The Preciousness of Jesus

On Sunday, our children’s moment was about jewelry. The question was, “Which type of jewelry do you like – the gold and precious stones type or the homemade type?” The vote was mixed. Some liked the prettiness of the store bought jewelry. Some liked that homemade jewelry always reminded us of the person who gave it.

Then we thought about God’s gift of Jesus. He is both, isn’t He? He is a costly gift because it is His life that was given for us. He is a precious gift because He came due to the great love God has for us.

1 Peter 1:18 — 19 18 You were not  redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, 19 but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.

Peter makes this point about the preciousness of Jesus. He is precious because He is worth so much. He is also precious because He personally came to us. We all know John 3:16. When we think of the precious character of Christ’s gift to us, that verse clarifies just how precious He is. He is a gift of God’s love. It isn’t just that He gave all for us. He gave all because of the love of God!

So, do we treat Him as precious? As we approach Easter Sunday, it bears some deep thinking. Do we treat Jesus as the precious treasure that He is? Do we listen to Him as we would someone precious to us? Do our lives tell everyone around us how precious He is to us? If someone was gossiping about you, would the horrible gossip they had to share was that you always seemed to think that Jesus was so very important?

May we be people who shine for Him. May our understanding of how very precious He is inform our choices and our life. He is precious. Let’s tell the world!

Something to think about,

Pastor John

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The Message of Jesus – You Can Bet Your Life on It

In poker there is a term that I have heard that means you are risking everything: all in. I don’t know if you use it in other games of chance (I’m not a gambler, so I am no expert), but I have heard it associated with poker. I have also heard a similar idea warned against in the old adage, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” So, my question today is – do you have anything that you trust that way?

It’s a scary thing to trust anything that much. I mean, for some things you just have to: chairs, airplanes, cars, etc. In those we kind of have to… how would you sit in a chair or ride in an airplane without trusting it completely?

However, for things that we can choose to trust it is a different story. Our investment advisors tell us that we should diversify. Our doctor tells us that we should eat a little of every food group. When starting a new business we are warned that we should hold something back just in case it fails. All of this advice appeals to wisdom – the wisdom of spread out risk.

So, when it comes to the message of Jesus, which type of issue is it? Is trusting Jesus like flying in an airplane, or is it like investing in your future? Consider these two quotes from Jesus:

John 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”

Luke 9:23 Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.”

Sounds like an airplane issue, doesn’t it? It doesn’t sound like Jesus expected his followers to have a little of Him and (just to be safe) have a little of something else. Jesus said that those who followed Him should risk everything for Him.

The explorer Cortés discovered the importance of this type of commitment. After a mutiny by those loyal to the Governor of Cuba, he sank his ships so that no one would think that they could go back to the safety of Cuba or Spain. His crew had to be committed to their mission or they would die.

What about us? Are we “all in”? In case you were wondering, it is possible to be “all in” and yet live in constant worry that you might have made the wrong choice. You see this on airplanes all the time. You see people nervous (even scared) to trust the plane that they are on. They hold tightly to the seat with white-knuckled passion. They hyperventilate or get sick. They cry and cry out during the flight at every bump of turbulance. That doesn’t sound like an enjoyable way to travel. Instead of enjoying the view, marveling at the speed of the journey, or catching up on their reading these folks are suffering. Not a good way to travel at all!


Is this you and me with Jesus? Are we “all in” the same way those who are afraid of flying are “all in”? Are we sick inside, but we still think that we are supposed to follow Jesus? Are we scared that we have made the wrong choice, but we don’t see another option? That is no way to live your life!

So, what’s the answer? I see two keys from the lives of those who have shown that following Jesus is a life of joy. First, they are convinced that the message of Jesus is specifically for them. Paul epitomizes this in his statement to Timothy, “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.” (1 Timothy 1:15) When we are sure that Jesus’ message is for us then we can live in the joy that we are truly forgiven. Second, they are convinced that God’s love for them is both great and unchanging. They believe this statement, “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Roman’s 8:38-39)

Have you heard these two messages in your life? Have you heard that Jesus’ message is for you? Are you one of those “sinners” like the apostle Paul? Have you discovered that Jesus died for you? What about the second message? Have you been convinced yet that God’s love for you is that great? Do you know that His love is also unchanging? He won’t love you less when you stumble? He won’t forsake you when your life isn’t as perfect or as useful as you would like it to be?

Those who know the joy of Jesus testify that He is worth risking everything. They declare that living for Him brings joy. They tell us that being “all in” is the only way to live. Let’s embrace that way of living today.

Something to think about,

Pastor John

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Growing… Patiently

I have a struggle in my life that I think is common to many. I struggle with impatience. When my children were younger, I was always wanting them to learn things or do things faster. I had to fight the urge to just do it for them! I learned that being impatient didn’t help them grow up any faster. I need to apply that principle to my walk with Jesus as well.

