- ReadThe CallerMay 2019The Pastor is Thinking....about white-water rafting.
I’m thinking about a metaphor for passionately following Christ. Being a follower of Christ is a lot like white-water rafting. Life is like white water. It is scary at times, a thrill at times, dangerous at times, but it is always adventuresome. As Christ-followers on the river of life, we know that three things are essential: a life vest, a raft, and a paddle. Anyone who wants to ride the river must put on a life vest. White water is full of turbulence and rock and rapids. The first step in riding the river is not jumping into the water; it is putting on the life vest. In our understanding of spiritual formation, the first step to passionately following Jesus is putting on the spiritual life vest—that is, committing to a life-saving and life-altering connection with Jesus Christ and deciding to
ride the river as His disciple. Here First Christian Church we want everyone to embrace Christ and connect to other Jesus-followers in community.
None of us was designed to ride the raging river of life alone. Once you have your vest on, you don’t stand idly on the bank of the river and watch others float by. The only way to take the ride of your life is to get into a raft with other people and with a river guide. We believe that spiritual transformation happens best when we get into a raft with other people—that is, when we join a group and begin to experience encouragement, fellowship and accountability. We all need people who will pull us back into the raft when we get thrown out, people who can paddle while we catch our breath, and people who will put their lives on the line to help us with ours. We need a river guide who will help keep us on track so that we can experience the transforming power of the Spirit in our knowledge, character, worldview, habits, and relationships.
Think about discipleship and following Jesus. Many people put on the vest but never get into the raft. They watch others journey, but they miss out on experiencing the ride of their lives.
Once you have your vest on and you are in the raft, you must grab a paddle. The height of adventure is contributing to the ride! Every person in the raft has a place to paddle. The whole raft needs everyone working and contributing and helping and cheering and
communicating. Every person is significant and has something to contribute and depends on the others.
Paddling symbolizes serving. We are not called just to be connected to God and His people; we are not called just to experience life-changing transformation; we are called to serve others. Every one of us is to serve others in ministry—building up the body, and in mission—reaching out to a lost world.
- ReadThe CallerApril 2019The Pastor is Thinking....about the Significance of The Death of Christ
Some say the death of Christ is wholly a theological point that has no connection with spiritual life. I say nothing could be further from the truth. A great, practical purpose of the cross was to bring us into right ways of living. Christ died in order that we might live a life of righteousness (Romans 8:3-4, 1 Peter 2:24), a life of holiness (Colossians 1:22), a life of unselfishness (2 Corinthians 5:14-15), a life of victory (1 John 5:4-6, Hebrews 12:1-3) and a life of service (Hebrews 9:14). The cross of Christ is the secret to spiritual power.
1. It separates us from the world (Galatians 6:14). To accept the cross as Paul accepted it, will separate you forever from the world. So complete, that to me the world is dead, and to the world I am dead.
2. It sets our conscience free from dead works (Hebrews 9:14, 10:22). As long as men try to be saved by works, the conscience is never free. Every sin, every failure increases the burden of guilt. It is like a man trying to pay a legal debt that keeps increasing. At last he will become discouraged and defeated. The death of Christ clears away the burden, and keeps it cleared. No matter what our failures, every moment we can begin anew with a clean slate.
3. It unites us with Him own omnipotent life (Romans 6:1-11). People say, if the death of Christ pays all our debt and takes us out from under the obligation of law, then morality is imperiled. But the same atonement that pays our debt and takes out of the realm of law, also unites us with the eternal and omnipotent life of the Holy Son of God.
4. It sets before us a supreme example of unselfish obedience and godly suffering (Philippians 2:5-7, 1 Peter 2:20-23).
5. It opens the door into the presence of an infinite God (Hebrews 10:19). It is here that we may come for pardon and help. And we are told to enter boldly.
6. It puts us under an infinite debt of gratitude to Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 6:20, 2 Corinthians 5:15). The most powerful motive in the human life is gratitude.
Those who truly accept Christ and Him crucified do enter into a new way of life. And that new life begins at the cross. The death of Christ is the foundation of all true Christian living.
Paul said it this way in Galatians 6:14 “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”
“For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, and he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” 1 Corinthians 15:3-4
HE IS RISEN!
I’m forever grateful for the gospel. I too, am grateful for each one of you!
- ReadThe CallerMarch 2019The Pastor is Thinking....about Unity
“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious oil upon the head, coming down upon the beard, even Aaron’s beard, coming down upon the edge of his robes. It is like the dew of Hermon coming down upon the mountains of Zion; for there the Lord commanded the blessing—life forever.” Psalm 133
When the Jewish pilgrims sang this song as they journeyed to Jerusalem, they did not sing solo or travel alone. They came to the feasts and holy days from many different walks of life, regions, and tribes. No matter how hard the pilgrimage conditions, the fellowship of God’s people made the journey refreshing. We too are pilgrims; we have a destination, our heavenly home, and we are traveling together. It’s foolish to try to be a believer in isolation. The moment we become Christians, we become part of a body of believers, the Body of Christ.
