Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Believers and Unbelievers, a Devotional by Board Member Chad Sauvage

 



Based on few recent discussions I have over the last few weeks, I realize that I have a problem I need to address.

When I lived as a pagan, the things that pagans did seemed normal to me.  I had no issues with how things were going and even participated in a few. 

But, when you leave that life behind, put away your old self, give your life to Christ, love and follow Him, those things that seemed OK, no longer seem OK.   What I used to consider “normal”, has now been brought into the light and exposed for what it really is.  I guess that is part of how the Holy Spirit works.  To convict me of my own sin, show me the truth, and to help me recognize the evil that lurks around us. 

 

As Isaiah 5:20 reads:

Woe to those who call evil good
    and good evil,
who put darkness for light
    and light for darkness,
who put bitter for sweet
    and sweet for bitter.

 

I think those words are more true today than ever before.

We’ve kicked God out of our schools.  We’ve kicked God out of the family.  We’ve kicked God out of our decision making.  We’ve kicked God out of our Government.  As Rep. Jerry Nadler of New York recently said on the house floor “Mr. Stuebe, what any religious tradition ascribes as God’s will is no concern of this congress”

When I look around and see everything that is going on, I am very troubled.  There is a line from a song that we sing in Church, I can’t remember the name of the song, but I remember the line….”Break my heart for what breaks yours”.  

 

My heart does break.  But for me, that manifests itself into anger.  

In fact, I get so angry with the un-apologetic actions and words of people in the culture and leadership that I identify with the disciples in Luke 9:51-55:


     "As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely          set out for Jerusalem. And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a         Samaritan village to get things ready for him; but the people there did not             welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem.  When the disciples         James and John saw this, they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down      from heaven to destroy them?”  But Jesus turned and rebuked them."


But I keep going back to verse 55, “but Jesus turned and rebuked them”. 

While it would be very helpful for me to know what Jesus said, I can assess that this is not OK J and that is not what Jesus wants. 

If Jesus allowed fire to be called down from heaven over the last 10-35 years, I would have been swept up and destroyed as well.  But He didn’t, and I am thankful for His grace.

But why didn’t He?  I believe that it has everything to do with 2 Peter 3:9

 

    "The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness.     Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to         come to repentance."

 

So then I am led to examine my heart and attitude towards people who knowingly reject God or knowingly sin against Him.

 

It is easy for me to put myself in the position of the Pharisee as in Luke 18:9-11

    "To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on     everyone else, Jesus told this parable:  “Two men went up to the temple to         pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.  The Pharisee stood by         himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—                robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector."

 

Why wouldn’t I want the same thing for them that someone once wanted for me? 

So here in lies the problem.  I honestly do not feel I am above the tax collector.  Nor do I place myself above the people who rejected Jesus in that village.  It is easy for me to look down on those who are not following Jesus.  But I am always in need of forgiveness and will never truly “arrive” until I am with Him.  Until then, I have to continue to rely on His grace not only for me, but for those who do not follow him. 

It’s not about an agenda.  It’s not about protests, riots, group think, movements, stats, theories or change in leadership.  None of this will help any of the issues we are facing.  The only thing that will make any real difference is God.  People have to turn to God and submit themselves to His authority.  It’s a matter of the heart.  

I can only pray that He will continue to work on me and change me.  I can only assume that somebody must have been praying for me back then.  To ask God to change my heart towards those that anger me. 

Don’t you just love new Christians?  Always acting like these things are new?  Like they are providing new revelations?  We’ll it is new for me, and I will strive to make it new for others if I can.  While I will never be in a position to make a difference like I would want, I can show others what God has done for me and pray that someway, somehow He will directly or indirectly show them who He is as well. 

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Wildflower and Weeds, by Suzanna Swenson

Recently, I listened to a teacher share a message about the parable of the sower that struck a chord within my heart. She warned that we not be like the seed that sprouted but was then choked out by weeds - the distractions and worries of this world. Added to these thoughts mulling in my mind, I was reflecting again on Jeremiah 24:7: "I will give them a heart to know Me, that I am the LORD. They will be My people, and I will be their God, for they will return to Me with all their heart."

When I look up from reading my Bible, I can see out onto a yard that is now overflowing with henbit. This time of year when henbit and dandelions grow up in profusions brings me much joy as I look out onto the waves of purple and yellow of spring. Most of the time I consider them "wildflowers" because they are desired where they are in my yard. Still, I remove these "weeds" immediately and completely if they venture into my garden. The difference between "weed" and "wildflower" is this: are they intended for that space? Or are they crowding out the plants that are meant for that place and keeping them from thriving?

So I ponder: what needs to be weeded in my life, spiritually speaking? What, even if it might be a beautiful, good thing in another context, has become a weed invading my life? Are there things keeping me from seeking after God with all my heart?

I want these things identified and ruthlessly removed. Because I do not want to be someone whose love for God is choked out by the worries of this life. I want to always seek Him and return to Him with all my heart.

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Homework: Our Reasons for Rejoicing

 



by Diane Reece

 

On Easter, Pastor Jeff mentioned his top three reasons for rejoicing about the empty tomb:

1.  Trust: We can trust in Jesus’ promises.

Jesus was about to go to Jerusalem, so he took his twelve disciples aside privately and said to them, “Listen to me. We’re on our way to Jerusalem, and I need to remind you that the Son of Man will be handed over to the religious leaders and scholars, and they will sentence him to be executed. And they will hand him over to the Romans to be mocked, tortured, and crucified. Yet three days later he will be raised to life again.” Matthew 20:17-19

Seven predictions. Seven very specific predictions. All came true. We can trust the words of Jesus.

