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From the Heart

Russ Snyder

Russ Snyder

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Lifting the Fog of Despair

Posted by Russ Snyder
Russ Snyder
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on Friday, 11 November 2016
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Living near the beach allows us to see the fog roll in. In May it is called "May Gray" and in June it is referred to as "June Gloom". The fog seems to roll in from the ocean and cover the land seeming to cover the sun while bringing a chilling effect on those who live and work along the coast. 

Despair is like the fog these days. It has rolled into people's lives over the past weeks and months. Unlike fog it has not been seen rolling in, yet like fog it is bringing a chilling effect throughout America. It has been attacking people's view of life. Sadly it has been allowed to distort the vision of our children no matter our race, color, sexual orientation or religion. It is despair that is causing people of faith to fear other people and despair has become the filter through which so many are viewing the future. 

Wherever one lands on the map of what has happened because of American politics in the past months and this week, despair has had an influence. According to Webster's Dictionary "despair" means: to no longer have any hope or belief that a situation will improve or change. While President Obama ran for President eight years ago on the platform of HOPE, this year's Presidential primaries and election cycle have run from the platform of despair. 

The news media has fanned the flames of despair to help it spread throughout the land. The candidates have thrown gasoline on the fires of despair in an attempt to "get" people to vote for them. All sides politically have used despair and now the United States lives in the midst of the strategy to get out the vote. The "shocking" victory this past week of President Elect Trump has left both sides in a fog. While some call for him to drain the swamp as he said he would, others quickly point to the same group of individuals within the establishment who are helping plan his transition. Others have decided it is time to protest and riot to overcome the democratic manner in which the President Elect has been chosen. Their level of despair, of believing they no longer have any hope or belief that their situation, their friends and family will see improvement or changed lives has overcome them. 

While people around us view each other through the perspective of what they have heard, seen and in many cases experienced, God does not. His word tells us that He loves everyone and that He wants us to love our neighbors, not hate them. So what do we do to see despair rolled back and hope restored? Here are some practical steps for everyone to consider, even those who do not put their trust in God.

1. Begin speaking into the lives and homes of the people of the United States God's joy, sense of peace and calm. 

2. Recognize when despair tries to slip into your life and the lives of your family and friends. Watch for it in what you, your family and friends and yes even those who are not in your immediate circle of influence say. Be aware of how you and others are viewing what is taking place. 

3. Choose not to give into despair. To do this you will need to recognize it creeping in or even rushing into daily life. How do you not give into it? 

- Tell it you won't listen to it. 

- Speak the opposite into what you see, hear and experience. Literally say "I release peace, hope and calm into this situation, into this person's life and home." 

- When others are giving into it, when they are being attacked by it, use your hope to comfort others. The easiest way is to turn to God and trust Him yourself. If you are not a follower of God your thoughts of hope and peace will impact others by not pouring gas on the fires of despair they are experiencing. If you are a follower of God trust Him (Proverbs 3:3-6). Stop giving into the fear despair has been using to steal your hope. It has been the path of the Church to listen to those who would lead us into despair, even those who pastor us, by focusing on examples from the Bible of judgement rather than examples of God's love blessing those who trust Him. Choose instead to be one who speaks and lives from a heart of love instead of despair. Focus your thoughts on the words in Philippians 4:8. 

By choosing to live out these steps the fog of despair will lift off you, your family, your friends and the people around you. Begin speaking these words of hope over those protesting and see who God turns their despair into hope. 

If what I've said here disturbs you or even causes you to form reasons not to stand against despair, please consider that perhaps despair has begun slipping into your life and it's time to see it pull back from you like the fog does when the sun shines through and it is lifted from the land.

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Choose Faith Over Fear - Pt 2

Posted by Russ Snyder
Russ Snyder
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on Saturday, 06 June 2015
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Jesus acknowledges our faith, and blesses us for stepping out and trusting Him, even when the darkness of fear comes in an overwhelming way. In Mark 5 a woman is healed by touching Jesus' cloak, just touching the clothes He is wearing. Everyone is amazed and with amazement faith rises to new levels.

