Transitions

Well it has come to this, finally: we need to say “so long.”  Our last Sunday with you will be June 17.  As many have said, it’s not a final “goodbye,” because the truth is that for the believer in Jesus, we WILL see you again.  Maybe on this earth at your house or mine; but certainly one day to come in our Father’s house!

Transitions are never really easy.  We’ve experienced plenty of them, but it never really gets easier.  We may get a little better at packing boxes (Make sure you pack the delicate things well with newspaper. Label it well so you know where it will go in the new place, blah, blah, blah).  But saying our farewells is not so easy.  So we’ll just say, “So long” to the community of wonderful people in Bowman and the surrounding communities, and hope that our “someday” will come soon.

Maybe you’re a little like me: the emotions that come with transitions are something like wild animals: they sometimes are hard to tame, they are often strong, they are often unpredictable, and they are often very exciting to watch as they perform!

That is something like what my family and I have been experiencing these days:

  • We are saying “goodbye” to those we already love in one place, but we are feeling the excitement and anticipation of saying “hello” to a new set of people we will certainly grow to love in another place!
  • There is the certainty of what we know, all that is familiar to us, balanced with the uncertainty that comes with the unknown: unknown faces, places, and spaces.
  • With these activities come some “wild animal” emotions.

Maybe you’re also going through life changes.  It’s tempting to want to have everything all figured out: what life will be like in our new “world.” It’s tempting to want to seize control, to have everything all planned out.  We may know where we are going, and even what we will be doing.  But the precise how and what remain very much in question.  That can be hard.

But a wise word from the Lord comes to us from the letter the apostle, James. A word so needed in his time and so critically important for us to remember in our day:

13 Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” (James 4:13-15)

We are like the mist of an early summer morning.  But our lives belong to the Lord.  With that in mind, our comfort comes in knowing that in the eternal perspective, our life together is secure and eternal. 

 

Waiting for God’s Blessings

I’m pretty sure you’re like me: you’re very ready for Spring to be sprung!  It’s been a VERY long winter, and many of us are just plumb tired of the white stuff.   This weekend, however, we were offered a little glimpse of hope.  As temperatures soured into the 60s, so did my spirits!  Maybe spring WILL come, after all!  And then, this morning, as I walked out the door, I noticed several of my early perennials had suddenly popped through the ground.  “Spring is sprung, the grass is ris, please don’t step where the flowers is.”  We waited all the long winter for Spring to come, and suddenly, it’s here!

The life of a Christian is also about waiting: waiting patiently (well, maybe not always patiently) for something better down the road.  In the Bible, we read in several places about these people who wait… and wait… and wait!  And not always perfectly did they wait 😊

We call it “delayed gratification.”  We often need to wait for the things that make us truly happy, genuinely fulfilled.

A little boy wants a marshmallow.  Mommy says, “I’m going to run an errand, so I’ll be away for a few minutes.  You may have the marshmallow while I’m gone, but if you wait until I get back, you may have TWO marshmallows.”

Researchers in the 1960s ran the “marshmallow test” on children, and then, a dozen years later, came back to those same children, now grown, and found that those who had waited had fewer problems with juvenile delinquency and had performed significantly better (210 pts. higher, in fact) on their SAT college entrance exams.

We are often like children who face the marshmallow test: we are presented a choice… a very important choice.  There are those who wait, and there are those who don’t.  Which are you?

Maybe you’re like me: sometimes you’re good at waiting, and other times, not so much!  But it’s clear in God’s Word—waiting has its rewards.  The Bible tells us in Isaiah 40:30-31, “Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

You see, waiting for good things may be hard, but it’s worth it! We do it with the hope of renewed strength.  When we as believers wait, we have a sure anchor of hope: Jesus Christ. In the book of Hebrews, we read that God made a sure promise to Abraham: “I will bless you and give you many descendants.”  Abraham waited, and God came through, didn’t he!  As children, we sang, “Father Abraham had many sons, and many sons had Father Abraham.  I am one of them, and so are you, so let’s all praise the Lord.  Right arm, left arm…”  and so on!

