Bacon and other Yummy Things

“Here is what I have seen to be good and fitting:to eat, to drink and enjoy oneself in all one’s labor in which he toils under the sun during the few years of his life which God has given him; for this is his reward.” – Ecclesiastes 5:18

So, if you are wondering, I am not really going to focus on bacon today. (My apologies to my youngest daughter who gave me this idea and loves bacon!)  However, I am going to focus on enjoyment today.  We enjoy lots of things (including bacon).  Solomon points out here that we are supposed to enjoy them.  They weren’t created to be ignored or for us to turn our noses at them.  They are supposed to be enjoyed.

The only problem is when we think that those fun things are the whole point.  They aren’t. Material blessings are the by-product.  They are the by-product of hard work.  Solomon says that we not only enjoy those things, but he encourages us to enjoy what brings us those things: hard work.

In our culture it is unusual for us to talk about enjoying work.  So, here is an illustration that helps us catch what Solomon is talking about: When a person has worked hard on a project and when they are done they are happy with the product and they say, “Whew!  I’m glad that turned out good!”  That is the emotion that Solomon is talking about.

Do you have work in your life that you feel that way about?  You aren’t just glad it is over.  You are also glad that you produced it.  You are happy that you did the work.  Have you had that experience?  Solomon points out that such feelings are also a reward of hard work.

So, it’s not just the bacon (the reward) you and I can be excited about.  It is also the work itself.  Can you imagine such a thing?  What would it change in your life?

Something to think about,

Pastor John

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Reflections on Reflections

2 Corinthians 9:1 For it is superfluous for me to write to you about this ministry to the saints; 2 for I know your readiness, of which I boast about you to the Macedonians, namely, that Achaia has been prepared since last year, and your zeal has stirred up most of them.

This week I have been noticing how often I don’t like reflections.  I complain that the camera catches my bad side.  I yell that the mirror must be broken.  I bark that the blood test can’t be wrong because my cholesterol can’t be that high.  It’s just not fair!  I feel good.  I feel young.  I can’t be going bald, wrinkled, and unhealthy!  So, I want to blame the tests and reflections that I see.

The problem is that those are just the physical reflections.  There are deeper reflections that ought to bother me more.  My attitudes and relationship with God are reflected all over my life.  They are reflected in my children, my language, and my checkbook.  My children catch my faith.  My language shows my heart.  My giving shows what I truly value.

Paul told the Corinthians that their zeal for giving had inspired others, yet he felt the need to send Titus to collect their gift because he was worried that they might be ashamed by their forgetfulness to actually give.

There is so much of life that is like that.  We mean well, but if we were honest we would see that the reflection doesn’t fully measure up to our ideal.  How about this – instead of simply believing that what we say is what we do, let’s look at our reflection and see if there are some things that need to change so that what we do does truly reflect what we say.

Think about this question (and I didn’t come up with this one on my own!)  – “When all is said and done will you have said more than you have done?”

Something to think about,

Pastor John

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The Best Lies are Easy to Believe

John 8:44 “You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”

This week I have been challenged by the lies we believe.  This verse came to my mind as I was thinking on it.  The NIV says that when Satan speaks lies that he is speaking his native tongue.  The NASB says that he is speaking from his own nature.  Either way, lying comes naturally to him.

Things that come naturally to us are easy.  I have a friend who can play the piano that way.  He doesn’t have to practice for church or family gatherings.  It comes easy.  He can manipulate those keys with ease.  That is Satan.  He doesn’t have to tell whoppers to prove that he can lie any more than a native English speaker has to use big words to prove that he can speak English.

That is what catches us.  All the half-truths that are around us.  The half-truths that declare to us that we aren’t really any good unless we are performing or are beautiful (whatever that means!).  The half-truth that says that forgiveness must be earned.  All of these lies are not big ones.  They are partial truths that confuse and manipulate us.  To Satan it is as easy as tickling the ivories.

Which lie is enticing to you?  For me, it is the lie of performance.  I go through seasons that I unintentionally begin trying to impress God.  As if.  What about you?  Is it a lie about forgiveness or worth that sucks you down?  Is it a lie about grace or rules that trips you up?

There is only one way that I know of to deal with a lie: break it off and replace it with the truth.  We can’t accept part of the lie and think that we can build truth upon that.  Truth must be built from the ground up.  So, which lie will you tackle today?

Something to think about,

Pastor John

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An Aside… What Do I Do about Mr. Trump?

Romans 13: 1 Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.
1 Timothy 2: 1 First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, 2 for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.

Lately, people have been asking me about what they should do about our new President.  They are usually asking for one of two reasons: 1) they are worried about Mr. Trump, or 2) someone they love is worried.

Let me begin by first saying that God is sovereign.  I know that leaders have power, but their power is not greater than God.  What does this mean?  This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be active in making this world the best we can.  It doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be involved in politics or our communities. It means that we don’t have to be afraid.  Isn’t that the key emotion that we’ve seen over the last few months?  Fear has motivated people.  It has motivated some to vote, some to march, and some to protest.

Instead of fear, God’s people need faith.  How does God ask us to express our faith regarding our leaders?  He asks us to do 2 things: 1) stand boldly and 2) pray passionately.  When you think of standing boldly think of people like Esther, Jeremiah, and Paul.  When they stood, even though fear may have been in the mix, they chose boldness over fear.  That is what we should do.  We shouldn’t live in fear.  We stand for Christ and His truth with boldness.

When you think of praying, think of what every leader needs to have to lead well.  The Bible speaks of 3 things a leader needs.  1) Accountability.  The Bible says that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.  What does that mean for a leader?  Every leader must know in their soul that they are accountable to God for what they do. 2) Wisdom. Accountability leads to wisdom.  Our leaders need it.  This country is a big place.  We have issues that everyone has an opinion on, but very few have answers.  Leaders must have wisdom.  3) Humility.  No person knows everything.  No person is always right.  A great leader is a humble one.

For the last 25 years, this is what I have prayed for our leaders. (I wasn’t paying much attention before that!)  It didn’t matter if they were Democrats or Republicans.  It didn’t matter if I liked their politics or thought their answers would only make things worse.  I prayed for their accountability, wisdom, and humility.  Ask anyone:  I don’t speak ill of our leaders.  If you are hearing me disrespecting Mr. Trump or Mr. Obama.  Even the leaders I disagree with I speak about with respect.  I believe that the position deserves honor regardless of the person in it. 

No, I am simply asking: will you join me in living in the trust of God?  Will you join me in praying for our leaders’ accountability, wisdom, and humility?  If not, what WILL you pray for?

Something to think about,

Pastor John

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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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