Pastors' Blog

Monday
Dec102012

A Charlie Brown Christmas

A Charlie Brown Christmas is one of my favorites. I remember as a kid seeing the special logo that came up before a seasonal cartoon came on and getting super excited that I was about to watch cartoons at night! It was a special treat that is lost on kids today who can find cartoons 24/7 if they have cable. And so Christmas was the season of joy.

Now, since I grew old enough to watch cartoons and pick up the message behind the slap-stick, it is pretty amazing to me how critical Charles Schultz was of the commercialism of the holidays. I can’t say I disagree. With “Black Friday” being the symbol of insanity (to this introverted personality at least) and at least displaying how nasty people can get for a piece of metal and plastic, the question has to be asked, “What’s so great about Christmas”?

The angels answered that questions definitively.

    And the angel said to them, "Fear not, for behold,
    I bring you good news of great joy that will be for
    all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in
    the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
    12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a
    baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger."
    13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude
    of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

    14 "Glory to God in the highest,
        and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!"
                                      Luke 2:10-14 (ESV)

Christmas is great because:

  1. There is no need to fear. Because of Christ all whose faith is in Him are forgiven. We are free from our sin.
  2. This message is filled with good news leading to joy overflowing. Circumstances can’t change that. They can only force us to cling to it all the tighter. Joy comes from Christ, not the world around us even with the good it contains and despite the bad.
  3. God sent His only Son to be man…fully man. He experienced the same kind of hurt. He was betrayed by one of his closest companions. He was ridiculed and humiliated. He was abused in horrific ways. He prayed, “Father forgive them.” He loved us while we were enemies. He showed us that being human doesn’t mean we can’t love unconditionally.
  4. True praise of God is possible and even expected from us, as broken as we are, and one day He will return and true and complete Shalom will come with him. All will be put to right.

Yes there is much to rejoice in this Christmas. Don’t get lost in the rest.

Mike

Monday
Oct082012

What's so Great about Salvation?

The Apostle John liked to use the word testimony, and he noted that no one’s testimony carries more weight than God’s.  So listen to the divine testimony about our salvation: 

 

And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son .  Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.  (I John 5:11-12, ESV)

Four truths about salvation stand out in this text, seen in red above.

 

1)      It’s a gift.  That means, it is freely given and I’ve done nothing to merit it.  My money didn’t buy it and my good works didn’t earn it.  This is what makes the Gospel so counter cultural:  I am powerless to gain it, save humbly receiving it.  No religion or philosophy teaches this; somehow and on some level…it’s up to me and my efforts…my goodness…my performance

2)      Eternal life.  Literally, “belonging to the age to come.”  The gift of salvation is life that will last forever, never to end.  But Jesus further qualified this in John 17:3 by stating that eternal life is to know Jesus.  It’s a quality of life as well as quantity. Salvation is life to the full:  here and now, and, throughout eternity.  It is knowing Christ and enjoying Him forever.

3)      “In Christ”.  That’s a phrase we see all over the New Testament. Christ suffered for my sin, and God chooses to deal with me as He deals with Jesus.  Christ reconciled me, a sinner, to God.  Worthy of condemnation, I am now an heir of God Himself.  And I am a co-heir with Jesus Christ, reigning with Him even now.  I am complete in Him and lack nothing. It is all because of Christ, and only through Him; I did nothing to deserve this!  

 4)      The sharp divide.  It is common these days to shun exclusivity:  “I’m OK if you’re OK, do whatever works for you” That’s not the message of the Bible.  Jesus Christ is not a suggested path; He is the way, the truth and the life and apart from Him nobody comes to God. He is the sinless Savior, offered up for sinners to bring us near to God, who is incomprehensibly holy and just.  If my trust and confidence is in Him alone, God’s TESTIMONY is that I possess eternal life.  If I do not have Jesus, I do not have life.  Period.

 

That’s the testimony about my salvation.  The question is will I choose to truly believe this today, and rejoice in it?  Feelings change from day to day, and we cannot stand on other’s opinion of us.  What matters is what God says:  as John said elsewhere, God is greater than our hearts, even when our hearts condemn us. 

 

Pastor Colin 

Wednesday
Aug082012

Gaining Confidence of Your Salvation

There really is no more important question to settle than, “How can I be assured of my salvation?”  Life is a fleeting vapor; seasons come and go but heaven and hell are forever.

I John 3:19-24 (in italics below) gives gracious and authoritative teaching that is both practical and comforting for all of us.

First of all, God knows our frame. He knows it’s natural to doubt or second guess.

When our hearts condemn us, this is how we put our hearts to rest in His presence.

It’s not I hope I’m saved, I hope I make it;  it’s I know I am God’s child.  Living any other way is no way to live!

By this we KNOW we are of the truth…

How is this possible?

God is GREATER than our hearts and knows everything.

Even when our conscience condemns us, it is possible for our hearts to get it wrong.  It’s not about where we’ve been or what we’ve done in the past; we need to rest our confidence on what GOD says about us in His Word, not on our shifting feelings.  That’s the REAL authority!

God works in our hearts and minds to comfort us through His Spirit.  It’s all about our relationship with God and walking closely with Him.

By the SPIRIT whom he has given us

Beyond the Spirit’s work in our lives, God gives us concrete ways to gain assurance!

This is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ

Have you believed in Jesus?  That means, is your faith, trust, and confidence in Him and Him alone as your Savior and Lord?  If yes, then here is how you test your faith for authenticity…

Two concrete tests: love and obedience:

…and love one another.

Are you others centered?  Are you genuinely growing in a love and concern for others?  This is the unmistakable mark of a Christ follower.  To “believe” in Jesus is a one time act; to “love one another” is a lifestyle.

AND…

We keep his commandments and do what pleases him.

