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Why it’s Actually Okay to Release Control of Your Life

September 2018
 
Earlier this year Jeremiah and I embarked on a 3-day cruise to celebrate our 12-year anniversary. On the first night in our cabin, intense fear woke me up in the middle of the night. As I looked out our window I could barely see the ocean waves. I was worried the ship would sink and rehearsed the emergency exit plan in my head.
 
The lack of control I felt from being on the open water paralyzed me and it didn’t help that I wasn’t fully awake. Were we crazy to take this vacation and entrust our very life to the captain in charge?
That experience got me thinking about faith and how often we can feel like we’re losing a sense of control when we place our trust in Jesus – who we can’t see on a daily basis.
 
When Jesus called Peter and Andrew to, “Follow me,” (Matt 4:19) Scripture says that immediately they left their nets and followed him. They left their comforts, all that was normal in their trade as fishermen, and what they could control.
 
I’m guessing they weren’t thinking: At this time and on this day, the Messiah will come out of nowhere and meet us where we’re at… They were not expecting that at all. But that is what happened. Jesus came out of nowhere into their lives and met them right where they were.
Peter and Andrew handed over their life to the One who was greater. They surrendered their life to become a learner of Jesus even when they didn’t exactly understand what that meant.
 
The truth is that releasing control of our life is the means by which we’re truly free and able to experience deeper intimacy with Jesus. Even as much as our hands want to hold tightly to what we think provides security, Jesus tells us where our ultimate hope is found:
Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.” – (Matt 10:39)
 
The truth is that I love holding on tightly to my life (my loves, wants, wishes, desires, needs) and thinking only about my inner circle. Yet Jesus calls me to something better. He calls me to seek His kingdom first and then all these things will be given. He calls me to step out of the boat and join him in his mission of winning broken and lost souls for eternity. He calls me to love, selflessness, and servanthood where he’s placed me. That can be both scary and inconvenient.
 
Placing our faith in Jesus can be terrifying because of the unknown. What will happen if I diligently follow Christ with my life? How will I learn to deal with stresses if I go to Jesus instead of my current coping mechanisms? Does this mean anything for my personal goals and career? What will people think and say when I try to engage them with the gospel? And the list goes on…
 
When you surrender, Jesus gives you new desires and tastes. What was once pleasing and attractive to your eyes will not be anymore. The intense desire to please others and find your identity in material things begins to lessen. Your mission is no longer self, but to serve your Savior. You become more concerned with living for eternity rather than how many “likes” you have in a day.
 
You’ll begin to find joy and excitement from continually asking the Lord, where can I serve you today? What can I give away for your kingdom? The unknown becomes an adventure.
 
He’ll also equip you for exactly what you need in the moment – whether that means reaching out to a stranger, seeking forgiveness, inviting a friend to church, giving up an addiction, seeking counsel, changing your circle of friends, opening up your home to your neighbors, seeking healing in your marriage, confessing sin, investing in an “unlovable” person, starting a ministry from scratch, using buried talents and gifts to build the body of Christ, and more.
 
On the cruise ship that night, I was stressed out. But before I knew it, it was 8:00 am, the sun was shining, and the boat was docking safely to the Baja shore. Even in my anxieties, the captain knew exactly what he was doing and the next night I slept peacefully.
 
When we release control and trust in God as our sovereign Creator and Father who loves and cares deeply for us, we can rest easy knowing that the plans he has for us are for our good even when we can’t see the future ahead.
 
Samantha Krieger
 


How to Bloom Where You Are Planted

August 2018
 
Acts 28:30:31
 
Acts 28:30 He lived there two whole years at his own expense, and welcomed all who came to him, 31 proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.
 
Ever since I can remember, I have had struggled with the defiance of a strong will that grips me when God puts me into circumstances outside of my control. I have always liked to be in control since I was a young child. So, when I am put in situations that I am uncomfortable with, sometimes I try to resist. This isn’t the best way to live. God’s word shows us a better way.
 
The Apostle Paul was minding his own business serving God. God had radically converted Paul. He had gone on three missionary journeys (Acts 13, 16 & 19). His life was fully devoted to Christ. But God called him to another journey that wasn’t pleasant.
 
In Acts 20, Paul senses God’s call to go to Jerusalem. Jerusalem was a place where the Apostle Paul knew he would be persecuted. God was leading him into an extremely dangerous situation, and eventually this journey would cause him to be imprisoned in Rome.
 
The book of Acts strangely ends abruptly with Paul living in Rome on house arrest. He lived in Rome at his own expense. That clearly wasn’t fair. Should his accusers have paid his tab? Not only was he inconvenienced by his accusers, but he had to pay his own way through.
 
Sometimes life isn’t fair. Not only does the sin of others affect you, but you end up picking up tabs in life that you should not. This happened to Paul.
 
