most. When we find ourselves in that hopeless place, when the center of our life has given way, this is the very time, the very moment God will stretch forth His hand against the adversaries of our life.

It is in the place of our supposed undoing that God demonstrates His concern and love for us. It is in the places where all seems dark and lost, in these moments that God reduces the plans of our enemies to nothing. “Hope thou in God” is a thought the Psalmist takes seriously. When all is lost, you can trust in God. When all is gone you can trust in God. This hope the Psalmist places in God is a hope he trusted in completely. God truly is a present help in time of trouble. It is in the times of trial that we discover this to be true.

In these times of uncertainty, in these times of doubt. Know that God neither slumbers nor sleeps. Know that unless God watches the house, the watchmen watch in vain. We live and are delivered in and by the power of God.

God bless and remain safe,
Pastor Gool

Acceptance Is The Pathway To Peace, Philippians 4:6-7

What is the purpose of prayer? Most of us believe that prayer is to get prayers answered; to get our problems solved through God taking care of what is going on in our lives. Prayer is not so much about answered prayer as it is about altered attitudes toward the situation that we are confronted with. Prayer’s purpose is to remove the anxiety from our lives when we are not trusting in God for the solution, the outcome. If we are anxious about anything it is saying we do not trust God for the outcome, solution that is confronting us. Philippians 4:6-7 says, “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

As we look at this scripture within the context of the peace we are seeking in prayer. It is important to notice the admonish not to “be anxious about anything.” To be anxious is to be worrying about the future over which we have no control. We spend much of our lives in the future, worrying. Paul says in everything, all things by prayer, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

Is Paul asking us to give thanks to God for the situation we find ourselves in. Definitely not. Paul is saying give thanks in everything. We are to engage in our prayer request with an attitude of thanksgiving. It is in this attitude that we make our requests known to God. We are instructed to enter prayer with God with a spirit of thanksgiving. It is in this spirit of thanksgiving that our attitude toward the circumstances we find ourselves begin to change – change in such a way that we are able to see what God is saying to us. It is in this place that we are better able to see what God has planned for us. We are able to see the options that God has placed in front of us that we were not able to see before we entered His gates of prayer with thanksgiving.

Prayer has always been about the will of God and not the will of men. It has always been about what God’s plan is for us and the world. It has never been about the plans of men. Most of us enter prayer with the understanding that God is going to fix the stuff on the outside of us. God is forever trying to fix the stuff on the inside of us. God is forever trying to get us to accept His will. The peace of God comes only when we accept the will of God. It is only when we live life on God’s terms are we able to find the peace that transcends human understanding. The Gospel of John 15:7-8 speaks to this very well: “(7) if you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given to you. (8) This is to My Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be My disciples.”

 

Jesus is saying very explicitly, if you remain in Me. If you continue in the path that I have shown you, directed you, taught you. And if My words remain in you, ask what you want and it will be given to you.

What is Jesus saying in this text? Jesus is saying if you understand what I have been doing. If you understand who I am, if you understand what My mission is; if you remain true to my cause; if you abide, embrace, identify completely with Me; and 0n top of that, if My words abide in you, the words I (Jesus) have been speaking and teaching to you – if these two aspects of the text are true and in place, then and only then, can you ask Me (Jesus) what you want and it will be given to you.

 

Why is this true? It is true if you are a true follower of Jesus and His words live in you. Your prayer will consist of those things that the Word of God and the Holy Spirit lead us to pray. Our prayer request will be what God wills. Not what we will. Not what we want. Every prayer that is answered meets two basic criteria. One, it is the will of God. Two, it is for the building of God’s kingdom. When prayers are answered in seemingly mundane ways. It is for a testimony of what God has done and what God can do. Every miracle is for a testimony to the power of God in our lives.

So how do we find peace? Peace is found in the surrender and acceptance of God’s will in our lives. It is not found in resisting what unfolds in our life. Peace does not come and will not come if we refuse to see what is going on in our lives as real and unalterable in that moment in time. When acceptance is entered into, when it becomes a part of us, when we identify with acceptance, solutions and options that could not be seen or received from God because we were resisting what was in fact happening to us are now visible to us. Acceptance does not mean we agree with what is going on. What it is means is we cease fighting against it. If I have a flat tire when I go out to my car, I can get as angry if I choose. That will not change a thing. I can fuss and talk it about all I want. I can think of all the things I should have done, but that will not change what is going on right now. However, when I accept the fact that I have a flat – when I stop resisting, solutions to the problem begin to surface. That is when you begin to see yourself coming out of the situation. You can then find a new way to view the situation. The fact that you have a flat has not changed. You are the one who has changed. This is the purpose of prayer. This does mean prayers are not answered. We all know that they are. However, they are answered according to the will of God and the building of God’s kingdom.

There is a prayer I have found to be very helpful in my times of resistance.

 

Acceptance

 

Acceptance is the answer to all my problems today. When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing, or situation – some fact of my life unacceptable to me, and I can find no peace until I accept that person, place, thing, or situation, as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment. Nothing, absolutely nothing , happens in God’s world by mistake and unless I accept life completely on life’s terms, I cannot be happy. I need to concentrate on what needs to be changed in me and in my attitudes.~

The more I resist, the more I suffer. The more I accept, the more my suffering lessens. This is a choice. Acceptance of God’s will has always been God’s desire for us.

God bless and remain safe,

Pastor Gool

The Faith That Saves  Romans 8-11

Many people are struggling spiritually with their lives.  This pandemic has made many question the relationship they have with God.  Some have fallen prey to the enemy of our faith.  John 10:10 tells us the “the enemy comes to steal, kill and destroy.  But I have come to give you life and give more abundantly.”  There are individuals whose faith is not set in the truths of God but the ideas and understandings of opinion.  Our salvation, our standing in Jesus Christ, cannot be changed by anything.  This pandemic, this isolation, is shaking the foundation of people of faith.

I received a call from a young lady this past week.  She was experiencing some real spiritual challenges.  She spoke to me for quite some time about the enemy dominating over her life.  She told me how the enemy was causing her to think thoughts she did not want to think.  The enemy was causing her to do things she did not want to do.  She told me she belongs to a church and that she was a Christian.  She did not give me her name and I did not ask.  I did tell her I was the pastor, and she began to share with me the fears she had.

As I listened to her I could not help but wonder how many people find themselves during this pandemic having to deal with the spiritual unrest that reigns in their lives.  I began to wonder how many do not understand nor do they realize their victory in Christ.  And if they have heard it, or read it, do they believe what they have heard or read?  Do they believe, do we believe in the power of God to save?  Do we believe that all things are possible for those who believe? (Mark 9:23)

The first thing that every person of faith must do is accept their personal faith in Jesus Christ as real.  What I mean by that is, your faith in Jesus guarantees your salvation.  Ephesians 2:8-9 tells us, “It is by grace that you have been saved, by, through faith, this is not of yourselves, (this is not something you have done to earn, merit, deserve), it is a gift from God, (9) not by works, so that no one can boast.”  John 3:16 “for God so loved the world that He gave His only son and whosoever believeth in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”   It is this gift of salvation that is ours, that cannot be taken away – that we must begin to embrace and internalize in times such as these.  It is quite easy to succumb to the powers that we see parading around as though they are all powerful.  When in fact they are not.  It is easy to believe that these earthly kings have control as well as the last word in world affairs.  They do not.  The power that you received in Christ upon your accepting Jesus as your Lord and Savior is real.  It is everlasting.  It can and will sustain you in times such as these.   That the power that raised Jesus from the dead now resides in you by faith.    Romans 8:11 says, “And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to our mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.”   This scripture is true.  It is uplifting to those who embrace and receive it into their lives.  This text tells us that the earthly forces in this world have no control over us unless we give it to them.  These forces can make you do nothing unless you give them the keys to your life.

