After a major tragedy people have emotional reactions. Most remember the reaction after nine-eleven which was a patriotic display of the American flag. Often loved ones may leave a remembrance site with pictures and letters about the dead. Families will remember loves ones with a funeral. The immediate reaction to the death of Jesus was sorrow and the routine of traditional burial care. When Jesus is discovered to be risen or resurrected from the dead the reactions are interesting. Mary full of sorrow believes someone has taken the body, until she talks with Jesus. The disciples inspect the empty tomb and the gospel of Mark records for us that they struggled with belief, until they talk with Jesus. The enemies of Jesus strived to cover up His resurrection through roomers and lies, until over 500 people talked with Jesus. This Easter how will you remember the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus? One of the very best ways to remember Jesus is to spend time with Jesus through personal meditation on the crucifixion passages. (Matthew 26-28, Mark 14-16, Luke 22-24, John 18-20) This Easter lets be intentional about remembering Jesus death, burial, and resurrection.
What is your comfort food? Wikipedia describes comfort food as a traditional food which provides a nostalgic or sentimental feeling. My comfort food is ice cream. Your comfort food may be that perfect steak from the barbeque or even that special dish from your favorite Chinese restaurant. These types of food have a way of providing a momentary enjoyment or comfort. At times we mix the emotion of being comfortable with the decision to be content.
The Apostle Paul had just received a contribution to his ministry and certainly this income had made him feel grateful, cared for, and even comfortable. Yet, he did not want to leave the impression that he lived for comfort. Someone who is living for comfort is always chasing his wants or his perceived peace of life. The problem with this lifestyle is that often that which gives comfort is often short lived, like comfort food. Paul then writes in Philippians 4:11 “Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.” A content life is far superior because it has found satisfaction or fulfillment and has stopped chasing after the ever illusive comfort. In fact, Paul goes on to describe the stability of contentment in an ever changing world in verse 12. So what has provided this strength of contentment? The answer is found in the next verse, Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” Jesus Christ provides strength of contentment to His children because He has cared for our past, present, and future. Let me name a few ways that the Jesus gives us contentment or fulfillment from an inexhaustible list. He has cared for the regretful sins of the past by paying the price of forgiveness on a cross. He cares for us in the present by interceding for us before God, by giving us direction through a combination of biblical principles and inner peace (Phil 4:7) and by not abandoning us despite our selfish tendency. Jesus has even cared for our future and given us hope through preparing a home in heaven, through many more promises like His return to right the wrongs and through an incredible inheritance that awaits His children . There are so many ways that Jesus gives us strength of contentment. Perhaps the most sought after comfort in the world is the comfort of love, yet relationships are often being betrayed and at the very least separated by death. Yet, Jesus promises a love that cannot be broken by death, by tragedy or by the manipulations of others (Romans 8:35-39). Although we may not have all the comforts of life, we can live a life of complete contentment in Jesus because He has cared for all of our needs.
Trusting a mentor can be a difficult task. Allowing someone to know and to advise our motivations, behaviors, or skills leaves us vulnerable. There is a fear of being judged as inept or foolish. Overcoming this fear can be done through an understanding of the mentor’s expertise, but a superior trust can be gained when the follower believes that the mentor genuinely desires the best life for his followers. Mentors from the sports field to the military battle field that were concerned not only for the task, but also for what was best for the life of the individual had a significant lifelong impact on others. This impact is no different for Jesus Christ and his followers. In John 17, Jesus’ prayer reveals His desire for those that are following Him not just to complete a task of Christian maturity or even the task of spreading the gospel, but He desires the best for the life of the individual follower. Jesus gives his followers eternal life (John 17:2). He gives them great honor (John 17:1 & 22). Jesus protects (keep) them from evil (John 17:11-12). Remember that as a follower obeys many of His principles and commands they are kept from much of the consequences of evil choices. Jesus’ prayer continues to reveal His desire that His followers would have unity with each other and God (John 17:11, 21-23). He is concerned about His follower’s emotional health that they may have joy (John 17:13) and love (John 17:26) in their hearts. He even defines this love as the same love that God the Father has for the Son. Lastly, Jesus sacrificially gives His followers a gift which they could never afford, the gift of holiness (John 17:19). This holiness makes His followers right with God in every aspect of their lives, all because of Jesus’ payment of sin on the cross. A follower of Jesus Christ can whole heartily trust and faithfully follow Him because He desires the very best for their lives. Trusting a mentor can be a difficult task, but trusting Jesus Christ as our mentor is made easier when we understand that Jesus desires the best for our lives.
Gal. 6:9 – And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.”
