From My Shepherd’s Heart

From my Shepherd’s Heart,

We had a pandemic.  It was awful. People were afraid, people suffered and sadly  people died. Businesses closed, travel stopped, people stayed home, and yes churches closed.  Churches are no longer closed.

We tend to be creatures of habit, and also creatures of ease.  Because of our nature these two things they can affect our decisions and priorities and can take us out  of some very beneficial and necessary parts of life.  This shift happened to many Christians who were active in their faith and in their church community.  Most returned to doing and being part of the things in their lives before Covid in 2020.  Many have not.  They have disconnected from their local church, the activities and events that helped grow and spur on their faith.  Time has been  eaten up by other activities, habits, and the new weekend without worship with their church.

Can I lovingly encourage you to jump back into the things that bring true life and faith in Jesus. It’s time.  Can I tell you that if you pull your children and youth  out of church, children’s and youth ministries, for all the other things, or just staying home all the time they will suffer with a faith that becomes more distant, and unimportant every day. Our decisions send messages to our children.  Can I caution you to remember that decisions made today, affect tomorrow, even though we talk ourselves into believing that might not be true for us.  Our decisions affect a lot of people.

Jesus love you.  God has a will for us and our families.  I don’t want people, parents, children or youth to be lost to a life where He is not present, valued, or acknowledge. The stakes are too high. The world without Jesus, is just too mean, too awful, and too  hopeless.  It’s time.

So, your church misses you, whether Compelled or another.  It’s not as strong if you and your family are there. You can’t give and receive if you are not around, and not a part. You can’t serve, love, receive, encourage someone or help. At the end of the day, nothing is as important as Jesus. Our faith is the bedrock of who we are, and the catalyst for healthy families and friendships.  Don’t lose your first love (Revelation 2). It’s time to ask yourself if that is happening. I know you don’t have to be part of a church to be a Christian, but I also know you do need to be part to be an active, growing, grateful follower of Christ.

Thanks for reading. Thanks for pondering what I am trying to say.  I am reminded in Ephesians 2, which I will speak on this weekend that God changed us by his grace, kindness mercy and love.   I want us all to live lives, and lead our families and ourselves where these gifts are appreciated, and my life reflects that by my love, decisions, and sacrifices.  Our active salvation is so important.  In our dark world, it is so critical that we receive, reflect and live that love and light of Jesus daily. It’s time to turn the page on 2020, and enjoy Jesus and His great love and activity in our lives, families, and church.  

With much Love, Your Shepherd

Pastor Nate

“Cultivate Faithfulness”

This weekend we will share our last Sabbatical Reflection at Bedford .  Pastor Matt will also be preaching a special word God has laid on His heart.   I feel led by the Lord to a morning I had in Psalm 37.  This Psalm really spoke to my heart and God’s Spirit always speak through the Word of God if we will take our time and listen.  I loved our Board Meeting on Tuesday Night as we also took time to study and talk about this Psalm.  I will share their incredible insights this weekend.  I focused on this verse:

Psalm 37:3 (NASB95)

“Trust in the Lord and do good; Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness. “

Cultivating is working the ground so the plants can grow and bear fruit. Cultivating is taking out the weeds.  I used to get a few bucks from my Grandpa Elarton to walk the rows of beans and cut out the jimson weeds. They would grow like a little tree, towering above the soy beans stealing the moisture and nutrients, blocking the sun. I would walk the rows with a how and hack them down and pull them up roots and all, as granpa said their roots to the most damage to the roots of the beans.

God has called us to be faithful like He has been to us.  We are to “cultivate faithfulness”. Like farmers cultivate the crops.  Removing what doesn’t belong so our faith, desires, and decisions remain faithful to God.

This looks different for each one of us, but yet the same.  We must remove sin from our lives with the help and power of the Spirit.  We need to remove hate, unforgiveness, gossip, slander, maybe a habit that is not bringing value to our lives.   I know I have had to remove all of this including selfishness, and I have to keep removing them all, sometimes daily, as they want to come back.  Cultivating is an everyday task for every believer.

We want to be faithful. We want to be Christ-like. We want the fruit of the Spirit in our lives. We want to represent the love of Jesus on this earth well.  Remember the promises of God’s Word in Christ:

1 John 1:9 (NASB95)

9If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

1 Corinthians 10:13 (NASB95)

13No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.

Hebrews 10:23 (NASB95)

23Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful;

I have also been studying and reading the Book of Ephesians as we will be starting a study in Ephesians at both campuses in September that will take us to December.  Start reading and studying this incredible book. I am so excited.  It will be some teaching and of course I am a preacher and will preach and teach through this incredible book.

Remember to slow down and be with Jesus. Take time daily to become transformed by Jesus through His Word, Prayer, Worship, Sabbath, Fasting, Hospitality, Celebration, Family, Serving, Giving, and joyfully living for Jesus. He loves us so much!

-Pastor Nate Elarton

Courage: Don’t be Ashamed of being His

As we continue our study on the Lord’s prayer, we come to the words “hallowed by Thy Name.” These are found in Matthew 6 and Luke 11.