Even though Paul’s journey took a strange twist, landing him in an unfamiliar place and costing him more than his fair share. But the way that Paul lived during his two years in Rome is remarkable. He bloomed where he was planted.
 
Acts 28:30-31 records that while Paul lived in Rome, he welcomed all who came to him, proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus with confidence. Paul didn’t let his circumstances shake his attitude. Instead, he used it as soil to grow and bring blessing to others.
When God leads us into territories in life we never wanted to go, he is planting us exactly where he wants us to grow. We can either resist or trust. When we trust God, it will bring blessing to our life and to the lives of others.
 
To bloom where you are planted requires sacrifice. Paul lived at his own expense. Sacrifices we pay are ultimately for the glory of God and even for our good. Instead of complaining, it is better to work through frustrations and learn to praise God.
Second, once we learn to accept our circumstance from God, our attitude will change. Just like a seed takes root in soil, our attitude will become welcoming. It will transform from being inwardly focused and turn outward to others. Challenging times in life are God’s opportunities for us to serve others.
 
Paul served others by opening his life up to all who came to him so that he would bear the fruit of the Gospel in his life.
 
In order to bloom where we are planted, we have to be convinced that God is working for our good in the situations he plants us (Romans 8:28). We have to learn to see our life as not our own. Instead, we find that we are agents to share the Good News that Christ’s Kingdom has come, and there is nothing more exciting in life than that!
 
If you have found yourself in circumstances that are difficult to appreciate, trust God through the journey. It is an opportunity to grow; an opportunity for new life to take root in yourself and to produce fruit to encourage others. Instead of resisting these moments, let’s learn to bloom where we are planted instead of resisting or fighting for control.
In Christ,
Pastor Jeremiah
 


The Need for Follow Up

July 2018
 
Acts 15:36, “And after some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us return and visit the brothers in
every city where we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are.”
Last fall something quite amazing happened. William kept coming up to me and begging me to
take his training wheels off his bike. I would consistently respond, “You are too young William.
Maybe when you get a little older.”
William never liked my response, but finally one day he wore me down. “Daddy, can you take
my training wheels off please? I want to ride without them.” For some reason I was feeling up
to it, and immediately after I removed the training wheels, William grabbed his bike with a huge
smile and got on.
With all my other children, I let them peddle while I held the bike seat until they gained enough
confidence for me to let go. William got on his bike and took off like he had been riding forever!
I couldn’t believe it. He had just turned 4 in August, and here he was zooming down the street.
I would be lying if I said that he never had an accident on his bike. He zoomed around for a few
minutes until he had to figure out how to turn at various speeds. He would crash occasionally,
but I was always there to encourage him. With the encouragement, William kept getting back
on and has now become an excellent biker.
In life, there is always a constant need for encouragement. With the impact of a world that is
under the curse of sin, there are always new curves, terrains and hills in our faith that can make
us want to quit and walk away from it all— especially if we are new to the faith.
Even those of us who are seasoned believers understand the relentless struggles of life, and
we all appreciate people checking in on us. If you are a new believer, you might appreciate it
even more when people who care about you check in to see how you are doing.
The spiritual like can be like riding a bike the first time. Some of us take longer to ride with
confidence, while others might get on and start riding like a champ. Some feel like they fit in at
church right away while others feel reluctant. Some jump into spiritual disciplines right away—
like prayer and bible study, while others need more time.
But it doesn’t matter where we are at in the journey. We all need to be followed up by others.
One of the Apostle Paul’s methods in ministry was follow-up. Scripture records 3 different
missionary journeys of Paul. He made it a point to visit, revisit, and write new believers to
follow up on their faith and encourage them.
One of the most important parts of discipleship is following up with others through every step
of the faith, whether they are new to faith or are leaders in the faith. We need to follow up with
each other and ask, “How are you doing?” We need to spend time with each other to see that
the way one answers that question is consistent with their life and to learn from each other and
teach each other God’s Word.
The spiritual life is like being on a bike. You can’t just say a prayer of faith and then zoom away
into the sunset. There is a need for consistent follow-up. Check out these encouraging verses
about following up with each other:
• Colossians 3:16, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing
one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with
thankfulness in your hearts to God.”
• Hebrews 10:25, “Not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but
encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”
• Ephesians 5:19, “Addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs,
singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart…”
• Romans 12:10, “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one
another in honor…”
The Christian life isn’t intended to be lived out in isolation. Sometimes we might hear of a
brother or sister in Christ stumbling in sin or falling away from faith, and we wonder, “What
happened?” We can become critical or judgmental. But before we might think like that, we
might reflect on what we have done to check in with that person.
It has been exciting to have newcomers attend FBC and participate in worship. One of the
greatest ways that we can help serve these newcomers is to get to know them. Work to
connect with visitors (We should do this with regular attenders and members as well).
We have many ways to follow up with others:
● Utilize the “meet and greet” to invite someone to lunch.
● Get a phone number or email and reach out.
● Utilize social media appropriately to connect in real life.
● Send a text during the week, or call on the phone and let someone know you care
about them.
● Invite others to church and bible studies.
● Visit each other– and especially visit the elderly and widows. As people age they need
even more encouragement than ever as they face new challenges that come with age.
Let’s work hard to be there for one another, and for every person who comes through our
doors at FBC. Let’s ride with each other until one day we “ride off into the sunset,” to meet our
Savior face to face so that we all will be able to hear, “Well done, my good and faithful
servant.”
 
