What's so Great about Salvation?

The Apostle John liked to use the word testimony, and he noted that no one’s testimony carries more weight than God’s.  So listen to the divine testimony about our salvation: 

 

And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son .  Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.  (I John 5:11-12, ESV)

Four truths about salvation stand out in this text, seen in red above.

 

1)      It’s a gift.  That means, it is freely given and I’ve done nothing to merit it.  My money didn’t buy it and my good works didn’t earn it.  This is what makes the Gospel so counter cultural:  I am powerless to gain it, save humbly receiving it.  No religion or philosophy teaches this; somehow and on some level…it’s up to me and my efforts…my goodness…my performance

2)      Eternal life.  Literally, “belonging to the age to come.”  The gift of salvation is life that will last forever, never to end.  But Jesus further qualified this in John 17:3 by stating that eternal life is to know Jesus.  It’s a quality of life as well as quantity. Salvation is life to the full:  here and now, and, throughout eternity.  It is knowing Christ and enjoying Him forever.

3)      “In Christ”.  That’s a phrase we see all over the New Testament. Christ suffered for my sin, and God chooses to deal with me as He deals with Jesus.  Christ reconciled me, a sinner, to God.  Worthy of condemnation, I am now an heir of God Himself.  And I am a co-heir with Jesus Christ, reigning with Him even now.  I am complete in Him and lack nothing. It is all because of Christ, and only through Him; I did nothing to deserve this!  

 4)      The sharp divide.  It is common these days to shun exclusivity:  “I’m OK if you’re OK, do whatever works for you” That’s not the message of the Bible.  Jesus Christ is not a suggested path; He is the way, the truth and the life and apart from Him nobody comes to God. He is the sinless Savior, offered up for sinners to bring us near to God, who is incomprehensibly holy and just.  If my trust and confidence is in Him alone, God’s TESTIMONY is that I possess eternal life.  If I do not have Jesus, I do not have life.  Period.

 

That’s the testimony about my salvation.  The question is will I choose to truly believe this today, and rejoice in it?  Feelings change from day to day, and we cannot stand on other’s opinion of us.  What matters is what God says:  as John said elsewhere, God is greater than our hearts, even when our hearts condemn us. 

 

Pastor Colin 

Gaining Confidence of Your Salvation

There really is no more important question to settle than, “How can I be assured of my salvation?”  Life is a fleeting vapor; seasons come and go but heaven and hell are forever.

I John 3:19-24 (in italics below) gives gracious and authoritative teaching that is both practical and comforting for all of us.

First of all, God knows our frame. He knows it’s natural to doubt or second guess.

When our hearts condemn us, this is how we put our hearts to rest in His presence.

It’s not I hope I’m saved, I hope I make it;  it’s I know I am God’s child.  Living any other way is no way to live!

By this we KNOW we are of the truth…

How is this possible?

God is GREATER than our hearts and knows everything.

Even when our conscience condemns us, it is possible for our hearts to get it wrong.  It’s not about where we’ve been or what we’ve done in the past; we need to rest our confidence on what GOD says about us in His Word, not on our shifting feelings.  That’s the REAL authority!

God works in our hearts and minds to comfort us through His Spirit.  It’s all about our relationship with God and walking closely with Him.

By the SPIRIT whom he has given us

Beyond the Spirit’s work in our lives, God gives us concrete ways to gain assurance!

This is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ

Have you believed in Jesus?  That means, is your faith, trust, and confidence in Him and Him alone as your Savior and Lord?  If yes, then here is how you test your faith for authenticity…

Two concrete tests: love and obedience:

…and love one another.

Are you others centered?  Are you genuinely growing in a love and concern for others?  This is the unmistakable mark of a Christ follower.  To “believe” in Jesus is a one time act; to “love one another” is a lifestyle.

AND…

We keep his commandments and do what pleases him.

Keeping his commandments means an increasing track record of obedience, plain and simple.  Doing what pleases him reflects the attitude behind it.  Are you growing in obedience to Christ, in reverence for Him and in consideration of eternity?  Do you genuinely want to do what’s right?   It’s not perfection we’re after, but a sincere desire to do what is right, even when nobody is watching.