What do I mean by this? I mean that when we think about the great men and women of faith we long to have their faith, but rarely do we notice the time it took for their faith to grow into the maturity that we so long for. Let’s think about one of those great people of faith. Let’s think about Paul. In our minds I think that we have Paul getting saved on the road to Damascus. Then, after an appropriate period (we think months) we see him with Barnabas starting his first missionary journey. With a time-line like that, he looks really impressive. However, Paul’s written testimony gives us a different picture. He says:

Galatians 1:18 Then three years later I went up to Jerusalem to become acquainted with Cephas, and stayed with him fifteen days.

Galatians 2:1 Then after an interval of fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along also.

Now, we aren’t sure of the exact years, but from Paul’s own testimony he did not start the missionary journeys that he is famous for until a minimum of 17 years after his conversion! 17! We think of Paul as this unstoppable force for Christ. However, he grew just like we all do – over time. He did not come out of his conversion fully formed. He matured. He grew closer to God. He took the time to do so.

Image result for give God timeWill you and I give God time to work in us? Or will we be impatient? Impatience shows itself in two ways: 1) We spend a great deal of energy punishing ourselves for not being as good as others. and 2) We feel a persistent temptation to give up and throw in the towel. Maybe it is time for us to embrace a little patience. Is it time for you to be patient with yourself? Is it time for you to just focus on walking with Jesus and not persistently (and maybe just a little obsessively) measuring your progress against other Christians?

One final thought… You and I might think that our slow growth is unnoticeable by others. We may not believe it, but others notice what God is doing in us. Paul noticed that. In his early days he noticed that believers wouldn’t trust him, but they did rejoice that the one who used to persecute the church was now sharing the gospel with others. (Galatians 1:23) So for us others may not outwardly applaud or let us know that they are watching, but they are! They are observing our changing. Those who love us and Jesus are aware of our growth. They may be cautious, but they do notice.

Image result for others notice youWhat should we do with these truths – be patient. Focus on Jesus instead of progress. You and I are our own worse critics. Let’s stop that. Instead, let’s walk with the Lord. Let’s chase after Jesus. Who knows, over time we might be surprised at the joy-filled life we are living.

Something to think about,

Pastor John

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What do You Fight For?

Image result for what do you stand forWe live in the age of hyperbole. Maybe it comes in waves (like fashion trends), but I don’t think that we can deny that we see hyperbole everywhere. Advertisers have always used it to create demand, but politicians and pundits have caught the hyperbole bug too. I have yet to hear anyone who is arguing their position say that what they are fighting for is small potatoes in comparison with someone else’s issue. They don’t say, “If we have some extra money, let’s deal with this issue.” No, it is always earth shattering, republic threatening, or life crushing if we don’t do something now, NOW, NOW!!!

We fight over everything and anything. I wonder in the doing that if we haven’t lost something: real causes. Have we lost our perspective? Are we running after everything, and thus are not truly standing for anything?

1 Corinthians 2:1 — 2

1 And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. 2 For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.

Paul chose carefully what he focused on. He didn’t mean that he couldn’t talk about other things, or even that he didn’t talk about other things. However, when it came to essentials Paul had made a conscious decision to prioritize: his message was about Jesus. Have you and I done that? Have we made a conscious decision what our life’s message is going to be about?

I think that it is a choice we all either make, or it will be made for us. Either we will choose what our life will be about, or we will live a life of jumping on whatever bandwagon is popular at the time. My choice as a preacher of the gospel is simple: I choose to know nothing except Christ crucified. That is what I stand for. That is my message. What is your message? Is it clear? Do people know your message because you’ve made it clear?

May we all commit to a clear message of our life. I have found the quote from the late Billy Graham above to be very true in my own life. When I let the winds of culture or popularity choose for me, I lack conviction. When I choose, I discover a vitality and passion that moves me even when others don’t stand with me. Then I know what I stand for. It is then that the people in our life also know what is important to us.

Let’s stand for something instead of everything,

Pastor John

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Won’t Get What I Want

Have you ever thought about what you want from God? I know that I have. I know that I have little right to tell God to do things for me, but I also know that God’s Word tells me that He loves me and wants to work in me. I want Him to work in my life. I want Him to love me in that “agape” way that the Bible talks about. I want that love to be constant and unchanging so that I know that He will always receive me. I don’t think that these desires violate what the Bible says that God does in our lives. In fact, I think that it encourages these desires.

Here is a second question that I have regarding what I want from God: am I approaching Him in a way that puts me in a place to receive those things that the Bible encourages me to seek? In other words, am I coming to God in a way that gets me what I so desperately need and want?

God’s Word declares two general paths that people take to get these things from God: the path of legalistic ritual or the path of grace filled relationship. Consider these words from Paul:

Gal 3:10 — Gal 3:11

10 For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the law, to perform them.” 11 Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, “ The righteous man shall live by faith.”

