MADE NEW AGAIN | 9 APRIL 2019

Quite a few years back, a third grade teacher asked her church school class to write a one sentence definition of forgiveness.  Many answers were given.  But one answer stuck with her.  That student wrote, “Forgiveness is like meeting someone for the first time.”  Not seeing an immediate connection, the teacher asked the young boy what he meant.

He said, “When you meet somebody for the first time, there is nothing that person could have done or not done to make you upset or disappointed with him.  That’s why I think forgiveness is like meeting someone for the first time.  When God sees us, there is nothing about us to upset Him, disappoint Him, or make Him angry with us.”  That young man had a deep understanding of our blood-bought forgiveness. 

God says the same thing.  In Revelation 21, He tells us that, because of Jesus, He is making all things new.  That would include a new heaven and a new earth.  But it would also mean those souls who are part of the new heaven and earth are also transformed and new.  Washed in the blood of the Lamb, they have stood before the judgment throne of God and been declared innocent of all wrongdoing.  That’s not because they are so good or perfect.  They aren’t – on their own.  It is because their sins, which were scarlet, have been washed by Jesus’ blood.  Because of His sacrifice, they are now seen to be as white as snow.  Or, as the young man put it, because of Jesus, our heavenly Father meets us for the first time.  We have been made new – again – in Jesus.

 

From one made new in Jesus,

Pastor Steve



OPEN MY EYES | 2 APRIL 2019

2 Kings 6:15-17 tells us, “And the servant said, ‘Alas, my master!  What shall we do?’  He said, ‘Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.’  Then Elisha prayed and said, ‘O Lord, please open his eyes that he may see.’  So the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw.  The mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.”

This text from 2 Kings tells of Elisha’s servant was uncertain if the Lord was with them.  He wasn’t the first person to feel that way, and won’t be the last.  About eighty years ago, a poor little city boy heard his Sunday School teacher say, “Jesus is the Light of the world.”  Not surprisingly, the young boy took her remark literally.  After class, the child said to his teacher, “If Jesus really is the Light of the world, I wish He’d come hang out in my alley.  It’s awful dark where I live.”

The second story from about the same time tells of a farm boy who was carrying the kerosene lantern for his father.  The boy told his father he was concerned because the lantern didn’t show much of the path that was ahead of them.  The father’s answer is worth noting.  He said, “Son, you’re absolutely right.  But as you keep walking you will find the light will always allow you to continue on.”

These boys wanted to be assured and reassured.  Like Elisha’s servant, like us, those boys wanted to know they could count on the light and the blessings it brings, as well as the security it provides.  They wanted to be sure Jesus, the Light of the world, was with them – and that He will be clear in giving them directions as to what they should do and how they should lead their lives.

If you have ever felt the way these boys did, I have good news for you.  Jesus, the Light, is with you.  He will give you what you need to move forward.  I can’t promise that you will, like Elisha’s servant, have your eyes opened to see the spiritual forces the Lord has sent to protect you.  Nor can I guarantee you will have your eyes opened, so you may see every angel assigned to your case.

But I can promise that Jesus, whose life of sacrifice moved men and women of faith from spiritual darkness into God’s gracious light, is not going to reverse Himself.  He commitment and promise will always remain.  He is with us until the very end of the age.  If the darkness seems overwhelming, remember that Jesus is always there to give us the light we need to live our lives, the light that keeps us moving forward safely under His care.

 

From one whose eyes have been opened by the Lord,

Pastor Steve



GUILT FORGIVEN | 26 MARCH 2019

In Sherman, Ohio, about 80 miles southwest of Buffalo, New York, it’s not unusual to see young Amish folks going buggying, especially on a Sunday night.  Living a lifestyle that has long since disappeared for the rest of the world, four young Amish men give every impression that they “have their lives together,” leading a life that is honest, hard-working, and honorable.  Watching their buggy meander down the road, the casual observer can be forgiven if they feel a bit of envy in regard to these pals.  They seem removed from the temptations and trouble of the modern world.

What would you say if I told you the four were about to be arrested?  Would you shout “Police harassment!” or “Racial profiling!”?  I hope not.  The four were arrested for driving the buggy under the influence of alcohol.

