MOLD ME

Families and Friends of Christ Our Redeemer,

A man was driving down a bumpy country road when he spotted a bag of cement just off to the side.  It had apparently fallen off a delivery truck when it hit a bump in the rough road.  Not wanting to see anything wasted, he stopped to pick the bag up.  When he bent down to pick up the fifty-pound bag, he about broke his back.  The bag’s contents were no longer soft and powdery.  Recent rain had penetrated the bag and solidified the contents into one solid block of super-heavy cement.

Over the years, I have met people who have become like that bag of cement.  According to God’s plan, they were originally designed to be shaped into something beautiful and useful.  Then, because of situations and the brokenness in their lives, they had slowly become hardened and inflexible.  Their lives had become an angry lump alongside the road.

That is not what the Lord wishes for you.  He doesn’t want your life to become like that hardened bag of cement.  But there is still room for you to be changed and enjoy the contentment Jesus so freely wishes to give you.  You are different than that bag.  Cement, once it is hardened, can’t be reworked.  You, as one of God’s children, can always be changed by His guiding hand.  Today can be different than yesterday.  The prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 64:8 writes,

“But now, O Lord, You are our Father; we are the clay, and You are our potter.  We are all the work of Your hand.”

 

God wants to fill your day with joy – the joy of sins forgiven, the joy of possibilities, and the joy which comes from having Jesus at your side.  By the miracle of His love, He can transform your life so it has a wonderful purpose.  When that happens, there is great rejoicing, not just in your life, but also in heaven.

 

From one who waits for the Lord to mold and reform me daily,

Pastor Steve



KEEP YOUR EYES FOCUSED

Families and Friends of Christ Our Redeemer,

I enjoyed taking the ferry from Bremerton, Washington to Seattle from time to time.  As you’re coming across Puget Sound, the huge skyscrapers and hills of downtown Seattle came into view and grew larger with each passing moment.  As you pulled into the port, those buildings were right in your face.  It was very impressive. 

While the buildings themselves grabbed your attention, I also thought about the men and women who worked to put those buildings up.  You can often see them walking on narrow girders many stories above the ground below.  I once asked one of these workers how they kept going without losing their balance.  He shrugged and said, “You get used to it.  The first rule is this.  Don’t ever look down or around.  Keep your eyes on the place you are walking toward.  Then you don’t get frightened.”

That’s a great rule.  Keep your eyes on where you are going.  That rule also applies to things other than walking on steel girders.  Hunters need to keep their eyes on where they are going when they go into the field.  Motorists need to keep their eyes on where they are going when they are driving their car. 

Above all, you keep your eyes on where you are going when it comes to eternal life.  If you look down at all the things the world has to offer and the temptations the devil places in front of you, it can get frightening, unsettling, and dangerous.  It’s too easy to fall.

That’s why we look at the place where we’re going and, just as importantly, look at the person, Jesus, who is taking us there.  Hebrews 12:1-2 remind us,

“Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith.”

 When we see His cradle, His cross, and His empty tomb, our fears disappear and we know we are safe.  Look to Jesus and find the safety that you need.  You don’t have to take my word for it.  Our Lord shares that message of hope over and over again in His Word

 

From one who focuses on what the Lord does for me,

Pastor Steve



BY GRACE

Families and Friends of Christ Our Redeemer,

Joe Arpaio was the sheriff of Arizona’s Maricopa County for 23 years.  He was the kind of law officer who believed that jailed criminals shouldn’t have things better than their victims.  That’s why he began a program called “Pedal Vision.”  If an inmate at Phoenix’s Tent City Jail wanted to watch television, he or she had to get on a stationary bike and generate enough electricity to run the TV.  When an inmate’s bike generated 12 volts of electricity, his TV came on.  An hour of pedaling allowed for an hour of TV watching.  No pedaling – no TV.  It’s that simple.

If you think Arpaio is being overly mean and dishing out cruel and inhuman punishment, you should know that the only exercise some inmates were getting was walking around the tent yard.  By asking his people to ride the bike, Arpaio’s pedaling program is keeping the prisoners in shape.

While we might applaud Arpaio’s work project, we can be thankful the Lord has not done the same sort of thing when it comes to forgiving our sins.  How long would a person have to pedal to pay for a bad thought, a cruel slip of the tongue, or a nasty action?  None of us have the kind of energy or time that would allow us to work off our sins.  That is why we are thankful the Lord saves us by grace, not by works.  Because of Jesus’ suffering, sacrifice, death, and resurrection, all who believe in Him are forgiven and are saved from eternal death and destruction.  That’s it.  NO pedaling, jumping through hoops, or wondering if we’ve done enough to win forgiveness and salvation.  Jesus has done it all.

