STRONG HANDS | 19 JUNE 2018

Families and Friends of Christ Our Redeemer,

Strong hands can make a project go much faster.  If there are building supplies to be moved or maneuvered into place, strong and steady hands are greatly appreciated.  Strong hands can lift a child from danger, or help defend a person who is being attacked.  Strong hands symbolize the hearty spirit that we see in those who build homes in some of the more remote sections of northern Idaho.  Even with advancements in technology that make work easier, there are still many times where simply having strong hands can make all the difference in getting things done.

The Bible places great value on strength in our families and nation, but reminds us that God Himself is the ultimate source of all strength.  When Solomon prayed as the new temple was being dedicated in Jerusalem, he spoke of God’s strong hands when he asks the Lord to answer the prayers of all who set foot in the place.  God’s mighty hand led His people out of over four hundred years of slavery in Egypt, across the Red Sea and the desert to the Promised Land.  In the years after that, God’s hand protected His people from attacks and difficult times.  Whenever they tried to do things on their own, God’s people would stumble and fall.  But with God’s strength and strong hands protecting them, they had nothing to fear.  1 Kings 8:42 reminded God’s people of then and today of what God does for us, and how He is active in our journey of life and faith.  “For all people will hear of Your great name and Your mighty hand and Your outstretched arm.”

There are likely more than a few times in life where you are feeling weak or as though you have little or no control over what is happening to you.  You may find it a challenge to simply make ends meet or hold your family together.  You may have tried to succeed by your own strong hands, only to experience unexpected detours and discouragements.  Solomon points you to the mighty hand of God.  He was willing to let His strong hands become tiny, helpless infant hands in the manger.  Those strong, carpenter hands later would be bound by those who wanted Him dead and were then stretched out on a cross.  But the hands of the Savior, calling you to come to the foot of the cross where you will find rest and peace, hands that have been raised from the dead, and hands that were raised as He ascended to heaven, are still raised in blessing for you and the world.  The Lord’s strong hands can make you strong as you live for Him.

 

From one who depends on the Lord’s strong hands to lift me up,

Pastor Steve



FISHING | 12 JUNE 2018

Families and Friends of Christ Our Redeemer,

Every Memorial Day weekend when I lived in Alaska, I would go halibut fishing in Cook Inlet with a group of people from the congregation I served.  It was something I enjoyed doing, so long as the swells coming in off the open ocean just down the Inlet were not too extreme and the boat started to rock a bit more than I might like.  The blessing is pulling in a good sized halibut which provides wonderful fish filets that will last a long time for myself and the rest of the group.  Combine that with the opportunity to be out camping and being around fun people, and it made for a wonderful time.

Fishing was not something that was foreign to Jesus or his followers either.  When Jesus began His public ministry, he met the disciples at their own lake and then used fishing imagery to call them into His service.

He then unveiled His fishing plan.  Starting with a miracle on the lake, He calls the disciples to follow Him.  For three years He trains them.  Then, He goes to the cross to pay for their sins, rises from the dead, and commissions them for a worldwide fishing trip.  He also calls us to a similar trip.  Made His own in Baptism, we learn from Him, and we witness in family, community, nation, and world.

But we face obstacles to our fishing.  The disciples struggled with catching people, because they felt bound to their home country and people.  They constantly worried about unfavorable fishing conditions as opposition to Jesus mounted.  At times, we may find it difficult to picture Jesus coming for people of every city, state, tribe, and nation.  We can become preoccupied with daily unfavorable fishing conditions that we can lose sight of God’s international plan.

But the Lord gives us encouragement as He reveals His fishing method.  Luke 5:10 states, “Don’t be afraid.  From now on, you will catch people.”  He saturates us with His powerful life-changing Word.  Peter heard that Word from the pulpit of His boat before launching on that fishing adventure.  We hear that Word in worship and Bible Study.  Jesus applied that Word to the daily experience of the disciples.  How could they ever forget the miraculous catch of fish, the mountaintop transfiguration, the footwashing, the Last Supper, or the nail-pierced hands of the risen Lord?  No wonder they responded to His call.

You have also been called to go fishing, but not just for halibut, salmon, trout, or cod.  You have been called, and given the tools to, go fishing for people.  Have fun as you fish for the Lord!

 

From one who enjoys the art of fishing,

Pastor Steve



AN AMAZING COOKOUT | 5 JUNE 2018

Families and Friends of Christ Our Redeemer,

I love cookouts.  Fire up the grill or the campfire.  Prep the burgers, hot dogs, brats, fish, or chicken in various forms (or even the marshmallows and chocolate for SMORE’s).  Get the BBQ sauce or marinade ready.  When the fire is just the right temperature, set or hold the food on top.  Enjoy the smoke and smells.  Finally, devour the steaming hot food.

The last few weeks, I have been blessed to enjoy several cookouts.  When I lived in Alaska, the people in the congregation I served would often see me grilling outside my home next to the church when it was well below zero.  I will rarely, if ever, turn down an opportunity to take part in a cookout.

