The Dangers of Joy and Light

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The following is a guest blog from Jason McIntosh, worship leader at Spirit Life Church.

The Dangers of Joy and Light
Jason McIntosh

2012 was kind of a rough year. A really rough year in fact. Actually let’s just say the whole thing, well… sucked. In a nutshell, my marriage crumbled and ended in divorce. 

It was not by my choosing. 
It was not what I wanted for my life.
But these things happen regardless. 

Now I’ve always considered myself an optimistic type of person. Irritatingly so in fact. But after the divorce I found myself growing increasingly bitter. I was negative about everything. On the surface I still laughed and carried on as normal but I could tell I wasn’t the same. I felt this constant cynicism knotted up inside of me. And though I think most of you could understand, I’m ashamed to admit that after a while it became a comfort. 

Let me briefly switch gears here and geek out for a moment—non-nerds, please be patient for a few moments, I promise we’ll get back on topic.

I love the Lord of The Rings. There’s a scene in the first book where they are leaving behind a city called Lothlorien. It’s an enchanted city run by an Elf woman named Galadriel who radiates light and beauty. There’s a character named Gimli, who had no idea that such beauty existed, and as they depart he says,

Gimli:
Tell me, why did I come on this Quest? Little did I know where the chief peril lay! Truly Elrond spoke, saying we could not foresee what we might meet upon our road. Torment in the dark was the danger that I feared, and it did not hold me back. But I would not have come, had I known the danger of light and joy.

The danger of light and joy.

He knew this quest would be dark and dangerous. He knew he would face unspeakable evils and battle in unjust wars. He even knew death was a very likely possibility! But he still came. And for all his bravery and heroism he is suddenly brought low by the crippling force of light and joy.

The danger of light and joy.
He knew this quest would be dark and dangerous. He knew he would face unspeakable evils and battle in unjust wars. He even knew death was a very likely possibility! But he still came. And for all his bravery and heroism he is suddenly brought low by the crippling force of light and joy.

Let’s be honest for a second. We love the darkness. At least some of the time. 

We hold on to our grudges. We keep a record of wrongs. We fight with our spouse. We slander our neighbors. We Lie. We Lust. We Gossip. We Cheat. 

In essence, we struggle with our flesh. We’ve come to know this as “fighting the good fight,” but what happens when we forget that the point of fighting a fight is to win? 

Christians love to tell each other what they’re struggling with. As if the merit is earned in the fight itself and not in the actual triumph of victory. How many of the things that we struggle with now are the same things we struggled with a year ago? 5 years ago? 10?

We love to hold onto our burdens. They comfort us. They vindicate us. They give is a sense of purpose. And they’re killing us…

What’s that one thing in your life that you’re holding onto? The thing you know is probably not good for you. Maybe you’ve even offered up some half hearted prayers and you’re now just sitting back waiting for God to “work his magic,” but deep down you feel that you’ve struggled with this for so long you can’t even imagine what life would be like without it.

Now imagine giving it up completely.    
Never taking another drink.
Confessing to those you’ve lied to, cheated on or spoke bad about. 
Forgiving your spouse or your parents or your children.
Letting go of personal affronts.

Can you picture it? Terrifying, huh?

This is the danger of light and joy. Or to say it another way,    This is the danger of following God. When we follow God our pretenses fall away. Our carefully crafted walls come crumbling down. Our secrets are found out.  We are completely and utterly known and hopelessly exposed. It’s scary to give into this but I believe its the better way to live. I don’t want cynicism to be my comfort anymore.

It’s hard,  but in 2013,  I’m choosing to walk in the dangers of light and joy.

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Jason McIntosh is the worship leader of Spirit Life Church. Check him out weekly at our Sunday morning corporate gatherings in Piqua. Click here to learn more about Spirit Life Church.

Piqua: The Mayberry Enigma

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This is a guest blog by Larry Meiring, Piqua native and Spirit Life Community member.

