Hope In Grace

How do you weather the storms of this life?  There are lots of things that we do mentally an emotionally to get through them and they amazingly look like the same things that people do when a regular storm is coming.  Lets look at a few.

Evacuation.

Often when a big storm is on the way the authorities tell us to evacuate.  Get out of the path of the storm.  It makes a lot of sense because the storm can’t hurt  you if you are not in its path.  It also makes sense when you consider that stuff is just not as important as your life.  You can rebuild even after a devastating loss of your home and possessions.  Run away is a good battle plan when it comes to dealing with sin, but most of the time evacuation is a bad battle plan in most of life’s difficulties.  You see that is because the things you would abandon are too important.   What would happen if you quit your job every time the boss said something you didn’t like or criticized your work?  How would it work out in any of the key relationships in your life if you bail when the going gets tough?

Board Up the Windows

Another thing that people often do when a storm is coming is to board up the windows.  This is a good plan in a physical storm because one of the things that happens is that stuff flies around and it can blow right through your windows.   When the windows break then the rain and wind can get right to the interior of your house ruining everything it touches.  Once again, those in a storm in their personal lives often employ this strategy.  They put up boards over any way that people can impact them and they don’t let anyone in.  It does work. It keeps everything out from the vulnerable middle.   No hurts can get in and in isolation feel like you are safe. There is a problem with not letting anything in. Not only is the bad stuff kept out but the good stuff is too. The reality is you are not just protected but you are trapped inside. In addition, no one can see in. So while everything looks normal from the outside usually the storm is raging on the inside.  You don’t have any help and often no one even knows you are in trouble. 

While evacuating and boarding up the windows might be wise when it comes to physical storms,  a completely different strategy is called for in the middle of most of our life difficulties.  Rather than run away or bunker up, we should hold onto hope.  Not just any hope will do either; our hope must be in Christ.  Hope in Christ keeps us in place rather than run away.  We know that every storm can be conquered with Christ.  He is the one who calls to the weary and those without hope and gives us rest.  Hope in Christ speaks to attitudes that can change and forgiveness that can be delivered. In Christ any pain can be healed.  In physical storms there are places you can run away to where the storms are not.  In life storms there is no place like that. The evacuation centers from life storms are usually just band aids disguising as solutions.

 Hope in Christ also keeps us away from the self-defeating strategy of boarding up.  If our hope is in Christ then we don’t have to fear things coming in because our core will be secure no matter what. Yes bad things get in but we can deal with them and we can allow the good things in too.  We also don’t have to fear transparency because in Christ there is no condemnation rather there is forgiveness and restoration.  With our hope in Christ we can let the wind blow.

Peter was writing to a people for whom stroms were coming, and this week we will look at how we can put our hope in the grace of Jesus Christ.

See you at church.

Pastor Chris



Step In – 5-4-2018

Step In

The Jordan River was in spring flood and there was no easy way to get across. God did not tell Joshua to hold up Moses’ staff so they could go across on dry land. Just the opposite, they had to Step In. When they did God worked a miracle and the people of God were able to cross over into the Promised Land. Acting on faith is difficult. We don’t do it out of blind trust but rather the informed trust of relationship. God has demonstrated his faithfulness over and over so we are willing to act in in faith, willing to Step In.

We as a church are being given an incredible opportunity and an incredible responsibility.  God is calling us into a neighborhood where there isn’t a church.  We do not have a reputation there, and we are not known to the vast majority of the folks who live there.  How will they know us?  What is the reputation we will build in this neighborhood?  What impact will we make on their lives?

For us to get to the important task of answering those questions we have to cross over a river in flood to get there.  Gone is the era where the neighbors all come together and raise up a church.  The planning, permits, studies, drawings, and the entire process is complicated and daunting. God is already at work in providing some great friends to walk with us on this journey in the engineering, design, and construction fields.  Praise the Lord!  And when the time comes, it will take a lot of hard work as we will all have a part in digging, building, painting, etc.  But before we can get there we will have to raise the funds.

“Step In” means that we are going forward.  We don’t yet know how we will accomplish it.  We can’t see how God is going to work it all out.  But we are confident that he will not leave us standing in the middle of the Jordan.  This week we launch our capital campaign.  We begin the process of seeking the funds we need to accomplish what God is calling us to. 

God does not have a cash flow problem. Our God has the resources to accomplish this and much more! Our part is to go out and invite people to participate in the blessing of joining in an effort of God.  We are going to make our need known to the community, our friends, and our fellow laborers in the gospel.   Our hope is that people who have a heart for children, a heart for the lost, a heart for a community, a heart for being a neighborhood church will see our heart for these as well and be drawn by the Spirit to join with our efforts.   Is that your heart?  Are you ready to Step In?

See you at church,

Pastor Chris



Outstanding

I will admit it, even though I know it is a country song, camo is my favorite color.   I love camouflage because I love to hunt, and it makes me so much more effective in pursuit of game when they look but can’t see me. I loved camouflage even before I was old enough to hunt. It used to be my modus operandi.  Stay in the background and don’t be noticed.  Hide in plain sight.  Don’t do anything to draw attention to yourself. 

