Saturday, December 31, 2011

What You Can Count On In The New Year

As we stand on the edge of another new year there is the welcome anticipation of what the next 365 days will bring. There is, at the same time, a certain hesitancy. We know that 2012 might bring pleasant surprises, but it could also mean massive upheavals in our lives that change us permanently. The future is uncertain and while we would like to think we are in control of what happens to us, we all have an unsettling instinct that no matter how hard we might try, such is not the case.

Instead of jumping feet first into the coming year, pause for a bit and come before the Lord. Join us Sunday morning for our 10:00 am worship service and start the year reminding yourself of what you can count on in 2012. Changes will inevitably shake up your world, but the rock solid truth that God is committed to you for all of eternity is the foundation on which you can build an unshakeable life regardless of what might confront you. Three thousand years ago a believer wrote, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea. (Psalm 46:1-2)” God has not changed over the last three millennia. He is your refuge and strength today, throughout the next year and forever.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas: A Day Worth Celebrating!

We determine the chronology of world history by the event of Christmas. And that is fitting, for as one man said, "Christmas is the day that divides the history of the human race." God's entrance into human life means there are solutions in spite of so many problems, there is healing in the midst of so much pain and there is hope in the face of ever present death. Christmas is the proof that God is for human beings! And if God is for us, who can be against us?

No matter what you have going on during the next couple of days, nothing can make your Christmas celebrations more joyful than worshiping Jesus Christ, the One who gives Christmas its meaning. On Christmas Eve at 7:00 pm the children will present a beautiful program named "Jesus is the Light". We will sing the familiar hymns, hear the ancient Christmas story and remember what it all means to us. On Christmas Day we'll will begin our worship at 10:00 am and read through the Christmas account as it is found in the Gospel of Luke. Afterward, we'll enjoy a potluck Christmas dinner together. Christmas is worth celebrating. We hope you celebrate with us!

Friday, December 9, 2011

You Can't Find the Joy of Christmas at the Mall

This Sunday marks the beginning of the third week of Advent which means we'll be lighting the lone pink candle on our Advent wreath. The three purple candles urge us to develop a spirit of repentance during this time before Christmas as we recognize that Jesus came to die on a cross because of our sins. The pink candle, however, represents the joy we have as a result of Christ's forgiveness. And so our theme during this third week of Advent is joy!

Christmas is supposed to be a joyful time of year. And for many, it is. But we also know that for many, Christmas is one of the hardest seasons of the year to endure. Instead of being uplifted by all the merriness, people are plunged into the depths of depression because they somehow or someway feel left out of the celebrations. What an ironic tragedy! What a misunderstanding of Christmas! It was for the hopeless and the helpless that the very first Christmas took place. The joy of Christmas is not having parties or family reunions, but the eternity changing announcement of the angels, "I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord."

The joy of Christmas isn't in our circumstances but in God's reaction to our circumstances. The joy people look for in gift-giving and celebrations is more of an emotional happiness. The rock solid joy of Christmas isn't something you can get at the mall. It isn't even something you can get from being with other people. The joy of Christmas comes directly as a gift from God. And the only way a person can receive it is by experiencing a sense of destitution before the God who made us. Only then can we appreciate what God accomplished through Christmas. And that is the door to a joy that does not depend on what is happening in our lives. For that joy is based on another incredible angelic announcement, "He is not here, he has risen!"

Friday, December 2, 2011

Preparing For Christmas: Pepper Spray or Penitence?

It's been all over the news this last week. In Los Angeles a woman used pepper spray at a Walmart to ward off other shoppers who were hawking the half priced XBox 360 she came to purchase. Reporters say the woman had her children along as she executed her shopping strategy. One wonders what they will do when they become old enough to attend Black Friday sales by themselves? Will protective eye gear and gas masks become standard equipment for pre-Christmas shoppers?

A quick search on portrays Black Friday at Walmarts throughout the country as a continuous night of mayhem. In Texas a woman, surrounded by dozens of other frenzied consumers, fell into a gigantic box as she tried to grab an armful of $1.28 towels. People were almost crushed in Little Rock, AK as rabid shoppers literally clawed at each other to come away with a $2 waffle maker. Such shopping intensity gives a new meaning to the words, "It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas"!

The contrast between what goes on in stores and in Christian churches during the weeks before Christmas couldn't be more different. According to Christian tradition, Advent* is meant to be a season of solemn self-reflection and serious evaluation of the direction our lives are taking. The color of the season is purple which represents the need for penitence on our part. Penitence is the recognition of our sin and the need for Christ's coming to this earth to win forgiveness for us. One wonders how a time for penitence morphed into an excuse for using pepper spray to buy a XBox 360?

Which term best describes your Christmas preparations: pepper spray or penitence?

Join us this Sunday (December 4) at 10:00 am for some truly Christ centered Christmas preparations.

*The word Advent means "coming" and refers to the four weeks before Christmas when Christians prepare to celebrate Christ's first coming 2000 years ago and look forward to his second coming on Judgment Day.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Are We Just Fooling Ourselves That Things Will Get Better?

The poet Alexander Pope wrote "Hope springs eternal in the human breast" to describe the optimism of the human race. No matter how bad things get, according to Pope, people believe that sooner or later their quality of life will improve.

Those who are optimistic will point to emotionally encouraging stories of people who struggled through incredibly difficult situations and overcame their problems with the result of a dramatic change in their fortunes. The more pessimistic will simply point to a cemetery and say, "That's where we will all end up so how can you talk about hope?"

Is hope just a self-delusion or does there exist a type of hope that is so certain and solid that we can build our lives on it? The Bible certainly describes hope in a way that leads one to believe we can put our trust in it. This Sunday we begin celebrating the season of Advent, which is a four week period of preparation before Christmas. One of the important themes of Advent is hope. This Sunday we're going to study what the Bible said about hope during the Old Testament and how it describes hope now that Jesus Christ has come.

There is a saying that people can survive a few weeks without food, a few days without water, but we can't live a moment without hope. Hope is the difference between giving up and going on. Hope is what distinguishes winners and losers, success and failure. But more importantly, the hope which is described in the Bible is the basis for life not only today, but for eternity.

Are you starting to lose hope? Join us this Sunday (November 27) at 10:00 am. Let the Hope of Christmas start to change your life!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Why Didn't Jesus Heal Everyone?

"Why didn't Jesus heal all the sick people when he was on this earth? In fact, why didn't he just take care of all of humanity's problems?" Those are good questions not so much from the perspective of questioning Christ's decision making but rather to help us understand our role as Christians living in a world full of what seem to be insoluble problems. The Gospel accounts describe the ministry of Jesus Christ as one of non-stop action. He was always preaching or teaching or doing something for someone. One time when people told him to slow down he said, "Look, there's only a certain amount of time to work so let's get to it." And yet, when we count up the number of people Jesus actually healed in a physical way, it comes to about 3 dozen or so. A drop in the bucket of human suffering.

Christ made it very clear that his number one priority was to provide healing for the souls of all human beings through his death on the cross and his coming back to life three days later. His spiritual and eternal mission, however, did not keep him from helping people on a physical level, even if the affects of his help would not last. In a sense, one could say that in regard to Christ's social ministry, he was fighting a losing battle. And yet, he kept on fighting that battle, even to the end of his life (remember how he healed the severed ear of one of the men who arrested him). The way Jesus intensely worked to right the wrongs in this world is the inspiration for Christians to make a difference in our world as we wait for Judgment Day.

Last week we heard repeated warnings from the sermons of Jesus concerning the certainty of Judgment Day and the two alternatives people have as they face that moment. However, he didn't leave his teaching on Judgment Day there; he tells his followers how to live while they wait for that great day. He says we are to be working, to be using all the abilities and talents we have to be his representatives in this world. Does he hold out hope that someday this will be a perfect world? No. But that's not the point. He told us to love others the way he loved us. How the world changes is not up to us. Instead, it is our part to do everything we can to live each day as Christ would if he were still walking this earth as he did 2000 years ago. This is not a time for waiting but for action. We have all of eternity to enjoy the rest Christ will give us then.

Join us this Sunday (November 20) at 10:00 am and let's inspire each other to work for Christ while we look forward to his coming at any moment.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Judgment Day: Reality or Scare Tactic?

It's a beautiful Hawaiian afternoon with the trade winds blowing gently in your face. The work day is over and you are walking to your car ready to enjoy a quiet evening at home. Suddenly you hear the sickening sound of metal crunching and glass shattering. What you see ruins any prospect of an enjoyable evening. A teenage Steve McGarrett wannabe has simulated a Hawaii Five-O chase scene in the parking lot of your workplace. But instead of booking the bad guy he has banged into your car.