Just a bit later in the book, in Hebrews 11, we learn that it wasn’t just Abraham, but a whole catalog of “heroes” who waited with faith and were rewarded. Those who are faithful through the thick and the thin will receive a crown of righteousness in heaven for ever and ever!

What are you having trouble waiting for?  Is it a relationship or the intimacy that is the richest when experienced after marriage?  Is it some material object—a car, a house, a camper?  Children, maybe you are waiting to turn 14 (driving!) or 18 (most other adult privileges).  Are you waiting for college to be done so you can begin paying back those huge debts with your good-sized income?  Are you waiting?  If so, for what?

Why not delay that gratification?  Why not, in faith, in trust of the One whose promise is sure and certain, wait for something better?  You’ll be eternally glad you did!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Being Fools for Christ

“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” 1 Cor. 1:18

It doesn’t happen very often that Easter falls on April Fool’s Day.  So, I thought I would take this opportunity to talk about the idea of being a fool for Christ.

The above quote is from the introduction to a letter the Apostle Paul wrote to the church he has birthed in the bustling port city of Corinth, the capital of first-century Greece.  Paul wrote this letter for a very specific purpose: to correct some wrong thinking about the resurrection of Jesus on the morning of the third day after he had been crucified.  There had been some members of the congregation who doubted whether Jesus really had been raised from the dead. It seems that it was easier for some in the Corinthian church to believe that Jesus had died, than it was for them to believe that Jesus was alive again! In fact, they seemed to be saying that only a fool would believe in the resurrection!

So, Paul spends some time telling his church that the resurrection of Jesus is a crucial doctrine in our faith.  And then he says this:

“If Christ has not been raised, your faith if futile; you are still lost in your sins.” 1 Cor 15:19

You see, Paul was saying that the message of the Good News of Jesus included not only his death, but his being raised from the dead. That may seem foolish to you, but the April Fool’s joke will be on you!  You will die in your sins!  Harsh words, I know!  Who of us wants to hear that we are sinners in need of a resurrected Savior? It hurts to acknowledge our sinful thoughts, intentions, and actions, doesn’t it? But therapy for the soul, just like therapy for the body, often has to hurt before it can help.

In fact, only fools will wallow around in the filth of their sins. In their human wisdom, resurrection doesn’t make sense.  They have not yet received the powerful Spirit of the Living, Risen Christ that can lift them from this “miry pit” in which they wallow. So, they foolishly reject the gift that will redeem them from the pit.

But this redeeming Spirit is at work in us as we receive the gift of God’s resurrection power in our lives.  Let us happily be different kinds of fools: fools for Christ as he is at work in us, shaping and forming us with resurrection power, today and always!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Are you ready to see your “fixer-upper?”

 

I sometimes like to watch TV in the evening. Helps me unwind.  One of my favorite TV shows is on HGTV (Home and Garden TV), and it’s called “Fixer Upper.”  The show is set in Waco, Texas, and the hosts are Chip and Joanna Gaines, a married couple who take older homes, or what we would affectionately call “fixer uppers” and “fix them up.”

I like the whole show, including the silly stuff that Chip does and the way Joanna puts up with him!  But arguably my FAVORITE part of the show is the demolition.  Yes, I love the part where they tear into the old walls with sledgehammers and rip things apart.  You see dust flying, holes kicked into the sheetrock, kitchen cabinets being ripped off the walls and smashed.  I think that looks like so much fun!

It might seem that tearing old stuff down is so destructive and wasteful.  But the thing about creating something new of beauty, is that you must tear the old away first. You can’t keep the old, with all the problems and the dysfunction.  You must first get rid of that, before you can put up the new.

