GREATER VALUE | 4 DECEMBER 2018

Families and Friends of Christ Our Redeemer,

“On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, a partridge in a pear tree.”  After the first verse, things can get a bit cloudy for us to remember.  Sure, we usually remember the golden rings on day five, but what about the days that follow?  Which goes first, the lords-a-leaping or the ladies milking?

Yet, I doubt any of us spend as much time thinking about this song as the folks at Pittsburgh Bank PNC.  Their experts calculated it would cost $34,558 to give you all the things on that song’s Christmas list.  That’s a nearly $200 increase from the year before.  In case you’re wondering, the cheapest gift on the list is the three French hens at $182.  The most expensive is the $13,125 for the seven swans a swimming.  The gold rings went up 10% in value last year.  Those are the facts, but not all the facts.

If you really want to know all the facts, if you really want to know what the Person who loves you most has given to you, you will have to take a journey in time and location. The time is a little over 2,000 years ago.  The place is Bethlehem.  There, in an animal’s feeding trough, you can see God’s Son wrapped in swaddling clothes.  He is the Gift.  He looks like a human baby because that is exactly what He is.  But He is far more than any other human child.  He is your Redeemer.

Look and see what God’s love for you has done.  As an adult, walk with Him and see how He taught as no other man has ever taught.  See how His word had the ability to heal peoples’ bodies and bring peace to troubled hearts.  Stay awake with Him in the Garden of Gethsemane.  Stand in awe of a heart that was willing to take the guilt of all your sins upon Himself.  Travel with Him to His trials, and watch how He refused to defend or release Himself.  Watch at the cross as love endured pain unlike anything this world has seen before or since.  Travel with His friends to His tomb and see how His lifeless body is quickly buried.  Then, before dawn, three days later, go to the tomb and see Him rise.  Look at these things, and you will see what God’s true love has given to you.

 

From one who sees the value of the gift He has given to me,

Pastor Steve



REMAIN FAITHFUL | 27 NOVEMBER 2018

Families and Friends of Christ Our Redeemer,

Two motorcycle lovers had an argument.  One of the men was a proud owner of a big, deep-throated, fat-tired, wonderfully decked out, American-made cycle.  The other cyclist was an equally proud owner of a brightly colored, high-pitched, very fast, foreign-made vehicle.  Each of the owners boldly touted the merits of his ride.  Finally, to bring the conversation to a close, the second cyclist – confident of the speed and acceleration of his rocket – challenged the American made cycle owner to a race.  “Enough talk.  You set the rules and name the course.”  The challenge was accepted.

The owner of the American made cycle said, “The race will be a short one – just down to the end of the block.  The winner is the rider that can do the distance in the slowest time without his foot touching the ground.  You can go first.”  The challenger, a great rider, went slowly.  Then, when he was done, the rider of the American made cycle got mounted and began his run.  His fat-tired, low-slung bike allowed him to move at a walking pace.  As he crept along, the rider kept his eyes fixed on the corner and his mind fixed on winning the race.  His bike was capable of high speeds.  But that day, he won the slow, steady race.

Most of us will not live flashy lives that will be noticed by the news media.  Most of us will do our work, raise our families, go to church and depart, with some friends and family sorry to see us leave.  I pray that you may realize that we who follow the Savior, who have been washed in His blood and cleansed of our sins, are only asked to finish the race and to do so faithfully.  Revelation 2:10 sums that up.  “Remain faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.”

 

From one who runs the race of faith with confidence,

Pastor Steve



TRUSTWORTHY | 20 NOVEMBER 2018

Families and Friends of Christ Our Redeemer,

Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, and HIV – how’s that for a nasty threesome?  Those are viruses we want to avoid.  Several years ago, the Ottawa Public Health office sent out 7,000 letters to people telling them they may have been exposed to those illnesses.  Maybe.  Possibly.  No one is sure.

The registered letter explained that these folks may have been exposed because an unnamed hospital at which they had undergone a procedure had not been practicing safe cleaning and sterilization.  Probably.  They also said that nobody had become sick yet, and they were pretty sure the risk of infection was minimal.  Still, they want people to know so they can – if they wish – get tested for the three illnesses to which they may have been exposed.