Faith can be overwhelmed as we wait. When we wait so many opportunities for our hopes and plans to crash against the rocks begin to show themselves. Fear can rise up quickly and overwhelm the faith that has been growing steadily. The faith is still there, it may just be overshadowed by fears loud and boisterous voice yelling "No way! It's not going to happen! It's too late now!"

Fear has at its heart the issue of control. What we cannot control, do not understand in order to control, is feared.

In the middle of all this celebration of a woman whose issues go back over a decade, bad news arrives from Jairus' house. Do you remember? "Your daughter has died; why trouble the Teacher anymore?" What must this news do to Jairus? To his faith? Do these words steal his faith and hope?

Have the "facts" of what others shared ever caused you to doubt the "truth" of what God has said? There is a difference between facts and truth. Facts are based on the perspective of what someone sees or experiences. God's truth is based on His word and nature. When God tells us to believe, it is important even essential to believe to the end. Fear will always, yes always, try to rob you of the faith to believe God's truth.

Jairus must be devastated. Jesus hears what is said and exhorts, encourages, almost demands Jairus with "Do not be afraid, only believe."

Do not be afraid, only believe. It's another way of telling us to "Choose Faith over Fear!" Jesus tells him not to be afraid, only believe because for so many of us our tendency is to step back into the destructive habit pattern fear uses to overwhelm us.

Jesus limits the people who He allows to come with Him to Jairus' house. He chooses to have people of faith come with Him. Interesting thought: would he choose me to go with Him? Does He choose me to go with Him to encourage others, to strengthen others, to ask for a miracle on their behalf? What about you? Tough question? Let's move on then. But think about it . . . .

When Jesus and company arrive at the house there are already so many people there who are choosing fear. Don't get me wrong, grieving is a natural emotion that comes with someone dying, especially someone so young. But when Jesus brings up the issue of faith they laugh at Him. At times fear can be displayed in mocking someone, even laughing at their faith. Fear and faith cause us to look at situations, circumstances and life differently don't they?

Jesus takes five people with Him into the little girl's room. He chooses people who have faith, have seen Him do amazing things before. He chooses her parents who so want to have faith and believe. Remember the account of Jesus telling a man whose son was possessed: "Don't be afraid, only believe?" The man responds with "I do believe, help my unbelief." Or "I choose to believe and have faith, help me overcome my fear!" You see faith, even a little faith, can get you in the room. While choosing fear can cause you to miss out completely. You either choose faith or fear. And when we choose faith, fear tries exceptionally hard to knock us off balance. But with faith, we get in the room where Jesus is about to do something incredible.

We find ourselves with Jesus in the little girl's room and He simply takes her hand and declares in faith "Little girl, I say to you, get up!" Have you ever considered how much Jesus did in faith? 

Well it brings the little girl to her feet and Jesus gives her back to her parents. All five with Him, the people of faith, were completely astonished. Just because we have faith it doesn't mean what God does will not astound us. I love it when God completely astonishes me. It is so much fun!!!

Let's choose faith over fear. Being completely astonished over laughing and mocking people who choose faith. Does God always move in accordance with our faith? He hasn't always moved the way I've chosen to believe, but I still choose faith. After all, God is God and I, well I'm Russell. A man who chooses faith over fear. Don't let fear drive you away from faith. Keep believing, keep trusting God, keep wanting to be like Jesus. There's a difference between faith and trust. Give that some thought this week. And watch for fear to raise it's ugly head. When it does, because it seems it always does, embrace faith in God, tell fear to go where Jesus Christ sends it and be completely astonished. It's a great way to live abundantly.

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Faith or Fear - Pt 1

Posted by Russ Snyder
Russ Snyder
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on Thursday, 28 May 2015
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Choosing faith or fear is a daily part of our lives. There is constant pressure within us to choose fear over faith. It can be blamed on the media or even the pulpit where fear may be used as a tool used to get our attention. It can also be found in how we are raised from childhood. There are so many possible places fear originates, but where ever the pressure is from the result of fear is always a choice we make.

