Pastor's Blog

May 2017

A Hard Choice for Your Own Good

Sometimes we have to make a hard choice for the greater good. We may have to forego a nice promotion at work because the greater good is that we spend more time with family.

God has a greater good in mind for you. It is that you would live with him forever in heaven. But that greater glory that waits for us now is unseen. It is hidden in the struggles and difficulties of life. But it is through those very struggles and difficulties that God leads us to glory.

For example: on the one hand, we’re faced with the challenge of controlling our sexual urges and on the other is a world that gives us all kinds of excuses for giving in to lust. Or we look at our marriages and we struggle with our spouse because we want it to go my way—not her way, not his way—as if we live in competition with each other. We are presented with a variety of entertainment choices some are vulgar, violent and disgraceful. At other times, we look at the struggles and difficulties of life and we resent them and curse God in our hearts for letting us suffer.

In those situations we can’t always say we were seeking God’s glory. We can’t really say that we are seeking something better when we look to satisfy our own desires first. Instead of God’s glory we are seeking our own. God has a word for that: idolatry. And God promises that no idolater has eternal life.

One day, Jesus looked Satan in the face and said, “It is written: worship the LORD your God and serve him only!” (Matthew 4:10) Jesus understood that his job was to bring God the glory that you and I can’t bring on our own. He took God’s demand to be glorified in this world by the thoughts, words and actions of his people and did that very thing. And his perfect service is granted to all of us who believe in him. Our idolatry is forgiven, we are not condemned but through Jesus’ blood we are saved.

And through this forgiveness, we gain joyful trust. We know that to serve the LORD is the right thing to do. We know that even if the way of Jesus is littered with difficulty, rejection and sadness that ultimately the joy and peace that is hidden now will soon be seen. So with that in mind, go and live beyond yourself. Put away your selfishness and pride. Serve God. And in that joyful trust, seek what is best.



0 comments

Keep Reading >>

God Loved a Murderer, and He Loves You Too

The tragic story of Cain and Abel. Two brothers who were the first two children of the first two people, Adam and Eve.

        Cain grew up. And his brother Abel did, too. Cain was a farmer, Abel a herdsman. And they worshiped the LORD. And in the worship of Abel we see faith in the promise of the LORD. Abel brought fat portions from the first born of his flocks. The LORD responded by looking with favor on his offering.

        Cain’s heart was different though. We start to see that from the very beginning as he gives his offering. Cain’s offering looks different from Abel’s. Abel’s is from the fat of the firstborn. Cain’s is just “fruits of the soil.” Now from the outside there’s nothing wrong here—but yet there was something wrong because God didn’t gaze fondly at it like he did Abel’s. And that made Cain angry. His face turned into a bitter scowl. In his mind he was doing the right thing, yet somehow he knew God was displeased with him. And that was the difference between the offerings: Cain was focused on the external, on doing all the right things, on going through the motions. This was not simple faith. This was a heart that did not belong to the LORD; that had rejected God’s promise. And that rejection ultimately ended in him murdering his brother in cold blood.

         Oh Cain… Doesn’t your heart break for him? In the midst of parents who understood God’s love; in the midst of a family who must have shared that love of God, why didn’t Cain love back? 

         Cain reminds us that we are just as capable of losing God’s love. I wish I knew why Cain rejected the promise. But I do know one reason people fall away from God’s love. Their lives start to look like Cain’s offering. They follow God only under the fear of punishment. They think if they just do all the right things God will have to love them.

         My heart breaks because this is inside of me, too. This sin, this wretched sin is inside all of us and it desires to have us! We must master it. We master it by turning away from our efforts and trusting in the promise of our LORD.            

         And God loved Cain. He intervened to his poor child, so lost in his anger. He loved him deeply so he tried to turn him away he tried to warn him. Even after the gruesome murder, God gave him the most precious resource he needed: time. Time to come to his senses. Time to repent. Time to believe again and to see God, who loved a murderer.

        So if God loves Cain, he loves you too. If God could give Cain time to turn away, he has given you time to turn away. God loves sinners. It's what he does. And he sent Jesus as proof of that love and to win you over to him. God loved a murderer, and he loves you, too.  



0 comments

Keep Reading >>

Don't Be So Afraid, You Know the Way

There was a man who had a good family. He was dedicated to them as a father. He worked hard to get his children through school, often working late nights. The children were provided for, they had a house. But there was sorrow in his life. He was worried all the time about them. He rarely spoke to them because he was so busy, but he loved them deeply. And his family loved him, too. Because of his hard work, they had everything they needed. But what they lacked was their Father. You see, he had spent so much time loving his children by working that he got distracted from the big picture: he had a family of people who needed him not his money. 

We find ourselves in the same boat, too. We can lose sight of what really matters. We get so distract by worries in our life. We get distracted by problems in our families, at our jobs, at school. We get distracted by problems at church with each other, grudges and hurt feelings, lackluster commitment. We see all these “issues” and we forget what we know - that Jesus has saved us.

There’s a hidden danger here in that we can make God into another lawgiver. It starts when we don’t understand the problems we face in life so we ask, “Doesn’t God love me?” We want everything to make sense to us, we want God to fit into our little brains. The temptation is to make God more reasonable. We want answers to everything and when we don’t get them, our faith is shaken. That’s a subtle form of idolatry because we want God to meet us on our terms: make these problems go away, they don’t make any sense. "It would be easier if God just gave me some rules to follow, then I would understand him." "If he would just tell me what I’ve done wrong, I can fix it." That’s what happens when reason takes over. We no longer worship the God of Scripture, but we worship the false god we have created. And we forget what we already know.