David is the author of this psalm, and the best one to appreciate the blessing of unity. Under his leadership, the twelve tribes of Israel were united. They put aside tribal jealousy in a spirit of cooperation and became a united kingdom. This enabled David to strengthen the nation and establish the capital in Jerusalem.
This brief psalm contains two poetic images, oil and dew. When Moses’ brother Aaron was consecrated as the high priest in Exodus 29, he was clothed in vestments and annointed with oil. The holy fragrance of the oil would cling to him. Paul writes that “through us Christ spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of Him” (2 Cor. 2:14). We are a sweet perfume in a decaying world. Oil softens the skin, and is used as a salve to heal wounds. Throughout Scripture oil is a symbol of God’s presence and Spirit. The bond uniting us is also like dew. In high elevations the dewfall is heavy. Every dawn the mountain-tops are drenched, and the feeling is one of freshness and fertility. We need the dew of fellowship if we are to flourish in our faith.
Dew is a symbol of blessing. When Isaac blessed his son Jacob, he stated, “May God give you of heaven’s dew” (Gen. 27:28), meaning the resource of prosperity. In contrast, Isaac told Esau that his “dwelling will be away from the dew of heaven” (vs. 39). Moses
prayed that his teachings would “descend like dew” (Deut. 32:2). Proverbs describes the favor of a king “like dew on the grass” (19:12). And God declares in Hosea, “I will be like the dew to Israel, which will blossom like a lily” (14:5). Blessings descend to us, but
we ought to receive them together. We are blessed individually and collectively.
I am happy to be a part of this leadership team. It is our desire to lead and serve with unity. That brings the blessing of God.
Grateful for our team, Grateful for each of you,
- ReadThe CallerFebruary 2019The Pastor is Thinking....about 2019
“TEACH US TO NUMBER OUR DAYS ARIGHT,
THAT WE MAY GAIN A HEART OF WISDOM”.
It’s a sobering exercise to number one’s days according to God’s statement in Psalm 90:10, “The length of our years is seventy years—or eighty, if we have the strength; yet their span is but trouble and sorrow for they quickly pass, and we fly away”. For me, that means the seventy year mark is history—or I can add another 3650, if for me it will be eighty years. Only God knows that. But either way, that exercise gets my attention. As the days of 2019 tick away, they will take with them 365 more days off of our final number. For our teens, it seems like a long ways away. For those of us into our 7th decade, it has gone far more quickly than we ever dreamed.
Each of us stands in stark contrast to our eternal Creator—“Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations. Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God” (Psalm 90:1-2).
What can I trust God to do in the coming 365?
Do I ask Him to work in the heart of my unsaved neighbor or co-worker to bring him to faith? Do I ask Him to awaken some of our kids to the thought of a career in missions? Do I want Him to strengthen the marriages in our church? Would I like for Him to use whatever means He desires, whatever ways it takes, for me to become more grounded in His Word? Do I ask Him to increase the membership of our church? Do I want Him to turn many hearts in St Francis to saving faith in the Lord Jesus? Do I desire that He allow us to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace? Would I like for God to increase our love for Him, and our love for one another? Would I like for the people of our communities to see that we are Jesus’ disciples, by our obvious and sacrificial love for one another? Do I dare ask Him to allow me to spend more time in the Bible? Do I ask that in all things He might have the pre-eminence? At whatever cost? Even if it means complete humiliation for me?
The writer of James in the New Testament says “You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures” (James 4:3-4). What are you willing to ask God for in 2019 for our church, for your family, for your pastor, for our community, for our nation, for yourself, for God’s glory? Each day of 2019 that passes, will be forever gone. Would you join me in praying for our church, our leadership team, our elders and deacons, our people? May we see trust God to work in our church family.
It is an honor to serve as your interim pastor. Each of you is very precious to me.
- ReadThe CallerJanuary 2019
I sometimes think New Year’s Day comes at the wrong time of year. I’m usually facing a bunch of tasks left over from the old year, like taking down the Christmas tree and putting away all the decorations, writing thank-you notes and dealing with decisions about what to do with the stack of Christmas cards. Throw them away? Save the ones with pictures? Check the addresses? Then there’s the thought of trying to catch up with all the work I put off during the holidays. I’m behind before the New Year even starts.
“Who can think about new beginnings or inspirational goals in the midst of old concerns?” I asked my lawyer-husband Lynn as he came in the door after a quick trip to the office to complete a couple of year-end responsibilities.
“Let me show you a gift I just received,” he said, pulling an attractively wrapped package out of his briefcase. On it was a card: “To Lynn. May this gift encourage you in the coming year.” It was signed by a friend in his Bible study group.
