Welcome to my blog page! My desire is to post occasional devotionals and updates in an effort to inform and inspire believers in their growth in Christ and to encourage revival in the church. Comments are welcome (Our website reserve the right to review, edit, or withhold inappropriate comments).  Enjoy!  Pastor Keith Hassell
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You've Gotta Serve Somebody

Matthew 6:24 (NKJV) “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”
 
Who are you serving? No one? Think again! We are all created by God to serve somebody. We cannot serve two masters. In 1979 Bob Dylan released a song entitled, “Gotta Serve Someboy” on his album “Slow Train Coming”. The repeating chorus says: “You're gonna have to serve somebody, yes you're gonna have to serve somebody. Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord, but you're gonna have to serve somebody”. You might say, “Well, I may not be serving the Lord, but I am sure not serving the devil!” The Bible identifies the devil as the god of this age. The devil offers this world and everything in it as a substitute for God. The devil offers money, wealth, success, fame, fortune, land, houses, free time, hobbies, entertainment, music, sex, drugs, alcohol, pleasure, and a host of other things to keep us from loving and serving God. By serving these things, we serve the devil who uses them to steal away our love and service toward God. God has blessed us with things that people living in other places of the world cannot imagine. God promised to bless His people Israel when they came out of Egypt, but He warned them not to forget Him once He blessed them. If they did, they would surely perish. God will have no other gods before Him. Don’t make the tragic mistake of allowing the blessings of God to steal away your love and commitment to the God of the blessings! Serve God alone and use the blessings that He gives to bring glory to Him!

No More Fire Alarms

Joshua 24:15 (NKJV) “And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
 
Recently I was in a discussion with a few pastors. During the COVID-19 isolation so many in the churches talked about how much they missed being in the church gatherings. They couldn’t wait to get back. Even those who didn’t go to church regularly talked of their need to get back in church. It sounded like revival. Bewilderment set in as churches began to open up. Where were these enthusiastic people? The faithful were there, but what about the others? I am not surprised. You see I have seen this time and time again. God sets off the fire alarm and His people wake up in a crisis. Then when the crisis seems to be over, they go back to their regular routine. When entering the Promise Land, Israel had to make a choice. Would the LORD be their God, or would they serve the gods of the people around them. Joshua called them to choose. Serving God is not a feeling. It is a choice. Joshua said he had made his choice—as for him and his house, they would serve the LORD. You and I will never be committed to God if we base our lives on feelings. When we feel afraid or feel inspired, we run to God. When we feel secure or unmotivated, we don’t live for God. Stop basing your relationship with God on circumstances and feelings. Don’t live a “fire alarm” Christianity. Be like Joshua. Make a decision that you and your family will serve the LORD in the good times as well as in the tough times. Then it will not matter what comes. You are committed. I want to challenge you to make your choice. Your family and your future depend upon it.

Re-Opening

FROM THE PASTOR

Psalm 24:7 (NKJV) “Lift up your heads, O you gates! And be lifted up, you everlasting doors! And the King of glory shall come in.”
 
On Mother’s Day, May 10th, our church opened with public morning services with social distancing for the first time since March 15th. We had a very good turnout on that day and everyone who attended seemed glad to be back. The Sunday morning service will continue through the month of May. Prior to opening, I had been on Zoom calls with other pastors to hear from Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick and with Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. At that time they affirmed that the requirements for other businesses, schools, etc. are not required for churches. They simply asked churches to do what they think is best to both meet and keep everyone safe in light of CDC Guidelines. Recently, Texas Governor Greg Abbott approved the next phase in regard to opening child care facilities, camps, etc., all by the end of May. After consideration, the Elders have decided that, provided that there are no setbacks, beginning in June, the church will resume regular meetings for Sunday mornings, Sunday nights, and Wednesday nights. This includes re-opening nurseries and children’s church. The first Sunday night will be Family Food, Fun, and Fellowship outdoors (weather permitting) with the church providing the hotdog meal. If you are sick or have symptoms—or if your children do—then please stay home and enjoy the service by live stream. Please maintain as much social distancing and contact as possible in the beginning. Remember to cover any inadvertent cough or sneeze and practice handwashing and sanitizing. If everyone works together, we can make this re-opening successful for us all. Please continue to pray for a smooth and safe transition. 

