Is it enough to tell them Jesus loves them?

Sunday Diane and I had a late lunch with some friends.  It was about 2:30 when we ate.  Most of us had not eaten lunch yet and to go one better, some of us had not even eaten breakfast.  One person in particular was commenting how hungry they were, and when they ate they kept going on about how good the food was.  If someone had eaten lunch at 12:30 or 1:00, the food would not tasted so good as it did to the person who was really hungry.  Food tastes better when you are hungry.

Likewise, good news sounds better to people who are hungry for good news.  It is good news when a healthy 30 year old has a checkup and the doctor tells him or her that all their tests came out perfect.  But they do not rejoice like the person who has been fighting cancer for a year who hears the words, “The treatments have worked and it’s gone.”    It’s good news when a mother delivers a baby and hears the words, “It’s a healthy baby.”  But those words are the fulfilment of hope for a mother who has suffered with complications.

Finally, this brings me to the ultimate Good News –> the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Spreading grass seed

Spreading grass seed

It’s one thing to tell people that Jesus loves them.  The church throws that phrase around like grass seeds when we’re planting grass.   Jesus loves you, Jesus loves you, Jesus loves you.  Jesus loves you does not sound the same to someone who does not see their need for Him as it does to someone who understands how their sin separates them from God.  We can walk in to a movie theater that is showing a pornographic movie, stand in front of the people there, tell them Jesus loves them, and then walk out.  And what have we done?

Compare that to saying, “What you are doing here is not right.  It breaks God’s heart when He sees what this evil is doing to you and those you love.  Jesus loves you so much… so much that He died on the cross to take away the penalty and guilty stain of your sin.  It’s the same sacrifice that took away the penalty of my own sin.  If you will confess your sin to Him and ask Him to forgive you and ask Him to lead you away from this kind of life, He will hear you, forgive you, and help you. ”  We have to love people enough to let them hear the bad news.  True love is not merely telling someone that God loves them, but rather bringing them to the point of seeing their need and giving them the chance to receive or reject Jesus, who is the cure for the bad news.

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What goes unclaimed…

img_7901There are always bowls, pans, and platters that end up in the church cabinets.  It’s not that they belong in the church cabinets, but when people bring in things for a dinner they often never return to pick up their items.  A few things have names on them, bu most do not.  Sometimes it is hard to tell what they want back because some of the plastic rubbermaid and ziploc stuff is reusable, but cheap enough to forget about.

These things that go unclaimed make me think about life and in particular the Christian life.  To begin, how sad is it that salvation goes unclaimed?  When given the chance to accept God’s gift of salvation through Jesus, so many people leave it on the table.  And then, for those who do accept the gift of salvation, how sad that so many of us often focus on eternal life, not claiming the victory that He gives in this life?  I pray this Scripture from Romans 8:31-39 and the words from the song, “More than Conquerors” encourages you to claim victory today.

What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?  Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies.  Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.  Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?  As it is written:

“For your sake we face death all day long;
    we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,  neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. ~ Romans 8:31-39

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When the storms come

img_7873We have heavy equipment on the church property today.  The equipment is here to begin to alleviate the drainage problems we have here at the church.  When it rains, we are getting lots of water onto the church property from up the hill.  The people doing it for us are going to cut a new ditch in the adjoining property and repair an existing ditch next to the church.  The  people who to come to church on Sundays will be oblivious to the new drainage pattern.  But this work, going on away from the view of nearly everyone, is going to make a big difference when the storms come.  We are going to be better prepared to handle the deluge when they do.

If Jesus were telling parables in modern day language, He might use one here:

There was a man who had water problems when it rained.  When it rained, all the water flooded the man’s property and caused all kinds of damage.  When it was not raining, the man had better things to do than re-route the water away from his property.  Because he was too busy to prepare for the storms, he was devastated when the rains came.img_7872

Wise is the man or woman who prepares for the storms.

My followers who spend time with Me while the weather is clear, through prayer, attending church, and reading My Word, remain close to Me and find shelter in Me when the storms of life come their way.

Are you preparing for the rain and storms?

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Supply and demand – patio furniture sale in October

clearanceI just got an email from Walmart telling me that patio furniture is on clearance.  Two years ago someone from the church built a beautiful deck on the parsonage.  The United Methodist Women bought furniture for the deck and left it up to Diane and I to buy it.  We bought it this time of the year and got unbelievable deals.  Very few people in our area are thinking about patio furniture.  We’re thinking about leaf blowers and they are not discounted.  Stores have to discount patio furniture to get rid of it so they can make room for what is now in demand.

This is how too many in the American church are treating the Gospel.  Because our society does not want to hear about sin and their need to repent of sin, much of the American church is running a clearance on the Good News.  We act as if we will find people more receptive to a discounted, perverted, false gospel that says all people should be loved and celebrated just as they are with no need to change.

The truth is that the Word of God tells us that we are all broken and in need of change.  And it is only because we are loved that God’s Spirit makes us aware of our need to repent and be forgiven.  If we were just made aware of our sin without a remedy, that would be cruel.  But that is not the case.  Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross and His resurrection from the dead has made a way for the repentant soul to be reconciled to Him.  And this is the Gospel, no matter how the enemy of God and even the well intentioned, yet mistaken, try to present it otherwise.

“Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock. Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: ‘Ye were bought at a price’, and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God.” ~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer

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Letting your heart be troubled

(This may end up being the gist of the message I bring forth in church next Sunday.)
The 13th chapter of the Book of John ends with a conversation between Jesus and Peter:

Peter: Where are you going?
Jesus: You can not go where I am going right now, but you will follow me later.
Peter: Why can I not follow you now? I am willing to die for you!
Jesus: You will die for me?  I do not think so.  As a matter of fact, you will deny that you know me three times before the rooster crows in the morning.

Those had to to hard words for Peter to hear.  Yet, the very next words Jesus says to Peter are, “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe in Me.”  I hear Jesus telling Peter, “Trust me, Peter.”  After a few more words, Jesus says in John 14:16, you’re going to receive a Helper (the Holy Spirit) that will be with you (and verse 17 adds within you) forever.

Jesus is literally telling Peter that Peter cannot make it as Jesus’ disciple without the Helper.  He cannot follow or fulfil the plans God has for Him without God’s help.  As this sinks in, Peter likely recalls the disciples saying to Jesus (in John 6:60), “This is too hard…” and whispers an Amen under his breath.

The life of a follower is difficult because the enemy is never happy when you take a step in the right direction.  He will fight you all the way.  The enemy will use your possessions, your desires, and your insecurities against you.  He will use circumstances and people, even some who profess Jesus, to try to discourage you from believing that Jesus is at work.  It’s much easier to let our heart be troubled than it is to let not our heart be troubled.  And either letting or not letting is a decision you make.  The bottom line is that letting your heart be troubled is a work of the devil, and we are letting him have control when we submit to the worry.  Letting your heart not be troubled is a work of Jesus and your faith in what He is doing, knowing He brings good out of all things for you who love him.

I entrust you with this prayer from a book of prayers that friends gave me yesterday.  I used this as my morning devotion this morning and hope it is an encouragement to you.  Don’t just read it, but pray it.  Don’t rush through it.  Don’t just pray it once, but pray it over and over.  Save it on your phone and pray it every day if necessary – or even several times a day.  Trust Him and He will “ease and relieve and refresh your soul”.

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Teaching our young people to not believe

I don’t even know why I’m writing this today, other than I believe God wants me to.  And I wish I thought He didn’t.  As you read it, know I wrote it begrudgingly.  And the purpose is not to make anyone feel guilty, but to point out that change is needed.

Train up children in the way they should go,
And when they are old they will not depart from it.
~ Proverbs 22:6

I just read something about belief and it struck me that we are “Educating our kids out of belief”.  And when I say this, I mean the importance of following, and even faith at all in Jesus.

Kids and young people see that hardly anyone makes God a priority.  If we have a kid in the band or gymnastics or travel ball team, we will get up at 6 a.m. or get home at 1 a.m..  We will drive hours, leave work early or change shifts, and sometimes go as far as get a hotel room so we can attend.  We are showing them by example that those things are important.  And I am not throwing stones here.  I admit I did the same thing.

And this is probably a waste of cyberspace writing this today, because all I’m likely to do is make people mad.  Sometimes I wish I wasn’t a pastor so I would not look like I’m only seeking to serve my own interests when I write things like this.  I just pray parents could step back and get a macro view of what they are teaching their kids about priorities.  And I’m not arguing that they cannot also learn from their extra-curricular events.  I’m arguing that for most youth, that’s the only place they are learning.

Well, there and in the schools.  We send them to school to be educated and they are being educated, alright.  They are being “educated out of belief.”  Even the poor teachers who are Believers, risk their jobs if they try to help the kids by pointing to Jesus.  And I’m not even arguing that it’s the school’s job to teach them to follow Jesus.  But I also do not see the school’s job as talking them out of following Jesus, yet that is what is happening.

Most young people are not growing in their faith at home, they’re not growing in their faith at school, and hardly any of them are being taken to church, which is about their last chance to grow into Believers.  We are training up children in the way they should not go.  And one day we should not be surprised when they will not depart from it.

(And I emphasize, there are a few exceptions to today’s post, but not many.)

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One step closer to heaven

I marvel at the untrue things that people share on Facebook that they pass off as truth.  Photoshopped pictures, lies about statistics, and so on.  All passed on as though they are true.  It is modern day false advertising.

The devil is the ultimate false advertiser.  He calls what is bad, good.  He goes so far as to advertise hell as heaven.  I heard a preacher say a brothel never has the advertising slogan, “One step closer to hell.” No. What would they say?  “One step closer to heaven”, right?  Except we all know that’s a lie for all involved.

Satan peddles false advertising in many different ways.  He advertises sin as something pleasant, when he knows it only leads to destruction.  He advertises God as too confining and boring, when the truth is that living a life with Holy Spirit’s guidance has mountaintop moments that are unpredictable, exhilarating, and fulfilling.  What Satan offers as exciting never fails to leave you with regret.

And to those who do want to turn their lives over to Jesus, the enemy of God advertises Jesus as all love and grace… that Jesus does not see your sin as sin, does not call you live a holy life, and that you do not really have to follow Him, but just believe.  And those things too are lies.  Even the demons believe who Jesus is.  They do not, however, repent of their sin, strive for a more holy life, and/or follow Jesus.

This is a type of blog or sermon that most do not like to read or hear.  It’s too narrow and judgemental.  But I’ll tell you this about truth in advertising.  The Bible shows us that Jesus would just assume people walk away from the truth than come to Him through false advertising.  Because the false advertising the enemy peddles does not really lead to Him.

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