Imprisoned & Guarded

“Imprisoned and Guarded” are the words used in Galatians 3:23 to describe the way we were before we came to faith in God through Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul wrote that without faith in the redeeming work of Jesus Christ we are “under the law.”

The faithless imprison themselves to the lusts of the flesh and desires of this world because they hide from a reconciling God. The faithless guard themselves from redemption through Jesus Christ because they have become jaded. They don’t believe such incredible grace could be possible. The norm is to think there will be a payment expected; that there must be some kind of catch. So, they free themselves to indulge their desires and open themselves to that which pulls them farther from God.

So, why am I writing to believers about the effects of faithlessness? Because these same effects can creep into our lives if we are not careful. Our world is full of voices that would imprison us from faith, grace, and redemption. Perhaps we stop praying as intently as we once did. Or, maybe we get out of the habit of reading God’s Word. Before we know it, our guard starts coming back up and we are pulled deeper into shame and farther from the love of God. 

The ways of evil are deceptive and subtle. So, I remind you, as people of faith in God through Jesus Christ, to remember what Galatians 3:27 says, “As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” Since, in baptism, you were welcome into God’s fold and since you are clothed in the redeeming love and grace found in Jesus Christ, remember the beauty of your calling. Revive your faith daily in prayer and by reading the Word of God.

You are free! Free to thrive as strong believers in a vibrant church of redeemed warriors who will continue to grow in Christ, proclaim the Word, and serve others.

God bless you,

Pastor Don.

Scripture Reference: Galatians 3:23-29

Hope of Holiness

Peace, hope, love, and endurance are the keywords that jump out to me in the first five verses of Romans 5. In verse 5, the Apostle Paul says “hope does not put us to shame….” So, why are we prone to let shame grab hold of us? Why would we pay any attention to shame-based messages from others? It could be that we confuse conviction with shame. 

Feeling appropriately guilty about words and actions that are harmful to ourselves is useful when we allow the Holy Spirit to change us. Shame, on the other hand, turns us inward and away from God. 

Peace, hope, love, and endurance take hard work. We all make mistakes and fail to achieve the holiness and purity we seek. Yet, peace can be ours when we remember the grace God has bestowed and continues to show us. Hope drives us forward toward change. Love sustains our desire to please God and endurance builds our characters as we persevere.  

God does not want your shame. Reconciliation with God brings peace to our souls, hope for positive change within, love for God and others, and endurance to continue on this great journey we call, Christianity.

May God bless you and bring you closer to holiness and purity each day. 

Pastor Don

Scripture ref: Romans 5:1-5

Holy Spirit Peace

In many churches, including ours, we celebrate Pentecost and are reminded once again of the fire of the Holy Spirit. We wear red and drape our communion tables, lecterns, and pulpits in red remind to remind us of the tongues of fire that were seen above the heads of those who received the Holy Spirit for the first time. After which, they spoke words “about God’s deeds of power.”

In John 14:16, Jesus said that he would send us an “Advocate to be with us forever.” We can be comforted by these words for sure. The promise of God’s power continues in verses 26-27, where Jesus tells us the Holy Spirit will teach us everything and remind us of all that he said to us. These promises are especially important to those who are anxious about speaking to others about God. Whether we preach in a pulpit or proclaim the wonders of God in our communities, we can be assured that the Holy Spirit will give us the words to share.

One of the most powerful gifts of the Holy Spirit is the gift of peace. In a world of darkness, fear, anxiety, and depression the fire of the Holy Spirit burns bright within the hearts of the believer to burn those things away, leaving peace instead.

So, as we wear red and look at the red that is all around us this Sunday, may we remember the powerful fire of the Holy Spirit that burns within us, teaching us what we need to know, reminding us of Jesus’ words, and burning peace within our hearts. With the Holy Spirit of God within us, we will be changed and we will bring change to the world. 

Blessings,

Pastor Don

Loving Jesus

In John 21:15-17, there is an interesting interaction between Peter and Jesus that occurred after Jesus had risen from the dead. In this meeting, Jesus asks Peter three times if he loves him. The response does not change, with the exception that we know Peter’s feelings were hurt, after being asked for the third time. 

