pastor's corner - November 17th
Mark your calendars! Our Thanksgiving service will be on Wednesday, Nov 27 at 7pm. Until then, I am challenging everyone to find a reason to give thanks to God every day. For reformer John Calvin, the Christian life was one lived in gratitude. Gratitude is the natural response when you have experienced the love and truth of God. The unfathomable nature of this undeserved blessing ought to leave everyone “up in arms”.
Out of a heart swelling with thanks, Calvin challenged his Christian brothers and sisters to serve the Lord. Which is just the beginning of the power of thanksgiving. Because when we serve and love our neighbors we become reasons others might give thanks to the Lord too. So let’s meditate on all the Lord has done for us and make our lives thanksgiving offerings to God!
Grace and Peace,
Previous Pastor Corner Blogs
Last week’s cold front was a reminder that the holiday season is underway. If you are like me, then you have begun making preparations for the most anticipated meal of the year. The grocery stores are filling with folks eyeballing turkeys and cans of cranberry sauce. But as we’re looking for the best deal we can’t forget to keep our eyes open for the many ways God wants to bless us to be a blessing to others! Here is a kind nudge: did you think about that lonely neighbor when you were calculating the required girth and weight needed to feed all the mouths at your Thanksgiving table?
Whether your family is watching the big game or cueing up another hallmark movie, old traditions are being rekindled. Another kind reminder: adopt “a widow or an orphan” into your family this season. Jesus often told us to look out for such as these because he wanted his family to increase through our hospitality and inclusivity. This is a chance to invite others to experience our fun and quirky family traditions. May each of our homes burst with sounds of less familiar laughter on these special days and let’s add some new hands into that family prayer chain at the dinner table!
Why is so hard not to judge others? In Romans Paul makes it pretty clear that we all have sinned and deserve death. But you don’t have to go far in this world to find people pointing blame at others instead of taking a good hard look at their own need for repentance and growth. Does this charade really help anyone? I would argue it hinders us from embracing true salvation. Each day has its own fair share of countless reminders of why I needed a savior.
But we aren't supposed to grovel in our failures and flaws. Christian legend, Billy Graham wrote this response to a struggling Christian: “Don’t think of God as a cruel, harsh judge gleefully waiting to crush you, because he isn’t. He is instead the loving father who yearns for you to be with him in heaven forever. Don’t trust your own goodness for your salvation, but put your trust in Christ today.” Our salvation is more than a belief, it is a way of life. We wake up to his new mercies every morning. Are you your harshest critic? We are not supposed to begin the day with condemnation. Our salvation provides a fresh start!
We all mess up. The God of the gospel doesn't wag his finger at us when we mess up. Instead, Jesus invites us to experience real repentance and powerful renewal. This undeserved grace is the most important thing we will ever share with our spouses, children, family, friends and coworkers etc. Our salvation is our testimony and our legacy.
The Creator is constantly revealing himself to humanity. Everyone can see his handiwork through the means of natural revelation (sun, stars, oxygen, human existence etc.). As John Calvin asserts, “Although the stars do not speak, even in being silent they cry out.” This means every atom and galaxy bears his fingerprint.
So how can so many people miss all these clues? Because it is only through the special revelation of the Holy Spirit that anyone can clearly see Jesus has the author and sustainer of it all. As Paul notes in 1 Corinthians 12:3, “No one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.” Essentially, we need the Lord to pull back the curtain and reveal to us that he has been the one working behind the scenes.
But this usually happens in very “practical” ways. The Holy Spirit uses a plethora of resources for this “big reveal”. The Spirit gifts Jesus’ disciples (you and me) to bring special revelation to the ends of the earth. We are instruments of the great orchestrator of worlds. The Spirit also illuminates the Word to teach us divine mysteries.
With God’s help we can have “aha” moments and suddenly see the world like never before. Every day is a chance to honor and praise the one who knows the stars by name. But it doesn’t end there. We have been chosen to share with everyone that which has been specially revealed to us.
The gospel can be best defined as “the good news that through Jesus’ death and resurrection God is redeeming humanity and bringing forth his kingdom”. It must be said that this message was refreshing to some and subversive to many in 1st Century Rome. The Roman Empire was quite a propaganda machine with slogans like “Hail Caesar” and “Caesar is Lord”. It was before this face of adversity that Paul confidently professed, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16).
“The eternal city”, Rome prided itself in being a melting pot for numerous competing world views. Christians were actually arrested for being “atheists” since they denied the existence of other gods besides their own. Theologian Karl Barth asserted, “The Gospel is not a truth among other truths. Rather, it sets a question mark against all truths.”
Fast forward almost 2000 years, and we still live a world trying to sell us truths and narratives that rival the true Gospel. We wake up to a constant inundation of news and tweets before we even reach the breakfast table. The need to ardently hold firm to “the truth above all other truths” is as important today as it was in the 1st century. Which is why we need to regularly reread this gospel, let it seep into our souls and confess it with our words and actions. Feel free to join us as we digest this wonderful news together in our Romans Small Groups!
These groups will last about 6 weeks. Here's what to expect: warm couches, pumpkin latte fu-fu drinks, open Bibles and laughter. You should join us! This will be a great way to connect with others and grow in your faith. In advance read Romans 1-3 and bring three things to share from your reading. One group will meet on Tuesdays at 6:30pm (beginning Oct 15) at the church. For more information please email Fred and Marianne at email@example.com. The other one will meet on Sunday nights at 6pm (beginning Oct 20) at Pastor Chris'' home. This one will have childcare. Please email Pastor Chris for more information at firstname.lastname@example.org on this group.