Pastor's Blog

February 2018

There is Joy in Suffering

I think I understand why Peter rebuked Jesus. I think I know why he took Jesus aside and scolded him, telling Jesus that he would never be arrested, never put on trial and never be beaten and killed. I think I know the emotions that were going through his head: how he didn’t want to see his friend hurt; how he knew Jesus didn’t deserve to be arrested; how he didn’t want Jesus taken away from him. He didn’t want the pain. He couldn’t bear the thought of how he would suffer watching his friend, Jesus, go through all that.

I think I understand all of that because I act the same way when it comes to suffering. I don’t want to think about it. I don’t want to deal with it. I don’t want to suffer. But I do. And so do you. And the problem with suffering is that it doesn’t go away, really. One problem is solved and the next one comes. We make it through one trial only to head right into another trial.

But the greater problem of suffering is that you and I spend so much energy rejecting it. We spend our energy complaining about how terrible it is when God intends suffering for our good. Paul says it this way in Romans 5, “…we also rejoice in our sufferings.” God tells us there is actually joy in suffering. There is joy because God is improving us with suffering and there is joy because in suffering God leads us to his love.

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Satan is Undone

What do you see around you today? There’s war and conflict in various parts of the world. Here in America (and probably other parts, too), there’s a different kind of war. It’s the war of culture. You have those who want to hold on to the conservative morals and those who want to replace those old fashioned beliefs with more progressive ones.

War and confusion and change. Perhaps it seems like there’s something big going to happen just over the horizon, but there’s something big happening right here, right now. Christ has defeated Satan!

Mark 1:13, "Jesus was in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels were serving him." It's such a simple verse of the Bible. Mark almost makes it seem ordinary that Jesus was being tempted, he passes over it so quickly. But it is the shortness of this verse that reminds us that Jesus completely defeated Satan.

When we examine our lives, what does Satan love to do to us? He loves to remind us that we can’t be called Christians, that we can’t honestly think that God loves us not after what we’ve done. But the time has come, Satan has been undone. That’s why Jesus went out into the desert. He went there to show Satan what was coming, to show him that he was conquered and powerless. He went there to show us that Satan’s deceptions and accusations are empty threats. They hold no real power because Jesus shut the devil down by enduring those 40 days of temptation and not falling victim to the devil’s lies once. Christ’s entire life was perfect in the same way.

That is the perfection that we need. We can’t stand before God and say, “Look at my life Lord, see my good deeds.” No, we don’t measure up. We need Christ’s perfection for all those times when we give in to the Devil’s tricky lies. All those times we sinned, Christ didn’t. And at the cross, Christ gives us his perfection as a gift, so that we present ourselves before God as perfect children, clothed with Christ’s perfect life. In other words, because of Christ we do measure up!

Something big is happening right now, we no longer need to fear the devil because the time has come, Satan has been undone.

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Ash Wednesday Valentine's Day

This year's church year is weird.

It started with the Fourth Sunday of Advent falling on Christmas Eve. When did Advent end and when did Christmas begin? Who knows!

Now we have Ash Wednesday and the Feast of St. Valentine falling on the same day! (We typically don't make much of the Feast of St. Valentine, though it would seem he was a faithful Christian pastor and martyr.)

In honor of this strange combination, my wife sent me some Ash Wednesday/Valentine's Day Cards:

"Roses are red violets are blue, Lent is beginning, no chocolate for you." (my favorite)

"Won't you be my valentine, you miserable offender?"

"Remember you are but dust, but awfully lovable dust."

(Credits here and more yuks)

It's an interesting combination: the ashes of repentance (Ash Wednesday) and the beating heart of love (Valentine's Day). But both very much intertwined.

You see, on Ash Wednesday we do remember that we are ashes and dust. Our sins before a righteous God mean that we die. We bury our loved ones because sin is in the world. It is the curse of God on mankind, "The wages of sin is death."

But, God's beating heart of love has never stopped for you. His powerful anger against sin is answered by his powerful work to save us. He has opened his heart to us so that we would how he has saved us by sacrificing his own son, Jesus Christ, in our place. That same Son of God and Son of Man purified us by his innocent blood, rose again from the dead, and now is seated at God's right hand, interceding on our behalf. You are saved. "The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." 

Ash Wednesday/Valentine's Day perfectly embodies the two great truths of Scripture: God condmens sin, and through Jesus Christ God has rescued sinful man.

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Why Are You Here?

At a dusty wedding in Cana, Christ performed his first miracle. You perhaps remember it well. Mary, his mother, tells him that they have run out of wine and then casually tells the servants to do whatever Christ says. You know the rest: water was changed into wine. And not that cheap stuff you get in a box, this was first rate wine that tasted like it had aged for years. We find this first miracle in the gospel of John.

In the gospel of Mark, however, the first recorded miracle is a healing. In fact, when you look at all of Christ’s miracles, there are only a handful of times when he provided something like food or drink. For the most part, we see Christ healing people or casting out demons.

This is important because it shows us something about Christ. It shows us that he came with an interest and concern for the person. He did not come to gain notoriety for himself. Christ often told the people he healed not to say anything. Christ wasn’t interested in fame. He had no hidden motives for healing people. He did not come with a bait and switch: come for healing, stay for grace. Instead, he sought to give each sinner what they truly needed: eternal life. And his work wasn’t done in a vacuum. He never operated alone. He was always seeking time with God the Father.

You and I want to pattern our own outreach after Christ’s.  That means we must jettison any hidden motives for spreading the good news and adopt Christ’s reasons. We’re here, at this place, at this time, to help sinners. We’re here to seek a stronger relationship with God. We must say along with Christ, “That is why I have come: to help sinners, to seek God.”

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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