We often like to do that in our lives.  Blend in with everyone else.  When they laugh we laugh, when they are upset we are upset.  We become steeple to our coworkers, our peers, and all of those we allow to influence us.  Blending in is safer.  You don’t get picked on.  You don’t attract criticism or invite comment into your life.  But look out if you start to stand out.

When we have Jesus our lives will stand out.  He changes everything, and everything is changed in our life saving encounter with Him. This change comes about because we are transformed at the core of our identity.   So much so that Jesus describes it as being born again.  Where once our identity was built on things of this world, we are transformed and those elemental and core aspects of our very self become centered on Jesus.  What is at the core of your identity?  Is it made up of things from this world or has it been transformed by Jesus?

In the next few weeks we will look at that very question, and explore how we are being called to be… outstanding.

 

See you at church,

Pastor Chris   



A Deep Breath

John 19:28-30

28 Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” 29 A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. 30 When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

 
“It is finished,”  the words have such great value and meaning to us.  In that moment Jesus changed the fabric of reality.  In that moment he paid the price for my sins, your sins, and the sins of the whole world.  And after such a momentous event you would think that everything would look different but it didn’t.  It was the Preparation day, and Sabbath was coming, so they laid him in a borrowed tomb, and he rested.  It was the pause.  It was a moment of reflection.  A deep breath before what would come next.
 

Tonight as the sun goes down, I would encourage you to pause.  Reflect and remember the price that Jesus paid.  Consider Jesus who rescued you from sin, and remember Jesus in the tomb. 

 
That is where we will start tomorrow, and move from reflection to celebration!
 
See you at church.
 

Pastor Chris



Made New!

New

The nice weather this last week (and the week to come) has me thinking about my garden. The old saying was “get your potatoes in by St. Patrick’s day” if true I am already a week late! I hate all the preparation for gardening but I do enjoy the garden and I especially enjoy the fruit of the labors later on.

One of the things about gardening that I find truly amazing is the process of planting seeds. Seeds are in themselves an amazing piece of God’s work. They can lie dormant for years (lots of years in the case of grain sprouted from Egyptian tombs) and still they manage to sprout and come to life. While I can appreciate the science of it all it is still miraculous. Beyond the germination and the sprouting is the fact of how different the seeds are from the plant and even the fruit itself! To me they are the perfect example of what happens to us in Christ.

Like seeds, we are seemingly dead. Our hearts are all wrinkled and hard. There is before Christ no evidence of real life. Real life is more than just existing. It is showing growth not just decay. Real life is to be transformed, not stay the way we were.   The bean plant looks amazingly different than the bean you planted, and our lives after Christ equally look different. The reason is we become something new. “It is Finished” provides the spark.   It provides the opportunity, the means by which we can enter into new life, and truly be transformed.

Want a new life? Tired of being just potential? Come discover how “It is Finished” was an act of creation not just destruction.

See you at church.

Pastor Chris



Beyond the Fix

“Can it be fixed?” That is the question that you hate to ask when your car is broken and you take it to the auto Wizard, (because everyone knows they work on some kind mechanical magic). You want them to fix it of course, but in reality you want them to do more. You want them to return to you a vehicle where not only the immediate problem is fixed, but in the long term, it will once again represent reliable transportation. There are all kinds of things besides just cars that sometimes need a bit of fixing.

Sometimes even our relationships need a bit of repair. We said it and we shouldn’t have. We accidently hurt our beloved, or even just a co-worker, and just like our car we really want more than just a fix to the immediate situation. We of course need forgiveness and restitution (I will make it up to you I promise…) but what we really desire is a relationship that is stronger and if possible even better than it was before. We want to go beyond just the fix.

“It is finished” accomplished the fix. Our sin was paid for. The sacrifice to turn aside wrath was provided. Jesus, flawless in every way, fully human but living without sin, was our atonement. Amazingly it didn’t just stop there. In fact, that was just the beginning of what He accomplished. Because not only was our sin problem addressed but now a new and amazing opportunity was brought into being; a new way to be in relationship with God.

This week as we remember what Christ accomplished on the cross, we will look beyond the fix! Come discover what Jesus has made possible!

See you at church,

Pastor Chris.



Answering the Call

Do you remember the days before phone ID? The phone would ring and you never knew who it was going to be. All calls got answered. Now, the phone rings and the first thing we do is look at the ID. We want to see if it someone on the phone making us aware of breast cancer which seems to take money or if we need our ducts cleaned. We want to avoid the call from “Microsoft” letting us know we have some problem with our computer (even though I have a mac), or the “IRS” telling us to pay now preferably with a debit card or we could face arrest. Increasingly the call numbers are spoofed so you don’t really have any idea who is calling. I finally got a filter that gets rid of the robo calls, that is nice. It can sometimes make it difficult to answer the call if you don’t know the number.

