A DIFFERENT GOSPEL

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you …and are turning to a different Gospel.  Galatians 1:6

The word Gospel meaning “good news” historically refers to the good news that Jesus’ death on the cross paid the price for our sins for us. But the text above refers to people turning to “a different gospel.” Actually, there is no other Gospel or “good news” from God than Christ’s self-sacrifice on the cross for us. But there are a lot of things that turn us away from Jesus and the cross; other things that appeal to us. Turning away from the Gospel can refer to anything that distracts us from Christ and his act of salvation paid for us on the cross. Our continually occurring sins are some of the distractions.

Another distraction is the idea that almost all religions are focused on God and therefore good also. Another distraction is the things that we come to believe that are false. For example, the idea that all religion is good or that I am a good enough person that I deserve heaven someday, if there is such a place. Or, even though I don’t go to church, I still believe in God.

But going to heaven is not the issue here. The issue here is that God is reaching out to us in Jesus who gave his life for us, and Jesus calls us to Himself through our repentance, love, and trust in Him and in the change of attitude and life that results from this. Our self-constructed “gospel” is different from the Gospel (Good News) that Jesus alone is our Savior and it is in Him alone that our life becomes eternal and faithful as we live this life now. We don’t need a different gospel; we need to live faithfully to the one we have received from God, in Jesus Christ.

 

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WORSHIP AND WORK

Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God.  Exodus 20: 9 – 10

We’ve always said that Sunday is a day of Sabbath rest. If you are fortunate enough to not have to work on Sundays, then Sundays are a great relief and we all need rest and a day-off. But as a Christian you are expected to get up for church and worship with the congregation and receive the “body and blood of Christ” Himself. Worship and work is a good thing to keep in balance. During the week we feed our bodies and on Sunday morning we feed our soul. We are literally fed Christ in the bread and wine, the body and blood of Christ in Holy Communion. Worship is not an obligation; it is a gift of God, given to us to replenish us for living the Christian life.

The world is always changing, both for better and for worse. The better is that we are sustained in life by God and the worst is that the evils of this world pile upon us, attempting to destroy us and our relationship with God. Worship on a Sunday morning is the battleground where God in Christ comes to give us the victory and strength to live in such a world with hope and joy. In worship we confess our sins and failures to God and receive the encouragement, hope and the promise of Life that will never destroy us because Heaven is our real home and there God will care for us forever as his faithful ones.

Prayer:

Lord Jesus, help us to come to you in hope and confidence in worship and continue to give us the gift of life in this world and the next. Amen

 

 

EASTER BLOG

For those who do not share the Christian meaning of Easter, the holiday is simply something like a sign of Spring soon to arrive. But for those whose Christian faith is centered on the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus for our salvation, it is the biggest of all holidays in the Christian faith. It is a day of rebirth for this life and for heaven for all who believe and trust in Jesus. Jesus died in our place for what we deserve for our sins and Easter is the gift of rebirth he gives for our faith and trust in Him. Easter is not just a day; it is a life to be lived every day. As Jesus rose from the dead on Easter in triumph over sin and the prospect of Hell, so our faith and trust in Jesus transforms us for this life on earth as well as the next in heaven.

We all face difficult days and other days that ease-in with enjoyment. Because of sin in this world the difficult days are fed by God’s love with faith and hope for those who are Jesus’ followers by faith in Him. Church attendance in this country is declining, but we who find hope in Jesus and his sacrifice for us on the cross, are able to live until God calls us to Himself in heaven. We cannot decide when that should happen; that’s God’s decision. If we try to escape this world through our own death by means of suicide we also abandon God. All human life belongs to God, but in suicide we are taking matters into our own hands and out of the hands of God. Life in this world can be difficult, but it is always possible to live and trust in God through Jesus Christ and that trust always brings us hope in this world and for the next.

BETTER THINGS TO COME!

My father used to say in his old age, “The times, they are changing,”. He lived to be 94 and lived each day with eagerness in which he met the challenges of the day with enjoyment. Retirement is not easy for many. For some it marks a time of loss, and in bewilderment they ask, “What am I to do now?” Volunteerism is always a good place to look for “work.” My wife has been a volunteer at a hospital for over twenty years and looks forward eagerly each time she leaves for “work.” Retirement can be rewarding or it can be difficult. The difficulty comes in knowing what to do with the time you are now given by God.

When we are retired we are free from the burdens of our work. Likewise, when we have faith in Christ, we are freed from discouragement and sins that weigh us down. Retired from sin’s weight, we are free to live in the peace and happiness of retirement. Every day is another day of God’s grace, mercy, and peace given to us. So now, we have to practice letting go of the guilt and worry that has weighed us down. This is a new day for us! Begin it and end it in God’s love, forgiveness and the invitation to start the new day with God’s hand on our shoulder and the promise of better things to come!

