Friday, May 29, 2009

Wisdom on scrap paper...

Okay, I cleaned my dresser!

When I did, I found a lot of things I forgot putting there. And a few things I’m sure someone else put there, cause I’m sure I’ve never seen them before. Maybe I should have cleaned a long time ago…

One of the things I saw was a scrap of paper with a short message on it. It was given to me, I can almost remember by whom, but certainly not when…

Deliverance from sin is a much greater gift

than deliverance from affliction.

There is a great wisdom in that short message. We often pray for deliverance from our afflictions. When we’re hurt we want healing. When we’ve been wronged, we want to feel better. But there is a good that can come from our hurts. God works through those hurts to bring us to a better place. Growth comes through times of trial.

The real gift is deliverance from sin. Sin causes eternal problems. Affliction only causes temporary problems. And while affliction is very real to us at the time, and sin’s consequences rarely seem that serious at the time, it’s really the other way around.

With time we will see that our afflictions are temporary, but the consequences of sin is a much more serious problem.

So, which would you rather have? I urge you to accept the much greater gift. Accept deliverance from sin through God’s Son Jesus. Let Him deliver you from your sin…

Thursday, May 28, 2009

My messy dresser...

I lost my pocketknife. I’ve been looking everywhere for it, but just couldn’t find it. I was sure that it would turn up in the washing machine, convinced that I must have left it in a pocket. But weeks went by, and it never turned up…

I shared this with my wife the other day and she asked, “Are you sure it isn’t on your dresser?” Of course I was sure, that’s where I would put it at night. That’s the first place I looked. I looked there several time. I had just looked there when she asked that ridiculous question. She must have thought I was a real dummy. Of course, then she looked on the dresser, and found it rather quickly. Handing it to me, she said, “You really need to clean off your dresser…” Maybe she was right, maybe I need to clean off my dresser (or maybe I am a real dummy!).

I don’t know about you, but for me, dressers are a real place to store all those things that you don’t really know what to do with. Another great place is that shelf right by the back door! The problem is, when stuff gathers, other stuff gets lost.

The same is true in life. We store up lots of emotional stuff. Past hurts. Memories. If only’s. The problem is, when stuff gathers, other stuff gets lost.

What important lessons in life have you lost because too much other stuff has accumulated? What lessons of faith have been hidden? Is God even visible anymore? Perhaps it’s time to clean…

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The desire for knowledge...

Is it going to far to suggest that we have an almost unquenchable thirst for knowledge? Perhaps not as individuals, though we certainly want to understand those things that happen to us, that involve us directly. But as a society, as a country, as a human race – knowledge is power. The quest for knowledge surpasses anything else.

But where did that quest come from? Might I suggest that it actually isn’t a blessing at all… Rather, a curse.

Genesis 2 tells us of the glory of the Garden of Eden. This was God’s plan for the world. This is what the world looked like before the fall of man. There were trees all through the garden, all of them good for food. There was just one tree, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, that he was not permitted to eat from.

I think of that and think that the tree might be better called the tree of the knowledge of evil, for Adam already knew good. It wasn’t a knowledge of good that he stood to gain. It was only evil. But Adam ate of that tree. And that began a quest for knowledge that cannot be quenched. I quench for knowledge that God did not desire in His creation. Thus, a curse.

Could it be that our quest for knowledge is really a lack of trust in God? We have to understand why things work, because we don’t really trust in God to keep them working. We have to understand all we can about medicine, because we don’t really trust God to heal us. We have to know all about the stars and outer-space, because we don’t really believe God created.

Truth is, I think we have it all wrong. It is better to trust than to know…

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


As we live our Christian Faith, one thing becomes abundantly clear: Relationships are important!

I think that as we live our faith, relationships are perhaps the most important thing. Specifically, there are three different relationships that we need to cultivate and keep current as strive to live as God’s people.

The first important relationship is our relationship with God. Perhaps this is the most important of the three, but we can’t neglect the others without harming our relationship with God. This is a relationship that we were created to have. Adam and Eve walked in the garden with God. We were created to have that close relationship, too. Our sin created a barrier to our relationship with God – God cannot look at sin. But Christ’s death on the cross paid the penalty for our sin, removing sin as a barrier to our relationship with God. We are once again able to choose this relationship. And living without this relationship leaves a whole in our hearts that can’t be filled with anything else. This is a necessary relationship.