On the day of Pentecost when Jesus ascended to heaven, God’s power, the Holy Spirit, that same power came down and became available to each of us who trust and believe in Jesus Christ.  The same power that causes the blind to see, the lame to walk and raised Jesus from the grave lives in us.  That same power lives through us.  This is the power that allows us to stand in victory.   This is the same power that defeats those agencies in our life that seek to destroy and diminish who we are in Christ.

Ephesians 6:1 says, “Be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power.  Put on the whole armor of God so that you can take a stand against the enemies’ schemes.  For our struggles are not against flesh and blood but against the rulers and against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”  Trust is the work of our Lord and Savior Jesus for our salvation.  Trust in the power of the Holy Spirit to keep us in times of trouble.  Trust that God is in control.

It is important that we understand our spiritual position in Christ.  God has equipped us with what we need to gain the victory over depression and the spiritual forces that confront us.  Don’t misunderstand me – I am not supposing the devil is behind every rock, or in every closet.  What I am saying is that the spiritual forces are real.  The spirit of evil is real. The forces of racism, hate and jealous are real. Fear is real.  The only power on earth that can defeat fear is the love that God has for us.  The scriptures tell us God is love.  It is this love that will sustain and keep us through that we experience and go through.

I told the young lady that she must engage in the praise of God daily if she wants to defeat the spiritual attack that is coming against her.  There is a responsibility that we all have if we are to gain and maintain victory in this time of great spiritual stress.  We must praise God daily.  We pray daily, we seek God daily.  That is our responsibility.  God cannot and will not do it for us.

I prayed a prayer of victory for her.  I will pray one for us as well:

Father, I come in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus and ask and give thanks for the forgiveness of my sins.  I give thanks for the victory You, O Lord, have given me by faith.  I trust in Your Word and in the salvation, you have provided in Jesus Christ.  It is that victory over, death, sin and the enemy that will keep me and sustain me by faith.  Thank you Lord, for all you have done for us, in Jesus name I pray, Amen.

God Bless and remain safe,

Pastor Gool

His Ways Are Above Our Ways Isaiah 55:8-9 and Romans 8:28

God is in control.   Even today God is in control.  In the midst of seeming chaos, God is in control.   When we make mistakes.  God is in control.   When we fail to follow God, God is in control.  God is always leading us somewhere to some ultimate good that we cannot see.  God’s wisdom and insight is so far beyond us that we often are unable to see the connection.  Just remember regardless of what happens good or not good; things we want to happen, things we do not want to happen – God is in control.

On January 20, 2016, a country elected a president that would begin his reign of terror over the entire nation.  The fear of being shamed and bullied quieted most if not all would be critics.  Very few believed there was much that anyone could do.  This man was in charge of the Department of Defense and had investigative powers that traverse into both public and private spaces.   This country began to understand how fragile we really are.  We began to realize how vulnerable we are to the whims and wishes of destructive people.  We thought we were a strong country.  We thought we were a country of laws.  We thought we were bound by a constitution that guided our legal and judicial behavior.  Little did we believe that the president that this country elected would become a rogue and a pirate.

So much was done by this president and his followers that fostered fear and hopelessness.  We became a country that began to turn on itself for a while.  God has a way of stepping in and turning things around.  When all seemed lost the protests began to mount.  People began to believe in each other again.  People began to see hope in themselves and the possibility that things do not have to be the way they are presently.  We began to look at ourselves through different eyes, a new lens.

The following story speaks how faith in a person, faith in a country can change for the better.   It tells that even that which begins on solid foundation can be turned around by tragedy or poor decisions.  This story also is a symbol of how faith in a person can become the needed spark to turn lives around.  It speaks to how a country who began to believe with Faith and Prayer, God could and would change things.  It speaks to the truth that faith is more powerful than doubt.  That if you impart in a person or people great things can happen.   A difference can be made.  It demonstrates how those who feel impotent can be empowered.  Empowered to such a degree that a life and a society can be transformed.  It tells us how the people who had been left out, forgotten, and ignored began to be included and made to believe in themselves.  How those who had no voice found a voice and shouted from their hearts to the highest citadels in the nation that injustice would no longer be tolerated, or wrong swept under the rug.

I hope this story will give each of you the desire to continue to impart faith and confidence in others.  You are the catalyst; you are the spark that lights the fire within others.  When I read this story, I realize that hopelessness can change to hope – that the lost can be found.  That the difficult challenges that we face can be overcome.  It requires a faith in God and in each other.  A quest to do justice and walk humbly with our God.

This story is dedicated to all the Mrs. Thompsons’ in the world who have turned lives around and turned this country around in 2020:

As she stood in front of her 5th grade class on the very first day of school, she told the children an untruth.   Like most teachers, she looked at her students and said that she loved them all the same.  However, that was impossible, because there in the front row, slumped in his seat, was a little boy named Teddy Stoddard.  Mrs. Thompson had watched Teddy the year before and noticed that he did not play well with the other children, that his clothes were messy and that he constantly needed a bath.  In addition, Teddy could be unpleasant.   It got to the point where Mrs. Thompson would actually take delight in marking his papers with a broad red pen, making bold X’s and then putting a big “F” at the top of his papers.

At the school where Mrs. Thompson taught, she was required to review each child’s past records and she put Teddy’s off until last.  However, when she reviewed his file, she was in for a surprise.

Teddy’s first-grade teacher wrote, “Teddy is a bright child with a ready laugh.  He does his work neatly and has good manners…he is a joy to be around.”   His second-grade teacher wrote, “Teddy is an excellent student, well liked by his classmates, but he is troubled because his mother has a terminal illness and life at home must be a struggle.”  His third-grade teacher wrote, “His mother’s death has been hard on him.  He tries to do his best, but his father doesn’t show much interest and his home life will soon affect him if some steps aren’t taken.”  Teddy’s fourth-grade teacher wrote, “Teddy is withdrawn and doesn’t show much interest in school.  He doesn’t have many friends and he sometimes slept in class.”

