Pastors' Blog

Friday
Jan222016

Time: the critical element

This year we are focusing on developing the passion and practice of studying God’s Word. Engaging it in such a way that we do not emerge unchanged but deepened from the encounter. Time is key in this pursuit.  

The Psalmist meditated day and night in His law. He consistently ran to His holy book, and when he did, it was not for a casual read.

Sometimes we can schedule blocks of time; often though, our routine implodes as the day moves on. I want to encourage you in two ways: do the best you can, and, you will never regret the effort you put into it. 

Time allows for the truth of God’s Word to penetrate our heart, settle our mind, calm our spirit, lift our countenance, refresh our soul, calibrate our perspective and strengthen our frame. It’s what the Spirit uses to build us up and apply His work in us. Someteims we are rushed and miss the benefits. It’s as if time isn’t really important in the vertical anyway. I mean, what does time have to do with a relationship, anyway? 

Said no woman ever. 

And, said no kid to his or her dad, ever. 

Time matters. Why do we think any differently when it comes to God’s Word? As much as it lies in your control, diligently invest time to reflect on His truth. The more time we invest, the greater the dividend. Know up front that it requires effort, intentional effort. There will always be a million more entertaining options before us. Or, twice as many fires to put out. But I have never met a saint who regretted investing time in the Word. And I’ve never met a seasoned saint who did not acknowledge the effort that was required. 

But let me say this. In order to extract the riches of God’s Word, there must be a settled determination to give it the time and respect it deserves. We get out of it what we put in. One does not sculpt abs without investing time and effort, just as one does not play the piano for a few days and expect to be called Beethoven. 

So the next time you plan on binge watching your favorite series or drop hours watching the playoffs, ask yourself this question: am I neglecting the pursuit of God’s Word to do this? If His Word falls to the wayside, it’s time to rearrange priorities and adjust the schedule. You won’t regret it!

I promise you, when you invest the time to reflect upon and study God’s precious Truth, you will not be disappointed. It takes effort and often requires sacrifice but is more than worth it. In the weeks to come we will look at the many benefits of engaging the Word, as well as practical ways to do so. I always think of my grandparents, who well into their 80’s beamed with the joy of the Lord and their love for each other. Through all their trials and heartaches, they grew more joyful, not grumpier. 

They knew their Lord and they knew Him well. And never could contain that infectious joy. 

In Christ,

Colin

 

 

Monday
Dec212015

Shepherds and sheep: whom were the angels worshiping, anyway?

It's definitely a highlight of the advent narrative when an angel appears to lowly shepherds to announce our Savior’s birth. As the heavenly host gave praise to God in the highest, the glory of the Lord shone round about those shepherds. No wonder Luke says they “feared a great fear”.

Have you ever stopped to ask, whom were the angels worshiping

It may sound like a silly question. Of course, they’re worshiping God! They even say that. But let’s correlate this passage with one of my favorites from Hebrews: 

And again, when [God] brings [Jesus] into the world, he says,
“Let all God's angels worship him.” 

When God sent His Son into the world, He directed His angels to worship Jesus. Isn’t that what was happening when the angels announced Christ’s birth? 

As the angels gave praise to God in the highest, they were indeed worshiping Jesus. Because Jesus is Lord: Immanuel, God with us. He came humbly and lay in a manger, but though his glory was veiled to us it was seen clearly by the angels. Peter tells us the angels long to understand God’s agenda in Scripture. Believe me: on those hills in Galilee, they understood. 

Why does this matter?

It matters because the deity of Christ is the heart of the Christianfaith. Many religions affirm Jesus to be a good man, a wise teacher or revered prophet. But the Bible gives no such option.   

That’s why the angels gave praise: God gave his very best, he gave his Son. It was Jesus who would bear the sins of the world on a cruel Roman cross. It was Jesus who would redeem sinners, both Jew and Gentile. He couldn’t do this if he were a mere man. He couldn’t do this if he were not God. No deity, no cross. No cross, no Christianity and no future hope for sinners. It was for this reason the prophets foretold his birth and called him the Prince of Peace and Mighty God. That’s a strange baby announcement! As a pastor I love greeting babies in the hospital – never once has one been handed to me, “we’ve named him God.”

So this Christmas, when your pastor preaches on the angelic visitation or children sing about shepherds keeping watch over their sheep by night, remember this one glorious truth: Jesus is Lord. He was Lord at his birth and is now and forevermore the recipient of angelic worship. Angels don’t worship people they worship God. 

