Pastors' Blog

Monday
Jun112012

The Garden of Your Mind

As I continue to process the message of James I can't help but be impressed with how important the internal thought life is to living consistently in the will of God. The way we think of difficult times, the way we respond verbally, the way we think about others with all their gifts and flaws; it all matters. Our actions grow out of the fertile soil of our minds and hearts and the fruit that they bear depends on how we seed the ground. Today (or perhaps tomorrow if your reading this at night) lays out before you with infinite possibility and potential. How have you prepared to face it? What seed have you sown in your heart that is sure to bear fruit today?

"But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace." (James 3:17-18)

I came across this video today and was caught up in message. It fits right with James, plus it is a little bit of nostalgia from my childhood. Enjoy.

Mike

Wednesday
May302012

James and "Fifty Shades of Grey"

Wow. The hoopla surrounding the book Fifty Shades of Grey and the rest of the trilogy is astonishing. It is selling out in bookstores (where you can find a bookstore). As of today each book in the trilogy has spent the last 73 days at the top of Amazon's best seller list, likewise they are the top 3 sellers on iTunes, and they are reserved months in advance at libraries. Typically if a book is making this much impact I will check it out, give it a quick read, to see what all the fuss is about.

Not this time.

I've read enough reviews to know this is something I do not want in my head. Considering my post last week about Lolo Jones and the struggle she describes regarding purity, this just serves to illustrate how our culture is firmly against such a stance regarding the value of sexual purity. When the best seller and most talked about books are classified "erotic fiction" targeting women, it is clear pornography is not just for guys anymore.

James provides the counter stance, the one we as believers need to be committed to. If we are not we will ultimately fall. He writes, "Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will fell from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded." (James 4:7-8, emphasis mine) His language may seem a bit harsh and judgmental, but remember, he was writing to the Church, Christ's ambassadors to a broken and lost world. They were to be showing with their lives the greatness of Jesus Christ. They were to be living examples of what true love looks like in a world of cheap imitations. Yet, they were caught up in the same stuff everyone else was: prejudice, back biting, greed, arrogance and James needed to call them out. So how do you think James might address our church today? How about the church you and I lead every day within the walls of our home? Are we double-minded? Where do we draw the lines in order to purify our hearts? Or are we perhaps just going with the flow and surprised at ourselves when we blow it?

No, I won't be reading the Fifty Shades series and it's not because the books are "bad". It is because I want more from my mind and my heart. I want it in line with Christ's mind and heart. Forget the cheap imitations, go straight to the real thing and let it change you from the inside out.

Here is a great post targeting more specifically the problems with these books. I highly recommend you give it a read.

Mike

Thursday
May242012

Paying the Price for Standing Strong

So much of James is about remaining steadfast, standing strong. He talks about standing strong in action, not letting what we do contradict the faith we claim; standing strong in language, the words we say reveal where our heart is; standing strong in how we treat one another...we could go on for quite a while. As we (Momentum - our high school ministry) are getting ready to start our summer study on relationships and purity I am reminded that one of the toughest battles teens face today is the fight to live a pure life sexually. They have so much going against them and it isn't until you really try to maintain a pure mind, heart, and body that you realize just how sexualized our culture is. But know this, the battle is not impossible and you are not alone. There are others who are fighting the same battle along side of you...and winning. You can too. A blogger I read regularly posted this video and I think the way she speaks so candidly is refreshing. I don't know anything about this athlete other than what she says here, but that was enough to grab my attention. I'm completely against putting athletes or other celebrities on "christian" pedestals (yep, Tim Tebow) because I think it is unfair to them and sets them and the church as a whole up for a fall. However, this is worth watching, not because she is the example to follow (I have no clue regarding her beliefs or moral stances in general), but because she speaks so honestly about this struggle. Check it out.

Mike

 

Monday
Apr232012

Is Your Heart Settled?

Aren’t there a million things that can bring us down or get us off track each day?  Pressures at work, family issues, personal disappointments…  We are burdened by the challenges we face and the pain our loved ones endure.  Then there are the lies we believe:  I’m not worthy, I’m beyond return, I should have done better, and what did she just say about me? You can fill in the blank here.   And the mental tape player is on “auto repeat”, endlessly… 

Wise counsel and a shoulder to lean on are good for the soul, but may I point us to a greater treasure? Settling our hearts in His presence.    

The Apostle John was a bit of a hot head, but mellowed out as he grew older.  As a seasoned elder, he addressed the recipients of his letter as dear children.  His deep pastoral concern for people led him to pass along this counsel: 

This then…is how we set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us.  For God is greater than our hearts and knows everything.