The second important relationship is our relationship with other believers. Those who trust in Jesus – together – are the Body of Christ. And you can’t expect to be part of the Body of Christ, apart from the Body of Christ. The church is the manifestation of the Body of Christ. I often hear that people don’t have to go to church to be a Christian. I’m not so sure… No where in the New Testament do I see people living a life of faith apart from other believers. On the contrary, the early church “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. All the believers were together…” (Acts 2:42a, 44a). Other passages from Paul’s letters suggest they met daily to study scriptures and to pray together. Church is very simply a community of believers. Our faith cannot be lived out outside that community.

The third relationship that is so important is our relationship with those who are outside our faith. The lost. The un-churched. The un-saved. No matter what you call them, God loves them. Only by showing them God’s love, can we ever expect them to come to a life saving faith of their own. Only when they see God’s love acted out can they be opened to thinking of this faith for themselves. It is true that we must “love them in.”

In America today, we are all about the individual. Whatever makes us feels good. Whatever we want. It’s all about us. But that kind of thinking can destroy relationships. For the Christian, relationships are just too important!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Love and Compassion....

We had a guest speaker this week - Seth Snowden.

Seth is a nineteen year old who was raised in Hornell, and feels that God is calling him to a ministry with Compassion International. Compassion International is an organization through which you can sponsor children. From the Compassion website:
Child sponsorship leads to a lifetime of learning. It's a powerful approach to Christian child development, providing children with a broader view of the world and educating sponsors about the political and economic realities sponsored children face. This relationship provides both children and sponsors with a concrete example of how God works around the world.

Learning for Life focuses on a child's life from school age until program completion, aiming to prepare each sponsored child with the skills and knowledge required to assume adulthood, including those activities that will make the community a better place to live. We focus on preparing children to:

* Follow Jesus Christ in faith and deed as part of their spiritual training
* Support themselves and share with others in need as part of their economic training
* Be responsible members of their family, church, community and nation as part of their social training
* Maintain their own physical well-being

Seth's message had two distinct parts. First, from 1 Corinthians 13, we had a look at what love is. If God is love, and we are to love as God loves, we need to understand what Godly love looks like.

From there, we went to Luke 10, the passage about the good Samaritan who stopped to help. His point - Love would stop to help. The tie in with Compassion came when he likened the children that could be sponsored to the beaten man on the road left to die. Who will help them.

There is no manuscript for this message, but Seth has allowed us to make the audio recording available. If you would like to hear Seth's message, click here...

Thanks for reading...

Friday, May 22, 2009

Personal Relationships lived out in community...

Yesterday I talked about the individual verses the community.

I want to think about that a little bit more today. How did we get here? At least how did we get here in the church?

It also came out in that conversation that perhaps we are to blame, The Church (Big C - the Church Universal). In recent years, the church has been emphasizing personal relationships with Christ. If our relationship with Christ is that personal, than what does the church have to say to it? Why do even need church? Perhaps we don’t! More and more people confessing to be Christians don’t have a home church. They live out their faith on their own. They don’t have a church community or a church family.

I think there are plenty of passages in Scripture that talk about the community of believers, the need to be a part of the local church. We grow in our faith in community with others who are trying to grow in their faith. Sometimes we feed them, sometimes we are fed by them, we are always encouraged and comforted by them, as we encourage and comfort them.

Our personal relationship with Christ needs to be balanced with that need for community. The responsibility for our relationship with Christ is our own; I can’t do it for you, no one else can do it for you. But neither can you do it without the Body of Christ, which is the church.

To grow as believers, to strengthen our faith, we must live out our faith in the community of other believers, all working together to strengthen our faith.

The church can only function properly and effectively when it functions as a community of believers. You are needed to be a participating part of that community!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Individual or the Community...

I was at a lunch meeting yesterday with a pastor from another local church, and we were talking about some of the struggles in motivating our church members for service. There are only a few who are really willing to come out and participate in the ministries of our respective churches. Why is that?

What came out of the discussion was that we have become so individualistic in our culture. We value the individual over the community. Therefore, individual needs and wants can take a back seat to community needs, and churches are no exception. Church is community!