Christ died and rose again to save you from your sin and enable you to live to the full in life.  If you have doubts and worries, you are not alone.  Don’t settle for that though:  test your faith on the grid God gives us and seek Him earnestly in prayer to gain assurance.

I write these things to you who believe in name of the Son of God that you may know you have eternal life.   I John 5:13

I pray the assurance of your salvation will be a joy you discover more and more each day.

In Christ,

Pastor Colin

How we Face the Trials in our Lives

We all face tough times, it’s a part of living in a fallen world.  Hardship has many different faces:  relational hurt, sickness, grief, persecution, etc.; to quote Peter, grief in many different trials.  When Paul talks about his own personal problem set, how he faces them and how they look in his life are quite remarkable.  Bear in mind, he’s talking about beatings and imprisonments; basically being left half dead for his witness to the Gospel.

Right off the bat, Paul says he faces trials with purity, patience and kindness.  Isn’t it tempting, when the storms come, to abandon our core personal convictions?  Not a chance, says Paul:  that’s when we need them the most.  Tough circumstances are not an open door to forego our fundemental values.  This is when the outside needs to note that your faith is real and that you’re not a hypocrite. 

Paul says he relies on the Holy Spirit and the power of God.  If you’re tempted to pull yourself up by your own bootstraps, let your pride go.  Christ lives in us through His Spirit; it is His life in us that supplies our strength.  How is all this fleshed out?  In sincere love.  God’s agape love, present to empower you and show others there is something distinctly different about you.  And never forget that God does not leave you with an inadequate tool set:  with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left…you have what you need when running offense or defense!  Stand on the promises of God, and remember, He has said, ‘I will never leave you nor will I forsake you.’

Does it look pretty?  Never.  Dying, yet we live.  Wow – have you ever felt that way?  The emotional hurt…the physical pain…it’s so bad, you feel like you’re dying.  And yet, we live on, ready to serve Him another day.  Sorrowing, yet always rejoicing.  I love this one.  Sorrowful on so many levels in this broken world, yet, we are always rejoicing.  How is this so?  You may feel crushed by an avalanche of sorrows, but, you have a future hope.  I love these juxtapositions in Scripture:  I may feel knocked down, but my joy stems from the hope that resides within.  Poor, yet making many rich.  You may feel mowed down by your past experiences, but how God helps you in those experiences is exactly what enables you to, in turn, help others.  You may not have a dime to your name, but you are rich in Spirit.  Having nothing, yet possessing all things.  Get the picture?  Your bank account does not define you.  What defines you is your spiritual heritageblessed with all spiritual blessings in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus

Keep all these in mind when you pass through deep waters.  I love Paul’s perspective through it all:  we commend ourselves to others in every way…so our ministry will not be discredited…through great endurance.  Paul knew his great calling was to serve and honor his Lord.  As such, his perspective in his trials was that he wanted to remain faithful to Christ above all else, letting them see the beauty of his Savior in the times he felt most squeezed by his circumstances. 

May God bless you and supply you abundantly in your time of need. 

- Pastor Colin

Don't Give Up!

Life throws us many challenges, and certainly doesn’t come pre-packaged with easy answers.  Currently our church is walking through I John.  It is much more than the “love book” – as I preach through it, I’m struck by the emphasis on perseverance.  We are assured that God will never give up on us; yet, we are exhorted to do our part and press on in Him. 

We are encouraged to persevere in two specific ways, both of which are very striking.    

First, we must persevere in the truth.  We need to know what God says, believe what God says, and obey what God says.  It's so easy to get sidetracked and lose our focus!  Our focus should be the Person and work of Jesus Christ, because that’s certainly the big idea in the New Testament.  Jesus is Lord:  He is creator, sustainer, and judge.  There is none like Him.  He is glorious and faithful, always with us.  Jesus suffered and rose again, for me.  I am loved and accepted without question.  My intrinsic worth is forever upheld because my God calls me by name.  My guilt and shame are completely covered by His precious blood.  He’s coming back to make all things new, my future is secure.   He has replaced the empty passions and fleeting pleasures of the world with abundant and eternal life.  I can serve Him NOW with a clear conscious and trust Him with my whole life because of who He is and what He’s done for me.  Soli Deo Gloria.    

