Pastor's Blog

August 2017

On Trial For Our Good

            As I look out into this world and see how people live—I don’t know about you, but sometimes I’m a little jealous. Here’s this person who lives their life the way they want to. They don’t worry about what other people believe. They don’t concern themselves so much with the morality of their decisions. As long as they’re not hurting anyone else, they can do whatever they want.

            And then there’s me. The decisions I make are important because they reflect the attitude of my heart. How I treat others matters because each person is a precious soul. I want to protect the things God wants to protect. I am concerned that people believe in Jesus as their Savior. And you probably feel much the same way.

            And I think the reason I sometimes feel jealous is because right now God and his word and those who follow it are getting pushed to the edge. The courts weighed in on the issue of gay marriage 3 years ago. But the court of human opinion decided in favor of it long before. And here we are, holding our Bibles and saying it’s wrong because God says it’s wrong. The court of human opinion says that it doesn’t matter if you believe in God or not. And here we are holding our Bibles. The court of human opinion says it’s foolish to believe that there is one guiding truth that governs the entire universe. And here we are…on trial.

            We are on trial, but it’s really for our own good. I know it doesn’t feel that way. Believe me, when I read in the newspaper how some people call our church body bigoted and homophobic—it doesn’t feel good. But being on trial before the world is really a good thing for us because it teaches us perseverance. The Holy Spirit wants you and me to learn perseverance through the trial of life. This trial completes our faith and it leads us to eternal life. James 1:2-4, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."

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            A crowd of more than 5,000 people once chased Jesus down. They wanted their sick people healed. They wanted their bellies filled. They wanted to be taken care of. They wanted satisfaction for their life when they really needed satisfaction for their souls.      

            There’s something really quite pathetic about that. Thousands of people walked on foot for miles to catch up with Jesus. Many of those people needed their diseases cured. Many of those people needed a good meal. But did any of those people ask Jesus for the way to heaven? Few, if there are any at all. And yet this was their greatest need. Spiritually speaking they couldn’t tell their right hand from their left hand.

            So when did you last chase Jesus down? What brought you to him? Did you find that life had gotten away from you? Maybe the delicate balance of your family life was thrown off by a sudden disagreement. Maybe a health problem sent you spinning in turmoil. Maybe it was some financial concern or some personal conflict. 

            I’d be willing to bet that my relationship with Jesus and your relationship with him is a lot like those ignorant masses waiting for their miracle worker to step ashore. Too often I’m afraid our Savior will look into my heart and yours and will see the spiritual void left by our sin. It is a spiritual hole that sometimes were not even aware we have because we’ve spent so much time throwing the material world into it: more entertainment, more sexual immorality, more stuff, more money, more gossip, more cheap thrills. Keep the sinful mind busy enough and we may never realize the wide spiritual gap that exists between us and a holy God who will judge the sinner! 

            But your Savior is here, right now, to help. Your Savior saves. He is present in his word to fill your spiritual void with his limitless love. He is present right now to take your sinful and ignorant heart, and mine too, and nail it to the cross. To cast away our sins onto the hill of Golgotha and say once for eternity, “It is finished.” The price is paid. Your needs are met. You are forgiven. This Savior who once gave people bread to eat, is the Bread of Life. He gives you his very body and blood to eat and to drink. It is this body and blood given and shed for you that you may taste, see, smell and share in the assurance of forgiveness. This Savior is here at every moment—good and bad—to provide for you the assurance of eternal life. 

            And we are....satisfied.

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God has made you rich!

Aside from having to say goodbye to friends and family, I think the worst part of moving to a new city or state is packing. Many of you have probably had to do that at least a few times in your life. Packing up a house is a chore! Find boxes, sort through all your stuff, pack those boxes, put them on a truck, and then go through that whole process in reverse on the other end. But when you do that, you learn something very important: there’s a lot of stuff that you don’t need. And if you’ve lived somewhere for 20 or more years—there’s a LOT of stuff you don’t need. 

