Pastor's Blog

October 2015

Get It Done - God's Way

I’ve always been a very ambitious person. For example, early on, God put it into my heart to be a pastor. I remember growing up: Pastor Henning, standing up in front of the congregation in his black robe, speaking the words of the liturgy with authority: “I said I will my confess my transgressions unto the Lord!” And I knew, “That’s what I wanted to do.” And one day, coming out of church, I grabbed Pastor Henning’s hand and declared to him in front of my mother and the entire church, “Pastor Henning, when you die, I’m going to have your job!” If my mother could have sunk into the tile floor she would have! Ambitious, wouldn’t you say?

We have all kinds of ambitions: some career, some achievement, some improvement in our life. But what is it that drives you to get it done? For most of us, we would have say that our motives are not always in line with God’s. It’s not that God doesn’t want us to accomplish things, but he wants us to do it for the right reason.

But where does ambition lead you? And what motivates those ambitions? The answer to those two questions is very crucial. You may gain career advancement, but lose the love of your family—worth it? You may so desire the love of another person, even your spouse, that you desperately cling to them begging them to love you back that, in the end, they stop loving you because you chased them away. You may desire a career or a lifestyle that your parents disapprove of. Is it worth it to achieve your ambition, but lose their respect? Or, if getting your goal means losing the love of God, have you gained anything? Wasn’t it Jesus who said, “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world yet forfeit his soul?” If you are pursuing your goals because you’re the big shot who makes the calls in your life, then you might as well be storming into God’s Temple and ordering him around.

Not a good idea. Not if you value your soul.

Here's a better one: “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many.” That's Jesus. He came with godly ambition: to die in your place for your sin; to live his life focused on only one ambition--God's. The perfect ambition of service to God that we just can’t do, Jesus did, to fulfill God’s requirement for you. And by keeping God’s will and following it all the way to the cross, Jesus purchased you back from your selfish ambition.

So let’s get rid of these selfish ambitions. It’s not that we shouldn’t achieve goals anymore, but we don’t need to be selfish. Jesus set you free from that sin, so don’t live in it any longer. Take a look at why you want to achieve things and if you find that it’s selfish, let it go, you don't need that, you don't want that. You want to serve like Jesus served you.

That’s getting it done God’s way.

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Do More - You can

If you've ever said to yourself: I wish I could do more for my church, for my spiritual life, for my family or for myself then ask yourself why you want those things. What motivates that desire? Is it love for God or love for greed?

Greed happens when we set our hearts on having an excessive amount of something. It’s not enough to just have a home, but I’ve got to have a home, and a boat, and a 4-wheeler, and a cabin up north. It’s not enough to have a steady job that meets my needs, but I’ve got to have a job, and a promotion, and a raise. It’s not enough to have friends, but I’ve got to be friends with everyon on Facebook, they have to like all my posts, and everyon has to like me and what I wear no matter what. This is all greed.

A greed has a terrible habit of choking off faith; choking off God's love from us so we live in fear and anger; or in ignorance or unbelief.

God’s mercy pushes greed out of our life. It does that by taking care of your greatest need: you have peace with God, you will not die for your sins, and you have eternal life. This gives you security to know that in the craziness of life, in the dark moments of sinfulness, God has not given up on you, but loves you with an immeasurable love. Then with your spirit at ease you can reject greed and keep your earthly treasures in a heavenly balance.

God’s mercy teaches us to reject the idea that money is for us to use as we please, like a toy. So we reject greed in all of its forms. We can reject this insatiable desire for more more more and replace it with God’s mercy. This is what balances us.

And when you are balanced then you can use money without being owned by money. You can evaluate how you spend your money. You can consider what worthwhile investments your money can make both in your life and the life of your family; and in your spiritual life and for the gospel.

In short, you can go your merry way, singing the song of grace in your heart, because you’re at peace with God and now, you can do more.

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God's Happy Family

Some people believe that the family is in decline. Others say, “Families aren’t in decline, families are just changing.” Whatever your particular view is, the statistics are pretty engaging. According to US Census data, in 1950, 78 percent of all households were married couples. By 2000, that number had changed to only 52 percent. Is the family in decline? Internationally the numbers are similar. In 1985 in Finland, 85 percent of their children lived with married parents. By 1999, it was 75 percent. In Greece in the 90s, 42 percent of their homes had two married parents and at least one child, by 2001 it was 38 percent. Is the family in decline, or is it just changing?