What else helps us press on?  Hope.  God began a good work in us through Christ’s first coming and He’s going to complete that work when He comes again.  My hope is not in the here and now.  This world is broken, sin has ravished it thoroughly.  Look around – the world is full of hurting people:  grief, heartache, failure, disappointment, sad goodbyes.  We gain perspective and strength as we focus our hope squarely His glorious reign and certain return.  Imagine eternity: uninterrupted worship before the Throne with suffering and temptation being noticeably absent.   It’s so easy to pin our dreams on other things:  marriage and family…the perfect job…the new house…financial security…popularity…you name it.  Many of these are of course blessings that God gives us to enjoy.  But if our hope is pinned on them and not on Christ, they won’t satisfy and our pursuit of them will will often not yield what we’d hoped.  I don’t understand everything about eternity and that’s OK:  What we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.  Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure.    

What about you?  If you’re in the valley, don’t throw in the towel!  Keep pressing on and fix your eyes on Jesus:  He is the same yesterday, today and forever will never let you down.  You are loved, protected and treasured.  You have a future.  May God lead us all to the rock that is higher than I.    

In [your heavenly hope] you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.  These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire —may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 

Press on,  

Pastor Colin

Love what Lasts

Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world.  The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever. I John 2:15-17 (NIV)

This well known passage reminds us to passionately love God, and not to be drawn by the passions found in the world around us; that is, those things which pull us away from Him rather than drive us to Him.  Here’s why this is great advice and why loving the world is bad news: 

It (that is, the “world”) will dull your spiritual senses 

Do you ever feel you’re in a spiritual slump?  Feel distant from God or the ones you love?  If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear is a reality we don’t want to make our own.  Sin is serious and only clogs our relationship with our Lord. 

It will rob you of the eternal perspective

The Puritans said the eternal perspective is the crown jewel of the Christian experience – and they were right!  Viewing our lives – the good and the bad – through the lens of eternity brings strength, perspective, and joy

Speaking of which…it will steal your joy

Loving God and loving the world don’t mix.  When we chase after vanity, our lives are built on a lie and that’s definitely not where the joy is.    

It will bring heartache into your life

Sin leads to death, 100% of the time, we just don’t escape this one.  Worldly passions and trappings glitter and call us by name, but the end result is always the same. 

It will leave you empty handed

How many have struck it rich, found fame, and walked the red carpet only to frequent rehabs, live an emotional wreck and die lonely?  Chasing after anything but friendship with God will leave you dissatisfied because only He can meet our deepest needs. 

It doesn’t last

No matter how the packaging glitters, it’s only passing.  No lasting value here!  You, on the other hand, possess eternal life so why are you distracted by the temporal?

You will play the part of the fool

God’s Word gives wisdom and insight for the journey.  When we love the world, what is clear becomes clouded and then we wonder at the consequences.  Do we not see this happening all around us? 

You will chase hard, but will never be satisfied

What a tragedy to look back and see you’ve wasted your life.  Don’t let this be your story; build your life with resolve and intention – upon the ROCK. 

It will harm your testimony

#1 reason Americans blow off church attendance?  “They’re all a bunch of hypocrites anyway!”    

You were made for so much more than this!

Why settle for anything less than following hard after God, seeing Him work in your life, laboring for what lasts, and living with a clear conscience?  God knows our hearts and the draw of worldly things.  He knows we are prone to run after things or people other than Him.  He knows we seek security and significance in the world.  This is why He graciously reminds us to give our hearts to Him before giving it to anything or anyone else.  He gives us so much in life to enjoy and our lives are richer for it.  The key is to seek first the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.  Enjoy life and live it to the full by first delighting in Him, the only One who can truly satisfy.     

