Pastor's Blog

March 2019

The Gardener Hard at Work

Luke 13:8, "'Sir,' the man replied, 'leave [the fig tree] alone for one more year, and I'll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.'"

Our desire is often to point to others in order to compare our spirituality to the lack of spirituality or lack of morality in other people. It makes us feel better to know that we’re better than others. If we do that, then we don’t have to confront the ugly reality of our own hearts: that we are just as sinful and vile as the rest; that our sins are just as serious a matter as anyone else’s. And if we lose sight of that, then we lose sight of our own deserved condemnation while we’re busy condemning the rest of the world or the rest of humanity.

But the gardener is hard at work. Jesus, like the gardener in Luke 13, is there to work on our behalf and bring us back to health so that we do produce fruit. We are not forsaken to our own efforts, we are not written off becuase of our sinfulness. We are very much loved and taken care of. Jesus lived his perfect life, he died his innocent death for sinners like you and me.

There will come a time when judgment comes, but right now, the time is right to leave our sins behind and take hold of the joyful and freeing message of our gardener, Jesus Christ, who worked hard and is working hard to help us produce fruit.



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Rejoice and Hold On

How many happy and giddy people have you ever seen lifting weights? Let's say, a real tough guy lays down on the bench press, “Put 200 on there,” he says to his spotter. He begins and as he struggles under that tremendous weight, is he laughing? Is he shouting for joy? No, he’s grunting and exerting all his strength. And the next day, his shoulders, chest and arms are sore. But his muscles grow stronger.

Our sufferings are like weight training. And God knows exactly how much weight to put on there. And it hurts for a time. But in the end it makes his believers stronger. Paul puts it this way in Romans 5, “we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope…” Perseverance is staying power—endurance. Suffering, for as much pain as it brings, makes believers able to endure the hard times. And that endurance shapes them and makes their faith stronger. It gives them character so they see their faith is proven true in suffering. And that character forces them to focus on God’s promises which leads to hope. Suffering -- Endurance -- Character -- Hope

God loves us so much that he wants to make us better Christians. So he trains us with suffering. Suffering teaches us to hold on to God’s promise that no matter what, he has declared us not guilty through Jesus' death on the cross. Holding on to that promise is perseverance. Holding on shapes your character so that you become stronger and stronger. Isn’t that a good reason to rejoice when you suffer? God is not punishing you; he’s training you, making you stronger. Doesn’t that put our hard times into a different light? They are meant for our good. A bad economy: for our good! Hard times for my family: God is training us, teaching us to persevere and hold on to hope.

God’s answer to suffering is different from the world. He teaches us to rejoice in his verdict—we are declared not guilty. Rejoice and hold on!

 



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Light Up This World

A lot of people today want Christians to keep their faith to themselves. But do you think people would say that if they could see how good the Father was? Honestly, I can’t answer that. But here’s what I can say: it’s a lot harder to say no to someone who is so good to you all the time.

People need to know about God’s love. Jesus says to light up this world so that people would praise the Father in heaven. Has this ever happened to you? It could. When you come alongside someone who is grieving the death of a loved one and you show them true compassion that comes from the Father’s love. They may just listen to you and their heart may open just a bit, and God’s love might just get an opportunity to go into the inner chambers of their heart and find a home just like in your heart. When you stand up for someone because God’s love has taught you to love all people regardless of who they are, you might just earn their respect and you might just begin a friendship and you might just get a chance to explain the love God has put in you. When you receive an unexpected blessing and give your thanks to God, you might just show this world how good God is; or, if God takes something away from you and you struggle and yet in that struggle draw closer to God, you tell people, “When you love someone this much, it’s worth suffering for.”

Take the love that God has put into your heart, the love that comes from Christ who died on the cross, and light up this world.



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Ash Wednesday - From Death to Life

Genesis 3:15, "And I will put enmity between you and the woman and between her offspring and yours; he will crush your head and you will strike his heel."

It all began in a garden, the Garden of Eden. God the Almighty broke into our world and announced the very first gospel promise. Without this promise there would be no Lent and no Easter. There would only be death and damnation for us. But the seeds of our salvation were first planted in this Garden of Promise.

The promise completely reversed what had just taken place. Satan had planted the seed of unbelief by tempting Adam and Eve to sin. They no longer believed God’s words. They ate the forbidden fruit. That single seed of unbelief immediately sprang to life and, reaching out like some horrible death-plant, wrapped its tendrils around this man and woman to squeeze the life out of them.

They felt the squeeze of God’s decree: “The day you eat of it, you will surely die!” They didn’t turn to God for mercy. They didn’t look to him for a second chance. They ran for cover and tried to hide from God.

The death-plant produced a foul fruit: enmity. They felt nothing but enmity—in other words, the opposite of peace. They shook their fists at God. They shook their fists at each other. They shook their fists at Satan. They were quick to blame God for their circumstances. They were willing to throw each other under the bus if it would save their own skin. What had seemed like such an inviting friendliness from Satan was now unmasked as a malicious trick to destroy them. In great irony they had become unwitting allies of this serpent who hated them and wanted them doomed like himself. Inside and out, they now felt the permeating, damning hatred that a holy God has for what they had become. It was sheer terror.

But God announced a reversal of that enmity. Speaking to the devil, God said, “I will put enmity between you and the woman.” God would change things! The woman wouldn’t be an ally to the devil anymore. God would create enmity between her and the devil. God would put her at odds with Satan.

That means she and God would have to be reconciled and be at peace with each other and be friends again. For to be an enemy of Satan is to be a friend of God. And this announcement of friendship was not offered to the woman only, but also to her husband and to all their descendants—that means you and me. God said to the snake, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers.”

Notice how wonder-inspiring our God is. He did not advise Eve to redirect her hatred upon the serpent. He did not command her to hate the evil one. Nor did God urge her to reach up to heaven with her prayers to invite the change. The fact is, when God did give her the opportunity merely to fess up, she couldn’t do it. She utterly lacked the power to change her feelings about God and save herself.

So God would do it. He said, “I will put enmity between you and the woman.” God cut off the tendrils of death at the roots and saved the man’s and woman’s lives by promising to send a Savior.



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The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? ~ PSALM 27:1