So many things that trip us up are matters of the heart:  anger, jealously, bitterness, anxiety, fear, worry, guilt, etc.  They often stem from false teaching and lies which get locked into our thinking; inevitably they settle into our hearts only to cause rot and decay. 

John’s counsel is simple yet profound:  settle your heart in God’s presence.  Stop running from your problems and take them to the One who upholds the cosmos by the word of His power.  Stop holding secrets and bring them to the Light.  Lay your fears and worries at His feet.  Take the lies you’ve bought in to and sit a while with Him whose wisdom sketched the splendor of creation.  Take your battered ego and self image and gaze on Him who is forever worshiped and adored by the angels and saints.  Your excuses will evaporate as you commune with Jesus; He suffered so you could know freedom.  Your guilt and loathe will melt away as His boundless love washes over you and cleanses your soul.  Why all this?  God is greater than our hearts!  He knows your past and He sees your future.  He is no stranger to your struggles.  How many times a day does our heart condemn us?  Too many!  Remember:  there is therefore now no condemnation for those are in Christ Jesus!  You are free, you are forgiven; you are accepted and unconditionally loved by the Creator and sustainer of your very life.

Today, in the midst of all your busyness, will you quiet your soul before Him and be still?  Will you lay your burdens down?  It is the Christian’s great treasure to have his God speak peace to him and restore her soul.  His presence is pure; there isn’t even a trace of sin or heartache there.  So we fix our eyes on not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.  For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 

Don’t settle for second best.  May your heart be settled in His great presence today

Pastor Colin  

Tuesday
Apr032012

Easter: What's the Big Deal?

In just a few days Facebook will be lit up with Easter greetings.  Which can beg the question, what’s the big deal about Easter, anyway?  You can be sure that there is a whole lot more to this occasion than the Easter Bunny and egg hunts.  This is all about how Jesus Christ, the Son of God, suffered for sinners and defeated death.  There could not be anything more relevant than this.

God’s Word informs us that there is a great divide between us and God.  We are capable of doing some pretty amazing and commendable things.  Equally true is the reality that we are also capable of doing the worst things.  This tendency of ours to choose our own way, to focus on ourselves, to act selfishly…is termed sin.  Sin separates us from our Creator, who is surpassing in His moral perfection.  Our greatest potential and life overflowing is only found in truly knowing Him personally.   

All we, like sheep, have gone astray; each of us has turned to his own way.

Racial tensions are now in the headlines in the USA.  This concept of sin is behind every expression of hate and selfishness.  And, we can trade out racism for every form of wrongdoing and the concept remains.  Sin causes heartache and alienates us from God.  It is precisely for this reason that One suffered in our place, enduring God’s righteous judgment on our own sin (also called iniquity), so our relationship could be restored.

But the Lord has laid upon him the iniquity of us all.

The Messiah, Jesus Christ, suffered and died because sin HAS to be punished.  We affirm God’s loving and gracious nature.  However, if justice is not meted out, He is no longer HOLY. 

Without the shedding of blood, there is no remission (forgiveness) of sin.

Jesus Christ shed His blood and spread His arms out on the cruel Roman cross, not because of His own guilt, but because of ours.  It was the greatest expression of love ever witnessed.  Immanuel, “God with us”, suffered in our place so we could experience new life and be reconciled to the One who gives us breath.  He did not suffer for His own wrongdoing for He had none; He suffered for our sin. 

He poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors.  For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

Are you a sinner?  Are you a transgressor of God’s holiness?  I have no problem conceding that I have sinned and I trust you don’t either.  Divine love is compelling:  the sinless Son of God lay down his life for sinners.  Yet, the story doesn’t end there. 

After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied.

This is exactly the focus of Easter. Jesus did not die and stay in the tomb.  A dead Savior would be a powerless Savior.  Death has no jurisdiction over Him!  He rose again because the Author of life has dominion over everything; He is victorious over sin, hell, death the grave.  Because He lives, we know our future is secure in Him, come what may in this life. 

One last note.  The italicized text above is all found in the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament).  The narrative in the Bible is God’s unfolding drama of redemption as He graciously reconciles sinners to Himself.  This is why, when Jesus celebrated His final Passover meal, He made the stunning declaration:

[The bread] is my body, which is for you…this cup is the new covenant in my blood…

The celebration of Jesus’ resurrection is not a new invention of Christianity, but fully anticipated in the Hebrew Scriptures.  Truly, He was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead:  Jesus Christ our Lord. 

May God bless you richly as you consider the significance of Jesus’ death and resurrection. 

Sincerely,

Pastor Colin