"Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks." -Jesus Christ (Matthew 12:34)
Mar 22 2012

Out of the Mouth of Babes (Ms. Clara’s Homegoing)

Tuesday my wife shared with me an email that went out from the Picirilli family regarding Ms. Clara’s Pic’s health. It was sad to hear there was nothing much that could be done medically. My heart sank. Ms. Pic was an encourager in my life. It’s true that she would shoot straight with you, but that’s what made her great. Without fail, Ms. Pic would always encourage me after I preached at Cofer’s Chapel. (As a side note, there was nothing like “side-hug” and smile from Ms. Pic.)  She will be missed. Not only will she be missed as a pillar in our local church, but as a true representative of her Lord Jesus.

Out of the Mouth of Babes
Moments after Rena shared the emil with me, she told me that on the to dropping the girls off at school, she began to cry and that it really concerned our 3 year old daughter. Jovie asked, “Mommy, why are you crying?” Rena said, ”Mommy is just really sad.” She went on to tell Jovie that a dear friend of ours was very sick and that the doctors really couldn’t help her and that soon be would be with Jesus. (We never thought it would be this soon.) Jovie’s response was priceless. ”Mommy”, she said. “If she is going to be with Jesus, then why are you sad?” Her words were full of grace and full of truth (a truth that I, as a her father, want her to cling to all here life). Friends, there is life in Jesus.

Jovie’s reponse reminded me this morning of Jesus words to Martha at the passing of her brother Lazarus…

“Jesus said to her, I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die” (John 11:25-26). 

While our dear friend, Ms. Clara, is no longer with us here on earth, do not fear, she is now more alive than ever because there IS life in Jesus.

Ms. Clara’s final days were difficult. I last saw her this past Sunday during morning worship. Her heart condition left her weak and frail. I watched as her husband lovingly took her by the arm to help her stand and walk out at the end of service. It was a beautiful scene. As I recall those moments I was again reminded of scripture where the Apostle Paul encourages us with these words,

 “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary trials are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (II Corinthians 4:16-18).

Today, I ask you to pray for the Picirilli family. Pray for Dr. Pic and his five daughters Jean, Jane, June, Joy, and Jill (and their families). Pray for her church family at Cofer’s Chapel and all those who were privileged to know Ms. Clara. I would also encourage you to pray and give thanks to our Heavenly Father who gives us life through His Son, Jesus. He is the resurrection and life!

Ms. Clara was a precious woman of God who had a great impact on my life. I am thankful to God for His grace in Ms. Clara’s life and for allowing our paths to cross.

Dr. Pic – I love you, my Brother. I am praying for you. 

Pastor Pusch

Mar 7 2012

Random Reeder

Yesterday I have the privilege to sit under Dr. Harry Reeder, Pastor of Briarwood Presbyterian Church – Birmingham, AL, during Free Will Baptist Bible College’s Annual Forum12 Conference. Here are some random notes I took during his two lectures…. (It is very probable that you may not fully understand the notes below!)

Session I
- Your objective, as Pastor, in revitalizing the church is not in the growth of the church (numerically), but the health of the church.
- That same Jesus who went after the one sheep who wandered will go after a whole flock that wanders.
- Do not start with church growth. Begin with the Word of God and fit it into your church context.
- Lord revive thy word – I cannot revive it.
- Lead your congregation to spiritual growth. Revival (as in a planned annual meeting) is not the objective.

3 Fold DNA of a World Shaking Church
1. Spirit Filled
- You can’t do w/o the Holy Spirit
- If you have Christ, you have the power of the Spirit
- Ephesians 1: You have been blessed with every spiritual blessing.
- Am I surrendered or self-reliant?
2. Christ Centered
- Consumed with Christ
- He is the center, sum, substance, and circumference
- For me to live is Christ.
- And can it be that I should gain an interest in the Savior’s blood?
- He did much to save you; to set your free to make much of Him.
3. Gospel Driven
- Exalt Christ with the proclamation of the Gospel.
- Faith comes by hearing.
- Evangelism is our confession of Christ.
- The Gospel is our foundation, formation, and motivation.

Why the Gospel is viewed as scandalous
1. Your need for a Savior
2. You can’t save yourself
3. Jesus, the Messiah, was a friend of sinners. So much so, that he died for them in their place.

- Religion doesn’t get you to a relationship. Your relationship will give a religion that’s unparalleled.
- Stop bad mouthing the Church. How would you like it if people were speaking ill of your bride?
- My hope is Jesus.

Session II
The Gospel – “I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…”

- The Gospel is the first of  everything. “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with scriptures, that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures…” (I Corinthians 15:3-4)

- I am saved – I am being saved – I will be saved (Justification, Sanctification, Final Salvation)

- “He breaks the power cancelled sin, He sets the prisoner free; His blood can make the foulest clean, His blood availed for me.”

- On the cross we see where we stand and who God is.

- The Gospel is exclusive in that only those who believe will be saved. It’s all inclusive in that its open to everyone who believes”

- You needed Christ, yet you didn’t want Him. Christ didn’t need you, yet you wanted you.

