If Daniel had met Little Debbie….

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I had someone ask me, “Pastor, how do I know that I am doing the fast correctly?” Normally, I think before I speak, but at times I just blurt out the first thing that comes to mind…this was one of those times.

I said, “If fasting comes with some hardships then perhaps, we’re doing something right.” 

I’ve thought about that response since then and there’s no question I could have given a more robust, biblically-laden response. However, I do believe it’s true that pain in the offering means something is working.

I’ve been laser-focused on my personal health recently. I’m taking vitamins and eating smarter. I’ve dropped several pounds and I’m working my way toward my ultimate goal.

Now what has really helped me in these past few months is adding resistance training and weight lifting along with my running. It’s easy to say that now…but it wasn’t that long ago I was sore daily because of the exercises. My arms hurt, my legs hurt, my neck hurt. Everything hurt! My sweet wife told me, “Wes, that’s how you know it’s working; it’s hurting.”

Things that we strive for and reach for by their very nature stretch us. Often the more we reach and the bigger the goal the greater the struggle will be to achieve it. One thing I always say is that “If it were easy, then everyone would be doing it.” And I know that what you are doing in your fast is not easy. It’s hard. But it’s supposed to be hard. 

One thing that is hard during a fast is not being able to consume what you want when you want. I’m not going to lie… I want meat. RED MEAT! I want a Little Debbie Swiss Cake Roll…like really bad. I’m sure if Daniel had met Little Debbie, the struggle would have been real for him too. I know it’s not an earth-shattering need…BUT I would love a cup of black coffee too!

Let me give you some pointers that help me when I hear an Oatmeal Crème Pie calling my name: 

  1. I stop and pray. I remind my flesh that the purpose of the fast is to deny myself of things and replace them with things that honor God. It is truly remarkable what happens when you have a midnight sugar craving during a fast and instead of indulging the temptation, you get on your knees and pray.
  2. I remind myself that the craving is real. The struggle is REAL. And the desire to fulfill that craving will not control me. Determine in your mind and also in your heart that you will not break your commitment to God. I literally ask the Lord to fill me with His presence during difficult times of the fast.
  3. I drink lots of water. Water is very filling and you can trick your stomach into being full and satisfy that craving simply by consuming water.
  4. I focus on what I have instead of what I can’t have. If I simply focus on things I want but can’t have, then those thoughts will consume me. I start thinking things like… “Well, if Daniel had Oatmeal Crème Pies would he have eaten just one?” What I have learned though is to focus on what you CAN have INCLUDING the filling of the Spirit. Fasting is not about food. It’s about the heart. Surrender your wants and desires to the Lord.

Yes, the struggle is real, BUT the pain in the offering tells us that what we are doing is working. I don’t know when God will move in the situations you and I are trusting Him in. I don’t know when the goal will be met. However, I do know that God is glorified when we deny ourselves of earthly things and replace them with Heavenly things. And our Father will honor your sacrifice.

I will see you Sunday as we focus on young David and how God prepared his heart well-before he was promoted and established as King of Israel. Remember, it’s about the heart. 

Don’t Give Up! 

Pastor Wes

What’s a Christian to do?

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What is a Christian to do?

I’m not a political analyst and I’m not a political pundit groupie either.

You could say I casually follow politics. I know the issues and the candidates. I’m up to speed on what some polls are telling us. I know the difference between Anderson Cooper and Bill O’Reilly.

I am a traditionalist and I refuse to vote early (not disparaging those who do vote early). I just like the nostalgia of Tuesday, Election Day voting. But that’s about the extent of my real political involvement.

With all that said, I will stay awake tonight, as many Americans will, and find out who will be the 45th President of the United States. Tonight, there will be drama, tears, excitement, and suspense. Every element that makes a great story will flood the News Talk channels this evening.

We will soon learn who the next leader of the free world will be.

Loud voices have told us this year is the MOST important election year in our history. I don’t like using and hearing superlatives like that. You’ve probably heard it in church:

  • “NOBODY likes that!”
  • “EVERYBODY likes that!”

Really? EVERYBODY prefers one thing?

I rarely bite when fed those lines because people are so different. If two people get together, they may be able to share many points of agreement. They would also have many differences of opinion.