Would you believe that the Bible shares what will be an amazing cookout that we will all be able to take part in?  Isaiah 25:6 shares, “On this mountain, the Lord Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine, the best of meats and the finest of wines.”  Here, heaven is being describe as a cookout on a mountain, with God spreading out an amazing feast with the best meats and the finest of wines.  It’s something we can look ahead to with anticipation and hope.

The description of choice meats sounds inviting, but only if you are hungry.  Some people find it challenging to find time for God’s cookout.  They are busy tending to their jobs, getting promotions, paying bills, going on extended vacations, fishing, boating, and golfing.  They find they don’t have the time for this cookout that lasts forever in heaven.  When you’re full of hamburger, one doesn’t have room for even the tastiest of steaks. 

But when we get tied up in the “stuff” of this world, we can discover that everything tastes flat.  Even the finest wine and filet mignon can fail to satisfy.  Spacious swimming pools, growing bank accounts, and the continued accumulation of “stuff” do not ultimately satisfy.  We can hunger for more, an inner hunger that only the Lord and His love for us can fill.

And fill us He does.  God sent His Son to go without food for forty days in the wilderness and to drink the bitter cup of suffering by dying on the cross.  By His death, Jesus invites us to attend God’s great cookout in heaven, freely and without charge.  He not only invites us, but encourages us to invite others as well.

The next time you fire up the grill or prepare a campfire to prep your meal, keep these thoughts in mind.  As much as we like cookouts on this world, the Lord is preparing the most amazing cookout of all for us.  Best of all, it never ends when we feast with Him face to face in heaven.

 

From one who loves cookouts and looks forward to the most amazing cookout of all,

Pastor Steve



YOU ARE CONNECTED – 15 MAY 2018

Families and Friends of Christ Our Redeemer,

Are you connected?  A few years ago, a Midwest hospital found out it had not been connected.  For thirty-five years, a certain unnamed hospital had relied upon its water safety equipment in case of a fire.  Surprisingly, the water main had never been attached to the city’s water supply.  The pipe that led from the building extended four feet underground, and there it stopped.  For all those years, the medical staff and patients had placed confidence in an unconnected system.  Theirs was a false security.  The costly equipment, the polished valves, the well placed outlets – everything was more than adequate except for the one thing that was most needed.  There was no water.

So I ask again.  Are you connected?  Most of you have been blessed with a home, food, a TV, and clothing.  But are you connected?  Are you connected to the one Person who can save you in case of a catastrophe?  If so, that is cause for rejoicing.  You have the One Thing, the One Person who is needed.  You are blessed to call Jesus your Savior.  We are reminded of that love in Revelation 21:6. “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End.  To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life.”  Look to the cradle of Bethlehem, the cross of Calvary, and the tomb of His resurrection.  Jesus did all this for you so that the Holy Spirit might connect you with your Father in heaven and your family of faith.

 

From one who remains connected to all Jesus has done for me, and for you,

Pastor Steve



WIND RESTRAINT | 7 MAY 2018

Families and Friends of Christ Our Redeemer,

Growing up in the Midwest, I was all too familiar with what EF5 stood for.  An EF5 is the biggest, nastiest, most destructive tornado that can be measured.  I have seen an EF3 (a somewhat smaller tornado) tearing up the open prairies and a community in Nebraska before.  It caused plenty of damage itself.  I would not care to live through a direct hit.  Any tornado has the ability to flatten homes, turn a community upside down, and mess with plans, hopes, families, futures, and lives.

What some are not sure of is why.  Why do such storms happen?  Why do they hurt good people?  If God has the power to stop such things, why doesn’t He?  While tornados are not that common in this area, we certainly have to deal with other disasters such as earthquakes and floods.  Why might God allow them?

There are answers for this.  First, we live in a broken, sinful world that can produce terrible things.  When good people get in the path of a terrible thing, such as an EF5 tornado, they will get hurt.  Why doesn’t God stop these things?  It’s certainly not because He doesn’t care.  He cares greatly.  Although every storm like this does produce stories of miraculous deliverances, generally the Lord does not directly and miraculously intervene.  Generally, the Lord, who has called this world’s laws into being, lets those laws function unchanged.

Does that sound like He doesn’t care?  If so, look at the manger of Bethlehem, look at a Savior who was whipped, and stand before the cross of Calvary.  Please do not think, even for a moment, that God does not care.  Jesus lived, died, and rose that we might escape spending an eternity separated from Him.  Because of what Jesus has done, an EF5 or a massive earthquake doesn’t have the final word in the lives of God’s people.  Isaiah 41:16 says, “The wind shall carry them away, and the tempest shall scatter them.  And you will rejoice in the Lord, in the Holy One of Israel you will glory.”  Our deliverance is in the hands of a caring God.

 

From one who depends on the Lord for protection and deliverance,

Pastor Steve