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 


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


U-Turn: A Signpost for the Spiritual Journey

U-Turn: A Signpost for the Spiritual Journey
November 2017
Jeremiah Krieger
 
God’s love for His people is unlike any other love that I have ever witnessed in my life. Throughout the message of the prophets, we can see God practically begging His people to return to Him- not in a desperate sort of way, but in a way that demonstrates deep concern and yearning for their well being. God’s love for His people is truly remarkable.
 
In Zechariah 1:3, the Lord said to His people, “Turn to me.” God wanted his people to return to Him with their whole heart. As I read this, echoes of God’s covenant with Israel ring throughout my ears. In Deuteronomy 30:1-3, the Lord promises Israel that when His people are taken into captivity in far away lands because of their disobedience, if they turn to the Lord and obey him with their entire heart, mind and being, then He will have pity on His people and reverse their captivity! In other words, God said that if His people were ever found lost and lead to captivity in distant lands, then the only way back was to do a spiritual U-turn.
 
When Zechariah prophesied, his purpose was to challenge returned exiles to return to the Lord so that they can be cleansed of their sins and once again enjoy the Covenant blessings. His message was, “return to me.”
 
Repentance is the U-turn for the heart that is lost in captivity from sin. Even believers today can get caught up in sin and cause immense pain in their life. We have all had that even after professing Christ as our Savior.
Today when believers fall into sin, the way that sin is dealt with is different than how it was dealt with in the Old Testament, but God’s appeal to us still remains. Hebrews 4:16 says, “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
 
Today a believer enjoys relationship with God through Jesus Christ.
Christ’s blood covers his sins past, present and future. His standing before God is eternally secure in the New Covenant. However, sometimes we make decisions that hurt ourselves and others. There can be a time when sin takes us farther than we want to go, keep us longer than we want to stay, and cost us more than we want to pay. It is in these moments when we can be assured of two certainties: 1) God loves us and his blood covers over all our sin 2) God wants us to return to him with all our heart.
Therefore, no matter how far removed from God we might find ourselves, not only do we have the opportunity to be reconciled back to right relationship with God, but that is exactly what God wants us to do. God’s promise always remains for any remnant of people who trust in Him. If you have found your heart distant from God, what are you waiting for? Return back to Him!
 
Blessings and Happy Thanksgiving,
 
Pastor Jeremiah


Simple Faith

Simple Faith
October 2017
Jeremiah Krieger
Do you ever find yourself confused trying to figure out just what God wants from you when you decide to follow Jesus? Have you ever felt overwhelmed or exhausted with Church life? Do you ever feel guilty because you don’t feel like you’re doing enough, even when you’re doing so much for Jesus?
If you answered “yes” to these questions, then chances are you might be making your walk with Jesus more complicated than it needs to be. When Jesus bids us to come to Him, he is not asking for an open ended commitment to leading and building church programs. He is asking us for something far greater: to be fully devoted to Him.
Being a fully devoted follower of Christ doesn’t require us doing more for Jesus. It requires Jesus doing more for us through the sanctification process of the Holy Spirit. 1 Corinthians 6:11 reminds us how the Holy Spirit is the agent who works on us so that Jesus can work through us: “But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” The longer we follow Jesus, the more available we will become to Him, and the more He will continue to work through us.
Yet, if we gathered every believer from our church together in a room and asked a question, “What does it mean to be fully devoted to Jesus,” we would likely find out that everybody has a slightly different answer. We would discover that we have made the faith more confusing than it needs to be. Some of us are spending too much time doing too much work and getting burned out because we want to please God. Others are doing too little and are spectators rather than players in the game…
If we are going to be fully devoted to Christ, we might want to rethink our spiritual habits and to what we are devoted. We each have 168 hours per week. We each have natural gifts and talents. We each have resources that we are called to steward for the glory of God. How can we maximize our stewardship for God’s greatest glory and our greatest good?
There are 3 hours of our life that we should consider devoting completely to Christ— no if’s, and’s, or but’s. I believe that if we are willing to devote these three hours to Christ and to defend them at any cost, not allowing anything else to dislodge their use, then we would see a remarkable transformation in ourselves and an awakening in our church and community.
The first hour that we should unequivocally devote to Christ for His glory and our good is in God’s grace through corporate worship. Meeting together regularly is normative for disciples of Jesus.
When we follow Jesus, we become part of a body. We become part of something much greater than ourselves. Being part of the Church is not optional in the faith. 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. Over and over throughout the New Testament we see how we are grafted in to Christ and are used to serve others. Being part of the Church is also how Christ grows us.
If your devotion to Christ is measured by your devotion to the Church, how are you doing? Corporate worship on Sunday mornings is an opportunity to be reminded of Christ’s faithfulness and to remind others of the same. It is an opportunity to express gratitude to God through songs, tithing, and service— all of which evangelize and declare to unbelievers that we truly believe that life is found in Jesus Christ.
Second, we should unequivocally devote an hour to Christ by growing with each other. Too often people come as spectators rather than players. Have you ever watched the Broncos score a touchdown and then turned to your spouse or friend and gave each other a high five or slap on the bottom like it was you who scored?
 
