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

 

Remembering Flight 93

On September 11th we remember the tragic events that took place on the east coast and right in our backyard. As weak as our minds are we must decide that we will never forget what happened because in remembering we are able to find a renewed gratitude for life, appreciation for our freedom, and wisdom for living. Where were you when you heard the news? Who were you with? What were you doing? I can remember sitting in a classroom silently stunned waiting to be sent home as we watched the news coverage on the television. You may even be able to feel some of those same emotions or feelings in your chest as you recall that day. I can’t imagine how those passengers felt on board flight 93. 40 ordinary people boarded a plane, some for business and others for pleasure, headed from New Jersey to San Francisco. When the plane made a sharp turn in Cleveland and began heading towards DC their lives were turned upside down. Those 40 ordinary people had a choice to make that day with the life that they had been given.

How would you have responded when you saw the commotion take place at the front of the plane? What would have been going through your mind as you heard strange voices over the loud speaker? I’m sure there are many of us who may have responded in anger, fear, or even great panic. In the midst of turmoil those 40 ordinary people showed extraordinary courage and selflessness. Instead of giving up they decided to take action. 33 passengers and 7 crew members all from very different backgrounds and different stages of life unified together. They chose to stand together against evil. We will never know what exactly happened inside that plane but what we do know for certain is that Flight 93 did not reach the hijackers intended target. By the grace of God the plane landed in a field just outside of Shanksville. Those 40 died tragically but at the same time heroically. Hundreds of lives, if not more, were spared because of their sacrifice.

In reflecting on what took place that day, one politician said, “In a field in rural Pennsylvania, right prevailed over wrong and hope was born again.” Many were given life and many enjoy freedom today because of the selfless act of those men and women. It is hard to remember a story like this and not think back to an even greater moment in history. In John 15:13, Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this that one lay down his life for his friends.” Great love was shown on September 11th but even greater love was shown over 2,000 years ago when one man, sent from God, gave His life on a cross. There at the cross, in a field outside of the city, right prevailed over wrong. Sin was paid for, death was defeated, and hope was born again for all those who would trust in Jesus. So what will you do with the life that you’ve been given? My prayer is that through Jesus you would respond as those 40 did; that you would stand courageously in the face of evil, act selflessly towards others, and trust Jesus whole-heartedly.

Remembering With You, Pastor Rudy

Marriage Opportunities

This past month I had the privilege of performing a wedding ceremony for a wonderful young couple. I am excited to see how the Lord leads them on their new adventure together. As part of their ceremony I reflected on Colossians 3:12-15. Here Paul gives instruction for relationships between all believers but I believe that the truth Paul lays out in this passage can especially be applied to the marriage relationship. Here Paul says, “So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful.” If you ever wonder why we do marriage it’s because of what God did in Genesis 2. There God brought a man and woman together and the two became one. Verse 24 instructs us, “For this cause (or this reason) a man shall leave his father and his mother and cleave to his wife.” God gave marriage and Scripture gives us reasons why He did so. One reason is found in Ephesians 5. There we see that God gave marriage as a picture of what Christ’s love looks like for His bride, the Church. But God also gave marriage to give us opportunities and we can see from Colossians 3:12-15 what those are and how we can take advantage of them.

For starters, marriage is an opportunity to remember our need of the gospel. On our own we cannot reach the standard Paul gives us in these verses. Apart from Christ we won’t have this compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience he speaks of. We will always fall short. This is why we have the gospel. God knew that man could not reach His standard so He sent His Son, who lived this life perfectly, without sin, yet He went to the cross. At the cross, Jesus was punished not for the things that He did but for the things that you and I have done; for all of the ways that we have fallen short. Jesus died so that we would not only be forgiven completely and have eternal life but also so that we would be given new hearts. At salvation God takes our hearts of stone and gives us hearts of flesh; hearts that bear the fruit of Colossians 3. Marriage is a high calling. It’s a calling for the husband to be Jesus to His wife and for the wife to be Jesus to her husband. The only way to live up to this calling is through Jesus. We need Him to fulfill these things.

Marriage is also an opportunity to show the grace of the gospel. There are two ways in which Paul says to show grace. One is by bearing with one another. I hate to break it to any newly-wed couple but expectations won’t be met. People snore, they have bad breath, toilet seats are left up, we get tired and cranky, we forget things that we should remember and fail to fulfill promises but Scripture says “bear with one another.” In doing this we show the grace of our Lord who says, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” He bears with us because in spite of how we fall short of His expectations He loves us.