When the police officer asks for his insurance card, the young man responds, "What's that?" It becomes clear the only way you will get reimbursed for the repair bill is if you take the offender to court. Six months later after four court appearances the judge finally gives his judgment: he rules that the young man does not need to pay you anything. You are stuck with all the repair costs!

What are the first words out of your mouth? Probably something like, "THAT'S NOT FAIR!" The judge did not do his job and justice was not served. You are upset (That's an understatement)!

If someone were to ask you why you were so angry about not getting justice, you might feel a little frustrated at trying to explain something that seems so obvious. Your car was correctly parked when the boy hit it. The damage done to your vehicle was entirely his fault. Therefore, justice demands that he pays for the repairs. But why do we all have that sense of justice? No one teaches it to us, we all just have it. And when we meet people throughout the world, we find they have the same sense of justice.

You are probably thinking that the story above has got to have something to do with God, Jesus, the devil or the Bible, and you are right. We are in the season of the Church year when we study the end times: Judgment Day, heaven and hell. Hell is a very offensive concept to many people. The stock question about it is, "How can a loving God send people to hell?" That question, however, misses the point of God's justice. The fact that God effectively serves justice on every form of evil that exists is the basis for our human justice. If God is not just, we cannot positively know what is just in human life nor can we even begin to talk about life after death. Without God's justice, human existence has no meaning.

Join us this Sunday (November 13) at 10:00 am as we work to understand how God's justice is as important as his love.

Friday, November 4, 2011

The Proof of the Pudding Is in the Eating

No matter how delicious a certain type of food looks, what matters most is the taste. It helps to have a good salesman present a certain product, but in the end, what the customer wants most is for the product to work well for a long period of time. Results--that's what we're interested in. Talk can be interesting, thought provoking, even captivating, but we need to see that talk become reality.

Listening to non-Christians describe the way they see Christians live out their faith, it seems that some are asking to see more proof that Jesus makes a life changing difference in our lives. They hear us say we have been "born again" or that we are "conquerors through Christ", but how they see us live on a daily basis, according to these folks, presents a much different picture. And sadly, research does demonstrate that many Christians have a moral life very similar to that of non-Christians. Jesus Christ had a very different view of how his followers would live. He said, "Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."

The love of Jesus Christ was never expressed only in words, it was always accompanied by action. Reading the narratives of his life in the Gospel accounts one finds Jesus almost constantly demonstrating a loving commitment to people on a very practical level. And people noticed. Even those who hated him couldn't find anything he had done wrong with which to accuse him.

It may possibly be that Christians today have misunderstood Christ's promise to change our lives and have the idea "he will give us the kind of life we want, all the time". Jesus never taught self-gratification as the "good life". His teaching of a life worth living centered on a personal relationship with him which then worked itself out in our relationships with other people.

In our last sermon study from the New Testament book of Galatians we are going to discover what authentic Christian living looks like. Instead of a selfish grab for pleasure and comfort, the Apostle Paul (who wrote Galatians) describes the Christian life as one of restoration, burden bearing and humble hard work. Certainly it is not a glamorous lifestyle by society's standards, rather it is a life meant for eternity. Join us this Sunday (November 6) at 10:00 am and together let's commit ourselves to living a Christian life that makes a difference!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Freedom Isn't Free

The high school in our neighborhood has an electronic sign which daily flashes the message "Freedom Isn't Free". It is a good reminder for us all that there are thousands of brave men and women stationed throughout the world prepared to give their lives in defense of the freedoms we enjoy each day here in the United States of America. Political freedom came at a great cost when the 13 colonies broke away from England. Since that epic moment in history hundreds of thousands of American lives have been sacrificed to preserve our freedom. Tragically, it is likely that such sacrifices will continue to be made in the future. Freedom isn't free.

Spiritual freedom came at an even higher price. For us to be freed from the slavery to sin, the price was the death of God's own Son, Jesus Christ. No greater sacrifice could be offered. The Cross is a sobering testimony of the seriousness of our sin. Because of that sacrifice, however, we are free. We are free from the guilt of our evil; free to stand before our God without being condemned; free to spend eternity with him. What glorious freedom! But always remember the cost at which it was purchased.

The war for spiritual freedom isn't over yet. Satan isn't going to give up on trying to take Christians back into his slavery. Unrelentingly, he attacks our weak spots, enticing us to give up the freedom Christ won for us. This Sunday we are going to look at what the free life in Christ looks like in contrast with the life of slavery Satan offers. Arm yourself for the war you face every day. Join us at 10:00 am this Sunday (October 30) for a recommitment to the freedom Jesus Christ won for us.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Knowledge Is Power

A quick search of the phrase "knowledge is power" reveals that it has an almost endless number of interpretations. Some are cynical, others positive. For the Christian, knowledge of Jesus Christ and what he means to our lives offers the power to live a life of freedom. That statement may come as a shock because of the way most people think of freedom today, but that is exactly the case.

You might be wondering, "But what about the 10 Commandments? They're all about 'Thou shalt not do this or that!' How can you find freedom in prohibitions?" Albert Einstein said, "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." Tragically, that is the story of the human race. Generation after generation believes that freedom is being able to do whatever a person wants, only to find that such thinking condemns the individual to a destructive and ultimately depressing life. Freedom, as God intended for human beings, is the ability to decide what is best and then do it.

With Jesus Christ as the Savior and Lord of their lives, Christians have the ability to see our culture's faulty definition of freedom and choose to live in such a way that frees them to become the kind of people God created them to be. Join us this Sunday (October 23) at 10:00 am and experience the rush of freedom Jesus Christ wants for you.

Friday, October 7, 2011

The Pearl Necklace

The cheerful girl with bouncy golden curls was almost five. Waiting with her mother at the checkout stand, she saw them: a circle of glistening white pearls in a pink foil box.

"Oh please, Mommy. Can I have them? Please, Mommy, please!"

Quickly the mother checked the back of the little foil box and then looked back into the pleading blue eyes of her little girl's upturned face.

"A dollar ninety-five. That's almost $2.00. If you really want them, I'll think of some extra chores for you and in no time you can save enough money to buy them for yourself. Your birthday's only a week away and you might get another crisp dollar bill from Grandma."

As soon as Jenny got home, she emptied her penny bank and counted out 17 pennies. After dinner, she did more than her share of chores and she went to the neighbor and asked Mrs. Smith if she could pick dandelions for ten cents.

On her birthday, Grandma did give her another new dollar bill and at last she had enough money to buy the necklace.

Jenny loved her pearls. They made her feel dressed up and grown up. She wore them everywhere--Sunday school, kindergarten, even to bed. The only time she took them off was when she went swimming or had a bubble bath. Mother said if they got wet, they might turn her neck green.

Jenny had a very loving daddy and every night when she was ready for bed, he would stop whatever he was doing and come upstairs to read her a story. One night when he finished the story, he asked Jenny, "Do you love me?"

"Oh yes, Daddy. You know that I love you."

"Then give me your pearls."

"Oh, Daddy, not my pearls. But you can have Princess--the white horse from my collection. The one with the pink tail. Remember, Daddy? The one you gave me. She's my favorite."

"That's okay, Honey. Daddy loves you. Good night." And he brushed her cheek with a kiss.

About a week later, after the story time, Jenny's daddy asked again, "Do you love me?"

"Daddy, you know I love you."

"Then give me your pearls."

"Oh Daddy, not my pearls. But you can have my baby doll. The brand new one I got for my birthday. She is so beautiful and you can have the yellow blanket that matches her sleeper."

"That's okay. Sleep well. God bless you, little one. Daddy loves you." And as always, he brushed her cheek with a gentle kiss.

A few nights later when her daddy came in, Jenny was sitting on her bed with her legs crossed Indian-style. As he came close, he noticed her chin was trembling and one silent tear rolled down her cheek.

"What is it, Jenny? What's the matter?"

Jenny didn't say anything but lifted her little hand up to her daddy. And when she opened it, there was her little pearl necklace. With a little quiver, she finally said, "Here, Daddy. It's for you."

With tears gathering in his own eyes, Jenny's kind daddy reached out with one hand to take the dime-store necklace, and with the other hand he reached into his pocket and pulled out a blue velvet case with a strand of genuine pearls and gave them to Jenny.

He had them all the time. He was just waiting for her to give up the dime-store stuff so he could give her genuine treasure.

What are you hanging on to that is keeping God out of the first place in your life? Whatever it is, give it over to him and receive the genuine treasures your Heavenly Father has ready for you.

This story was an e-mail forwarded from an anonymous author.

Friday, September 30, 2011

It Doesn't Matter Anyway, Or Does It?

A lot of people dismiss discussions about God with the words, "It doesn't matter anyway. Everybody believes what they want to believe." The impression these people give is that beliefs about God are like beliefs about which type of pizza is the most tasty. Everybody has their own opinion, but in the end, which kind of pizza each person likes best doesn't affect anyone else. That kind of logic would make sense if God were just a part of our imagination. Then we would have the liberty to make him out the way we think he should be, like an artist painting a picture on a canvass. The only problem with an imaginary God is that the help he might give us would also be imaginary.

