SHARING LOVE | 2/13/2018

Families and Friends of Christ Our Redeemer,

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day.  Our thoughts can turn to love and marriage.  I’ve heard that there is a tribe in Africa whose marriages depend completely on clothing.  On her wedding day, the bride receives a single gift: a wrap that serves as her wedding gown.  The marriage lasts as long as that wedding dress.  As soon as the gown is threadbare, the marriage is over.  Here is how this works.  If the bride is happy, she never wears her wedding dress and it lasts for a long time.  If, on the other hand, the bride is disappointed with her new groom, she wears her wedding dress all the time.  The result is that the dress, along with the marriage, quickly becomes threadbare.

Over the years I’ve known more than one couple who could have used such a visible sign that their relationship was in trouble.  All too often, love deteriorates for one partner, while the other thinks everything is fine.  That’s really tragic.  This is why it is healthy for us to take stock of how we are treating those whom God puts into our lives.  Jesus can set the pattern for us.  In 1 John 4:7 we hear, “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God.  Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.” 

When you read through the Gospels, you see there was never a time when Jesus forgot to love those whom the society of His day considered unlovable.  Lepers were greeted, touched, and healed.  Those possessed by demons were embraced and cured.  Broken, sinful people were forgiven.  Now, even though the Savior is not with us visibly, he still shows His care for us.  His words of love spoken many years before in the Bible still reach out to us today, and not just on Valentine’s Day.  His love for you and me is constant, ongoing, and relentless.  And we get the opportunity to reflect that love onward to those whom He puts into our lives.  God’s love is not limited to you and me, and it’s certainly not limited to one day of the year.  His love, shared with us, can bring joy, hope, and peace to those around us as well.  Blessings to you as we remember God’s love for us on this Valentine’s Day

 

From one who wishes to reflect God’s love to others,

Pastor Steve



GREAT VALUE | 2/6/2018

Families and Friends of Christ Our Redeemer,

Yongle was a Chinese emperor who lived in the early 1400’s.  His craftsmen produced some beautiful pieces of pottery.  A few years ago, an unnamed man who had retired from a Cadbury chocolate factory carried a cardboard box into Duke’s – a Dorchester, England auction house.  Inside the box was a nearly foot tall vase known as a moonflask.  It had been made by Yongle’s craftsmen.

The people at Duke’s who evaluate such things went, “Wow!”  The very rich people who buy such things went, “Wow!”  This vase, which had survived for almost six hundred years, was in near perfect condition.  When it was auctioned, it brought in around $1.6 million.  That should make for a comfy retirement fund for this former Cadbury chocolate factory worker.  How many of us read this story and think, “I wish, just once, that something like that would drop in my lap and happen for me.”

In reality, such a thing has already happened.  James 1:17 reminds us, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”  James knew what he was talking about.  So did the angels in Bethlehem who spoke of the best, most perfect gift this broken world has ever seen.  In Luke 2:9-11 the angel said, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy for all people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”

Think for a moment what those words mean and what riches they share.  Because of Jesus, we no longer need to be afraid of what will happen to us or our loved ones when we breathe our last.  Because of the Savior given to us, we are no longer alone or left without hope.  Our sins no longer condemn us.  Because of the Savior who was born, lived, died, and rose again, we are rich.  We have received riches we did not earn and a Redeemer whom we did not deserve.  As the impact of this amazing love God has for us hits home in our hearts and lives, we too will be led to say, “What wonderful things God has done for me!”

 

From one who is left in wonder at all God has and continues to do for me, and us all,

 

Pastor Steve



ENOUGH TO GO AROUND | 1/30/2018

Families and Friends of Christ Our Redeemer,

People like to save things.  Some like to save money because it can make us feel secure.  Others like to save food by canning or freezing because it makes them feel prepared for the unknown tomorrow.  There are a few people who like to save everything, almost to an extreme, like hoarding.

But there are some things you can’t save, such as air.  I don’t know anyone who can save enough air in their lungs to last a week or two.  If you doubt me, try it.  Take a deep breath and hold it for as long as you can.  You might last a minute.  Some can go as long as two minutes.  Only a few can manage three minutes.  Somewhere before the five-minute mark, we would all begin to pass out.  Air isn’t the only thing we can’t save.  Food fits into that category.  You can’t eat enough food today to hold you over for the next six months.  You may have felt that way after a huge Christmas dinner.  But I’m guessing that you have eaten again since that time.  You can’t save everything.  There are some things we need regularly or you will die.

This may be one way in which the Lord reminds us how much we need Him.  If we could eat enough food, breathe enough air, and save enough money to hold ourselves over for six months, we might begin to think we don’t really need God to survive.  But we can’t do those things.  Just as a healthy person needs a continuous supply of air and food, so does a healthy soul need continuing connection and a relationship with God.

Thankfully, although good air is becoming harder to find, there is an abundant supply of the Lord’s love to go around.  Thank God for that.  His love gives us the strength we need to face each day.  Without His working in our lives, we would indeed be lost and have no real life or hope.  God’s working in our lives encourages us to join in with the grateful words of the Psalmist in Psalm 136:2. “Give thanks to the God of gods.  His love endures forever.”  You and I can breathe deeply of God’s love.  You can’t exhaust the supply.  There is always more for you, and enough to go around.  God provides all we need, now and forever.

 

From one who depends on the Lord’s love to keep me moving forward,

Pastor Steve



PRAYING CONTINUALLY | JANUARY 23, 2018

Families and Friends of Christ Our Redeemer,

When do you go to the Lord in prayer?  Some of the more common times we may do this is before meals, when we are sick or need something, or when we go to bed.  There is a challenge, and an opportunity, about prayer that I would like to bring before you today.

