Pastor's Blog

March 2016

It's Easter - for Seven Weeks

Have you ever told someone "Merry Christmas," after Christmas? Once and a while I'll do that, and typically the repsonse is nothing too exciting. But every so often you get a strange look, like, "Hey, don't you know Christmas is over?!!" Actually, Christmas Day is the beginning of the Christmas season and for 12 days we celebrate Christ coming into the world.

Easter is the same way. It's seven whole weeks long. Seven weeks of excitement. Seven weeks of joy. Seven weeks of remembering that our Savior is not dead but alive. Seven weeks of wondering what this all means for my life and how it will impact my relationship with God and other people. It's seven weeks of celebration.

The reason for the seven weeks is because Jesus spent seven whole weeks with his disciples before he ascended into heaven. For seven weeks they got to sit with the victorious Jesus, no longer humble, but glowing with victory and power. For seven weeks Jesus helped them understand how the Scriptures had to be fulfilled which spoke about him. For seven weeks Jesus opened their minds.

And it worked. Jesus set those disciples on fire. They went throughout the world sharing the glorious message of a Savior, victorious over sin, death and hell.

That same victory is still setting this world on fire because it's the only message that has any true impact on the lives of people. When we face difficulty, hardship, guilt, shame, loneliness... When "life sucks and then you die" is the only consolation people can give, Jesus confronts that with a new reality: you will not die, but in me you will live. Life has purpose. Life has meaning. Life is alive, because our Jesus is alive.

Happy Easter - for seven whole, glorious, weeks!



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This is Holy Week

It's Holy Week!

I hope that you can spend some time reflecting on what Jesus did for you as he suffered and died for your sins.

See you in Easter!

 

 



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The Virtue of God's Patience

Israel’s track record with God’s prophets was not good. All of them were mistreated and most of them were murdered by the unbelieving Jews: Isaiah was rumored to have been sawed in half, Jeremiah sat up to his neck in mud at the bottom of a cistern, John the Baptist was beheaded. And what about Jesus? What would they do to him? Would they reject him and his message, too? If you know anything about the life of Jesus, you know the answer, and it isn't good. 

God was very patient with his people. He was hoping they would turn a new leaf and start listenign to him. 

Parents can be this way, can’t they? They give chance after chance for their misbehaving child. They love their child, they want what’s best. And their love causes them to hope that their child will accept their invitation to do the right thing. God was the loving father of Israel: waiting patiently, patiently hoping they would return to him and believe.

It seems like such an unexpected turn of events, doesn’t it? God’s chosen people, the ones he appeared to and made himself known to, rejected him. Yet we should never underestimate the human potential for unbelief. It’s not news to us that we routinely slap God’s invitation out of his hand. Each time we turn over in our heads some sin, some evil that we feel would be real nice to commit, we reject God’s invitation. Each time we open our mouths to trash someone else’s reputation, each time we get all puffed up with self-righteous pride wondering why everyone else doesn’t see things my way—we slap God’s invitation away.

And how often do we need to do this before we find ourselves in unbelief? How many times do we need to play with sin, to willingly go out and do something we know is wrong—how many times do we play on the edge of unbelief before we fall into it? I think you seem to forget the human potential to stop believing. It’s not the heart of faith that gossips. It’s not the heart of faith that’s self-righteous. It’s not the heart of faith that sins. Sin is lawlessness. Sin is rebellion. Are you OK that you are a sinner? Have you justified your sins before God? Then be very careful, because the ground is starting to shift under your feet, and you will fall into condemnation.

So why doesn’t God just wipe us out, huh? Why not get rid of us if this is case? Because God’s love is more faithful than our sinfulness. God gives you his invitation to repent and believe over and over again because he loves us. He sends you his invitation to repent through his word and your own conscience. Listen to his invitation right now. 

Listen, because God loves you. God loves you so, he sent his son. Here he is pleading with you and me to believe what he offers. He holds out to you the perfect life we struggle to even think about, let alone live. Christ invites you to believe that he gives you his perfect life that covers up all sinful arrogance—all sin! Christ invites you to see that his invitation to believe is written with his innocent blood. Your debt to God is covered by the payment of Christ. Christ invites you to accept his invitation because it is backed up by his own Easter guarantee: because Christ rose from the dead all his promises are yours, in full, right now. 

