Why Do I Believe?

Matthew 27:22 Pilate said to them, “Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?”

When Pilate asked the crowd what he should do with Jesus, he was seeking a way out of his responsibility.  He did not realize he was asking THE question.  In our day of blogger philosophy and face-book arguments and twitter one liners we might start believing that all that noise is what it is really about.  All the questions about, “How could God….” and, “Why would a loving God…” seem to be so relevant.  All the criticisms about the failures of believers seem to also be so important to respond to as well.

Now, if you and I have a relationship with someone and they have these questions I certainly think that we should work through them.  But, when it comes to trusting in Jesus – answering those questions didn’t make you believe, did they?  It wasn’t some philosophical argument that convinced you.  It wasn’t some pithy answer about suffering or sin that won your over.  What won you over was Jesus.  His teaching.  His love.  His sacrifice.  It was these things that drew you to Him.

So, when I think about how I will share my faith – I have a question, “What about Jesus makes you not trust Him?”  If our answer to that question is suffering or sin, then we haven’t really answered the question.  We’ve dodged it.  Let me ask the question again, “What about Jesus makes you not trust Him?”  Is it His teaching?  Is it His sacrifice for you?  Is it His love?

When all is said and done, that is the real question.  Like Pilate of old I asked that question of myself – What will I do with this one called Jesus?  I had to say, “believe in Him.”  What will you say?  Is it because of Him?

Something to think about,

Pastor John

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Sacrifice and Love

“The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.'” (Matthew 25:40)

Do you ever have a passage or scripture that just grabs you?  Verses like this just stop me cold.  Why is that? It is because verses like these show God’s heart.  We talk of His greatness.  We talk about His holiness.  But, when God wants to tell us what He cares about, it isn’t His creative power or Divine glory that He points to.  Without minimizing either of those, He points us to how we treat one another.  He points to love.

He doesn’t point to a feel good love either.  It isn’t a love based upon emotions or mutual gratification.  It is a love based upon sacrifice, upon a commitment to love regardless of circumstances or cost.  It is a love that doesn’t care who sees or notices.  It doesn’t even care if anyone else cares.  He just wants us to love.

It makes me ask two questions. 1) Who am I loving?  Do I just love the lovable?  2) Who am I not loving? Do I have excuses for why I don’t love those who need to know the love of God most?

For the Conservative, it becomes easy to NOT love those who we think are squandering what God has given them.  For the Liberal, it becomes easy to NOT love the intolerant or narrow minded.  I don’t know which you are, but I don’t think those excuses hold water compared to Jesus’ love for us, do they?  I want to love like Him.  He tells me that doing so means that I am loving both those people I touch and Him.  How can I not?

Something to think about,

Pastor John

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Proud or Honest?

Luke 1: 53 ” He has filled the hungry with good things; And sent away the rich empty- handed.

Pride is an American institution.  We have self-made men.  We have stars.  We have prima donnas.  We have divas.  We are the wealthiest nation on earth.  We put those who look good on camera into the spotlight and make them our role models.  We lift up the athlete, the actor, and the musician up on pedestals for everyone to marvel at.  We ignore the many faithful teachers, nurses, mothers, and sanitation workers.  Yet, where would we be without these folks?  Yes, pride is an American institution.

I wonder if we have given real thought into the many times that God has specifically singled out the proud person for criticism in His Word.  Even during the first Christmas God’s opinion of the proud is clear.  God picked a poor Jewish woman to carry His Son.  He picked a poor Jewish carpenter to be Jesus’ step-dad.  He picked shepherds (not the upper class by any stretch of the imagination) to be the first strangers to visit the new King.  In fact, the only people of any substance to be involved in the blessed event were foreigners who would not have been well respected in Israel.

Mary said something interesting in her song of praise when she and Elizabeth spent some time together before the birth of their babies.  She said that God “has filled the hungry with good things.” and, “has sent away the rich empty-handed.”  That makes me think about how often I come to God truly admitting my hunger.  Do I really admit how much I need Him?  Or do I come with my pride and say, “I’m okay.  I just need a little of God today.”  What a joke!  I don’t need a little of God.  I need as much of God as He is willing to give me.  I am wretched, naked, and blind.  I need His healing.  I need His strength.  I am in desperate need of nothing less than all of Him!  Yet, do I keep propping myself up in my unwillingness to be honest about my need?

What about you?  Does humility or pride mark how you approach God?  Do you admit your neediness to Him?  He fills the hungry with good things while He sends the rich away empty-handed.  Does the thought of that fill you with gratitude or resentment?  If you are rich are you asking, “Why doesn’t He receive me too?”  Maybe that’s the point.

Something to think about,

Pastor John

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Are You Ready

Mark 13:37 What I say to you I say to all, ‘ Be on the alert!