By now, Mrs. Thompson realized the problem and she was ashamed of herself.  She felt even worse when her students brought her Christmas presents, wrapped in beautiful ribbons and bright paper except for Teddy’s.  His present was clumsily wrapped in the heavy, brown paper that he got from a grocery bag.  Mrs. Thompson took pains to open it in the middle of the other present.  Some of the children started to laugh when she found a rhinestone bracelet with some of the stones missing, and a bottle that was one-quarter full of perfume.  But she stifled the children’s laughter when she exclaimed how pretty the bracelet was, putting it on, and dabbing some of the perfume on her wrist.  Teddy Stoddard stayed after school that day just long enough to say, “Mrs. Thompson, today you smelled just like my Mom used to.”  After the children left, she cried for at least an hour.  On that very day, she quit teaching reading, writing and arithmetic.  Instead, she began to teach children.  Mrs. Thompson paid particular attention to Teddy.  As she worked with him, his mind seemed to come alive.  The more she encouraged him, the faster he responded.  By the end of the year, Teddy had become one of the smartest children in the class and, despite her lie that she would love all the children the same, Teddy became one of her “teacher’s pets.”

A year later, she found a note under her door, from Teddy, telling her that she was still the best teacher he ever had in his whole life.   Six years went by before she got another note from Teddy.  He then wrote that he had finished high school, third in his class, and she was still the best teacher he had ever had in life.  Four years after that, she got another letter, saying that while things had been tough at times, he stayed in school, had stuck with it, and would soon graduate from college with the highest honors.  He assured Mrs. Thompson that she was still the best and favorite teacher he had ever had in his whole life. 

Then four more years passed, and yet another letter came.  This time he explained that after he got his bachelor’s degree, he decided to go a little further.  The letter explained that she was still the best and favorite teacher he ever had.  But now his name was a little longer…The letter was signed, Theodore F. Stoddard, MD. 

The story does not end there.  You see, there was yet another letter that spring.  Teddy said he had met this girl and was going to be married.  He explained that his father had died a couple of years ago and he was wondering if Mrs. Thompson might agree to sit at the wedding in the place that was usually reserved for the mother of the groom.

Of course, Mrs. Thompson did. And guess what?  She wore that bracelet, the one with several rhinestone missing.   Moreover, she made sure she was wearing the perfume that Teddy remembered his mother wearing on their last Christmas together.

God Bless and remain safe,

Pastor Gool

They hugged each other, and Dr. Stoddard whispered in Mrs. Thompson’s ear, “Thank you Mrs. Thompson for believing in me.  Thank you so much for making me feel important and showing me that I could make a difference.”  Mrs. Thompson, with tears in her eyes, whispered back.  She said, “Teddy, you have it all wrong. You were the one who taught me that I could make a difference.  I didn’t know how to teach until I met you.”

We didn’t know how powerful we were as a nation until Donald Trump.  Thank you, Lord, for the test.  Thank you for the grace given to pass it. We cannot rest, we cannot get comfortable.  We have only fought a battle.  The war is about to begin.  We must continue to be vigilant.  Let us not forget, God is in charge.  He led us through the battle.  God will lead us through the war.

The Struggles in Life Have Purpose – 1 Peter 5:10

“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.”

Sometimes life presents us with situations that seem unfair and certainly unwanted.  You may be in the middle of one of life’s many struggles right now.  It is sometimes difficult to get ourselves out the troubles we find ourselves in because we don’t always have the resources nor do we have the strength of faith to see us through to the end.  We cry out to God and there is no answer.  “Why doesn’t God answer me,” we ask?  What have I done that God does not hear my prayer?  Answered prayer is about more than being good.  It is about being surrendered.  It is about being connected.    It is about study and meditating on God’s Word.  It is about trusting not just believing in God.  It requires that we walk by faith not by sight.

Time has taught me and many others there is a method in the way God performs.  There is a time frame that God operates in that is quite different than our own.  God’s yes is dependent upon our readiness.   I do not believe God answers prayer in our state of preparing.  God has to wait until we are ready.  God has to allow for our development and our growth.  The trials we experience are necessary.  The struggles we find ourselves in are sometimes God’s method of growing us.  Sometimes we find ourselves comfortable with crawling on the ground.  It is then that God takes us into the dark places of our development and presses that which has prevented us from hearing and seeing His movement in our life and living.   These can be hard times.  But they are necessary times that God uses for our development.

A man found a cocoon of a butterfly and day a small opening appeared.  He sat and watched the butterfly for several hours as it struggled to force its body through that little hole.  Then it seemed to stop making any progress.  It appeared as if it had gotten as far as it could, and it could go no further.  So, the man decided to help the butterfly.  He took a pair of scissors and snipped off the remaining bit of the cocoon.  The butterfly then emerged easily.   But it had a swollen body and small, shriveled wings.

The man continued to watch the butterfly because he expected that, at any moment, the wings would enlarge and expand to be able to support the body, which would contract in time.  Neither happened!  In fact, the butterfly spent the rest of its life crawling around with a swollen body and shriveled wings.  It never was able to fly.

The swollen body and shriveled wings were indicative of stunted growth.  The swollen body represents the focus we can sometimes place upon ourselves and our problems.   We can make problems so large that they consume us and prevent faith from entering or growing.  Problems can become walls too high for faith to climb if our faith is not developed.  The shriveled wings represent an underdeveloped faith that we experience when God’s plans for our development are interrupted or dismissed.  Struggle is a time for change and unless we can see God in the struggle, the change God is expecting in us will not happen.  The man expected the wings to develop without resistance, without struggle.

What the man, in his kindness and haste, did not understand was that the restricting cocoon and the struggle required for the butterfly to get through the tiny opening were God’s way of forcing fluid from the body of the butterfly into the wings so that it would be ready for flight once it achieved its freedom from the cocoon.

Sometimes struggles are exactly what we need in our lives.  If God allowed us to go through our lives without any obstacles, it would cripple us.  We would not be as strong as what we could have been.  We could never fly!

Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached but by the obstacles we have overcome.

God Bless and remain safe,

Pastor Gool

God’s People Find a Way Psalm 137:1-4

During the exile, Israel had no temple to worship in.  Nevertheless, they created places of worship in their homes and elsewhere and continued to hold the sacredness and awesome power of God true to who they were as a people of God. The temple was not available to them yet they found places to worship. They worshipped in study groups; they worshipped when they read the Torah.  Even while they could not offer sacrifices in the Temple, they found ways to pray and worship. The Psalmist speaks to the anguish of not being able to worship in the place they are accustomed to worshipping in. Psalm 137:1-4 says:

By the rivers of Babylon – there we sat down and there we wept when we remembered Zion on the willows; there we hung up our harps.  For there our captors asked us for songs, and our tormentors asked for mirth, saying, ‘Sing us one of the songs of Zion!’  How could we sing the Lord’s son in a foreign land?

Church, we are being called to sing the Lord’s song under strange circumstances. It is always tempting to allow the circumstances that are in front of us to lead us to diminish or even ignore the necessity of creating a place and space to worship God.  It is important in our time of exile that we find, even create that time that we devote to God.  It is important that we find that place in the closet – it does not matter where.  What matters is that sanctuary be found.

It is certain that many of us have cultivated habits during this period. But none will be more important to and for your spiritual survival than prayer and the study of God’s Word and truth. God and having a space and place for God in our lives is what the Psalmist tells us took place. It may not sound like it, but it is. The Psalmist says “by the rivers of Babylon my captors demanded a song.”  It is in that place that prayer was lifted.  It was in the most difficult of moments that prayer was raised.  It is out of those moments of trying and testing that God grew a people and it will be out of these moments of trial that God will grow us as well.

