Common Faith Network

Common Faith Network

Church of God Rocky Mount

A clash of wills


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Church of God Cincinnati

Remember Part1 by Jim OBrien


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Church of God Cincinnati

Letter from the Pastor of COG Cincinnati

Letter

From Jim O'Brien
May 19, 2017

Hi Friend,

Working for Free

Would you go to work if you didn't get paid? I thought of that when a friend told me he had spent the day installing insulation in his daughter's attic. This was more striking because he owns a construction company and employs other men to do the same job simply because it's so distasteful to him. He will pay other men to do work he detests yet he does it for free for his daughter.

It's part of human nature to do what we love without payment. For example, a lot of people wouldn't take a job changing diapers-there's not enough money to pay me to do it-but I changed hundreds, it seems like thousands, on my children and grandchildren.

The German philosopher Fredrick Schiller wrote "We are never our authentic selves so fully as when at play." What a strange thing to say, and yet it is no more strange than performing a task for free when you wouldn't do it for a salary.

By chance I once met a man who was a renowned artist. He showed me through his studio filled with incredible works of art he had painted. He told me he had attended medical school and quit during his final year, turning his back on a lucrative career as a doctor, to pursue something risky. He realized as he reached the end of the program that his fascination with the human body was painting it rather than medicating it. He specialized in portraits and Med School taught him about the skeletal and muscular structure which made him a better artist. "Most people paint what they see," he told me, "but I learned the structure of the body to paint what is not seen." His talent earned him an invitation to live at the residence of the Prince of Wales for six months to paint his portrait.

Choice is the heart of freedom that allows men to do great things. Albert Einstein wasn't forced by a government to create his theories. He chose what he loved.

So it was with all of the great patriarchs of the Bible. No church or church leader could force the Apostle Paul to endure beatings, stoning and hunger. He chose what he loved.

Schiller's point is that there is nothing that so clearly reveals what is in a man's heart as what he chooses to do when he is free.

The same man who has a hard time getting up in time for work at 9:00 am will be in the field to hunt deer before sunup. And there is no need to call him twice to get out of bed. He is willing to forsake his $3,000 mattress to sleep on the ground in a cold tent and spend the day in a tree stand waiting for the deer to emerge from hiding.

Why will a man suffer these hardships? Because it gives him joy. He will spend money, forget work responsibilities, leave important tasks undone until he returns, forsake comfort and do what he loves when he is free.

The "spirit" within us expresses itself most fully when we do something for the sheer intrinsic worth of the activity itself and not for anything external to it. It is the great blessing of a free market economy and the great curse of socialism. The latter inevitably kills the spirit.

After the death of Moses Joshua took Israel into the Promised Land and told them what God expected of them now that they were a free nation. God wanted them to respond with the spirit that an artist or musician brings to his work. "Take diligent heed to do the commandment and the law, which Moses the servant of the LORD charged you, to love the LORD your God...to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul. (Joshua 22:5)

When Israel lost her freedom, as much as anything else, the cause could be traced to the loss of joy in her relationship to God. Moses had warned Israel that if you don't serve God "with joyfulness, and with gladness of heart, for the abundance of all things therefore shalt thou serve thine enemies which the LORD shall send against thee, in hunger, and in thirst, and in nakedness, and in want of all things: (Deut. 28:47-48)

Joy is an essential part of our worship of God. John Wesley once said, "Sour godliness is the devil's religion." He was right! The grim faced evangelists of the devil want to take the heart out of worship. Don't let them do it. God set you free so you could worship Him in joyfulness and gladness of heart.

Until next time,

Jim O'Brien

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Morning Companion

It is Finished!



When Moses went before Pharaoh and demanded, "Let my people go!" Pharaoh was not about to let them go. The promise from God was sure, but Pharaoh fought to the death to keep his dominion over what he thought was his divinely mandated right.

Because of his intransigence, conditions for the people of God got worse, and from their perspective there was little prospect that life would get better.

When Jesus was nearing his end, the last words to come from his lips were these: "It is finished." We can excuse the probable despair of those who heard these words and had previously put their trust in him. "It's finished. It's over. It's the end." It seemed like all their hope had vanished. Things had gotten worse, and it did not appear that things would get better.

But just as it was with Pharaoh and Moses, God had already declared the end from the beginning. The Pharaoh was going to fight God.  Things did look hopeless for a while.  But it is well to remember that the English sentence "It is finished" is translated from the Greek word tetelestai, which means completed. It was a word commonly used as an accounting term meaning "paid in full".  The die had been cast. The forces of evil had lost. But those forces were not about to let go without one last fight. 