When we look at the Greek translation, we see different words for love were used; “Agapas and Philo.” The first two times Jesus asks Peter if he “Agapas,” him, while Peter responds that he has a “Philo” love for Jesus. “Agapas” is more “deliberate,” while “Philo” is more “personal” and affectionate (EBD). It wasn’t until Peter’s feelings were hurt that Jesus changed his usage to “Philo” to match Peter’s response. 

According to Easton’s Bible Dictionary (EBD), it seemed as though Jesus was not connecting with Peter as closely and personally as he. As you can imagine, this grieved Peter greatly. So, perhaps Jesus was giving Peter the opportunity to connect on a less personal level. But, Peter was having none of that. He persisted until Jesus matched with the same kind of love (Philo). 

Peter’s denial of Jesus was public. But so was his proclamation of deeply personal and affectionate love. He did not let shame and guilt overwhelm him in such a way that it kept him from loving Jesus openly and affectionately. 

While conviction keeps us from spiraling out of control, shame and guilt are destructive and can keep us from an honest, open, and loving relationship with God through Jesus Christ. 

As children of God, we naturally want to serve well and live well. We are going to make mistakes. We are going to fall short. When this happens, let the Holy Spirit convict you in such a way that it brings correction and draws you closer to holiness. When we persistently draw near to God, God is there with affectionate love and reconciliation.

Receive God’s Love,

Pastor Don.

Awake, Aware, & Active

In the Book of James, we see how faith and works are tied together. Faith is a beautiful thing but of what use is it if it is not expressed in our actions. Many times in the Gospels, we see Jesus opening himself to service, letting people know they are seen. We see Jesus speaking, touching, and healing.

Jesus showed us that faith, love, and action are connected. What drew the crowds to Jesus? In Luke 6:17-19, many came to Jesus because they knew he would see their needs, speak to their souls, and bring healing to their broken lives. Consider for a moment the following questions:

What would have happened if Jesus had stayed inside?

What would have happened if Jesus had closed his eyes?

What would have happened if Jesus had not reached out?

What would have happened if Jesus had not said a word?

Not only would the Gospels have been much shorter, but hearts would not have been reached and lives would not have changed.

As disciples of Jesus Christ, our faith calls to love and our love drives us to action. There are people all around us who need to hear the good news. We have the power to speak life to others, bring healing with a smile, or lend a helping hand. We are God’s hands and feet to bring relief to the poor, release to the captives, and comfort to the broken.

May God help us open our doors, eyes, hands, hearts, and mouths to meet the needs of those in need.

Trust and Love

For years, I worked for a company with people who worked to help others find better and more efficient paths to healing and wholeness. We worked hard to expand our reach and our success grew. Our profit margin grew because our actions were born out of love and care. 

We trusted our company to care for its employees’ well-being as well as those we served. Yet, as we grew, our company’s focus shifted from people to productivity and profit. Our healthcare company was more interested in growth than the well-being of its employees. When they forgot how to love, they lost employees and clients.

It is natural to desire growth, productivity, and profit. Part of my church’s mission statement is to grow in Christ. Numerical and financial growth are valid metrics to prove effectiveness. Every year I have to submit statistical reports to our conference. So, I am very aware of our need for numerical and financial growth and stability.

As we work to grow, may love take the lead. As one in our congregation said, we don’t necessarily need more money to fulfill our missions. What we do need to do is decide how best to express, foster, maintain, and grow love within our congregation and in the community. 

1 John 4:18 says, There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love.” 

What drove our healthcare company to greatness was love. Trust and love for one another and others will be the driving forces to help us grow. As we grow our companies and churches, we cannot forget how to love. As long as love is the driving force, we will help grow God’s kingdom and help God’s people thrive. As long as all we do is driven by love, there will be enough. As long as love does not fail, neither will we.

With love

Pastor Don.

Jesus’ Nature

In John chapter 2, we read the story of the wedding in Cana at which Jesus turned water into wine. That is wonderful in itself, but this story is so full of great details. When the wedding party ran out of wine, Jesus’ mother takes the problem to him. 

Of course, Mary knew Jesus had the power to perform such miracles. The question is, why did she bring this need to Jesus? She must have cared enough to do whatever it took so the couple would not be humiliated. Another important point is that she was bold enough to take this need to Jesus with the assumption that he would take care of it. 