- By grace – God used a coward like Peter; a traitor like Elijah, and a terrorist like Paul. [I know he can use me].

- Preach the Gospel daily to yourself – Stay amazed at God’s Grace.

- No one is so lost they can’t be saved.

- Heaven isn’t for the forgiven, but for the righteous found in Christ.

- “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may KNOW that you have eternal life…” (1 John 5:13)

Feb 29 2012

United Together – Humbly Serving

What you are about to read is a response I wrote concerning the issue of Free Will Baptist unity and service together. This would undoubtedly apply not only to FWBs, but to the universal Body of Christ. I would love to know your thoughts. Feel free to comment below.

United Together – Humbly Serving

I understand this might seem simplistic, but what our denomination needs—across every sect, state association, district assocation, and local congregation—and certainly what I need, is a strong application of Philippians 2:1-11 and Romans 14.

The Apostle Paul’s exhortation to live in unity and humbly serve with one another indubitably cries out to us as Free Will Baptists. Pride has crippled us at every level. “Selfish ambition” and “conceit” have been barriers to our growth, not just numerically, but in our service to the Kingdom of God.

We all stand guilty. We are guilty in our “sidebar” conversations with others who agree with our positions (right or wrong) that tear down those in opposition. We’re guilty when we, in our private lives and thoughts, tear down those who oppose our views. We’re guilty because we do not consider those who oppose our views as “more significant” than ourselves. We’re guilty when we lose interest in those who oppose us. The call is for unity through humility and our example is Christ alone.

My thoughts take me to Romans 14 where the Apostle Paul calls for unity between the strong and weak. At best, we’ll always have disagreements. We may agree to disagree. But, that’s just what we have to do in order to move forward. I’m not speaking to the fundamentals of the faith, but rather to those issues that are “personal preferences.” It’s those items that would divide the “strong” and the “weak” Christians addressed in Romans 14. In the end, it’s not those things that bind us together, but the fundamentals of the faith. We must endeavor to major on the fundamentals.

I realize there are sects within our denomination that we may consider “weak,” yet they consider themselves as “strong.” That’s ok with me. I can be “weak” for the cause of Christ. I will welcome the “weak” and “walk in love” in order to advance the Kingdom. The Lord will uphold me. And even when the two-way street looks one-way, Philippians 2 and Romans 14 are still my responsibility.

I Need This Too,
Pastor Pusch

Feb 22 2012

From Dust to Dust… (Ash Wednesday)

Ash Wednesday
(Taken from The Common Book of Prayer 1789)

(C) Celebrant: Bless the Lord who forgives all our sins.
(P) People: His mercy endures forever. Amen.

C: Almighty and Everlasting God, you hate nothing you have made and forgive the sins of all who are penitent: Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledge our wretchedness, may obtain you, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, on God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Old Testament Reading: Joel 2:1-2; 12-17
Psalm 103
Epistle: II Corinthians 5:20b-6:10
Gospel: Matthew 6:1-6; 16-21

The Imposition of Ashes
Dear People of God: The first Christians observed with great devotion the days of our Lord’s passion and resurrection, and it became the custom of the Church to prepare for them by a season of penitence and fasting. This season of Lent provided a time in which converts to the faith were prepared for Holy Baptism. It was also a time when those who, because of notorious sins, had been separated from the body of the faithful were reconciled by penitence and forgiveness, and restored to the fellowship of the Church. Thereby, the whole congregation was put in mind of the message of pardon and absolution set forth in the Gospel of our Savior, and of the need which all Christians continually have to renew their repentance and faith.

I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Church, to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and be reading and meditation on God’s Holy Word. And, to make a right beginning of repentance, and as a mark of our mortal nature, let us know kneel before the Lord, our maker and redeemer.

Almighty God, you have created us out of the dust of the earth: Grant that these ashes may be to us a sign of our mortality and penitence, that we may remember that it is only by your gracious gift that we are given everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.

Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.

Psalm 51

Litany of Penitence
(The Celebrant and People together)

Most Holy and Merciful Father:
We confess to you and to one another, and to the whole communion of saints in heaven and on earth, that we have sinned by our own fault in thought, word, and deed; by what we have done, and by what we have left undone.

We have not loved you with our whole heart, and mind, and strength. We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We have not forgiven others, as we have been forgiven. Have mercy on us, Lord.

We have been deaf to your call to serve, as Christ served us. We have not been true to the mind of Christ. We have grieved your Holy Spirit. Have mercy on us, Lord.

We confess to you, Lord, all our past unfaithfulness; the pride, hypocrisy, and impatience of our lives.

Our self-indulgent appetites and ways, and our exploitation of other people, we confess to you, Lord.

Our anger at our own frustration, and our envy of those more fortunate than ourselves, we confess to you, Lord.

Our intemperate love of worldly goods and comforts, and our dishonesty in daily life and work, we confess to you, Lord.

Our negligence in prayer and worship, and our failure to commend the faith that is in us, we confess to you, Lord.

