Pastor's Blog

January 2016

Lose the Fear...Gain Everything

The great enemy of faith is fear. God invites us to trust in his promises; to trust that he has saved us from sin and has given us heaven as our home.

But fear threatens that because it is the opposite of faith. Fear teaches us to make decisions that are based on self-preservation, or on keeping the things that we want. It can ultimately be a very selfish feeling. Not that fear is bad in and of itself, it's what it leads us to believe and do that matters. Any mother who has feared for their child's safety can tell you that. On the healthy side of things, that kind of fear can cause a mother to protect her child. On the unhealthy side, it can cause her to live life as a nervous wreck. In either case though, it may still be sinful because fear tends to put the emphasis on our own efforts and not on God's.

Consider how we're often, as Christians, afraid of society, or afraid of how people may react if we tell them about Jesus, or tell them that the way they live their life is contrary to God's will. Yet we know we should share Jesus and promote the truth of his word. Fear is a sneaky enemy.

The antitode to fear is to recognize your place in history. While none of us are indispensable to the operation of this world and the progress of humanity; all of us are part of God's plan. Nothing happens in this world without our gracious God knowing it. The one who has numbered the very hairs of your head, and knows when each one falls, also knows how your life and the circumstances of it, fit in to his divine master plan.

But if we had our choice, we'd rather work against God's plan. But God changed that in us when he rescued us from our sinfulness, when he placed us into his family and then put us in the midst of his unfolding plan. You and I, by God's abundant grace, are part of the Holy Christian Church. This is not a building, or a movement or an organization. This is a group of human souls, bound together by the love of God, and sharing that love in all we say and do. We, together with those all over the world who believe, are part of God's plan to bring the message of Jesus to the very ends of the earth. By that measure, nothing we do is insignifcant, even if it looks that way in the eyes of the world. It is significant because God is using us to share his love.

And that's what chases fear away. Being a part of God's plan means God has taken control away from us. We are not in charge of the final results. We are not responsible for God's plan succeeding or not. We proclaim God's love. And God's love is everything. And we have nothing to be afraid of.

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Unrwap Your Epiphany Gift

The most sublime thing about Christmas is our Savior, there is no doubting that. The yearly celebration of his birth sets in motion a chain of events that takes us to the cross, the empty tomb and our eternal lives with Christ. To celebrate that sublime forgiveness through Christ, Christians began to give gifts to one another to symbolize the gift we all received through Jesus Christ.

So probably the most exciting thing about Christmas is this custom of giving gifts. These treasures of love come to us all wrapped up. They sit there under the tree for several weeks perhaps, or seem to magically appear overnight through the work of happily sleep-deprived parents. And there they are: great mystery surrounding each one. We guess. We wonder. We maybe even hope. That excitement builds as we take our turns digging into to each mysterious gift, unwrapping it, trying to anticipate what is within the box.

We like to see the happiness on the faces of loved ones as they see their gifts for the first time. How meaningless and how unsatisfying if the gift is no surprise, if the gift was earned or expected! We want to go through the trouble of finding the perfect gift because we want our loved ones to be happy.

If you can understand this whole culture surrounding Christmas gifts, then you can begin to understand God’s ardent joy as he gives gifts to you. Normally we think of Christmas as the season of gift-giving. But it is in Epiphany when God’s gifts are finally unwrapped. Let's take a quick look at one special gift.

Your gifts are just that. They come undeserved and unearned. These gifts come from God who considered what each of us needed. And he designed one special gift to match your greatest need. And if you would unwrap this gift and look inside you might be surprised: there is only a simple, white card. The card says in bold letters, “Jesus is Lord.” This is God’s gift? What does it mean that God’s gift to you and me is to be able to say, “Jesus is Lord”? It means that God owns your soul. It means that the responsibility for your eternal destiny is no longer on your shoulders. It means that you no longer must figure out how to be right with God because you were declared innocent of the charge of sin. God’s gift, then, is to forgive us. His gift is to enable us to say in joy and freedom, “Jesus is Lord, my Lord!” and to know in your soul that all is forgiven.