In this seemingly small-scale miracle, Jesus’ responsiveness and care to both his mother and to the wedding party are evident. Not only does Jesus do as his mother asks, but he has the servants fill all of the water jars. The last dynamic to this great miracle is that the wine that Jesus created was superior to the wine that ran out.

At the end of the story, the writer says that Jesus’ glory was revealed. Yet, this story reveals so much more. 

  1. Jesus listens.
  2. Jesus cares about keeping people’s honor.
  3. Jesus supplies with abundance and excellence.

There is beauty in the human interaction between Jesus and his mother, Mary. She asked and Jesus kind of blew her off. Mary’s response was an assumption that Jesus would do what she asked, which, of course, he did.

There is beauty in the protection of the wedding party’s honor as well. Nobody gets embarrassed in Jesus’ presence! No friend of Jesus is going to be ashamed nor go without. 

There is beauty in knowing that Jesus not only has the power to provide, he also has the desire. That which Jesus provides is both abundant and excellent. Yes, Jesus’ glory was revealed in this first recorded miracle at the beginning of his public ministry, but we also see Jesus’ respect for his mother, his respect and care for others, and his willingness and ability to provide with both abundance and excellence. 

Pastor Don

Peace

We all want peace and we want it now. We want peace at work, we want peace in our churches, peace in our families, and peace in the world. 

In the Bible, we learn some things about peace. Not all of what the Bible says about peace is what we want to hear. We learn that Jesus did not come to bring peace to all our relationships. We sing Christmas songs about peace on earth and we expect peace to be within our grasp. But, in Matthew 10:34-35, Jesus says, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.”

So, we have a problem, peace is not guaranteed. At least, not when it comes to how we interact in the world in matters of faith. Love for and devotion to Jesus Christ conflicts with those who love the world. While those in our world see multiple paths of salvation and enjoy self-satisfaction, others have identified the only path to salvation in Jesus Christ. 

We know peace was a heavenly promise born in a manger. We know peace came through faith in His work on the cross. We know peace. While this peace may not be a reality in our relationships with others, this peace can be a reality in the souls of those who know the Prince of Peace. 

Isaiah 9:6 says, “For a child has been born for us, a son is given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

Last week, we lit the candle of peace on our Advent wreaths and we prayed for peace to reign in our hearts. While others look for peace through substances and things, do we seek the Spirit of peace to fill our hearts? While others seek peace by compromising their values and beliefs, do we stand firm in peaceful resolve as children of a holy God?

We forget to listen to and live according to God’s holy Word. In the distractions this season brings, we forget the focus and purpose of this season. The peace God offers is a peace that passes all understanding. It is a peace that knows that Jesus has been born, not to remain a baby in a manger, not to be reduced to a children’s story, but to be revered and worshipped. Jesus Christ, born as a child, suffered and died on the cross of Calvary that all who believe in Him may not perish but have everlasting life (Jn.3:16). 

True and lasting peace is knowing the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. O Come, O Come Emmanuel.

Love

“Love.” What a beautiful word. We all want to love and be loved. One who has felt loved is better able to give love and receive love from others. Those who have been abandoned or abused find love to be a difficult concept. Love can be miscommunicated and misunderstood. Love can be unspoken and unexpressed. Love can be lost, found, built, and broken. 

Love is more than a feeling. Love is a decision. We decide to begin and remain in relationships. We decide to join and be faithful to our churches. We decide to start and build our families. We decide to help one another. We decide to love. We are all made to love and be loved. Love is best received by a heart that has been properly prepared.

Isaiah 40:3 says, “Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.”

Last week we lit the candle of love on our Advent wreath as an expression of our preparation to receive the love for God into our hearts. If you have been abandoned or abused, love lights the way toward your healing. If you have failed to love or feel loved, the love of God waits for you. God made the decision to love. God sent love in the form of His only Son, Jesus Christ to die for your sins. God decided to love.

So, we sing “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” now as a response to God’s love and as a way to “prepare the way of the Lord” and to “make his paths straight” as we let God’s love in our hearts. In this Advent season, may we decide to welcome God’s love in our hearts. Let us decide to express our love to God with our time, talents, and resources. May we decide to show love to others and be the expression of God’s love to the world.