It is probably more important today than it has been in many years that we do not lose sight of the sacred, the holy and the omnipotence of God.  In this pandemic, it is important that we continue to trust and find a place for God.  It is important that we realize that God continues to deliver us and impact our lives in a significant way.  Just because many are not in the physical church does not mean we are a part of a religious community and family where the miracles of God do not manifest themselves.  While Israel was in exile the Babylonians demanded of them a song.  Their response was “how can I sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?”  Yet they found a way to pray in the midst of their social and political pandemic.  They found a way to worship in the midst their exile.  They found a way to keep the sacredness of God before them.  They found a way to keep the trust in the power of God always in front of them.  They found a way to continue to trust, worship and believe in God. While going through their trial they kept believing in the power of God.

Church, we must continue to worship.  We must continue to believe.  We must continue to give our praises to God who keeps us in the hollow of His hand.

God Bless and remain safe,

Pastor Gool

Trust and Dependence is Always a Part of Surrender Genesis 32:24-28 and Galatians 2:20

For a while I have been studying the concept of surrender and trust.  I understand surrender is a battle term.  It means giving up all rights to the conqueror.  When an opposing army surrenders, they lay down their arms and the victor takes control.  Surrendering to God means the very same thing.  Surrender means we are surrendering to the plan God has for our lives and not the plan we have for our lives.

However, there is no surrender without trust.  There is no real victory without surrender.  It is in our surrender, the giving up of our self-interest in the situation at hand that allows the hand of God to move on our behalf.  By interest I mean, the way we want a thing to happen.  The way we want a situation and circumstance to turn out.  When we read the story of Jacob wrestling with the angel of God, we read the story as Jacob holding the angel of God hostage. But in reality, Jacob is clinging for his life with everything he has.  The angel of God dislocates Jacobs’ hip, and the pain is so excruciating the Jacob must cling to the angel of God.  Jacob is no longer able to wrestle, Jacob is just holding on.  Jacob has wrapped his arms around the angel of God in total and complete dependence.  So often we have understood this scripture and viewed it from the perspective of power and control on the part of Jacob.  When in fact, it is the complete dependence of Jacob upon the Angel of God that made the angel yield.  It was not the strength of Jacob that brought the blessing.  It was the dependence and weakness and pain on Jacob that made Jacob dependent that brought the blessing.

How often have we engaged in prayer wanting it our way?  How often have we, on bended knee, given the impression that we have surrendered when in fact we still want things our way?  Prayer’s power is not found in our struggle.  Prayer’s power is not found in our resistance.   It is found in our ability to surrender.   It is found in our ability to let go.  It is found in our ability to say yes to the reality that is in front of us.  Prayer’s power is found in our ability, our willingness to cling to God in complete total dependence.

Trusting in the actions and movement of God is in our best interest.  It is in surrender that the Spirit of God works best in the lives of the faithful.  The relationship between surrender and trust is profound.   It is a relationship that is discovered in the deep spaces of pain and suffering.  Giving up control is difficult.  God wants us to rely totally and complete on Him.   God is our provider – that is what we say.  How much do we believe it when we struggle against His will?  God is our friend – how much do we believe this when we struggle with His counsel?  God is our strong tower and present help in times of trouble.  How much do we believe it when we fail to give ourselves up unto His care?

The text Galatians 2:20:

“I have been crucified with Christ.  It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.  And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me”

is saying that the life that now lives in my person is no longer mine.  It belongs to God because by faith I have been crucified and have given my life to God in His service.  So, His will is my will.  His desire is my desire. This is total and complete surrender and trust.

I realize we have a long way to go.   However, knowing there is a journey is part of the battle and informs us regarding the tools needed to gain the victory.  The tools are confession and acknowledging we need the power of God in our lives to make the transition.

God Bless and remain safe,

Pastor Gool

Allow God to Use You John 14:12

It is very important that we understand that God has given each of us a way to express ourselves in His ministry.  All too often we don’t believe we have enough to accomplish huge endeavors.  It is not the amount of money a person has, neither is it how eloquent he or she may speak.  It is the extent to which we allow God to use us.   God has a way of taking what is small and multiplying it to His glory.  God has a way of taking what has been discarded and broken and use for building of His kingdom.  Our responsibility is making the effort.   God’s responsibility is the outcome.  There are moments in every life when we decide that things must change.  There are events in our lives that make us realize change is necessary.  As you read this story of a special little girl, I want you to ask yourself, how I can contribute to the Kingdom of God?  This story teaches us it takes a willing and surrendered heart to advance the Kingdom of God:

A sad little girl stood outside a small church one Sunday morning.  Her name was Hattie May Wiatt.  She wanted to walk inside the church, to sing songs, to learn about God and worship Jesus.  But she was afraid.  She was alone, her clothes were shabby and unkempt…and she had no ticket.  This church was often so crowded that admission tickets were handed out prior to the services to avoid overpopulation.  New facilities were desperately needed.  Little Hattie was afraid of getting lost in the shuffle of people.  Worse yet, she was afraid of being turned away.  Reverend Conwell happened to walk by the front gate where Hattie was standing.   He took compassion on her, lifted her up on his shoulder and carried the little girl into the church, through the crowded foyer he found a small corner for her in the Sunday School room.   Hattie gave him the hug of a comforted and happy child.  This embrace would be etched in his mind for a lifetime.

A short time later, Hattie became ill and died.  Her parents sought out the kind-hearted pastor who had befriended their daughter.   At the funeral, her mother handed Reverend Conwell a small purse – Hattie’s purse.  It contained 57 cents.  Her mother told him tearfully that Hattie had been saving up her money to help build a bigger church…big enough for all the children.   The Pastor was deeply moved.  He gratefully accepted the little girl’s contribution.  He later shared the story with the church congregation.  Each of Hattie’s 57 pennies was auctioned.   Church members made donations.   Checks came in from far and wide.    Hattie May Wiatt’s unselfish love had paid large dividends.   Some of the members formed what they called the “Wiatt’s Might Society” in which they were dedicated to making little Hattie’s 57 cents grow.   The amount of money raised through these efforts was a sizeable investment towards the purchase of a new property.   54 of Hattie’s original pennies were, in time, donated back to the church, where they were put on display and can be seen to this day.   The next time you are in the city of Philadelphia, look up Temple Baptist Church, with a present seating capacity of 3,300 and be sure to visit Temple University, as well as the Good Samaritan Hospital, both of which also claim their origin from the fruits of the Temple Baptist Church property purchased from the seed money of Hattie May Wiatt’s 57 cents.

The power of God can only move if willing and surrendered hearts move.  It is the essence of God to see the potential in each of us.  It is the love of God that enables us to reach that potential.  Even in this pandemic God is moving in the lives of men and women to continue to make a difference.    Even with families and communities under great duress, God is moving and acting in the lives of people.  We are God’s hands and feet.  People see God when they see us.  People saw the power of God unleashed with 57 cents.  Let us not underestimate how God can use us even in the times we find ourselves right now.