The New Normal

Joshua 3:3–5 (NKJV) and they commanded the people, saying, ‘When you see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, and the priests, the Levites, bearing it, then you shall set out from your place and go after it. 4 Yet there shall be a space between you and it, about two thousand cubits by measure. Do not come near it, that you may know the way by which you must go, for you have not passed this way before.’ 5 And Joshua said to the people, ‘Sanctify yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you.’”

On Saturday, April 12, I awoke and went into prayer. It was during this time that I heard in my spirit the phrase “The New Normal”. This time of quarantine has brought many changes to the American way of life. It has affected businesses, schools, jobs, social gatherings, sports events, conferences, government operations, the home, and the church. People are now asking, “What will be the new normal after this is over?” Obviously, things will be different. The trauma brought about by this pandemic has scarred the American psyche. People will approach social interaction in guarded ways, at least in the beginning. What about the church? Church life has been affected. What have we learned about being the church? What should we do differently, if anything? We cannot afford to simply go back to things as they were before. This has been a time of spiritual reset for the church. We are realizing what the church is about relationships and Christian community. Christian community is the new normal. May we embrace the new normal when we come back together not “in” the church but “as” the church. I look forward to a renewal of Christian community. I look forward to the new normal!

Adapting to Change

Currently our church is adapting to a different way of worshiping and communicating as a church. This was in some way forced upon us by a little microscopic virus and the recommendations of our government. We are cooperating. We will not have physical gatherings but will live stream our services on Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings on our website and church Facebook page. We will also have a live conference call prayer/share meeting on Sunday evenings. Be involved! Get others involved! Check our church Facebook page and website for details. I don’t like change. I know you don’t like it either. But change is sometimes required. We like our “customary” worship venue and often believe it is required. Can we worship God outside of the “building”. Can we adapt? Will the Lord bless it? The Lord is reminding us that the church is not the building. It is not even the Sunday morning worship hour. The church is you and me. It is about relationship with God and one another. Relationships can grow outside the building. Paul and Silas had to learn to worship God in a prison cell. They worshiped and others noticed. Sometimes our worship has become so customary that no one notices anymore. But now, what will these “Christians” do when they can’t be in their “building”? Does the church die or thrive? Because Paul and Silas were willing to worship in a different setting, those outside the church were impacted. We must learn to adapt with the season and let our light shine. The world is listening. The world is watching. A harvest of souls is waiting.

Schedule Changes through April 2

NOTICE: All Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and Wednesday evening meetings are CANCELLED until after the first of April. We hope to meet again on Sunday, April 5th. This difficult decision was made by the Elders and me, not out of fear but, in cooperation and submission to our President’s and the CDC’s recommendations for no gatherings over ten people which are intended to curb a spike in the COVID-19 virus. We will continue to have Live Stream Only services on Sunday mornings at 10:30 am and Wednesday’s at 7:00 pm. We will have a conference call prayer/share meeting on Sunday evenings. If you would like to be included in this call, please email me at pastor@gracefellowshiprusk.com. We hope everyone will be involved as a church family. We encourage those who have internet to gather in groups less than ten in order to watch and worship together. We believe under these unusual circumstances this can be a unique time to strengthen our relationships with one another and with the Lord. Be sure to remember and reach out to those who need our extra love and attention. God is in control and we are expecting His work to be done through this in Jesus' name! Thank you!

