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June 2020: Is God Up There?

Is God Up There?

This year in our monthly articles we are considering favorite verses from the Bible.
This month’s favorite Bible verse is:
  Genesis 1:1

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

“God, if you are up there, please show yourself to me.” Have you ever said that to God? Wouldn’t it be great if God just came down and showed himself to us?

God does show himself. In the first line of the Bible, God reveals himself to us. He tells us that he made all things. He made the huge galaxies of the universe. He made the tiniest atoms. He made you and me. His creation demonstrates his power, creativity, wisdom, and tender concern for us.

Take time to notice and to marvel at all God made—the colors of the sky, the light of the sun and stars, the mosaic of leaves outside your window, the beauty of the landscape within your view. Consider how God made you. Think of how your body works—your eyes and ears, your arms, legs, fingers and toes, your brain.

However, God did not make the world and then stand back as a disinterested observer far removed from it all. He is watching over it all. He continues to care for us by providing for all our needs.

Sadly, we often don’t thank him for what he has done for us. We forget him. For that, God has every right to turn his back on us. Amazingly, he still cares for us. More than that, he came down to us and saved us from our wayward ways. He came down in love in the person of his Son, Jesus, and rescued us. Jesus lived the perfect life of thanks that we should live. On the cross, he died the death we should die for our sins. He promises a new and perfect world where all who believe in him will live forever in perfect joy.

Is God up there? Yes, he is! And, thankfully, he was willing to come down here to save us so that, one day, we will see him face to face.


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April 2020: Easter is Reason to Celebrate!

Easter is Reason to Celebrate!

This year in our monthly articles we are considering favorite verses from the Bible.
This month’s favorite Bible verse is:
  John 14:19

“Because I live, you also will live.”

“Happy Holidays!” Does this sound out of place in April? It doesn’t have to. This month marks, arguably, the most important holiday of the year—Easter. Why? Because at Easter we celebrate that Jesus Christ rose from the dead. This miraculous event is certainly a reason for celebration. It proves that Jesus has power over even death.

And, what’s more, he promises that he has power over your death. You may not be thinking about death at Eastertime. You may not like to think about death at all. (Who does?) Still, we are all facing that reality. Sooner or later, our lives will end.

Then what? Plenty of people have plenty of ideas about what happens after we die. But there is one person who can tell us with certainty what will happen because he has already been there and done that. Jesus experienced death…and came back to life! Now, listen to what he promises all of his followers, “Because I live, you also will live.”

Could there be any better news? Could there be anything more worth celebrating? Through Jesus, you do not need to be afraid to die. You can be sure that one day he will raise your body back to life. And you will never die again.

What a reason to celebrate!


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March 2020: The Great Exchange

The Great Exchange

This year in our monthly articles we are considering favorite verses from the Bible.
This month’s favorite Bible verse is:  Isaiah 53:5

“He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.”

Life is filled with exchanges. Employees exchange forty hours for a paycheck. Fans exchange forty dollars for a seat at the game (and then exchange another ten dollars for a hotdog and drink)! Every day we exchange time, money, effort, and emotion for what we hope brings us joy, peace, and satisfaction.

The Bible speaks about exchanges, too. It says that God does not want us to have any sin. In fact, he says that if we do sin, we cannot live with him because he is a sinless, holy God. Sin is so serious to God that he pronounces the death penalty for anyone who sins. He says, “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23) and “The soul who sins is the one who will die” (Ezekiel 18:20). So, who can ever hope to stand in God’s presence and enjoy his favor? For try as we might, we are not perfect. Sinful thoughts, words, and acts clutter our lives.

There is good news, however. In love for us, God made an exchange. Instead of holding us under his judgment for all our wrongdoing, he placed his Son under judgment instead of us. The Bible is speaking about Jesus when it says, “He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.”

 That is a great exchange! Jesus came and exchanged his life for ours. Our transgressions (times when we fail to live according to God’s holy will) were taken away when Jesus was pierced on the cross. Our iniquities (all the things we think or do that don’t measure up to God’s perfect will) were taken away when Jesus was crushed in death. Our punishment was paid for by Jesus.

Through Jesus you have peace with God. Through his wounds you are given life with God. Through Jesus you are forgiven and loved by God. Yes, you! God chose to make that exchange for you.


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February 2020: More Than Mere Roses

This year in our monthly articles we are considering favorite verses from the Bible.
This month’s favorite Bible verse is: John 3:16.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,
that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life”

“What can I give to prove my love?”

With Valentine’s Day approaching you may want to consider this question. Maybe you will give a card—perhaps one that plays a song about love. Maybe you will give flowers—red roses still seem like a good way to say I love you. If you’re a romantic, you might plan something special—maybe a candle-lit dinner without the kids or a surprise get-away.