As I think this out a little more, I see as further examples the fact that Almond no longer has a summer music series in the park, because the person that was doing it for years has given it up, and no one could be found to take it over. Volunteer Fire Departments all over are looking for members, their numbers dwindling. Every community organization is seeing a decrease in numbers. More and more we see people aren’t volunteering like they used to.

But they aren’t staying home, either. Kids at sporting events, recreation activities, we’re busier than ever, doing those things we want, filling our needs, while leaving huge holes in the community – including church community.

What’s the answer? I don’t know for sure, but it seems to me that living in community – whether a village or a church community – means giving up some of our individual wants and desires for the good of the community. Perhaps we’ve missed that…

Jesus called people to give up everything and follow Him. Paul wrote about dying to self so we can live for Christ. We can’t follow Christ while clinging to our independence. And as long as we continue trying, the church will suffer…

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

"Benefits" of a life with Christ...

John 3:16 says that God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but receive eternal life.

Eternal life is a “benefit” of believing in Jesus, God’s only Son. And that makes a HUGE difference – eternity is a really long time, and nothing anybody can do to us can take that away from us. It’s important that we be right with God before eternity begins.

In fact, you don’t have to wait until after you die to enjoy the benefits of eternal life with God. When you turn to Christ, He comes to you now. He is with you, He will never leave you or forsake you.

There are some other pretty great “benefits” that we can receive right here in this life when trust in Jesus. For example, Ephesians 1:5 says “He (God) predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will.” We are adopted as His sons.

As adoptees, we get a new family! Family relationships aren’t nearly as strong as they were 30-40 years ago. Families are struggling, many have fallen apart. With brothers and sisters in Christ, we have a new family. Our church family, but even more extended than that. Have you ever met someone for the first time, find out they are a believer, and feel an instant connection with them?

As brothers and sisters in Christ, united by a common Father in Heaven, we have a family that extends all over the world. And we have relationships in our church that we might not have at home. We care for each other, we love each other, we are there for each other. We need each other. Church is where we cultivate these relationships!

Another benefit that’s available to us right now is found in Galatians 5:22-23, where Paul talks about the fruits of the Spirit. We are probably familiar with them, but they include love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. I don’t think anyone could argue that these aren’t good virtues to have. Yet we can’t have them on our own. They come from the Holy Spirit as we turn over control of our life to God, through Jesus, His only Son.

So we have eternal life in the presence of God, we have a family that really cares, and we have deep inner love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. All provided without asking, when we turn to Christ. Maybe “benefits” is not the best term to use, but they sure sound good to me…

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Called to Love...

An extension of last weeks message, today we looked at John 15:9-17.

Last week we saw the passage before (John 15:1-8), where Jesus talks about the vine and the branches. This is a passage that talks about the relationship between the disciples and Jesus. The overall message is that they need to remain in Christ, as the branches remain in the vine.

This week He goes a little further. He tells them to remain in His love. He calls us to love. In the message, we discussed five points that come out in this call to love.

To read that message, click here...

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Financially supporting your church...

I had an opportunity to visit Houghton College this past week and attend a conference on preaching put on by William Willimon, a Methodist Bishop and author of about 60 different books.

It was a really good conference, I enjoyed it thoroughly, and will be passing along some of the things I took from it in the next few days. When I got home, I was looking on the internet for one of Dr. Willimon's books when I discovered he had a blog. This quote is from an April 28 entry...

Tithing is practiced by few. The median annual giving for an American Christian is about $200, just over half a percent of after-tax income. 5 percent of American Christians provide 60 percent of the money churches and religious groups use to operate. “A small group of truly generous Christian givers,” say Passing the Plate’s authors, “are essentially ‘covering’ for the vast majority of Christians who give nothing or quite little.”

I'm sure that this holds true in most churches. I know that there are very few who tithe in the Almond Union of Churches, yet tithing is Scriptural. Why do cling to the grace and mercy parts of the Gospel, ignore the commands, and still assume we're doing okay?

The Gospel includes all that we need to be right with God. But we can't pick and choose which we want to follow. We really should be open to all of it...

Faith First

  Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.”  Taking him...