In studying this I read that it isn’t so much that the family is in decline. That’s been a major headlines for years, dating back to the 1880s. But the statistics get us thinking about our own families, our own culture and society. They make us wonder, “What about the next generation? How will they view the family?” The duty really falls to us, doesn’t it? We must instill not only in ourselves, but in the people whose lives we influence, a desire for strong families.

Families are the foundation of society. God weaved that into the fabric of life and his will, his directive, his purpose for the family is that it would be a happy family. Not happy like you and I would probably think. But a happy family is a family built on a marriage that God made, and a family that is blessed by Jesus. This kind of family will always be a benefit to society and more importantly a seedbed for the gospel.

So let Jesus be a part of your family. Let Jesus have a place at your dinner table, a place in your quiet time, a seat where he can sooth the sadness of life and sin. Jesus is our cure and our cause for happy families. He cures the unhappiness of sin by dying to pay for sin. He causes happiness by showing us the forgiveness and eternal life he has earned. And when he becomes the center of my life, he becomes the center of my family, and that family is God's happy family.

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Maybe it's time to change plans?

Plans have a way of changing on us. I can vividly remember standing on the freshly cured cement of my home congregation's brand new church. I was with my pastor at the time and while we were happy that the new church was going up, he was bothered by something. It turned out the church had been laid out incorrectly becuase the concrete had been pour out wrong. Whoops! But it was too late to tear things down and start over. So, the plans for the building had to change.

But you know what? That church still stands today. God's word is being proclaimed faithfully. Babies are being baptized. People are growing in their faith. And I doubt anyone cares that the concrete was poured incorrectly.

When plans change in your life, can you take that kind of attitude? Or are you too focused on yourself to see that God is still with you, even when your plans change? It's easy to do that! It's easy to get so wrapped up in what we feel are the important things, when the most important thing is still happening: God's love is getting proclaimed.

It's really just a matter of focus. If you're focused on yourself, your plans will only serve you. But if you are focused on others then you'll never be worried that your plans don't work out; instead, you'll be wondering how you can change your plans to meet the needs of others.

You can have that kind of attitude when Christ lives in your heart. When you see what Christ did to serve you, how he bled and died to make you right with God, then your attitude begins to change. You don't need to be served by others becuase Jesus took care of your greatest spiritual needs. Now you can focus on living for Jesus and to do that, all you have to do is look into the eyes of the people that are around you and serve them.

Then when plans change--which they will--you won't throw your hands up in frustration. Instead, you will marvel at the opportunities to serve that you never knew were right in front of you the whole time.

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Is Your Church in First Place

Sometimes I wonder if we’re trying to get to first place by our own power. Let me explain. We look around at all the other churches and we see what they’re doing and we wonder why we can’t be like that. We see that this one has a school, or that one has a great youth program, or this one over here has a popular family ministry. We see all these external things and we wish that we could be like them.

It’s easy to get lost in all the possibilities for church ministry. I get emailes telling me exactly what we needed to do to be a successful church, a guaranteed plan for growth and active ministries. It’s tempting to chase after those things because we desperately want to be successful. We desperately want to show God we can run a church. But these noble intentions quickly lead to feeding our own appetites. And our eyes become more interested in our own accomplishments than in what truly matters. We seek our own glory.

Why are we trying to look the best? Why do we have this desire to achieve glory for ourselves? Why do we need to prove to other people that we are a successful congregation, that we are successful Christians? We don’t need to do any of that. We don’t need to because we are close to the cross. The cross is what makes us successful. It is Christ who leads us and Christ leads a first-place church. He leads you and me to be the kind of church that excels in service and the kind of church that welcomes gospel progress. We don’t need to be told we’re successful by the people of this world. We only need to remember how Christ has already made us successful with his cross.

The church is all about how Christ served us with his perfect life and his perfect death. His service paid the awful price of sin: the price that we could never pay if we would suffer a hundred eternities. It is the price of the blood of the perfect Lamb of God, shed for you, for the forgiveness of sins. It is the price of his body, given for you, for the forgiveness of sins. Shed, given, poured out, offered—none of these are encouragements for us to do, but encouragements for us to receive. We are served by Christ’s perfect death that atones for our sins, that pays the guilt price of an eternal death that we could never pay.

So if your church is centered on the cross, then you are the Church that Christ leads, a first place church.

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For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. ~ ROMANS 6:23