BETTER WHEN USED | 11 JUNE 2019

Some experts claim that musical instruments, like grand pianos, stay in better condition when played than when they are stored unused.  The strings do not become brittle as quickly.  The wood stays more sensitive to sounds when the piano is played.

As for the talents and gifts that God gives to each of us, I believe it could be reasonably said that we either use them or lose them in time.  The great Polish pianist Ignace Paderewski was quoted as saying, “When I don’t practice for one day, I notice it.  When not in two days, my friends notice it.  When not for three days, everyone does.”

God has given each of us personal gifts and skills – if not musical talents, then perhaps mechanical (something I definitely have not been gifted with).  If it is not for painting pictures or writing poetry, then perhaps it is a gift to speak openly with others and be very outgoing.

In addition to the natural talents, God has given each of us spiritual gifts.  Some gifts of the Holy Spirit once given to early Christians we don’t see quite as much (at least, not as obviously) in the Christian community.  Miraculous healing would be one of these.  But other spiritual gifts are shared among us as God wills it.  This would include comforting, counseling, encouraging, teaching, expressing faith through friendships, and the like.  Paul explained this in 1 Corinthians 12:4 in this way, “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit.”

So, whether we speak of natural talents or of spiritual gifts, a good principle to follow is this.  Use these gifts to the glory of God and for the well-being of others and ourselves.  By using them, we keep them “fresh” and active.  By “spending” them, we enhance them.

As followers of Jesus, we have every motivation for using these gifts.  This shows our appreciation for what God has done for us.  The Father “thought” (planned) our salvation back in eternity.  The Son, Jesus, “wrought” it on the cross.  The Holy Spirit “brought” it into our hearts through the Gospel.  We say our “thank you” to God when we serve Him and those whom He puts into our lives with our gifts,

 

From one who strives to share the gifts God has blessed me with,

Pastor Steve

 



OUR WEAKNESS – GOD’S STRENGTH | 4 JUNE 2019

Last week, I mentioned the bald eagles I saw soaring (and heard screeching) above Turnagain Arm south of Anchorage, Alaska while I was hiking there a number of years ago.  It was an amazing sight.  On my drive back home to the church I served in Chugiak, I passed another place where the birds had gathered in numbers.  At Potter Marsh on the south side of Anchorage, many cars had pulled over to the shoulder.  People lined the edges and walkways along the marsh.  They were watching what had to be hundreds of migratory birds that had finally returned to Alaska for the summer.  The sheer number of birds and the large amount of noise they produced was quite impressive.

People will often say, “It’s for the birds” to express the futility or unimportance of something.  But these little creatures are not to be underestimated.  In Salt Lake City stands a monument to sea gulls.  In 1848, they had saved the crops of the new settlers by eating the crickets.  We read in the Bible that God directed the ravens to feed the prophet Elijah during a famine.  In Matthew, Jesus points to the birds as teaching us not to worry, for the Heavenly Father feeds them and us.

A great truth is at work here.  God can do great things through otherwise weak beings.  Paul wrote the people of Corinth who demanded wise and powerful speakers as their spiritual leaders, “God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, …, He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things – and the things that are not – to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before Him.” (1 Corinthians 1:27-29)

God chose to save broken, sinful people through His Son Jesus.  His Son became a man whom His enemies could nail to a shameful cross.  Jesus had chosen twelve very ordinary men to be His disciples.  They turned the world upside down through the sharing of the simple Gospel of God’s love.  He chose the apostle Paul who is described in 2 Corinthians 10:10 as, “In person he is unimpressive and his speaking amounts to nothing.”

God still accomplishes His saving purpose that way.  He will do that through those many would view as uninfluential.  Little children whose faith in Jesus is an example to adults.  Through poor, and often poorly educated, people who possess the wisdom of God.  Through social outcasts whom God has accepted because they believed in Him.  Through these unexpected people, God gets the job done.

“It’s for the birds”?  The situation is hopeless?  Not if God has a purpose to fulfill.  God indeed works through the “weak” things of this world to show us His strength.

 

From one who lives in weakness but clings to the strength of God’s love,

Pastor Steve



ON EAGLE’S WINGS | 28 MAY 2019

In the years in which I lived in Alaska, spring could be slow to arrive in the higher elevations.  As I hiked a portion of the trail south of Anchorage along Turnagain Arm from Indian to Bird at this time a number of years ago, several things quickly grabbed my attention.  Buds finally bursting out of the trees and plants.  The snow covered peaks shimmering in the bright sun.  The fast flowing water and the tides in Turnagain Arm.  But there was one thing that stuck out to me.  The screeching and soaring of almost more bald eagles than I could count.  They were on a quest, with their sharp eyes and just as sharp claws, to find dinner.  Seeing groups of them soaring above Turnagain Arm was an incredible sight.