Paul also instructs us to forgive each other. At the cross all was forgiven. Everything from our past, present, and future sins were paid for and done away with at the cross. The words, “I’m sorry” probably come up more times than “I love you” in a marriage. We must be ready to forgive. Paul says, “If there is the slightest complaint then forgive it.” He goes on that we should do so, “in the same way that the Lord forgave you.” We have been forgiven infinitely and graciously. We’ve been forgiven in ways that don’t make any sense. Marriage is an opportunity to choose to forgive even when it’s hard knowing how God has forgiven you.

Finally, marriage is an opportunity to be thankful. We can love because God first loved us. We can bear with one another because Jesus bears with us. We can forgive because Christ has forgiven us. We have more than enough reason to be thankful. If we want to be thankful we must first remember all that we have in Christ and then second see all that He has given us in our spouses. Marriage is a gift from Him. Remind yourself of that when days are hard, look to show your loved one your thankfulness each day, and take advantage of the opportunities God has given you in your marriage.
Thankful For This Gift, Pastor Rudy

Let It Go, Let It Go

Fans of the hit movie “Frozen” are familiar with these words being belted out by Queen Elsa on a mountainside. Many Christians may also be familiar with these words as a constant reminder of what our response should be to the things of this world. Each of us are holding on to something today. Through each season of my life there have always been things competing for my affections and attention. I have had many treasures that I gripped tightly. I can remember High School days holding onto the attention of others, gripping unhealthy relationships, or treasuring athletics. I’ve had times of sin that I stubbornly resisted releasing. Today, my family may be what I treasure the most or it could be the approval of others. Whatever we may be gripping today we are doing so in order to squeeze some sort of peace, comfort, satisfaction, joy, or hope from it. And we do this to no avail. Sadly, we hold onto things and hope in things that were never designed to be our ultimate treasure. If the Lord has taught me anything time and time again, it is that the treasures of this world will not last. Jesus described these treasures being stolen, rusting, or getting destroyed. We’ve had abilities that have been taken away, relationships that have been broken, stuff that has disappeared and even loved ones we have lost. What the Lord invites us to is to let go of these so-called treasures for a better treasure in Him. When we hold on to earthly treasures we not only miss out on who God is but we also end up hurting ourselves. Jesus invites us to let go in order to hold on to something…actually…SOMEONE better!

In Jeremiah 2:12-13, God speaks up and He describes the condition of all of mankind. He depicts in this passage what we do when we hold onto or treasure other things besides Himself. ““Be appalled, O heavens, at this, and shudder, be very desolate,” declares the Lord. For My people have committed two evils: they have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, to hew for themselves cisterns, Broken cisterns that can hold no water.” God calls out to all that He has made, “Be appalled!” which is literally “Be absolutely disgusted! Be upset at this!” He says, “You’re never going to believe this! Here I am all-satisfying, all-refreshing, all-good, all-loving and more. People are seeing that and not only turning away from Me but sucking the ground in attempts to get some sort of joy from that. And it doesn’t work!” Here God is depicted as this all-satisfying, life-giving fountain. Elsewhere in Scripture God is described as Holy which means that He is set-apart. Any beauty, joy, or good that we may see on this earth is just a fraction of who God is. He is set apart as better and above. And yet, our default is to go after the things of the earth. In sin we treasure other things. I think a better definition of sin, especially in light of what God says here in Jeremiah 2:12-13, is to treasure anything above Jesus. Sin is to grip our stuff rather than our Savior. This is why Jesus makes it abundantly clear that if we hold anything tighter than Him, it will destroy us. There is no life in that.

There are many times throughout the gospel where Jesus says things that should shock us a little bit and cause some discomfort. This is because Jesus draws such a sharp line between what it looks like to be or not be a disciple. In Luke 14 we find such statements. In verse 33, Jesus says, “So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions.” Jesus shows us that we can’t treasure our stuff and Him at the same time. We treasure one or the other. The Rich Young Ruler was “extremely saddened” by this reality because his stuff was such a treasure to him. These things that compete for our affections may not always seem “bad” or “sinful” but they certainly can become that when they draw us away from Christ. Consider what Jesus says in Luke 14:26, “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.” Here Jesus is showing us that we cannot hold “good” relationships over our relationship with Him. If we really want to love others the way that we should than we must love Jesus more! Finally in 1 John 3:9-10, the disciple shows us that we cannot hold onto our sin and say that we have a relationship with God. So in the end, if we want to really treasure Jesus then we must be willing to let go of our stuff, our relationships, and our sins.

