Loving God, Loving Each Other

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Sandcastles and Card Houses

Years ago the extended Walker family went on a beach vacation. We had taken shovels on the trip for the intended purpose of creating some sizable sand sculptures (as the males in the Walker family are fairly adept in the arts) and what’s not to enjoy about shoveling thousands of pounds of sand while on vacation? So we created a massive heap of sand and spent hours during the heat of the day carving out an enormous dragon.  We gained considerable joy watching people throughout the day walk up and admire the work and take pictures of it.   But at some point in the evening some art critics (probably a gaggle of kids) decided that it would be fun to stomp our dragon into oblivion… and that’s what they did.  The work of 4 people over the course of a day was wrecked in moments.  But we bore them no ill will.  If they hadn’t done it the tide, wind, or rain would have accomplished as much.  Buddhist monks do much the same thing as a religious practice.  They make elaborate sand drawings by pouring colored sand in delicate and carefully manicured patterns and they do this knowing (and often experiencing) the immanent destruction of their project as soon as a slight breeze shows up.  Indeed, that’s the whole point of their art and their religious view of all of life’s projects: it’s all being destroyed, corrupted, and ruined… all things are impermanent.  This central tenant of Buddhist teaching is considered one of the greatest life tragedies in Christian teaching.  To build something that doesn’t last?  That’s what the fool does (Matt 7:24-27).

Card houses and sandcastles are typically not built with permanency in mind, but most people would not be pleased to have their life efforts compared to a card house.  There’s nothing so discouraging and disheartening as knowing that the best efforts you make in this life are fragile and destined for destruction.  If you want to see a human being broken… you need only convince them that their life makes no lasting difference and that their efforts will be lost and forgotten.  This week we will consider Jesus’ words to us about the construction project that is our life.  What are you building?

What Are You Waiting For?

Pastor’s Pen 1/6/21

“Who/What Are You Waiting For?” (John 4)

How do you feel about waiting?  Do you like it?  Does it bother you?  Well for most of us the answer to that question depends on what we’re waiting for.  Sometimes we’re just waiting as the ordinary course of life.  This kind of waiting is mundane and might be described as drudgery.  For example, we’re waiting on an oil change, waiting for our fast food, waiting for our spouse to finish getting ready so we can go to wherever we’re headed… we may find such waiting to be tiresome perhaps even obnoxious.  But worse than the drudgery is what we feel if we’re waiting for something that we truly believe will be terrible.  Such waiting might be described as fear or even dread.  Think of the anxiety produced by awaiting news from a doctor that can only be bad, to hear we are being stuck with months of jury duty, or perhaps we’re waiting to hear about what’s happening with a flight delay… you know waiting to hear how much longer we’re going to be waiting.  But what if we’re waiting for something good or maybe even great?  Waiting for the start of a vacation we’ve been looking forward to, or for the arrival of a baby, or reuniting with loved ones after extended separation, maybe even waiting for a surprise (a mysterious something) hinted at by a loved one.  Such waiting doesn’t feel like drudgery or dread, rather this waiting might best be described as “anticipation”.  It could be joy inducing perhaps even exhilarating.

I believe the lives of most human beings could be described in these three ways.  If you believe that this life is all there is, then probably most of life feels like drudgery; life is like one big line at the department of motor vehicles.  Among those who believe that this life is all there is, some have taken the time to look toward the very literal end-of-the-line, and they live with perpetual fear and dread of that end.  If this is the default position of every human, I wonder at what could possibly change our category to that third option of expectation and anticipation?  If there is no spiritual realm, no God, no possibility of eternity then the wait is at best drudgery but realistically it is dreadful: for pain, suffering, loss, and death await us all.  But if God does exist, if we are spirits made for eternity, and if such a God has spoken to us and given us assurances and even a mission; well then all of life is infused with joyous anticipation.  What could alter our view of this waiting?  Stated simply, a word or message from the outside.  Take the most hopeless degenerate and if they receive a message that they genuinely recognize as from God, everything changes.  How good it is to have our waiting interrupted by word that reveals God and His purpose… better still is to be interrupted by the Word who is God and who reveals to us what we’re really waiting for.  We’ll discuss such an interruption this Sunday (see John 4).

“The Test”

Pastor’s Pen

12-23-2020

The Test

Is this going to be on the test?”  Have you ever said that phrase to a teacher or professor?  I always cringed inwardly when someone in my classes raised their hand and said such a thing.  The implication is clear: “I only care about what I need to get the grade and get out of here” or “What you’re saying only matters to me insofar as I need it to get a passing grade.”  This attitude may be ugly in the classroom, but it’s uglier in the Kingdom of God.  While no one explicitly says “is this going to be on the test?”, the questions asked of Jesus often boil down to such a query.  Many in our world and many in our faith are seeking out the minimal entry requirements.  What is the least I have to do to be saved?  We’re going to visit a minimal entry requirement before the end of our message this week… but rest assured we’ll take the long way there.

There’s another kind of student:  the one who drinks in information and may not even care so much about a grade as gathering understanding, or even being in the presence of the teacher.  Consider the story of Mary and Martha in Luke chapter 10:38-42.  Here we see a student (Mary) that will even forgo that which is considered to be her primary cultural and social obligation just to learn from the Master… to sit as his feet.  Jesus says to a worried Martha:

“Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered and anxious about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part [that which is to her advantage], which will not be taken away from her.”

If you are Jesus’ disciple, you are His student (literally his “learner”).  Have you chosen the good part?  Will you do so in 2021?  Ask yourself this earnest question today: “What kind of student am I?