- Pastor Colin

The Garden of Your Mind

As I continue to process the message of James I can't help but be impressed with how important the internal thought life is to living consistently in the will of God. The way we think of difficult times, the way we respond verbally, the way we think about others with all their gifts and flaws; it all matters. Our actions grow out of the fertile soil of our minds and hearts and the fruit that they bear depends on how we seed the ground. Today (or perhaps tomorrow if your reading this at night) lays out before you with infinite possibility and potential. How have you prepared to face it? What seed have you sown in your heart that is sure to bear fruit today?

"But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace." (James 3:17-18)

I came across this video today and was caught up in message. It fits right with James, plus it is a little bit of nostalgia from my childhood. Enjoy.

Mike

James and "Fifty Shades of Grey"

Wow. The hoopla surrounding the book Fifty Shades of Grey and the rest of the trilogy is astonishing. It is selling out in bookstores (where you can find a bookstore). As of today each book in the trilogy has spent the last 73 days at the top of Amazon's best seller list, likewise they are the top 3 sellers on iTunes, and they are reserved months in advance at libraries. Typically if a book is making this much impact I will check it out, give it a quick read, to see what all the fuss is about.

Not this time.

I've read enough reviews to know this is something I do not want in my head. Considering my post last week about Lolo Jones and the struggle she describes regarding purity, this just serves to illustrate how our culture is firmly against such a stance regarding the value of sexual purity. When the best seller and most talked about books are classified "erotic fiction" targeting women, it is clear pornography is not just for guys anymore.

James provides the counter stance, the one we as believers need to be committed to. If we are not we will ultimately fall. He writes, "Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will fell from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded." (James 4:7-8, emphasis mine) His language may seem a bit harsh and judgmental, but remember, he was writing to the Church, Christ's ambassadors to a broken and lost world. They were to be showing with their lives the greatness of Jesus Christ. They were to be living examples of what true love looks like in a world of cheap imitations. Yet, they were caught up in the same stuff everyone else was: prejudice, back biting, greed, arrogance and James needed to call them out. So how do you think James might address our church today? How about the church you and I lead every day within the walls of our home? Are we double-minded? Where do we draw the lines in order to purify our hearts? Or are we perhaps just going with the flow and surprised at ourselves when we blow it?

No, I won't be reading the Fifty Shades series and it's not because the books are "bad". It is because I want more from my mind and my heart. I want it in line with Christ's mind and heart. Forget the cheap imitations, go straight to the real thing and let it change you from the inside out.

Here is a great post targeting more specifically the problems with these books. I highly recommend you give it a read.

Mike

Paying the Price for Standing Strong

So much of James is about remaining steadfast, standing strong. He talks about standing strong in action, not letting what we do contradict the faith we claim; standing strong in language, the words we say reveal where our heart is; standing strong in how we treat one another...we could go on for quite a while. As we (Momentum - our high school ministry) are getting ready to start our summer study on relationships and purity I am reminded that one of the toughest battles teens face today is the fight to live a pure life sexually. They have so much going against them and it isn't until you really try to maintain a pure mind, heart, and body that you realize just how sexualized our culture is. But know this, the battle is not impossible and you are not alone. There are others who are fighting the same battle along side of you...and winning. You can too. A blogger I read regularly posted this video and I think the way she speaks so candidly is refreshing. I don't know anything about this athlete other than what she says here, but that was enough to grab my attention. I'm completely against putting athletes or other celebrities on "christian" pedestals (yep, Tim Tebow) because I think it is unfair to them and sets them and the church as a whole up for a fall. However, this is worth watching, not because she is the example to follow (I have no clue regarding her beliefs or moral stances in general), but because she speaks so honestly about this struggle. Check it out.

Mike

 

Is Your Heart Settled?

Aren’t there a million things that can bring us down or get us off track each day?  Pressures at work, family issues, personal disappointments…  We are burdened by the challenges we face and the pain our loved ones endure.  Then there are the lies we believe:  I’m not worthy, I’m beyond return, I should have done better, and what did she just say about me? You can fill in the blank here.   And the mental tape player is on “auto repeat”, endlessly… 

Wise counsel and a shoulder to lean on are good for the soul, but may I point us to a greater treasure? Settling our hearts in His presence.    