In the Bible, we hear about what God gave to prove his love for us. In the book of John it says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

God didn’t just pick out a cute card or buy some roses for us. To prove his love, he gave his Son for us. And the greatness of God’s love is seen in what he gave his Son to. When Jesus came to earth, he was given to a world that hated him; he was given to humiliation and torture, and ultimately, to death on a cross. As a parent, to give my child to suffer all of this is unimaginable. It would be nearly impossible to give so much for someone else. Can you relate? Yet God willingly gave his one and only, dearly loved Son for us.

So why did God do it? Because in the suffering of God’s Son we see the penalty for our sins. God chose to punish his Son instead of us.

God did this to prove his love for you. He loves you so much that he gave his Son to die your death. He loves you so much that he will give eternal life to you and all who believe.

This Valentine’s Day please reflect on the One who proved his love by giving more than mere roses; he gave his Son.


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January: Unchanging Hope for an Ever-changing World

This year in our monthly articles we are considering favorite verses from the Bible.
This month’s favorite Bible verse is: Hebrews 13:8
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”
 
As one year ends and another begins, columnists and commentators look back at the previous year. What changed? What stayed the same? Whose passing did we mourn? Whose new arrival did we celebrate?

At the same time, we make predictions about the coming year. What will the new year hold? What will change? What will stay the same?

As fun and exciting as it may be to reminisce about the past and dream about the future, it can also be a little sad and scary. Things will likely never be what they used to be. Loved ones who have passed away don’t come back. Jobs that are lost seldom reappear quickly. Even when broken dreams and broken relationships are repaired, they rarely return to their former glory. Many times our experiences in an ever-changing world are difficult.

Yet we sometimes look at our lives and see a need for change. Many of us make New Year’s resolutions: “I’m going to exercise more and eat less.” “I’m going to save more and spend less.” “I’m going to love more and hate less.” But too often, our good intentions disappear, and only poor excuses remain.

No matter what (or who) changes from one year to the next, there is one who never changes—Jesus Christ, the Son of God. He always exists, from before time, throughout the course of time, and at the end of time for eternity. Jesus loved you before you were born. He loves you today, and he will always love you.

That’s what Christmas is all about. Jesus loved you so much that he wanted you to experience his unchanging love forever. So he came into the world to live up to God’s perfect demands in your place. He took the punishment for your imperfection and gave you the reward for his perfection. That reward is an eternity far away from this world’s sorrows and disappointments—the unchanging peace and joy of a place called heaven.

Jesus—the same yesterday, today, and forever—promises to be with us, love us, care for us, and give perfect peace with God to all who trust in him. Only Jesus offers unchanging hope to an ever-changing world.


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November 2019: I Need More…MONEY

I Need More…MONEY

Someone once asked John D. Rockefeller, “How much money is enough?” “Just a little more,” he answered. At the time, he was one of the wealthiest men in the world.

Those who’ve heard that story and Rockefeller’s answer, usually divide into two groups: they either think of him as a greedy miser (“He has more money than he knows what to do with!”) or an honest pragmatist (“Hey, he’s just telling the truth—even if you’re rich, a little more is always nice.”). Don’t we all occasionally find ourselves thinking, “I need more money?”

There’s nothing wrong with financial security, but how much is enough? If you are pricing a vacation home in Florida and feel frustrated that you don’t have enough to buy a Ferrari too, that’s one thing. If you lost your job and can’t pay the bills, and it’s getting tough to put food on the table, that’s something else.

This is a complicated issue. It’s not easy to properly distinguish between real needs and selfish greed. Do you really need more money? Maybe. Maybe not. When it comes to finances, the best advice comes from Jesus Christ. Our Savior said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21).

According to Jesus, a lot of folks expend an enormous amount of time and energy in pursuit of earthly treasure and financial security, but for what? In the end—if a bad economy, a poor decision, or unforeseen disaster doesn’t claim it, time certainly will—you can’t take it with you.

That makes heaven the only worthwhile investment. And here’s the great news: Jesus lived, died, and rose again to provide all the heavenly treasure for you. Peace with God—now and forever—that’s what he freely gives.

Put your trust in Jesus. Find in him real treasure and eternal security. What more do you need? Besides, Christians know that the Lord will always provide. We’ve got his Word on that: “Do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:31-33).

Do you really need more money? You don’t need to answer that question. Put your trust in Christ—seek first his kingdom and his righteousness—and let him answer the question for you.


