Pastor's Blog

September 2015

The Precious Cross

There is a right way to suffer and a wrong way to suffer.

The wrong way: complain, fight, grouse, sin, accuse God of hating you, hurting you.

The right way: commit yourself to your faithful Creator and continue to do good.

It's not a very satisfying answer, unfortunately. It's not satisfying because it doesn't rationalize the pain we go through. It's much more satisfying for us to be able to connect some struggle we go through with some cause. But that's hard to do when something comes out of nowhere. And then we're left trying to figure God out.

Saint Peter gives us the right way to suffer so that we don't go crazy or become depressed trying to understand the unscrutable: suffer well by committing yourself to the Lord and doing good. (1 Peter 4:19)

It starts by realizing God knows you through and through. He knows what you need, he knows you as a father knows his child. And that is important because we are children compared to God. We don't understand him just like a small child may not always understand the grown up parent. It means there is room for faith and trust. And God is worthy of that because God gave himself to save us from sin. God gave his body and blood to rescue us from sin and hell. We can trust in him because he has saved us.

And with trust comes acceptance, with acceptance comes perseverance. And while we persevere, we look for the good that we can do, the good that God would have us do, even as we suffer. This isn't looking for diamonds in the mud, this is hoisting the cross firmly onto your shoulders, accepting it and understanding that we can still serve God by loving him and loving our neighbor.

Finally, there's hope. The pain isn't forever. The pain is only for now. Our momentary troubles will soon be over when we reach eternal life. Until then, the Lord will help us accept the precious cross so we can suffer well.

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You Have a Beautiful Life

We always hear that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Maybe that’s why we miss so many beautiful things that happen all around us: the beauty of when a Christian forgives someone else; the beauty of a new school year where students and teachers joyfully learn and grow in God’s word; the beauty of families who bring their children to Sunday school; the beauty of God providing for us each and every day. Beautiful things are happening all around us.

And beautiful things are happening to us. Right now, as a matter of fact. But do we always see them, or do we get lost in all of the ugly things that happen in our life?

Those ugly things are the result of the ugly sin in our life. But so many times we get focused on just the outward symptoms: the money problems, the poor health, the family troubles. We think if we could just get those fixed, we'd be fine. But the problem with that is that there is a spiritual problem underneath the surface of every physical problem we face. Sin causes trouble in this world, and it is the source of trouble in our life.

If we're going to be able to handle the ugly, we need to handle the spiritual things in our life. But it's hard. So hard!

But not for Jesus. Jesus changes us. We can put all the spiritual bandaids we want on our problems (mindless entertainment, busy-ness, drugs/alcohol, over eating, over exercising, etc.) but until Jesus deals with your spiritual "ugly", your efforts will always come up short.

So Jesus gives us something beautiful. He gives us his life. Could you imagine living with Jesus? Never a hateful word, never a mean action, never an unkind thought! Every moment of his life he lived perfectly for you. His life was beautiful. And on the cross he took that beautiful life of his and he covered over the ugliness of your life. And on that same cross, he took your ugliness of sin and put it on his own heart, his own soul, and he was punished instead of you.

This is how Jesus changes us. He gives us his beauty. And with the spiritual problem fixed by Jesus, the problems we face everyday...we can handle them! By God's grace they become opportunities for us to trust and rely on God's power, not on ours.

Jesus has made us beautiful!

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Great Expectations

We’ve all been disillusioned somewhere along the way. This is that disappointment we feel when that person whom we thought was better, begins acting outside of our expectations. Maybe it happened the first time you saw your pastor drinking a beer. Or maybe it was when you realized that your parents weren’t perfect. These are memories we have from our childhood usually, so it doesn’t take us long to realize that people aren’t as good as we expect them to be. But for some reason we still set ourselves up for disillusionment. For instance, we put all our political hopes into one candidate only to see that he or she is the political equivalent of a dead tree. Whoops.

But who could ever be disillusioned with Christ? I mean if there was ever a guy who delivered on what he said, it was him. If there was ever a guy who could meet our expectations and even exceed them—he’s the one. But you see it all depends on exactly what your expectations are. If Jesus doesn’t meet those, then what happens? If following Jesus becomes unpleasant and hard, then what happens?

Now we see. Now we see. It can be hard to follow Jesus. It is hard to follow Jesus. It can be unpleasant to follow Jesus. Sometimes, it is unpleasant to follow Jesus. Disillusioned? Disappointed? Disheartened? Should we just give it up? I don’t think so. In fact, I think Jesus has something to say about this. Don’t go, but follow. Follow Christ because he gives us the spiritual message and puts a bold confession on our lips. There is no disillusionment when we follow Christ. We just need to have the right expectations.

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The Traditional Church has to Stay

There’s something comfortable about the familiar, isn’t there? Catching up with a familiar friend, or sitting down to your favorite meal or favorite movie are comfortable things. There is a relief when you return to familiar surroundings after being away for a while. That’s probably why traditions hang on for so long. They’re comfortable, they’re familiar.

But isn’t there a feeling among us that what is familiar, what is traditional, must be modernized? You take something as simple as the traditional cup of coffee and that’s just not good enough anymore. Starbucks has introduced us to the world of mochas, Americanos, lattes, espressos and Frappachino. Someone who grew up in the age of diners and drive-ins might step back and wonder, “What’s wrong with a plain ol’ cup of coffee these days?”

To the opponents of Jesus, he was a kind of a rebel. That’s because Jesus was challenging the traditional values of the Pharisees. But Jesus wasn’t trying to undo their traditions for the sake of modernization like someone might claim Starbucks has done to coffee. What Jesus was trying to do was to actually restore the traditions of God. The traditions of the Pharisees only told people to focus on themselves and what they could do for God, traditions that ultimately resulted in eternal death. But the traditions that Jesus wanted to restore focused on what the Lord does for people, traditions that result in clean consciences and life.

We like to think that we’ve moved beyond the Pharisees, but if you look at our own culture, our own lives, which tradition seems to be more popular? Looking at my own life, it seems I like the traditional "religion" of man way too much. And perhaps you see the same thing. You see in your life a desire to focus on your own actions and efforts, but find that those often disappoint. We fail. The traditional religion of man fails. That’s why I want Jesus to restore God’s tradition in my life. So I’ll have the traditional faith, please, the one that focuses on Christ and the one that gives us a clean heart.

Christ has given you his perfect efforts. Christ has already earned God’s favor for you. There is no “try harder” for the Christian. There is no "God is punishing me." Christ has been punished. We live in freedom. You live in God’s eternal pleasure. Enjoy his pleasure. And in that pleasure, keep the commands of God. Get rid of all sin because Christ has given you the full measure of his goodness. This is the traditional faith, the one that focuses on Christ.

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Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. ~ LUKE 12:32