Besides their good sight, the Bible says several other things about eagles; the strength of their wings and the swiftness of flight, among others.  All of this was known to the ancient Romans who chose the “Aquila,” the eagle, as a symbol on the standards of their legions.

Through Moses, God reminded His people, “You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself.” (Exodus 19:4) It was as though God had used eagles as His air force to deliver His people from bondage.  The goodness of God to each of us as individuals is described in Psalm 103.  “He satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.”  The reference is probably to an eagle renewing its life through molting.

What people have perhaps most admired about eagles is their ability to soar majestically at high altitudes.  As they rise high above they can help direct our sight to heaven above.  This may be the reason why John’s Gospel is symbolized by an eagle.  Someone has said, “From first to last his gospel soars on eagles’ wings to the throne of heaven.”  He began the gospel on a quite lofty word.  “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”  (John 1:1) Grace and truth.  The love of God bringing salvation.  Forgiveness.  Eternal life.  This all comes to us through Jesus, the Son of God offered on Calvary’s cross for our sins.  What incredible gifts for you and me as God’s children today.  Believing in Jesus as God’s eternal Word enables us to soar like eagles on the wings of faith. 

 

From one who sees eagles soar and is reminded of the hope we have in Jesus,

Pastor Steve



AN INHERITANCE THAT’S OUT OF THIS WORLD | 21 MAY 2019

Not that long ago, I saw a bumper sticker that I wasn’t sure how to respond to.  It was on the back of a fairly new sports car and said, “We’re spending our kid’s inheritance now.”  Unlike past generations, not all parents today are concerned about leaving something for their children.  When they do try, the wild ups and downs of the stock market or the many uncertainties of the economy can shrink its value in a heartbeat. 

But in sharp contrast to the unknowns and heartaches that may come with doing our best to save something for our families, Peter writes of an amazing inheritance that God has for you and me as His children.  In 1 Peter 1:3-4 he writes, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!  In His great mercy, He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil, or fade – kept in heaven for you.”  Who can truly rob me of God’s full forgiveness for my brokenness and failures?  Satan will try.  Your conscience may accuse you of not being good enough to possibly be loved by God.  But the Lord points you to the cross of His Son.  What can spoil the peace that God comes to bring you?  Storms will come and rock your boat in life.  Tears and frustration can seem to overshadow the hope that faith promises.  But His peace is still there, as sure as the nail prints in the Lord’s hand that takes yours and mine through the ups and downs of daily living.  What can devalue the glory of heaven that God is preparing for you?  Some may laugh at this promise, calling it “pie in the sky” or “wishful thinking.”  But God has assured you that what is waiting for you is far better than anything on this earth.  He staked His Son’s life on it.

Your heavenly Father is deeply concerned about providing an eternal inheritance for you.  That’s why He sent Jesus to the cross and raised Him from the grave.  That’s why, through the working of the Holy Spirit, He promises to build your faith in Him.  He wants nothing less than for you to have an inheritance that is truly out of this world

 

From one who lives in the hope of my Godly inheritance,

Pastor Steve



BEING DIFFERENT | 14 MAY 2019

Most all of us know someone who is graduating around this time of the year, be it from high school, college, graduate school, tech school, or elsewhere.  Multitudes of graduation speeches will be presented (and will for the most part be quickly forgotten).  But I have heard a few golden nuggets of practical knowledge over the years as I have attended more than a few graduation ceremonies.  The Bible also has encouragement for those about to enter a new and exciting chapter in their lives as well.

The apostle Paul from the New Testament encourages us be different.  In what way?  Romans 12:1-2 states, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy,…, do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”  It’s difficult to be different.  Many want to be a part of the “in” crowd.  When Paul says, “Do not be conformed…,” he has more in mind than designer clothing.  He means my life as God’s child.  For me, life leads to heaven and is not just lived out on earth.  My talents are for serving Christ, not just for making a living.  God’s commandments are guidelines for peaceful living, not the police officer’s rules to squeeze me in or close me out.  As God’s child, I’m different, and my Lord wants me to show it, difficult as that may be at times.

With one short phrase, Paul points to the motivation.  “I urge you,” he said, “in view of God’s mercy.”  That phrase takes me to Bethlehem where I see God’s loving heart beating in the chest of His Son.  Next, it leads to Calvary where I see His loving heart stop beating because of my sin.  Then, it directs me to the Word, the baptismal font, and the Communion rail, where His loving heart invites me to come and gives me faith to respond.  Finally, it points me to heaven, where I will be clasped to His loving heart forever.  Only such an incredible, unconditional, deep redeeming love such as His can make me want to be definitely different.

 

From one who strives to live differently,

Pastor Steve