Pastor's Blog

January 2019

Fear Shouldn't Own You

One day Martin Luther (this guy, not this guy though he's cool, too) got into the pulpit to preach a sermon to the Christians gathered in Wittenberg, Germany and this is part ofwhat he said, “I am sorry I ever freed you from the tyrants and papists. You ungrateful beasts, you are not worthy of the Gospel. If you don’t improve, I will stop preaching rather than cast pearls before swine!” (source) And Martin Luther was true to his word. He stopped preaching for nine months, almost a whole year. Could you imagine!What happened? What made him stop proclaiming God’s Word?

Well, it’s the same thing that can happen to all of us. We expect God’s Word to have this or that effect on people. We want them to rejoice with us that we have a Savior. We want them to welcome the gospel message. We want this message which is so precious to us, to be precious to others, too. And when it isn’t, we get discouraged. And, like Martin Luther, we may feel like giving up.

Perhaps the greatest enemy of faith is fear. Not only is it the opposite of faith, but it’s sneaky. We often make decisions on the basis of fear without even realizing it. We may not fly on airplanes. Why? Because we’re afraid it might crash. Yet we happily get into a car where the chances of injury or death are much greater. We avoid telling someone their breath stinks. Why? We don’t want to embarrass them. We’re afraid of making them feel bad. We sometimes don’t discipline our children. Why? We’re afraid of making them upset. Why did Luther stop preaching? He was afraid. He was afraid that God’s Word wasn’t working. He was afraid that he wasn’t doing a good enough job. And we do the same thing. Fear can fill up our life and motivate our decisions. And fear can cripple us so that we stop sharing Jesus.

What we need is a way we can get rid of the fear that so easily cripples our lives. We need a way we can live fearlessly. And that starts by realizing we’re a part of God’s plan and that God gives us courage.

The apostles show us the way in Acts 4, "On their release [from court], Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said to them. When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God...'Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness...' After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly."

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Egyptian Throw Down

Exodus 7:10, "So Moses and Aaron went to Pharoaoh and did just as the LORD commanded. Aaron threw his staff down in front of Pharaoh and his officials, and it became a snake."

Imagine it was you, standing there in front of Pharaoh holding your staff in your hand. You—an Israelite. Pharaoh—an Egyptian. You—part of a slave nation, viewed by the Egyptian people as their property. Pharaoh—the king, viewed by the Egyptians as the priest of god, one who held your life in his hands. And the LORD tells you to confront Pharaoh and tell him to release his slaves. “And to prove it to you, Pharaoh, I’m going to throw down my staff on the ground and it will become a snake.”

That would take…well, let’s say courage. To storm into the palace and announce the will of the LORD to a pagan king who doesn’t even care about your so-called god—yeah that takes some courage. And you know what the remarkable thing is? Moses and Aaron did it! They presented themselves to Pharaoh, and Aaron threw his staff down right in front of him. After all, that was what the LORD had commanded him, “Take your staff and throw it down before Pharaoh.”

"Throw down your staff.” You ever had to do that before? Not literally, of course; I’m being figurative. Have you ever had to stand before a person who doesn’t believe in God’s Word, is skeptical about it and tell them things like: the world was created from nothing; there is a heaven and a hell; God is one but he is three persons; the Bible doesn’t have any mistakes. Have you ever stopped to think just how crazy you sound to that person? It takes courage.

So how do we do it? How do we have confidence in God? How do we stand before the “pharaohs” in our life and throw down our staff like Aaron did? We follow the example of Moses and Aaron remembering we have the word of God and our confidence doesn’t come from people. So take God at his word and thrown down your staff.

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Have a Hug

There’s something about a mother’s hug. I don’t know what it is, but mom’s hugs can cure all sorts of problems. Fights with siblings, stubbed toes, sore tummies, bad dreams—mom’s hugs fix them all. And it’s not just limited to mom’s hugs, of course. Dad’s hugs, or grandma’s hugs or a friend’s hugs help. What is it about them? Is it the physical contact? Is it the emotional connection and the love that a hug seems to imply? Is it just that someone cares and wants to show that love and concern? Yes, I think we’d agree.

You see, we need to feel safe. We need to have security in our life. Our bodies need to be safe. Hugs help us feel safe. And our souls need to be safe. When our souls are safe, when the essence of our humanity feels at peace that radiates out into our whole life. And there is a lot that tries to take away that safety from our souls: from an unbelieving world, to a heart corrupted with sin, to our own guilty consciences.