God bless you all,
 
Pastor Jeremiah


Waiting On God

June 2018
 
By Jeremiah Krieger
 
“This is the one who was in the congregation in the wilderness with the angel who spoke to him at Mount Sinai, and with our fathers. He received living oracles to give to us. Our fathers refused to obey him, but thrust him aside, and in their hearts they turned to Egypt, saying to Aaron, ‘Make for us gods who will go before us. As for this Moses who led us out from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’”— Acts 7:38-40
 
One of my favorite experiences in Holyoke is going to the Marketplace because the people are always friendly, and especially because they are always looking to keep their lines short. This is a gift to parents who have children because there aren’t endless aisles of impulse buy items to tempt the kiddos, nor do they have to stare at these items for a half hour or more while you have to wait to check out.
 
It was torture going to the grocery store most days in Dallas— especially when kids had to come along. Every parent who is going to survive a trip to Walmart without having a stroke or heart attack because of the stress of bringing the children along has to have a game plan before ever going. It was always a rat race trying to figure out the fastest lane to check out.
 
I remember impatiently trying to walk past other customers on the way to the checkout…almost like it was an unadvertised race that everyone in the store was registered for. You scope out the lines as quickly as possible and pray to the Lord that you make the wisest decision in which line you will spend your eternity waiting— lines that back up to the women’s clothing aisle. I was pretty sure that when Jesus spoke of Gehenna, this was probably close to what he was talking about.
 
And then there was the waiting. And waiting. Slowly, I would start to slouch on the cart. Waiting for the line to move. Keeping my eyes fixed on the lanes next to me. Wondering if I was “winning” this race that I seemed to be in. Endless, endless waiting. I would impatiently wonder in my head, “What is that cashier doing? Are they even working?” (I’ve never been the most patient person in the world. I would rather drive extra miles than sit in a traffic jam. At least I would have a sense of making progress. But I am learning.)
 
There are times in our life when we need to learn to wait patiently on God because it seems like He isn’t working. Patience is not something that you have to pray for (or that I would recommend anyone to do). If you want to learn patience, just go to a big city. God will give you many “at bats” to take a swing at patience.
 
Waiting on God isn’t easy. This week during my devotionals, I was reading through Acts when Stephen was giving his defense before the Sanhedrin. He recounts Israel’s history before the Council, and I was reminded of that time when Israel had just experienced an incredible emotional and spiritual high. God had majestically delivered his people from the hands of Pharaoh. It was the single greatest act of redemption since Noah and his family being spared from the flood. It was the greatest act of redemption on earth until the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ on the cross.
 
God delivered Israel, and then came the waiting. It was like the train that was moving 100mph came to a jarring halt. God was really preparing Israel for the next step of the journey, but what Israel saw was eternal lines at the grocery store. Moses was supposed to go up to the mountain to get a word from God, but he didn’t come back so quickly. And the people waited. And they waited. And they waited some more.
Crickets were chirping. People were fixed in an empty spiritual daze. Until finally, someone said, “Hey, let’s do something! I’m bored. God has kinda left us hanging here, so it looks like we need to find our own path.
 
So, God’s people impatiently pushed God aside. “Forget waiting on Moses,” they thought. And their hearts turned back to Egypt. They would rather go back to the bondage and heavy labor of slavery than to wait on God. Going back to Egypt became a romantic idea. The people took steps back to idol worship.
 
When Moses found out about this from God, it did not go well for God’s people. There was an incredible loss of life because Israel searched for blessing and prosperity outside of God. Fortunately, though, Moses was able to intervene on Israel’s behalf, and for the sake of God’s reputation the Lord relented from completely destroying his people.
 
Waiting on God can bring out the weakness of our faith sometimes. Especially when we are new to the faith and have experienced salvation in our own life, there are times when God makes us wait: maybe it is for a job; or maybe it is for a new spark of life in our marriage; maybe it is for direction in life. Perhaps in these moments, we would turn back to sin and toward an impulsive decision that would ultimately rob us of the blessing that is waiting for us if we just wait a little more patiently for God to provide.
 