Jesus gives us several examples within Mark 5 of how He personally encourages people to choose faith over fear, of how people respond, and what happens because of Jesus’ words and actions impacting the lives of each person.

Never mind the towns people who become frightened because one of their own has been delivered by Jesus of a legion of demons in the first twenty verses. They come and see him sitting with Jesus, clothed and in his right mind. The choosing of fear in this instance brought them to the place of imploring Jesus to leave their area. Fear is a powerful emotion that can be used to turn us away from what God does to point us to His love for us.

When a synagogue ruler whose name is Jairus falls at Jesus’ feet begging Him to come and heal His little daughter before she dies, Jesus immediately goes with Jairus. Jairus is afraid for his daughter’s life. He chooses faith by coming to Jesus for help. If he doesn’t believe a little in God’s miraculous power, he isn’t going to come to Jesus. But faith compels him. When someone is compelled by faith or by fear they are driven forcibly to do something. If it’s fear sometimes we can be frozen in place. If it’s faith, we must believe and at times take action. Being compelled means “to be driven forcibly”.

At this point in the story so many people are following Jesus they are even pressing in on Him. There’s a woman who has had a hemorrhage for twelve years who is compelled by faith to touch Jesus. Do you remember the story? She’s been enduring so much at the hands of physicians and she’s spent all her money in the process, yet she’s only gotten worse. When the doctors who she gives all of her money to can’t help, her fear has to increase.

She hears about Jesus and by choosing faith recognizes Him as her only hope. She says: “If I just touch Him, then I’ll get healed.”

That is faith. She believes she will be healed. Pushing her way through a crowd to touch Jesus’ clothes from behind Him shows she has faith. Yet you can almost hear fear screaming “Don’t do it! It won’t help! Even if it works you will get caught and lose your healing!”

But she doesn’t listen to fear. Because as someone said; 'Fear does not stop death, it stops life'. She works her way through the crowd and touches his clothes. Jesus feels the power go out of Him. (That whole thing of feeling power go out of Him, that’s another blog)

Her faith reminds me of the saying: “Believe God for something so impossible that unless He is in it, it’s doomed for failure.” Huge faith on her part. Everything else, everyone else has failed her. Yet she has the faith to go to Jesus. What a gutsy move. To touch Him from behind, pressing in through the middle of the crowd, she has the faith to pursue Him.

Knowing something or believing it to be true is the first step in faith. Knowing or believing doesn’t always make something happen in our lives. We often are called upon to take some form of action. It may mean waiting for God instead of making something happen or it may mean doing what God’s Spirit tells us to do. In the woman’s case she needs to reach out and touch Jesus clothes.

Then comes the reward of her faith. “Immediately” the flow of her blood is dried up; and she feels in her body that she is healed of her affliction. There are great rewards for stepping out in faith. As long as it is the steps God wants for our faith to be coupled with action.

In the midst of her celebration of healing Jesus turns around and wants to know who’s touched Him. Fear raises it’s head again screaming “I told you that you’d get in trouble! Now you’re going to lose your healing!” Even though the disciples who were closest to Jesus didn’t have a clue what was going on (another blog for another time), the woman knows she has to speak up. Jesus looks at her. Fearing and trembling, aware of what has happened to her, she comes and falls down before Him and tells him everything. Did you catch the fearing and trembling? Such a common reaction for people.

Jesus says to her, “Your faith has made you well; go in peace and be healed.” He acknowledges she has chosen faith. Jesus blesses her with peace.

In the battle between faith and fear, and it is a continuing battle in our lives, Jesus acknowledges our faith, and blesses us for stepping out and trusting Him.

I want to be like Jesus. So I’d like to ask do we affirm people or doubt them when they choose faith? Do we encourage people and bless them and their faith? Or do we feel the pressure of fear to try to prepare them for the possibility of their faith failing, just in case?

If we give into fear instead of having faith to encourage others, is it possible our own faith diminishes?”