God Bless and remain safe,

Pastor Gool

God’s Grace is Seen in the Cross 1 Corinthians 19-21

Being grateful is about raising your understanding of what is happening to us and around us in order to search for meaning beyond the pain and agony being experienced.  It is looking for and waiting on the wisdom of God to unfold.  It is in the most wretched of times that the grace of God continues to enable us to see the possibilities that only God can reveal.   Possibilities that testify of God’s goodness to come to our rescue in times of crisis.  God never asked us to be thankful or grateful for the horrific things we experience.  But be thankful and grateful in it, going through it.  This requires a shift in perspectives and willingness to believe something good can come out of the worst events in our lives.

For me, the Cross is the pivotal of salvation.  It is the place all rescue and hope is centered.  It is the place where the foolishness of God intersects and destroys the wisdom of men.  The Cross is the place where hope, in the midst of our trials, is validated by the power of the resurrection.   In spite of the experiences of those who do not believe, those who find themselves caught up in an adversarial position toward life and living, the Cross gives testimony that God has the last word.  The Cross becomes a light in the midst of the dark and death that signals the fact that hope is real and though the future looks bleak God does have the last word.  It speaks the truth that God offers an alternative and alternate reality for those who trust and believe.

The Cross speaks to those who have lost their way.  It announces to those who find themselves in a state of confusion, the Cross says there is a platform upon which you can stand where restoration can be found.  Where those who feel broken by their fellow man and woman can be given an opportunity to be made whole again.  The Cross tells all who would listen though suffering may appear to have the upper hand, the pain and sorrow we find ourselves experiencing because of our suffering itself will be undone.  The Cross is God’s testimony that those who suffer now will by faith experience the resurrection and deliverance is on our horizon.  The Cross tells the world that even though the shadows hide the pain of our nighttime experience, though the nights seem long and unending, those tragic moments are all short lived.  When the truth and power of the Son’s light is revealed, the shadows are vanquished.   The darkness is replaced by the light of God.  It is true the pain of the Cross is real.  But so is the healing power of the Savior who rises against all objects and claims victory for us all who believe – over death, over suffering, in a world gone mad.  The Cross says those in pain shall find comfort.  The Cross says those in anguish shall be comforted.  The Cross says that the lost can be found and again recognition in God’s eyes.  The Cross tells us through the power of the resurrection, the abandoned can be comforted and given solace.

The Cross tells us that our tomorrows are better than our yesterday’s.  For those without faith, the Cross represents tragic circumstances that we are without a future or redemption.  For those without faith the Cross becomes the conclusion and testimony that life had no real purpose and suffering has no real meaning.  However, for those who trust in the power of the resurrection.  For those who trust in the power of God, you will come to know that good does ultimately triumph over evil.   That peace does finally reign.  The good that you do for others does really matter.  The love you courageously give does in fact bear fruit.  The Cross, that stumbling block for who do not believe;  but for believers, the Cross represents the hand of God that lifted a drowning Peter from a stormy sea, and says to those who believe – God’s hand will life me up in my time of trial.  It represents that voice that speaks to the raging seas “Peace Be Still.”  And His disciples are once again safe in His hands.  That same voice that commanded the storm, will speak softly to your heart, and bring peace into your life and all your circumstances.

God Bless and remain safe,

Pastor Gool

There is Always a Word From the Lord

“When you’re down to nothing, God is up to something.”  We have all heard this saying, however, when we are deep into our circumstances, it is difficult to believe.  Often, we ask, “Where is God?”  God is always where God is supposed to be – right by our sides.

The following story – we don’t know if it is true or not; yet everyone can feel the truth of the circumstances.  The truth of the hope and the challenge of the pain.  We can empathize with all the feelings of being abandoned by an omnipotent God.  In the midst of everything we hold dear, do not mistake God’s silence for God’s inaction.  God is always sending us a Word, a message, promise – but are we ready to receive it?

***********

Sally jumped up as soon as she saw the surgeon come out of the operating room.  She said: “How is my little boy?  Is he going to be all right?  When can I see him?”  The surgeon said, “I’m sorry.  We did all we could, but your boy didn’t make it.”  Sally said, “why do little children get cancer? Doesn’t God care anymore?  Where were you God when my son needed you?”  The surgeon asked, “would you like some time alone with your son?  One of the nurses will be in a few minutes, before he’s transported to the university.”  Sally asked the nurse to stay with her while she said good-bye to her son.  She ran her fingers lovingly through his thick red curly hair.  “Would you like a lock of his hair?” the nurse asked.  Sally nodded yes.   The nurse cut a lock of the boy’s hair, put it in a plastic bag and handed it to Sally.  The mother said, “it was Jimmy’s idea to donate his body to the University for study.  He said it might help somebody else.  I said no at first, but Jimmy said, ‘Mom, I won’t be using it after I die.  Maybe it will help some other little boy spend more days with his Mom.”  She went on, “My Jimmy had a heart of gold. Always thinking of someone else.  Always wanting to help others if he could.”

Sally walked out of Children’s Mercy Hospital for the last time, after spending most of the last six months there.  She put the bag with Jimmy’s belongings on the seat of her car.  The drive home was difficult.  It was even harder to enter the empty house.  She carried Jimmy’s belongings and the plastic bag with the lock of his hair to her son’s room.  She started placing the model cars and other personal things back in his room exactly where he had always kept them.  She laid down across his bed and while hugging his pillow, cried herself to sleep.

It was around midnight when Sally awoke.  Lying beside her on the bed was a folded letter.   The letter said:

“Dear Mom, I know you’re going to miss me; but don’t think I will ever forget you, or stop loving you, just ‘cause I’m not around to say “I Love You.”  I will always love you, Mom, even more with each day.   Someday we will see each other again.  Until then, if you want to adopt a little boy so you won’t be so lonely, that’s okay with me.  He can have my room and all my old stuff to play with.  But if you decide to get a girl instead, she probably wouldn’t like the same things us boys do.  You’ll have to buy her dolls and stuff girls like you know.  Don’t be sad thinking about me because I’m in this really neat place!  Grandma and Grandpa met me as soon as I got here and showed me around some, but it will take a long time to see everything.  The angels are so cool.   I love to watch them fly.  And, you know what?  Jesus doesn’t look like any of his pictures.  Yet, when I saw Him, I knew it was Him.  Jesus himself took me to see GOD!  And guess what, Mom?  I got to sit on God’s knee and talk to Him, like I was somebody important.  That’s when I told Him that I wanted to write you a letter, to tell you good-bye and everything.  But I already knew that wasn’t allowed.  Well, you know what Mom?  God handed me some paper and His own personal pen to write you this letter.  I think Gabriel is the name of the angel who is going to drop this letter off to you.   God said for me to give you the answer to one of the questions you asked Him, ‘Where was He when I needed him?”  God said He was in the same place with me, as when His son Jesus was on the cross.  He was right there, as He always is with all His children.  Oh, by the way Mom, no one else can see what I’ve written except you.  To everyone else this is just a blank piece of paper.  Isn’t that cool?  I have to give God His pen back now. He needs it to write some more names in the Book of Life.  Tonight, I get to sit at the table with Jesus for supper.  I’m sure the food will be great.