If God is actually going to make a difference in our lives, he must be a real, separate being, totally distinct from the people he created with the ability to be involved on our behalf. And that is exactly the way God is described in the Bible. However, if God is real, then we don't have the option of making him out to be the way we want. Instead of saying, "I think God is like....", we need to find out what God says about himself and then take him at his word.

The New Testament book of Galatians is a crucial statement about the way God makes people right with himself. Some people read this short letter and wonder what all the fuss is about. But for those who are looking for clear answers to life's most important questions, Galatians is like a lighthouse on a foggy night. God has spoken about himself and how we can be a part of his family. There is no more important subject which a human being can ponder. Join us this Sunday (October 2) at 10:00 am as we consider beliefs that matter not just for the moment or a few years, but for eternity.

Friday, September 23, 2011

When To Take A Stand

What do you think of when you hear the word "bullheaded"? Regardless of the image, it probably isn't a positive one. Typically we use the word "bullheaded" to describe a person who makes life incredibly difficult by fighting over every little thing. No matter how much you try to compromise, with the bullheaded person it has to be either his/her way or the highway. For such people, there is no room for the kind of compromise and cooperation which are absolutely essential to getting along with other people.

In recent years, however, the "bullheaded" concept has been very mistakenly applied to any individual who feels strongly enough about an issue to disagree with the majority or those who are in power. Nowhere is that more evident than in the increasingly hostile language appearing in our media directed at Christians and Christian teachings. Whether the issue be evolution, sex or stem cell research, Christians are portrayed as "bullheaded" simpletons whose only motive is to control the behavior of the rest of society, when in reality the debate should be about truth. Taking a stand for what one believes is the truth should never be mistaken for "bullheadedness".

Beginning this Sunday we are going to be studying the New Testament book of Galatians. This short letter was written by the Apostle Paul less than 20 years after the resurrection of Jesus Christ. For two thousand years the words Paul wrote have served as a Christian manifesto on truth. It is a letter full of intense emotion, reflecting a man who has staked everything on the message that eternal life comes through faith alone in the forgiveness of Jesus Christ. God took a stand for you when Christ went to the cross. The result of what happened on that cross enables us to take a stand for God. Compromise can be a key to getting along with people, but it is always disastrous when it changes the truths of God.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Too Good To Be True?

When you were young you probably heard these wise words from your parents, "If it is too good to be true, it probably is." Unfortunately, there are a lot of people who are looking to take advantage of others. They know just how to manipulate feelings and emotions so that the other person is lured into some type of agreement or commitment that appears fantastic but which in reality is a disaster. Afterward, when the person realizes the deception, their reaction is, "At the time I just couldn't refuse." Getting burned in a business deal or relationship leaves us not only bitter, but cynical. We start to question or doubt the sincerity of all people. We develop an attitude which questions, "What's your angle? What's in it for you?" That kind of thinking may help us in defending ourselves from being taken advantage of by other people, but it undermines our relationship with Jesus Christ.

When it comes to the Lord's promises, he is good for them. If you ever have any doubt, revisit the tomb he left empty on Easter Sunday. His resurrection is your confirmation that he is good for everything he promises. One of the more incredible promises he makes to his followers comes in the form of what we call Holy Communion. When Jesus instituted this Sacrament he said, "Take and eat; this is my body. Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins." (Matthew 26:26-27) To our doubting minds those words sound "too good to be true". We wonder how something so simple as believing that by eating a little bread and wine a human being can be put into a right relationship with the eternal God. Something in us wants to drag our intellectual feet. That's when we need to remember who spoke those words. One of the great tragedies of life is that we are naive in regard to human schemes and cynical toward the promises of Jesus Christ. Join us this Sunday (September 18) at 10:00 am and be ready to take Christ at his word. You'll never regret it!

Friday, September 9, 2011

The Personal Touch

My dad was not someone who enjoyed writing. You could even see it in the shape of his fingers. They just weren't made to hold a pen or type on a keyboard. His fingers were more like thick strands of cable, strong and ready to work. But when it came to writing my mother's birthday cards, my dad would turn into a poet. It wasn't easy. He would trudge upstairs to a little room in the attic where he wouldn't be disturbed. To grease the literary wheels he sometimes even took a glass of wine along with him! But each year he would come down with a masterpiece. Without fail, my mother cried when she read them. Dad was the kind of guy who could have gotten away with just signing his name at the bottom of mom's birthday cards. You didn't have to spend much time with him to see he wasn't the "touchy feely" type. But he ventured into an area of life where he wasn't all that comfortable because he knew how much a handwritten, personal note meant to my mom on her birthday.

The personal touch--it makes all the difference, especially in a world of recorded telephone calls, mass e-mails and bulk mailings. We receive all sorts of communications from people who pretend to know us but have never met us. What a treat it is to receive a handwritten note in the mail or even a personal e-mail from a friend! The personal touch--it's one person saying to another, "You are special to me."

Have you ever wondered what it might be like if God personally touched our lives? It wouldn't take much, we think, a short note, a quick conversation. And yet, God does come to us with that personal touch. Each time we receive Holy Communion, that is his way of coming to us individually and saying, "You're forgiven. You're mine. You're going to be with me forever." Regardless of what is happening in your life right now, the God who made you wants to personally touch your life.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Are We All Just Victims Of Circumstance?

Are we human beings responsible for our actions? The answer throughout history has always been a straightforward, emphatic "Yes"! Times have changed in this regard and we can see this change in all aspects of our society from our legal system to our schools to the work place. People, today, commit the most outrageous crimes which would have led to extended time in jail years ago, and yet are excused because of some psychological condition or an extenuating circumstance in their life which is blamed for their grossly inappropriate behavior.

Can we human beings choose to avoid harmful behavior by denying ourselves something we want? Historically, that question has also been answered "Yes"! Today, however, "scientific" studies try to tell us that we really can't control our emotions or desires. A tragic example is the mass distribution of birth control in our public school system which is based on the thinking, "Well the kids are just going to have sex anyway so at least we should give them 'protection'." Given the lowered moral standards of our society one might think, "That kind of makes sense." However, a much greater principle is at stake; the principle: Can humans make good choices? If we cannot, then where does such thinking stop? Do we just let people continue to take drugs, steal, hurt each other because they can't be any other way?

Jesus Christ made it very clear that his followers are not at all victims of circumstance, but have at their disposal everything necessary to make wise, healthy choices in life. This Sunday we continue to study the meaning of baptism in the life of a believer. While some may relegate baptism to the category of cute family rituals, the Bible places it at the forefront of this whole question of human accountability and behavior. Baptism provides Christian disciples with the motivation to be able to rise above our circumstances and do what is right, regardless of what our desires tell us or what the rest of society encourages us to do.

If you want the power to rise above the situations in your life which are holding you down, making you a prisoner to sinful, destructive behavior, join us this Sunday (September 4 at 10:00 am) to discover how God will set you free through your baptism.

Friday, August 26, 2011

What Do You Do When You Don't Feel It?

"I don't feel like it."
"There's no feeling left in me."
"How can I do something without having the right feelings?"

Feelings play a major role in our lives. Very often they determine its course. People consider it sophisticated to live by their feelings. Usually it is said this way, "I live by what my heart says." That's code for, "I do what I feel like doing." The problem with a feeling driven life is our feelings are very often not based on facts or the way things really are. Our feelings change from moment to moment and very often are based on such variables as our physical condition, the way other people are treating us, our circumstances and our perceptions of each one of the items just listed. Even if we are a "feeling" type of person, we have to admit that many times acting on our feelings has gotten us into big trouble.

Our spiritual lives are no less affected by our feelings than any other aspect of our lives. There are those times when we feel like shouting, "I love you Lord!" and there are also moments when we actually do cry out, "Where are you Lord?" If our daily walk with Jesus is going to be determined by how we feel, we're in for a life of highs and lows that very often degenerate into a series of varying lows. When it comes to living as a Christian, the Bible tells us to keep our eyes fixed on the unchanging truths of what Christ has done for us, not on ourselves.

When Christian feelings go south and we're left wondering if we even still have a faith, it's time to look at the power God gives us through baptism. It's probably been a while since you've thought about your baptism. Chances are, you don't even remember it. So what good could an event that took place years ago possibly have today? Surprisingly, the answer is, "A whole lot!"

Join us this Sunday (August 28 at 10:00 am) and rediscover a source of power you may have forgotten. Your baptism was meant to be so much more than a page in your memory book!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Does It Pay To Live God's Way?

