All posts by PikeGrace

Don’t Treat Missions Like Flossing

Missions is something that we all know is important but just knowing it is important doesn’t always drive us to be active in sharing the gospel with others. David shows us the importance of missions in Ps. 96:1-6. Here, and in many other passages of Scripture, we can see that missions is an important part of the will of God. There are times that He commands missions like in Ps. 96 and also in the Great Commission of Matt. 28:18-20. Then there are other times when the Lord shows that His work over certain events and situations was for the purpose of missions. God has a desire for people of all tribes, tongues, and nations to hear the good news of the gospel and respond to it. Again, these are things that we probably all know and yet “proclaiming the good tidings of His salvation” is either non-existent or very sparse in our day to day lives. We must go beyond just knowing that missions is important if we want to be active in it.

Here is something that we can all relate to. If we go to the dentist regularly then we know that flossing is important but, for the majority of us, just because we know it’s important doesn’t mean that we do it. At every visit we know what’s coming from the dentist. He tells us how important flossing is, he gives us instruction on how to do it properly, and then he even gives us what we need to do it on our own. And what happens when we get home? We don’t do it. At every visit there is also that dreaded moment where the dentist asks, “Have you been flossing?” It’s at that moment that we feel a weight of guilt come upon us. We know we should be doing it. We knew he was going to ask but we didn’t have time, didn’t think about it, or just didn’t care to. There’s a mindset that we have with flossing, “yes, it’s important but really only a special group of people can do it” or “No one can do it every day” or “That’s what the dentist is for! As long as he is doing it then we’re fine.” Now, I know you probably would have never imagined that in your lifetime you’d read missions related to flossing but how different does how we act toward flossing sound from how we act when it comes to sharing the gospel? Sadly, not that different at all! We feel guilt when someone gets up front to talk about it because we know we should be doing it but we’re just not. There are times that we think that missions and sharing the gospel is only for a select group of people or we may even think “That’s what the Pastor is for!” Again, God has called, commanded, and commissioned each of us to missions in some way. We are left here on this earth to make disciples. To deny or neglect is to brush off the will of the One who has made, saved, and sustained you to this day. God desires to include us in what He is doing.

So, what led David to speak the way that he did in Ps. 96:1-6 about missions and sharing the gospel? One answer is that he saw the Lord as His treasure. David proclaims who God is in verses 5-6. He shows us that the idols all around us are nothing and worthless but that God is everything. The idols can do nothing for us but God has made the heavens and the earth. David starts this passage off by talking about singing to the Lord. We sing as an overflow of the heart. It is natural for humans to burst into song as a reflection of how they’re feeling. David is overwhelmed with the Lord so what comes out is a song. Jesus says in Luke 6:45, “The mouth speak from that which fills the heart.” This means that our conversation is a good indicator of what takes center stage in our hearts. What we treasure determines what we talk about. David has determined that the Lord is his treasure and the result is opening his mouth. He sings, proclaims, and tells all that he can of “wonderful deeds” of God. The way God is going to carry out His will for missions on this earth is by us opening our mouths. Let’s not treat missions like flossing by only knowing the importance of it. Let’s pray that God would open our mouths that others would know the treasure of He is as well!

 

                                          Seeking To Share His Good News, Pastor Rudy

 

I Thank Jesus For Putting Me Here

As I prepare for my ordination service this weekend (May 21, 2017) I can’t help but think of how the Lord has led me to this point. Six years ago, this June, Lindsey and I celebrated our first wedding anniversary by candidating at Pike. Nervous and excited I stood behind the pulpit to give my first sermon in this church. Following the service, the church graciously invited us to serve here. As we drove down the highway we were overjoyed at the response that we received and ecstatic about the opportunity that was before us. There was no way we could have ever known what the Lord would have in store for us by putting us here! Abundant amounts of love, lessons, and grace awaited us.

