Pastor's Blog

December 2015

A Christmas Mystery

Sometimes, God has to do things that we don't understand.

Take Jesus and his parents, for instance. When Jesus was 12 years old, he stayed at the Temple while his parents went back home to Nazareth. When they discovered him missing, they searched all over Jerusalem, and found him in the Temple. Exasperated, his mother said, "We've been looking all over for you. Why have you treated us this way?" 

Jesus' response, "Didn't you know I had to be in my Father's house?"

Didn't you know...

Obviously not! It seems incredible to us that Jesus would even think to say that to his parents. After all, he was the one that decided to stay behind. If your kid did this, there would surely be some unpleasant consquences. 

But Jesus didn't sin. He was doing the work of his Father. In fact he couldn't sin: he's the son of God, he's true God. And as true God his authority went beyond even his own parents. But that's not the entire reason his staying at the Temple was important. He was there because, as God, it was part of the plan to bring forgiveness to the whole world. 

It's hard to understand that. But the truth lies before us: Jesus was busy doing his Father's work so we could be saved. 

And God's ways continue to mystify us. He brings an unexpected disaster into our life, he allows us to suffer tremendous pain, he gives us a frustrating challenge--all in the name of his loving plans for us. But it's greater than that. It's not just his plans for our life, but his greater plan of saving mankind from their sin. He has accomplished forgiveness already and every believer plays a part of sharing that message. Our experiences, our difficulities, they all play a role in getting that message out. God is using us, who have been saved, to help others be saved. 

That's a blessed mystery! But we can always rest secure that God is accomplishing his mission of saving sinners.

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What we need is a peace-bringer

It’s only a few days and it will be Christmas. And as Christians stand waiting to celebrate the Savior’s birth what thoughts do they have? As Advent winds down to the coming of Christ into this world, what are they thinking about? Christians look forward to the song of the angels, the song that we repeat in our liturgy, “Glory be to God on high, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” It is the song that echoes throughout the season, repeating a refrain that is familiar to anyone who listens to this world: peace.

But this world is a far cry from peace. This world is torn apart by wars. It is unsettled by disputes that have gone on for ages, disputes that will continue. The Miss Americas and celebrities who hope for world peace are chasing a dream. Perhaps this explains the cynicism that people have toward religion. “Christians talk about peace. Sure, look at what their peace has brought them! Look at how many have died in the name of their god’s version of peace,” they sneer.

But it doesn’t take much to figure out why there isn’t peace; all you have to do is look at the turmoil going on inside of you. This is the cause of war. This is the cause of unending dispute. The turmoil is caused by pride the enemy of peace.

Various people have offered their ideas for inner peace. The eastern religions, very popular these days, have taught us that through meditation and clearing our thoughts we can reach a state of inner harmony. The humanists of the 18th and 19th centuries taught us that peace comes from within—only you can make you happy. It’s rubbish because it all leads a person back to their own self, which ultimately leads to pride.

What the Christian needs, what this world needs, is a peace-bringer. They need someone who will do away with the pride that destroys peace. They need someone who will establish safety, a ruler who will be recognized by the entire world as truly great. We’re talking about our Advent Hope who birth into this world we celebrate in just a few days, the Advent King who will establish a kingdom of strength and greatness.

And he will be their peace.

Jesus will be their peace. He came and destroyed sin and pride on the cross. He came and rescued us from hell. He established peace between us and God. And from that peace, comes our true peace.

Peace this Christmas to all of you! Peace from the peace-bringer.

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Advent Spirituality

Could it be that we have lulled ourselves into a false sense of spirituality?

Maybe that's why God is trying to get our attention so much. Mass shooting after mass shooting have us shaking our heads wondering why there is so much evil in the world. We see an act of terrorism and we wonder and we worry. But maybe instead of worrying so much about the evil out there we should be doing a little "worshipful worrying." Maybe we should be more concerned about the evil within us.

We are constantly amazed at what evil does. Really? Why? Each one of us contains a sinful nature that is just as capable of horrific acts of violence as anyone else. Sure it maybe just plays out in our heads as we imagine the guy in traffic who just cut us off smashing his car into a tree, but it's just as evil.

But the point really isn't about how evil we can be. It's that we are sinful minded people. We are not the kind of people God wants us to be.

And then a church season like Advent comes along. It pulls at our hearts and souls. It tells us to get ready because Christ is coming. It shows us God's answer to the sinfulness in our hearts. And then all the trouble in the world and in my life and yours reminds us of why we need Christ to come. We need rescue. We need help. We need a savior. And that's exactly what we have. In Christ all the evil in the world is paid for. In Christ all the evil in my heart is taken to the cross. And we are saved.

Look at the world and take notice. The evil there is the same evil inside. So let's take Christ's message seriously. Let's take his offer of forgiveness and be done with evil. That's a real spirituality that we never want to take for granted.

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God's Perfect Plan

'The days are coming,' declares the LORD, 'when I will fulfill the gracious promise I made to the house of Israel and to the house of Judah.
In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. This is the name by which it will be called: The LORD Our Righteousness.'
Jeremiah 33

If the gospel, the message of God’s love for us sinners, has a heart and soul, these verses are it. We like to talk about the gospel as the good news, or as God’s undeserved love. We talk of the gospel when we speak about Christ’s perfect life and his innocent death. But these words, spoken by a pastor some 600 years before the Messiah was born, tell us just what that good news is, just what God’s love means and just what Christ’s life and death did for us. They reveal a plan that was conceived by God’s love in eternity, that was revealed to mankind after they fell into sin, and a plan that was carried out perfectly.

It is God’s perfect plan. And we would expect nothing less from the God who epitomizes the very concept of good. His perfect plan reaches out from the pages of Scripture and captures our hearts so that we are saved. His perfect plan was executed with the perfect timing, when everything was just right and all the pieces of history’s puzzle were in just the right spot. His perfect plan contains for all who believe in it a perfect ending, one that results in perfect happiness and unending peace.

We have begun a new church year. And at the beginning of the church year, our eyes look to Bethlehem to see God’s perfect plan take flesh. But our eyes look beyond the hills of Bethlehem to the vast expanse of the heavens where God’s perfect plan will come to its perfect ending. The LORD Our Righteousness will return.

Come, O Come, Emmanuel!

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