Harvest time has come or is quickly approaching for many farmers. They will work early in the morning until late at night striving to bring the crops in undamaged and ready for market. Although the work may be hard, often they are not weary but excited to reap the fruit of many months of work. An impatient farmer may be tempted to give up and plow under his crop, but this would waist the hours of planting and protecting. Many of us are working hard in the fields that the Lord has given us – from ministering to our family, to reaching our neighbors for Christ. This work has its rewards, but we too can become wearisome and tempted to give up. One of the ways to fight fatigue is to have times of refreshment, reflection, and reconnection. The ladies conference will give our ladies a time to refresh their souls through hearing the Word of God, to reflect on priorities, and to reconnect with other ladies. Don’t miss the opportunity to be strengthened and avoid fatigue.
Today, I voted. Not knowing many of the candidates or the issues in this primary election, I looked up a voter guide that seems to have biblical values in mind and I voted. I must admit I had difficulty in voting not only due to the many obscure offices like State Superintendent of Instruction (not that the office is obscure, but the politics of the office is obscure compared to a congressional or presidential race), but also the area that I live, is sadly consumed with promoting secular morals and ignoring biblical values. Thus the vote that I cast seems to be insignificant. Yet, I voted not only out of civil responsibility, but because I have a God who often uses the insignificant to bring honor to Himself. He used a lowly shepherd boy name David to defeat great enemies and to write many Psalms that gloriously praise God. I voted because I have a God who has and will change men’s hearts through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I voted because I have a God that can take man’s evil actions and use them for His good like He did in the life of Joseph. I voted because I have a Messiah that will right the wrongs and rule this earth in the millennial kingdom. I voted because I have a God who is in control of even the heart of the king. (Proverbs 21:1 “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water: He turneth it whithersoever he will.”) This is illustrated over and over again in the hearts of the political leaders during the Jews return from exile in books like Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Haggai and many others. I encourage you to take part in the political process and vote because we live in a great nation that is under the sovereign control of the Almighty God.
Have you ever wondered why Christmas can seem so special each year, yet other holidays can be swallowed up in the routines of life. I believe one of the reasons Christmas is so unique in the American family is due to the intentional preparation both outwardly and inwardly. At Christmas, people are often consumed with outwardly decorating their homes and often will find their way into a church service in order to prepare their hearts for the season. Other holidays do not have the same intensity of preparation. My point is not to be critical of the Christmas preparations, but simply to say that holidays become special to our hearts based on the amount of intentional preparation and priority that we put into it. Have you considered the intentional preparation that Christ put into Easter? John 10:17-18 says “Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. 18 No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father.” Jesus’ decision to die was intentional and premeditated. He made an intellectual choice through planning that can be seen from ancient prophecy, even to Christ’s preparation of His followers. Jesus also made a physical choice in allowing himself to be caught without retaliation. Jesus even made an emotional choice to care more about the obedience to God, the reconciliation of sinners, and the defeat of Satan, then about His own life. The circumstances around Christ’s death were not a combination of unfortunate events and political conspiracies. No, Christ planned his death from the beginning to the last breath He took on the cross. Jesus intentionally chose to die for you. Easter is a very unique day of celebration because our Lord Jesus Christ had intentionally prepared our redemption from sin and made it a priority to complete. Be intentional in celebrating Easter because our Lord was. You can do this through the following:
- Read the Biblical account of Christ’s atoning death found in Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John.
- Attend your local church Easter services.
- Spend some extra time in prayer, praising the Lord for such a great salvation.
- Celebrate with family and friends not just with festivities, but with a conversation of praise about Christ’s redemption, perhaps with sharing your personal testimony of trusting Christ.
Around this time last year, my family and I planted a vegetable garden. We enjoyed being outside, watching how big our plants would grow and eating some of the fruits of our labors. As many of you know, the growth of our plants was good, but nothing compared to our friends garden. For example, our tomato plant grew to be three to four feet tall, but our friends tomatoes grew to be six feet or taller. What was the difference? The soil was prepared with better fertilizer, and the plants were near bees to pollinate every flower. In our spiritual growth with God, what is the difference between those that seem to have a vibrant growing relationship with God and those that seem to have a stagnate or motionless relationship with God? Jesus gives us some insight into answering this question in His parable of the four soils (Matthew 13:1-23). The first three soils have poor growing conditions of either a lack of understanding, a lack of maturity, or a lack of priority. The last soil is much different because it is fertile ground. This ground is fertile because has a teachable heart that purposefully places itself to hear the Word of God, and then to apply the Word of God in one’s life even to the extent that spiritual fruit is produced. When we read our Bible with the intent to apply it to our lives or when we commit to hearing the Word of God preach in our local Church, we are cultivating good ground for our spiritual growth. When we attend Sunday School, Sunday Evening, or weekly Bible studies we are adding fertilizer to our spiritual ground. Remember, that when fertilizer is added to a garden the plants grow stronger and produce more fruit. How is your spiritual soil? Does it need some fertilizing?