So Christ gathers us up. He brings us to himself. He gives us safety. John the Baptist says about Jesus, "[He will] gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire." Luke 3:17

Chaff is the unusable portion of grain. It gets thrown away. Here is comfort for the believer! Evil, wickedness and all the forces of Satan will be thrown away forever. Jesus Christ destroyed all of that on the cross when he died and proclaimed that victory when he rose from the dead. 

And you and I who have placed our hope in Jesus, we will be gathered up forever. Safe!

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Does the Christmas Star Still Shine?

Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson went on a camping trip. After a good meal and a bottle of wine, they lay down for the night and went to sleep. Some hours later, Holmes awoke and nudged his faithful friend, "Watson, look up at the sky and tell me what you see." Watson replied, "I see millions and millions of stars."

"What does that tell you?"

Watson pondered for a minute. "Astronomically, it tells me that there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets. Astrologically, I observe that Saturn is in Leo. Horologically, I deduce that the time is approximately a quarter past three. Theologically, I can see that God is all powerful and that we are small and insignificant. Meteorologically, I suspect that we will have a beautiful day tomorrow. Why, what does it tell you?"

Holmes was silent for a moment, and then spoke. "Watson, that’s not it at all. Some jerk has stolen our tent!"

Maybe you’ve found yourself lost in the sky. I can confess that from early on I have been fascinated with the night sky. I remember often looking out and seeing all the stars, trying to remember the names of all the different constellations. Watson was right: from the sky we can see that God truly is a powerful being. And that same amazement has gripped man from the beginning. So much so that God had to warn the Israelites not to worship the Sun, Moon and stars.

Shortly after Christ’s birth, the night sky drew the special attention of a group of Magi from the east. They noticed a star, and from what they knew about the Jewish religion they knew this star meant a king was born. And this special star led them to Christ. Ever since Matthew wrote about the visit of the Magi, the Christian Church has celebrated the season of Epiphany. The season of Christ’s light shining out. 

The Magi show us something incredible about God’s plan though. Even though they were foreigners, God took extraordinary measures so they would find Christ. God’s message is pretty clear: Jesus is for Jews and Gentiles alike, he came for the entire world. That’s the world you and I are very much a part of. We are worldly-minded, sinful people, yet we are the people Jesus came to rescue. We are the people God leads to Jesus with that star shining in the sky. As we follow that star, we find a baby human being; we see God’s love there because God became flesh. The star leads us into the life of Christ: his gentle words, his perfect life, a perfect life lived in our place. The star leads us onward to the top of a hill outside Jerusalem, to a cross where Christ poured out his blood for the payment of our sins. It leads us to a tomb where he was laid and where he would rise again on Easter morning. The star of Epiphany points the way to our rescuer, the one who lived and died to rescue us from the punishment of our sins and who rose again to prove it was true, who shines brighter than that Epiphany star and leads us on to eternal life in heaven. Follow the star to Christ: it leads the world to find him.

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What Kind of Jesus?

Imagine you woke up one day and the world had changed. Everything looked the same, but as you were brushing your teeth, something just felt odd. You go grocery shopping that day and as you go down the aisles you notice what’s happened: there is no more variety. You get to the apples and instead of there being Fuji, Washington Delicious, Granny Smith, Braeburn, Pink Lady, all the kinds of apples you’re used to seeing, you only see one kind: Apple. You head to cereal and notice instead of Lucky Charms, Cheerios and Corn Flakes there’s only one kind of cereal called “Healthy Morning Breakfast”, a whole aisle of it. And on and on down your list it’s the same thing. Instead of there being variety, there is only a single brand, or a single kind. It’s a strange thought because we are very used to there being many kinds. We have a consumerist mindset which says if enough people want this kind of thing they’ll get it.

So what kind of Savior would you like today? You can have a loving one, a stern one. You can have one who is your friend, one who is your confidant. You can a have a powerful savior, or a hands-off savior. You can even have a savior who will hide himself away and only come out when you want him. There are a lot of options out there for what kind of savior you can have. There are even churches that will give people the kind of savior they want on that particular day. But will they have “the Savior,” the one the Bible tells us about?

The kind of Savior the Bible describes is the kind of savior who bleeds and dies. It describes the kind of savior who died when he was only about 30 years old. We have the kind of savior who called himself God but needed to sleep; who allowed himself to be tortured. And this is the Savior the world needs. Not the kind of savior the world wanted. No, humanity’s savior is the one who bleeds and dies so he could dismantle death. Humanity’s savior is the one who bleeds and dies so he could pay for sin. In fact, humanity’s savior is a human being, just like them.

Hebrews 2:14-15, "Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death--that is, the devil--and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death."

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The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? ~ PSALM 27:1