Pastor's Corner - september 15th
Not many people claim Lamentations as their favorite book of the Bible. This unique writing provides a sobering reminder of our inherent need for a savior. Since the great fall humanity has lived in external and internal conflict. It can be hard to find peace in this “dog-eat-dog” world. Lamentations makes it quite clear that we need someone to take our conflicts upon himself to give us lasting external and internal peace.
Last Wednesday I was reminded of external conflict in our world. The events of 9/11 continue to shape our world. I also thought a great deal about internal conflict on Tuesday as I remembered all the friends I have lost to depression and suicide. Their internal battles lost continue to weigh heavily in my heart.
We also need Lamentation’s man of sorrows to make peace for us with God. Jesus had to drink the “cup of wrath” to make it possible for us to be declared righteous. This was always God’s plan. Even before the fall of Adam and Eve, the Great Architect designed a way for his wayward children to find a path to peace with God and humanity. As Philip Yancey said, “In a nutshell, the Bible from Genesis 3 to Revelation 22 tells the story of a God reckless with desire to get his family back.” The Prince of Peace has made peace for you and now desires to bear his peace inside you.
Peace is like relay race. First we accept the peace God passes to us. Then from a place of humbleness we pass God’s peace to one another. When can’t forget that “while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” This means Jesus’ sacrifice for us ought to compel us, former enemies of God, to extend peace to our enemies. Peace!
~Pastor Chris Allen
Previous Pastor Corner Blogs
“Everything’ is meaningless!” I’ve known a few people who questioned the value of having book like Ecclesiastes in the Bible. “I don’t feel inspired by “everything is meaningless?” But Ecclesiastes serves as a very necessary “whistleblower” in a world where people are trying to find true happiness in earthly riches. Solomon experienced every earthly joy under the sun. But he reveals that all the fruit of wealth, romance, power and wisdom will eventually wither away. These pursuits will fail to truly satisfy your soul. Everything is meaningless compared to God. Or as Franklin Graham Jr. puts it: Nothing + Jesus= everything!
Ecclesiastes ends with these words from Solomon, “Here is my conclusion on all matters- fear God...” Psalm 128:1 echoes this sentiment, “how joyful are those who fear the Lord.” Fear is often construed as a negative feeling towards something that is either misunderstood or needs to be overcome. I remember wearing a “NO FEAR” t-shirt as a youth.
But it is important it is to have a healthy fear of certain things like tornados and lions. Which begs the question: is there a healthy fear of God? As I read the gospels it becomes clear that Jesus saved us from a fear of man to a healthy fear of the Almighty One (Matt 10:28). We ought to have a healthy fear of the one who overcame the world, sin and death. As Paul says in Acts 13, “"Brethren, sons of Abraham's family, and those among you who fear God, to us the word of this salvation is sent out.”
Throughout the Bible we see that joy and fear are somehow irrevocably connected. A reminder that we were not made to enjoy life without revering God. As well, God made us to delight in his handiwork. The message of Ecclesiastes can be summed up as “fear God and enjoy life”.
It’s no coincidence that the precise middle word of this book in the original Hebrew is “loving kindness”. This story reveals how kindness can change a person’s life and possibly alter the course of history! It began with two mothers, Naomi and Ruth. Naomi lost her husband and all her children and Ruth lost her husband and does not have any children (yet). In the ancient world their futures are bleak, but rather than depart her widowed mother in law to find another husband, Ruth sacrifices her future to support Naomi. An act of kindness that leaves Naomi simply dumbfounded.
Kindness is different then being “nice”. Nice is behaving in a polite manner. But kindness is caring for someone’s heart. Being nice is often more concerned with how others view you. But being kind is being more concerned with their needs. I wouldn’t consider Jesus to be “nice”. Politeness was not his primary concern. His words, actions and postures often intentionally broke social norms. But Jesus was the epitome of kindness. He pursued and nurtured the hearts and souls of others.
Jesus wore his heart on his sleeve. He wasn’t afraid to care for others. In Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” The kindness of Christ continues to shape how we live and love others.
Ruth could never imagine the cosmic implications of her act of “loving kindness”. Soon God will make Ruth a mother in the genealogy of the Messiah Jesus. A reminder that God uses our acts of kindness to bring about his good, perfect, pleasing will. No wonder he tells us to be kind. As a mother recently said after another child showed great kindness to her autistic son on the first day of school, “One act of kindness can change someone's life, can change the world. That's all it takes." This week I encourage you to read and meditate on the loving kindness found in the book of Ruth. Above all let's pray for opportunities to help others to experience the kindness of Christ.
We find two rival perspectives in the book of Esther. Mordecai seeks first what is good and godly. But Hamaan looks out for himself. He is shrewd and ruthless. Which might sound familiar. You don’t have to look far in this world to find people like Hamaan who serve themselves above all else. But the people of God are called to rise above this pattern. Which can be hard to do in a world where “nice guys seem to finish last”.
We can’t forget that God is more concerned with who we are (in relation to him and others) than the content of our LinkedIn pages. The Lord measures success by the fruit of the Spirit (grace, peace, gentleness etc.). In a world obsessed with job titles and promotions our King declares the “first will be last and the last will be first” (Matt 20:16). Jesus subverts earthly boasts like #winning.
While the “Hamaans” out there profess, “get rich or die trying”, Jesus proclaims, “the meek will inherit the earth, the merciful will be shown mercy and the pure in heart will see God”. The Lord wants us to bear the fruit of goodness and gentleness in our workplaces, homes and relationships. I am recommending everyone read and mediate on the Beatitudes this week in Matthew 5:3-12. Do those things and you will be #blessed!
Faithfulness is defined as “the quality of being faithful; fidelity.” The story of Esther is an incredible example of faithfulness. The defining moment of the story happens when Mordecai asking Esther to petition the King of Persia on behalf of the Jews. These were desperate times that called for desperate measures. But Esther was dreadfully afraid to approach King Xerxes. The last queen to cross the king was banished forever. The odds seemed stacked against God’s people. Yet God called Esther for “such a time as this”. She needed to put her faith in his faithfulness.
Fast-forward thousands of years and the Holy Spirit bears in us the fruit of faithfulness for “such a time as this”. Like Esther we are called to put our faith in action. We must proclaim truth during inconvenient times too. We haven’t been anointed by the Holy Spirit to cover our light. We are supposed to shine God’s love and truth in every dark place in our lives.
But Faithfulness is a tough fruit to cultivate. Thankfully God is faithful when we lack faith. I am reminded of the desperate father in Mark 9:23-25 who confessed, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” A reminder that God remains true to his word even when we struggle to keep our own. The God of Esther is with us even when we doubt our calling. May the Lord give us the fruit of faithfulness. This week let’s pray, ““Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” Also listen and meditate on the words of “For Moments I Feel Faith” by Relient K.