When I was born from Pat and Lynn, I took their name, “Elarton”. It has been passed down from generations. When I become a Christian, I was “adopted” into the family of God, and I take the Lord’s name as my own. This is deeper than being called a “Christian”. It means total identification with Jesus, the Lord, the ways of God, everything it means to be a devoted follower of Jesus. I was saved by calling on His name, baptized in His name, and when I pray I use his name and identification. I am His.

One big reason that the church struggles with being Jesus to the world that doesn’t know Him yet, is because the world may not know whose we are. We are stealthy that we are born again and belong to Jesus Christ. We are not “all in” with being courageous and bold about be associated and identified with Jesus Christ. His name is holy, we are holy in Jesus, but there’s nothing holy about being ashamed of our family name.

There are two reasons believers don’t want others to know we are His. 1) You are ashamed of Jesus and worried what others will think about you or 2) You are not living what you say you believe.

I am urging us who call ourselves God’s and who call God “Father” to boldly with courage let it be known to all whose we are and why. Without shame, without hesitation, give our lives to him, the same way we gave him our sin, and we do that publicly, every chance we get. Don’t hide your love for your Savior. Have courage. People need to know that we live for the Lord and our faith may just well encourage their faith also. Be loving, be committed, be bold, and be courageous to let other know, you belong to Jesus. He is your Father, and you identify with everyone Jesus values and lived for.

“Our Father”

I know this is a little dated, but I do love the truths in it. I post this with the thoughts that you really need to hear this right now. I love those first 2 words of the Lord’s prayer. “Our Father”. He is our loving father, regardless of your father wounds, disappointments, or experiences. He is a perfect loving Father, loving us without condition, for no reasons we could give Him, and no life we could live. He just loves us. BEcause of that we are significant, valuable, treasured, and valid. May you know that today.

A Prayer that can make you more like Jesus: The Prayer of Examen

Six hundred years ago Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, penned an outline of prayer that I have found to be very helpful to keeping me focused on being like Christ. I know us Pentecostals don’t often venture into contemplative practices or reflective Christianity but I am, do, and will continue to add any way to be in the presence of Christ and to be changed.

For years I struggled with prayer because I just approached God, told him what I wanted, and what he should do for me or those I love and that was that. Pretty boring, not very life-givng, and super self-centered. No wonder most Christians struggle with prayer. We are doing it incompletely. Prayer is silence, listening, sensing, reflecting, and enjoying being with our Father.

This prayer the “Prayer of Examen” is a powerful way to really connect and hear from the Lord. To praise, thanks, repent, realize, reflect, and respond to what God reveals in our life for the previous day. It take a few minutes, but the connection with the Lord and the change it can bring to your interior soul, and inner man is great. doing this daily or at least a few times a week has the potential to change who you are, give you victory over sin, make you more sensitive to sin, and fine tune your spiritual hearing to hear the voice of God.

Here is the prayer outline. There are several variations to the prayer, but these five points are the focus for your time with God

The Prayer of Examen

(Ignatius of Loyola)

Find a quiet place alone and invite the presence of Christ.  Spend a few minutes of silence with Christ.

1. “The first point is to give thanks to God our Lord for the gifts received.”

Ignatius once said that the most abominable sin he could imagine was the sin of ingratitude. He knew that an awareness of God’s goodness and generosity is the foundation of our relationship with God. Once we recognize God’s goodness, we spontaneously feel gratitude and Christ’s love.

In this first point, we express gratitude for the experiences and encounters during the day that have been good or pleasant or meaningful, whether they seem trivial or important. We also express gratitude for the larger gifts we have received: our faith and our salvation, our life, our talents and abilities, significant relationships, whatever comes to mind.

As our spiritual life deepens, we become more and more aware that all we have is gift, given to us far beyond anything we might expect or deserve.

2. “The second point is to ask for the grace to know my sins and to root them out.”

Review the day. When did you step away from Christ’s love and principles?  Was there a time your love for others ceased?  Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal sins of commission and sins of omission.The possibilities for self-deception are endless. To truly know ourselves is not something that we are able to do alone. We need to ask the Holy Spirit for the light that can reveal us to ourselves.

3. “The third point is to demand an account of my soul from the moment of rising to that of the present examination, hour by hour or period by period. The thoughts should be examined first, then the words, and finally the actions.”

The third point is the heart of the Examen. Our actions, words, thoughts, feelings can come from an internal source of freedom and openness to other people and God. Or they can come from what St. Paul calls the “flesh” or the “law of sin”; that is to say from the self-centredness that inhabits all of us. We examine the events of our day methodically in order to uncover the source and the direction of our life that day. Move backward from actions, to words, to thoughts. What were the intentions, feelings, and motivations?  What the deep motives of the heart for all actions of the day good and bad?  Be attentive to the inner feelings and desire which is where we experience God’s love and  presence. This is not just introspection, but prayer.  Talk to your Father here.