Accept our repentance, Lord, for the wrongs we have done: for our blindness to human need and suffering, and our indifference to injustice and cruelty, accept our repentance, Lord.

For all false judgements, for uncharitable thoughts toward our neighbors, and for our prejudice and contempt toward those who differ from us, accept our repentance, Lord.

For our waste and pollution of your creation, and our lack of concern for those who come after us, accept our repentance, Lord.

Restore us, good Lord, and let your anger depart from us; favorably hear us, for your mercy is great.

Accomplish in us the work of your salvation, that we may show forth your glory in the world.

By the cross and passion of your Son our Lord, bring us with all your saints to the joy of his resurrection.

Almighty God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who desires not the death of sinners, but rather that they may turn from their wickedness and live, has given power and commandment to his ministers to declare and pronounce to his people. be penitent, the absolution and remission of their sins. He pardons and absolves all those who truly repent, and with sincere hearts believe his Holy Gospel.

Therefore, we beseech him to grant us true repentance and his Holy Spirit, that those things may please him which we do on this day, and that the rest of our life hereafter may be pure and holy, so that at the last we may come to his eternal joy; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

C: The peace of the Lord be always with you.
P: And also with you.

The Great Thanksgiving – Eucharistic Prayer D

C: The Lord be with you.
P: And also with you.
C: Lift up your hearts.
P: We lift them to the Lord.
C: Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
P: It is right to give him thanks and praise.

C: It is truly right to glorify you, Father, and to give thanks; for you alone are God, living and true, dwelling in light inaccessible from before time and for ever. Fountain of life and source of all goodness, you made all things and fill them with your blessing; you created them to rejoice in the splendor of your radiance. Countless throngs of angels stand before you to serve you night and day; and, beholding the glory of your presence, they offer you unceasing praise. Joining with them, and giving voice to every creature under heaven, we acclaim you, and glorify your Name:

“Holy, Holy, Holy Lord, God of power and might, heaven and earth are full of your glory. Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest.” (Based on Matthew 21:9 and Isaiah 6:3)

C: We acclaim you, Holy Lord, glorious in power. Your mighty works reveal your wisdom and love. You formed us in your own image, giving the whole world into our care, so that, in obedience to you, our Creator, we might rule and serve all your creatures. When our disobedience took us far from you, you did not abandon us to the power of death. In your mercy you came to our help, so that in seeking you we might find you. Again and again you called us into covenant with you, and through the prophets you taught us to hope for salvation.

Father, you loved the world so much that in the fullness of time you send your only Son to be our Savior. Incarnate by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, he lived as on of us, yet without sin. To the poor he proclaimed the good news of salvation; to prisoners, freedom; to the sorrowful, joy. To fulfill your purpose he gave himself up to death; and, rising from the grave, destroyed death, and made the whole creation new.  And, that we might live no longer for ourselves, but for him who died and rose for us, he send the Holy Spirit, his own first gift for those who believe, to complete his work in the world, and to bring to fulfillment the sanctification of all.

When the hour had come for him to be glorified by you, his Heavenly Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end; at supper with them he took bread, and we had given thanks to you, he broke it, and gave it to his disciples, and said, “Take, eat: This is my Body, which is given for you. Do this for the remembrance of me.”

After supper he took the cup of wine; and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, and said, “Drink this, all of you, This is my Blood of the New Covenant, which is shed for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. Whenever you drink it, do this for the remembrance of me.”

Father, we now celebrate this memorial of our redemption recalling Christ’s death and his descent among the dead, proclaiming his resurrection and ascension to your right hand, awaiting his coming in glory; and offering to you, from the gifts you have given us, this bread and this cup, we praise you and bless you.

ALL: We praise you, we bless you, we give thanks to you, and we pray to you, Lord our God.

C: Lord, we pray that in your goodness and mercy your Holy Spirit may descend upon us, and upon these gifts, sanctifying them and showing them to be holy gifts for your holy people, the bread of life and the cup of salvation, the Body and Blood of your Son Jesus Christ.

Grant that all who share this bread and this cup may become on body and one spirit, a living sacrifice in Christ, to the praise of your Name.

Remember, Lord, your one Holy [Christian] Church, redeemed by the blood of your Christ. Reveal its unity, guard its faith, and preserve it in peace. And grant that we may find our inheritance with all the saint who have found favor with you in ages past. We praise you in union with them and give you glory through your Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Through Christ, and with Christ, and in Christ, all honor and glory are yours, Almighty God and Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, for ever and ever. Amen.

And now, as our Savior Christ has taught us, we now pray,

“Our Father in heaven, hallowed by your Name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth and it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sinned against us, save us from the time of trial, and deliver us from evil. For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours.”

[Partaking of Communion]

C: Let us pray.

All: Almighty God, you have given your only Son to be for us both a sacrifice for sin and also an example of a godly life; give us grace that we may always most thankfully receive these his inestimable girts, and also daily endeavor to follow the blessed steps of his most holy life, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

C: Let us go forth into the world, rejoicing in the power of the Spirit.
P: Thanks be to God.