So Jesus sees you and me, his weak-kneed disciples, and he comforts us. He says, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You know the way to the Father.” Our lives get all tossed up with worry and anger and sin and Jesus says it doesn’t have to be that way, trust in him. Why, because we know the way to the Father. The way to the Father is through our Savior. He is the way, the truth, the life. Follow him.



0 comments

Keep Reading >>

Jesus is Your Reason

I'm guessing that suicide is a pretty sensitive topic for you. If you're like me and many, many other people you know someone who has made the tragic decision to end their own life. Grief hardly describes the pain.

I remember working with a gal a few years back. Let's just say she had a lot of baggage. Much of it her own making, much of it the circumstances of life that she found herself in. But she was reaching out to the church, she was coming back to the Lord. She was coming to Bible class and hearing (and rejoicing!) in her Savior. What prompted her to end her own life, I cannot know. But I trust the Lord, and I trust his promises and his word and those promises were at work in her life.

There is no one straight answer for why suicide happens. I'm fairly convinced by my own research into the subject that most suicides happen because of an underlying mental illness. That's why, as a pastor, I deal with this sensitive topic with love, compassion, understanding and, most of all, the love and comfort of our Savior. God's grace is sufficient for us. God's grace is enough for us.

This is why I must speak out and warn against a dangerous and reckless bit of popular culture. Perhaps you have heard of a show 13 Reasons Why. It's based on a book by the same name. It's enough to say that this show deals with the topic of suicide in a very reckless way. There is hardly a mention of underlying mental illness, there is no intervention. There is only blame. It teaches a very unfortunate lesson: we can blame others for our decisions and use suicide to solve our problems and get back at those who have hurt us.

I'm guessing most of us are appalled at this. Good. Be appalled. There is no reason why we should sugar-coat how dangerous this show is.

But much, much, much more importantly, we need to reach out. There is no problem so big that God cannot solve it. There is no human so sinful that Christ did not die for them. There is no sin so ugly that you are not loved by God, cared for by God and comforted by him. To those in our lives struggling with mental illness, we have a unique opportunity to reach out with the compassion of Christ and help them carry that burden. To those who may contemplate suicide we need to listen and to direct them to people who can help. They don't need our judgment. They don't need our anger. They need our love.

The show promises to give 13 reasons why the person committed suicide. But there is only one reason we never have to go down that path - it's Jesus. It's his love that comforts the soul. It's his promise of forgiveness, of an eternal peace that reminds us that God is not angry with us, that we have all of his love and nothing less. Jesus is our reason.

For more information about the show and how to talk about, especially with teens and children: http://christianfamilysolutions.org/blogs/parents-guide-13-reasons-why

National Suicide hotline, available 24 hours a day: 1-800-273-8255 or call your local church.



1 comment

Keep Reading >>

Light Up this World

Jesus says to us, "Take the love that I have put into your hearts, take the fire of God’s love, and let it shine so the people of this world can see it too.” Don’t hold back! Don’t close the doors to your heart! Don’t shut it in! Let it out in this world.

Jesus' disciples did that. They saw Jesus live and die for them. They saw his faithful preaching. The watched him ascend into heaven. And they felt the fire of the Holy Spirit touch them on the great day of Pentecost. And they went out and did works which were good. They went out and the lit up peoples’ lives with God’s love. They found people walking around in the darkness of unbelief, and they gave them a message of hope, peace and love that changed them forever. They lit up this world.

Do you think Jesus wants you to do the same thing? Of course he does! We are the ones Jesus has charged to light up this world.

That sounds like a big responsibility? You up to it? It’s hard to say, don’t you think? We might be fired up for ourselves, but are we fired up enough to share it with others? Are we ready? Because this world is ready. This world is in darkness and you know it. You see the hurt, the disappointment, the anger, the evil that is out there. You know it because that same darkness of sin is still a part of us. And we feel its deadly pull and we know that too often in our lives we give in to that darkness. And what happens if the light of faith goes out?

We must remember that the light gives life. Just like the Sun gives us life on this earth, Jesus the "Son," has lit up your world with life. It’s a light that first poured into you through Holy Baptism when that water of life washed away your sins. It’s that light that continued to come to from friends and adults who taught you God's word. It’s that light that comes from the love of God, placed into your heart through the work of Jesus Christ.

When Jesus died on the cross, why did the world go dark? God was certainly drawing our attention to something important. But I think it’s more profound than that. I think the world went dark because God was gathering up all the darkness, all the wickedness of every sin that had ever been committed and ever would be committed—every sin of yours and mine—God was gathering all that up and dumping it on top of Jesus. And that darkness pressed down upon him and God turned his back on him and condemned him to hell. And that darkness of sin was punished once and for all time, never to return again. The darkness has no power over you because it was punished in Jesus Christ.

And then, when Jesus rose from the dead, he brought with him the light that is life. He brought to you and me the eternal light of God’s love. The punishment for sin is over.

Now is the time of the light. Now is the time to chase darkness away. Now is the time to embrace that light and light up this world.



0 comments

Keep Reading >>

Older Posts >>

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