As in retirement, we must all begin each day as a new beginning. Sin is left behind in God’s forgiveness and a new day awaits us. The new life may begin in supporting others in the burdens they carry, helping them in their need for encouragement. In Christ we are a new person every day! We rise to meet the day in service to God through the needs of others. Read Psalm 100.

 

 

LET THE ONE WHO BOASTS, BOAST IN THE LORD

2 Cor 10:17

         No one likes a person who brags about himself, but this is the position in which Paul uncomfortably found himself. Some who were destroying the pastoral work he was doing needed to be stopped so Paul defends what he had done, “bragging in the Lord” of his work. Boasting or bragging is still distasteful to us, but in Paul’s case, there was no one else to speak up for him but himself. Overzealous Christians sometimes present the faith to others in ways that sound like boasting when they say things like, “I used to be a drunk and a womanizer, but once I made the decision to follow Jesus I became a different person.” Although meant to be a testimony to what faith can do for us it borders on an attitude of “look what I did,” self-aggrandizement.

It’s hard to know what boasting in the Lord should mean. It will probably be a rare occasion to ever find ourselves in Paul’s shoes. Even he seemed to feel self-conscious about his boasting. But telling others about what Jesus did for them for the sake of their lives is good boasting. We don’t need to be the center of attention. It’s not about our faith. It’s not about us at all. It’s all about Jesus. Jesus was a strong personality as a man, but he also spoke the truth in love wherever circumstances demanded it. As God and man he has a lot to boast about, but instead he became as one humble, riding a donkey into Jerusalem and a week later submitted to the cross for us. Our boasting in the Lord about our lives is not necessary. Bearing witness humbly to where Christ is in someone else’s life and helping them see it, is good boasting.

Prayer: Jesus, help us to help others see you in their lives, giving your life for them. Amen

THE SPIRITUAL ROCK

With most of them God was not pleased. 1 Cor 10: 5

From the time God first formed a people for himself under Moses to the present the community of faith has had a blemished record. There is ambivalence in human nature, even in believers about remaining faithful to the true God. At Moses’ time the temptation was to follow the religions of the lands through which they traveled rather than to follow the God who saved them from slavery in Egypt. With most of them God was not pleased. At the heart of it, there is in all of us a desire to free ourselves from God and live our own lives without him. The appeal to idolatry is just the first step toward that freedom. As we grow older the appeal to create our own spiritually grows stronger. Lifestyles and values change and God’s way seems restrictive, limiting our freedom. In the end we worship and serve ourselves alone.

But thanks be to God that he is the Spiritual Rock in our wilderness that will not crumble away. In every generation God has sent prophets to lead us back to him. In the end, he sent his own Son and he was rejected as well. But the Holy Spirit continues to come to us in our vulnerability even as infants in baptism. There, when we were helpless God planted the seed of faith that it might grow and save us from ourselves. We need to nourish that faith daily in association with others who are faithful so that we might encourage one another to follow God the Father who made us, God the Son who redeemed us, and God the Holy Spirit who works faith in us. The Lord will save us if we do not reject him. That is his promise.

Prayer: Father, do not forsake us; Jesus save us; Holy Spirit live in us. Amen

GOD’S TEMPLE IS HOLY, YOU ARE THAT TEMPLE!

1 Corinthians 3:16-17

You are God’s Temple, but it’s not just you alone all by yourself. Paul uses the plural “you” here. Each of us is one brick of his Temple, the Body of Christ. The reading for today is preceded by a description of the divisions that occur within the church as the Body of Christ on earth. Divisions occur between Christians as denominations, but we also experience divisions more personally within congregations and within families. So, God reminds us again that we are, together, God’s Temple. Together, we are made holy in Christ. We must handle each other with care, with love, and with forgiveness.

One way to care, love and forgive if forgiveness is called for is to listen to the concern that prompts the other person’s action or words with which we find ourselves in disagreement. The solution enacted out of that concern may be wrong, but finding common ground for concern puts us side by side as members of the Body of Christ. Even when we disagree on the solution or conclusion we each come to, our common concern is the starting place for our recognition of our oneness in Christ. We are more likely to both listen to the other person and work through our own thoughts, helping the other to do the same in hopes of our finding a God-pleasing solution to our mutual concerns. Understanding each other is where healing can begin. Unless the other person closes the door on us, we must hold the door open and live together in forgiveness while pursuing the Truth.

Our Lord Jesus Christ came to us in his disagreement with us over sin. He did not slam the door on us, but put himself in our place even when we were wrong. He loved us, offered us forgiveness, and invited us into his life. Because of this, we follow his path in our relationships with one another. We love because he first loved us. We love even when others are wrong and we are right. Especially then! We love as Christ loved and gave himself for others. Together we are the holy Temple of God.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, help me to love those I don’t like and those with whom I disagree, as you loved me through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen