THANKS | 11/21/2017

Families and Friends of Christ Our Redeemer,

What do you think about Paul’s words in Ephesians 5:20? 

“Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Some might say that Paul needed a “reality check.”  There have been times when I might have agreed with that opinion.  But that is not the case anymore.  I came across an article that has helped shift my thoughts.  I don’t know where it came from.  But it can help us be thankful even for those things we tend to complain about more often than not.

The article shares, “I am thankful for all of the following things…”

-The taxes I pay because it means the Lord has given me an income.

-I am thankful for snug clothes that show the Lord has put plenty on my table.

-For weeds and clogged gutters because it shows the Lord has given me a home.

-For high gas prices, because it shows I have a car and the ability to drive.

-For my candidate who was or was not elected, because I have been blessed to live in a land of freedom.

-For piles of laundry which is God’s way of saying I have more than “two robes.”

-For an alarm clock which goes off early every day.  The Lord wants me to know I am needed.

-From duplicate e-mails from my friends, because it means I have friends and they are thinking about me.

This list could and ought to go on.  We often complain about the hard times.  Yet, our Lord continues to bless us.  In response to His generosity, we can thank and praise, serve and share His love.  Thank God for His unnoticed and often unappreciated gifts.  We can share His Son’s sacrifice which has brought us life and hope.  Thank you, Lord, for the unconditional love you shower on me, and for giving me the opportunity to shower others with the same love.  Thanks be to God.

 

From one who is thankful for God’s love in unexpected ways,

Pastor Steve



COULDA WOULDA SHOULDA | 11/14/17

Families and Friends of Christ Our Redeemer,

Jackie Hooper, a legal assistant from Portland, Oregon, has created a Web site called wouldhavesaid.com . The site allows people to share the things they wish they coulda, woulda, shoulda shared with someone in the course of their lives.  The site is booming with confessions, accusations, and statements of love.  They are all made by people who, for a multitude of reasons, have been unable to share their feelings and thoughts with the person to whom the remarks should have been directed.

Some of the ideas are filled with grief.  Others contain gladness.  Others reflect pain.  Some, like a letter from a twenty-year-old say things like, “Grandma, thank you for showing me that being classy doesn’t mean being a snob.  You showed me that it is OK to be angry, and that it is hard to show your feelings.  Most of all, you taught me to love with my entire being, because that is what you did.”

Maybe you have such a person or persons in your life.  If so, today might be a good day to talk to them, to let them know what is in your heart.  Today is also a great day to share with your Savior what is on your heart and mind as well.  Psalm 106:1 tells us,

“O give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good.  His mercy endures forever.”

  He died on the cross to take away our sins.  The crucifixion itself lasted about six hours.  But every moment of His life was spent resisting temptation, fulfilling the Commandments, and doing everything that was necessary to save us.  In short, Jesus did what we could not do for ourselves.  His love for you is unconditional and free.  Because of His work, life, suffering, death, and resurrection, we now have the golden opportunity to say, “Thank you,” and realize that all we have comes from the Lord who loves each of us dearly.

 

From one who gives thanks for what God has done,

Pastor Steve



CONTENTMENT | 11/7/17

Families and Friends of Christ Our Redeemer,

Allen and Violet Large have been called the nicest Canadian couple in the world.  Why might some say that about them?  Several years ago, they won a lottery jackpot of $11.3 million and gave most of it away.  They helped the local fire department, some churches, cemeteries, the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, and the hospitals where Violet underwent cancer treatment.  The list of groups to whom they have given their fortune away is two pages long.

That’s pretty impressive.  But that isn’t what necessarily put them at the top of the nice list.  What boosts them up is their priorities and the way they talk about life.  Violet says, “What you’ve never had, you never miss.”  Allen says, “That money we won was nothing.  We have each other.”

The stories I’ve read don’t tell if Violet and Allen are familiar with the book of Hebrews.  They ought to be.  They seem to have adopted Hebrews 13:5 as their motto for living. 

“Keep your life free from the love of money, and be content with what you have, for He has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’”

They seem to understand what the Lord was trying to tell all of His people in this passage.  They understand that God was saying if you keep your priorities in line, and are confident that He’s there, watching out for you, you don’t have to worry so much.  Indeed, you can be content with your life.

This really leads to the next question.  Does God care about me?  The answer is simple.  He does.  Look at the Bethlehem manger.  Stand at the Jerusalem cross.  Run to the Resurrection Sunday’s empty tomb and you will see just how much God cares.  He cares enough to sacrifice His Son so you – and all who believe – might have peace in this life and heaven in the next.  That truth alone can bring us full contentment.

 

From one who finds contentment in all God has and continues to do for me,

Pastor Steve



By Grace | 10/31/2017

Families and Friends of Christ Our Redeemer,

It was this day five hundred years ago (October 31, 1517) that Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses on the church door at Wittenberg, Germany, and began what we now call the Reformation.  One of Luther’s main points of contention with the church of his day was his (and the Bible’s) statement that salvation came by grace through faith.  I’d like to help illustrate that with a story about a man who felt sorry for a turtle.

The man lived in Florida and was on Interstate 75 when he saw a turtle trying to make its way across the road.  Anyone who drives that highway knows the turtle’s chance of success was minimal.  Feeling sorry for the reptile, the man picked it up and took it safely to the other side.  The turtle’s story has much in common with our own.  The Lord, like the Florida man looking at the turtle, saw that we were going to fail in our attempt to get to the other side.  Like the man from Florida, the Lord graciously decided to do what we couldn’t.  The Lord’s help came in the person of Jesus who left the comforts and joys of heaven.  He came to earth where He fulfilled the Law for us, resisted temptation for us, and did everything necessary to deliver us to safety.  But there’s more to this story.

As the man from Florida delivered the turtle to the other side of Highway 75, he was struck by an Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake.  Experts say it takes 70 milligrams of rattlesnake venom to affect the human body.  The Eastern Diamondback can inject 800 milligrams of venom in a single wallop.  The turtle-helper was raced to the hospital where he was treated.  Do you see the comparison?

In Genesis 3:15 we read,

“He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”

  In this verse, the Lord gave to our ancestors the first promise of a Savior.  He let Adam and Eve know the day would come when Satan, sin, and death would be destroyed, and they would be delivered.  In His promise, the Lord also shared the cost of our salvation would come at a high price.  To save us, Jesus – like our Florida man – would be struck down.

Of course, there is a major difference between these stories.  Unlike the Florida man who never knew he was at risk, Jesus was fully aware that saving us meant He would suffer and die.  Although I can’t be for sure, I imagine the man from Florida might have done things differently if he had known that snake was in the grass.  That is unlike our Savior who set His face to the cross and graciously laid down His life so that we might be saved. 

Sola gratia.  By grace alone.  That is one of the foundations of the Reformation.  We are not saved because of anything we could do … but only because of what Jesus was willing to do.  It is a message Satan wants to corrupt.  But by grace alone is the only way you, I, and humanity can be forgiven and saved.

 

From one who lives by faith in the joy of God’s grace,

Pastor Steve



The Value of Discipline | 10/25/17

Families and Friends of Christ Our Redeemer,

A magnificent diamond was brought up from the depths of a South African mine.  After the exquisite gem had been presented to the King of England, it was entrusted to a cutting house in Amsterdam.  There, a gemologist studied the stone for some time.  Then, he cut the slightest of grooves into the diamond’s surface.

Then, the man set an edged chisel to the stone and hit the back of that chisel with his mallet.  When the cutter and the crowd started breathing again, it was found that the diamond had broken into two parts.  A casual observer to this might have concluded the diamond had been ruined by the careless work of the so-called expert.  Those who were there that day, the folks who were more knowledgeable, knew better.  They fully understood the gemologist had done exactly what had been necessary to make sure that diamond would attain its greatest value.

This is pretty much what the Lord does to us.  Each of us has experienced some moments where we have felt the Lord has placed on our shoulders more than we could carry.  We thought the Lord was being fickle and unpredictable.  But that is not so.  Hebrews 12:5b-6 reminds us,

“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord.  For the Lord disciplines the one He loves, and chastises every son whom He receives.”

 Long ago, the Lord showed His love for us in the sending of Jesus to be our Savior.  The sacrifice made by Christ is proof the Lord will only do what is right for us and best for us eternally.  This is why when the time of testing comes, we remember that the Lord is doing what is necessary to increase our value to Him and to those He puts into our lives, as challenging as that can be to see at the time. 

 

From one who seeks wisdom to understand and accept the Lord’s discipline,

Pastor Steve