This is the gift of the Holy Spirit, who creates that faith. This is the gift of God who loves. This is the gift of God who knows you. This is a gift from the Holy Trinity who is involved in your life and invested in your salvation. Unwrap this gift each day.

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Well pleased...with you

The season of Epiphany is the season of the church year when we remember the visit of the wisemen to the house of Jesus. We remember how they worshiped Jesus and then presented him with their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. You might even remember how wicked King Herod wanted to know where Jesus was born so he could kill him, and so the wisemen went back to their home by a different route.

The first Sunday after Epiphany is the celebration of when Jesus was baptized. Epiphany is all about revealing who Jesus is and what he came to do. At his baptism, Jesus was identified by God as the son of God whom God loved. God said that he was well-pleased with Jesus.

It's pretty incredible if you think about it. Jesus hasn't really done anything yet. He's hardly even said anything publicly. He hasn't done any miracles yet. He hasn't preached any sermons. And he certainly hasn't gone to Jerusalem to suffer and die on the cross. And already, God the Father says, "I am well pleased with him."

It's a reminder of Jesus' perfection. Already from the moment of his birth, Jesus was busy being perfect. As a little boy running around the house he obediently listened to his mom and dad. As a teenager, he diligently restrained his body and made good decisions. As a young man he made an honest living and understood the importance of providing. In other words, in every way he was perfect.

And that teaches us something quite important about Jesus, even before he preached a sermon or performed a miracle: he was busy being our Savior by being perfect.

We understand imperfection. We look at our bodies and we see they don't always work so well. We see a world that doesn't follow God, that tolerates evil, that grows more and more wicked. We know family members and the hurtful things they have said and done to us. We know sin. And we know that we are NOT pleasing to God.

But Jesus was. From the moment he took upon himself human flesh, he was busy living the life we couldn't, wouldn't and should live. He was busy doing things right--in our place. And he was doing that for you and me who are so plagued by our sin and the sin of others. And he covers you and me with his perfection. So when God said that he was pleased with Jesus, he could also say that he is pleased with you. Covered in Christ's perfect life, covered in his righteousness, God is pleased to call you one of his children. And by God's grace, that's what you are: a child of God who gives him great joy.

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One More Christmas Blessing: Hope

Hope is a delicate thing. You see it in sports when a team is up, confidence is high, but then a few things start to go wrong and all of the sudden the hope seems to drift away. Our lives are like that too: hope can struggle to survive.

The problem here isn't that hope is so weak. All hope really is, is a promise. And you know like I do that a promise is only as good as the person who makes it. A lot of people promise a lot of good things, but, as they say, the proof is in the pudding.

But what about when things get serious in our life? Where does hope fit in. Let's take the person who struggles with addiction and wants to straighten their life out. What hope is there for that person when they know their addiction makes them unreliable. They can promise they'll never shoot heroin again, but the addiction has more power than they do. What hope is there? Or what about hope that your children will grow up to be responsible adults; that your health will be steady; that your retirement plans will succeed?

What we need is something better to build hope on. And that's where Christmas comes in. This world has really done a dis-service to us by turning Christmas into a consumer-driven frenzy of material happiness. Even a kid knows that no toy can truly make them happy forever. No, Christmas has something much better to offer: the promise of love that God kept.

God's promise is nearly as old as this world is. His promise was to send a Savior to destroy the work of the devil. To destroy the power of sin. To destroy the grip that death holds on people. In other words, God's promsie was a promise to fix our biggest problem, and the one problem that causes all the other problems. Christmas is about a Savior from sin: my sin, your sin and the sin of the people in your life. Jesus fulfilled the promise by living a perfect life and then offering that perfect life as a sin payment on the cross. Because of his work, you are saved from punishment and have eternal life in heaven.

This promise fulfilled is why you can have hope. In spite of all that is wrong with you and this world, God's love for you is certain. No that doesn't take the pain of disease or hardship away. But it does mean that when the end of the ages comes, you will stand on the side of God and will live with him forever in perfection. That is the ultimate resolution to every problem we face: God will take it away in eternity.

And we can believe it, because of the one who made that promise to us: God, who sent Jesus at Christmas to be our Savior.

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Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. ~ LUKE 12:32