When I arrived at Pike, Youth Ministry was all that I knew and, honestly, all that I wanted to do. I studied Youth Ministry in school, sure that this is what God wanted from me. As my friends talked about the stepping stone of youth ministry, I didn’t have any dreams or aspirations of doing anything else. I arrived at Pike ready to learn and grow in ministry which is exactly what the Lord had in mind. There were lessons filled with joy and lessons filled with heartache but God was clearly in them all. I needed to be humbled, I needed to understand what it looked like to serve, and grow in relationship with our people. The Lord used accidents, sickness, and disappointment to teach me all of those things. In Ps. 119:71, David said, “It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I may learn Your statues.” As much as anyone would love to go without suffering, there are tremendous truths that the Lord can teach about Himself and His Word through them. As I look back, I know that I serve, care, and love in the way that I do because of those things.

In March of 2014, I stood behind the pulpit to preach again. I wasn’t thinking anything permanent. I thought I could fill in for a season but this would turn out to be the first of many sermons to come. I trembled up front knowing that I really didn’t know what I was doing. There was no strength or expertise in me to do what the Lord was asking me to do. However, when I served in this new capacity I saw something amazing happen, God was equipping me in each and every way necessary. From performing funeral services for very dear people in our congregation to leading meetings to preparing sermons. The Lord was strengthening me to serve in ways I never thought I could or would. Thankfully, there were others in my life who could see this also. I am so thankful for our elders who didn’t push but prayed with me as we moved towards the transition. I fought the Lord’s leading for a long time but through our elders’ encouragement and our congregation’s love, patience, and grace I eventually got to the point where I could see clearly the step the Lord was calling me to.

A verse that has become near and dear to me throughout this ministry so far has been, 1 Tim. 1:12. Paul looks back at his own ministry in thankfulness and says, “I thank Christ Jesus, my Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service.” This has been my experience and my praise as well. Even when others didn’t consider me faithful, the Lord did. He could see what others couldn’t and He continues to do what is necessary to make me faithful to this calling at Pike. I love where He has put me into service. I love our people here. I have no doubt that this is what God has called me to and I am confident that the Lord will continue to teach, lead, and equip me for the service He has for me in the days ahead.

Grateful to Serve You, Pastor Rudy

 

Free From The Love Of Money

In 1 Timothy 3:3 Paul instructs Timothy that elders should be “free from the love of money.” From further study of the Bible it’s clear that this instruction isn’t just limited to elders but it is for all of God’s people. I know for me, it can be easy to feel like I’m “free from the love of money” just because I don’t have a lot of it but Paul’s instruction here doesn’t have anything to do with our quantity of money. Paul doesn’t say, “Be free from money.” This instruction deals with our desires and feelings towards money, whatever the amount. My heart is often revealed when unexpected bills or payments come up. If I get stressed or frustrated this shows exactly how I feel about money and what my desire is. The stress comes because I am unsure or uncertain about having what we would need. This reveals that I desire money just to feel comfortable and under control. Frustration is usually a result of selfishness. I get upset because money that I thought I had can no longer be used to get what I want. This reveals that I desire money to have my way and depend on myself for what I think I need. There are many tough lessons the Lord has already taught me and is continuing to teach me concerning money. It is something that we all need to function in our society but it is also something that we all need to be extremely cautious and aware of because of the dangers that it can cause in our relationship with God.

Money can be hard to talk about but the issue of money, wealth, and possessions is touched on all throughout the Bible because it is important to talk about. The Lord not only gives instruction but also gives clear warnings about what the love of money can cause in our lives:

The love of money can cause us to forget God (Deut. 8:11-17)

God warned the people of Israel that there would come a time when they would be blessed and all that they had would increase. This seems like an unusual thing to give a warning about but God says, “Beware, lest you forget the Lord your God…otherwise, you may say in your heart, “My power and the strength of my hand made me this wealth.” If you think about it when are we the least likely to come to God about our finances? When we don’t have a need. It can be really easy to forget God when you feel comfortable. You are also more likely to trust in your bank account or checkbook during these times rather than God but the truth is, God provides and gives to His people just to remind us that He is the provider. God cared for His people throughout their time in the wilderness to show them where their trust should be. There are times that God puts us into difficult situations financially just so that we will remember this. In Matthew 6:31-33, we can find a principle from Jesus’ command to us not to worry about our basic needs in life. That principle is: Don’t forget God because He won’t forget you.