Over the past year, I’ve invited dozens of friends and relatives to my church, Spirit Life Church in Piqua. With a mere 20% success rate, I soon began to question my own influence with those I’m close to. After brief cogitation I quickly determined this a laughable impossibility. With such a spirit-moving service week after week, I began wondering why people don’t, or perhaps just WON’T go to church anymore?

Pastor VanHoose said it best a few weeks ago: “I’ve never seen a region with so many churches, so spiritually handicapped.” A resounding Amen to that brother! In an effort to understand the situation I attended several churches in the area, asked around, and have unearthed some valid reasons that people won’t attend church. My findings reveal a sharp rebuke to the current influence of local Christian assemblies in the Miami Valley.

First and foremost, this community is condemned—their past church experiences were filled with messages of fire and brimstone—the classic pentecostal message: “Keep on sinnin’ and the gate of hell will split wide open!” They were reminded week after week if they continue ______ing (fill in the blank) and you’re going to bake in the lake of fire for all eternity! This is plainly a poor way to entice nonbelievers to follow Jesus, yet congregations have been sitting through sermons like this for decades and I can’t for the life of me understand why a church goer would put up with this weekly berating. The message is obsolete, stale and repellant!

Secondly, corporate worship for most parishoners in this area has bored them to tears—they spring out of service as soon as their last consecrations are made. The lifeless, spiritless churches in this region may have perfected the 48 minute service, but the Holy Spirit hasn’t changed a single life there ever! These are the congregations that go with the building, pastor after ineffective pastor.

Lastly, religious people in this region infect the nonbeliever with spiritually transmitted diseases. A desperate person whose life is in turmoil and is seeking God for answers happens into a church full of religious folk who usher them in and mold them into their image of what holiness looks like. They allow no room for spiritual individuality or outside-the-box thinking. Devoid of joy, absolutely! These congregations will have you doing religious calisthenics your entire life, as good as dirty rags offered to God the Bible says.

My family attends Spirit Life Church in Piqua. Pastor Ken Van Hoose educates us how to walk in grace and righteousness. It addresses and peels off layer after layer of self-condemnation we’ve been hindered with seemingly forever. Like the apostle Paul he teaches freedom, a message so badly needed in this region.

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Ken is the pastor of Spirit Life Church. Visit the Spirit Life Church website to learn more about Ps. Ken and listen to his messages online.

The Fruit of Our Lives

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Our church family recently celebrated the life of our friend Lee Jordan, who went home to be with the Lord for all eternity last week. Elder Lee was one of my closest friends and biggest supporters—I could always count on him for a word of encouragement and wisdom when I needed it. Simply put, he was one of the best men I knew.

It’s difficult to think about continuing our earth bound journey without the friendship and support of someone we cared about as much as Elder Lee. But even though our temporary separation from Elder Lee will be difficult, those of us who are born again understand this separation differently than the world does. Even though we will never see him again on this side of Heaven, the fruit of the life of Elder Lee will live on in the hearts and actions of those who knew him.

1 Corinthians 15:37-38, KJV:
And that which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other grain: But God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him, and to every seed his own body.

Genesis 3:15, KJV:
And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.

In the first verse Paul gives us insight about seed and sowing. When a seed is sown, it is dead and bears no resemblance to the plant it will eventually become—it has no obvious connection to what it will grow into until God gives it the new body that He wants it to become. The same is true of the seed of Jesus Christ spoken of in the first messianic promise in Genesis 3:15. Here the Lord promised a seed that would come from a woman and would crush the head of the enemy. As with every other seed He has made, God chose the body this seed would be housed in—the precious body of Jesus Christ.

In the same way you wouldn’t know what type of plant would grow from examining its seed, Jesus wasn’t recognized as the Messiah when he took his message to Jerusalem—He didn’t look like what they expected and He didn’t act the way leaders of the day wanted Him to act. Jesus was kind to sinners and tax collectors. In stark contrast to the religious and social norms of His region, Jesus even ate and hung out with these people. This is why His message was rejected by the Jewish people. They were looking for a Jewish Messiah who strictly adhered to their law and customs and who focused His actions and attention solely on those borne of the lineage of Abraham. But Jesus repeatedly turned this expectation on its head by ministering to and healing everyone He came across, regardless of their ethnicity or religion.