In 1939 baseball manager Leo Durocher looked over at an opposing ball team and said, "Take a look at them. They're all nice guys, but they'll finish last. Nice guys finish last." Was he right? In a recent article, The Week magazine reports that "Men who were below average in terms of agreeableness and cooperativeness make 18 percent more--almost $10,000 more per year--than their kinder, gentler office mates."

For the last several weeks we have been studying different aspects of the Christian life as described in the book of Proverbs. Much of what we've learned about being a "nice guy" requires a lot of hard work and sacrifice knowing that in some cases our efforts will not be recognized. So the question a lot of Christians have is, "Does living the Christian life actually pay off in the real world?"

If a person looks at life superficially, from a cynical, self-centered point of view, the honest answer is "no". But there are all sorts of consequences to such a view (which we are going to talk about Sunday) that would make anyone think twice about such a short-sighted way to live. Certainly there are exceptions, but what we see in the history of mankind is God's moral law engraved, to a greater or lesser extent, on the hearts of all people. When those laws are followed, even without a knowledge of the true God, the results are remarkably better than when those same laws are casually tossed aside. The true value of the Christian life is found, however, when it is placed in the light of the cross of Jesus Christ. The moment we receive what Christ has done for us and how that changes all of eternity, the Christian life here takes on a "forever" importance. Join us this Sunday (August 21 at 10:00 am) as we explore the blessings of living God's way.

Friday, August 12, 2011

When the Party's Over...Then What?

Take a look at the following two statements.

"All I want to do is have some fun."

"All I want to do is get to heaven."

Do you think that you have to choose between one of the two or can you have them both -- fun and heaven? How do you think most of your friends would respond to that question?

Probably most of the people you know would say a person has to choose; the reason being that the idea of "fun" today is something a little "dirty", something God certainly wouldn't approve of. Since heaven seems so far off and fun seems so much, a lot of folks opt for fun. That is a tragedy for three reasons. First, people mess up their lives big time when all they try to do is have some fun. Second, the kind of fun that leaves out God loses its impact very quickly and becomes more of a slave driver, always demanding greater doses. Thirdly, and most importantly, anything that keeps a human being from the God who created him/her causes that person to miss the whole reason for existing. God made us to live as part of his family.

It's time to cut through the deception. You don't have to toss God out of your life to have fun. In fact, the more Jesus Christ influences your life, the more you are going to discover what fun really is--without tragic consequences or a guilty conscience. Remember what Jesus promised, "I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." Join us at 10:00 am this Sunday (August 14) to begin living the full life Jesus offers.

Friday, August 5, 2011

TV and Real Life

The whole season had been building up to this point. Patrick Jayne, The Mentalist, had finally confronted Red John, the killer of his wife and young daughter. The two stood, facing each other, in a crowded mall. As they were about to part Red John flashed a confident smirk, believing that Jayne was incapable of taking the law into his own hands and doing something violent. It seemed that evil had triumphed over good again when suddenly Jayne pulled a gun from his pocket and shot Red John dead with three bullets. Jayne then calmly sat down at a table and allowed himself to be arrested. And as the scene faded away we spectators experienced a fine sense of justice.

In the extraordinary case of Patrick Jayne and Red John, revenge seemed the only sane option. Red John was a proven ruthless serial killer who had destroyed the lives of countless people. If he were to be stopped, Jayne would have to take advantage of the one opportunity he had. Red John is dead, that's all that matters, right? It all seems so cut and dried, but....we're talking about a TV show here and not real life.

Anger, hurt, hate and revenge wreck havoc in the lives of real people, but usually as a result of offenses far, far less terrible than those suffered by Patrick Jayne at the hands of Red John. It may be interesting and entertaining to watch, week by week, a TV character channel his hate into achieving justice; it is absolutely destructive when everyday normal people let feelings of revenge drive them. At some point in all of our lives someone or something is going to so negatively impact us that it will seem everything in life has stopped and we can only focus on one thing: righting the wrong. If we give in to bitterness and resentment, they will consume our lives. People may say that forgiveness is for weaklings, but if that is true, then the God of all creation is a weakling. When it comes to real life and how we deal with revenge, it's time to turn off the TV and open the Bible. Join us this Sunday (August 7) at 10:00 am. Forgiveness is the choice to be free instead of being enslaved by hate.

Friday, July 29, 2011

The Workplace: War Zone or Mission Field?

People who are kind and caring individuals in every other aspect of life can become downright cutthroat at work. The lure of money and position creates an environment of no holds barred competition in the workplace which leads workers to take an "I've got to look out for myself" attitude. The result is an air of detached mistrust. No one gets close for fear of being taken advantage of. Such fears are well grounded. Backstabbing and undercutting the other is common practice in workplaces throughout the world. And yet, it is exactly into those kinds of situations God puts his people.

When most Christians hear the word "ministry" they think of a pastor or teacher or evangelist. But the New Testament makes it clear that every Christian has a ministry, regardless of what kind of profession he/she chooses. To be a "minister for Christ" is to serve the Lord in whatever one is doing at the time. Our jobs take up at least one third of our day. If the Lord is working through our lives, how could he not use us in the workplace? This Sunday (July 31) at 10:00 am we're going to study what the Bible says about the Christian and work. What we are going to see is not only does God intend work to be a blessing in our lives, but the workplace is the crucial location where he uses his people to bring others to faith. Every day you are in a vast mission field. What an important work! What a privilege!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Are You a Peacemaker or a Peacebreaker?

"It is to a man's honor to avoid strife..."

"Better a patient man than a warrior,
a man who controls his temper than one who takes a city."

"Shoot first and then ask questions."

If you took a poll and asked people which of the three quotes above would be most helpful to live by, which one do you think they would choose? One would hope it would be either of the first two quotes, but the truth is, the "Rambo Effect" has touched a lot of people in our society: Do what needs to be done to get one's way and then think about cleaning up the mess afterward.

Do you know from where the three quotes come? The first two are from the book of the Bible called Proverbs. The third is supposedly attributed to Herman Goering, the second in command of Adolph Hitler's Third Reich.

While there may be extraordinary moments, such as in military combat, that the phrase "Shoot first and then ask questions" would apply, the truth is many people are living out this kind of thinking in everyday situations. But there is no room for such an attitude in our homes, schools and neighborhoods.

We can't understand why families are breaking up at such a catastrophic rate or why parents and their children can't get along or why our politicians can't seem to come to compromises, but we ridicule as "weak" the person who avoids strife, who controls his temper and walks away from the fight in the best interest of a long term solution.

There is a tremendous amount of material in the Bible about peace. It is pretty clear that God takes peace very seriously. Join us this Sunday (July 24) at 10:00 am as we explore the role of peace in the Christian life. And as a preparation, think about the opening question of this article. Are you a peacemaker or a peacebreaker?

Friday, July 15, 2011

Are We Building Walls or Bridges?

"People are lonely because they build walls instead of bridges."

The coming of the "connected" era has brought with it some interesting and disturbing contradictions. While we have the ability to instantly communicate with someone on the other side of the world, we are also able to create a protective barrier around us when we don't want to communicate with other people. Whether we send would be callers directly to voice mail, ignore e-mails or turn off our phones, we have quickly discovered the attraction of controlling how our relationships with people are going to play themselves out.

While the need for privacy is absolutely vital, our society has found itself progressively moving toward convenient relationships in which physical presence is not only not required, but not desirable. When somebody is standing in our presence, we find we have much less control over the situation. Sitting in front of a computer or having a conversation through a smart phone provides people with a flexibility to continue or end the conversation which face to face encounters don't offer. What it really comes down to is, "connected" relationships allow us to have those relationships on our terms. Which raises the questions, "Do we really need each other? Or, can we get along quite well with everyone just minding his own business?"

When it comes to how people interact, we live in confusing times. More and more people are settling for "bumper car" relationships. We are cool with the other person until they "bump" into us causing some discomfort or pain and that brings the relationship to an end. For many, it is better to have painless, superficial relationships than those which are meaningful but can hurt us. As we search for answers in this matter of relationships we need to go to the Bible to find out if people are all that important to us. What we discover is a resounding affirmation of relationships. In fact, God made us to get along with each other on the deepest of levels. Join us this Sunday (July 17) at 10:00 am as we continue our studies in Proverbs, "Wise Living in Confusing Times".

Friday, July 8, 2011

"You Mean You Didn’t Think Of That?"

It is a sickening feeling to have planned out a project to the smallest detail only to have forgotten the most important part and then see a colleague or friend roll their eyes and hear them say with exasperation, “You mean you didn’t think of that?!” Not only have we failed, but we’ve made a fool out of ourselves by neglecting what was most obvious to the success of our plan. It’s like forgetting the chicken in chicken soup! As God looks down on his creatures and listens to us making our plans, do you think he might have a similar reaction, “People, you are missing the whole point for which I created you”?