The love of money can cause us to not be content (Heb. 13:5)

In this verse we see the same phrase that Paul uses in 1 Timothy 3:3. Contentment is what it looks like to be free from the love of money. Ultimately, we should be content with Christ. If we have Him then we have all that we need. One of the major difficulties that we face living in our American society is a sense of entitlement that we all face. When it comes down to it we are just expected to have different things at different stages in our lives whether we truly need them or not. We should fight those feelings that we deserve certain things or earned the right to possess other things and be content with what God has already given us. A great key to contentment is perspective. Just think of all that you have been given that so many others don’t have!

The love of money always drives out love for God (2 Tim. 3:1-4, 1 Tim. 6:9-10, Matt. 6:24)

Paul is clear about this because Jesus is clear about this. Just think of the example of the rich young ruler. His stuff won. He just couldn’t follow Jesus if it meant letting go of what he had. We cannot let our desire for money, comfort, and stuff beat out our desire for Jesus.

If we want to be free from the love of money we need to remember the message that Paul relayed to us from Jesus, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Giving is always greater than getting. Contentment is always greater than want. We were made to remember the Lord and rely on Him- don’t let your money get in the way of that!

 

Trusting The Great Provider, Pastor Rudy

 

The Lord Is My Shepherd

Over the past week, I spent some time with one of the most popular Psalms in Scripture. Sometimes in its familiarity we can lose sight of the great comfort the Lord provides through David’s words. When David wrote Psalm 23 he was in the midst of struggles: he had enemies on all sides, he was overwhelmed with emotion, and he felt like he was on the edge of death. I’m sure there are times in each of our lives when we feel like we just can’t take anymore. We feel like we are walking through a valley just like David. Even the hymn, Amazing Grace, shows us the reality that in life there are many dangers, toils, and snares that we must go through. Sadly, this is the reality that we face in life on earth. Because of sin there are valleys and struggles. In Rom. 5:12, Paul says that through sin death has entered this world. Because we all have sinned we face sickness, suffering, disease, and death. However, just like the hymn also sings God has given us amazing grace to lead us through these things and David held to this truth.

In the first line of Ps. 23 David writes, “The Lord is my shepherd.” David does not let his circumstances dictate his truth. This is what he knows to be true and this truth in the Old Testament points us to the truth of Jesus. He referred to Himself as “The Shepherd” showing where David’s hope was directed. Jesus came that He might lead us, as a Shepherd, out of sorrow and death, sin and punishment, and into joy and life. On our own we could not reach the standard that God had set for us. We had no hope but Jesus came to this earth. He lived this life perfectly yet He was taken, betrayed, and beaten, hung from a cross, and there at the cross He was punished by His Father for our sins. Jesus took the punishment of death so that we wouldn’t have to. Then 3 days later Jesus was resurrected from the dead so that we too could have life. So, when we turn from our sins to Jesus – He leads us as a shepherd.

As we continue reading through the Psalm we see what gives David comfort. God, the maker of heaven and earth, the one who upholds and sustains all things is his Shepherd. This is a good shepherd to have. This shepherd not only cares for our daily needs but he also cares for our soul. The Bible says in Ez. 18:4 that the soul who sins will die. Jesus leads us on the paths of righteousness that we may live. God guides us in honoring Him. He leads us in what is right. David hung on the words of His Shepherd because he knew that these words lead to life. In them he found care for his soul.