During this season of Lent, we hear the story of Jesus storming the temple in Jerusalem during the week of Passover.  He is livid, because the sellers are turning the holy place of worship into a marketplace.  People who had traveled many miles to attend the Passover festivities and needed a suitable animal for sacrifice were being charged exorbitant prices.  Those needing local currency were being taken advantage of by the money changers.  Jesus hates injustice, because he’s a just God.

The old temple system had been broken, corrupted, and it needed to be torn out before it could be “fixed up.”  Jesus did the best job of “fixing up” because not only did he remove the corruption, but he completely relocated the place of the temple:  now, it exists in the flesh.  Jesus, who is “God in a bod” (John 1:14) says, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.” Of course, as we learn in the text, Jesus meant his own resurrection.

As co-workers with God, we also house the new temple of God’s Spirit in our lives (1 Cor. 6:19). So, with God’s help, let’s make sure it’s in good shape.  Let’s remove from our habits and thoughts that which is destructive or worn out and replace it with something pleasing to God. “Are you ready to see your fixer-upper?”

 

Getting Rid of the Last Vestiges of Slavery

Today I read an article about a reporter who has very likely discovered the burnt remains of the last slave ship to America, the Clotilda.  When it set sail in 1860 for what is now Benin, West Africa, bringing slaves to America was already illegal.  But on a bet that they could do it without being caught, two men purchased the boat, sailed to Africa, and brought back 110 African men and women as slaves.  To evade the law, they sailed into Tensaw Delta on Alabama’s Gulf coast under cover of darkness and transferred the slaves to a riverboat on the Mobile River.  And then, to hide the evidence of their crime, they burned the ship and sank it there in the delta.

The story fascinates me on several levels:

  • One, the depravity of the men who did this is mind-bending. How could two men, already wealthy, capture 110 innocent men and women, take them from their homeland, shackle them for weeks as they crossed the Atlantic, and then sell them into slavery in America?
  • Two, the men were careful to destroy the evidence of their evil deed. But evil cannot be hidden forever.  And the recent storms along the east coast, called the “bomb cyclone” caused extremely low tides, exposing the remains.
  • Three, there are still vestiges of the ship that had been buried so long. The men who burned it probably thought they would never be discovered, but here we are, almost 160 years later, and experts are now discovering the details of this infamous journey through the artifacts on the ship.

The parallels to our spiritual life are striking:

  1. We all “have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) I said that the slave traders were depraved, but so is each one of us, without Christ.
  2. Material slavery (men and women in shackles forced to do uncompensated labor) is deplorable. But spiritual slavery is no less so.
  3. We may try, in our own strength, to rid ourselves of whatever enslaves us in our sinful state. But unless we repent and return to the author of our freedom, we will never be able to remove the last vestiges of our slavery. In Christ alone are we freed from bondage. (Romans 6:6)

February in the U.S. is Black History Month.  As we remember the oppression of our black brothers and sisters and continue to advocate for their justice and freedom, let us also seek to be freed from whatever oppresses us, spiritually, through Jesus Christ!

A New Year’s Blessing for 2018!

I don’t know what kind of a year you had in 2017. Maybe it was a great one; or
maybe there were more challenges than you cared for. Maybe you have regrets;
maybe you are happy with yourself. Maybe there were defeats; maybe it was
filled with victories.

Most likely, though, there was a mixture of all of the above.

If you experienced loss, my prayer is that the peace and comfort of the Spirit of
God would envelope and embrace you as you enter this new year.
If you experienced the pain of separation
from loved ones, either through death or
difficult circumstances, my prayer is that
you will allow God’s healing grace to
flow in and through you and your
relationships.

If you sailed through the year with joy
and victory, my prayer is that you would
give the glory for this success to God and
God alone. He is the giver of every good
and perfect gift (James 1:17).

The wonderful thing about being a
Christian is that we are not defined by
what has happened to us. We are neither limited by our losses nor can we
rest on our laurels.