I know there are many who know this truth and yet still find great difficulty in doing so. I believe the reason for that is failing to see that Jesus is not actually asking us to make a sacrifice. Jesus is asking us to let go for something better. God never asks us to run from something without giving us something (SOMEONE) to run to (2 Tim. 2:22; Heb. 12:1-3). There are many who view the missionary David Livingstone as a man of great sacrifice who gave up home, family, comfort and more in the African jungles and yet at the end of his life he said, “I never made a sacrifice.” This is because he came to the amazing truth that everything that he found in Jesus was better than anything he could hold onto on this earth. Jesus brought Peter to this same truth after their interaction with the rich young ruler. To follow after Jesus is to go after a far greater treasure than any thing, person, or pleasure we could have on this earth. God has given Himself, through Jesus Christ, for us to find all-satisfaction, grace, and joy in so we need to quit grabbing onto the things of this life and grab onto Jesus. In the end we will find that the tighter grip that we have on Jesus, the looser our grip will be on the things of this earth.

Learning To Hold Onto Jesus, Pastor Rudy

What Happens When The Rules Change?

One of the most frustrating things in life is playing a game with somebody who likes to change the rules halfway through the game. Just when you had things figured out someone, usually whoever was losing, would adjust the game just enough in order to swing things in their favor. I can remember this happening many times as a child and the outcome ending with an explosion of board game pieces and giving up. We don’t have to look very far to see that our society today has undergone many “rule changes”. It seems like in the past year alone we have been on a steady diet of executive orders and court decisions revising, changing, and adjusting what we thought was right. In witnessing the world around us change there are many who are torn between wanting to lash out in anger or just give up in defeat. What can we hold to as true when truth can be so easily redefined? How are we supposed to live when the standards of society now seem to swing against us? One thing we must always remember is that society may adjust and change but the Lord never does. What this means is that no matter what changes around us Truth never will because Truth is a person, named Jesus, who “is the same yesterday and today and forever!” (Heb. 13:8). So no matter what someone may redefine to be “truth” or adjust to be “right” we need to look no further than God’s Word to know the Way, Truth, and Life.

We don’t just need to look to our government to see that change is something that has become commonplace in our society. If you look to the sports arena, each of our major sports have undergone significant rule changes in the last 5 years alone. Just when you thought you knew the game, instant replays are introduced, new penalties are enforced, and old styles of play are adjusted to better suit athletes today. This month we will be holding our Cross-Centered Basketball Camp for our youngsters so I looked up how the rules of basketball have changed over the years. When the game began in 1891 there were only 13 rules. Today there are over 100. Teams began with 9 players on the court and now they play with 5. With any sport, it is important to keep up with the rules but as we learn these rules and act accordingly there is no guarantee that even these rules will stay the same! This is the society that we are living in and that are children are growing up in; a place where nothing is secure, absolute, or certain.

In Malachi 3:6 God declares, “For I, the Lord, do not change.” How refreshing is that? Someone who doesn’t change! And because God is always the same, we know that His Word will reflect His character. Isaiah tells us that the grass withers and the flowers fade but God’s Word will stand forever. There are no adaptations, revisions, or additions with God or His Word. Society and its rules adjust and change with time, popular opinion, and agenda however the Word of God is just as good for us today as it was for those who first heard it. We can base our lives off of what He says and not have to worry that He will change His mind. Paul encourages us in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 that the Words of Scripture are straight from the mouth of God and they are good to live by. So in the face of so many changes look to the One who doesn’t change. Look to His Word to see what reality is and what our response should be when the rules around us change.

