Pastor's Blog

September 2016

Grow by Listening

Most people want to see their church grow. Maybe they don’t want it to grow so big that people start to get lost in it, but they would like to see new faces. But how does the church grow? If we dress the church up, and get a bright flashy sign will that grow the church? What if we had the best children’s program would that work? If we could just get the right program, or the right combination of programs then we would have a formula for success.

Well, I’m afraid not. You see God is wiser than we are and he tells us something in his word about growing the church, he says that’s his job. He’ll grow the church. But he’ll grow it through us, so your mission, our mission, the church’s mission is to go spread the message.

Of course, we might know that, already That’s Matthew 28, “Go and make disciples…” we may know the passage well. But what does going and making disciples look like? to answer that question we have to know what we're sharing. We grow by listening. 

The church’s mission is to listen to God’s Word because that’s the one source. "But God’s Word is out of touch," people say. Listen to how “out of touch” Paul sounds as he struggles with sin in Romans 7 written about 2000 years ago. "The good I want to do, I do not do. No the evil I do not want to do, this I keep on doing. Who will save me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ." That sounds a lot like me and you as we struggle with sin. And it sounds like hope, too. If we listen.

The church’s mission is to listen to God’s Word because that’s the one source. "But God’s word isn’t practical," people say. Look at the end of many of the books in the New Testament and you’ll find practical ways to put your faith into action like how husbands should treat their wives, or how children should behave. Or open your Bible to the book of Proverbs and see how practical God’s Word is as it tells us how to be better parents, better kids, better people.

The church’s mission is to listen to God’s Word because that’s the one source. "But God’s Word doesn’t solve the problems I have in my life!" Look deeper because God’s Word solves the real problem in your life, the problem of sin. That’s the whole point, that’s why this is the one source, that’s why the church’s mission is to listen to God’s Word. If God’s Word were just self-help but no real help, we’d be lost in our sins. But we know it is real, spiritual help. And knowing that we’re right with God’s puts things into perspective.

Say it with me now: The church’s mission is to what to God’s Word? The Church’s mission is to listen to God’s Word. And why? Because that’s the one source.

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Are you wealth-wise?

A while back, my wife got a strange phone call. The man on the other end of line told her that he was from Microsoft Technical Support. Their computers, he told her, were monitoring the entire internet and they had noticed that her computer was sending funny signals. He was concerned for her that her computer might be infected with a virus and he wanted to help. I could tell she was getting uncomfortable with the phone call and she quickly ended it.

You're probably familiar with this kind of scam. But the problem with these scams is that if you don’t know much about computers, you fall victim to this. Maybe you or someone you know has been tricked like this. And when you realize what happened how do you feel? Dumb. “How could I have been so foolish?”

When God looks at how you and I handle the wealth he has given to us, does he see wisdom or foolishness? To follow Christ means following him with an undivided heart, a heart that is uncluttered with the pursuit of worldly wealth. So are you wealth-wise? 

Well, let's back up for a moment.

Jesus’ whole ministry was a ministry spent calling sinners back to him. He is the shepherd searching for that one lost sheep. And we were lost in worldliness. We have squandered God's blessings. But God sent Jesus to rescue you from that. God sent Jesus to give you wealth that far surpasses whatever this world offers. Jesus came and lived perfectly in your place. He came and died to pay the wrath of God. He stood in for you and rescued you from the guilt of your sins.

He did this because he wants your heart first. He wants you. Being wealth-wise is about understanding the spiritual transactions that have taken place. Jesus has purchased you with his precious blood. He has given you the robe of his perfect life. He has earned you eternal joy and peace in heaven. Now come and give yourself to him.

Let Jesus transform your thinking about wealth and make you wealth-wise. Wealth-wise believers don’t pursue wealth for their own desires, but they see wealth as a tool to help share the forgiveness of sins. Wealth-wise believers are clever. They understand wealth and how best to use it. Wealth-wise believers use wealth to make a home where God’s forgiveness is a vital part of the family. Wealth-wise believers provide for a church where pastors and teachers assist and equip you with God’s word. Wealth-wise believers support Christian institutions so God’s love can be shared. Wealth-wise believers help to alleviate suffering so that God's love can be shared.

Be wealth-wise and spend your wealth to share God’s love to your families and to your communities. After all, God spent his love on you first!

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You've Got a Great Story to Share

Take a moment and think of your whole life starting with your earliest memories. Think of how you were raised and think of your parents. Think of bad times, think of good times. Think of the people you know, think of a good friend you have or who you knew a long time ago. Think of school and the people you knew there. Think of the accomplishments you’ve had: graduation, your first job, mastering a skill, catching your first huge fish or going on your first date. Now think about God. Think about how you heard of Jesus: maybe your parents brought you to church, or maybe a friend brought you to church. Maybe you have the special joy of remembering your baptism and how the water felt pouring over your head.

What we’ve done for these last few moments is we’ve told each other our story. It’s a story about growing up in a common culture and sharing the same memories. It’s also a story of faith, of your faith and how you came to believe and trust in Jesus. That’s a story to share.

