Acceptance Awareness

There are many who struggle with acceptance awareness. Overcome with shame from past mistakes, we are prone to lose self-respect, self-love, and self-acceptance. Our loss of care for ourselves grows in our speech and actions, and we turn increasingly inward to shield ourselves from love. Left unchecked, we can become angry, bitter, and isolated.

There is a shift that has to occur. Instead of denying acceptance, we must be aware, amazed, and grateful for it. This acceptance begins with our awareness of God’s prevenient grace. God tells the prophet, Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations’ (Jer. 1:5). God created us. God reached out to us first. Not only that, God sets us apart from a world of hate and corruption appointed to love others. To do that, we have to love ourselves first. 

Jesus said, says, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” Jn. 15:13. God sent Jesus Christ, God’s only Son to die for you. Yes, for you. God’s love is expansive, unconditional, and healing. It’s time to step out of the darkness of self-doubt and self-loathing. Step into the light of God’s love and acceptance.

May God bless your journey,

Pastor Don.

Photo credit: Keegan Houser on Unsplash

Mature in Christ

   In his letter to the Colossians, the Apostle Paul connects maturity in Christ with wisdom. The problem is that without knowledge, wisdom is impossible. Take Paul for example. Before Jesus stopped him on the road to Damascus, he acted upon his limited knowledge of God. His zeal led to the persecution and death of many Christians. Once he knew the truth, his zeal was redirected and his actions changed. In fact, his change was so drastic that his name was changed from Saul to Paul. 

     Knowledge was the first step. His actions proved his wisdom and led to Paul’s maturity in Christ. Among other things, Paul learned that in Jesus Christ is found “all the fullness of God” (Col. 1:19). With this knowledge, wisdom led Paul to spread the word about this and other great truths he learned about Jesus Christ. Paul learned that faith in Christ creates an inner change that is outwardly observed.

     To be mature in Christ is not only to know about Jesus but to be changed by our knowledge of Jesus. Knowing Jesus draws us away from anger and divisiveness and closer to holiness, love, and grace.

     To be mature in Christ is to allow ourselves to be changed by our encounters with Christ. You have heard of Jesus Christ. The challenge now is to get to know Him better. With open hearts, our eyes are opened and we see God in a new light. We are invited by Paul to see the image of God in Jesus Christ. The same one who lived among us, healed us, fed us, and brought us comfort, died to set us free from the power of death and hell. God wants a connection with us that grows stronger each day. May God help us move past our selfishness and immaturity. May God help us all be mature in Christ.

God bless you,

Pastor Don. 

Love With All…

There is a recurring theme in the New Testament that ties faith and love together. In Luke 10:27, Jesus said that the path to eternal life is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind and your neighbor as yourself.” 

It seems many have overcomplicated salvation and have made connecting with God difficult for others. If we say we believe the words of Jesus Christ, then we have no business adding requirements for salvation that do not exist. No special prayer has to be said, no outline has to be followed. On the other hand, repentance is clearly required, as the call to repent is found in both the Old and New Testaments. One question left unanswered is, repentance from what exactly? 

One problem is that too many fill in the blank for others. There are those who take the grace of God for granted and feel entitled to do and say what they want. There are also those who add additional rules and regulations on others. We see both extremes. We see people making Christianity too burdensome and we see others foregoing the idea of repentance completely. Where do we find the balance? Based on what Jesus says in Luke 10, I believe we find it in our devotion to God and others. 

When I love God with ALL my heart, my words and actions are guided by God’s love. When I love God with ALL my soul, selfish desires are overcome. When I love God with ALL my strength, my energy is focused on living our lives for God. When I love God with ALL my mind, my thoughts are guided by God, rather than by the world and my own desires. When I love my neighbors as myself, I make better choices, speak with more patience, and give because I care. Let us come and bring others into life eternal through Jesus Christ, our Lord, with love.

God bless you,

Pastor Don

Scripture Reference: Luke 10:25-37

Photo credit: https://www.freeimages.com

Getting What We Give

Wouldn’t it be great if we could eat as much as we want and not gain a pound? I lived like that for many years in my youth. I could eat whatever I wanted and as much as I wanted and not gain a pound. On the other hand, I wondered why I was always worn out. It was because I was not paying attention to my diet. Nor was I exercising. Later in life, the effects of overeating are more outwardly visible and difficult to counter. 

The idea of “getting what we give” is an ancient one that is found in many of the world’s religions. Some call it Karma. Christians know it as the principle of reaping and sowing. Most of us learned the hard way that we all live by the principle of cause and effect. What we do, how we eat, how we act, and so on. Everything action and inaction has a result.

The Apostle Paul warns the Galatians in chapter 6:7-10 that we will reap whatever we sow. In that warning, I find both a warning to be on the lookout for what good I may do in the world and a warning against doing that which will cause harm to my body and spirit. We go on diets and exercise to lose weight and we find that we have to keep exercising to keep the weight off. In the same way, we cannot “grow weary in doing what is right.” To stay spiritually strong, we have to guard our eyes and ears against the evil around us. We have to build our relationships with God through prayer and reading the Scriptures. We also have to keep our eyes open so we may “work for the good of all…” I pray that God helps us remain faithful and always remember that we get what we give.

God bless you,

Pastor Don

Scripture Reference: Galatians 6:7-10

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

Belonging

We all want to belong but not everyone is going to accept us. Though we come with good intentions, all some see is someone they want to put down, push out, or toss away. Rejected by the cool kids, the in-crowd, the powerful, we gravitate toward the few brave souls who give us the time of day. We become friends because we spend time together, open up, and share our hopes, fears, plans, and dreams.

When Jesus entered the world, he showed the true nature and image of God. He came with an opportunity to listen, learn, and follow. God offered connection through Jesus. The world met him with rejection, derision, and even crucifixion.

In John 10:27-28, Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand.” Those of you who have heard Jesus’ voice, there is good news! You belong! 

So, spend some time getting to know him better. Open up in prayer to him and share your hopes, fears, plans, and dreams. 

You are loved, accepted, and redeemed. The world may reject you but you are accepted by the only One who really matters. You are accepted by the King of Kings! You belong!

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.