Teach My Hands to War

2 Samuel 22:35 (NKJV) "He teaches my hands to make war, so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze."

We are soldiers in Christ’s army. (2 Timothy 2:3-4) We are not called to be passive; we are called to engage in war. This war is spiritual. Our war is not against human beings. It is a war with demonic powers controlled by Satan who deceive and imprison the souls of men (Ephesians 6:12; Revelation 12:9). Our enemy is strong and the battles are often fierce. God has given us spiritual weapons (2 Corinthians 10:3-5). We fight to deliver lost souls out of the prison of darkness. We are sent forth to declare and defend the truth that sets men free. (John 8:31-32) Those for whom we fight will often oppose us being under Satan’s control. We must not take their opposition personal. We must not allow Satan’s evil to get inside of us lest it win. The LORD taught David how to fight to win. We need to ask the Lord to teach us how to fight also. The LORD will teach us how to engage in spiritual warfare in order to overcome the enemy’s power and to win souls. We must not fight evil with evil; we must overcome evil with good. It is time to learn how to fight spiritual battles. It is time to learn how to win. “Lord, teach our hands to war!”                                   

Redeeming the Time

Ephesians 5:15–16 (NKJV) “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, 16 redeeming the time, because the days are evil.”
 
We are living in evil days. Spiritual darkness is covering the earth and deep darkness the people. (Isaiah 60:2) As faultless children of God, we are called to shine as lights in the midst of this crooked and perverse generation. (Philippians 2:15) Our lives are to be on display for the world to see. The world is watching whether we realize it or not. We are not to imitate their crooked and perverse way of thinking, speaking, and living. Those in darkness live wreckless lives without considering the consequences of their choices. We, however, are to walk “circumspectly”, not as fools but as wise. To walk “circumspectly” means to carefully consider all of the circumstances and their possible consequences. Instead of adding to the evil around us, we are to redeem the time and opportunities that God has given us to shine as lights in the darkness around us. We are to live as a godly witness and example to our children, family, co-workers, friends, and to new believers. People are watching to see if we live what we profess. We are instruments of God’s light to redeem those still in darkness. May we shine in the darkness around us while we still have time! May others see, believe, and be set free from the evil grip of darkness!                  

Arise Shine!

Isaiah 60:1–4 (NKJV) “Arise, shine; for your light has come! And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you. 2 For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and deep darkness the people; but the Lord will arise over you, and His glory will be seen upon you. 3 The Gentiles shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising. 4 Lift up your eyes all around, and see: they all gather together, they come to you; your sons shall come from afar, and your daughters shall be nursed at your side.”
 
God is on the move! When God is on the move, He expects us to move with Him! When God brings light into the darkness around us, He expects us to arise and shine forth as reflections of His light. When God’s light begins to shine through us, people will take notice. They will either recoil at God’s light or receive God’s light. Those who receive God’s light will be drawn to God’s Lighthouse on earth, the local church, which is filled with God’s Light Bearers. Like the wise men who came to Bethlehem, secular leaders will begin to seek out the wisdom from above for the desperate problems of our day. When God’s light begins to shine and His glory is made manifest, even those straying sons and daughters and lost family members will begin to come back to God and be discipled at your side. What a wonderful prospect! What a wonderful promise! God is on the move. Don’t sit around hide the light. Arise, shine, for your light has come!    Happy New Year!                        

Love One Another

John 13:34–35 (NKJV) “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
 
The one commandment that Jesus gave to us is the commandment to love. Who are we to love? We are to love one another. How are we to love one another? We are to love as Christ has loved us. How has Christ loved us? He lived to serve us and died to save us. Why are we to love one another? It is so that others will know that we are His disciples. They will not know that we are His disciples by the profession of our love for God. Many claim to love God but do not love others. They will not know that we are His disciples by our profession to love one another. They will know that we are His disciples because they see how we love one another. They will see the love of Jesus in us! Those who love have seen God and know God, for God is love. Therefore, love is the most important virtue of our Christian life. Love is the King of all virtues. Without love, nothing else matters. The buildings we worship in will one day be gone. The ministry tools we use will one day be outdated or perish. The ministry positions we hold will one day be retired. Our petty preferential differences will be our shame. The only thing that will matter when this life is over is the relationship we have with God and with one another. The most important thing that we have in this life are not things but our spiritual family. We are part of God’s forever family. Therefore, let us love one another as Christ has loved us. Remember, it is Christ’s command.                                                   We love you!  Pastor Keith & Sheila

 
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