While we wait for God to work, we can be tempted to look back to Egypt. An old way of sinful living that once was a slave master that brought us pain suddenly looks charming. Waiting can cause angst to build in the heart. That angst can turn to frustration. That frustration can become an impulse that might cause increased frustration or even tear our life apart.
 
Life is full of ups and downs. There are good times and bad— satisfaction and longing for more. We go through these cycles. But as we go through it all, just like God was working on behalf of Israel through Moses back then (even when Israel could not comprehend), God is working on our behalf today.
 
The Apostle Paul praised God because of the work God was doing that was greater than what the Church at Ephesus could comprehend. In Ephesians 3:20-21, Paul proclaims, “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”
 
When we enter into those seasons of waiting, instead of turning back to Egypt, let’s turn toward God. He is doing far more abundantly than all that we ask, or think, according to the power at work within us! In those moments when life seems to move like the aisle of a grocery store in a big city, give God praise. He is up to something!
 
Pastor Jeremiah


Confident In the Gospel

May 2018
 
By Jeremiah Krieger
 
Rom. 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”
 
Last fall I attended a board meeting for the Rocky Mountain Church Network. It was there I learned during a devotional time that the verse that ignited the ministry of Martin Luther was Romans 1:16. It became his life verse. It was one of the scriptures that started the Reformation.
 
Embedded in Romans 1:16 is the answer to the questions of why we gather and why we do what we do as a church. Our very purpose for gathering together and the very reason we do what we do is because of the Gospel. The Gospel is that we have salvation because of the faithfulness of Christ alone. It paved the road for the justification of the believer. It is by grace alone, through faith in Christ alone, based on the authority of Scriptures alone, and for the glory of God alone that we are saved. Nothing else.
 
The pulse of Luther’s heartbeat became for the purity of the Gospel. The Gospel alone is the power for salvation. It is a power that belongs to God. It is the instrument that he has used to bring salvation and hope to those who believe.
The Gospel is also the container that holds God’s power. As Moses lifted up the Serpent in the wilderness (Numbers 21) so that those who gazed upon it would be spared from death, so also has Jesus’ body been lifted up on the tree so that those who gaze upon it will be healed and spared from God’s wrath.
 
The Apostle Paul reminds us in Ephesians 2:8-9 that the formula for salvation is by grace through faith plus nothing else. It is a gift of God. It is the power of God and not ours. When we accept salvation it is a gift (John 3:16). Our only part is to believe it, and we receive it into our life. Jesus has done the work. No outside influence can promise us what is guaranteed to us solely through faith in the shed blood of Jesus Christ.
 
We live in a day and age where the Church is facing some of the same pressures at the time of Luther. I would argue that this pressure is so great that we need another Reformation in the Church, because the Church has let the Gospel message become retarded through the influence of society. My heart breaks daily for the increasing number of churches that seem to be caving to the pressures of society to redefine good and evil or to pursue man-centered methodologies to grain a crowd instead of winning outsiders the with the love of Christ.
 
Churches across America and the world are abandoning sound doctrine that has been the bedrock foundation of the Church since its inception. There is incredible pressure in American churches like never before to embrace a false gospel.
 
The cost is rising to cling to our faith. In fact, if we hold fast to the Gospel, in our rapidly changing culture we might increasingly find ourselves alone in this world. Yet, we will never be alone. Jesus is always with us. He will never leave us or forsake us, and what we suffer for the sake of the Gospel is worth it because of the future we have in Christ.
 
This is not a time when the Church can shrink back and try to broaden the gate to heaven by adopting policies of the world. Christ is the only gatekeeper, and there is nothing outside of Him that is worthy to offer to people whose deepest need is Christ.
 
The Church isn’t called to be a social club to appease the social demands of government or society. We love and serve our society and government. We are to be influencers in their midst by speaking the truth in love and modeling it to the world. When we abandon the Gospel, we abandon Christ.
 
A gathering without the Gospel is just a gathering. It might be called a church, but it is not a Church that has anything to do with Jesus. It is not a church that has power to change lives. The power to change lives is contained in the Gospel. It is the power of God. There is nothing to be ashamed of when we live and operate in His power.
 
We need reformation in our culture, but first we must have reformation in our church. We need reformation in our own hearts. Until the Gospel has become the primary focus and passion of our life and ministry, how can we have anything that will offer hope to this world?
 
If we want to see culture changed it has to begin with each person in this church. Do we live Cross-centered lives? Is our deepest passion and yearnings rooted in the Gospel? Do we care more about exalting the risen Jesus than our personal preferences?
 
