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Good Example ... Or ... (March 23, 2022)

Horrible Example | "Either be a good example or a horrible w… | Flickr

CREDIT: Major Clanger

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Ever hear the saying, “You can be a horrible warning or a great example”? In either case we can learn from these kinds of people – what not to do and how not to act or what to do! I’ve experienced this saying for a while. I had a boss many years ago who was a “horrible warning” - he hoarded all his good employees, keeping them from advancing in their careers. Fortunately, he was succeeded by a “great example” who saw value in promoting his best so others could also move up. I hope I learned from both; what to do and what not to do.

God’s word is filled with “great examples” of faith, as well as many “horrible warnings” so we might see firsthand the importance of keeping ourselves firmly tied to God and His word through regular worship, prayer, and the study of His word. St. Paul gives us some “horrible warnings” help us learn from. God’s own people, selected by Him and saved from the tyranny of the Egyptians, still engaged in idol worshipindulged in sins of the fleshput God to the test, and grumbled against Him and His miraculous provision. Lacking faith in God’s loving promises, they all fell dead before entering the Promised Land. He says, “These things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction” (1 Corinthians 10:1-11).

God’s word gives us, His people today, these “horrible warnings” to teach us a simple truth. God saves us by the power of the Holy Spirit. He gives us the gift of faith to believe His word and promises on account of Jesus Christ. But, without proper nourishment through worship, prayer, and His word, our faith can shrivel, grow weak, and even die. Satan, taking advantage of our weakened state, can lead us astray through temptation. But, when faced with temptation, turning to God and His word, He strengthens us to endure as we journey into the eternal Promised Land, the kingdom of heaven (1 Corinthians 10:13).

                                                                                                        In Christ’s Love,

                                                                                                                Pastor Jim

Divine Workout (March 16, 2022)

Photo by Clique Images on Unsplash 

Dear First Family and Friends,

I’m a “New Years Resolution” person. This year’s resolution – get in shape. My physical body has been struggling to keep up with the demands I put on it so, time to get back in shape. And so far, so good. I’m still doing the walking, running – er … jogging – and weightlifting I resolved to do. I’m not trying to get my 20- or 30-something body back. I’m just trying to get the one God has given me back in shape so I can do the things He’s called me to do in this life.

No matter how hard I, or any of us, do that workout thing; we’re faced with one common inevitability. Our physical bodies will degrade. It’s one of those certainties we all face in this life. However, because of our faith in Jesus, we also rest assured in one more sure thing – when Jesus returns “Our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like His glorious body, by the power that enables Him even to subject all things to Himself” (Philippians 3:21). When Christ returns, He will bring us and all who believe in Him into His new creation and eternal life with all the saints.

A question on some of our minds as we hear these words might also be, “What’s that glorious body going to look like?” I would answer that by saying this … it’ll be more glorious than you can even imagine. Take your best day … it’ll be infinitely better than that. Hear God’s promise to His children, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away … Behold, I am making all things new … these words are trustworthy and true” (Revelation 21:4-5). The important thing isn’t what our “glorious body” will look like – it’ll be fabulous beyond words – it’s that it will be in the true, living, eternal presence of God.

                                                                                        In His Love,

                                                                                        Pastor Jim

Remembering God's Word (March 9, 2022)

CREDIT: Alec Perkins

Dear Saints and Sinners,

I was doing my taxes the other day. I was frustrated because I couldn’t remember where I put some key information. I knew I had it, but where?! Ugh! Fortunately, I my computer seems to remember anything. So, after driving myself half nuts, I had the computer look for it. Ten seconds later – ding! – there it was. Ahhh – okay, maybe not, I still had to do my taxes, but at least I had my information.

I’m sure we all get frustrated by things going on around us. We get exasperated when we see things happening we don’t like. It’s in these times, we can get taken advantage of because we start to lose our cool. Satan loves it when this happens because that’s when we’re at our weakest … that’s when we turn our attention from God and His word … and go our own way. In these times, it’s good to remember … who is with us always and what He says to us.

Jesus shows us how to face down the devil though. During His forty-day fast in the desert (Luke 4:1-13), Satan tried taking advantage of Jesus’s extreme hunger, “Turn these rocks into bread.”  Jesus remembered God’s word, “Man doesn’t live on bread alone.” (Deuteronomy 8:3) Then, remembering that Jesus would one day suffer and die to defeat him, the devil gave Jesus a way out, “See all these kingdoms – they’re yours! Just worship me.” Jesus remembered God’s word again, “You shall not serve false gods.” (Deuteronomy 6:13, 10:12,20) Finally the devil saw what Jesus was doing. So he remembered God’s word saying, “Throw yourself off this tower. God will protect you.” (Psalm 91:11-12) But Jesus remembered that God also says, “Don’t put the Lord God to the test.” (Deuteronomy 6:16) The devil fled Jesus.

So, when you’re frustrated, exasperated, losing your cool. Remember! Count to 10. Follow Jesus’ example. Go to God in prayer. Go to His word for guidance. In the name of Jesus and by His word, the devil will flee (James 4:7-8).