Kudos to Ottawa Public Health for following up as completely as they did in this matter.  Fortunately, it seems as though no one did become ill.  But if I had received one of those letters, I might have wanted something more definite.  All those “maybes” and “possiblys” and “probablys” would have left me incredibly frustrated and frightened.  Maybe that’s because I prefer to work with facts and not remote possibilities.

If that is also the way you feel, have I got something for you.  1 Timothy 1:15 tells us, “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the worst.”  That’s a sentence we can hold on to.  We are broken sinners and Jesus came to save us.  Period.  End of the reading.  Praise God!  No further discussion necessary.

 

From one who is confident that Jesus came to forgive and bless me and others,

Pastor Steve



GREAT VALUE | 13 NOVEMBER 2018

Families and Friends of Christ Our Redeemer,

A South Korean woman’s brother had been killed during the 1950-1953 war.  Now she, representing her family, has received compensation for his death.  The amount which the law has said should come to her was 5,000 won.  Won is the currency of Korea.  Translated into US dollars, the woman received $4.33.  Now, to be fair, the South Korean officials were embarrassed by the amount, and looked to change the law.  But at the time, $4.33 was the amount placed on a South Korean soldier’s life.

As you look at your children and grandchildren, what value do you place on them?  Certainly more than $4.33. But how much?  What is the price you would place on their lives?  What would you do or give to keep them safe?  If you’re wondering why I ask the question, it’s because the Heavenly Father asked it of Himself.

Taking a look at sinful Adam and Eve, seeing the generations of broken people that would come after them, He still said in John 3:17, “For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world might be saved through Him.”  I don’t know anyone else who would make that choice the way our Lord did.  It doesn’t make sense to have the innocent die for the guilty.  It’s not right for the perfect to be destroyed and the flawed to be kept.  It’s not right or reasonable.  Still, that is what our Heavenly Father did.  Jesus followed the plan to the letter.

Look at the Gospels.  You will be hard pressed to find any point in His life where Jesus said, “Wait a minute!  This isn’t right.  How am I supposed to suffer, be beaten and spit on, and crucified for you, when you can’t do anything without it being messed up by sin!”  Jesus simply doesn’t say that.  Instead, Jesus was about His Father’s business, until the time came when He cried from the cross a victorious, “It is finished.”

And it was.  The hymn writer pens, “A Lamb goes uncomplaining forth, the guilt of all men bearing; and laden with the sins of earth, none else the burden sharing!  Goes patient on, grows weak and faint, to slaughter led without complaint, that spotless life to offer.”

 

From one who is valued in the eyes of Jesus,

Pastor Steve



SELFLESS SACRIFICE | 7 NOVEMBER 2018

Families and Friends of Christ Our Redeemer,

The Carlson family had escaped the fire that was consuming their Wausau, Wisconsin home.  The only one missing was their dog, Koda, a Labrador retriever.  It took a while before some of the firefighters found and carried the dog out of the house.  At first, it appeared they had been too late, and the dog had died from the intense smoke in the burning building.  After a longer examination, it was evident that the dog was still struggling to breathe.

Although he had never been trained for anything like this, fireman Jamie Giese leaned in and began moth-to-snout respiration.  With Giese’s assistance, the dog began to breathe, and the firemen quickly covered her nose with a human oxygen mask.  From there, the dog was rushed to an animal hospital and an emergency center.  Koda was soon returned to the family.

When I hear stories like this, I wonder what the fireman was thinking when he bent down to help that dog.  Would he have done the same if it had been a cat, a parakeet, a hamster, or a mouse?  Where would his compassion have stopped?  When might he have said, “I’m not going to do this.  It is below my place.”

Even though the distance which separates the Savior from us is far greater than the distance between the fireman and the pet, the Bible never records Jesus saying our salvation was below Him.  On the contrary, consider the words of Philippians 2:6-11.  “He did not consider equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in a human form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.  Therefore, God has highly exalted Him and given Him the Name that is above every name, that at the Name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”  In this, Jesus shows the kind of selfless sacrifice we don’t deserve, but for which we give thanks.

 

From one who finds hope in the sacrifice Jesus made for me,

Pastor Steve