Keeping his commandments means an increasing track record of obedience, plain and simple.  Doing what pleases him reflects the attitude behind it.  Are you growing in obedience to Christ, in reverence for Him and in consideration of eternity?  Do you genuinely want to do what’s right?   It’s not perfection we’re after, but a sincere desire to do what is right, even when nobody is watching.

Christ died and rose again to save you from your sin and enable you to live to the full in life.  If you have doubts and worries, you are not alone.  Don’t settle for that though:  test your faith on the grid God gives us and seek Him earnestly in prayer to gain assurance.

I write these things to you who believe in name of the Son of God that you may know you have eternal life.   I John 5:13

I pray the assurance of your salvation will be a joy you discover more and more each day.

In Christ,

Pastor Colin

Monday
Jul162012

How we Face the Trials in our Lives

We all face tough times, it’s a part of living in a fallen world.  Hardship has many different faces:  relational hurt, sickness, grief, persecution, etc.; to quote Peter, grief in many different trials.  When Paul talks about his own personal problem set, how he faces them and how they look in his life are quite remarkable.  Bear in mind, he’s talking about beatings and imprisonments; basically being left half dead for his witness to the Gospel.

Right off the bat, Paul says he faces trials with purity, patience and kindness.  Isn’t it tempting, when the storms come, to abandon our core personal convictions?  Not a chance, says Paul:  that’s when we need them the most.  Tough circumstances are not an open door to forego our fundemental values.  This is when the outside needs to note that your faith is real and that you’re not a hypocrite. 

Paul says he relies on the Holy Spirit and the power of God.  If you’re tempted to pull yourself up by your own bootstraps, let your pride go.  Christ lives in us through His Spirit; it is His life in us that supplies our strength.  How is all this fleshed out?  In sincere love.  God’s agape love, present to empower you and show others there is something distinctly different about you.  And never forget that God does not leave you with an inadequate tool set:  with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left…you have what you need when running offense or defense!  Stand on the promises of God, and remember, He has said, ‘I will never leave you nor will I forsake you.’

Does it look pretty?  Never.  Dying, yet we live.  Wow – have you ever felt that way?  The emotional hurt…the physical pain…it’s so bad, you feel like you’re dying.  And yet, we live on, ready to serve Him another day.  Sorrowing, yet always rejoicing.  I love this one.  Sorrowful on so many levels in this broken world, yet, we are always rejoicing.  How is this so?  You may feel crushed by an avalanche of sorrows, but, you have a future hope.  I love these juxtapositions in Scripture:  I may feel knocked down, but my joy stems from the hope that resides within.  Poor, yet making many rich.  You may feel mowed down by your past experiences, but how God helps you in those experiences is exactly what enables you to, in turn, help others.  You may not have a dime to your name, but you are rich in Spirit.  Having nothing, yet possessing all things.  Get the picture?  Your bank account does not define you.  What defines you is your spiritual heritageblessed with all spiritual blessings in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus

Keep all these in mind when you pass through deep waters.  I love Paul’s perspective through it all:  we commend ourselves to others in every way…so our ministry will not be discredited…through great endurance.  Paul knew his great calling was to serve and honor his Lord.  As such, his perspective in his trials was that he wanted to remain faithful to Christ above all else, letting them see the beauty of his Savior in the times he felt most squeezed by his circumstances. 

May God bless you and supply you abundantly in your time of need. 

- Pastor Colin

Tuesday
Jun262012

Don't Give Up!

Life throws us many challenges, and certainly doesn’t come pre-packaged with easy answers.  Currently our church is walking through I John.  It is much more than the “love book” – as I preach through it, I’m struck by the emphasis on perseverance.  We are assured that God will never give up on us; yet, we are exhorted to do our part and press on in Him. 

We are encouraged to persevere in two specific ways, both of which are very striking.    

First, we must persevere in the truth.  We need to know what God says, believe what God says, and obey what God says.  It's so easy to get sidetracked and lose our focus!  Our focus should be the Person and work of Jesus Christ, because that’s certainly the big idea in the New Testament.  Jesus is Lord:  He is creator, sustainer, and judge.  There is none like Him.  He is glorious and faithful, always with us.  Jesus suffered and rose again, for me.  I am loved and accepted without question.  My intrinsic worth is forever upheld because my God calls me by name.  My guilt and shame are completely covered by His precious blood.  He’s coming back to make all things new, my future is secure.   He has replaced the empty passions and fleeting pleasures of the world with abundant and eternal life.  I can serve Him NOW with a clear conscious and trust Him with my whole life because of who He is and what He’s done for me.  Soli Deo Gloria.    

What else helps us press on?  Hope.  God began a good work in us through Christ’s first coming and He’s going to complete that work when He comes again.  My hope is not in the here and now.  This world is broken, sin has ravished it thoroughly.  Look around – the world is full of hurting people:  grief, heartache, failure, disappointment, sad goodbyes.  We gain perspective and strength as we focus our hope squarely His glorious reign and certain return.  Imagine eternity: uninterrupted worship before the Throne with suffering and temptation being noticeably absent.   It’s so easy to pin our dreams on other things:  marriage and family…the perfect job…the new house…financial security…popularity…you name it.  Many of these are of course blessings that God gives us to enjoy.  But if our hope is pinned on them and not on Christ, they won’t satisfy and our pursuit of them will will often not yield what we’d hoped.  I don’t understand everything about eternity and that’s OK:  What we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.  Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure.    

What about you?  If you’re in the valley, don’t throw in the towel!  Keep pressing on and fix your eyes on Jesus:  He is the same yesterday, today and forever will never let you down.  You are loved, protected and treasured.  You have a future.  May God lead us all to the rock that is higher than I.    

In [your heavenly hope] you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.  These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire —may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 

Press on,  

Pastor Colin