David continues in vs. 4, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff they comfort me.” There is no fear in the face of death when the Lord is our Shepherd. Why? Because we have a Shepherd that has promised to never leave nor forsake us. He remains with us even in the face of death reminding us of the hope that we have in Him. And for those who believe, we only walk through the shadow of death. We don’t experience it in all of its eternal sense. Even though we may take a final breath on this earth, our lives are not over. We wake up in heaven in the presence of Jesus. David continues (vs. 5-6), “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” There’s the ultimate hope and the great promise that David had and that we can have: that whatever happens we will dwell in His house forever.

Finally, back in vs. 1, David says, “The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want…” because nothing compares to knowing Him. There is no want of anything else. David could have great contentment in his circumstances knowing Jesus. He had everything he could ever want or need in Him. This Shepherd doesn’t just lead us to satisfaction for our soul but He is that very satisfaction! Do you know Jesus in this way? Have you learned to find comfort and rest in the Shepherd that He is?  I pray that you would find abundant comfort in the truth of this Psalm!

Following The Great Shepherd With You, Pastor Rudy

 

Where Did You Get Your Information?

“Where did you get your information?” I can remember being asked this question on more than one occasion by more than one English teacher. With High School came the introduction of the “Works Cited” page. It wasn’t acceptable just to borrow information from different sources. Those sources needed to be listed so readers could be enlightened to how you came to your thoughts and conclusions. In life, we come to many thoughts and conclusions. These direct the way that we interact with the world around us and with the Lord. Our ideas have been influenced in some way from somewhere. So, what if you were asked, “Where did you get your information?” What would be your source(s)? To conclude the book of Ecclesiastes, the writer tells us in verse 11, that true wisdom comes from One Shepherd. Our sights should be set on the words that He is the source of! The writer then continues with a warning in verse 12, “But beyond this, my son, be warned: the writing of many books is endless, and excessive devotion to books is wearying to the body.” We need to be aware that there are various teachings and ideas that surround us. These things make their way into endless amounts of books, movies, sermons, and songs. They vie for our attention and devotion. If we are going to be able to navigate through life then we need the ability to navigate through these things. Our information for life should ultimately come from the Lord. If what we are taught (whether through story or sermon) does not match up with what He teaches, then it must be thrown out.

In 1 Thess. 5:21-22 Paul gives this command to believers, “But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil.” We are called to practice discernment. We should be able to judge what we come across as good or evil and act accordingly. How are we to judge or “examine everything”? The writer of Hebrews says this in 5:14, “But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.” We do this by knowing “solid food” or as the writer defines this in verse 13, “the word of righteousness.” We train our senses by God’s Word. We “chew” on it which is to think through, search out, examine it carefully (Eccl. 12:9; Acts 17:11) and then “practice” what it says. The writer tells us that when we do this our senses will be trained to discern good and evil. We will be able to tell fact from fiction and good ideas from bad ideas. This practice is extremely important for us especially because we live in a world of “endless books”. There is so much out there pulling us in different directions. Be warned. Go to the Shepherd’s word of righteousness first so that your senses are ready to take on what else is out there.

Discernment isn’t only needed when we walk into the “Non-Christian” section of the library, turn on secular radio, or venture outside of the family section at Redbox. It is needed, even more so, in the areas labeled “Christian.” It is not just enough to bear that tag. Some may shrug off fiction as, “It’s just a story” but every story has been written to influence and inform us in some way or another. For instance, the author of the best-selling book “The Shack” (which has reached Amazon’s list of top-selling books of all time and will soon be released on the big screen) has designed his story in such a way to cause the reader to question the authority of Scripture just as the main character does. There have been many who have left the book resolving to put down their Bibles and seminary teaching to find their own relational experiences with God. This is the last thing that we want to do! We meet with God not in our own “shacks” but in and through His Word! Another popular devotional book that has led to many follow up books for both adults and kids is “Jesus Calling.” In this devotional the author speaks for God and admits that her purpose for writing came out of a desire to hear God outside of the Bible. Again, the conclusion is to put down the Bible to see what God really has to say. If we know our Bibles this is far from the conclusion that John comes to in Rev. 22:18-19.