When the Gospel has reached us and when we have embraced it into our life, the evidence shows in how we love one another. It shows itself in the words we speak to others. It radiates through God’s people seeking to out-serve each other. That’s what will distinctly mark us in our culture.
 
As I write this, I wonder where the Cross aligns in my own life. What is at the center of my life? How often do I use the personal pronoun, “I?” Is it in pursuit of my own selfishness: “But I want..but I deserve…well, I don’t like..?” How about you? How does the Cross align in your life? Is it at the center?
 
Oh how often is our selfishness at the center of our life instead of the cross of Christ! We can lament with the Apostle Paul in Romans 7:24, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?”
 
May God help us to prize the cross and to be ashamed of man-centered worship and personal exaltation that is at the root of ministries that are weak. I pray that Christ will be our confidence as we continue on in this world and wait for Christ’s glorious appearance in the clouds. Let’s be confident in the Gospel and put it at the center of our lives. It is God’s power to change your life and mine.
 
God bless you,
Pastor Jeremiah


When you get angry, you might be struggling with this problem:

April 2018
 
By Jeremiah Krieger 
 
I scooted up to the table to begin my morning routine. Coffee house jazz played quietly on Alexa. Steam wisped away off my oatmeal and coffee. The sunlight reflected off the worn pages of my bible. I couldn’t wait to have my morning of solitude and prayer.
That is, until my son John kept saying in my ear… “Hi Will…..Hi Will….” He sat nearby at the same table and flipped through his Lego building instructions creatively dialoguing a story in his head and out loud. My face frowned a little bit in irritation. He was interrupting my solitude.
“Dad. Get me a paper towel.” I ignored my daughter’s request trying to focus on the words in front of me. Besides, she shouldn’t talk to me like that. A few seconds later, her voice pierced my ears again, “Dad! Get me a paper towel!!!”
“Get it yourself, Bekah. Don’t talk to daddy like that!” I looked back down at the page I was trying to read now for the fifth time.
I focused even more intently, trying to defy new noises that were now coming from William playing in the background.
“Hi Will…” Faster that John’s words echoed into my ears again, my arm instinctively reached over and my hand grabbed John’s Lego instructions and tossed it across the room. My mouth erupted, “Can’t you see that I’m doing my devotions? You guys need to quiet down!”
My solitude was ruined and it made me angry. I was boiling inside. My son felt ashamed and left his food at the table though he had done nothing wrong.
I knew at that moment I had failed. I was fixated on my morning ritual rather than being faithful to what God wanted me to do. He wasn’t asking me to read my Bible and pray. He wanted me to practice engagement and love with my wife and children. I had to give everyone an apology. What a disaster I created!
Inside, I knew my obsession with my ritual was damaging my relationships. Ironically, I wasn’t listening to God in that moment, even when I was trying to pursue Him most.
In Luke 8, Jesus tells a simple story used to illustrate a spiritual lesson to the crowd that was pressing in on him. The crowd listened intently to a story about a farmer who scattered seed. Some seed fell on a path and was eaten by birds. Other seed fell on rock, didn’t take root, and withered away after it sprouted. Other seeds fell on good soil and produced a crop.
The disciples were as confused as the crowd. Jesus explained that God’s word is the seed that is cast among all people. They have all heard it, but for various reasons the seed was not implanted into everyone’s lives so that it was heard, understood and put into practice by everybody. It was only those who had a good heart that retained the seed of God’s word and persevered through the season of their life to produce a crop for the farmer (Luke 8:15).
Jesus then warned his disciples that everything we do in life will be brought to light. We will be held accountable for what we do and who we are. The exhortation to the disciples then was, “Take care then how you hear…(v.18).”
As the crowd squeezed against Jesus, someone yelled out from the back, “Hey, your mother and your brothers are standing outside, desiring to see you.” But Jesus gave a peculiar response:
My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it (v. 21).
Jesus had a one track mind. He went from town to town to do the will of the father (John 4:34). Doing God’s will was Jesus’ fixation. This is what it means to hear the word of God and do it.
The question in Luke 8:1-21 is, “What is my fixation?” What am I focused on right at this moment? Is it the right thing?
Insisting on doing my devotions, even though my family needed some attention, wasn’t doing the right thing. As a result, I felt like I was losing control. Anger began to build. When my expectations weren’t being met, I blew up. I wasn’t listening very well to what God was really wanting me to do. My morning ritual was leading me, not the Holy Spirit.
When we get angry, our problems may actually be a hearing problem. A listening problem. A problem of application. Are we fixated on what we want to do and not paying attention to God’s voice in the moment? Are our assumptions about God’s voice incorrect in those angry moments? Could it be that when we are angry we are listening more to our voice more than anything else?
If we suddenly find ourselves angry and we aren’t doing well (i.e. our actions are creating disasters), our problem may actually be that we aren’t hearing well.
 