Looking To His Never-Changing Faithfulness, Pastor Rudy

The Perfect Hiding Spot

A few years ago I counseled for Junior High week at Camp Mantowagan. This week was packed with activities to keep these pre-teens busy and entertained. One particular night we played a game of hide and seek between the counselors and campers. The counselors had to hide while the campers searched high and low for them. There of course was a major incentive for the campers to find their counselor. If a counselor was found they had to be the personal slave of the camper for the remainder of the week. I wanted to find a good hiding spot. I was tired enough from the responsibilities that week and to be honest the thought of serving one of these campers frightened me. As counselors discussed their secure hiding spots I stood there clueless. I didn’t know what to do! I didn’t know where to hide! I didn’t have the experience that the others had and I knew I was in trouble. So I panicked, “What do I do? Where do I go?” A few counselors had “the perfect hiding spot.” They gave me the details of where I could hide and in my desperation I listened. Well, there was only one counselor found this particular camp week and guess who it was? Yes, it was me. I couldn’t believe it! I didn’t know what to do so I put all of my trust in the co-counselors for guidance and security and all I found was a rotten hiding place. Thankfully the young lady who found me had mercy on me for the remainder of that week! In Psalm 118:8 the Psalmist proclaims, “It is better to take refuge in the Lord, than to trust in man.” In life we will find that there are many times when we just don’t know what to do. We don’t have the experience of others. We don’t have wisdom on a matter. We feel lost, helpless, and afraid. So we panic. We ask whoever will listen, “What should I do? Where should I go? How should I get through this?” Yes, Scripture is clear that we can find wisdom in the counsel of others but we shouldn’t be so quick to put all of our trust, all of our hope, and all of our rest in others. When we do this we will more often than not find ourselves caught in the struggles, confusion, or pressure that we are in. This Psalm is clear that it is better to hide in the Lord. It is better to take refuge in Him even if that means going without an answer and having to wait on Him to lead and direct. In God’s Word we are not promised all understanding or all of the answers to our issues but we are promised a place to rest.
This brings us to another passage of Scripture in which Jesus says, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). Here is instruction from Jesus for anyone who is exhausted with trying to figure life out. Jesus instructs here, “If there is anyone weary with attempts and tries at getting things right or if there is anyone burdened by the worries and cares of this world than come to Me and find rest.” Notice Jesus doesn’t say, “If anyone is tired and burdened then try harder.” He doesn’t instruct us to keep trying to figure things out or to come to a final answer. He simply instructs us to come to Him. I believe that this has to do first and foremost with salvation but then with any issue, pressure, or dilemma in life that find ourselves burdened with. Jesus says, “Come to me and rest.” Now many people struggle with this because this sounds like ignoring the problem. It sounds like taking an easy way out or being lazy. We object, “I shouldn’t be resting when there’s this problem that needs fixed!” But what did Jesus instruct? He instructed us to find refuge in Him and as our Psalm instructed, “This is better!” We aren’t being lazy, we aren’t ignoring the task at hand but we our laying done ourselves and trusting in the work of Christ. It is better to take rest and refuge in Christ than any other man, including ourselves. All strength, all knowledge, all wisdom is found in Him.
We should definitely seek help in times of struggle but we should also know the refuge that we have in the Lord. He is our true hiding place. Do not be afraid to run to Him, cling to Him, and rest in Him when you have no strength, wisdom, or understanding of your own. Those who truly find their refuge in God will always find that He is enough. Even if their issues do not go away or even if their troubles increase they know that God’s grace is sufficient to meet any and all needs that they may have on this earth. If you find yourself in the midst of desperation today go to Christ. Sing praises to Him, cry out to Him, look to Him and even if He doesn’t answer or even if understanding doesn’t come make it your ambition to do what is better and rest in Him.

Seeking To Hide In Him With You, Pastor Rudy

The Uncomfortable Side of Love

If we are going to serve others then we must commit to loving them. If we are going to love in the way we should than we must be ready to feel uncomfortable. Love is usually something that we give to someone compatible with us. We like the way they look. We like what they like. It just feels right to love this person because we are comfortable with them. Love is also something that we usually give so that it will be reciprocated. It comes natural for us to think, “If I am going to love you, than you’ve got to show me something in return.” Jesus, however, calls us to love in a way that is uncomfortable and unnatural to us.
In John 15:13 Jesus says, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” I have heard many people declare that they would take a bullet for a buddy or they would die for their “besties.” We think we get what Jesus is saying here but it is important to see what Jesus’ definition of “friends” are and what He Himself demonstrated to truly understand what “greater love” is. A lawyer stood up before Jesus in Luke 10:25 and asked Him, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” And He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How does it read to you?” And he answered, “You shall 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.” And He said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this and you will live.” But wishing to justify himself, he said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” (vs. 25-29). The lawyer thought he had this down. This sounded simple enough. He had his own definition of neighbors which he figured Jesus would agree with however he couldn’t have been more wrong. Jesus goes into a story about the good Samaritan completely shattering this man’s definition and comfort level. Jesus told him to love just like someone who was the most hated and despised of that region. “You know that guy that you absolutely cannot stand? I want you to be like him.” I can feel the anger build up in the lawyer as I read this. I can imagine the lists of horrible things he could say about Samaritans building up in his mind. This is who Jesus defined as his neighbor. Jesus also told crowds of people to love their enemies and to pray for those who persecuted them. These were to be their friends. Think of those you cannot stand. Think of that one person who completely burned you or the other who just gets under your skin. These are the ones Jesus is calling us to lay down our lives for. If His words are not enough Jesus demonstrated this type of love when He died for us “while we were yet sinners”! Jesus didn’t demonstrate His love for us when we were lovable or ready to reciprocate. He loved us when we were at our worst.
The Bible is clear when it calls for us to love the unlovable and care for our enemies. There are times we need to serve the undeserving because this is what Christ did for each one of us at the cross. Sometimes love will look differently in different situations and for different individuals. There will be times when love means keeping our mouths shut and other times when love means confronting someone for a sin. There will be times that love means continuing to love even when there is absolutely no sign of love in return but this is the love of Christ. This is how we display Jesus in our world. This is how others will see the way that Jesus loves. This kind of love will go against the norms of society. It will cause you to abandon what is natural and seek the Lord for His supernatural love to be display through you for His glory.

Learning To Love Uncomfortably, Pastor Rudy