When you plan for the day, a week, a year or even a decade, what occupies your thoughts? Do those thoughts have anything to do with the God who created you? Or, are you most concerned with things like what to eat, where to live, what to do to be happy, etc? The book of Proverbs provides us with a very wise warning about how we need to go about our planning. It says,

To man belong the plans of the heart,
but from the LORD comes the reply of the tongue.
All a man’s ways seem innocent to him,
but motives are weighed by the LORD.
Commit to the LORD whatever you do,
and your plans will succeed.
The LORD works out everything for his own ends—
even the wicked for a day of disaster. Proverbs 16:1-4

Take some time from your busy schedule and join us at beautiful Foster Point on Hickam AFB to reevaluate the way you’ve been planning your life. It might just turn out to be the best unplanned time of your Sunday!

Friday, July 1, 2011

The 4th of July: A Time For Christian Commitment To Our Country

In 1852 the United States of America was being torn apart by the issue of slavery. It was on July 5th of that year that a freed slave, Frederick Douglass, delivered a stirring speech on what Independence Day meant to a slave. In his speech he warned his listeners of the danger of so reveling in the past that they forget the challenges of the present. His words deserve our consideration today.

"My business, if I have any here to-day, is with the present. The accepted time with God and his cause is the ever-living now.
'Trust no future, however pleasant,
Let the dead past bury its dead;
Act, act in the living present,
Heart within, and God overhead.'
We have to do with the past only as we can make it useful to the present and to the future. To all inspiring motives, to noble deeds which can be gained from the past, we are welcome. But now is the time, the important time. Your fathers have lived, died, and have done their work, and have done much of it well. You live and must die, and you must do your work. You have no right to enjoy a child's share in the labor of your fathers, unless your children are to be blest by your labors. You have no right to wear out and waste the hard-earned fame of your fathers to cover your indolence. Sydney Smith tells us that men seldom eulogize the wisdom and virtues of their fathers, but to excuse some folly or wickedness of their own. This truth is not a doubtful one. There are illustrations of it near and remote, ancient and modern. It was fashionable, hundreds of years ago, for the children of Jacob to boast, we have "Abraham as our father," when they had long lost Abraham's faith and spirit. That people contented themselves under the shadow of Abraham's great name, while they repudiated the deeds which made his name great. Need I remind you that a similar thing is being done all over this country to-day?"

For Americans living in the 21st century it would be easy to fall into the same trap Douglass spoke of so long ago. We have much to remember and cherish from the history of the United States of America. Great and powerful has this country's influence been on the world. And yet, for all of America's accomplishments, much still needs to be done. For Christian Americans the 4th of July needs to be so much more than a day off of work. It is an opportunity to thank God for giving us the incredible blessing of being a citizen of our great country. But even more so it is a call to commit ourselves to be a mighty witness for Christ among our fellow Americans.

"Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people." (Proverbs 14:34)

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Tongue: How We Use It Shows What Kind of People We Are

Have you ever watched a war movie in which a soldier is holding a hand grenade that already had its pin pulled? That soldier is pretty careful about what he does with the grenade because he knows one false move can detonate it with disastrous results.

Words can and often do end up being spoken as verbal grenades. And even though we have been told from little on of the importance of choosing our words carefully, we seem to think that we shouldn't be held responsible for what we say. "After all," we rationalize, "they're only words."

What we say can lead to devastating pain, but our words can also bring a supernatural healing to the lives of those around us. Which leads to the question, "If our words can be of such a great benefit to others, why do we so often use them in ways that bring others down?" Not only is that a valid question, it is of the greatest importance in the examination of our spiritual lives. What we say on a daily basis gives us snapshots of the inner recesses of our soul.

As we continue our study of the Old Testament book of Proverbs this Sunday (June 26 at 10:00 am), we will discover what our words reveal about what is in our hearts. What we find may not be comfortable, but it will lead us to the only One who can help -- Jesus Christ.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

"It Can't Be Wrong When It Feels So Right"

(Well, actually it can be wrong.)

One of the most embarrassing things a person suffers is to have to admit being wrong about something of which we were absolutely certain. Usually what happens is we were missing or unaware of some vital facts which make all the difference in how we see a certain situation. It's a matter of perspective and once we see things the way they actually are, we are forced to change our thinking, even though it is the exact opposite of what we earlier believed to be the truth.

This summer we are studying the book of Proverbs, a collection of ancient truths on the subject of how life is from God's point of view. On Sunday we are going to look at a very important text for our current time. It reads, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding." We live in an age when truth is defined as "what a person believes is best for him/her at that specific moment in time". In other words, right or wrong are determined by the viewpoint of the individual. The results of such thinking are chillingly reflected in the unfathomable number of people killed in wars over the last 100 years.

Human beings will never have the answers to life's question we so desperately need. We cannot save ourselves. It is time to stop looking within for solutions and turn our quest for truth toward the heavens. The only way we can truly understand life is to see it from the perspective of the One who created it. Join us this Sunday (June 12 at 10:00 am) for a look at life from God's point of view.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Wise Living in Confusing Times

What's right? What's wrong? Does it really matter?

Years ago, if people asked questions like those they might well have gotten a whack on the side of the head and been told, "Don't ask such stupid questions!" Today, things are much different. The whole concept of right and wrong is questioned on a daily basis. Behavior that was classified as perverse only 50 years ago is accepted as normal. Truth is defined as "the opinion of the majority of the people at a certain moment in time". And whether or not right and wrong matters all depends on who is asking the question.

All the discussion about right and wrong wouldn't be important if it wasn't that every area of our lives is governed by the concept of right and wrong. From little on we say things like, "That's not fair." "It's my right." "You owe me!" The very fact that we grow up assuming that certain things are okay to do and others aren't demonstrates how the sense of justice is woven into the fabric of human life. We can't get away from it and our overcrowded legal system is a ringing testimony that right and wrong are very important to us.

So how does a Christian live in a time when basic, observable truths about life are denied? Admittedly, it can be confusing but the Old Testament book of Proverbs gives us plenty of good, practical advice on how to find our way through the labyrinth of ideas circulating in our society. Join us this Sunday (June 5 at 10:00 am) as we begin our summer sermon series on the book of Proverbs called, "Wise Living in Confusing Times."

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Church – Getting Back To Its Roots

This Sunday (May 29) we’ll be studying the history of the church after Jesus ascended into heaven. It all began on a day we call Pentecost and the world has never been the same since. It’s good for 21st century Christians to go back to our roots, especially when it comes to our lives together in the church. It’s good for us because we need to continually remind ourselves of why we’re members of Christ’s church and what our mission is as a local congregation.

Today people have many different ideas of what a church should do. Books have been written on the subject. Looking back at how things started in the New Testament book of Acts, however, it was all pretty simple. The church was about people who trusted in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. They got together with each other to more effectively serve as Christ’s representatives in this world. Their mission was just as straightforward — offer the forgiveness of sins through Christ to everyone willing to listen. If they had been asked about their vision, goals and objectives, they would have probably said, “Look, Jesus Christ was killed on a Friday. He came back to life on the following Sunday and we have seen him with our own eyes. That means everything he said about himself is true. We’ve got to tell people about him and what he taught.”

Whatever image comes to mind when you see or hear the word “church”, try to think in the same way as those early Christians. We are a people who have been given eternal life by the God who created us, rescued from our own self-destructing evil. What else could be more important to us than sharing the same gift we have received? Let’s go back to our roots. We may be shocked by what God does when we do!

Friday, May 20, 2011

No Time for Busy Work

“Getting the tires clean is the most important part of washing the car!”

Those were the exact words my dad would say to me every time we washed the car when I was a little boy. It was my job to always do the wheels and I was convinced he gave me that job just to keep me occupied. So he would go through his ritual as he gave me a bucket of sudsy water and a rag, assuring me that in reality, I had the most important job. It never worked and I would always sneak away to wash the bumpers or the hood of the car. Even at a young age, we don’t like what is called “busy” work. We all want to think that what we do is important, that we make a difference.

Moments before Jesus physically removed himself from the presence of his disciples for the last time he gave them a command. He said, “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Can you think of a more important assignment? The One who created the world, destroyed sin and overcame death, he now gives human beings the opportunity to represent him throughout the world. Do you often feel exhausted without receiving much satisfaction for all your efforts? Join us this Sunday (May 22 at 10:00 am) as we consider what Jesus’ words “be my witnesses” mean to his followers living in 2011.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Lessons on Getting a Second Chance

There are things in life at which we just don’t get a second chance. I remember running around my 7th grade woodworking classroom asking everyone in sight, “Where’s the board stretcher tool?” and not understanding why everyone laughed at me. Finally someone had mercy and told me no such tool existed. In an attempt to teach me the important lesson of measuring accurately before cutting, my shop teacher had shook his head when he saw the board I had cut too short and said, “Well, better go find the board stretcher and we’ll see what we can do.” I’ve still cut boards too short since then, but not near as many if he hadn’t taught me the important lesson that you don’t get a second chance if you cut a piece of wood too short.