Jeremiah Krieger


Why the Church and Its Members Cannot Be Even One Degree off Course

March 2018
 
By Jeremiah Krieger
 
In our world today, many simple tasks are completed thousands of times per day with exact precision. One of those tasks that we might not even think about is flying. Many of us fly to different cities on a fairly regular basis. We probably don’t think much about the logistics of how we get from place to place. That’s what we pay the Captain for when we buy our airline seats. But what would happen if your pilot would accidentally navigate just a little bit off course?
For every degree you fly off course, you will miss your target by 92 feet for every mile that you fly. For every 60 miles you fly, you will miss your target by one mile. Flying around the equator will land you almost 500 miles off target. Flying from JFK to LAX will put you nearly 50 miles off course. Getting that far off course wouldn’t be very noticeable during the flight if the pilot was only one degree off, but upon arrival to the destination reality would quickly set in.
Sometimes we can look at disasters in life and wonder, “How did that happen?” Recently, I was reading an article about a once thriving church in Philadelphia that has now become a heroine den. I thought “How did that happen?” In my short life, I have seen friends who appeared to have thriving marriages quickly disintegrate after 15-20 years together. I wondered, “How did that happen?” I have lamented with addicts in recovery groups who have lost everything. And I wondered, “How did that happen?”
It happens when we allow our lives to go one degree off course. There is that small and subtle thought that becomes a bad decision. The bad decision becomes a habit that quickly becomes a lifestyle. Then we deplane after a while, and we realize the disaster we have because we weren’t paying attention to small things that took us a great distance away from God.
God’s Word continually affirms us about the atrocities that occur when God’s people live outside the boundaries of the grace of community with God. We think, “It’s OK just this one time.” Or, “I’ll get back on track after I enjoy this just once.” Suddenly, we are walking away from God.
There are several places in God’s word that compel us to enjoy the blessings of life through Christ and warn us not to drift away from Him. One of the most prominent books in the Bible that warns us about the dangers of walking away from God is the book of Judges.
The book of Judges depicts Israel’s dark spot in history as their hearts slowly drifted away from God. They were never fully faithful to do what God had commanded them to do when they entered the promised land. Instead of conquering their enemies and fully destroying the idols of the pagan land, Israel continue to live in mediocrity and tolerance of sin.
Appearance of faithfulness occasionally blip the pages of Judges when God would raise up a deliverer for His people after Israel had whined long enough in their bondage. But in reality, their true state is understood in the final chapter of this messy book: “In those days Israel had no king. Each man did what he considered to be right.”
Judges chapters 1-21 are a testament of what happens to a nation when they turn away from God and turn towards themselves. Throughout these pages the reader continually asks, “How did that happen?”
The answer is one degree. Judges is a testimony of the false repentance of people who wanted to live their own way and then beg God for help when they got in trouble. Israel had a habit of leaving her King and then running back to him in the midst of her trouble. Does that sound familiar?
This kind of cycle can be played out in the lives of believers today too. We too can think one degree is OK. Today, when we let our guard down and downplay the importance of each choice we make, we have become one degree off course. The church becomes sick and powerless as His presence fades into the backdrop of our sin.
Today, Christians must be careful to make sure they are living in right relationship with God through Jesus Christ. The state of our relationship with God will show in our attitudes and the decisions we make. That tiny step of unfaithfulness away from Christ will become a chasm of pain and suffering that we needlessly inflict on ourselves. Nobody plans to create a mess in their life. It happens by subtle unfaithfulness left unchecked that erodes our faith little by little.
As we evaluate our life today, how does it measure up to God’s word? In our marriages, have we drifted from God’s standard of love that we are to have for our spouse? As we raise our children, are we discipling them and teaching them in a way that doesn’t provoke them to anger? What are we doing to help serve the body of Christ so that others will be successful in their journey of faith? Do we participate regularly in the weekly gatherings to worship Christ together?
Every step we take will affect our ability to be faithful to our calling from Christ and commitment to others. Nobody wants to one day look at our church or life and say, “What happened there?” The journey away from Jesus is a slow fade. It might start with an attitude that has gone sour. That attitude then becomes a behavior. That behavior then becomes the steps in a journey that can take us far away from God and all the blessings that are found in Him. Suddenly, we are doing what is right in our own eyes. That’s not the way we want to live.
As we enter into March, let us consider our compass. How does it read? Are we on the right course in the journey? We cannot afford to be one degree off. We all want to get to the right destination.

God bless you,

Pastor Jeremiah



Following Our Commander

February 2018
Pastor Jeremiah Krieger

“But the one who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the stream broke against it, immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great.”(Luke 6:49 ESV)

As the Civil War was reaching its final days of battle, Confederate troops were racing to High Bridge near Farmville, Virginia to escape the Union forces.