The Apostle John was a bit of a hot head, but mellowed out as he grew older.  As a seasoned elder, he addressed the recipients of his letter as dear children.  His deep pastoral concern for people led him to pass along this counsel: 

This then…is how we set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us.  For God is greater than our hearts and knows everything.

So many things that trip us up are matters of the heart:  anger, jealously, bitterness, anxiety, fear, worry, guilt, etc.  They often stem from false teaching and lies which get locked into our thinking; inevitably they settle into our hearts only to cause rot and decay. 

John’s counsel is simple yet profound:  settle your heart in God’s presence.  Stop running from your problems and take them to the One who upholds the cosmos by the word of His power.  Stop holding secrets and bring them to the Light.  Lay your fears and worries at His feet.  Take the lies you’ve bought in to and sit a while with Him whose wisdom sketched the splendor of creation.  Take your battered ego and self image and gaze on Him who is forever worshiped and adored by the angels and saints.  Your excuses will evaporate as you commune with Jesus; He suffered so you could know freedom.  Your guilt and loathe will melt away as His boundless love washes over you and cleanses your soul.  Why all this?  God is greater than our hearts!  He knows your past and He sees your future.  He is no stranger to your struggles.  How many times a day does our heart condemn us?  Too many!  Remember:  there is therefore now no condemnation for those are in Christ Jesus!  You are free, you are forgiven; you are accepted and unconditionally loved by the Creator and sustainer of your very life.

Today, in the midst of all your busyness, will you quiet your soul before Him and be still?  Will you lay your burdens down?  It is the Christian’s great treasure to have his God speak peace to him and restore her soul.  His presence is pure; there isn’t even a trace of sin or heartache there.  So we fix our eyes on not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.  For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 

Don’t settle for second best.  May your heart be settled in His great presence today

Pastor Colin  

Easter: What's the Big Deal?

In just a few days Facebook will be lit up with Easter greetings.  Which can beg the question, what’s the big deal about Easter, anyway?  You can be sure that there is a whole lot more to this occasion than the Easter Bunny and egg hunts.  This is all about how Jesus Christ, the Son of God, suffered for sinners and defeated death.  There could not be anything more relevant than this.

God’s Word informs us that there is a great divide between us and God.  We are capable of doing some pretty amazing and commendable things.  Equally true is the reality that we are also capable of doing the worst things.  This tendency of ours to choose our own way, to focus on ourselves, to act selfishly…is termed sin.  Sin separates us from our Creator, who is surpassing in His moral perfection.  Our greatest potential and life overflowing is only found in truly knowing Him personally.   

All we, like sheep, have gone astray; each of us has turned to his own way.

Racial tensions are now in the headlines in the USA.  This concept of sin is behind every expression of hate and selfishness.  And, we can trade out racism for every form of wrongdoing and the concept remains.  Sin causes heartache and alienates us from God.  It is precisely for this reason that One suffered in our place, enduring God’s righteous judgment on our own sin (also called iniquity), so our relationship could be restored.

But the Lord has laid upon him the iniquity of us all.

The Messiah, Jesus Christ, suffered and died because sin HAS to be punished.  We affirm God’s loving and gracious nature.  However, if justice is not meted out, He is no longer HOLY. 

Without the shedding of blood, there is no remission (forgiveness) of sin.

Jesus Christ shed His blood and spread His arms out on the cruel Roman cross, not because of His own guilt, but because of ours.  It was the greatest expression of love ever witnessed.  Immanuel, “God with us”, suffered in our place so we could experience new life and be reconciled to the One who gives us breath.  He did not suffer for His own wrongdoing for He had none; He suffered for our sin. 

He poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors.  For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

Are you a sinner?  Are you a transgressor of God’s holiness?  I have no problem conceding that I have sinned and I trust you don’t either.  Divine love is compelling:  the sinless Son of God lay down his life for sinners.  Yet, the story doesn’t end there. 