What if God were to call? How would you answer then? The phone rings and you look at the caller ID and it says God in Heaven. Seems like it would be hard not to pick up. For some of you (and I want to apologize in advance) this puts the mildly heretical song the “Royal Telephone” in your mind (is the Holy Spirit electricity?). Hopefully it doesn’t stay there too long. Yet amazingly some would just let it ring. Maybe it is too scary. Maybe they think they have already answered. Maybe still others just are too busy to take that call. What would it mean if you answered it? What might God say? Why might he be calling you?

Moses got a call. It wasn’t on a cell phone or even the ancient and disappearing “land line” more like a flaming Fuchsia.   He wasn’t too sure about taking the call either. So this week as we continue to look at his life we will look at the kind of attitudes and character that is needed to answer that call. Consider how you would answer.

See you at church.
Pastor Chris


Hero or Human?

When you read the Bible, and you see the characters written of there, do you think of them as humans or heroes? It is true that most heroes are indeed human (other than Balaam’s donkey or maybe Jonah’s whale, unfortunately neither of which are named). But the distinction I want to make is not that of species but rather perspective.

Regular ole humans come with character flaws, warts, and actions that we can totally relate to. Hero’s on the other hand stand tall, the wind in their face, with heroic music playing in the background. They take dramatic action, which always works out with legendary results. The problem is that making hero’s out of Bible characters completely misses the point.

You see the Bible is not a book about heroic men and women. It is not the hall of fame where no one has a bad day. In fact, uncomfortably so, the characters of the Bible are incredibly …. ordinary.   They are ordinary people with ordinary flaws, that just so happened to be in the place where GOD used them. As it turns out, while David was certainly brave, what is more believable; a shepherd boy killed a hardened battle giant with some rocks or that God used a shepherd boy and some rocks to make a point about faith? Is it more believable if we skip over the parts where Elijah battled unsuccessfully with his doubts and fears running away after an amazing victory? Do we obscure Samson’s disappointingly horrible judgment and only emphasize his strength and battle prowess and great hair? Overly romantic notions about Bible characters makes the Bible about them instead of the reality of the situation: the Bible is about God.

It also separates us from them.   Instead of learning that God can and does use humans, even deeply flawed humans, to advance His agenda of redemption. We come away discouraged thinking that we could never be like so and so in the Bible. The opposite is true. We can be like so and so because God is still God! And He is still in the business of making His appeal through us.

This week we start a new sermon series on Moses and as we look to his life we will discover some good news about God and who He is pleased to use!

See you at church!

Pastor Chris



Blessings: The Reward

Don’t you love it when all your hard work finally pays off?  You plant a garden and the vegetables finally come up and then you harvest it.  You plant fruit trees and after years you finally see a yield.  You invest in your business and it finally starts paying you.  You invest in your children and they make you proud.  This is reward. 

Sometimes when the task is particularly difficult the reward at the end is what keeps us going.  Whether it is a degree from college, a skill you are trying to master, or a relationship you are investing in, the reward often gives us that little boost we need to persevere and not give up.  Rewards can be motivating and there is nothing wrong with that.   In fact, I think it is one of the blessings of God, which is why he tells us of the rewards he has prepared for us in advance.  He wants us to be motivated by them!

When you think of the rewards of knowing Jesus what do you think of?  What reward motivates you and gives you that steel to keep going?  What reward keeps your eyes on the prize?  This week we will talk about the blessing of reward.  As you prepare your heart for what God has for you think of all the rewards he has promised!

See you at church!

Pastor Chris



Beyond Understanding

This life is difficult. Nothing comes easy, and the things that seem easy are probably going the wrong direction actually making our life harder. There is pressure from everywhere. Financial pressure, social pressure, political pressure, even pressure from ourselves as we strive to achieve. Difficulties that lie outside of our control constantly intrude to create chaos.

Everything is moving too fast. We have a 24 hour news cycle, trading cycle, work cycle. There is no time to breathe. Every day we make hundreds of decisions each with their own set of consequences. When life slows down it takes us days to get used to it, then we suddenly feel bored, too much space to think, so we fill it with self distraction.

We can be overwhelmed with a past we are ashamed of. The complications of decisions made, life lived, and relationships gone wrong. The one we were is no more, but the history still exists. We beat ourselves up. Not out where everyone can see but inside where it really counts. We hear the lie of not being good enough, damaged goods, incomplete, inadequate. Ultimately we fear we will fail.

Can you relate?

We need peace. Not just a little bit once in a while. Not just a spoon full like cough medicine so you can sleep. We need to be immersed in it. We need it to flood over us like a hot bath on a cold day. We need it to penetrate all the way to the bone. We need it wrap around us like strong arms and hold us. We need gentle hands that cup our face and tell us it is going to be all right.

Do you need it?

This week we will be talking about one of the most incredible blessings of God, peace. Peace that goes beyond human understanding. Incredibly God wants you to have it. Come find out how you can.

See you at church.

Pastor Chris