Pastor's Blog

September 2018

God's Messengers

If I took a survey of everyone at my church, how many do you think would answer "yes" to the following statement? I want to go and proclaim the gospel to people who will probably reject it. I’m guessing there wouldn’t be too many enthusiastic answers. Imagine standing in front of a whole group of people who are eager to hear what you have to say, but when you start talking about Jesus and what he’s done, they start to scoff at you and slowly the crowd thins to one or two spectators. Being an unwelcome messenger is no easy task and nobody wants to be rejected because of the message they bring.

But isn’t that what we’ve signed up for? Isn’t that the job God has called us to do? In a sense, he has. And if you look outside these four walls, it doesn’t take long to find people who don’t want to hear what we have to say; who show by their passive apathy that God is not important to them.

How does that make you feel, Christian? How do you feel when you see countless thousands marching their way towards an imminent encounter with a perfect God who will demand from them an accounting for their lives? And how do you feel when you see fellow Christians shrug off the good news and through their actions oppose the gospel?

We know how it feels. Yet God has called us to be his messengers, messengers who face opposition, but messengers who also receive God’s help.

The prophet Jeremiah was no stranger to rejection. He prophesied to a people who largely rejected the message God had given him to proclaim. Once, his life was even threatened, but he escaped the plot. Jeremiah records the words which give us comfort in Jeremiah 11:20, "But, O LORD Almighty, you who judge righteously and test the heart and mind, let me see your vengeance upon them, for to you I have committed my cuase." Jeremiah was right to pray this way and, given similar circumstances, we might be, too. But the point is this: God will take care of you as you share his message. We can committ our cause to him and trust that he will give it the success he desires.

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Die to Save Your Life

     There is a right time for a person to die, but the only person who truly knows when that moment will come is God. And when death comes there is no debate. But until that moment comes, there is plenty of debate. You may remember a woman by the name of Terri Schiavo. Many years ago, she was going through life in a “persistent vegetative state” being kept alive by a feeding tube. Her life, such as it was, brought this debate of dying back to the headlines. And I am sure that you have had to personally wrestle with this issue.

            So why is the debate there in the first place? Part of it, I think, has to do with medicine’s ability to sustain life. We have a lot of technology at our disposal which can stave off death. But is that always the right thing? The other part of the debate goes deep within the recesses of our souls, to the dark corner of the sinful nature. We don’t want to let go of this life. Sometimes people, even Christians, say they don’t want to die because they’ve got too much they want to accomplish. It boils down to a love of this life that borders and, yes, passes into, idolatry.

            So we need to die. We need to put to death this sin. We need to put to death our love of this world and the only way this happens to us is when we die with Christ. Then sin is no longer our master, our sinful nature no longer has its death-grip on our souls, and we can die to the world. Life through death, it’s one of the great paradoxes of Scripture. But it is the only way to survive to eternity. Die to save your life.

Jesus says, "Whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it." Mark 8:35

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One Word and We're Saved

It’s amazing the power words have. Sometimes all it takes is one word and you’ve had an entire conversation with someone.

She says just the wrong thing to you and that’s it, you’ve lost your temper. Your boss comes up to you and it’s the same thing he always brings up, and in your mind you roll your eyes. Sometimes it’s the avoidance of a certain word that really gets us. You know what someone wants to say, but they won’t say “that” word, so they talk around that word, as if we’re not observant enough to realize what they’re really saying.

But these one-word conversations aren’t always bad. In fact, they’re quite often pleasant. A well-timed, “thanks,” can make your spouse’s day. Telling a child they did something perfectly helps them build confidence. Encouraging the young person by telling them you respect them, helps them grow into respectable people.

Words carry power. And no one’s words were more powerful than our Savior’s. If you were looking at the Mark 7:31-37 with a red-letter edition of the New Testament (the one that puts all the words of Christ into red ink) there would be one red word, “Ephphatha."

"Jesus looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh said him, 'Ephatha,' which means 'be opened.'"

That's it. One word but it carried the whole of Jesus’ love and compassion for a man who was deaf and mute, one word that healed him, and one word that tells us we’re saved. "Ephphatha, and we’re saved." That power of Jesus' word makes us well: it destroys the work of Satan and gives us eternal life. So how else could we respond but with words of thanks and praise for a Savior who by his word has made us whole?

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One Cup of Tradition, Please

Jesus quoted Isaiah in Mark 7, "These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men."

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 Frappuccino. 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 eternal 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? God's or man's? 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.

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he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. ~ TITUS 3:5