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Easter Surprise (April 12, 2023)


                                                   CREDIT: WallpaperFlare.com

Dear Easter People,

Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Life is filled with surprises. One of the best surprises happens when someone you don’t expect to show up, shows up! I remember a time while we were at the Seminary in St. Louis. My daughter told me she we coming to town with friends for a mission trip. I said, “Keep it a secret! We’ll surprise your mom.” And we did surprise her. You should’ve seen the look on her face when our daughter walked out of the crowd gathered at the door to greet her!

One morning about 2000 years ago on a hillside graveyard outside Jerusalem a man named Peter, his friend, and a woman named Mary Magdalene got the surprise of their lives. Their leader Jesus was crucified and buried three days earlier. Mary returned to finish the burial procedures. When she got to the tomb – Surprise! No body! Peter and his friend heard of Mary’s surprise and came to investigate. In the tomb, the burial garments were neatly arranged, but there was, indeed, no body! 

The men returned home. Mary stayed behind weeping. She saw a man, maybe the gardener. Perhaps he knows what happened. She said, “Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away.” (John 20:15)  “The Gardner” called her name, “Mary.” Surprise! And what a surprise indeed! Mary instantly recognized Him! It was Jesus! He’s alive! Jesus told her to tell the others, so she ran off with her surprising news, “I have seen the Lord!” (John 20:18)

Many are surprised to hear what Mary’s surprise means for them. Rising from the dead, Jesus defeated the power sin and death. It’s surprising indeed. But it’s true. He is risen! And because He is risen, we and all who believe are forgiven, released from sin and death’s power to hold us down. Let’s join Mary to share this surprising news for us and all mankind with all we meet.

Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Pastor Jim

One Seed ... (April 5, 2023)

Soybean Seed in the Ground | If used, credit must be given t… | Flickr

CREDIT: Curt Dennison, Osborn & Barr Communications

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

As Spring gets going many of us love the color and life that comes with it. The flowers seem to wake up from their winter’s nap and bring all kinds of beauty to God’s creation. Some of them even last through Summer and into Fall. But eventually, this life fades. But that’s part of the cycle of life God has instituted in His creation.

The great thing about a cycle is this … it comes back again. The purpose of a flower is to make seeds. When the flower dies, the seeds drop into the soil. Then, when the warmer days and rains of Spring come, the many seeds from the one flower begin growing to create new flowers. 

This fact of God’s creation is the basis for Jesus’ short parable in John 8. Shortly after Jesus enters Jerusalem to the joyous “Hosannas” of the crowds, He says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” (John 8:24) 

Jesus uses this familiar example to teach the reality of what awaits Him later in the week. He knows He will be “lifted up” - that is crucified. He is one perfect, sinless man. He will die. He will be buried in the earth. But the result of His death and burial will be “much fruit” for His Father’s kingdom in heaven.

As a result of His suffering and death, Jesus will enable all mankind - separated from His Father by their sin - to be cleansed of that sin. Then, through His resurrection from the dead, all who believe in Him will also receive eternal life with Him. By His lonely death on the cross. By His lonely burial in the earth. By His resurrection, all mankind … billions and billions of people from across the ages of history and from all nations, tribes, and languages live again. Without it, God’s kingdom would be an empty place indeed.

                                                                        In the Peace of God,

                                                                        Pastor Jim

Death, Taxes, and Eternity (March 29, 2023)

Ted Williams 1954 Bowman. Public domain image of 1950s Japan. - PICRYL -  Public Domain Media Search Engine Public Domain Search

Dear Children of God,

I went to baseball game in Bisbee, Arizona many years ago. It was “Ted Williams Night”. Each ticket holder received a t-shirt and a popsicle. Why? Because Ted Williams’ family had him cryogenically frozen so that when a cure for what killed him was found, he could be resurrected. The popsicle was a macabre way to commemorate the current state of the “greatest hitter ever.”  But even the greatest – hitter, scientist, singer, actor, or human being – can’t live forever. Like the saying goes, “The only certainties in life are death and taxes.” Yet many still search fruitlessly for ways to extend, or even avoid, this inevitability.