How did the police know this?  The Chautauqua County sheriff made a wild guess when they drove their buggy into his squad car and flipped the buggy onto its side.  His report was not the only one making the rounds.  Good witnesses were hard to find since the other buggies that were there fled the scene of the accident.  Still, drinking and buggying happens.  A year before that, another Amish man led the police on a slow speed chase after an officer saw him consuming beer in his buggy.

This all goes to prove what the Bible has told us in Ecclesiastes 7:20. “Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins.”  Not even the Amish or you or me.

Knowing what that reality meant, God sent His Son to take our place under the Law.  More than that.  Jesus had to successfully resist all temptation thrown against Him and, then, when His life was complete, He had to defeat death. 

Jesus did all this so that you might be forgiven and your debt to God’s Law could be forgiven.  Jesus did this so that four young Amish men would know their Heavenly Father forgives them more completely than did their earthly father who had to get them out of jail.

 

From one whose guilt has been paid for in full,

Pastor Steve



RESURRECTION HOPE | 19 MARCH 2019

A man sold his restaurant on Main Street in a small town and took a position with a national insurance company.  The best thing about the new job was that he could work from home.  He like that because it allowed him to take care of his frail wife.  For him, this intensive caring for her was not a duty.  It was a chance God had given him to show his love to his Lord and to his bride.

Nobody was surprised to hear that death had paid a visit to the couple’s house.  The shock came when they found out it was he, not she, who had been called home to Jesus.  Everyone thought that she would not last too much longer following the death of her dear husband.  What some people forgot was the strong faith she had in a living Lord. 

Two days after the funeral, the wife took some small, slow steps, by herself.  It took what seemed like hours for her to walk from the bedroom to her husband’s empty office.  Surrounded by the memories, the clutter, and the scent of him, she blinked back tears and with trembling hands found what she had been looking for.  Even more slowly she made her way from her husband’s office to the closed front door.  In the window next to that door, she put up the sign her husband had used when he went out on his sales calls.  The sign read, “GONE OUT – BACK SOON.”

It was the wife’s witness that when the casket closes, it is not the end.  She knew that when you leave a Christian loved one’s casket at the cemetery, you are leaving memories.  But because of Jesus, you can look forward to a reunion.  Because of Jesus, life is not finished.  The widow knew that because her Savior had told her in John 11, “I am the resurrection and the life.  Whoever believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live.”  That’s the Easter hope we look forward to during this season of Lent.

 

From one who seeks the resurrection hope of Jesus,

Pastor Steve



JESUS IS DOWN HERE | 5 MARCH 2019

While cleaning up after dinner, a mother dropped a plate.  It shattered on the kitchen floor.  Naturally, the commotion brought her four-year-old son at a dead run.  Seeing that he was not wearing any shoes, she stopped him and asked him to go downstairs for the broom and dustpan.  He said no words.  But you could see the questions on his face.  Go downstairs?  Go into the dark, creepy, cob webby, damp, bug and who knows what else kind of monsters are down there basement?”  He did not want to do that.

Mom encouraged him.  “Don’t worry. I’ll be up here.”  That wasn’t enough to dispel the darkness.  Then Mom added, “Jesus is down there.  You don’t have to be afraid.  Get the dustpan and broom.”  Quickly, the four-year-old replied, “Jesus is down there?”  “Yes,” Mom assured him.  The lad walked boldly over to the basement door, threw it open with confidence and shouted, “Jesus, since you are down there already, mom wants you to bring up the broom.”  It was only when mom – hand in hand with her little one – went down the stairs, did the broom and dustpan get brought up.

You and I know that our broken world is filled with darkness.  The news reports and our own personal experiences can make us feel the darkness will soon cover us.  That would be the case if we didn’t have Jesus.  But Jesus’ hand around ours is the way the Lord manages to rescue us and move us from darkness into His light.  Psalm 139:11-13 encourage us.  “If I say, ‘Surely the darkness will cover me, and the light about me be night,’ even the darkness is not dark to You; the night is as bright as the day, for darkness is as light with You.  For You formed my inward parts.”

He is with us.  The Savior who was born for us, lived for us, suffered and died for us, is there.  The risen and ever-living Christ is present to listen to our prayers, to still our fears, and direct us through any darkness the devil, death, or this world can produce.

 

From one who knows that Jesus is down here with me,

Pastor Steve