                                                                                                  Your Fellow Saint and Sinner,

                                                                                                  Pastor Jim

The Hardest Thing (February 23, 2022)

Dear People of Grace,

When we think of Jesus, we often think – “God-man” who saved us from sin and death through His death on the cross and resurrection to new life. We like much what He says – especially the forgiveness and eternal life parts. But Jesus also has some hard things to hear. Perhaps the hardest for us who live with the unholy trinity of “me, myself, and I” is …

“But I say to you … ‘Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.’” (Luke 6:27-28). When God’s word calls us to “love,” this is what He’s calling us to do. That’s some hard teaching, isn’t it? But think about this one …

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Sin, our disobedience, makes us God’s enemies. It makes us people who, in some small way, hate Him because we hate His word enough to disobey it. It makes us people who, in some small way, curse Him as we use His name to carelessly curse others. It makes us people who, in some small way, abuse Him because we abuse His infinite grace by receiving His forgiveness and then going straight into the world to disobey again. And what does God do …

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9) – not once, or a few times, but every time. God’s infinite love, perfect grace, and unlimited patience waits for the Holy Spirit to slowly reshape us back into “the image of God” and His perfect love while also leading us to live more fully in accord with Jesus’ teachings. Let us all pray – ask God to help us grow into this love that we can love our enemies, do good to our haters, bless those who curse us, and pray for our abusers. 

                                                                                                        In God’s Grace,

                                                                                                        Pastor Jim

But for God's Grace (February 15, 2022)

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash 

Dear People of Grace,

“There … but for the grace of God … go I.” It’s an old saying going back to the 16th century. I bet we can apply these words to our lives. I know I can. As I see many people struggling in many ways – for example poverty, sickness, or loneliness – I say, “There … but for the grace of God … go I.” I remember being in college, struggling to stay enrolled, but by the grace of God I made it. I recall times I acted recklessly, putting my life in danger in search of thrills, but by the grace of God I made it. “There … but for the grace of God … go I.” I’m sure you can relate. So now that we’re here – not there, by His grace, what next?

St. Paul, or should I say Saul, wrote, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:10) Paul recognized quite clearly his former life as a zealous persecutor of Jesus and His disciples would’ve led him straight the gates of hell. But then, by the grace of God, Jesus appeared to Saul on the road to Damascus. Jesus transformed Saul’s tireless zeal and deep knowledge of scriptures, twisted though it was, into Paul’s passionate proclamation of the gospel. Through Paul, many, including you and I, have been saved by God’s grace through faith in the gospel.

What next? By God’s grace, we have also been called to use our gifts – zeal and knowledge, creativity, leadership, organization, speaking, writing … whatever they might be – to serve Him, His church, and His creation. By the grace of God, we have been protected from our errors along the way. We have been led to this point in time and space. We have been called by God to use our gifts to rescue still others into the grace of God. What’s next for you? What is God calling you to do in response to His grace for you? 

                                                                                                        In God’s Grace,

                                                                                                        Pastor Jim

Expert Advice (February 9, 2022)

Consulting | A word cloud featuring "Consulting". Would appr… | Flickr

Dear Children of God,

The other day I was having some trouble repairing some broken tile. I was getting a little frustrated trying to get the old grout and tile out so I could replace it. I tried this and that to no avail. Then I called an expert – a friend who did that kind of thing for a living. He gave me some great advice on the proper tools and a helpful video on how to use them. Suddenly, the frustration vanished, and the job became a snap – more or less – to finish.

Luke 5 is one of those, to me anyway, funny stories in the Gospels. After teaching from a borrowed fishing boat, “Jesus the Carpenter” gives advice to some expert fisherman on how to catch fish – after a long night catching none. I guess Simon Peter, one of the fishermen, figured, “Got my boat and empty nets right here. Might as well try.” The experts didn’t realize it, but they were dealing with the ultimate expert, the Word Made Flesh who created all things seen and unseen, including the fish in the lake (John 1:1-3,14). They did as Jesus said and caught such an amazing quantity of fish that their nets started to break, and their boats almost capsized under the weight! Peter, seeing this sign, fell at Jesus’ feet and said, ““Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord” to which Jesus responded, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men” (Luke 5:8,10). They left their boats and everything else to follow Jesus.

These fishermen had no expertise whatsoever to follow Jesus in His mission to save creation from sin’s power and death. But they followed Him anyway. Jesus calls us to do the same. We may feel incapable of using our gifts on this mission. But Jesus tells us, “Don’t be afraid!” His expertise and the power of the Holy Spirit ensure a bounteous catch. Have no fear, the expert is here. He’s with us always (Matthew 28:20) each step of the way!

In God’s Love,

                                                                     Pastor Jim

Purpose of Life (February 2, 2022)

Photo by Ian Schneider on Unsplash 

Dear Body of Christ,

Life can be a search for our purpose. Along the way, we sometimes get a lot of help – teachers, counselors, and friends. For example, everyone seemed to think I should be a doctor or engineer. So that’s what I tried – I studied and survived engineering school. Later in life, our purpose may change. For me, many told me I was a good teacher. Maybe, being an engineer, I should teach high school math or science. Fortunately, somebody else told me about His purpose for me. It was teaching, but a little different kind than most, myself included, envisioned.

Jesus had some help too. Luke’s gospel describes the start of Jesus’ ministry with the devil telling Him what he thinks His purpose is while in the wilderness (Luke 4:1-13). Then, after declaring Isaiah’s prophecy to be fulfilled in His hometown synagogue (Luke 4:21), Jesus goes on a demon exorcising and healing spree. Not a bad thing, but people get the idea His purpose is to do just that, to be the local demon exorciser and healer to point He couldn’t get any rest. He even goes out into the sticks where people find Him bringing all their sick and demon possessed along. But Jesus announces His real purpose, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to other towns as well” (Luke 4:43). The healings and such were not His purpose, they were simply signs of who He is – the Son of God.

In the world today, we are right to call on Jesus for help, for healing, for anything. But His purpose is not to grant us temporal benefits. Sometimes He does, but that’s not His purpose. His purpose – to deliver the good news of the kingdom of God to us too. That through Him – His life, death, and resurrection – we have healing from sin and eternal life in the kingdom of God where there is no longer any sickness, suffering, or attacks from the evil one. Jesus has fulfilled His purpose for us. Thanks be to God!

In Christ’s Love,

                                                                      Pastor Jim