“I miss communion” said a retired Pastor. There are many relationships and opportunities that are rewarding in church life, but communion holds a special place of worship with the Lord and His church. Communion in its simplest form is the opportunity to remember and celebrate Christ’s redeeming work. The action of receiving a broken piece of bread, a cup of grape juice, praying and meditating on Christ’s provision of forgiveness together is such a privilege. It is an action that all believers of the church can participate in by celebrating the very actions of redemption that brought the church community together. In fact, during this time of remembrance participants can strengthen their relationships with the Lord or others through self-evaluation and forgiveness. Communion is also a wonderful time to teach others of the redeeming unity of Christ through the object lessons of bread and juice. I can remember asking my parents as a small boy about the significance of the elements and their explanations of Christ’s death and resurrection. Although the actions of communion are fairly routine, eating and drinking, there is rich symbolism that reminds us of Christ’s precious blood that was poured out for us on a cruel cross and His body that was broken through a painful death. Communion reminds us of the extreme sacrifice of The Lamb that was caused by my careless sin. The depth of God’s love was revealed to us by the wonders of God’s redemptive plan to provide forgiveness and ultimately a close relationship between a redeemed sinner and the Holy God. What a rich and beautiful way the Lord has asked us to remember His redeeming act.
A Note from the Pastor about the 2014 Goals
This last Sunday we took a break from studying the sermons of Christ and studied Gal 2:20 which is our “vision verse” for 2014. This verse emphasizes our need to consistently strengthen our commitment to Christ. Paul and Peter were in the midst of a great conflict. Peter’s actions of not eating with the Gentiles were teaching that the Old Testament Law still needed to be followed. Paul corrects Peter publicly and answers some objections. One of the objections was that Christ’s forgiveness undermined the Law as a basis for righteous living (Gal. 2:17-19). Paul answers this objection with a new standard for righteous living which is to live for Christ instead of the Law. Today, some may struggle with living after the Law in a works based religion, but most people, even many Christians struggle with living for themselves. Galatians 2:20 encourages us to die to self which means to stop living for yourself and to start living a life representing Christ. When we make this commitment to Christ, our self-focused lives are changed to become Christ-focused. Then, we begin to make hard choices that affect everyday life from our entertainment, to our daily scheduling, and even within our close relationships. This commitment was illustrated to me recently by my grandfather. As he struggled with some medical complications in the last weeks of his life, he was asked if he would like medical treatment to be rehabilitated or to be comforted. His response reflected his desire to honor God when he stated “I just want God’s will…” This year we may not be faced with a life or death decision, but we will all face decisions that either honor self or honor God. This year let’s strive together to strengthen our relationship with Christ and honor God.
The church workday was a great success. The upstairs girl’s bathroom is now handicap friendly, the nursery is now painted and the speakers are fixed, the children’s church area is now organized, and many windows are now cleaned. Thank you so much to those that help care for the Church building this past Saturday.
A Note From the Pastor
During this Christmas season we give gifts to those that we love. Did you know that God has given gifts to His children as well? Ephesians 4:11-16 speaks about three great gifts that the Lord has given to his family. This passage first mentions apostles, prophets, evangelist, and pastors; these are gifts of people that God has placed into your life to help build you up in the Lord. Second, the Lord has given us Jesus Christ not only to pay for our sins, but also to become our model of godly living. He is our counselor, mediator, and friend. Thirdly, the Lord has given us the church, not the building, but a community of relationships that bring comfort and strength to build one another up in love. Our Lord God did not just give one gift, baby Jesus, many years ago, but He continues to give gifts to His children often wrapped in the personal relationship of Jesus Christ and the personal relationships between His children.
Candle Light Service
Our Candlelight Christmas Service is on Dec. 22nd at 6:00 PM. This service is a wonderful opportunity to invite friends and family that may never come to a regular church service. Also, this service is an opportunity to set the spiritual tone for the week of Christmas and enjoy the following:
- Christmas Carols
- Special Music
- Reading of the Christmas Story
- Message of love and hope
- Coffee, hot chocolate, and cookie refreshment to follow
Don’t Forget! The days before Christmas can become filled with festive events and endless shopping. We will strive not to forget a loved one’s gift by making lists and putting out reminders. In all the preparations of Christmas don’t forget to set aside some time to spend with the Lord. Whether it is coming to a candle light service that sets the spiritual tone for your Christmas week or using the extra days off to spend time with the Lord, don’t forget about our great Savior, Jesus Christ this Christmas.