Pastor's Blog

November 2014

The Tastier Thanksgiving

Well, it was 10 o’clock. The party was totally lame, totally boring. All because Jeff wasn’t there. Jeff was the glue that held this group together. Without him, people weren’t having a great time. The life of the party was missing.

Does that ever happen to Thanksgiving? Is the life of Thanksgiving missing?

It’s easy to lose our Thanksgiving connection. All you have to do is get lost in all the other things about Thanksgiving: the get-together, the food, the relaxation, the family drama. And when that eclipses our relationship with God, then we lose the connection to him. Thanksgiving becomes an opportunity for me to get what I want. Then Thanksgiving is a sham of a holiday because we’ve disconnected ourselves from God’s love.

Then how can we ever appreciate anything in life? How can we be thankful--always--even when life is difficult? If I’m not connected to God, life is nothing but a joyless rejection of his blessings. And that deserves nothing but God’s punishment.

Can you and I re-discover the connection to real thanksgiving?

St. Paul said in 1 Thessalonians 5, "Be joyful always." He was happy because the gospel worked! The gospel is good news; it is good news of God’s love for sinners. The gospel tells you that even when you were a sinner, God loved you. And the gospel tells you that God has forgiven you because Christ died to pay for your sins. Christ came to speak tender words of forgiveness to the guilt-ridden, the poor in spirit, the ones who think they are worthless in God’s eyes. These are the ones to whom Christ says, “Be of good cheer! Your sins are forgiven.”

Imagine that! A wretched wretch like me, forgiven! A sinful sinner like you has had the wall of sin torn down and the way to God opened up. Christ reconnects me and you to God. This is the reason to be joyful because we have everything we could ever need: all of God’s love, for all time.

So as you participate in your Thanksgiving ritual, whatever it might be, speak a word about the joy and thanks you have because you have been forgiven. I promise you that you will serve better food with those words than the perfect turkey. And I bet the rest of the meal will taste better, too.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Unified with God Forever

Sometimes feel so lost in this world. We live as exiles from God. What do the Scriptures say? “Your sin separates you from God.” That’s why Adam and Eve were so afraid of God after they ate the forbidden fruit. It’s why when you do something to hurt your spouse, or your friend, you don’t even want to look at them. Sin separates us, it divides. And sin defiles us. It is an infection of the soul that rots it away so that we cannot be in God’s presence. Sin is transgression. God says, “Don’t go over here and sin. Don’t cross this line.” And we do. We rebel. So God promises exile for us, God will throw us out of his presence forever. And we would deserve it.

 If you feel you like you’re all alone in this, like you have already been exiled, then God wants you know the hope he has for you. He has a country for you. He has a place for the lonely, the exiled, the sinner. He has a place he has created where there is perfect unity with other people, where souls are cleansed forever and where hearts are set straight once and for all. We catch a glimpse of this place at the cross of Jesus Christ.

In a way of thinking, the cross was a gateway reconnecting God with sinful man. And really it wasn’t the cross itself, it was the person on it who made that connection. In order to reunite you and me with God, Jesus had to make peace with him. So he offered himself to be punished for us so that God wouldn’t need to punish people anymore, he wouldn’t need to exile them from his presence because the price for sin was paid and we have peace with God. His punishment not only brings peace, but it purifies the soul. The perfect life that Christ led is given to us and God treats us as though we were perfect. We, who were once so far away from God, can now stand in his presence. God unifies us with his forgiveness.

Of course, right now, we don’t always feel that in our life, right? We know we are forgiven, we know we have peace with God, but we still sin. And so, right now, we struggle against sin because we want to live for God. And that struggle is a good thing because it reminds you that God’s love is alive and working in your heart. So imagine what it would be like to not have to struggle against temptation? No sexual temptations, no temptations to hurt other people with our words, no temptations to steal, no temptations to doubt God’s love. No struggle to do the right thing anymore. Imagine that, parents? Imagine not having to “get” your child to do something—they would just do it. If you could envision this, then you are picturing what heaven will be like.

The triumph of heaven, at least in part, is that we won’t have to struggle against our sinfulness anymore. Through Christ we are victorious. And that victory is yours right now, even though you don’t have it in full. Consider your faith and love for God a little down payment from God. The rest is yet to come. So we don’t have to worry about being exiled forever, God unifies us with his forgiveness.

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Judgment Day Survival Kits

Everyone needs a Judgment Day survival kit. And the first thing in that kit is God’s goodness. When we look at God’s goodness: his love, his tolerance, his patience; boy, don’t we abuse that? I know I do. I sin. I know God’s loves me, but I sin anyway. Sometimes we go and sin, we see that we don’t get punished for it, and we think to ourselves, “I got away with it!” But that’s just a lie. Or we think we can just go back and say we’re sorry later, God will forgive me. We put off our relationship with God, we start losing that connection to his Word. And it’s just excuse after excuse. And God is patient with us. But there will come a time when his patience will end. When you abuse God’s goodness, you are storing up God’s wrath for yourself.

This is why we need God’s goodness right now. We know God is good: we see how he takes care of us physically. But way beyond the physical is the spiritual. No matter how much sin, God forgives. No matter how many times we spurn him, he still loves us. Now is the time of his forgiveness. Now is the time of his love.

And when it comes to punishment for sin, God punishes his son instead. God doesn’t forsake you now because Jesus Christ was forsaken in your place. My sin and your sin of abusing God’s goodness was heaped upon the shoulders of our Savior and he died in our place.

And the Lord treats us patiently. He gives us time to grow as his children. We are all works-in-progress. And that is only by the grace of God.

God’s goodness is like a bandage. He takes our hearts broken with sin and binds them up with his love. He covers over the wounds of guilt and shame with the white bandage of Christ’s perfect life. And this goodness makes you ready for Judgment Day.

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Challenged in Faith

Daniel in the Lion's Den. Remember that story? If you remember anything at all about it remember this: Daniel was put in the lion's den because he worshiped the true God.

And When Daniel landed in that lion’s den, he understood one thing very well: he was not in charge of changing his situation. He was at the mercy of God and so that’s where he went. Does this remind you of anyone else in the Bible? A person who was faced with impossible odds, certain death and unimaginable pain; someone who threw himself at the mercy of God? Daniel reminds me of Christ!

Christ endured the lion’s den, too. His whole life was a kind of lion’s den. He was rejected and abused. He was abandoned not just by Judas, but by the church, by the government, by his own disciples and most of all by God himself! Christ lived that lion’s den. And never once did he stumble. Never once did he give in to the temptation to fight off those who were trying to snuff him out. Never once did he grumble to God that his work was too much for him. Oh yes, he suffered! Oh yes, he prayed so hard his sweat was like drops of blood! But he never for an instant wavered in his commitment to serve God faithfully.

…Because he was committed to you. He was committed to giving his life for your life. He was committed to earning perfect faithfulness for every unfaithful person like you and me.Christ’s perfect life is our perfect life. And that means that Christ’s whole life of being perfectly faithful is yours, too. Christ has covered you with his perfection.

If God views you through the perfect life of Christ, then God holds nothing against you because Christ has taken care of sin. Instead, just live! Just go and do! Worship, study God's word, pray to him—practice your faith.

And when we come up against the sinfulness of this world, Daniel helps us see the only way to survive the lion’s den is to practice our faith. Faith leads us back to Christ, who was faithful in our place. So when your faith is challenged, respond with more faith.

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