Lost and found, that’s your story. We were once lost in our sins, but we were found. It’s funny though, we all know this great story, each one of us has our story of faith, but we often have a hard time sharing it. We get this feeling that somehow we have to be expert speakers or know our Bible from cover-to-cover before we can tell the story of lost and found. But those are excuses that come from hearts unwilling to share their faith with other people. We let opportunities pass by. We hear the command of our Savior who says to every single Christian young and old, “Go and make disciples,” and we quietly disobey Christ’s command by watching our co-workers, our friends, our families, our neighbors walk the road to eternal death.

The story of every Christian is the lost being found. It's a story told by the word "redemption" which means to buy something (in this case someONE back). Redeemed: you were once a lost and condemned creature. Redeemed: you have been purchased with the blood of Christ and his innocent suffering and death. Redeemed: you have been restored to live with Christ in innocence and blessedness. Redeemed: you were once lost and you are now found again. This is most certainly true and it will be true tomorrow and it will be true forever because Jesus rose from the dead to prove it. Jesus found you, lost in sin, and he made you alive through his redemption.

This is your story, it’s a true story, it’s a story of lost and found and it's your story to share.

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Let Go and Follow Christ

If she was going to move forward, she had to let go. For the sake of her family, for the sake of everything, she had to let go of the anger she felt, the pain and the hurt and move forward. She had to let go.

If he was going to move forward in his relationship with his wife, he would have to let go. He would have to let go of his addiction, the lies, the self-righteous justifications. All of that would have to go for him to move forward. He had to let go.

Maybe you feel that way sometimes, too. Is there something in your life that’s dragging you down, that’s holding you back: some sin, some regret, some unsaid word, some deed, some guilt, something that has to be let go of to move forward?

To follow Christ is really to let go. If we want to chase after him with free and happy hearts, if we want a relationship of trust and dependence then we must let go of some things that hold us back. Let go of yourself and follow Christ. 

When Sherry turned 16 she was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. She was pretty well bound to home and to the hospital. The treatments were difficult but the doctors were hopeful that things would turn out well. Sherry is Christian. And this cancer has become her cross. For Sherry, to follow Christ, she must let go of herself. She must deny herself. And this cancer provides plenty of opportunities for her to do that. There are a lot of things her “self” would like to do: go to the movies with friends, have a big sweet 16 birthday, stop going to the hospital, eat whatever she likes, feel better. But she can’t. The cross teaches her that to follow Christ she must let go of these things. And in this letting go, Sherry finds her happiness and joy somewhere else. Happiness doesn’t come from birthday parties and going out with friends. Instead, in the midst of her cross, she finds the joy of knowing her Savior better. That’s letting go and following Christ.

And the same is true for us. When we deny ourselves, we find Christ. The pain of the cross leads us back to the promises of God. People sometimes ask: why does God allow this or that difficulty. Here’s his answer: to lead you back to his promises of love. And boy does that tick the devil off! Here’s this thing which he thought would really make us suffer, would really make us hate God, and, in the end, the very thing that would make us suffer, brings us closer to God than when we first began!

So let go and follow Christ.

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Humbled and Lovin' it!

Jesus says it’s better to live a truly humble life and be honored unexpectedly. He gives a promse: Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted. You could say it this way: the proud are humbled, the humble are exalted.

The problem for us is that our pride comes too easily to us. Really, if you think about it, all the pain we endure in life is because of our pride. We get upset when things don’t go our way. How impatient do you get when you’re stuck in traffic or standing in line? How about when someone can’t make a decision in the amount of time you think they should? Or what about the arguments you recently had with a spouse or a friend because they weren’t seeing things your way, or doing something the way you thought it should be done? We get sad because life isn’t going the way we wanted it to go.

And what does this pride accomplish? Nothing but damage. Our arguments, our bitterness, our resentment it hurts other people. Who wants to live in a house with someone who has to have their way all the time? Who wants to be a friend with someone who is just bitter with life?

Listen to Jesus’ words carefully, “everyone who exalts himself will be humbled.” God is telling you that your pride, your arrogance, will be the source of your own downfall. That’s because pride pushes God out of the picture as you put yourself in the position of honor and take the highest seat. Then you might as well chisel a stone image of yourself and bow down to it, because that’s what this amounts to: idolatry. And you know that no idolater has eternal life. And that is what pride makes us.

Humility hurts. We need it to. I need it to. Because left to myself I become this petty, selfish monster with nothing to look forward to but eternity in hell. Let’s repent, huh? Let’s turn away from “me” and turn back to God. It’s not about me. It’s not about you. It’s about him. You see when God humbles us with the threat of hell, when we truly believe that, then we can listen to the better message, the message that God wants us to know and have in our hearts: that he is our Savior.

Christ is the Savior. He didn’t come to be served, but to serve. Christ’s whole life was a life of promoting God, not himself. It was a life of pointing people not to their own works, but the work God was doing on their behalf. Christ lived the life of humility in your place. For every prideful argument, for every selfish offering, Christ was completely humble. Christ served you not by scrambling for the seat of honor like the rest, but by being taken to a cross. And there his life became your life. His death became your death. His payment is your payment. And you are forgiven.

So leave yourself behind and trust in Christ. Life is not about you. Despite what every other person of this world is trying to tell you—it’s not about you. It’s about Christ. And what a good thing that is for you. Because what Christ did for you saves you from your pride which would only destroy you forever in hell.

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