It's probably a fear of the unknown that cause most of us to try forestalling death’s impact. That and the simple fact that God did not create us to die. He created us to live. Dying, the natural result of sin, is not what we’re made to experience. So, when death rears its ugly and inevitable head – fear can begin to set in.

But Jesus reminds us of another inevitability … an eternal inevitability that wipes away that fear for all who believe in Him. He says, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.” (John 11:25-26)

Jesus never promises there will be no adversity in our earthly walk of faith. However, He does promise that when this walk is finished, there is still more for all who believe in Him. We shall all live forever with Him and all who believe in Him. Martha trusted Jesus to help her in her grief. You and I can also trust Him in our trials. He is with us always – in His Word when we read and hear it, when we call on Him in prayer, and in our time of worship. Go to Him. Trust Him. He will bring you through your fears – fears of the unknowns in this life and in eternity, even death.

                                                                        In Christ’s Love,

                                                                        Pastor Jim

Problem? ... Solution! (March 22, 2023)

Solution Problem Support - Free image on Pixabay

CREDIT: Image by geralt

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

“What’s your problem there?” This simple question could mean a couple things. First, it could mean, “What’s the cause of your difficulty?” – asking the who, what, why question to find blame. But it could also mean, “What can I do to help?” – asking the how question to assist you out of your predicament? It’s a subtle difference. But when I have a problem, assessing blame doesn’t usually fix the issue. I’d rather someone help me out. 

Jesus teaches us a similar lesson when He comes along a blind man. His disciples seem most interested in the cause of his blindness, “Jesus, who sinned this man or his parents?” (John 9:2) Jesus didn’t seem to care much about “who” or “why”. He focused on “how” – how to help the man so God’s glory might be displayed in the world for others to see (John 9:3). Jesus anointed the man’s eyes with some mud and said, “Go wash in the pool of Siloam.” Which he did and … problem solved – he could see again. 

Because of Jesus’ action in the man’s life, he came to see something even more important than his way around town. The man came to see and believe Jesus was the Messiah. Immediately he worshipped Jesus (John 9:35-38).

It’s not that the cause of our problems is unimportant. But the cause isn’t always the most important thing. God our Father knows what our main problem is – sin – and the cause – our fallen human nature inherited from Adam and Eve. But He’s more interested in how He can help us out of our “sin” problem through His actions! Of course, that action is sending His Son Jesus to us to live, die, and rise from the dead to save us. 

God calls us to action today. God calls us to share His love with others by helping them out. When we do this, we show God’s love to and shine His glory on those in need – that they too might also see Him and say, “Lord, I believe!”

                                                                        In Christ’s Love,

                                                                        Pastor Jim

Just Follow Directions (March 15, 2023)

Follow directions cliparts png 2

CREDIT: Clipartix.com

Dear Children of God,

Have you ever bought something with the caveat, “Some assembly required”? Then, you get home, open the box, and just go to work – and promptly run into all kinds of trouble, extra parts, and frustration. Well, if you just followed the manufacturer’s directions, starting at step one, usually it goes a lot better. Usually, the creator knows best.

Moses experienced both sides of this issue. Following directions … and not following them. In both cases, God’s people were grumbling that life would be so much better if they would’ve stayed in Egypt – forgetting the oppressive thumb of pharaoh. In the first instance, right after they saw God part the Red Sea and provide daily supplies of manna, Moses cried out for help. God responded, “Behold, I will stand before you … you shall strike the rock, and water shall come out of it, and the people will drink.” (Exodus 17:6) Moses followed God’s directions and water poured from the rock. Forty years later, Moses again cried out. Only God’s direction was a little different. God said, “Take the staff … and tell the rock before their eyes to yield its water.” (Numbers 20:8) Then Moses, for some reason, struck the rock with his staff twice instead of speaking to it as God commanded. Though water came out, God punished Moses for failing to trust and follow directions.