I knew that God called me to be a conservative, evangelical pastor, but I wanted to attend a secular university (University of Tennessee…Go Vols) for an important reason. I desired to hear the different sides of the different stories.

I knew my side pretty well. I knew what I believed and for the most part why I believed it. So that left me with a couple options:

A. I could surround myself with people who thought exactly like me and close myself off to others and their opinions.

OR

B.I could learn what others believe and why they believe it. I came away from that experience with an even deeper conviction of my beliefs. But I also had an understanding of why others may not hold my views.

What’s different this time?

This election cycle has brought forth something different from previous campaigns. I understand the differences AND I appreciate those differences.

However, the spirit and actions of how these views are shared is deeply concerning to me.

Punching people and hurting people over politics is ridiculous. And our elected leaders must demonstrate self-control and lead with a steady hand. It feels as if our country could literally blow at any moment with the tension that has built up.

Let’s all take a step back and BREATHE.

If your candidate does not win, don’t go smash a window. Don’t go on a “sky is falling” social media tirade. Win graciously and lose graciously. Responding with violence or hateful speech means no one wins.

Martin Luther King Jr once said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”

MLK Jr’s words paint a beautiful picture of how to respond politically while maintaining one’s Christian beliefs. Be a light and display the love of Christ (John 13:35)!

As a Christian, we understand that God is our ultimate King. God is our Guide. God is our President. He is the one we give our ultimate allegiance to.

We do not understand His thoughts, His ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9). God is sovereign, and that means God is in control. We do not need to fear or be dismayed (Isaiah 41:10).

What can I do?

  1. Pray. Prayer is the most important thing a Christian can ever do.
  2. Vote. It is our civil responsibility to vote AND to vote our convictions. Do your research and know where politicians stand on the issues.
  3. Trust. Remember God is in control and nothing happens without His direction.
  4. Listen. The best way to learn is to listen. Listen to others and their opinions. Be respectful.
  5. Share. If we know anything about our faith, we know that it is meant to share. The Gospel is itself a stumbling block. There is zero sense in causing other things to become stumbling blocks.
  6. Act. Be a part of the solution instead of the problem. Find healthy ways to live out and talk about your convictions.

Blessed to be your Pastor,

baldwin_wesley sig #2[1] 12.02.51 PM

Pastor Wesley Baldwin
[email protected]

Standing Together Through the Storm

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A note from Pastor Wes to Aloma Church:

Church Family,

I wanted to take some time out today before the storm arrives to share some words of encouragement with you, as well as plans for moving forward after the storm passes.

While we locked up our facilities and closed down in preparation for the storm, I thought of how easy it is to see the church as a “place”, a location. But we are the church.

16 Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? – 1 Corinthians 3:16

And the church stands together today, praying for protection and peace for fellow believers and for all mankind affected by this storm.

Storms are often the beginning of ministry.

Everything we do in ministry is focused on quelling the storms that surround us. Some of these storms are literal storms, some are personal battles, others oppression from the enemy. But let’s remember that every storm brings the opportunity to share the love of Jesus Christ.

27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. – John 14:27

My family and I are preparing for the worst, hoping for the best. I am praying for you and with you during this time. Let all of us pray for our first responders as well.

A few things to note:

  • Get storm updates – To receive emergency updates, text FLPREPARES to 888-777.
  • Check in with us – Please keep checking our blog at alomachurch.org and on facebook for updates from our leadership team. You can visit these sites on your smartphone or by using a computer.
  • Sunday church is happening – Even if there is a power outage or something else, we invite you to come together with us to worship. Sunday will happen at our regular schedule unless you hear otherwise. Should there be unforeseen circumstances, we will update you on our blog or via facebook.
  • Pray for our first responders – There are lots of courageous men and women who will be patrolling the streets, looking to help people. We are grateful for our police, fire, military and all those who serve and protect.
  • Pray for revival – Pray that God uses this event to see lives changed and restored by Jesus Christ. He is one who quiets the storms of our lives with a word.

39 And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. 40 -Mark 4:39

Blessed to be your Pastor,

Pastor Wes

Reflection

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When storms come in life, does our faith remain constant and unwavering? Certainly, storms may knock us from our feet from time-to-time…we may lose our footing, but with REAL FAITH we would not abandon ship. REAL FAITH keeps us grounded in His Word and His Will!

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