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.

Connection

It is natural for us to remember our friends in particular ways. We have a tendency to expect them and our relationships to remain the same through the years. The truth is people change. They grow and develop in ways we cannot understand because we have lost touch. We lost the connection we once had. So, when we encounter them again, our friends are different people and so are we.

As we develop new relationships, we learn and grow together through the connections we make. It is with new relationships that we develop families, friendships, and successful business relationships. Most relationships weaken with time and distance because the connection is lost.  

When Jesus returned to his hometown in Luke 4, he was confronted by those who wanted him to perform the miracles he did elsewhere. They wanted him to be as powerful and effective among them as they heard he was elsewhere. So, what happened? Their lack of connection blocked their faith. Their expectations were locked in the past. They did not grow and develop with Jesus because they did not remain connected to Him.

Many of us grew up in the church, or have been Christians for many years. The problem is that many have lost their connection with the One who saved them. Some have forgotten that relationships must be cultivated and maintained for them to continue and grow.

Scripture refers to the Christian life as a walk and as a race. Christianity requires movement and progression. Christianity requires connection. To grow in Christ, we cannot go back to what we were, nor remain as we are. To effectively proclaim the Word requires faith, passion, and perseverance. We connect our faith with God in the ways we serve in our church, community, and world.

May our connection with God grow stronger through Jesus Christ as we continue to seek new ways to grow, proclaim, and serve.

Pastor Don.

Scripture Reference: Luke 4:22-30

Good News

Jesus Christ speaks to our hopes and dreams. Do we hope for good things to happen? Or, do we always expect the worst? Some hope to have enough to take care of our needs. Others dream of freedom from addictive behaviors, abusive relationships, or toxic employers. We all seek clarity and vision to achieve our relationship, employment, spiritual, physical, and emotional goals. 

In Luke’s Gospel, we read that Jesus boldly proclaimed that he had fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah 61. This prophecy is full of powerful promises that brought hope to generations of God’s people. The hope is awakened in a new and powerful way as Jesus says, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

There are those who are poor and then there are those who are trapped in a mindset of poverty. The poverty mindset crushes hopes and maintains the promise that nothing will bring satisfaction, peace, or prosperity. It traps one into believing that evil will prevail and darkness will overcome the light. Jesus proclaimed victory over this mindset.

You, who have no hope, look to He who has been anointed by God “to bring good news…release…(freedom)…and favor.”

Good news is proclaimed to those who lack joy, peace, and comfort. The good news is that Jesus Christ embodies all of these qualities. Release is proclaimed to those who are bound. For freedom is found in full submission to the love and grace of God through Jesus Christ. Clarity and vision are promised to those who follow the Light and know Him by name. Favor follows those who know they are redeemed and who live in the faith of that promise. 

May you hear, believe, and receive that promise today.

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

Epiphany

Last week, we celebrated the epiphany. In Matthew 2:1-12, we hear the story of how the birth of the new King, Jesus Christ, was revealed to the magi. Their response to the revelation is drastic and significant. They left their homes and brought gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to the place of his birth. 

In their moment of revelation and realization, everything changed. In one moment, the magi are looking to the stars for answers and in the next, the answer to all their questions, the fulfillment of prophetic prophecy is revealed; a star that would lead the magi to the place of the Messiah’s birth. 

A couple of things stand out for me in this story. First, the magi had to be looking for answers for them to find the star. Second, when the answer was revealed, they responded decisively and sacrificially. It was their receptivity to the epiphany which made it possible. It was their response that proved their faith in Jesus Christ as King.

As we enter a new year, think about where you are turning for answers to life’s problems. Are you reaching out to God for direction? Or, does your trust lie only on yourself and on what is around you?

Epiphany awaits those who search with a receptive and willing heart. Our response is just as important as the revelation. Our response proves our faith in what has been revealed. If you have yet to realize Jesus Christ as your King, Savior, and Lord, I invite you to open your heart with expectation. You have looked within, around, and below. Now, it is time to look up and realize His star shines for you. Then, respond by giving yourself fully to the King of glory.

Your epiphany awaits.

Godly Giving

The Sunday after Christmas is always a lightly attended Sunday. Believe me, I understand. This season is very tiring. It can be both financially and emotionally draining. So, it may be surprising that I chose this Sunday to speak about giving. 

It makes sense to me for a couple of reasons. First, too many people gloss over the significance of the Magi. Second, we need to consider the importance and power of giving after Christmas has passed.

The Magi are significant because of who they are, what they did, and the gifts they brought. It is safe to say those who came from afar bearing expensive gifts had not spent a lot of time with Jesus before they traveled to see him. They were strangers to the God of Israel. We celebrate Epiphany because, Christ, the Messiah, for whom all Israel had awaited, was revealed to Gentiles. It was Gentile worshippers of foreign gods, who first brought gifts to the King of kings. As I said Sunday, “the focus changed from that of expectation of Advent to honoring the One who has come.”

When the Magi became aware that a king had been born, they set out on a long journey to bring Him expensive gifts of devotion as expressions of their worship. They did not give to Jesus because he was a great preacher. Nor did they give because they were excited about all that Jesus was doing. They gave because of who He is! Once the Magi knew the Messiah had come, they set out to honor Him with their gifts. This is a beautiful expression of godly giving.

As we continue the Christmas season, we realize the importance and power of giving after the celebrated day of gift-giving has passed. Special offerings, charitable giving, and tithes can all be beautiful expressions of godly giving. 

Malachi 3:6-12 says we are cursed when we rob God of our “tithes and offerings.” This is strong language. It is important to note that Malachi 3 also bears a promise of blessings to those who tithe. Some have used both the warning and promise ploys to get people to give more. That is not my intent.

My prayer is that you find the joy and power in being obedient to tithe to the church you attend and yes, I am assuming you attend church regularly. Special offerings and charitable giving help fund many ministries and help those without food, clothing, or homes. Your tithes, though, help stabilize your local congregation in its operations and ministries. So, if you are not yet tithing 1/10th of your income to whatever church you attend, I ask that you consider setting a percentage and raising it incrementally until you reach at least the 1/10th mark.   

I firmly believe that if people stop giving, God will give church and ministry wisdom to find other means, or to make necessary adjustments in spending. However, I do not want you to miss the blessings released by giving first to God’s church. 

God bless, 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.

Joy

This week, we lit the candle of joy on our Advent Wreath. Have we lit the flame of joy in our hearts?

Advent takes us on a journey of discovery of hope, love, and peace that brings us everlasting joy.

As we wait with expectation for Christmas and revisit the stories of Jesus’ birth, we are reminded of the joy of the season and the joy Jesus Christ brings to our lives.

Our decorations brighten dull walls. We celebrate with living plants and trees and they remind us of the new life we share in Christ. 

We add light and remember the darkness that once was. Jesus Christ brought the light of joy into our lives.

In this season, we have the opportunity to prepare ourselves for the coming One.

We listen to the stories, sermons, devotionals, and music, and our hearts are filled with joy.

John 1:6-8 says that John the Baptist was not the light but that he “came to testify to the light.” John came to spread the good news and to help prepare the way.

So, in this season, may the joy we find in Jesus Christ take us beyond the decorations of leaves, trees, and garland. May the joy of the Lord prepare the way to decorate and brighten our souls. May the joy of the Lord cause us to respond with hope, peace, and love for God and others.

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.