I give these examples not to start a book burning or to suggest that it would be an unpardonable sin to read either. This is a reminder to do what the writers of Scripture urge us to do: Be warned, practice discernment, and trust the sufficiency of Scripture. We cannot go wrong with the Word God has given to us. As the writer of Ecclesiastes concluded the Word is like “a goad” that sets us straight and “well-driven nails” that secure us. Let’s be a people that draw our wisdom from the words that give life and encourage others to do the same.

Seeking Discernment With You, Pastor Rudy

 

Use Wisdom

This past month we learned a story in Ecclesiastes 9:13-16 that left a major impact on the Preacher’s life. He could see the importance and significance of wisdom through what happened. The Preacher says this, “Also this I came to see as wisdom under the sun, and it impressed me. There was a small city with few men in it and a great king came to it, surrounded it, and constructed large siegeworks against it. But there was found in it a poor wise man and he delivered the city by his wisdom. Yet no one remembered that poor man. So I said, “Wisdom is better than strength.” But the wisdom of the poor man is despised and his words are not heeded.” Despite the outcome for the poor man (he was not remembered, despised, and his words were not heeded) it is still better to use wisdom. There are many experiences that we can face in life where we learn this lesson to. We can even look into our own American history to a remarkably similar story that perfectly illustrates this passage.

In 1781, the battle had turned for the worse for Virginians as they had to deal with the impact of Benedict Arnold’s treason and opposing troops gaining ground under British General Charles Cornwallis. Marquis de Lafayette led his army to fight but there was only so much they could do without information on their enemy’s movements. The battle did not look good for Lafayette’s men just as the battle did not look good for that small city in Ecclesiastes 9 but here is where an unlikely hero steps in. Black slaves had nothing in early America. No power or position. They were, by all means, considered the poorest of the poor. One particular slave from New Kent, Virginia had a deep desire to serve and fight for his country. He also had the wisdom to do so. Under the permission of his master, James Armistead joined the war efforts. In this time slaves were mostly used as spies by both British and American forces to gain information from the other. Armistead managed to be enlisted by both sides gaining him ground with British troops that very few men had. Armistead was given a position under Lafayette and under Benedict Arnold. In Arnold’s camp he played the part of an escaped slave that could guide them through the territories of Virginia. As Armistead spent time with Arnold he gained important information that he sent back to Lafayette. Through Benedict Arnold, Armistead was led right into the midst of General Cornwallis’ camp where he discovered details of battle operation without detection. Britain had planned to move 10,000 troops to Yorktown, Virginia by means of the British fleet. Armistead relayed this to Lafayette who was able to pass it along to George Washington. American troops took hold of the town ahead of the British fleet and, with the help of the French, built a blockade strong enough to dismantle enemy plans. Through one poor man’s wisdom the battle was turned in favor of America. The British military surrendered in October of 1781.

What happened to Armistead after this great act of wisdom and heroism? He returned to slavery, despised and no longer remembered. His wisdom delivered just as the poor man in the Preacher’s story and sadly, his story ended the same. Wisdom is not always honored as it should be under the sun. Foolishness often gains more fame and recognition than wisdom does. Compare how many people know the name Benedict Arnold as to James Armistead! Yet God doesn’t give us wisdom for popularity’s sake. He gives us wisdom to use to glorify Him and to guide us in His way to the eternal benefit of ourselves and those around us. We should use and pass on the wisdom God has given that we may know Him but also to “save the city” by bringing others to this wisdom as well. There’s a powerful ending to James Armistead’s story. He tried to petition Virginia to be freed after his acts in the military but it was not granted him. Lafayette heard the tragic news that one of his best soldiers was in slavery so he took action by assisting Armistead in gaining his freedom. In 1787, Armistead finally was freed under the recommendation of Lafayette. Out of deep appreciation and love Armistead took on Lafayette’s last name for the rest of his life. Although poor in the eyes of our country, Armistead was rich and remembered in the eyes of Lafayette. On this earth we may remain poor and forgotten but through Christ (who is the wisdom of God) we are rich and remembered before our Father in heaven!