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October 2019: I Need More…FAITH

I Need More…FAITH

“I Need More faith.” I can’t imagine any honest Christian who wouldn’t say a hearty “Amen” to that statement. Because of the common weakness of our sinful, human nature, the fervent request that a greatly distressed father made to Jesus regarding his son’s great need and his own weakness of faith has often struck a chord: “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24)

Notice how that statement is punctuated with only a semicolon regarding his faith, but an exclamation point with regard to his unbelief. Unfortunately, that’s the reality of the faith-life of God’s people. We wish our own faith was punctuated with an exclamation mark or at least a simple period. But we know a question mark suggesting uncertainty or doubt gets in the way too often.

Just about every Sunday the worshipers in our churches make a confession of faith with the Apostles’ or Nicene Creed. The key truths of the Christian faith are very briefly and yet adequately summarized in those statements. There are no exclamation points in either of those great, ancient creeds—just commas and periods that acknowledge the basic scriptural facts. That’s an important aspect about saving faith: knowing the truth about the true God and the Savior he has given us.

Since this faith is totally a gift, we need to keep going to the Lord with this request, “Lord, I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” We keep having a problem with unbelief because it’s such a natural part of us. Faith is a supernatural thing, and it is kept alive and strong only with the supernatural Word of our supernatural God.

The most important thing to remember about faith is that it derives all its strength from its object, that on which it rests. As a famous preacher once said, “It is not your hold on Christ that saves you; it is Christ. It is not your joy in Christ that saves you; it is Christ. It is not even your faith in Christ that saves you, though that be the instrument. It is Christ’s blood and merit.” There might indeed be many instances where our trusting faith is shaky, but the Savior and his promises are rock solid. With this subject of faith, it’s most important to hear him speak with exclamation points, “I love you! I have saved you! I will never let you go!”


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September 2019: I Need More…Knowledge

I Need More…Knowledge

The Church of Scientology teaches that people are basically good, that their capabilities are unlimited, and those capabilities can be realized. People can also achieve new, higher states of awareness and ability. Scientology claims that the secrets to this higher knowledge can only be found in their church through a process they call “auditing.”

Seems strange? But honestly, a cultic religion that encourages you to look within yourself for more knowledge can really satisfy an itch. Who doesn’t feel they need more knowledge? And how about being able to pat yourself on the back for pursuing it and supposedly finding that knowledge within yourself? That’s pretty appealing to the human heart.

But God’s Word sounds much different than L. Ron Hubbard, who authored the book that has become Scientology’s bible. God says people are not basically good, that people’s natural capabilities are limited to sinning and rebelling against God. As a result, God says all people are the same: “There is no one who understands, no one who seeks God…The way of peace they do not know” (Romans 3:11,17).

God is right! Not L. Ron Hubbard! Need proof? Think about Adam and Eve when they pursued more knowledge on their own apart from God. They rejected God’s Word and sinned. Look at what their own inner pursuit of knowledge got them and us! A world infected by sin so badly that everyone eventually dies.

Jesus knows we all lack knowledge, and he wants to fill that void. He does so not by telling us to find it inside ourselves, but by telling us to look outside ourselves. We find knowledge in the Bible. Through his Word, God makes us wise; he gives us insight and understanding. (See Psalm 119:98-100.) That’s because God’s Word gives us knowledge that we can’t find or discover anywhere else.

The Bible tells about Jesus. It tells how wide, long, high, and deep Jesus’ love is for people. That love drove Jesus to come to this world, bear the sin of every person, die on a cross, and suffer the eternal punishment for all sins. That’s love—love so amazing that God declares that your sins are forgiven because of Jesus. That’s love—love so beyond understanding that Jesus, the righteous one, should die for the unrighteous. But he did! That’s why the apostle Paul says that “this love surpasses knowledge” (Ephesians 3:19). In Jesus’ love for you, you have everything you truly need to know, both now and forever.


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July 2019: I Need More…SATISFACTION

I Need More…SATISFACTION

“A man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work” (Ecclesiastes 2:24).

That is what the writer of the book of Ecclesiastes said, and he said it three different times in his book. It sounds simple enough: Somehow find the ability to lean back in your hammock on your day off and say, “What a satisfying life this all is!”

But maybe your expectations for satisfaction in this life are too high. Maybe they are unrealistic. Maybe they are even wrong and pivot around your own self and ego.

The Bible says about God, “You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing” (Psalm 145:16). Many believers bow their heads and speak this verse before they eat their food. In prayer at their dinner tables, they acknowledge that God is the source of their satisfaction. They recognize it too when they pray this part of the Lord’s Prayer: “Give us today our daily bread.”

The apostle Paul told a young pastor, “If we have food and clothing, we will be content with that” (1 Timothy 6:8). Perhaps those who demand more satisfaction from life are not thinking of the simple but sublime satisfaction that is the desire of many hearts. They forget that in their work—whatever it may be—they can glorify God with faithfulness and cheerfulness. Thankfulness that they have the ability to feed themselves and their family. Those are the aspirations of a loving God for our satisfaction.