The Bible tells us that the life of the
Christian is completely new:
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the
new creation has come: The old has
gone, the new is here!” (2 Cor. 5:17)
Even (especially) our attitudes are to be
new as believers in Jesus: “Do not
conform to the pattern of this world,
but be transformed by the renewing of
your mind.” (Rom. 12:2)

For those of you (including myself!)
who sometimes struggle with aging or
malfunctioning bodies, here is another
promise we can all embrace: “For we
know that if the earthly tent we live in
is destroyed, we have a building from
God, an eternal house in heaven, not
built by human hands.” (2 Cor 5:1)

So, no matter what you left behind in
2017, be confident that God can use it
for good in 2018. There is nothing too
hard for God! Aren’t you glad of that?!!
In all that we do and all that we are in
2018, let’s embrace God’s promise of
newness, empowered by the renewing
grace and love of God!

We Welcome You, Lord Jesus!

It’s Advent Season, and Jesus is coming!  Have you ever thought about what it must have been like to wait for the baby Jesus? I mean, if you’ve ever been expecting a child, you know the whole range of emotions will hit you during those 9 months.  But what if you are expecting the Son of God?! The second person of the Trinity?!

Probably, most of us have this image of Jesus as an adult, already having “wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and all the people.” (Luke 2:52). But we might, except for this time of year, forget that he was also a very small, dependent baby boy.  I’ll bet that each one of you who have raised little ones can well imagine what a handful he must have been, even if he was a “good” baby!  For while he was “God in the flesh, dwelling among us” (John 1:14) he was also just as human as you and I.  And forgive me for messing with the lyrics of “Away in a Manger”, but I believe that Jesus even cried in that manger!

Maybe that’s why some people had a hard time accepting that this squalling baby boy was the Son of God, the Savior of the world.   Here he was, a helpless little baby, born under the poorest of conditions, placed in a cattle trough, not a royal crib.

There were various reactions to the news of Jesus’ birth:

  • King Herod saw Jesus as competition, a threat to his throne. So Joseph whisked his little family off to Egypt, so that Jesus might avoid the sword.
  • The shepherds, ah, so many real emotions that night! Fear, wonder, curiosity, and then excitement enough to want to tell everyone!
  • Mary sang a song of praise (how many of you do that when you are filled with joy and excited anticipation?)
  • Joseph, well, we don’t have much of his reaction, but I’ll bet he was so very proud and protective!
  • Simeon—what a testimony to faithfulness! Simeon had been waiting for the “consolation of Israel” all his life long.  When the Spirit showed him Jesus, he praised the Lord and died in peace!  Anna’s response was similar, with thanks and praise!
  • The Magi gave him their finest gifts!

How do we react to Jesus?  Are we, like Herod, threatened, afraid he might mess with us, inconveniencing us in some way?

Or do we welcome him with wonder, awe and worship?  Do we respond with praise and thanksgiving, showering him with the gift of our lives devoted to his service?

This Advent Season, we welcome you, Lord Jesus!

Breaking News: “Perfect Love” Over “Punishing Fear” by a 1st Round KO!

Hot off the press: The pundits get it wrong once again! In the latest bout between “Perfect Love” and “Punishing Fear,” two of the most ferocious boxers in the history of the world, heavy-weight “Punishing Fear,” weighing in at 359 lbs., proved no match for the invincible “Perfect Love” once again. “Perfect Love’s” record remains… well, perfect! “PL” has never had to go more than one round against any opponent. A fan was overheard exclaiming, “I’ve known “Perfect Love” most of my life, and he’s never let me down yet.” “PL” has never been a true heavyweight, preferring the gentle, but firm style of fighting. But his punch is so powerful that no one—yes, not even “Punishing Fear”—seems to be able to faze him, no matter how big and intimidating they seem to the everyday bystander. Today’s bout proved no exception. Perfect Love by a KO in the 1st round!