Jesus taught that unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains alone. In other words, the blessing contained in the seed cannot come forth until it dies. This is what brings forth abundantly. Jesus was the seed for us all, making eternal salvation achievable and making it possible for a great harvest of souls to continue until He returns. Without a doubt Jesus accomplished much in His short time on Earth, but the fruit He yielded during His earthly ministry is far outweighed by the fruit that has come and continues to grow since His death, burial and resurrection!

We cannot determine when we are born or what we will look like and we have no way to know when we will pass from this life. What we do have is the ability to determine how we will live the life God has given us and though we face challenges, we must never allow our lives to be defined by the pain we have to endure at times. Your life counts and must be seen in that light in order to fulfill the potential God has placed in You. A believer’s life will bear much fruit that he can enjoy here on earth, but like Jesus’ life, our real and enduring success comes after we finish our course. Will our fruit remain in the hearts and memories of those we have touched? Will our effort to serve Christ inspire others to greatness?

As believers we are challenged daily to choose God’s way and not our own. At times, espescially during a time of grief and loss, we rely much too heavily on our natural vision. Trust the Lord for the ability to see beyond the present and consider the eternal impact of having lived wholly unto God. I for one know that the fruit of the life of Lee Jordan has only begun to be seen.

Be blessed! See you all tomorrow.

– Ps. Ken

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Pastor Ken is the senior pastor of Spirit Life Church in Piqua, Ohio. Listen to his messages online at Spirit Life Church’s content page.

He’s a Very Present Help!

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I’m continually amazed by the lengths that God goes to protect His children! My wife and I were in a car accident a few days ago. The roads were slick from snow and ice and as I moved to the outside of our lane for a passing car, my truck lost traction and went off the road. I’m more than a bit ashamed to admit I wasn’t wearing my seat belt. As our truck went airborne I heard my wife say, “Father, have mercy!”

As our truck flew through the air, seemingly picking up speed as it went, we struck a telephone pole, a mailbox and finally a large tree stump which brought this terrifying experience to an abrupt stop. My wife’s prayer wasn’t a long one, but like I said during our church’s midweek Bible study, short prayers work just as good as long ones! Little did I know how quickly this truth would be put to the test.

Once the reality of our experience had a second to set in I looked over at my wife and made sure she was alright. She told me she felt fine to which I responded, “am I okay?” It’s hard to know up from down in a situation like that!

Psalm 46:1, KJV:
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.

Despite immense damage to our vehicle, both my wife and myself walked away from the accident completely unharmed, thanking God for his faithfulness. Coming through an experience like this you can’t help but be reminded of the providential nature of our God and His active role in taking care of His own. The Lord isn’t far off and He truly is a very present help in time of trouble!

We’re all imperfect. This is a consequence of sin and evil existing in the world. If we’re not careful, sometimes we fall into the attitude that God’s performance is similar to ours. How far from the truth this thinking is. The reality is that God never changes—His character and attributes never increase or decrease and we can always count on His care and loving kindness because he loads us down with benefits each and every day.

2 Corinthians 4:7, KJV:
But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.

I find the most difficult and trying times of my life are when I realize the greatest benefit of all: If God be for us then no person or evil can prevail against us. I praise God for His grace and favor in my life, because I haven’t done a single thing to deserve it. Take time in this season to renew the spirit of thanksgiving in your own hearts for all He has done. Share His love with others and rest in the assurance that He is always present and looking out for His people.

Thank you all for your prayers. Be blessed!

– Ps. Ken

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Pastor Ken is the senior pastor of Spirit Life Church in Piqua, Ohio. Listen to his messages online at Spirit Life Church’s content page