 

2.  Hope: Jesus rose. We will too.

We do this because we are convinced that he who raised Jesus will raise us up with him, and together we will all be brought into his presence. 2 Corinthians 4:14

Beloved brothers and sisters, we want you to be quite certain about the truth concerning those who have passed away, so that you won’t be overwhelmed with grief like many others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, we also believe that God will bring with Jesus those who died while believing in him. 2 Thessalonians 4:13-14

 

3.  Strength: The same power that raised Jesus works in us!

Yes, God raised Jesus to life! And since God’s Spirit of Resurrection lives in you, he will also raise your dying body to life by the same Spirit that breathes life into you! Romans 8:11

 

Then Pastor Jeff tells us the New Testament gives us even more reasons for rejoicing. He challenged us to come up with our own. So how about it? Have you done your homework?

Here’s mine:

1.  Peace: I can rejoice because I have a peace inside that is settled. Regardless of the circumstances, it is there.

...then God’s wonderful peace that transcends human understanding, will guard your heart and mind through Jesus Christ. Philippians 4:7

 

2.  Love: I can rejoice in knowing Jesus loves me. I KNOW this. It, too, is settled.

There is no power above us or beneath us—no power that could ever be found in the universe that can distance us from God’s passionate love, which is lavished upon us through our Lord Jesus, the Anointed One!

Romans 8:39

Do you know you are lavishly and passionately loved? It’s true!

 

3.  Identity: I rejoice that the old is gone, the new has come! My identity is in Jesus. I am who I am because of the redemption of Jesus.

Whether a man is circumcised or uncircumcised is meaningless to me. What really matters is the transforming power of this new creation life. Galatians 6:15

 

This is homework to take seriously. This is homework with lasting effects. Do your homework and Rejoice!

 

(All scripture is from The Passion Translation)


Sunday, April 4, 2021

Christ has Risen!


Today's Reading: Luke 24: 1-8
"On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; He has risen! Remember how He told you, while He was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ ” Then they remembered His words."

Christ has Risen! He has Risen Indeed!

May you be filled to overflowing with God's goodness and joy as you celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus today!

Saturday, April 3, 2021

Grief and Faith

 

Today’s Reading: John 19: 38-42

“Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jewish leaders. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away. He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds. Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs. At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid. Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.”


Today’s Reflection

When I read these passages of Scripture, I see deep grief. Did Mary remember how, when Jesus was just a baby, she was told that a sword would pierce her own soul? Was Joseph of Arimathea ashamed that he had allowed his fear of the Jewish leaders to keep him a secret follower? Were the women inconsolable as they watched and waited? When Nicodemus brought enough myrrh and aloe fit for a king's burial, did he mourn his choice to meet Jesus at night instead of sitting at His feet in the light of day?

In Luke’s account, we are told that the women obeyed the command to rest on the Sabbath rather than continue with burial traditions immediately, choosing to worship and obey even when every one of them surely struggled with the most profound grief they had ever experienced. Because Jesus was the Messiah; He was God's Annointed Deliverer. How could they not grieve bitterly when Jesus died?

From our point in history, we know that God raised Jesus from the dead. We know that we need not grieve as those who have no hope. Joseph, Nicodemus, Mary, and the other women did not have that blessed assurance yet.

When I am deeply grieving and suffering loss, do I continue to act in faith? Do I still obey God when I do not understand? Or does a hard road tempt me to pull away from God? I know that these disciples of Jesus had their deepest grief turn to their greatest joy; will I choose to faithfully walk, trusting that God will provide a way for me?

Friday, April 2, 2021

Good Friday


Today's Reading: Luke 23:32-34

"Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with Him to be executed. When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified Him there, along with the criminals - one on His right, the other on His left. Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." And they divided up His clothes by casting lots."


Good Friday

Forgiveness. Radical Forgiveness – Jesus is interceding for even those who are crucifying Him in the moment He is being crucified.

What great love! What a Savior!

While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. His love for us, His desire that we return to a restored relationship with Him is that strong. His forgiveness is that perfectly complete.

Forgiveness freely offered is the reason why there is Good Friday. God held nothing back. He purchased our redemption at great price to have His greatest desire – to be restored with us. One portion of Scripture where God voices this desire is Jeremiah 24:7: "I will give them a heart to know Me, that I am the Lord. They will be My people, and I will be their God, for they will return to Me with all their heart."

God loves us. God offers us forgiveness. God wants to give us hearts to know Him, to know Him as Lord, to return to Him with all our hearts. May we always run to Him, loving Him with all our hearts, souls, minds, and strengths because of His abundantly great love for us! 

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Maundy Thursday

 

Today's Reading: Matthew 26:20-22

"When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve. And while they were eating, He said, "Truly I tell you, one of you will betray Me."

They were very sad and began to say to Him one after the other, "Surely You don't mean me, Lord?""

Maundy Thursday

For Thursday and Friday, rather than reflecting on what we could give the Lord, our focus here shifts to what God gives to us.

In today's reading, we see Jesus telling the Disciples that He knew who would betray Him. He knew before He called the Twelve which one would betray Him, yet none of the Disciples knew. Each was stirred in their own heart to ask Jesus if they would be the betrayer.

And so we know that Jesus loved Judas Iscariot no differently than Simon Peter. Watching Jesus, Matthew saw no difference in how Andrew, James, John, or Judas were treated. It wasn’t obvious. John’s account in John 13:18-30 makes it clear that even when Judas left the supper, there were Disciples who didn’t suspect that Judas was about to betray Jesus.

Praise the Lord that God does not treat us according to what our actions deserve, but according to His own great love for us!