 

Seeking His Wisdom In All Things, Pastor Rudy

 

God Causes The Growth

We have now moved from the season to be jolly to the season to get busy. We’ve had our celebration now it’s time for change. It’s the time for resolutions and lists. We decide that in the same new year we are going to work harder, get thinner, become healthier, and grow spiritually. This will be the year that we finally see the change that we want in ourselves. Isn’t it amazing that in a matter of days we go from rejoicing in the One who has come to save us to resolving that we can save ourselves? We spend the beginning of the year convincing ourselves that we’ve got what it takes to produce growth that only God can provide.

Paul had a difficult task in writing to the Corinthian church. There were many issues that needed addressing from gross sin and disorderly worship to spiritual growth. Resolving to read your Bible more, start a Bible study, or attend church more regularly are all great things but it is important to know where your growth is ultimately going to come from. Many of the Corinthians were accrediting their personal growth as Christians and the growth of the church to individuals. There were some who said, “Paul’s the reason” and others who claimed that it was, “Apollos.” Paul responds in 1 Corinthians 3:5 with this, “What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one.” Paul stops the Corinthians from raising anyone to a position they should not have. Paul points out to them, “Apollos and I were just servants. We were just a tool that God used to bring about your belief. We didn’t cause the change in you but God gave the opportunity!” He continues to confront the Corinthians for accrediting Apollos and he for doing anything more than they actually did. Verse 6, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth.” All Apollos and Paul could do was care for the seed in the way they knew how. Paul proclaimed the Gospel. Apollos followed up with encouragement and reinforcement on the truth of God’s Word. Neither of them had any control over the seed. Neither of them could make any individual grow or bring about a harvest of plants. “…God was causing the growth.” Jesus refers to Him as the “Lord of the Harvest” not Paul, Apollos, or any of us.

We would all love to see ourselves grow. I’m sure many want to see themselves grow closer to the Lord than in the past. We would also love to see our church grow. It would be exciting to see Pike busting at the seems with people but we must remember where this growth is going to come from. As strong as our resolve is or as hard as our work is- these things are no guarantee for growth. God is going to cause the growth so if we resolve anything we must resolve to depend on Him. Yes, we work. This is what Paul told the Corinthian church in verse 9, “For we are God’s fellow workers.” He shows them that there are those who plant and those who water but these gardeners of God must dependently obey, trusting Him alone for the growth. This is what I am praying for 2017 that we would see growth as a church; Growth in our love for the Lord and others, growth in our knowledge and trust in God’s Word, and growing numbers in who we see coming to Christ and following Him. I pray that God would be the cause of this growth in 2017! Will you resolve to pray this with me this year?

 

Trusting The One Who Causes All Growth, Pastor Rudy

 

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

This November Lindsey and I struggled with a question, “How early is too early to listen to Christmas music?” For some reason this year we just couldn’t wait. By the time Halloween was over I had already started breaking out the Christmas CD’s. One of my favorite songs to hear at Christmastime is “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.” There is such longing expressed in both the words and melody of this song. Each verse references a prophecy of who Messiah would be and what He would accomplish. With each prophecy Israel longed for the day when they would no longer be held captive. They longed for Messiah. We also long for Messiah but we rejoice in knowing Him and what He has done! We have been set free from sin and death by Emmanuel! At the same time we long for His second coming when we will once and for all be set free from the captivity of this earth. We also long for the day when Israel will once and for all see Emmanuel in the face of Christ! This song encapsulates what it means to anticipate Jesus (so I don’t feel so bad for listening to it early because I just couldn’t wait!). This song is also a testament to God’s provision. He promised that Messiah would fulfill these truths and He did. God promised to give the gift of Himself and He provided Jesus. In reflecting on the prophecies and their fulfillment in Jesus we are reminded at how God worked throughout history to accomplish His Word. What’s amazing is the way this song came about is also a testament to that same truth.