Oh, I almost forgot to tell you.   I don’t hurt anymore.  The cancer is all gone.  I’m glad because I couldn’t stand that pain anymore and God couldn’t stand to see me hurt so much either.  That’s when He sent The Angel of Mercy to come get me.  The Angel said I was a Special Delivery! How about that?

Signed with Love from God, Jesus & Me.”

 ***********

Church, there is ALWAYS a Word from the Lord. God never fails.  It is just we do not understand what the divine plan is.  We can’t even identify with it when it causes us such upheaval in our lives.  Yet God never failed us.  God has always delivered what is best for God’s children.  We can remember growing up and our parents would tell us things we could not understand at the time.  However, when we grew older, when we matured and began carrying some of the weight they carried, then we understand more.  We see more.  We come to realize our part is the effort, but the outcome belongs to God.

God Bless and remain safe,

Pastor Gool

The Faith That Saves Romans 8-11

Many people are struggling spiritually with their lives.  This pandemic has made many question the relationship they have with God.  Some have fallen prey to the enemy of our faith.  John 10:10 tells us the “the enemy comes to steal, kill and destroy.  But I have come to give you life and give more abundantly.”  There are individuals whose faith is not set in the truths of God but the ideas and understandings of opinion.  Our salvation, our standing in Jesus Christ, cannot be changed by anything.  This pandemic, this isolation, is shaking the foundation of people of faith.

I received a call from a young lady this past week.  She was experiencing some real spiritual challenges.  She spoke to me for quite some time about the enemy dominating over her life.  She told me how the enemy was causing her to think thoughts she did not want to think.  The enemy was causing her to do things she did not want to do.  She told me she belongs to a church and that she was a Christian.  She did not give me her name and I did not ask.  I did tell her I was the pastor, and she began to share with me the fears she had.

As I listened to her I could not help but wonder how many people find themselves during this pandemic having to deal with the spiritual unrest that reigns in their lives.  I began to wonder how many do not understand nor do they realize their victory in Christ.  And if they have heard it, or read it, do they believe what they have heard or read?  Do they believe, do we believe in the power of God to save?  Do we believe that all things are possible for those who believe? (Mark 9:23)

The first thing that every person of faith must do is accept their personal faith in Jesus Christ as real.  What I mean by that is, your faith in Jesus guarantees your salvation.  Ephesians 2:8-9 tells us, “It is by grace that you have been saved, by, through faith, this is not of yourselves, (this is not something you have done to earn, merit, deserve), it is a gift from God, (9) not by works, so that no one can boast.”  John 3:16 “for God so loved the world that He gave His only son and whosoever believeth in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”   It is this gift of salvation that is ours, that cannot be taken away – that we must begin to embrace and internalize in times such as these.  It is quite easy to succumb to the powers that we see parading around as though they are all powerful.  When in fact they are not.  It is easy to believe that these earthly kings have control as well as the last word in world affairs.  They do not.  The power that you received in Christ upon your accepting Jesus as your Lord and Savior is real.  It is everlasting.  It can and will sustain you in times such as these.   That the power that raised Jesus from the dead now resides in you by faith.    Romans 8:11 says, “And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to our mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.”   This scripture is true.  It is uplifting to those who embrace and receive it into their lives.  This text tells us that the earthly forces in this world have no control over us unless we give it to them.  These forces can make you do nothing unless you give them the keys to your life.

On the day of Pentecost when Jesus ascended to heaven, God’s power, the Holy Spirit, that same power came down and became available to each of us who trust and believe in Jesus Christ.  The same power that causes the blind to see, the lame to walk and raised Jesus from the grave lives in us.  That same power lives through us.  This is the power that allows us to stand in victory.   This is the same power that defeats those agencies in our life that seek to destroy and diminish who we are in Christ.

It is important that we understand our spiritual position in Christ.  God has equipped us with what we need to gain the victory over depression and the spiritual forces that confront us.  Don’t misunderstand me – I am not supposing the devil is behind every rock, or in every closet.  What I am saying is that the spiritual forces are real.  The spirit of evil is real. The forces of racism, hate and jealous are real. Fear is real.  The only power on earth that can defeat fear is the love that God has for us.  The scriptures tell us God is love.  It is this love that will sustain and keep us through that we experience and go through.

Ephesians 6:1 says, “Be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power.  Put on the whole armor of God so that you can take a stand against the enemies’ schemes.  For our struggles are not against flesh and blood but against the rulers and against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”  Trust is the work of our Lord and Savior Jesus for our salvation.  Trust in the power of the Holy Spirit to keep us in times of trouble.  Trust that God is in control.

I told the young lady that she must engage in the praise of God daily if she wants to defeat the spiritual attack that is coming against her.  There is a responsibility that we all have if we are to gain and maintain victory in this time of great spiritual stress.  We must praise God daily.  We pray daily, we seek God daily.  That is our responsibility.  God cannot and will not do it for us.

I prayed a prayer of victory for her.  I will pray one for us as well:

Father, I come in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus and ask and give thanks for the forgiveness of my sins.  I give thanks for the victory You, O Lord, have given me by faith.  I trust in Your Word and in the salvation, you have provided in Jesus Christ.  It is that victory over, death, sin and the enemy that will keep me and sustain me by faith.  Thank you Lord, for all you have done for us, in Jesus name I pray, Amen.

God Bless and remain safe,

Pastor Gool

God is in Control Psalm 121:1-8

In today’s “Trump world,” life and living is so uncertain.   We look for some form of security and we find none.  With the pandemic forcing fear and depression on a society so used to things being lighter than they are presently, many are baffled and confused.  The vast majority are looking for answers to the most basic questions about food, shelter and education.  We find our leadership spending time engaging in conspiracy theories that have nothing to do with the issues that matter most.  People are concerned about the eviction notices they find on their door.   They are concerned about the missing paycheck that will determine if their children eat today.  How does the Child of God survive these challenges that confront us every day?

The Psalmist raised the age old question, “In times of trouble who can I turn to?”  When the ground is giving way beneath me, who can I turn to?   Is there anyone who can lift this debilitating weight from my shoulders?  He asks the question “in time of trouble who can I run to?”

This is a Psalm that makes it clear that even kings fall prey to troubles that are beyond their ability to handle.  In time of trouble, King David knew the answer to this question.   David states, without a moment of hesitation, without a moment of reflection, “My help comes from the Lord.”  David knew that God alone had both the power and the will to comfort us.  In times of trouble our faith must tell us “God is in control.”  The God who neither slumbers nor sleeps watches over us.

A story is told of a strong man who faced an enemy beyond his strength.  His young wife had become gravely ill and suddenly passed away leaving the big man alone with a wide-eyed little girl, not quite five years old.  The service in the little village was simple and heavy with grief.