4. “The fourth point is to ask for forgiveness and pardon from our Father through Christ

Once we have reviewed our day, we may have come to a sense of the dynamic of sin and grace that has been operating in our life that day. The fourth point is our response to that awareness.

5. “The fifth point is to look to the next day with hope, grace, and faith to move forward in the love of Christ, and the desire to continue with changes He as revealed.”

Close with Praise, The Lord’s Prayer, more silence, and/or a time of worship.

Experiencing the Unexperienced with Christ

We are undeniably people of habit. We are comfortable with repetition. We find security in the predictable. What if God directs us to places unknown? What if we are to experience the unexperienced? Will we discover our security is in frequently attended mind-sets, attitudes, and beliefs? Will we realize happily that our security is in God?

It is the hardest to trust in seasons of unknowing, so we often try and make them into a familiar situation previously experienced to attempt to deny we are on a new path in our journey. We will soon realize that this is impossible and we must throw our whole life into the trusting arms of God. His love for us will take us places where we will journey toward our wholeness in Christ which is our ultimate destination, isn’t it? New seasons are required. They cannot be optional, they must not be avoided.

Contemplative questions

  • Is God dealing with you about a “new” area of life He is leading you?
  • What is Christ teaching you in this unexperienced season?
  • Do you know, all things are to make us whole in Christ and like Christ?
  • Is surrender to God’s plan part of your thinking?
  • Must you have control always?
  • Spend some time in Lectio Divina for the following verses. (Click here on how to do Lection Divina)

“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.“Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.“You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.“I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:1–5, NASB95)

Boasting in the Cross, not in Religion

Man has always tried to add to the Gospel and love of Christ. traditions of men, required memberships, religious rules, humanistic ideologies and of course things added to the message that Jesus taught about salvation.

Christianity is about humility, and total allegiance to Jesus Christ. His Spirit lives in the believer. The Father speaks to us, and knowing Christ and being forgiven may be the most undervalued gift, given to mankind.

This world and all its allures still cry out to everyone, including the Jesus follower, for our allegiance, attentions, involvement, and participation.

Paul’s teaching here is something to read. Read it over a couple times, it is powerful. My comments of course will not improve on it.

May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is the new creation. Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule—to the Israel of God. From now on, let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers and sisters. Amen.” (Galatians 6:14–18, NIV)

Some key questions

-Is this world and all it’s stuff, got a hold of us more than loving and serving Christ? Is it dead to our hearts?

-Are we dead to thinking the things of this world will complete us, satisfy us, bring us inner joy, help us enjoy life more than a relationship with God?

-As Paul had the marks of Christ on his body (Greek is Stigmata) or stigma. Do we, without shame, identify with Jesus Christ, no matter what “stigma” it carries to others?

Religion, and man’s attempt to “make Jesus” better, harder, stronger, or whatever is no necessary. The work of Christ and Calvary, Jesus life and teachings stand on their own. Before we add to Christ, we need to subtract. Subtract the things of this temporary world from our lives, and then the need to “add” to Jesus will not seem germane or even necessary.

I close with the words again of the Apostle Paul in his letter to the church in Corinth.

For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.For it is written,“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, And the cleverness of the clever I will set aside.”

(1 Corinthians 1:18–19, NASB95

Week of Prayer, January 8, 2021 Let’s have some Courage Christians

We have a lot of Christians that have courage to talk and post about politics, covid, masks, but do you we have the courage to talk about Jesus Christ, the Gospel, the Bible, our Lord? Let’s pray for courage and to be encouragers. Our courage can helps someone else rise up in courage for the sake of Christ (Philippians 1.14). Christ did not die on the cross for His people to be wimps. God is calling us to be courageous for the Kingdom’s sake, His Kingdom, to shed the light of Jesus and the Good News of Salvation!

Christmas and the Cross

To the follower of Jesus Christmas is very important. The prophecies of old become fulfilled with the coming of the Savior of the World. The manger would lead jesus to the cross, the tomb, and to the right hand of the Father. The life of Jesus changed history, the world, but most importantly individual lives. We celebrate His coming, but we know it’s all for us. His birth, His life, His Death, His resurrection, and ascension. It’s was all for us. If you don’t know that, I pray you do. Jesus came for us. Read this from Matthew quoting Isaiah 9.6-7.

She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).” (Matthew 1:21–23, NIV)

Christmas is about new life, forgiveness, redemption, and being redeemed. Christmas is about being rescued from our sins, having Christ in our lives now, being part of His Kingdom of the earth. Not only that, we spend eternity alive. We never die.

And we did nothing for this. Not a thing. Actually the only thing you need to do to understand the complete Christmas Story is believe that Jesus did this for you and receive his forgiveness. Just pray or talk to Him. He is with you. I love these verses:

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.(Romans 10:9–10, NIV)

If you haven’t done this, do it and become a follower of Christ. If you have done this and your life is not what you know pleases God, then jump into your faith with zeal and commitment. Jesus came for us all, but he also came for you. He knows you.

Christ came to us and he knew his life would lead Him to the Cross. His love for us lead HIm there, and His love for us continues to lead us to Him.

Merry Christmas!


Up ↑