How humbling: the One who lay in a manger was praised and adored by angels.

And one day, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. 

Merry Christmas, 

Pastor Colin

Friday
Dec112015

How God meets us in our sorrows and heartache

Two couples facing insurmountable problems.                     

That’s how Luke opens his account of Jesus’ life and ministry. Specifically, it’s how he prepares us for the advent of the Christ. Luke uses both stories to vividly paint a backdrop for one glorious truth: 

Nothing shall be impossible for the Lord. 

The first couple was well respected within the religious community. Zechariah was a popular priest, but he served with a limp and with heartache. He and Elizabeth were childless, well past their childbearing years. Perhaps Elizabeth had become bitter, as well.

Then there was a young couple engaged to be married. Mary was a model teen and a great catch for Joseph. They saved themselves for marriage and had big dreams of starting a family. Well before their wedding day Joseph finds out Mary is pregnant. He knew he was not the dude, so he wants to quietly put her away and spare her life. Dashed dreams, cold water splashed all over his ambitions. But there’s more. Let’s add to the mix a dose of insanity: “Don’t worry, Joseph, GOD got me pregnant!” His life as he knew it just went up in smoke.

WHERE IS GOD IN ALL THIS??! Where was God when…my spouse died, I lost my job, my fiancé broke up with me, we can’t have kids, I’m waiting for Mr. Right who is MIA, our home was foreclosed or my marriage denigrates? Or, where is God when people are getting gunned down or blown up, kids are abandoned and sold into slavery, pestilence wipes out thousands, and kids are alone on Christmas because their parents are high as a kite or incarcerated? 

Pause for a moment and consider the prophet’s words some 700 years earlier: 

Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows.

Those heartaches and dashed dreams? Jesus would suffer and die for us, bringing healing where we need it most. 

Or,

All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

The context of these words was Isaiah’s word to Israel as they languished in exile. "God has forgotten us" (how often do we feel that?). But God reminds Israel that He has not forgotten them, and that His love runs deep for them. He is also working a spiritual redemption that will be for the whole world and of an eternal nature. But He did not just "die for our sins" – that’s the Sunday School version. He carried our sorrows and bore our griefs. The two go hand in hand. The latter defines the former. 

Let’s go back to Mary, Joseph, Zechariah and Elizabeth. 

Two different stories, both consisting of overwhelming pain and heartache. Why are they in Luke's advent account? Because this is why Christ came. He would not only bear our sins but he would also bear our sorrows and our griefs. He came to real people with real problems, people like you and me. And how was this all tied together? 

Remember what the angel said: I am Gabriel, I stand in the presence of God. Nothing shall be impossible for the Lord. 

God is not distant or aloof. He sent His Son right into our world. He visited our pain and our messiness. He saw our misery and sorrows. Christ was tempted just like we are. He experienced hunger and grief. Jesus came for people like Mary & Joseph, and for Zechariah and Elizabeth. Yes, His entrance was unique (hence, the virgin birth), but don’t forget that their problems were very real. 

There is a greater narrative, which is God's unfailing hesed for us - "hesed" is a rich Hebrew word that means God's mercy, love, patience, tenderness, kindness, faithful love…all wrapped together into one word. God demonstrated His hesed for us through identifying with our sorrows and aches as His Son suffered in our place. 

Both Mary and Zechariah burst into praise in Luke 1 to declare God’s mighty work of salvation. Of course they do. How could they not, given how powerfully God had just interjected in their lives and showed the world His love? Despite our messes and sorrows, GOD is faithful and loving. HE keeps His word and extends mercy and compassion. He smashes the impossibilities in our lives and provides a way out. We still live in a fallen world, but He is making all things new and replaces our despair with hope and encouragement even when things don’t work out the way we’d like them to. 

We’ll develop this more on Sunday when we embark on our journey through Luke’s Gospel: Model Man, Mighty God.

- Pastor Colin

 

Thursday
Apr022015

Why Good Friday is way more than "good"

For many, Resurrection Day weekend looks like this:

On Friday, Jesus is dead on the cross (cue the somber music). 
On Saturday, Jesus is dead on the tomb (a spirit of defeat). 
On Sunday, He busts out there is great celebration (because finally, victory). 

Not so. Not even close. Let me explain. 

It is wise to be somber when recalling Friday’s events. The Son of God suffering and bearing MY sin is no small thing. However, don’t allow that introspection to fall into defeatism. He was victorious in his death, as He was in his resurrection.

My Bible tells me that victory was secured on Friday. The crucifixion was triumph, not defeat. The disciples did not understand this; they were confused and lost. Believe me, Sunday was awesome: it is crucial and upon it our faith stands. But
V-Day was Friday. And the victory party continued all weekend…and beyond! 

Why, you ask? 

One word. In Greek, Tetelestai

Because…  

The cross is where Jesus bore my sins
no, that’s when Jesus became sin, for me
and drank the full chalice of God’s righteous wrath.

That’s when GOD declared victory
because satan was defeated.

That was the last time I’d ever see my sins. EVER. 

That’s when the curtain was torn
and we gained access to God. 

That’s when my past became my past (although I wasn’t yet born). 

That’s when Jesus fulfilled His mission
which was to DESTROY the works of the devil.

That’s when Jesus declared, “TETELESTAI!” “IT IS FINISHED!”

Good Friday was more than good; it was breathtaking.

[God forgave] us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.

…and the resurrection is confirmation and grants us a living hope

[Jesus] was through the Spirit of holiness declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

It’s not as if the grave could contain the Author of Life, anyway. 

Peace,

Pastor Colin

Saturday
Jan172015

Men: Focus Here in your Marriage

Sometimes we men just need to be told what to do. Keep it simple and point us in the right direction. So it is in marriage. 

Tim Keller says that relationships are messy because people are messy; therefore expect messiness. He’s right. When you think of marriage, so many factors are flying all over: gender differences, individual history, personality differences (whoa!), family of origin, personal goals, ad infinitum. 

 

Men, as we follow Christ every responsibility we have in marriage can be summed up in two words:

Love her.   

Love her consistently, selflessly, deeply, and tenderly. Scripture puts it this way: 

“Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her.” 

God’s wisdom is so perfect, so direct. There are a million books written on different facets of marriage, most of which are very helpful. But here’s the foundation upon which you build, maintain, and develop your relationship: LOVE. 

Here’s the catch. It’s easy to love someone when they love you back. When they respond well. When you’re on the same page.  When life is going well. But that’s why most wedding vows read for better or for worse, in sickness and in health. Love is tested and shines when it doesn’t come easily or when you struggle to express it. 

Plenty of authors have touched on how to communicate well, keep the spark, and to be happily married. I’ll leave that to them, and keep this more focused on a deeper and underlying issue. 

If we men keep in mind the how and why in loving our wives, everyone in our families benefit from this leadership in the home. 

How many Disney movies end with, and they lived happily ever after.  In real life the “ever after” bit isn’t always happy and it always takes commitment, patience, and teamwork to build a healthy marriage. And Hollywood highlights feeling good.  Feelings come and feelings go. As far as loving our wives is concerned, love is not a feeling; it’s an action (decision). Seasons of ambivalence are not reasons to stop loving – it’s when you need it the most. 

Thank God Christ did not love me conditionally, I’d have no hope. “OK, you’ve done it now. I’m through with you.” What if He really did call down legions of angels while pinned to the cross? That’s the point and it’s why no-fault divorce is so outrageous. Christ never walked away from me; in the same way, marriage is acommitment. Love is not just feeling, it’s an action. We don’t love only if we receive something in return, we love because of Christ’s example and it’s the right thing to do. When the Apostle Paul tell us to love our wives as Christ loved the church, this is what he had in mind. Love her unconditionally, in the big and small things. 

Why love our wives? Here are three simple reasons. 

You’ll become a better person. Marriage highlights our self-centeredness and helps us become others focused. Everyone likes being with the latter, trust me. 

She’ll respond. Show me a woman who feels loved, and I’ll show you a wife who responds by giving it everything she’s got. Selfless love breathes life and hope to people who are hurting, even people who are mad at you. And guess who benefits from a wife who is motivated to love you back…? 

Your testimony. Paul said my love for Christine is a mirror of Christ’s love for me. That’s deep. When people come into our home, they ought to encounter God’s love. Our Christian witness is tainted if others see I do not love our wives well. Love is a primary trait of a true Christian, and it shines brightest within marriage. 

One last thought. Don’t be intimidated by figuring it all out at once. Paul asked you to love her right after he told everyone to love each other. You have plenty of time to figure her out (good luck with that, BTW). For now, put your best foot forward and practice being considerate, selfless, helpful, attentive, and thoughtful. You can’t lose with these. Christine and I will celebrate 20 years this year; I have learned a LOT during this time and have plenty more to learn. But it helps to know my primary game plan in my marriage and where I need to grow.

- Pastor Colin