Are you ready for Jesus to come back?  No, I am not asking if your bags are packed.  Nor am I asking if your affairs are in order.  Here’s what I am asking, “Is your soul ready for Jesus to return?”  When Jesus taught about His return He didn’t focus on the details that we see in the book of Revelation.  He didn’t focus on the spectacular or the sensational.  He focused on the people.  He tells people what to do when persecution comes.  He lets us know that all we have to do is remain faithful.

Being ready for the return of Christ is not about what we know (the intricacies of end times theology, the progression of God’s judgments).  It is about trust.  Do we trust that Jesus will truly return?  Do we trust what Jesus has taught us?  Do we let both of those things give us courage?  Courage to do right.  Courage to follow when all reason says it is foolish.  Isn’t that the power that trust gives us?  Because we believe, we stand.  William Tyndale said, “For if God be on our side, what matter maketh it who be against us, be they bishops, cardinals, popes, or whatsoever names they will?” Did you hear that?  What does it matter who opposes us if God is on our side?  That is the glory of trust!

So, what about us?  Do we live in that trust?  What is stopping us?  What is stopping you?

Something to think about,

Pastor John

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So Many Blessings, So Little Time

1 John 3:17  But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?

Why do good things happen to people?  That’s not the usual question, is it?  Usually we ask the opposite – why do bad things happen to people?  However, we should be asking the same question of our blessings.  We should be asking why is God blessing us at this time and place.

Before we start asking the question, let’s make sure that we aren’t asking out of guilt.  That isn’t the point.  This isn’t about feeling guilty about our blessings.  It is about using those blessings for the reason they are given.

So, why have you been blessed?  We know that we are given spiritual gifts by God to bless the body of Christ. The Scripture above tells us another reason that we have been blessed: to bless others.  So, are we doing that or are we using our blessing to just bless ourselves?

A final reason we find ourselves in a time of blessing is the same reason that we are sometimes tested – to prepare us for what may come next.  We are told in God’s Word that we should, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.” (James 1:2-3)

Funny thing about blessings… they too are a type of trial.  They tempt us to be apathetic.  They tempt us to trust the blessing rather than God.  They even tempt us to want the blessing instead of God.  So, is it any surprise that we should use our blessings for the same thing that we should use our trials?  We should use them to prepare.  We should be preparing to be God’s clear witnesses.  We should be preparing for times of persecution and discouragement.  We should be preparing for other temptations that wage war on our souls.

So, what are you using your blessings for?  Are you asking the question?  Why have you been blessed?

Something to think about,

Pastor John

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Devotion… Do We Live It

Luke 16:10  “He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much.

This verse catches me in every context I read it.  In Luke 16, Jesus is illustrating how lost people know how to use money better to get what they want than believers.  Instead of using money to bring glory to God, we get distracted and start chasing the same things that lost people do.  In Luke 19 it is an admonition to use whatever you have (whether it is small or large) to do God’s will.

The question I face is – Am I faithful in small things?  That is the true test of devotion, isn’t it?  True devotion is found in the small daily choices we make.  In human relationships, it is these small daily choices which show our family and friends that we love them.  The same is true with God.  As we daily make little choices (having a time with God, considering His plans for our day, choosing kindness and the gospel in our expressions to others, etc.) we live in the reality of our devotion.  

So, are we faithful in the little things?  What will you and I try to be more faithful in today?  Will it be how we speak to those we live with?  Will it be in intentionally planting the seeds of the gospel with someone we encounter or rub shoulders with?  Will it be in how we entertain ourselves tonight?  How will our devotion to God show itself today?

Something to think about,

Pastor John

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Young people rock!

1 Timothy 4:12  Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe.

Yesterday our students led us in worship.  It was an amazing declaration of God’s love.  They reminded us of how God’s hope is seen from Genesis through Revelation.

It got me thinking… Do they know that they are a powerful witness for Jesus?  Do they know how they affect, encourage, and challenge everyone in the body of Christ?   I know that much of our leadership is over 25.  We do that so that untested individuals aren’t given the burden of leadership before they are ready.  Yet, when our young people lead through volunteering to serve or volunteering to be a part of worship they affect the lives of other Christians in profound ways.

If you are a young person, don’t chafe because your community of faith wants to protect you from the heavy burdens that come with leading.  Instead, keep showing them your passion, humility, and willingness to shine for Jesus.  When you love and shine with joy, you keep proving to yourself and to your family of faith that your desire to follow Jesus is not a passing thing, but it is a permanent part of your life.

If you are an older person, open up ways that your young people can serve and share the love of Jesus.  You might encourage them to help in VBS.  You might invite them to read scripture, give their testimony, and help leading the singing time of your worship service.  The point is, encourage them to exercise their faith and rejoice when they respond.

Don’t let anyone think less of you just because you are young.  Don’t let anyone think less of the young just because they are young.  We are on this journey for Jesus together.  So, let’s walk together!

Something to think about,

Pastor John

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