The original author of this song is unknown. All we know is that the words were probably written by a European monk at some point around 800 A.D. This was during the time known as the “Dark Ages”. A time marked by warfare, disease, and spiritual darkness. You can see that this writer experienced some of the same longing that those earlier Israelites did. In a time of ignorance to the Scriptures he longed for Messiah’s truth and presence to be known. Years later, in the 1400’s, a group of French nuns located at a convent in Portugal put music to these earlier written lyrics. It wasn’t until the 19th century, almost 1,000 years after it was written, that an Anglican priest was reading through an ancient book of hymns in a church off the coast of Africa. In this book he stumbled across a Latin hymn put to music 400 years earlier. Being fluent in 20 languages, the Priest translated the words of this song into the version the world sings today. Over hundreds of years, in different places, through different hands the truth of Jesus came together to be proclaimed in song. In the same way over hundreds of years, through different prophets, and in very different places the truth of Jesus was proclaimed. God oversaw each part that the name of Jesus would be lifted high.

This Christmas we rejoice in what Jesus has accomplished and we look forward and long for what is still to come. We thank God for how He has worked throughout history. We rejoice in the fact that He oversees all things. We also praise Him that He has provided Himself. Because of this gift we are able to sing, “from depths of hell Thy people save, and give them victory o’er the grave.” Jesus is “God with us” and one day, because of Christmas, we will forever be with Him. O come, O come, Emmanuel!

 

              Rejoicing In The Songs Of The Season, Pastor Rudy

 

When The Election Is Over

It is hard to believe that in a matter of days this election season will all be over. There were certainly days where it seemed like it would never end. This whole process has been messy, discouraging, and confusing. There were days when I felt certain about who I wanted to vote for and then others when I just had no clue. There is a lot of uncertainty surrounding this election. Even if our vote wins it is hard to imagine what will transpire over the next few years. In all of this, there is something that does not need to be uncertain and that is how we respond on November 9th. God has given us His Word to train us in righteousness and to make us ready for good works (2 Tim. 3:16-17). Through His Word He shows us the way to live (Ps. 119:105) and what pleases Him (Eph. 5:10). So take a deep breath and pursue these responses when the election is over.

PrayPaul instructs Timothy (1 Tim. 2:1-3), “First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, in order that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior…”. Before you rejoice or lament over the announcement of the next president of the United States, pray for that individual. It is very hard to hate the person you are lifting up in prayer. God also shows us that the way that we are able to live peace-filled lives is ultimately not through voting but through prayer. Our prayers are more powerful than democracy. Through our prayers God can bring about decisions and acts for the good of all men. Notice that Paul also calls for us to lift up “thanksgivings…on behalf of all men.” Part of having peace in our hearts and living lives of godliness is having gratitude even when things don’t go our way. We can still thank God that He is in control. We can thank Him for the freedoms that He has allowed us to enjoy. We can also thank Him that He has a plan for whoever is in charge (which may even include their salvation). So let us “first of all” pray knowing that this is “good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior”!

SubmitNext we look to instruction from Peter (1 Peter 2:13-17), “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men. Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God. Honor all men; love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king.” God calls for us to submit to authority. Peter points out that this is His will (vs. 15). It is through this submission that others see a godly witness from us. Rather than hear whining or witness worry, our world should see how we honor all men, love one another, fear God, and respect the one in authority. Paul teaches us in Rom. 13 that this authority comes from the Lord and as Peter also shows us, this is regardless of the fairness or ruthlessness of the ruler. In submitting to those over us we display our submission to God. We also follow the example of Christ who submitted and suffered under the authority of those He didn’t have to so that God’s will would be accomplished! So before you complain, riot, or cause a scene know that God wants you to submit, not so that the ruler would receive glory and praise but for His sake (vs. 13).