There are a lot of areas of life which can be pretty unforgiving after we have made a serious mistake. But the resurrection of Jesus Christ gives all of humanity the assurance that when it comes to our relationship with God, there is always a second (third, fourth, etc) chance available to us. You remember Peter’s mess up, don’t you? He was Jesus’ follower who declared that his loyalty had no limits. He said, “Jesus, I will die for you.” A few hours later he denied three times even knowing Jesus! Is there a second chance for a person like that? The twenty-first chapter of the Gospel of John gives us the answer in the account of a conversation Jesus had with Peter on the beach. It’s a conversation which still speaks of hope and comfort to those of us who need second chances 2000 years later.

Join us this Sunday, May 15th at 10:00 am and let’s journey back in time to have breakfast with Jesus and Peter. Together, let’s learn what it means to live a “second chance life” through Christ.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Doubting Thomas and How Jesus Answered His Doubts

"Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe."

Those words, which came from the lips of Jesus' disciple named Thomas, seem to have a downright defiant tone, don't they? Why Thomas refused to believe that Jesus had come back from the dead in the face of all the testimony of his closest friends is impossible to say. But one thing is for sure, he wanted proof.

A week later Jesus Christ gave him that proof, appearing again to the disciples on a Sunday evening, this time with Thomas present. Jesus greets everyone and then he turns to Thomas. How Thomas must have felt when he looked into the eyes of Jesus, first an emotion of pure joy and then of shame. He had doubted the Lord's own promise. He had angrily demanded proof on his terms. And now, that proof was standing in front of him. The words Jesus spoke to him must have stung. "Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe."

But that hard encounter produced a powerful confession. Thomas said, "My Lord and my God." That confession is really what the resurrection of Jesus is all about. Jesus didn't rise just to show his power. He rose from the dead to have people put their trust in him as their Savior God for all of eternity.

Do you still have some resurrection doubts? Maybe you haven't been as vocal as Thomas but questions have lingered throughout the years about what actually happened that first Easter Sunday. Join us this coming Sunday (May 8th at 10:00 am) with your doubts and questions. Let Jesus answer them as we study together how he answered the uncertainties of Doubting Thomas.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Jesus' Resurrection: A Fresh Start

The poet Alexander Pope wrote:

"Hope springs eternal in the human breast."

It would be nice to think that way, but the truth is, people often lose all hope. Watch TV for just a few minutes and you'll see at least one advertisement for a drug which combats depression. In spite of our increasing comforts and prosperity, hope seems to be a rare commodity in the post modern world. Whether it is a financial issue, a health problem or a relationship which is falling apart, people get so wrapped up by all that is going wrong that they see no possible solutions. The result is they often choose either suicide or a life of apathy.

There was a woman named Mary Magdalene who had been a part of Jesus' group of disciples for most of his ministry. Meeting Jesus had turned Mary's life around and as a result she stood by him till the end. Even on that first Sunday morning after his death on the cross, Mary went out at dawn with some other women to finish embalming Jesus' body. When she got to the tomb the body was gone. But instead of remembering Jesus had predicted he was going to rise from the dead, Mary plunged into despair, thinking someone had stolen the body.

Hopeless is the only word to describe Mary Magdalene at that moment. Where would she go? What would she do? The only one who had been able to help her had been brutally killed as a criminal. In her despair, all Mary could think about was finding Jesus' corpse so she could give it a dignified burial. It was a pathetic scene.

But the thick fog of hopelessness was cut with one word -- "Mary". The moment Jesus spoke her name Mary Magdalene had a future, a purpose, and above all, the certainty that everything was going to work out. Mary had a fresh start in life!

Wherever you are in life, the resurrection of Jesus Christ offers you that same fresh start full of hope. Jesus said, "Because I live, you also will live...In my Father's house are many rooms...I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am." Being with Jesus for eternity--that's what the resurrection means to you.

Join us this Sunday at 10:00 am to begin your resurrection fresh start!

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Only Important Question

The account of Jesus' resurrection on the first Easter Sunday can raise a wide variety of questions but only one is of any real importance: "Is it true that Jesus Christ physically rose from the dead?" This is not only an important question, it is THE question. For if the answer is negative, then we are stuck in the same predicament we have been in since the beginning of time--we continue to be prisoners of death. But if the answer is positive, then everything changes--absolutely everything.

The reason the disciples of Jesus Christ readily gave up their lives for preaching his resurrection was that they understood its consequences on the human race. They realized that it would be morally unconscionable not to divulge this message to all of humanity. To hide the message of the resurrection would be more dastardly than to keep secret the cure for cancer.

Have you seriously examined the historical evidence of the resurrection? Have you thought deeply about what Christ's coming back to life could mean to you and how it would change your life? Or have you been too busy living at a breakneck speed to have time for questions like those? Is it possible there may be something in the Easter story that could literally transform your life?

Join us this Easter Sunday at 10:00 am. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is just too important to dismiss without a fair hearing.

Friday, April 15, 2011

What Kind of King Is Jesus?

How many times haven't we prayed, "Thy kingdom come" or sang "Crown him with many crowns" without even considering what kind of king Jesus is? People throughout the centuries have misunderstood, misused and even manipulated for their own interest the kingship of Jesus Christ. Certainly the people who proclaimed Jesus "King" on the first Palm Sunday didn't understand what they were saying, for five days later those same people cried, "Crucify him, crucify him!"

What makes it difficult for us to appreciate the royal claims of Christ is that his reign is so different than that of any king who has ruled in human history. What are we to make of a king who has no army, rides into his capital city on a donkey and says, "My kingdom is not of this world"? Even more unnerving is that he told his followers that he was going to Jerusalem not to set up a world government, but rather to be crucified!

When we go to the end of the story (Easter Sunday), however, we discover that King Jesus accomplished for humanity what no earthly king could begin to imagine. He destroyed the power of death over our lives. He doesn't force us to be subject to him. In fact, he doesn't demand anything. Instead, he invites us to receive what he won for us. The victory over death that only he could win, he now wants to give to us. That's the kind of king Jesus is.

Join us this Sunday (April 17) at 10:00 am to worship our King!

Friday, April 8, 2011

There's No Faking Out God

Tragic is the only word to describe a young woman who has fallen so deeply in love that she does not realize her husband is seeing another woman. She believes all the flattery ("I couldn't live without you,") and the lies ("I just couldn't get away from work,"), living in a world of illusion. Her trust is complete and her love undying. It's a cruel person who will lead on another human being for purely selfish motives, but it happens all too frequently. Divided hearts are nothing new.

If tragic is the word to describe a betrayed lover, pathetic is the only word for a person who tries to two-time God. Two-timing God is basically the same thing as the human variety. The person tells God, "I love you Lord. I trust in you for all things and I dedicate my life to you." But in day to day living the individual's life betrays the truth that he/she is living for self. Such a life is pathetic because the only one being fooled is the spiritual two-timer. God knows what we are thinking. He sees what is in our hearts. There is no faking him out.

This Sunday we're going to study an important meeting Jesus had with a young man who was so deceived that everything was right between himself and God that he didn't even realize he was bowing down each day and worshipping an idol--the idol of money. And it wasn't until Jesus hit him between the eyes with a clear proposition that he realized what had been going on. What Jesus said to this young man and how he treated him does not provide for a comfortable study. The implications of this meeting for our own lives, however, are of the greatest importance. It is an easy temptation to fall into, that of paying lip service to Jesus while living in a self-centered way. We need to hear Christ's strong words to jolt us out of our complacency. No matter how clever we are, we can't fool him. He will accept no other place in our lives than that of Lord. Join us this Sunday morning at 10:00 am to make a fresh start in your life with Jesus.

Friday, March 25, 2011

When Divine Power and Unconditional Love Meet

Certain historians have developed what they call a "cyclical" view of the past. These scholars believe that history repeats itself every 100 years or so. They say societies will go to one extreme and then things will get so bad that they will swing back towards the other extreme. Both extremes lead to crisis size problems, but during the years that the pendulum is in the middle, things can go fairly well.

Unfortunately, even within Christianity people tend towards extremes. For many years Jesus Christ was portrayed as an angry, violent pursuer of sinners who took delight in casting people into hell. In recent years, that same Jesus has been turned into a cuddly buddy who would never do anything to go against our will. Both concepts of Christ are grossly exaggerated and lead to tremendous damage to our understanding of who Jesus is and what he means to us.

