Pastor's Blog

October 2016

Live Clean

There is a desire inside of us that I think we pretty much share universally. Some people are more particular than others, but we all share the desire to be clean. We want clean homes, clean bodies, clean cities. No one likes to come home and have the house smell like the trash can; or to come home and find bugs crawling over the kitchen counter. “Yuck!” we say because we rightly associate dirt and filth with germs and disease. We don’t want to be unclean.

There is also a spiritual component to this desire to be clean. We want cleanliness because we want a clean soul. We know in our hearts that our thoughts are not always decent, that our lives are not always pure and that we do things that make us feel dirty. So we try to clean everything in our lives in the hopes that maybe if our environment is cleaner, our souls will be cleaner, too. Lady Macbeth wandered about the castle her hands stained with the guilt of murder and she cried out, “Will these hands never be clean?” How do you clean a human soul?

The answer to that question is to look somewhere else than your environment or even inside your own soul. It is to look to our Savior, Jesus Christ. He was born with a pure soul. And his pure soul caused him to live a pure life. And his pure life led him to the cross with all its shame and ugliness. And in purity of soul he took upon himself the impurity of your soul. He took your sin, with all its shame and ugliness. And now, being shameful and ugly himself, he was pinned to a shameful and ugly cross. And there he died an ugly death but accomplished a beautiful goal: the purity of your soul and mine.

What Jesus did on the cross was to pay for our sin and then cover us with his righteousness. When he rose from the dead on Easter, that was God telling you and me that he had accepted Christ's payment. That he no longer considered your impure.

And now you're clean. So go and live clean.

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FWIW: Pray

Sometimes I wonder if we’d just like to give up on God. When things aren’t going well and we’ve asked, and we’ve asked and we’ve asked God for this one thing—just this one thing God—and it never comes, sometimes we just throw our hands up in the air and give up. “Why does it matter if I pray at all, it never gets answered anyway?” We stand at the edge of the loved-one’s hospital bed, dreading the thought of losing them. And we pray for a miracle that never comes and the loved one slips away into death. We look around us; we see the evil in the world, the confusion and the chaos. We hear the prayers on Sunday for peace. But it never comes! Isn’t God listening, doesn’t he care? Or maybe we give up on God a different way. We become cynical fatalists. We think: if God knows what’s going to happen anyway, then why bother praying about it. He’s just going to do what he wants anyway. And you add to all of this the criticism and hatred of a sinful world and maybe you wonder if prayer is even worth it.

So we give up on praying. But what are we really giving up? Prayer is something believers need to do. But a broken prayer life - a life where we give up on praying, a life where our prayers are just selfish, a life where our prayers are nothing but thoughtless babbling—that kind of broken prayer life is evidence of a broken faith. When we give up on praying, have we not also given up on God?

If this is you—and who of us hasn’t been there—then you know why you need a Savior. You know you need a God who is patient with you and who cares about you. You need a God who cares about justice and right and wrong. And our God, the one true God, sent Jesus to take care of that. All the wrong of this world, the wrong things we do, the wrong prayers, the wrong thoughts—all the sin was punished on the cross. Justice was carried out when God punished Jesus in your place.

And so Jesus becomes your prayer to God. The Bible calls Jesus your mediator—your go-between, between you and God. Jesus goes to God on your behalf to show God the sacrifice he made for your sin. He prays to God offering him his perfect life which covers over our sins. He has the ear of his Father to tell him that all sin has been paid, that you are covered in the robe of his perfect life. Jesus is your prayer of forgiveness that God answered with a definitive yes.

So now God listens to you when you pray to him. He hears you because you are one of his chosen ones. God has chosen you out of this world, before time even began, to be his own. You are his child; of course God will listen to you. That’s his promise and God would never lie to us.

So pray! Don’t give up. The Lord answers your prayers. When you pray to God, you don’t bring your prayers to him because of the answers he gives. That would make God into some kind of magic genie. So why pray to him? Because he has promised to hear and to answer you. It is his promise that invites us--even more--that compels us to pray and never give up.

For what it's worth--pray!

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Thanksgiving Change

This is the story of Marcus. Marcus was a teenager who struggled through life with a stutter. He had a hard time making friends and saying simple things so he felt like an outcast. One day, his doctor showed him a tiny device that looked like a hearing aid. He said that it might fix his stutter. Marcus was a little skeptical, but there was no harm in trying. When he put the device in his ear, the change was immediate. His stutter was gone; he could even say with ease phrases that he normally avoided. His life changed in a moment. When he went back to school the next day, his friends noticed a difference and he couldn’t stop talking to them about the change in his life. He was proud and confident and best of all he no longer felt like an outcast.

I’m not sure if we always realize that the same thing has happened to us. Like Marcus our lives are different because we’ve been cleansed from sin. But instead of living in thankful exuberance, we get wrapped up in our little lives, going here and there, and living like the rest of the world. But in the quiet hours of the night, when our consciences finally have a moment to speak to us without being drowned out, they remind us of how we have failed God today. Of how we have done this thing wrong or that thing wrong. They remind us that our lives are full of the sin.

We easily forget that. Maybe that’s one reason we’re so busy these days, we don’t want to hear our consciences so we drown them out with other things. But our consciences don’t go away. And we know that God is not happy with us, and that we will have to answer to him.

But maybe what we forget is the change that has taken place. In spite of our sin, we are always loved. God made sure we would know that by sending his son to be the perfect sacrifice for our sins. His blood on the cross washes our hearts and cleans them from our sin. God sent the Holy Spirit into our hearts to create faith that trusts in the promises of God.

We’re saved! We’re cleansed from sin. Now when our consciences remind us of how we have failed God, we can answer back, “Jesus died for me. I appeal to that; I appeal to the love of God.” Like Marcus, we are no longer outcasts from God’s family, but we have been adopted through Christ, we are now sons and daughters of the ruler and judge of the universe. You think that’s a big deal? You bet it is, because not only does it mean we have a reason to rejoice here on earth, but it means we have a reason to rejoice forever in heaven.

And that change is now. And it's a change that gives us a reason to thankful.

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Promises that Work

Faith really isn’t that impressive of a thing. The world throws the word around as though it were wishful thinking. “You just got to have a little faith!” But where does that come from? If someone tells me to put an apple on my head while they go over there and try to shoot the apple with their bow and arrow I’m basing my confidence on that person’s ability to shoot accurately. When Jesus tells me to trust in him, what am I basing my confidence on? Promises. I’m basing it all on his promises. But the best part is that the ability to trust in those promises, faith itself, comes from Jesus. Jesus says believe, and then provides me with the ability to do just that. That’s the power of God’s Word. God’s Word has the ability to change my heart so I believe. So if I want to keep trusting, I must stay connected to the source of that power.

Jesus said faith as small as a mustard seed can do great things. That's because it's not the faith itself, it's the Word of God that gives it power. That simple little message of God's love gives our mustard-seed faith the strength to grow strong, and root itself deeply in God’s love which he showed us in Jesus Christ.

If we want to have a stronger faith Jesus tells us: grow by staying connected.

Where else do you hear about God’s love for you but in the Word? Stay connected to that. What else reminds you of God’s promises to keep you strong but his Word? Stay connected! Stay connected at home by carving out ten minutes to sit and read about God’s love on your own or with your family. Stay connected to those promises by coming frequently to worship. Our mission, the mission of the church, is growing by staying connected to the Word which nourishes faith. You want a strong faith? I guarantee you, no, the creator of the universe, God himself, guarantees you that you will find it right here in his word, the word of promises that work.

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For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son. ~ JOHN 3:16