Let’s not be afraid to believe God for something so impossible if He’s not in it then it’s doomed to fail. And let’s be people who believe by faith our God is able to do abundantly beyond all we think or ask so as a result we are becoming the encouragers of faith instead of the supplanters with fear.

I choose faith. Help me Lord to choose it in all the areas of my life knowing I trust you.

(Like the little trailer at the end of the movie credits: “There’s more to come”)

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Normal People in the Book of Acts

Posted by Russ Snyder
Russ Snyder
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on Thursday, 10 January 2013
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So many of us talk about the NT church as if the people in it were so much different than we are. We see the miracles, signs and wonders, the day of Pentecost and think - if only! But we overlook the fact that being filled with Holy Spirit, being baptized in God’s Spirit, did not immediaely mature these people of God. They were empowered yes, but they were not necessarily anymore mature because of it. And neither are Christians today.

 

Look at what we sometimes overlook. We recently heard a well known Preacher sharing about how Peter kept opening his mouth while with Jesus and blowing it. He brought up several examples of Peter’s mistakes. When we get to the book of Acts Peter is the same man he was two months earlier when he denied Jesus, gave up and went back to fishing, and who Jesus pulled aside and told to “feed my sheep” at the end of the Gospel of John. Yes Holy Spirit came on him and he was baptized in Holy Spirit. Yes he became the leader of the church. But remember, that doesn’t mean he had a massive character change. It means he was given an anointing by Holy Spirit. The point? These are normal people like us who still had anger issues, shame fear and control issues. Why would we think everything they did was in response to the leading of Holy Spirit? Don’t our souls masquerade as Holy Spirit sometimes? Of course they do and so did the leaders of the early church. 

 

So rather than look at them as perfect and mature, let’s take a second look at the “New Testament Church” with eyes that honestly recognize these people. Perhaps our perspective will change and we may recognize we are like the New Testament Church so many people over the years have been crying out to be.

 

In Acts 5 two of the disciples lied about the price of a piece of property they had sold to win the favor of other people. In Acts 6 one group of believers in Jesus were not sharing food with another group after we were told in Acts 4:34 “there was not a needy person among them . . . .” Apparently between chapters 4 and 6 something had changed. We’d call it racism today, when one race of people deliberately overlook the needs of another race because they are different. Was it? Just a thought.

 

In Acts 6 we are told of Stephen the man full of grace and power who was performing great wonders and signs among the people. When a group of men rose up and argued with Stephen he argued back. While they weren’t able to cope with the wisdom and spirit with which Stephen spoke, it did not win them over. In Acts 7 when he was brought before the Council he shared an impassioned message full of truth they accepted. Right up until verses 51-53. He used name calling to anger them. Was what he said the best way to win someone over or was it judgmental? If someone spoke to you in that way would you like it? As a result he was martyred and the rest of the church in Jerusalem came under a great persecution. Wonder if this could have been avoided if Stephen had responded more like Jesus did when He was brought before the Council? Just a thought.

 

In Acts 8 believers fled Jerusalem to escape the great persecution seeming to be led by Saul (one day to be called Paul). He began ravaging the church. The story then swings to Phillip who was ministering in Samaria where many Samaritans believed and were being baptized - men and women alike. Even a former sorcerer named Simon believed and was baptized. He had not matured yet and was fascinated with the signs and great miracles Holy Spirit was performing through Phillip. Simon was following Phillip being constantly amazed the Book of Acts says. 

 

The apostles in Jerusalem heard Samaritans were receiving the word of God and found it hard to believe. Non Jews were being let in on the gospel so they sent Peter and John to check it out. Not a great deal of faith there, but certainly a doubting if not judgmental spirit. When they arrive they started praying for people who had been baptized in the name of Jesus. God’s Spirit, had not fallen on any of the Samaritan believers yet. When they began laying hands on them, they were receiving Holy Spirit. 

 

Simon was so excited he wanted to learn how to release Holy Spirit so he offered them money. You see, that’s how he had gained his other power (8:9-10). It was the normal way it was done, or so he thought. 