After the burial at the small cemetery, the man’s neighbors gathered around him saying, “please bring your little girl and stay with us a few days.”  Someone said, “you shouldn’t go home just yet.”  Broken hearted though he was, the man answered, “thank you friends for the kind offer, but we need to go back home where she was.  My baby and I must face this,” So they returned, the big man and the little girl, to what seemed like an empty and lifeless home.  The man brought his daughter’s little bed in his room so they could face the first dark night together.   As the minutes slipped by that night, the young girl was having a dreadful time sleeping… and so was her father.   What could pierce a man’s heart deeper than a child sobbing for a mother who will never come back?  Long into the night the little one continued to weep.   The big man reached down into her bed and tried to comfort her as best he could.   After a while the little girl managed to stop crying – but out of concern for her father.  Thinking his daughter was asleep, the father looked up and said in a heavy and broken voice, “I trust you Father, but … it’s dark as midnight.” Hearing her father’s prayer, the little girl began to cry again.   “I though you were asleep, baby,” he said.  “Papa, I did try.  I was sorry for you.   I did try.   But I could not go to sleep.   Papa did you ever know it could be so dark?  Why Papa?  I can’t even see you it’s so dark.”  Then through her tears the little girl whispered, “but you love me even if it’s dark, don’t you Papa?”  For an answer, the big man reached across with his massive hands and lifted the girl out of her bed, brought her over onto his chest and held her, until at last she fell asleep.  When she was finally quiet, he began to pray.   He took his little daughter’s words for himself and passed it up tot God.  “Father, it’s dark as midnight.  I can’t see you at all.   But you love me, even when its dark and I can’t see, don’t you?”  From that dark moment onward, the Lord touched him with new strength enabling him to carry on.   He knew that God loved him even in the dark.

The key to understanding this story and this Psalm is to believe that there is a power great enough to solve our problems.   There is a God who will come to your rescue.   No matter how dark the hour the God who sits high will stoop low and carry you and the burden.  And we must come to know that we have access to that power.  We too can say like David:

“I LIFT MINE EYES TO THE HILLS – WHERE DOES MY HELP COME FROM?   MY HELP COMES FROM THE LORD, THE MAKER OF HEAVEN AND EARTH.  HE WILL NOT LET MY FOOT SLIP, HE THAT WATCHES OVER ISRAEL WILL NEITHER SLUMBER NOR WILL HE SLEEP.” PSALM 121:1-4

In times of difficulty we need to know that God is in control.  It does not matter what the situation is, God is in control.  It doesn’t matter how bad it seems, God is in control.   Those who trust in God can testify that God is in control.  This must become our daily testimonial.  For in times like these it is easy to believe that the actions of men are more powerful than the God of creation.   This is not so.

PSALM 121:7-8 tells of the unspeakable power of God to keep us in any and every situation, “THE LORD WILL KEEP YOU FROM ALL HARM, HE WILL WATCH OVER YOUR LIFE, THE LORD WILL WATCH OVER YOUR COMING AND GOING BOTH NOW AND FOREVER.”

God Bless and remain safe,

Pastor Gool

God is Not Through with Me Yet

People are feeling overwhelmed by the tensions of life and living. The kinds of stress and strain that people are feeling has not been felt before. It seems like we are being consumed by the circumstances we find ourselves in. It appears as though we have no control over the situation. The only thing we know is stuff is happening to us and we don’t know what to do. I’m having trouble thinking. I don’t understand it, I can’t figure things out right now. What am I going to do? I don’t know what to do.

Kids want to go back to school but it isn’t safe.  People must work, but again, it’s not safe.  One group of scientists say one thing; others are saying something different.   What am I supposed to do?  Who am I supposed to believe?  I want to live.  How am I supposed to make a decision?  I really don’t know what to do.   The Word of God tells us in Psalm 46:9-10 “The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.”  God knows and God cares.  God is our stronghold and our refuge.

We are living in times of oppression; in times of confusion and chaos.   The pressures of living out each day is more than many can bear.  Unfortunately, many feel threatened.  These people are not sure what God says about the protection our God provides.  They are not or they do not know they are loved and it is this isolation that wears them down and out.   God’s word tells us in Psalm 34:10 “….those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.”   Isaiah 26:3-4 tells us “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.  Trust in the Lord forever, for in the Lord God you have an everlasting Rock.” Trust in the love, movement and activity of God is needed now more than ever.

A story is told of a Child of God who was overwhelmed by the number of afflictions that seem to come her way.  As she walked past a vineyard during the fall of the year, she noticed its untrimmed appearance and the abundance of leaves still on the vines.  The ground was filled with all kinds of weeds and grass.  The vineyard looked as though no one was caring about it.   While she thought about the sight, the Master Gardner spoke a message to her that she now shares with the world.  The message was this: “My dear child, are you questioning the number of trials in our life?  Remember the vineyard and learn from it.  The gardener stops pruning and trimming or weeding the soil because they expect nothing from the vine during that season.  S/He leaves it alone, because its fruitfulness is gone, and further effort now would yield no profit.”

In the same way, God is not finished with us yet.  God permits the trials in our lives for our growth.   God is not indifferent to the overwhelming pressure we experience.   It is important to know that God is with us throughout the each trial, throughout the dark times as well.   It may be seem like God is not around, when we don’t see God’s movement.  But know that God is there.   Know that the one who keeps us safe is ever present.  If God were not there, the darkness would never end.  The joy that comes in the morning would never arrive.

It is the word of God that we must learn to trust in – not what we feel; not in what we think; not the politicized propaganda from the government.  We must trust in God.  God performs not according to our understanding, but God’s alone.  Isaiah 55:8-9 speaks with clarity about our only need is that we embrace it “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, declares the Lord.  As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.”

There will always be overwhelming circumstances that will come our way.  We must know and trust God is there.  It matters not the time or the hour.  It does not matter what the circumstance – God is there.  God has always been there; God will always be there.

God bless and remain safe,

Pastor Gool

The God of Faith is With You Daniel 3:1-18

It is challenging getting through the most difficult times.  Imagine if you were Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego – the men who were thrown into the fiery furnace by king Nebuchadnezzar.  A furnace heated up seven times hotter than you could ever imagine.  It appeared that Nebuchadnezzar’s powers as king had become the instrument of the enemy.  God will allow the enemy to show us what he is working with, to show what he has.  God will permit the enemy to test us.  The enemy is not aware that this trial is a test for our growth and development if we would just continue to trust God in the midst of the trial.

It appeared that the three young men were preparing for worst.  We all have been in situations where we knew nothing could be done and have faced moments when we believed all was lost.  There have been times when the doctor’s report was not what we had hoped.  Our children have been in situations where we had no influence or power to change a thing.   Imagine if you will Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego being at their wits end.  They were told to worship the gold idol of the king and they refused. They did not go along with those who believed they were in charge, therefore, they had to die.  They were the examples of what happens to those who did not worship the idol.