 

From one who trusts in the Lord to do the pedaling,

Pastor Steve



MONEY BACK?

Families and Friends of Christ Our Redeemer,

Nobody can say the team’s general manager wasn’t blunt.  Several years ago, the Seattle Sounders FC (a pro soccer team) lost a game to the Los Angeles Galaxy.  In describing the performance of his team, the manager of the team said, “The effort wasn’t good enough.  The execution wasn’t good enough.  The heart wasn’t good enough.  The passion wasn’t good enough.”  Apparently, the front office of the team agreed.  That’s why they decided the season ticket holders should be rewarded.  They are getting their money back for the game.  The team offered a free one-game credit on the next year’s season tickets. 

It’s a great idea, but it sets a dangerous example.  For example, should you get your money back from a concert if someone plays a wrong note or a vocalist sings just a bit off key?  Should you get your money back if you go to a movie that doesn’t end with everyone living happily ever after?  Should someone who gambles at a casino get his money back if he was disappointed with the performance of the slot machine?  Where would it end?  Would the elders of a congregation feel obligated to return the congregation’s offering envelopes if the pastor’s Sunday sermon wasn’t up to par?  (Please be gracious here… J)  Eventually, a serious thought snuck into these questions.  What if God was disappointed with the performance of the people He created?  Could He, figuratively speaking, ask for His money back?

There was a time when the Lord regretted He had made us.  Seeing how our brokenness and sin had completely taken over our lives, God decided to wipe the slate clean and start again.  Genesis 6:6 tells us,

“The Lord was grieved that He had made man on the earth, and His heart was filled with pain.” 

But if the Lord had withdrawn His support, love, protection, order, and guidance from the universe, the result would be too frightening to even think about.  Martin Luther wasn’t joking when He said the Lord gives us all we “need to support this body and life.”

The Good News is that God follows through on His promise not to withdraw His support.  Our long-suffering Lord prefers to create rather than condemn.  In order to create a new heart within us and save us from ourselves, the Heavenly Father sent His Son into the world.  To forgive us, Jesus came and lived a life of complete sacrifice for us.  He obeyed the laws we had broken, resisted the temptations to which we give in to, and carried the sins that condemned us.  On Calvary’s cross, He completed the work that offers us salvation.  The empty tomb is proof that what Jesus did brings us new and abundant life.  As followers of Jesus, the greatest refund of all has been given to us through faith in Jesus – death exchanged for eternal life.

 

From one who treasures the refund God has given me,

Pastor Steve



I WOULD LIKE TO HEAR…

Families and Friends of Christ Our Redeemer,

There are some things I would like to hear, but I’m afraid I never will.  I would love to hear my car mechanic say, “The quote I gave you is way too high.  I was able to do the job for $200 less than I thought.”  I would be thrilled to hear a police officer say, “You know, I think my radar gun is off.  You weren’t speeding after all.”  Wouldn’t it be great to hear a store clerk say, “Don’t worry about the ‘next lane please’ sign.  I’ll take my break right after I finish ringing up your purchase.”  No matter how much I might wish for it, I doubt that I will ever hear anybody say these things.

In sharp contrast to these things that people will never say to me, God continues to surprise me by the wonderful things He tells me; great things to hear.  Deuteronomy 31:8 tells us,

“The Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you.  He will never leave you nor forsake you.  Do not be afraid.  Do not be discouraged.”

  When I feel unloved, God tells me that He cares.  When I feel alone, He reminds me that He is by my side.  When I think I am too weak to keep moving forward, He gives me strength.

Most importantly, I have a Savior who tells me that He has come to seek and save the lost.  All of us were once in that “lost” category.  But no longer.  Because of Jesus’ life, suffering, death, and resurrection, and because of the Holy Spirit’s call, we have been moved.  No longer lost.  But found.  We are found and forgiven.  Found and free to serve.  Found and given the opportunity and blessing to connect others to Jesus by the things we say and do.  We have been found by the Lord who wants to build a rock solid relationship with each of us, and to share that relationship with people He puts in our lives.  Now those are great things to hear!

 

From one who hears God’s calling out to me in love,

Pastor Steve