After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied.

This is exactly the focus of Easter. Jesus did not die and stay in the tomb.  A dead Savior would be a powerless Savior.  Death has no jurisdiction over Him!  He rose again because the Author of life has dominion over everything; He is victorious over sin, hell, death the grave.  Because He lives, we know our future is secure in Him, come what may in this life. 

One last note.  The italicized text above is all found in the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament).  The narrative in the Bible is God’s unfolding drama of redemption as He graciously reconciles sinners to Himself.  This is why, when Jesus celebrated His final Passover meal, He made the stunning declaration:

[The bread] is my body, which is for you…this cup is the new covenant in my blood…

The celebration of Jesus’ resurrection is not a new invention of Christianity, but fully anticipated in the Hebrew Scriptures.  Truly, He was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead:  Jesus Christ our Lord. 

May God bless you richly as you consider the significance of Jesus’ death and resurrection. 

Sincerely,

Pastor Colin

Abortion: Why we object and why it matters

Without question, abortion is an emotionally charged subject and intensely personal:  babies turn our lives upside down!  Arguments are often cast in negative terms:  hands off my body, baby killer, it’s my choice, trust a woman’s judgment, etc.  Sound logic is lost when we are busy dodging – and throwing - verbal daggers.  What follows is a basic outline of Christian principles which govern my convictions on abortion.  I do not write with a pocket full of stones to throw in judgment at my opposition; I have no pretension that I am in any way better than anyone else.  Below are five keystone concepts which frame my unyielding conviction regarding the sanctity of unborn human life. 

First, people are created in the image of God.  The Bible begins with this simple declaration, forever burying the notion that we are the product of random chance or are anything less than the highlight of God’s creation.  This is why we attribute dignity and respect to every single human life.  With no distinction to age, ethnicity, or talent, people are the image bearers of Almighty God.    

Life begins at conception.  Yes this is a Biblical teaching, but look at how sonograms have given us a view into the womb!  Life does not begin at birth, nor is there a point in time when a fetus mysteriously becomes a person.  I am not aware of any scientifically sound alternative to this position.  If life does not begin at conception, exactly when does it begin?  To be sure, late term abortions in particular end the life of an otherwise viable unborn child.     

The unborn are defenseless and without voice.  Civilized nations provide the best possible prenatal care for mom and baby.  Why?  So both mom and developing baby can progress as healthily as possible through the pregnancy, culminating in a safe delivery.  When an unborn child wreathes in pain when the lethal needle is injected, has anyone given her a choice in the matter?  Why are we not considering the rights of unborn women when their beating heart is halted?  I support the pro-life cause because unborn children are unable to defend themselves or plead their own case.  And I’m pretty sure that given a choice, they wouldn’t choose abortion. 

Choices have consequences.  The Bible puts it this way:  you “reap what you sow”.  You cannot have it both ways:  sexual activity often results in pregnancy; if you don’t want the latter, abstain from the former.  God’s laws may seem outdated to some, but He holds the owner’s manual and sex outside marriage was never in the game plan.  Can we really kill our young to spare the lifestyle we embrace?  All the data I’ve seen shows that the majority of abortions are not linked in any real way to the health of the mother or baby. 

 God is sovereign.  This truth brings unbelievable peace and comfort when we can’t make sense of our circumstances.  Surprise and pregnancy often go hand in hand.  We were done at fourwe had a momentarily lapse in judgmentwe were just having fundo you know how much it costs to raise a baby (by the way, I have a good handle on that!)?  God is on His throne and not stepping down anytime soon.  Knowing that He is in control, and full of grace and compassion, helps put any situation into proper perspective so one can choose to do the right thing.    