Let’s take that young college kid moving in to the dorms this week. If he’s moving in to the dorms he is paying for room and board. He gets his meals in the cafeteria; he has a decent dorm room with a bed, a desk and a dresser. What does he need to bring? Some clothes, bed sheets, bathroom stuff and school supplies—that’s really about it. I bet he could fit most of that in one or two boxes, maybe even a single suitcase. But what else does he bring: TV, small fridge, Xbox, Xbox games, Playstation, Playstation games, movies, sports equipment, posters, decorations, cell phone, chargers, feet of electronic cable, power strips and other odds and ends. Granted, nice things, things that make life more comfortable, but in the grand scheme of things just more stuff. Stuff he really doesn’t need.

And that’s our life sometimes. Stuff, and the accumulation of stuff. Not that stuff is bad, but it can be such a distraction. 

There was an economist about 80 years ago who predicted we’d all be working about 20 hours a week because the price of necessities would drop so low. Was he right? If you thought about it, could he be right?

So, my point is not to bash the idea of getting stuff, but where is our focus? It’s so easy to focus on wealth and possessions and forget that God has made you rich already.

Wealth is a blessing when we remember who gives it. It’s God who gives it to us; God who gives us every thing for our enjoyment. It starts when he reminds you that he gave you the wealth of his grace. Through Christ he has forgiven your greed and foolish attitude about wealth. Through Christ it’s all been paid for by his blood. We were in debt to God up to our eyes—up to eternity! But God took care of that debt. He made you rich. You are kings and queens by his grace! You are the princes of his kingdom! You have the wealth of the creator and preserver of this whole universe at your disposal. And you shall reign with him forever in eternity. This world and all its stuff will one day pass away and in its place God will create, out of his love for us, a new heavens and a new earth that will never cease to be perfect in every way. 

Don’t you see? God has made you rich!

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Life Through Suffering

How do you feel about living differently than everyone else around you? I don’t think we really like it. Imagine if someone from a wildly different culture moves in next door: strange customs, strange food, strange habits. How do we like it? But what about when it comes to living set apart in this world as Christians? That's hard work. We don’t enjoy looking different. We don’t like being the object of other people’s scorn. We don’t like being blamed for everything that’s wrong in this world. So we try to put a foot in both worlds. We don’t hide our Christianity, but we don’t really talk about it either. We don’t join in with other people’s sin, but we don’t really say no to it either. It's easy for us to sit on the fence.

And as this fight goes on we get worn out. We get lazy in our spiritual living because it’s just easier to do what everyone else is doing.

What if we had a different attitude about this kind of suffering for being different? Christ's attitude was that he was different because he was the savior. His suffering resulted in the forgiveness of sins. And in place of sin, he points you to heaven to see your heavenly Father who is truly pleased with you and does not want you to be anywhere else but right next to him for all eternity. You live under the unbreakable favor of God…because Christ suffered.

And so when we suffer because we're different than this world, we follow in the footsteps of Christ. Through his suffering we have life. Through our suffering we are reminded of that life.

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God's Planters

I can definitely tell you that gardens do not always go according to plan. One year my wife and I watched as hail storm after hail storm slowly stripped the leaves from our pepper plants. It was only a matter of time before all hope was lost. “I don’t think we’re going to have peppers this year.” That certainly wasn’t what we planned. But such is the life of a gardener: you plant your seed and you wait and see what happens. Farmers understand that, too. Even with today’s computers helping farmers be more productive than they’ve ever been, it’s still up to the Lord whether or not you’ll have a good season. Just ask the ones who plant corn only to have flood waters from a nearby river destroy their fields. The wise gardener and the wise farmer understand these things. They “get” how God is in control and if he wants the fields to grow they will grow.

Jesus tells us that’s how his word operates. It goes out like seeds get spread into the ground. And if the seed of God's message finds good soil and isn’t rejected, then it grows. Our job is really just to plant the seed. God will take care of the rest. As God’s planters, we go and throw the seed of the gospel and those seeds fall in many places. After that, God will handle the results.

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Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. ~ EPHESIANS 5:19 (NIV)