General Washburn and a Calvary of 80 horsemen and 847 infantry were in hot pursuit. Suddenly, these Union Soldiers found themselves surrounded by 1200 rebels. Washburn was hoping to get to High Bridge to burn it down and choke the last of the Confederacy.

In the midst of a desperate situation, Washburn came up with a plan to pierce through the Rebel lines and destroy them from the inside out. Orders were given to the infantry who were hunkered on the ground to follow the Calvary into battle and fight.

Washburn led the charge. The two forces clashed in the middle. But Washburn’s infantry never got up from the ground. They didn’t move a muscle. The Confederate Calvary picked up on this and they were emboldened in the battle. When all was said and done, Washburn’s infantry sealed their fate because they failed to follow orders.
Every single Union Soldier was either killed or captured! Only 100 Confederate troops lost their lives.

Just like in military battles, it is critical to follow orders, so also is it crucial to follow our Commander in our faith. Jesus calls his disciples to follow Him. Discipleship is following Jesus as Lord of your life. The Lord is the master. The director. The one who calls the shots. He is the one who sets the chief example. The one who gives the marching orders.

Jesus gives us orders for our benefit. He doesn’t want us to fall. In Luke 6, 46-49, Jesus says that the one who hears his words and does them is the one who has a sure foundation. It is the person who hears Jesus’ words and does not put them into practice whose foundation is the one that crumbles.

Following Jesus by listening to his commands is the way that we build a foundation that we can be confident will sustain our life. It will impact every decision we make. It will help us overcome attacks from the enemy.

Jesus wants us to be victorious in the battles we face in life. He doesn’t want us to be counted as a casualty of war. The greatest struggle we face is that sometimes we are like those soldiers hunkered down on the plains when Washburn gave his orders. The command to charge was given and the soldiers didn’t move.

The soldiers became a massive casualty. Washburn was their commanding General. He carried the rank, but in practice the soldiers didn’t listen. Each soldier remained in his predetermined position. The truth was that each soldier illegitimately pulled rank over the General by not obeying orders. The result is that they were decimated.

The spiritual war’s end that we all face today has been determined. But there are still battles we face each day. Whether our struggles involve loving our spouses well, disciplining our children right, making finances work, or the challenges we face at our jobs, Jesus wants us to be victorious. Jesus gives us direction and leadership in every situation we encounter, but are we listening to his commands?

Jesus asks us, “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?” Jesus is the commanding General, and we can have confidence in the strength and abilities of His leadership. He’s won the greatest battle the cosmos has ever faced when he was nailed to the cross and overcame death to rise back to the Father in glory.

Let’s remember that our victory is in Jesus Christ. Satan has been vanquished on the Cross. Jesus is King. Let’s follow His orders for our life. God bless you and stay safe under the command of the Lord’s leadership!
 
Pastor Jeremiah 


Cross-Training for 2018

Hebrews 12:1, “let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,”
 
January 2018
Pastor Jeremiah Krieger
 
Running is one of my least favorite activities in the world. In fact, I know that I am highly allergic to running. Every time I do it, my face turns red; I sweat profusely, and I have a hard time breathing. In the medical world, we call these signs of anaphylactic shock! So I try to avoid it at all costs.

All kidding aside, in the Christian life, our faith is often equated to a long distance run. For some of us, that metaphor is a dream. We love to run. It is a time of freedom and inner cleansing. We live for the runner’s high. For others, we might wish the Bible had somehow creatively used a couch and channel surfing as a metaphor. But it didn’t. The writer of Hebrews encourages believers to exercise their faith with endurance.

The worst part of it is (if you don’t like running) that we can’t even casually live out our faith. The Apostle Paul says in 1 Cor. 9:24, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize?
So run that you may obtain it.” The manner that we are to run is in a way that we might obtain the prize! That means we must be conditioned and trained to win. We don’t casually slip and fall over the finish line! In today’s world, serious athletes cross-train.

Cross-training is typically defined as an exercise regimen that uses several modes of training to develop a specific component of fitness. A runner who includes other forms of training into his exercise routine will prevent himself from injury and strengthen other muscle groups that are not focused on during running. Cross-training helps improve overall performance in one’s sport.

The Apostle Paul says, “Rather train yourself for godliness; 8 for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come (1 Tim. 4:7b-8). Spiritual transformation (becoming more like Jesus in our attitudes and actions) doesn’t happen overnight.
 
One way we can help our growth in 2018 is by cross training in three specific areas of our life. If we are willing to devote these three areas to Christ, then we will see a remarkable transformation in ourselves and an awakening in our church and community. 
 