We know what God’s Word says to us. Then, we hear the world say, “That doesn’t make sense!” When we the world rather than God, that’s called “sin.” The consequences include both immediate fallout and eternal outcomes. But, when we sin, God gives us more instructions, “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) When we realize our error, turn back to Him, and follow His direction; our Father restores us to His eternal presence. Earthly outcomes still apply; but eternal life is restored. This Lent, follow God’s directions to “return to Him” with your whole heart.

                                                                                        In Christ’s Love,

                                                                                        Pastor Jim

Faith and Works (March 8, 2023)



Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Imagine a situation. You’ve been called into a meeting because you’re an expert. Your past success shows you’ve handled what others can’t. Your turn comes to speak. Based on your experience, you give your expert opinion on several approaches to solve the problem. Then, without even considering your advice, someone says, “Thank you, but that’s not going to work.” While you’ve demonstrated success in the past, for some reason, this person has no faith in you or your approach. They’re going to do things their own way despite good advice to the contrary. While frustrating – like trying to break through a wall by beating your head against it – this happens.

I can imagine God might feel this way sometimes. On account of sin, brought in by a couple of “I’ll do it my way” types, every one of His human creatures is doomed. But God has the plan that will save them – His Son, His sinless life, His death, His resurrection. All people need to do is have faith in His plan of salvation (John 3:16). Faith in Jesus Christ alone and His work on the Cross is what saves us all from eternal death. 

But many of the “so-called experts” around the table say, “No, that’s too easy. I’ve got my own way.” That way is called “works”. Paul reminds us, “Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness.” (Romans 4:4-5) 

Works are done to earn something … faith is a gift. No amount of works can save a person because they’ll always be outweighed by sin. But faith in God’s gifts of forgiveness and eternal life through Jesus … that always saves. Then, in faith, we show our appreciation to God for His gift by doing the things He calls us to do – not to earn our salvation, but in thanks for our salvation.

                                                                        Your Brother in Christ,

                                                                        Pastor Jim

Who Ya Gonna Call?! (March 1, 2023)

Dear Disciples of Christ,

If you have a problem with your taxes, do you call an accountant or your plumber? Water is pouring from your ceiling – do you call your plumber or your doctor? If you need heart surgery, you’ll call the cardiologist, right? The answers seem obvious. You call the expert and follow their directions.

Following directions. When we do, it often works out – especially if the direction-giver is an expert in their field.

Unfortunately, humans can tend to ignore expert directions to follow guidance that sounds better to them. This isn’t new. It’s what got us all in trouble in the beginning. God, the Creator and ultimate expert in His creation, gave Adam one command, “Don’t eat from the tree of the knowledge-of-good-and-evil or you’ll die!” (Genesis 2:17) Adam passed the word to Eve. Eve repeated it to the serpent as he tried to get her to eat from that tree. Then the serpent said, “You will surely not die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:4-5) Eve ignored God’s expert directions; she followed the snake, a creature serving Satan’s interests, and its advice. Her disobedience – and Adam’s failure to stop her – allowed sin and death into the world. Just like God said.

When God speaks, we need to listen. He’s the expert in all things, seen and unseen. Immediately after sin and death entered His good creation, God made a promise. He said to the serpent, “I will put (hatred) between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; He will crush your head, and you will strike His heel.” (Genesis 3:15 (NIV)) This good news is God’s promise to destroy Satan’s power to kill and destroy. God did this through the woman’s offspring, the Son of God. As we find ourselves trapped in sin, let us rejoice in knowing God has rescued us through His Son, Jesus Christ. Let us trust God, the expert in all things, in all things.

                                                                        In Christ’s Love,

                                                                        Pastor Jim