There is a warning in this passage: as good as the Law is, it won’t get us what we want. We want forgiveness. We want love. We want to know that God is committed to us and receives us. Some people try to get these things by being “good enough”. They follow the rules set down by their church, their family, and their community so that they will be “good enough”. The problem is that it never is good enough, is it? There are always more requirements, more expectations. How frustrating! Yet, it is what the Apostle Paul warns us in Galatians: “Cursed is everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the law, to perform them.” In other words, we shouldn’t be surprised that following the rules is both unfulfilling and self-defeating. The Law is designed to be that way. It only shows us what we don’t do. It doesn’t give us confidence in what God is doing.

Paul also declares the other way to God: faith! What is faith? Faith is our response to grace. Grace makes promises. Faith believes those promises. Faith acts based upon those promises. Faith trusts those promises. In faith, our relationship with God is not based upon achievement or any type of merit. (How could I ever be good enough to earn love? That’s not what the Bible reveals love to be.) In faith, our relationship to God is based upon His wonderful promises to us. This is grace.

Which way do you and I approach God? If we try approach number 1, I am afraid that we will always be frustrated. We will be frustrated because there is little hope in legalistic rituals. In those, there is only a sense that I can never measure up. However, in approach number 2 we discover great hope: God loves me because He said so. I didn’t earn it. I don’t even fully understand why, but He has promised it. I can trust Him! That is what I want to do. I want to come to God in faith. What about you?

Something to think about,

Pastor John

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God, Big Enough for the Little Things

I have a horrible habit in my prayer life. It isn’t that I don’t bring my requests to God. It isn’t that I don’t believe that God can answer my prayers. My habit is that I routinely decide which needs are too small to bring to God.

1 Peter 5:6 — 7

6 Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, 7 casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.

This encouragement from Peter always catches me. It doesn’t catch me because of the call to humility. Anyone who has heard the teachings of Jesus know His opinion on pride. However, here in 1 Peter he connects it to how we pray in a profound way. In the midst of talking about prayer and exaltation, Peter urges us to cast all our anxiety upon God. He doesn’t tell us to bring God just the big stuff. He doesn’t say to take to God just the “spiritual” stuff. Peter tells us to bring all our anxiety to Him – every single thing.

I know the usual response. It usually goes something like this: “I pray for others. I pray for the needs of my church and community. I pray for my family. But, I don’t pray for myself much because my needs are little compared to others. God needs to take care of those bigger needs. I can manage these small things.” I don’t want to be too hard on us for trying to be humble in our praying, however I believe we have missed the point. We have missed that we aren’t actually expressing humility when we say such things. We are making the love and expansiveness of God smaller. We are missing that He loves us so much that He wants to know what is on our heart. We are losing sight of what it means for God to be omnipotent = He is so powerful that He can work in the smallest of our problems!

So, instead of shielding God from our little needs I propose we do something truly humble – bring Him every single one of them! Let’s acknowledge our complete dependency upon Him. Let’s embrace a love that wants to know every need of our heart. Let’s marvel in a God like Him. He is so great that He loves you and me. He loves us in our smallness. He loves us in our brokenness. He is always faithful. So, when you think of humility don’t try to make yourself smaller. Make Him bigger. Make Him your everything. Make Him your strength. Make Him your confidence. Make Him your answer. He is big enough for even the little things.

Something to think about,

Pastor John

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He is Worth It

screenshot_20180129-1947071157359149.jpgThere are a couple of ways to measure what we value. The first way to measure what we value is what we are willing to pay or sacrifice to get it. The other way is how does what we value stack up to other similar items. Consider those that love Apple devices. The average iPad is between 200-300 dollars. The similar Android device is half that price. The iPhone 8 is between 600-800 dollars. The comparable Android device is a third of the price. Now, ask that Apple user if they are willing to pay that amount. The answer will be yes. Then ask them if they would take a free Android device. Can you guess the answer? It will probably be a snarky, “Yeah, I can use it as a brick to lift up the corner of my bed – it’s a little low.” That’s value. They love their device. They will pay the price and they won’t give it up.

Psalm 84:10 For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand outside.
I would rather stand at the threshold of the house of my God
Than dwell in the tents of wickedness.

That’s God to us. The Psalmist declares that He would be willing to be a door keeper at God’s house than dwell in the tents of wickedness. That’s quite a cost – stand outside the house of God as a ceremonial guard rather than enjoy the party! Wow. What value! He also says that he would rather spend one day in God’s courts than a thousand outside. No exchanges. Nothing else is acceptable. When compared with all other opportunities, God is worth more. That is value.

God’s people are clear in their declaration: God is worth it. He is worth any sacrifice. He is worth giving our heart solely to. Because of that worth, giving and sacrificing for Him is joy. It is the joy of value. We get to be with Him. We get to walk with Him. We get to follow Him. He makes it joy. Do you know this joy? Do you know His value? He is worth it.

Something to think about,

Pastor John

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