Darkness Before Light (Isa 9:2)

Pastor’s Pen 12-16-20

What is the biggest issue facing you as a person?  Have you ever asked yourself that question?  How about this one:  What is the biggest issue facing humanity?  What is wrong with us?  Many in our culture would individually focus on some immediate perceived need.  Paying off a home, finding someone to love, having enough saved for a comfortable retirement.  But what is the end result of all of those conditions?  Well, not to be macabre, but you’re still going to die.  Maybe you want to leave a legacy?  You’d like to change the world?  Bring about peace for all the nations?  Food, shelter, and clothing for every person on the planet… but they’re all going to die too right?  The generations will pass away and eventually humanity will go extinct.  The universe itself is on a timetable and will pass away.  So what’s the biggest problem?  The agnostic existentialist Jean Paul Sartre said, “Whether I live for a day or a thousand years makes no difference once I’ve lost eternity”.  I think Sartre is right about that.  Think of everything you’re chasing after right now.  Your wealth, your love, your security, your health: if it ends in death then what does it matter?  It is as Solomon said: “grasping oil” or “chasing after the wind”…  “Meaningless, meaningless, utterly meaningless.

If there is a God all of this changes, but not necessarily for the better (“better” would depend on your condition with regard to that God).  All monotheistic traditions and revelation hold that death is not the end.  So for those who wish to live their lives in a blaze of glory and seek the shelter of oblivion in the grave… sorry, but that’s not an option.  As Christ himself stated it in Matthew 10:28: “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; but rather be afraid of Him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”  The news is bad… our problems are bigger than the details of our lives, and even bigger than death.  We’ve got a God to contend with, and He’s not happy with us.  But its okay, right?  We can love that God, and try to serve Him, and advocate for Him and that will make it alright, right?  Wrong.  The scriptures indicate that God’s standard is perfection… how are you measuring up?  It is all pretty dismal, unless someone can change God’s view of us.  And here’s the good news.  For those paying attention to the story of God and Israel, we see God training a people to recognize that salvation comes from God alone, and the story has never changed.

Isa 43:11 I, only I, am the Lord,
And there is no savior besides Me.

Isa 43:25 “I, only I, am He who wipes out your transgressions for My own sake,
And I will not remember your sins.

From the forging of this cosmos, our merciful God had rightly diagnosed our biggest problem as  our rebellion against Him and our inability to fix it.  This same God has a plan to overwhelm our sin and restore us.  His zeal for us would bring it about in a most unthinkable way.  He humbled himself and came to live as one of us.  Do you realize how dark things are apart from the coming of the Light of the World?

Isa 9:6-7 For a Child will be born to us, a Son will be given to us;
And the government will rest on His shoulders;
And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.
There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace
On the throne of David and over his kingdom,
To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness
From then on and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of armies will accomplish this.

The Hope of Destruction

Pastor’s Pen 12-9-2020

The Hope of Destruction

Preparing for our message this Sunday, I was doing an in-depth study of the fifth chapter of Paul’s letter to the Thessalonian church.  The church at Thessalonica had been experiencing persecution and yet thriving in the midst of it, and Paul in his final paragraphs of that first letter offers them this encouraging little spirit-boost:

1 Thes 5:1-4

Now on the topic of times and seasons, brothers and sisters, you have no need for anything to be written to you. For you know quite well that the day of the Lord will come in the same way as a thief in the night. Now when they are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction comes on them, like labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will surely not escape.

My immediate thought was:  “Are we supposed to be encouraged by the destruction of the non-believers at judgement?  That doesn’t seem very Christ-like, Paul!”  But then my train of thought derailed mightily as a flood of scriptures came rolling through my brain-space countering my intuitive knee-jerk reaction.  I had to laugh, as the thought came:  Not Christlike? Who will be administering that judgement, Ben?   

1 Tim 4:1 NASB

I solemnly exhort you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom:

Rom 2:16 NASB

16 on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of mankind through Christ Jesus.

John 5:22-23 NASB

22 For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son, 23 so that all will honor the Son just as they honor the Father. The one who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.

My impression of Jesus lamenting-the-loss was largely, I suspect, framed up on our modern rendition of Jesus as a sort of Mr. Rogers.  But the Lamb of God is also the Lion of Judah.  Will Jesus be mourning and lamenting at Judgement?  I suspect not.  That day will be a celebration of cosmic justice, and that is encouraging!  Are you frustrated as you look around this earth and see the cheats and liars, the cruel, the manipulators, deceivers, charlatans, the wicked power-brokers, and vile tyrants “getting away with it”?  Well, be encouraged… they aren’t getting away with it.  Paul told a battered church body confronting daily persecution to be encouraged that judgment will catch the wicked… “they will surely not escape.”  Aren’t you glad? 

If you’re still not sure that we should be encouraged by that impending destruction, if you think it doesn’t seem “nice” even if Paul says so and Jesus is performing it, know that Peter celebrates it as well (2 Pet 3). or try this one: all the Martyrs below the alter in heaven are depicted in Revelation as crying out to God to hurry up and bring it about (Rev 6:9-11).  It is not wrong for us to join them in that prayer.  Judgement and destruction are coming for the sons-of-darkness.  Be encouraged and be steadfast in the light (1 Thes 5:1-11).

Operation Christmas Light

This is essentially a secret sister exchange to bless one another with a little joy. You can fill out the questionnaire in-person, by clicking on the link below for a PDF, or through the link:  Operation Christmas Light Questionnaire. Please return them by December 6th. We will let you know your secret sister by December 7th. You will have 3 weeks to “bless” your secret sister. This will run from December 7th-December 20th.  

Click link for more information: PDF

Click here for questionnaire: PDF

Children's Director position is available at CFLM. Click on this announcement to learn more.