I’m grateful to a woman from the Bible named Hannah.  Her example sheds light on a Bible verse that can frustrate me.  I didn’t always understand it, and it made me feel guilty.  1 Thessalonians 5:17 says, “Pray continually.”  The Bible says that I am to pray all the time.  But there are times I struggle to enjoy prayer.

Have you strongly desired something, yet time after time, failed to receive it?  Then you may be able to relate to Hannah’s challenge.  The desire of her life was to be a mom.  She had prayed and begged God for years, with no results.  Still Hannah “kept on praying to the Lord.” (1 Samuel 1:12) When everyone else told her it was no use, she kept praying.  She never gave up.

You can imagine her frustration, always bringing gifts to her friend’s baby showers.  Many of her friends were getting pregnant – everyone but her.  With no hope in sight, Hannah kept praying.  How often did she cry herself to sleep with God’s name on her lips?  After this woman prayed for who knows how long, God honored her prayers and gave her the miracle of a son named Samuel. 

She prayed continually.  I struggle with that.  My knee-jerk reaction to the Bible’s “pray continually” can drift towards, “I don’t always feel like praying.  My mind wanders.  How can I pray continually when I can’t even pray for five minutes straight?”

Here’s an example of how my own questions can be changed, through an incident that happened to someone else.  A two-year-old wanted to ride his big sister’s scooter.  While that was not the best idea, and the scooter was too big for him, he did well as his father watched.  That is, until…  He went down a steep section of the driveway, went flying (literally), and smashed into the ground with a loud crack.  His femur (leg bone) was snapped in two.  That night in the hospital, the father held his boy for ten hours as they waited for surgery the next morning.  The whole time, he prayed without ceasing.

The prayer wasn’t, “Dear God, blah, blah, blah.”  It was more like, “God, how could I have let this happen?  Please, God, ease his pain.  Help him stop crying.  God, how is he going to handle a full body cast for six weeks?  Will he have residual pain for the rest of his life?  Why, God?  Help.  Please forgive me.  I feel horrible.”  With every breath, he exhaled a prayer.  The surgery was successful, and the boy is back to full speed again.  Just as the father needed God when his son was in pain, he needed him for every other moment in life.

So do you and I.  It is our most important relationship in life.  You make daily or at least frequent contact with the people who matter the most in your life via e-mail, texts, phone calls, or face to face contact.  Why?  Because we like to share our lives with people who are significant to us.  We need to hear their voices.  When we connect like this, we feel at peace, settled, and more secure.  I find that same peace and security, and more, when I stay in regular contact with God.

For me, prayer is becoming an attitude – not just a set of behaviors – directed to God.  God is my constant travel companion.  In the middle of some activity, I might say one sentence to Him, or go on for much longer.  The good news is that when we forget to pray continually, he never forgets to remain continually with us.  God is always there, ready to listen.  And I thank Him for that every day.

 

From one who needs to seek the Lord continually in prayer,

Pastor Steve



PRAYING CREATIVELY | 1/16/2018

Families and Friends of Christ Our Redeemer,

If you were to use a word or phrase to describe your prayer life, what word would that be?  Energetic?  Occasional?  Questioning?  On life support?  There are times in our lives when we feel dried out, tired, or a little blah, and that can translate over to our connection time with our Lord in our prayer life.  I have to admit I have times I get a little bored or distracted when praying.  I can have a hard time focusing.

That’s when a regular guy turned king helps me look at prayer a bit differently.  King David’s prayers in the Bible can lead me to pray creatively.  I don’t know anyone with a more inventive prayer and worship life.  David prayed through his instruments of worship (Psalm 108:1-3).  He prayed with songs (Psalm 13:6).  He even prayed while shouting (Psalm 20:5).  You can too.  Have you ever turned your prayers into a song?  It can be fun and freeing at the same time.  You may say, “But I can’t sing.”  That’s OK.  Your singing isn’t for people, but for God.

Here are some other variations on ways to pray.  While you’re mowing your grass, you might pray for your neighbors.  While you’re jogging, you might pray for the people who live in the homes along that street, even if you don’t know them.  Sitting in a dull meeting at work (we’ve all had those), you can pray for your supervisor and the co-workers who occasionally drive you crazy.  Any ordinary activity can be turned into prayer.

In Psalm 5:1-2 David writes, “Give ear to my words, O Lord, consider my sighing.  Listen to my cry for help, my God and my King, for to You I pray.”  I love the line “consider my sighing.”  Have you ever thought about sighing as a form of prayer?  God, thank you for loving me, pause, sigh, pause, etc.  God understands the emotions, questions, pain, confusion, and hopes that are wrapped up in your sighs.  Now, you can’t call just any old sigh a prayer, but a sigh directed towards God could become prayerful.

If you’re feeling insecure about your prayer life, I have some great news for you.  God’s waiting.  He wants to reveal Himself to you, and is waiting for you to reveal your heart to Him.  Through Jesus and His death and resurrection for you, the prayer lines have been opened wide.  You are His child, and He waits with open arms for you to come to Him.  He cares deeply.  My prayer is that your attitudes, thoughts, energy, focus, desire, and love may be directed towards the One who loves you deeply and unconditionally.  May the Lord bless your journey of life and faith as you connect with Him in prayer

 

From one who seeks creative ways to connect with the Lord in prayer,

Pastor Steve