So don’t give yourselves over to sin. Accept Christ’s invitation to resist the temptation to gossip, to give in to your pride, to harbor impure thoughts. Such things don’t come from faith. But the good things like: love, charity, peace and joy...think about those things. As Paul says, “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” (Philippians 4:8)



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Prodigal Love

The word prodigal means "reckless." It's a word we don't use that much anymore. But you could talk about your prodigal years when you were young and carefree. Or, you could talk about your prodigal uncle who always spoiled you when you visited him.

One of Jesus' most beloved parables is the "Parable of the Prodigal Son". In the 1984 version of the New International Version of the Bible the parable is renamed "The Parable of the Lost Son." (Luke 15 is where you'll find it.)

Lost or prodigal, the son is loved. As the story goes, the son grabs his inheritance while dad is still living, runs off to another country, spends it all, and is left with nothing. He comes back to his senses, returns home, and finds that dad has been waiting for him the whole time. And he doesn't get a cold reception, his father throws a party because he's so glad to have his son back safe and sound. But his older brother doesn't get it. Why should his worthless brother get the royal treatment, when he's been working his tail off the whole time and hasn't gotten anything special from dad?

What's a dad to do? One son abuses his love, another one thinks he can buy his love! What's a dad to do? He loves, and he loves and he loves.

Let's go back to that word prodigal. Who was really the reckless one in the story? It's easy to see the son who blew through his inheritance as the reckless one. But isn't dad a little reckless too? He doesn't say anything about what his son did wasting his money, he welcomes him back and forgives! He doesn't slap his other son upside his head for being so selfish, he loves! He just loves. He can't help it but love, and love and love some more. 

Which of course, is Jesus' point in telling the story. God loves and loves and loves. He loves us when we treat his love with contempt. He loves us when we think we can buy him off with our good works, our church offerings, or our outward righteousness. He loves. He forgives. Not because love and forgiveness are such cheap commodities that he can throw around whenever he likes. No, he can love so much becasue he spent so much. He sent Jesus to be our savior. Jesus lived and died to pay for our sin--to pay God for our sin. God spent his own son to buy us back. So now that sin is paid for, God is free to love us because he doesn't need to punish us.

God has one thought: that you would spend eternity with him in heaven. He loves you. And he will always always welcome you home.

 



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God's Intervention

It had all started with painkillers. She had gone to the hospital for back surgery and came back with a prescription of really good painkillers.

Too good, it turned out, because she got hooked on them. When the doctor wouldn't fill the prescription anymore, she found someone to sell her heroine. It was cheaper, and she could get it more often. 

She was dying. Her addiction was killing her. You could see it in her sunken eyes, her drawn out expression. She looked like death, frankly. And her family couldn't watch it anymore. They were watching her die and it was killing them, too.

So they did something they never thought they would have to do with someone they loved; they intervened. Her sisters, her brother, her parents, her husband, her adult-aged daughter--they all joined together and did the single most loving thing they could do, and it hurt a lot. They took turns telling her how much they loved her, how much they cared. They took turns telling her what her drug use was doing to their relationship. They didn't want her to die, so they intervened.

God has intervened, too. A long time ago he sent Jesus Christ to preach some hard things to us. Jesus said, "Repent or perish! Turn away from sin or you will die." It's so easy for us to look out into a world that seems to be falling apart and point the finger of blame at all the evil "out there." It's so easy to do that and forget all the evil that lives in my own heart.

Jesus says repent because he is intervening in our life, too. He comes with a seriously loving message to wake us up to the reality of our sin. We need to take our spiritual life seriously. 

Then we can see how Jesus saves us. Jesus said "repent or die" and then he went and he died in our place. He perished under the wrath and punishment of God's justice. He died--and we don't. He perished--so we could live.

God's intervention isn't about a choice we need to make to go into rehab. God's intervention is about rescue. Repent and live.



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My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him. ~ PSALM 62:1