Pastors' Blog

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

Monday
Jun112012

Love what Lasts

Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world.  The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever. I John 2:15-17 (NIV)

This well known passage reminds us to passionately love God, and not to be drawn by the passions found in the world around us; that is, those things which pull us away from Him rather than drive us to Him.  Here’s why this is great advice and why loving the world is bad news: 

It (that is, the “world”) will dull your spiritual senses 

Do you ever feel you’re in a spiritual slump?  Feel distant from God or the ones you love?  If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear is a reality we don’t want to make our own.  Sin is serious and only clogs our relationship with our Lord. 

It will rob you of the eternal perspective

The Puritans said the eternal perspective is the crown jewel of the Christian experience – and they were right!  Viewing our lives – the good and the bad – through the lens of eternity brings strength, perspective, and joy

Speaking of which…it will steal your joy

Loving God and loving the world don’t mix.  When we chase after vanity, our lives are built on a lie and that’s definitely not where the joy is.    

It will bring heartache into your life

Sin leads to death, 100% of the time, we just don’t escape this one.  Worldly passions and trappings glitter and call us by name, but the end result is always the same. 

It will leave you empty handed

How many have struck it rich, found fame, and walked the red carpet only to frequent rehabs, live an emotional wreck and die lonely?  Chasing after anything but friendship with God will leave you dissatisfied because only He can meet our deepest needs. 

It doesn’t last

No matter how the packaging glitters, it’s only passing.  No lasting value here!  You, on the other hand, possess eternal life so why are you distracted by the temporal?

You will play the part of the fool

God’s Word gives wisdom and insight for the journey.  When we love the world, what is clear becomes clouded and then we wonder at the consequences.  Do we not see this happening all around us? 

You will chase hard, but will never be satisfied

What a tragedy to look back and see you’ve wasted your life.  Don’t let this be your story; build your life with resolve and intention – upon the ROCK. 

It will harm your testimony

#1 reason Americans blow off church attendance?  “They’re all a bunch of hypocrites anyway!”    

You were made for so much more than this!

Why settle for anything less than following hard after God, seeing Him work in your life, laboring for what lasts, and living with a clear conscience?  God knows our hearts and the draw of worldly things.  He knows we are prone to run after things or people other than Him.  He knows we seek security and significance in the world.  This is why He graciously reminds us to give our hearts to Him before giving it to anything or anyone else.  He gives us so much in life to enjoy and our lives are richer for it.  The key is to seek first the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.  Enjoy life and live it to the full by first delighting in Him, the only One who can truly satisfy.     

- Pastor Colin

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