Lynn tore off the paper and lifted out a beautifully framed message, penned by a professional calligrapher. The message read:
Trust Me. I have everything under control.
He set the frame down amidst the clutter on the kitchen counter so I could see that simple message as I went about my tasks. Slowly those words began to change my frame of mind. If I needed something to help me carry my old concerns into the New Year, I’d just found it … the determination to face each day’s concerns, trusting in the words of this promise from the Source of all comfort and strength.
Father, each day in this new year, please help me remember that You are in control of everything.
From Guideposts - Written by Carol Kuykendall
- ReadWeekly UpdateDecember 14, 2018Shepherd
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. — Luke 2:8
It may seem like a stretch of the imagination, but try it anyway: If you were God and could announce the arrival of the Savior of humanity, would you send your messengers to some shepherds out in the fields as they whiled away their nighttime watch? Why not send angels to an assembly of the religious council in Jerusalem instead? Why not send them to the megalomaniac King Herod? Or how about Caesar? Wouldn’t that be a night of work—blowing open the doorways of society and changing everything with a few simple words?
Yet God chose the shepherds. Rough characters at that time, shepherds were laborers who performed the tedious tasks that many others were unwilling to do. They appeared ragged, smelled of the flocks, and were used to sleeping on the cold, hard ground.
Often the Bible tells us about extraordinary shepherds. A millennia earlier, David, the “shepherd king” of Israel, had cared for his people just as he’d cared for the sheep when he was a boy shepherd in the fields outside of Bethlehem. David could write the incredible words of Psalm 23 because he knew what it meant to be a good shepherd, and he knew that God was his good shepherd.
David tells us, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters” (vv. 1-2). And that’s not all. The Lord guides (v. 3). He protects with his rod and staff (v. 4).
Jesus, the descendant of David, came to earth to be the good shepherd. In the Gospel of John, Jesus said he knows us as his sheep, and we are to know him (10:14-15). He promised to defend us from wolves and not run away. But most importantly, he said the good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep.
So consider this: On the night that Jesus’ life began in this world, an inexorable process was set in motion—leading to the day when he would lay down his life for the world. All of this in the fashion of a truly good shepherd. So an angelic visitation to shepherds in Bethlehem—men who understood feeding and guiding and saving—was the best way for chapter one to begin.
Prayer for today: The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. (Psalm 23)
Lawrenz, Mel. Christmas Joy: A Devotional (p. 31-34). WordWay. Kindle Edition.
- ReadThe CallerDecember 2018Worship Time Change and Sunday School
With the start of December, we have decided to go back to having our church service begin at 10:30 AM. Sunday Morning Blessings will continue - beginning at 10:00. Starting January 6, Sunday School will be back - beginning at 9:30. Plan now to change your alarms - although, you won't be late, you may be really early! See you Sunday at 10:30!
- ReadWeekly UpdateNovember 14, 2018God Uses All Things for Good
"You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives." Genesis 50:20
It's easy - effortless, even - to have a grateful heart during the happy times, when you're overcome with God's goodness. When you're offered your dream job, repair a broken relationship, or see a loved one healed, rejoicing comes easily. Bad news brings a different reaction. You feel discouraged, fearful, angry, sad, and a threshold of other challenging emotions. You might feel, as the psalmist says in Psalm 119:28, your "soul is weary with sorrow." How can you be grateful in trying times? Is it even possible?
We don't have easy answers; we may not understand until we are with the Lord. But we know and cling to this truth: our pain will not be wasted. Romans 8:28 reminds us, "God causes all things to work together for good." Not just some things, but all things - the good and the bad. You can be comforted, you can even give thanks and rejoice, because the pain will cease. God has already written the end of the story. And it all works together for good.
Adapted from 100 Days of Thanks.
- ReadWeekly UpdateNovember 7, 2018Cultivating a Habit of Gratitude
"It is good to praise the Lord....proclaiming your love in the morning and your faithfulness at night." Psalm 92: 1-2
We develop some habits at such a young age that we barely notice them today. Brushing teeth, combing hair, and washing hands are taught repeatedly to children until they're well-established habits. Throughout life, we develop more habits, both good and bad. Daily exercise, emotional eating, addiction, saving money, spending money recklessly, saying please and thank you, avoiding conflict - these habits are all formed over time.
We form cognitive habits, too, like gratitude. Imagine the difference this could make in your daily life. If instead of being frustrated that a meeting ran late, you were thankful for the innovative ideas that were shared. If you soaked in the tenderness of comforting a crying baby at 2:00 a.m. without despairing over lost sleep. Gratitude can change your outlook - and actions - in life-changing ways. It takes practice and some failures; habits don't develop overnight. But by choosing gratitude moment by moment, you'll see it become second nature.
Adapted from 100 Days of Thanks.