Don't be discouraged when the Devil puts up a fight. Drain the swamp and the gators will wail. What else would you expect from someone who is "finished"?

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Church of God Cincinnati

Greatest Psalms by Dusti Howell


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Church of God Cincinnati

Letter from the Pastor of COG Cincinnati

Letter

From Jim O'Brien
May 12, 2017

Hi Friend,

The Protected Place

There are conversations that can stick with you for years. The words, even the voice inflections are permanently implanted and easily resurrected to the surface of memory long after a flood of events should have erased it. For me it was a luncheon with a holocaust survivor. He was born in Holland as Hitler was rising to power. He awoke one morning at five years of age to find the country invaded by Nazi soldiers. Since he was Jewish he was separated from his father, whom he never saw again. He went with his mother to a concentration camp where he spent five years before being released and sent to a Kibbutz in Israel.

We sat across from one another at an elegant restaurant as he mesmerized me with the story of his life. Here we were enjoying the blessings of liberty, surrounded by the trappings of wealth, aware that his children and grandchildren had been given a gift resulting from the sacrifice of previous generations.

Then he said the most astounding thing. He believed that it would be better to just let the Muslims have their way.  "Just stop fighting them," he said. "After all," he continued, "there are synagogues in Iran today where Jews can worship."

I couldn't believe what I was hearing. This man whose father was murdered by Nazis, whose home was stolen, who was torn from both parents, lived in a concentration camp and later a Kibbutz, now asking, "What's the use of fighting?" I was speechless, torn between compassion for his suffering and anger for the lack of passion to preserve freedom for his progeny.

"I don't understand his reaction," I said to our Thursday morning coffee klatch. One member who grew up in France volunteered, "I can understand! You Americans don't realize how protected you are. You don't understand what it's like to live in Europe. I grew up during War World 2, the Korean War and the Algerian War. There was always war for us! We (the French) warned you not to get involved in Viet Nam. We were there first. And then Muslims began invading our country, so life has been a never-ending fight. America has been insulated from war by two oceans and you don't comprehend the frustration with always fighting."

It reminded me of conversations with victims of rape. During my years in the ministry I have listened to more than one woman describe an attack by a rapist. In two such stories the women described a similar mental stage reached after initial resistance. The attacker was lying in wait and attacked without warning, viciously hitting, strangling and kicking until both came to the stage of saying, "I'm going to die anyway. Do what you want but stop beating me and let me live."

My friend from France was describing the emotion of an entire nation that had been raped. They've seen so many sons and daughters die. When will it stop? Is there anything to bring an end to the pain?

It brought new meaning to the concept of the Garden of Eden. God knew there was an adversary who attacks relentlessly. He will never stop. The fight won't end. So God put the first two humans in a place of protection.

One would think they would have listened to God, but they chose to listen to the enemy. They thought he was the enemy of God but he was THEIR enemy. They wanted to think he wasn't that bad. He was misunderstood. "If we show kindness to him he will change," they thought. But he was far worse than they could have imagined.

So these two humans capitulated to slavery-to the enemy-and consigned the human race to the same fate. Eventually some humans cried out to God for relief, and God, who is merciful, once again offered protection to the sons of Israel. It worked for a while but they, too, listened to the adversary. Protection was lost and they became slaves. This occurred over and over for Israel. The United States is about to learn the same lesson.

This nation was founded as a place of protection for various religious groups such as the Puritans, Quakers, Huguenots, etc. Donna has done extensive genealogical research. The inescapable conclusion is that our early ancestors came to this country to find religious freedom. Almost without exception, those who came prior to 1750 were looking for a New World.

Belief in a New World is a common theme of the Bible and central to the Christian faith.

Maybe the most overlooked concept is that God offers a place of protection to His people. In fact, the fulfillment takes place in the future when Jesus Christ returns to the earth. The resulting millennial reign of our true King will usher in the Kingdom of God. The Bible ends with a promise Jesus gave to the Apostle John, "Then I, John, saw the holy city New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, 'Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God." (Revelation 21:2-3)

It is no accident that this verse occurs in the next to last chapter of the Bible. It is the culmination of the Plan of God-to create a place of protection for man to live at peace and worship the God who made us.

"Come Lord Jesus!"

Until next time,

Jim O'Brien

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Church of God Rocky Mount

Is Christ Mad at Television Evangelists?


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Church of God Cincinnati

Lessons in Galatians by Dan Allen


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