 Clearly my intent here is not to address every question regarding abortion; I realize that many do not view their own case as cut and dry.  I have learned as a pastor that life is often messy and pat answers do more harm than good.  My simple challenge though, is to consider abortion through a different set of lenses.  Does your support of abortion have more to do with you, or are you looking honestly and objectively at the big picture?  I assure you that God is bigger than any challenge you face and His grace is sufficient in your weakness.  His grace is sufficient when you find out your baby is handicapped, and it abounds even in the case of rape (though I hate even writing about such a subject).  I trust these simple guidelines will help you navigate through an issue that regrettably has become filled with false assumptions formed in a culture that often exalts ME and MY needs rather than seeking to do the right thing.    

My uncle recently lost his precious wife to brain cancer.  He often comments that life does not make sense without Jesus.  While I would argue that even an atheist should logically be pro-life, if you lose the perspective of God in the big picture, you cannot see abortion for what it truly is.  If you support abortion and have had a “Christian” finger pointed your way to shame you, I am very sorry to hear that.  That is a terrible and inaccurate representation of God’s grace, which lifts our gaze from our failures to One who suffered and died in our place.  The Christian message is that we are freed to worship and serve Him through faith in Jesus Christ, apart from our personal performance. Love trumps all. 

 Thank you for taking the time to consider the above points, which are submitted humbly. 

Sincerely,

Pastor Colin 

 

Hold Steady - We're Not Done Yet

Did you every help your dad with a project? If you were younger then probably one of the jobs given to you was to "hold this". You know that job. I know I do. At some point during the project I would also hear, "Stop moving around. Hold still. I need that." or something to that effect. I've said it to my boy. My dad said it to me. I'm sure it goes right up the line all the way back to Adam. 

The book of James is our "hold steady" book. It is the theme I see running throughout and the topic James starts and ends with. Remain steadfast. Hold steady. We're not done yet. Every topic he touches on is either about how to remains steadfast, what to be steadfast in, or what will be (or is) a threat to holding steadfast. James is about standing strong in our faith no matter the circumstances, trials, and temptations.

"And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing."

"Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him."

"Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord."

"You also be patient. Establish your hearts for the coming of the Lord is at hand."

"Behold, we consider those [prophets] blessed who remained steadfast."

Those are just the verses that explicitly use the word steadfast or patient. The idea of steadfast faith, lived out no matter what, is present in almost every sentence.

So what are you faltering on today? Are you on the verge of quitting? Have you quit already? Pick it back up, start again, and press on. We have been blessed with every spiritual blessing. Trust that promise, lean in to the struggle, and stand firm. Hear the words from our great Father, "Hold steady kiddo...we're not done yet."

Mike

Parent / Faith Intersect Conference with Steve Wright

For those of you who were not able to go earlier this month, the conference with Steve Wright was great. He spoke about some very important issues regarding discipleship in the home, childrens and youth ministry, and how that can work together really well. The audio for the sessions is below for you to listen to when you get a chance. It is well worth the time. 

We will continue with our look at James next week. 

Mike

 

General Session 1 - The Foundation

James and Special Needs Children

Momentum, our high school youth ministry, has spent the entire year so far digging into the book of James. I love this book so much more now than I did when we started. It is much more than the "faith without works is dead" book. Over the next several weeks I'm going to be posting lessons learned from the book of James as a way of continuing to process them for myself as well as provide what I think are some very encouraging and challenging lessons. Next week we'll look at the underlying theme running throughout James. Some argure that there isn't one single theme running throughout James, but I think they are wrong. 

This week however let's just touch on one point that was stirred up in me by two moms whom I greatly respect. I haven't had hardly any contact with either of them for years, but their posts on facebook regarding special needs children resonate with me. This one, What to Teach Your Children About Kids With Special Needs, is fantastic, especially because it is coming from mothers of special needs kids and reflect what they wish the rest of the world new. It's not judgmental, just educational. What I really like about it though is the reminder that it is our responsibility as parents to teach our kids these things. They don't just know it. They need our guidance, help, and gentle correction when dealing with others different than themselves.

So how does this relate to James? Well a skewed view of others was a very real issue in the churches James was writing to. We often value the wrong things, in their case riches, in our case often the externals. We look at how things seem and forget there is a whole world underneath the surface. That's where God looks. We need to learn to look there too. 

Mike