This Sunday (10:00 am) we are going to study an event in Jesus' life which is called "The Transfiguration". It is a moment in Jesus' ministry in which he visibly takes back some of his divine characteristics. The affect on his disciples is overwhelming. In the midst of this awesome display of power, however, Jesus contemplates his upcoming arrest, torture, crucifixion and resurrection. It is as though Christ were saying, "I've got more than all the power in the world and I'm going to use it to rescue human beings."

The Jesus you will meet this Sunday will be no cuddly buddy, but neither will he be a vengeful monster. He will be as he has always been, Lord of Lords and Savior of all!

Friday, March 18, 2011

How Faith Looks In Real Life

There is a short story by James Thurber with the title The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. It's about a mild mannered man who day dreams that he is a Super Hero. From scene to scene Mitty goes from one adventure to another, always defeating some evil enemy or rescuing a beautiful woman. In his own mind, Walter Mitty is the quintessence "go-to" man in dangerous situations.

When Christians read about believers from the past who demonstrated heroic faith we tend to transport ourselves back in time and imagine how glamorous it would be if we could have the same type of experiences. The truth is, however, when it comes to exercising faith, no Christian is a Super Hero. This Sunday (10:00 am) we are going to study two powerful examples of faith to see how it looks in real life. In the first we find the disciples fighting for their lives while caught in a vicious storm on the Sea of Galilee. In the second we meet a desperate mother with a gravely ill daughter who has no one to turn to but Jesus. She clings to her hope that he can help, but will he?

What we find in both stories are not superhuman people with superhuman courage, but rather people who had nowhere else to turn. They recognized Jesus was the only one who could rescue them and they humbly admitted their need before him. None of the people are glamorous. Instead, they are common folks fighting for their lives, fully aware that without Jesus Christ, they have no chance of winning. Sound familiar? It should. That's really a description of every Christian as he/she journeys through life. It may not be glamorous, but it is victorious through Jesus. And that is what life is all about, isn't it?

"Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,
I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."
(Philippians 3:13-14)

Friday, March 11, 2011

Jesus Talks Story

What was your favorite story as a child? Almost everybody has one. That story you would ask someone to read to you night after night, that story which never got old or boring. You can still probably remember it today, every word bringing a cherished image to your mind. Stories are powerful. They communicate profound ideas in a way that even children can understand while at the same time capture the attention of adults.

When you read the gospel accounts of the life of Jesus Christ you find that he was a storyteller. In fact, he is the Master Storyteller of all time. Why? It’s not because his stories were interesting, although they are. It’s because the message he conveys changes lives. Jesus goes beyond helpful moral truths such as “don’t talk to strangers” (Little Red Riding Hood) or “never give up” (the Little Engine that Could), and addresses the key questions of life such as:

Why am I here?
How should I live?
What happens when I die?

This Sunday (10:00 am) we are going to read through a collection of stories which Jesus told. Each one touches on an essential part of our lives. Each one requires us to think deeply about our priorities. Above all, in each story Jesus invites us to a changed life—changed for the better, changed for eternity.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Dealing with Doubts and Disappointments

One of the hardest questions Christians deal with is why God allows bad things to happen to people who believe in him and serve him with their lives. It just seems that if God truly loved the people that love him, he would protect them from painful experiences. But history demonstrates very clearly that God doesn't show any favoritism when it comes to the matter of suffering. One of the most shocking examples of a Christian suffering unjustly is John the Baptist. Here is a man who gave up everything to get people ready for the coming of Jesus. And when the Lord came, he quietly disappeared into the background and encouraged his followers to become disciples of Christ.

It would seem that for all his self-sacrifice and selfless service, John would at least deserve a quiet retirement in the country. But what happened to him was tragic. He was arrested by King Herod because John had confronted the king with a moral problem--stealing his brother's wife. Instead of reflecting on what John said, Herod threw him into a dungeon in a wilderness fort called Machaerus. It was in that stinking pit John spent the remaining days of his short life. And how did his life end, you wonder? The daughter of the woman Herod stole from his brother did some erotic dancing for the king one night when he was partying. Herod got so excited he promised the girl anything she wanted. Influenced by her mother, she asked for the head of John the Baptist on a platter. And that was exactly what she got!

The whole story is grotesque. People with character and morals are butchered while the self-centered and ruthless continue in their ways. It's the kind of story which makes even the strongest Christian wonder what God is doing at times. And yet, these questions, doubts and disappointments must be addressed for though we may not be confronted with the kind of unjust suffering John experienced, we too will go through times when we will ask God, "Are you really there for me? Is there something I need to know that you aren't telling me?"

Join us this Sunday (March 6) at 10:00 am. Together let's embark on the path which leads to victory over the doubts and disappointments of the Christian life.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Some Things Are Worth Suffering For

When it comes to pain, I rank up there with the greatest of cowards. When I was a little boy I would get slivers in my fingers and not say anything for fear of my dad getting the sewing needle to dig them out. Of course, the slivers always got infected and the pain of removing them later was always much greater, but that's the way we human beings are when it comes to suffering. We put it off, even if we know the hurt will be worse in the future.

Standing up for one's principles can also be a painful experience, especially if we are standing up for Jesus Christ. This Sunday (February 27) we are going to study a sermon Jesus gave to his disciples just before he sent them out on a preaching mission. And what he told them would have worried anybody! He pretty much said there are always going to be some people who are extremely hostile to what he said about himself. And even though their hostility is for the message, they are going to direct that hostility towards the messenger (his followers)!

For centuries Christians have held a respected and privileged place in American society but it is becoming very clear that things are changing. The open persecution we read about in other countries could well become a reality here in the coming years. And then what? Do we give up on Christ the moment following him becomes uncomfortable or even dangerous? It depends upon what we believe. Is Jesus like a crutch in life to help us get through the tough times? Or is he the Son of God, the only way to know God and be right with him? If Jesus is who he claims to be, then we have no other choice than to stand firm in him because our eternity depends on him.

For those folks who see Jesus as a weak, pale faced fellow who doesn't quite fit into the rough and tumble world of modern life, this is a "can't miss" Sunday!

Friday, February 18, 2011

God's Kind of People

We tend to hang around people who are like us and avoid those who aren't. Even within our groups we are choosey. We'll spend time with an individual doing something about which we both agree and then politely ignore one another when we disagree on a certain issue. It's a very human thing to do. But you know, the human thing isn't always the best thing, even if it is something everyone does.

When it comes to hanging around with people, we find that Jesus isn't choosey at all. In fact, when he walked this earth he spent a whole lot of time with people who hated him so much they eventually killed him. He had dinner in the homes of people with whom he had little in common and performed miracles for strangers. Jesus hung around with such different types of people that the "with it" folks of his day thought his social networking needed a total overhaul. But Jesus didn't give in to their demands. He remained firm, hanging out with whomever would hang out with him.

This Sunday (February 20 at 10:00 am) we're going to study the account of how Jesus called a tax collector named Matthew to follow him. Now you have to understand, Jesus was called "Rabbi" by his followers. He taught them about God. Actually, he taught them he is God! On the other hand, Matthew was considered a moral low life because he worked for the Romans by collecting taxes from his fellow Jews. Everybody else treated Matthew like a leper and along comes Jesus calling him to be one of his trusted companions! This story tells us a lot about how Jesus looks at people. To him, everyone is a potential follower. Everyone can come to put their trust in him.

As we consider who we hang out with, and more importantly, who we as Christians reach out to with the Gospel of Christ, we need to reexamine our attitudes. Are we judging people before we even begin to try to share our faith with them? Do we look at some people and think, "There is just no way they'll ever believe"? Or are we convinced that Christ paid for their sins just as fully as he paid for ours?

God has brought all sorts of people into our lives. His intent is that we are to be a blessing to them and they a blessing to us. Regardless of what you may think their beliefs are, keep reminding yourself that God loves the Matthews in your life as much as he loves you, and they need to know that.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Miracles: Do We All Get At Least One?

Miracles can be tough to get a handle on. The secular society in which we live claims that miracles don't happen, that they are scientifically impossible. Experience, however, even for the most skeptical demonstrates otherwise.

Even more disturbing though, is how miracles are distributed. We are excited for someone when we hear they had something happen to them that can only be explained by God's direct intervention, but we would also like to know why God doesn't do those kinds of things in our lives. For that matter, why doesn't he just do a whole bunch of miracles on one particular day and get rid of the world's problems? Wouldn't that make everyone believe in him? It seems so simple.

When we read the Bible, though, we find that God is pretty economical when it comes to miracles. There are times in history when he acts more obviously in the lives of human beings (eg. when he parted the Red Sea), but there are also long periods during which he has seemed to give up on miracles completely. The most simple and effective answer to these questions is: God is God and he can do miracles whenever and however he wants. He's the Boss. And when all is said and done, that's very true.