 

Peter became angry, some would call it righteous indignation. But was it from God’s Spirit or was it Peter’s maturity level? Don’t get mad, just consider this may be something we have overlooked? Instead of gently correcting Simon, Peter jumps in his face, releases a word of judgment over him and Simon repents. Did he really understand why Peter was so upset? While we ask that, please consider this question. How different is it today when people who want to do signs, wonders and miracles pay money to go to schools? Or pay money to go to Bible College or Seminary to learn how to preach? Or give money in offerings to receive an impartation or an activation to receive Holy Spirit’s power and gifts? Yet no one gets in their face and accuses them of having a heart that is not right before God. Again, just a thought?

 

Then Saul/Paul had his encounter with Jesus. He was an angry man, full of threats and murder (Acts 9:1). He is met by Jesus on the road to Damascus and this encounter changes his perspective. Please remember he was on his way to kill followers of Jesus Christ. When someone has been come into a relationship with Jesus today, does their character instantly change? No, maturing in one’s faith takes time, even when they have been baptized in Holy Spirit, or filled by Holy Spirit. It’s not about Bible knowledge, it’s about maturing in who they are.

 

Saul begins immediately proclaiming Jesus in the Synagogues in Damascus. He was new in his faith, and after many days of confounding the Jews they decided to do away with him. Was he using his intelligence and apologetics to win people or to argue with them, because they wanted to kill him. So the disciples snuck him out of town and sent him on to Jerusalem. The disciples in Jerusalem were afraid of him, and rightly so after all he had already done. He began “arguing” with the Hellenists who tried to kill him. Is it possible he was trying to win arguments instead of bring people to Jesus. Had that type of discussion won him over? It seems he had swung from one being angry with Christians to being angry with the Jews who now disagreed with him. 

 

When the brethren learned there were people who wanted to put him to death they stood up for him. No, they did not. They sent him away to Tarsus. The next verse (9:31) tells us the result of sending this angry arguing man away. “So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria enjoyed peace, being built up; and going on in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of Holy Spirit, it continued to increase”. After they sent Saul away. 

 

Was Saul a bad guy? No, he was a young Christian and his tendency to argue with people that had brought on the beginning of their persecution in chapter 8 was continuing until he was sent away in chapter 9. He was human, he made mistakes, he was not perfect in what he did or how he did it. 

 

Peter’s example in chapters 9 and 10 demonstrates again he was growing and making mistakes. After seeing God heal two people he was staying with a tanner - against the Old Testament law. Realize this was before our insight by Paul that we don’t have to follow Old Testament law. Besides Paul confronted Peter on a similar issue according to Galatians 2:11-14. He was human, he made mistakes, he was not perfect in what he did or how he did it. 

 

Peter did not believe Gentiles should have the good news of the Kingdom shared with them according to Acts 10, so God sent a vision to Peter. Then God brought Cornelius’ men to bring Peter to share the good news. Before Peter could finish his message God’s Spirit fell on the Gentiles. The circumcised believers were amazed. 

 

This is just a sampling of my point. Try going back and reading the book of Acts with the perspective that these were not trained or necessarily emotionally mature men and women leading the New Testament church. They were just learning these things themselves. Paul went out on his “missionary journeys” arguing with the Jews in every city he came to and was run out of town again and again. 

 

Realizing Jesus said in this world we will have persecution, but shouldn’t we think about the possibility we sometimes bring on the persecution by our actions instead of it coming against the move of God. We need to understand these people the church holds up as mighty godly and powerful people are the same ones who themselves said: “Why are you amazed at this, or why do you gaze at us, as if by our own power or piety we had made him walk?” 

 

Is it possible the church today looks at these human beings of the book of Acts as if they were something more than they were? Perhaps we should try to look at these people and those around us with compassionate eyes instead of lifting them up onto pedestals as “great examples” of how we should do ministry? Because sometimes they didn’t get it right, or don’t get it right. Just a thought . . .

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