There are times when you stand for God and it will cost you.  This was such a time for Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.  They were not only thrown into the fiery furnace, but they were supposed to be entertainment.   The king and his henchmen had gathered around to watch them burn.   How often have so called gathered around and waited patiently for your demise?  How often have you stood and those you opposed waited for your downfall?   But when the king and his henchmen looked into the furnace, they saw some things they did not expect to see.   They saw an additional person, an angel, walking around with the three Hebrew men.  They saw that even though the fire was seven times hotter, the men were not burned.  The hair on their heads weren’t singed; their clothes not burned.  There was no smell of fire on them at all.

When God rescues you, He rescues you ALL the way.   He rescues you in such a way that people don’t even believe you were in the fire.  When God shows up and takes charge of the surgery, there will be those who will not believe you were fighting for your life.  These young men did not lose faith.  They did not doubt the power or the movement of God in their situation.  And like these men, we cannot lose faith in our moments of difficulty.  These young men had a response for the king, when he asked “who was this God who will come and rescue you from my power?”  Abednego shouted out “we do not need to give you a reply concerning this.  This God whom we serve is able to save us.  He will rescue us from your power.  And if He does not, we will not serve your gods or worship the gold statue.”

These young men stood the test.  These men not only stood the test but passed it.  It is indeed difficult to give God glory in times of difficulty.  It is difficult to give God praise in the midst of storms.  But if it were easy everyone would do it.  God wants us to continue in our faith in the storm, when climbing up the rough side of the mountain, when crossing the turbulent rivers, or walking in the dark of night.  The words He gave to his disciples still remains a promise to us: “and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of age.”

God Bless and remain Safe,

Pastor Gool

God Knows Best – Rom. 8:26-27

God Knows Best – Rom. 8:26-27

The power of prayer can never, especially, in our most vulnerable state be underestimated.  So often when we are at our most vulnerable state, we also believe we are the weakest, yet this scripture says something quite different.  So often in those moments extreme moments of vulnerability we do not know what we should be praying for.  We believe in those moments of great pain and vulnerability that what we need is relief from the onslaught that is upon us.  Why is that when we ask for patience God sends those who try us the most.

Paul leads us into the Word of God understanding we are not strong in those moments of vulnerability to pray with any spiritual clarity.  However, Paul tells us something that we need to know about prayer and the way it works.    “26 … the Spirit helps us in our weakness.   We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.  27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.”

God’s Holy Spirit comes to our rescue in the times when the words of prayer are lost, when the pain is too great to bear God shows up because God knows our heart. Paul tell us the Holy Spirit helps in our times of weakness.  We do not know what to pray for, we do not know the words to speak.  We do not know how to get out of the situation we find ourselves in, yet prayer is on our lips.

How often have you been on bended knee and did not know what to say?  How often has the moment been so confusing and filled with chaos that our minds begin to swim in a state of delirium?   Yet, you know where you should go.  You know where you must. You know the only place you can go. You know where the answer can be found. You know who holds the answer.  Paul tells us it is exactly in those moments of desperation, those moments when all clarity has been lost that God steps in.  “The Spirit Himself intercedes for us thorough wordless groans.” God steps in and uses our speechless groans, God takes our utterances, our babble, our tear stained words and uses our gibberish to answer our prayers.

Paul says the reason God can do this is because he knows the mind of the Spirit because it is His mind.  The Holy Spirit has already registered your concern with God.  The Spiritual telegraph line that leads to God is still working on our behalf.  Working even in those times when we do not know what to really pray for.  When we learn to accept the movement of God in our lives as God’s will for us in that moment, we will better understand how God works.   You see, it is not the hardships that always tears us down.  It is believing, even knowing that God’s will has something better for us and that better has not yet arrived that pulls us into the abyss. Yet, even then God keeps us and holds us in His loving care.

Annie Johnson Flint wrote this poem I believe is fitting if we would read it with an open heart and mind.

I prayed for strength, and then I lost awhile

All sense of nearness, human and divine;

The love I leaned on failed and pierced my heart,

The hands I clung to loosed themselves from mine;

But while I swayed, weak, trembling and alone,

The everlasting arms upheld my own.

 

I prayed for light; the sun went down in clouds,

The moon was darkened by a misty doubt,

The stars of heaven were dimmed by earthly fears,

And all my little candle flames burned out;

But while I sat in shadow, wrapped in night,

The face of Christ made all the darkness bright.

 

I prayed for peace, and dreamed of restful ease,

A slumber drugged from pain, a hushed repose;

Above my head the skies were black with storm,

And fiercer grew the onslaught of my foes;

But while the battle raged, and wild winds blew,

I heard His voice and perfect peace I knew.

 

I thank Thee, Lord, Thou wert too wise to heed

My feeble prayers, and answer as I sought,

Since these rich gifts Thy bounty has bestowed

Have brought me more than all I asked or thought;

Giver of good, so answer each request

With Thine own giving, better than my best.

The Lord Is My Shepherd

Our faith must become larger than our circumstances. Our trust in God must become greater than the issues that confront us. Our confidence in God must be bigger than the situation we face.

As I read the Word of God, the one Book that speaks volumes to the movement of God in our everyday life is the 23rd Psalm. The 23rd Psalm is read and known the world over for its words of consolation and assurance. It speaks to tragedy; it speaks to heartache, it speaks to the most unspeakable moments in our lives. While speaking to us it gives testimony to God’s love for us.

This Psalm is a lesson in faith that transcends everything that may have beset David and confronts us as well. He begins with an affirmation that sets the tone for those in need of comfort and understanding. From the very beginning David does not equivocate, David is not confused about who he is depended upon. He is not confused about who shall take care of him, who shall come to his rescue. He is not confused about who watches over him in the day or the night. David says, “The Lord is my Shepherd I shall not want.” That was a statement of faith and trust not fact. It was a statement made by a heart that trusted in God. It was a statement that projected a faith in one he understood held his future in His hands. He said, The Lord is my shepherd, I don’t know what the future holds, but I know who holds the future. I don’t know about tomorrow but I know whose in charge of tomorrow.

Hebrews 11:1 tells us “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” We hope for things in our hearts. The reality of our faith are in the hopes we carry and hold passionately in our hearts. It is with this passion, this fire that God makes manifest the hopes of our hearts. It is this faith posture that we as Christians must embrace while trusting in the Word of God that assures us that God will keep us no matter what the trial. David is saying, “The Lord is my Shepherd I shall not want.” Like a shepherd takes care of his sheep. This is the way God will take care of us.

David begins each day, he lives each day of his life understanding that whatever happens, God will get me through it. Whatever the obstacle, God will get me around it. Whatever the hurdle God will get me over it. I don’t know how. I just know that He will. I don’t know by what means, I just know God will do it. I just know that God does. I don’t know how the bills get paid. I just know somehow, they do. I don’t know how I got through the surgery. I just know God brought me through. I don’t know how me and the kids made it. I just now that by His grace we did.

It is important for us to understand that like the shepherd of old watches over his sheep night and day, this same shepherd keeps this flock safe from the adversities of day and the predators of the night. I encourage you to study this Psalm in its entirety. So that in times of conflict and difficulty you will have built up your faith by this powerful word. Study it and discover its power. Study it, meditate on it and watch your faith grow.

God Bless and remain Safe,
Pastor Gool

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.” Psalm 23