The life of Jesus Christ provides us with a great many examples of God suspending the laws of nature and doing extraordinary things in the lives of human beings. This Sunday we're going to look at three healing miracles which Jesus performed. And while there is no doubt the reason he did those miracles was due to the fact that he chose to do them, there is much to learn from these three accounts--not only about miracles, but also our relationship with God and how we view life on this earth. Join us this Sunday at 10:00 am. You probably won't see a spectacular miracle like the ones Jesus did, but you might experience the miracle of learning to know Christ better. And when you look at life from the standpoint of eternity, there's no bigger miracle than that!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Getting Really Radical

Here are two questions to think about:

What's more important to follow, the political unrest in Egypt or Charlie Sheen going to rehab again?

What are more people interested in, the political unrest in Egypt or Charlie Sheen going to rehab again?

Unfortunately, more people are going to their computers to find out the latest on Charlie Sheen. Most will shake their heads in disgust, but if the truth be told, deep down many, many people wish they could have the lifestyle of Charlie Sheen. Their reasoning goes something like, "Sure he's decadent but he's having fun. He's doing everything all of us want to do but can't." If the allegations are true, that means "having fun" involves snorting cocaine, passing out on booze and sleeping with multiple porn stars at the same time. Is that actually what people want or is there a con game going on? Have people watched so many films and passed so many hours in front of the TV that they think fun is literally destroying oneself?

We could all save ourselves a lot of grief if we would take 15 or 20 minutes away from the tube and read a little book from the Old Testament by the name of Ecclesiastes. The guy in that book makes Charlie Sheen look like a two bit player when it comes to trying to get all the fun out of life. He tried everything and came up with nothing.

A thousand years later Jesus Christ came along with a totally different message. Instead of describing the path to happiness as sex, drugs and rock n roll, he talked about things like repressing our animal instincts and doing what is right. He talked about self-denial, sacrificing for others and living for something that lasts more than 5 minutes.

If you want to get really radical about living, Jesus Christ is your only option. He made you. He knows how you are and how you were made to live. He cares about you. Just look at the cross for proof of that. He is getting a place ready for you in heaven. That's right, a special place just for you. And what he taught about how to live while we wait here to get into that place in heaven is absolutely the key to having a great earthly life.

Is the Jesus life always easy? No. Is it always comfortable? No. Will you always understand everything that happens? No. Well then, what's so great about it? The primary objective of human beings was never meant to be "having fun". Our purpose is to be who God created us to be, to live for Someone and something bigger than ourselves. It is to fulfill the mission our Creator and Savior God has planned for us.

This Sunday we are going to study what is called Jesus' Sermon on the Mount. His message is challenging to the core. But isn't that exactly what you would expect from the One who challenged and defeated Satan, sin and death? Join us at 10:00 am and begin living the really radical life.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Name Tags

Throughout the afternoon I had been meeting people, going in and out of stores, fulfilling routine tasks with a name tag stuck to my shirt. I had attended a seminar in the morning at which every participant was required to use one and had forgotten to remove it after the meeting. Name tags with adhesive on the back are really very handy--especially when you need to remember someone's name. But one of my children was kind of embarrassed by the fact that I was walking around advertising who I was to everyone close enough to read my name tag. All it took was, "Dad, will you please take off that name tag" to get me to quickly remove it from my shirt. That's the other great thing about name tags--when you don't need or want them anymore, they peel off very easily and no one would ever know you had one on.

Unfortunately, it's very easy to fall into a "name tag" Christianity. On Sunday mornings we're happy to put on that name tag. When we're with other Christians discussing the woes of our world it comes out again. But when we're at work and the conversation turns to those "hypocritical, narrow minded Christians" or someone makes the comment, "I don't know how an intelligent person could be a Christian," then we have the tendency to quickly take off our Christian name tag and remain inconspicuously quiet. Or, it may happen that we're at a get together and we start having a little more "fun" than we know we ought to be having and again we just conveniently ignore the "Christian" part of our life.

One of the first things Jesus did when he started his ministry was to call disciples. The word disciple means "learner" or "follower" and it was used not only for the 12 disciples we hear about in the Gospel accounts, but for anyone who believed Jesus to be the Promised Savior, the Son of God. This Sunday we are going to study the kind of life Jesus intended for those he calls his disciples. To be sure, it's totally different from the "name tag" Christianity which some people find attractive today. But, it is different in all the right ways!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Temptation: Tragedy or Triumph--Which Will It Be?

The word temptation is usually understood as something so powerfully attractive that it forces a person to do something that isn't good either for him/her or others. Years ago, however, the word temptation had two meanings: it was understood as we understand it today, a luring into some kind of destructive behavior, but it was also used to refer to a test, something which if passed, could be very beneficial to a person.

We live in a society that doesn't much believe in willpower. Americans like to indulge. In fact, we like to indulge so much that when we're told we've got to stop what we're doing we say, "I just can't. It's too much of a temptation." And that's how we've come to see temptation as so overwhelming that a person cannot be expected not to do what he/she wants to do.

The truth of the matter is, however, nobody forces us to give in to temptation, we choose to. And the temptations we experience are no more powerful than those experienced by people in the past. What has changed is our attitude towards destructive behavior. Instead of having a healthy fear of disobeying God, we rationalize our weaknesses by saying things like, "But God doesn't want me to be unhappy and so I do these things I know are wrong because they make me happy." That kind of reasoning may make a person happy for the moment, but it certainly doesn't make sense to a Christian.

We live in a world of spiritual warfare. There is a very real devil who is using his very considerable abilities to lead people away from Jesus Christ. Satan's attacks come daily and in many different ways, but they all have one objective--to lead people to hell.

Did Jesus believe there was a devil? If you join us this Sunday at 10:00 am you'll see he not only knew Satan exists, but was tempted by him, just the way you and I are tempted. But rather than seeing those temptations as overwhelming, he resisted them. It was to defeat Satan and take away his power over us that Jesus Christ came to this earth. His battle with the devil in the wilderness at the beginning of his ministry was one of many he would fight with the evil one until the Lord dealt the death blow to Satan on Good Friday.

By trusting in Christ as your Savior from sin, you have the conditions to turn temptation into triumph. You have the motivation to say "no" but most of all you have the power of Christ living in you, enabling you to overcome, day by day, as he molds you into the person he intends you to be.

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Cure for Polarization?

What do you do to get two people to show respect to one another who disagree strongly on an issue they both consider to be very important? Maybe a better question is, "How do we convince ourselves to demonstrate respect towards those with whom we disagree?" It's easy to point the "polarization" finger at other people, but the truth is, we all have an incredible ability to see others as enemies who don't see life the way we do.

In the wake of the Tucson tragedy there has been a call for less polarization and more civility. Most of the media attention concerning this topic has been in regard to politics, but it's not just politicians who are at odds, it's families, neighborhoods, and just about wherever there are two or three people gathered in one place. Some editorialists have blamed the growing narcissism of our times, others the isolation caused by ever increasing technology. Much closer to the truth is that we all struggle with self-centeredness.

A look back into history demonstrates that people have always been polarized when other people don't agree with them and the violence of such polarization of the past has been as violent if not more violent than today. So does that mean there is no cure for polarization? No, it just means the cure is a whole lot more radical than people saying, "Let's everybody be nice to each other." Any parent who has tried to help their children get along knows it takes much more than saying to them, "Now say, 'I'm sorry' to each other and be nice."

The cure for polarized people is found in the teaching of a man who lived a couple of thousand years ago. His name was John and he was called the Baptist. His message was pretty simple. He said, "Repent of your sins. Believe in the forgiveness that Jesus Christ would bring. And then change your ways." That message may seem a little too simplistic to people living in our very complex world of 2011, but it is exactly the cure. Why? The only way we human beings will stop being self-centered and give in on something we want very badly is if we understand there is something bigger than ourselves to life. That's what John's message is all about. It says that there is a God, real and personal, who is also holy and just. That's good because it means God is good. But it also means God sees a whole lot in us that he doesn't like. But God doesn't leave it at that. He provides a way to be freed of the guilt of our wrongdoings. That means that even though there is a place called hell, we don't have to worry about it. He's opened heaven for us.

Now think about that: if there is life after death and God has done everything to make sure you spend it with him, isn't it going to be a whole lot easier to get along with people here on this earth, even if you don't agree with them. Especially when you realize that you haven't done anything more to deserve what God's given you than the person you're fighting with. You see, peace with God is meant to lead to peace with other people.

Hawaii Lutheran Church (WELS)

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Honolulu, HI
Community Lutheran Church holds protestant chapel services in Honolulu, Hawaii near Pearl Harbor, HI. We are next to the USS Arizona Memorial, Pearl Harbor Naval Base, Hickam Air Force Base, and Fort Shafter Hawaii. Look for us directly behind the Salt Lake, Hawaii, Target.