The apostle Paul wrote these words of reassuring comfort to those who were still learning about the steady, unswerving, love of God:

“God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” (1 John 4:16b-18)

Have you experienced God’s perfect love? God, whose defining characteristic is love, has invited us to participate in His love. That is the best invitation we could ever receive! When we enter into God’s love, as we accept, in faith, the gracious invitation to be a part of God’s family, fear cannot maintain his slimy grip on us!

The gift of God’s love is both a present boon to our lives and a future guarantee of the hope of eternal life with our loving God. When we live in God’s love, we confidently spread that love to everyone we meet, through the deeds we do and the words we say. We can bring others to the point at which they, too, want to “drive out fear” with the love of God. And when the time of reckoning comes, those who remain in God’s love will joyfully, expectantly enter into their eternal reward.

So let’s celebrate that KO by God’s Perfect Love, today and forever!

Harvest Fest, October 15!

No one would deny, this year’s been a tough one for farming and ranching.  We had one of the most severe, prolonged droughts in the history of this area.  You’d think our friends in the ag business would be discouraged and down.  And maybe there is some of that—you couldn’t blame them.

But when I talk with ranchers and farmers in the area, I’m impressed with their steady, long-term focus.  Yes, they are realistic about the reduced yields.  Some have had to sell off part of their herd.  Some have had to purchase hay from others.  Some have had to take out government subsidies and loans.  But the general attitude is good, in the face of dire circumstances.

I think our people embody the truth of the scripture found in Paul’s letter to the Thessalonian church: Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. (1 Thess. 5:18, NLT)

There is just so much to be thankful for, even in difficult circumstances, isn’t there!  We are thankful because we serve a God who has met every real need we’ve ever had!  God is faithful, always!

And so, we are going to celebrate!  We are going to worship and give thanks for the many blessings we have from the Father above.

Our annual Harvest Fest will be on Sunday, October 15 this year.  We will worship at 10:10 am, and then we will continue our celebration and recognition of God’s blessings with a special dinner in the Fellowship Hall following the worship service.

Our special musical worship guest this year is the father of one of our own!  Tracy Buer is Teran Doerr’s dad.  He will sing and play for us, and help us to focus on our harvest blessings as a gift from the Father above. So, come and celebrate God’s goodness to us, even when times are tough, God is with us.  Because we belong to Jesus, we want to do God’s will and “be thankful in all circumstances.”

See you in church!

What is Worship?

“Worship is when we sing songs to God.”

That would be an answer typically heard today. Worship is often thought of as the music part of the Sunday morning service. We have our worship time (meaning the songs) and then we get on with the rest of the morning service. But music is just a part of worship.

So just what is worship? Is it praying to God? Reading God’s Word? Serving God’s people? Yes, and more! Worship is an attitude of submission to God as our Lord. The Old Testament word most often used for worship is hishtavah, meaning to “bow down” reverently before God. When scholars translated the Old Testament into Greek so that the people in the Greco-Roman empire could read it, they used the Greek word proskeneo. We get our English word “prostrate” from that word. That word is found 26 times in the Gospels and 21 times in the book of the Revelation. In each case, it refers to bowing before the Lord.

But is our physical posture what is being referred to here? Certainly, most of the time, the bodily posture of bending down on knee or falling flat on our faces represents an attitude of honor or service to the object of our worship.

But consider the recent very public protests against policies of our country by certain professional athletes. At the singing of the national anthem in many NFL games, these athletes will “take a knee” as their expression of protest. In this case, the posture represents just the opposite of worship!

What does this suggest to us? Our external posture is not as important as our heart “posture.” Jesus called out the religious leaders, whose external posture may have been “correct,” but their heart “posture” belied an attitude of pride and hostility to Jesus. Jesus quotes the Old Testament prophet Isaiah: “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are mere human rules.” (Mat 15:8-9)

Jesus taught about true worship in a conversation with the woman at the well:  God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” (Jhn 4:24). Worship is not a place. It is not an external posture. It is an internal, Spirit-empowered, bowing before the one who deserves our worship!

Let us worship, in the Spirit and in truth!