TrustFinally, let us trust. The future of our country doesn’t rest on your vote. It doesn’t rest on who becomes the next president. No individual holds that kind of power. God is not relying on us to “get it right” nor is He relying on a person to set our country state. As Paul and the writer of Hebrews teaches (Col. 1:17, Heb 1:3) Jesus holds all things together and He does so by His powerful Word. We can trust the power and authority that belong to Jesus. We can trust that whatever will come to pass will be for His glory and for our good (Rom. 8:28-29).

Praying, Submitting, And Trusting With You,

   Pastor Rudy

 

Listen to Him!

I’m sure we all can remember the old Verizon commercial slogan, “Can you hear me now?” Recently, this same spokesman has made a comeback moving from Verizon to Sprint. He’s now trying to make the phrase, “Can you hear that?” just as popular. Listening is something that I struggle with. It’s something that I’ve always had an issue with which I’m sure was the cause of many headaches for my parents and teachers growing up. Poor signals and dropped calls aren’t the only things that can get in the way of us really hearing someone. There are times when we are distracted, times when we are only thinking of what we want to say, or times we just shut out others because we already know the answer. The list of excuses and reasons continues even beyond these things. This isn’t just an issue in our relationships with our friends, family, or spouses but these same issues show themselves in our relationship with Jesus. There are times when Jesus clearly tells us something in His Word but we don’t hear Him as we should because our minds are elsewhere. We aren’t the only ones to struggle in this way. When you look at the disciples and their interactions with Jesus you can see that they too had a hearing problem. This is why Jesus graciously repeats Himself, explains Himself, and even makes sure that He is heard again and again. Before Jesus’ ministry, God the Father audibly speaks from heaven telling all those around on of His most important instructions “This is my Son…Listen to Him!” If there is anyone whose words we should focus on and listen up to they are Jesus’. Through hearing His Word we are given faith, strength, and guidance for all of life.

When reading through the Gospels there are many times that when one of the disciples opens their mouths (mostly Peter) or someone else speaks up after a teaching from Jesus and you want to say, “Were you even listening!?” One particular time where multiple hearing problems are presented was during and after the meeting with the Rich Young Ruler. In Luke 18:18, a ruler comes to Jesus wanting to know how he may gain eternal life. The ruler is focused on his own goodness and his own efforts. He thinks there’s a way possible for him to reach heaven on his own. Jesus takes the young man to the Law in order to test his goodness. Still blind from his sin and clearly not hearing Jesus as he should, the ruler responds in verse 21, “All these things I have kept from my youth.” He believes he is good enough and that he’s done enough to earn his way to heaven. When Jesus engaged the young man in a conversation about goodness and sin, the young man wasn’t listening to a word that Jesus was saying because he had everything all figured out. There are times we don’t hear God’s Word on our sin as we should because we’re too preoccupied thinking, “They’re not that bad…they could be worse…or at least I don’t (fill in the blank)…” Any sin, whatever it may be, can hinder our relationship with Christ. The young ruler’s own perceived goodness plugged up his ears from hearing Jesus as he should.

Jesus responds to the ruler in verse 22, “One thing you still lack; sell all that you possess, and distribute it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come follow Me.” We know that the young man left then, deeply sad because he was extremely rich. He didn’t hear anything about the gain that there is in following Jesus because his focus was on what he would lose. He was too distracted by all of his stuff that he couldn’t hear what Jesus was inviting him to; this was a grace-filled invitation both to eternal life and tremendous gain. If you continue on in the story you can see that Peter then has some hearing problems of his own.  There are many times we can breeze through God’s Word and check it off our list for the day without really hearing what Jesus has to say to us. We can also miss what Jesus is calling us to because our focus is on ourselves. Just like we sing, “Turn your eyes upon Jesus” we also need to “Turn our ears open Jesus” so that we hear His Word that leads to life!

Learning To Listen, Pastor Rudy