Satisfaction in our lives does not come because of what we do but because of what God does. He takes care of us…body and soul. He feeds us. He sent Jesus to rescue us from his great dissatisfaction over our sin. He promises to be with us and bless the work of our hands. He says that what we do for him will not be in vain.

Be satisfied—truly satisfied—with that!


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July 2019: I Need More…REST

I Need More…REST

People put in many hours of work each week. Weeknight evenings are filled with activities for children and meetings of all sorts. When the weekend rolls around, there are many activities that we want to participate in. There are sports for children, recreation for families, and leisurely interests for individuals. Hours on Saturday are taken up by home improvement projects or needed maintenance. By the end of it all we are tired.

Finally, it is Sunday morning, a day of rest, and I get to sleep in. It is the one morning that if I don’t get out of bed, my work will not call, and my children will not bother me. Nothing much happens on Sunday morning, so it is a good time to relax. I get so tired during the week. I need more rest and Sunday seems to be the perfect day to get it. If I sleep in on Sunday morning, I may be well rested physically but spiritually I am exhausted.

On the front wall of the church where I grew up is this Bible passage. “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). Those are Jesus’ words. It is his invitation to provide rest, not for our bodies but for our souls. There were plenty of times I walked into that church physically tired, but I always received rest for my soul.

I heard a message about my sin and Jesus’ forgiveness. I was reminded every time that I had real rest in Jesus. I had the rest of a clear conscience because Jesus took my sin away with his death and resurrection. I had the rest of knowing that when I die, I will rest eternally with Jesus. I had the rest of knowing that the same Savior who loved me enough to die for me is ruling all things in this world for me, and for the benefit of all his people.

Such a busy life! It makes you wish you could have more rest. You do! In Jesus you have the rest you truly need. The church may not have that Bible passage printed on the wall, but through the Word of God you hear, you will receive rest for your soul in Jesus. Next Sunday morning, come and get some rest with us at church. It is good for your soul.


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June 2019: I Need More…SECURITY

I Need More…SECURITY


Everyone knows disappointment sooner or later. It’s that time when the car broke down, when national security was breeched, when we lost our job. It’s that time when doctors couldn’t cure us or our loved ones, our investments disappeared, friends disappointed us, when we disappointed ourselves.

We try to limit disappointment or prevent disappointment from becoming a disaster. We make promises. We buy insurance. We do our homework before making big decisions. We search for what is “guaranteed or your money back.” We go to the doctor recommended by trustworthy friends.

What we’re really looking for is security. We just want something we can count on; something that is stable; something that is safe and stays that way. But isn’t it striking that even with all the protection agencies, certifications, types of insurance, promises, and money-back guarantees in today’s world, we’re still left searching for more security?

When it comes to things that can threaten our sense of security, the possibilities appear endless. You probably have had that sinking feeling and said to yourself, “There’s always something. What am I supposed to do? If it’s not one thing, it’s another. Either this or that…”

At such trying times, find strength from these verses in the Bible: “I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).

Notice: “neither” this, “nor” that “will be able to separate us from the love of God…” The love of God is a faithful, stable, and dependable love. And if we want proof of that, we need only consider how God sent his only Son for us. Jesus came and died on the cross, and he rose again. Our sins weren’t too much for him to bear. Death itself could not hold him in his grave. Satan could not stop him from carrying out his mission. Many religious leaders hated Jesus. One of his own disciples betrayed him. One denied him. The rest abandoned him. And the vocal majority crucified him. Did any of these prevent Jesus from keeping God’s promise to save us? No! God’s love prevailed for the whole world, and now whoever believes in Jesus has eternal life!

God’s love will never disappoint you. Nothing in all creation can separate you from God and the power of his love in your life. For Jesus came, he died, and he rose again. We have this as our security: God’s love is guaranteed.


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May 2019: I Need More…CONFIDENCE

I Need More…CONFIDENCE
 

Meet Doug. As he toes the line for the final game of his senior year basketball season, he wonders if his scholarship dream is going to happen.

Meet Kristin. As she graduates from college, she wonders if she’s adequate for her new job.

Meet Samantha. As she faces her second round of chemotherapy, she wonders if she’s going to live.

Meet Scott. As he says his vows to his wife, he silently wonders if his second marriage is going to last.

Have you been there? Doug, Kristin, Samantha, Scott, you and I all have one thing in common: we need confidence. Let’s face it; there are times in life that it’s easy to be filled with doubt. Doug doubted his future. Kristin doubted her abilities. Samantha doubted her treatment. Scott doubted his love.


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