The first way that we should cross-train is through our corporate worship. Meeting together regularly is normative for disciples of Jesus and helps to strengthen our faith. Acts 2:42-47 shows us what followers of Christ did back then, “And they devoted themselves…to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

When we follow Jesus, we become part of a body. We become part of something much greater than ourselves. You can’t say “I love Christ,” but hate the bride. You can’t say, “I’m devoted to Jesus,” but not be devoted to his people. Being part of the Church is part of how Christ grows us. Attending worship services weekly will help us stay in the game and strong in our faith.

Second, we should cross-train by growing with each other. In the Epistles we will find the words “one another” joined together 45 times when speaking of our devotion to other believers for the purpose of deliberately building up their lives. Scripture calls us to be devoted to each other. Romans 12:10 says, “Be devoted to one another in love.”

Practicing discipleship through small groups is instrumental in our spiritual growth. It is instrumental in finding freedom from sin. It is instrumental in aiding believers in their full devotion to Christ. It is the practice field where the team is built up and prepared for the game. If you don’t already belong to a small group of friends to intentionally build each other up, consider setting aside an hour per week and inviting a few others to share that time with you to build friendships and grow in faith.

Third, our cross-training should involve serving with each other. If everyone in our church devoted one hour per week to serving in a church ministry, it would result in both personal growth and the corporate growth of our church.
 
We have all been given unique gifts, aptitudes and abilities that only we can do. We all have something to offer the body of Christ. If we do not serve the Church, we are hurting both ourselves and the Church.

Devoting time to serve with the Church is normative behavior in the life of the Christian. In fact, in 1 Corinthians 12:1-2, Paul goes as far as to say that he doesn’t want us to be uniformed about our spiritual gifts. The implication is that those who do not use their gifts to serve the Church are those who are using their gifts to serve mute idols. Jesus said we cannot serve both God and money. He is calling us to singular devotion to serving him.

Understanding what Christ is calling us to is essential to the faith. If we are living out the faith like a channel surfer instead of a cross-trained runner, chances are that we are not running for the purpose of getting the prize. If we have a carefree and thoughtless attitude towards our faith and aren’t intentionally living it out with others, then we will miss the mark.

We all have 168 hours in the week. We all are called to run the race. Our training doesn’t have to be that complicated. If we want to run for the long haul, we should definitely cross-train by devoting an hour each week for corporate worship together, an hour each week for growing together in abiding friendships, and one hour per week of serving alongside each other with the Church.

Cross-train this year with me and watch God change your life. Devote that time to Christ and watch Him use you to transform this church and our community.

God bless you,

Pastor Jeremiah

 


To Marvel & Mend this Christmas

To Marvel & Mend this Christmas
December 2017
Samantha Krieger
 
The shepherds’ desire to see this sign was no Sunday stroll in the park. I can just imagine them running as fast as they could, sweating, hearts racing, maybe even stumbling through the fields because it was night.
I can imagine their hearts pumping through their chests as they reach their destination and look Mary, Joseph, and Jesus in the eye for the first time. I doubt many words were uttered on their part but just sheer amazement. And this amazement could only lead them to make known what they had just seen.
The glory of God had just come down from heaven- a shining light in the midst of evil and darkness. Love had come down to save them and set them free from their sins. God had chosen them- lowly shepherds- to be the first to see this humble King lying in a manger.
 
They couldn’t help but spread the news that Peace was here. They shared the news to everyone and it spread far and wide.
“And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds.” (Luke 2:18)
But not only that, all the hearers of this good news marveled too.
And it’s this word “marvel” that jumps out at me today. It’s a word that I can’t skip over when I’m reading Luke’s account of Christ’s words and works.
Do I marvel at the gift of God sending his son Jesus down to this earth to save us? Has this good news so impacted my life that others see it and believe it as well?
Have I taken the time in these days leading up to Christmas to sit, reflect, be still and marvel at the mighty, mysterious works of God?
 
Because truthfully, I know there is a marveling that needs to be done in my own heart that has yet to happen. And there is a mending of brokenness needing to be done too. Both of which require God’s hand to awaken and heal.
And then I am reminded again of why Jesus came…
“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, Because the Lord has anointed Me To preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, And the opening of the prison to those who are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, And the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn, To console those who mourn in Zion, To give them beauty for ashes, The oil of joy for mourning, The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; That they may be called trees of righteousness, The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.” (Isaiah 61:1-3)
I want to see Jesus for who He is. To know him more. To put him first. To share his love to everyone he puts in my path. But I have to understand that this can’t be accomplished in my own strength. It has to be his mighty work through me for his glory.
Like the shepherds, when we see Jesus for who he really is, we are changed forever. Light pierces through our darkness. Our lives are radically different. And we can’t help but desire to see that change in other people too.
May you experience His light in a way you never have before this Christmas.
Samantha Krieger