There is a remarkable difference between a spectator and a player. Both perform the same actions (high five and a slap and cheer) when their team scores. But only the player is engaged in the game. Only the player will get the reward. The same is true with the disciple. Scripture calls us to be devoted to each other. Romans 12:10 says, “Be devoted to one another in love.” In John 13:34, Jesus told his disciples, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
 
If your devotion to Christ is measured by your devotion to each other, how are you doing? Showing up on Sunday morning, singing a song, paying tithe, and listening to a sermon are all part of following Jesus. However, when we are called to Christ, we are called to abiding relationships with each other. If we don’t intentionally meet together for the purpose of edification and practicing the “one anothers” of Scripture then you are playing more the spectator than the player.
 
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. Practicing discipleship through small groups is instrumental in 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.
 
Third, if everyone in our church devoted one hour of service per week to Jesus by serving in a church ministry, it would result in personal growth and the corporate growth of our church. This past spring we did a series from 1 Corinthians 12 called, “Gifted.”
We have all been given unique gifts, aptitudes and abilities that only we can do, and nobody else. 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.
 
If your devotion to Christ is measured by your devotion to serving the Church, how are you doing? 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 him.
 
Understanding what Christ is calling us to is essential to the faith. It is essential to know what Christ is actually calling us to if we are going to actually follow Him— either as an individual or as the Church. Following Jesus wasn’t intended to be confusing. When Jesus saw Simon and Andrew casing their nets at the sea, he said, “Follow me.” Andrew and Simon got up and followed Jesus. That’s what all the disciples did. They left what they were doing and followed Jesus.
 
In Matthew 28:18-20, Jesus calls us to make disciples. Disciples are made, not born. In the discipleship process we need to make it clear what it looks like to follow Christ. It doesn’t have to be that hard. We all have 168 hours in the week. We are all called to follow Christ. It doesn’t have to be that complicated. If we want to follow Jesus, we should definitely start first by devoting an hour each week for corporate worship together, an hour each week for growing together in abiding friendships that spur each other on to follow Christ more, and to devote one hour per week of serving alongside each other with the Church.
 
Devote that time to Christ and watch him change your life. Devote that time to Christ and watch him transform this church and our community. It really is that simple.
 
God bless you,
 
Pastor Jeremiah


Salvation Through Numbers

Salvation Through Numbers
September 2017
Pastor Jeremiah
 
“When you go to war in your land against the adversary who attacks you, then you shall sound an alarm with the trumpets, that you may be remembered before the LORD your God, and be saved from your enemies.” – Numbers 10:9
 
Have you ever found yourself frustrated because you cannot seem to kick that bad habit or sin in your life that keeps popping up too often? Or do you sometimes find yourself discouraged, isolated and alone when life’s troubles smash into you like a Mack Truck? Being alone in the midst of struggle is not fun, and nobody wants to admit when they need help. That is not the kind of life that God wants for his people. There is a better way that is life giving during difficult times.
 
The book of Numbers is a narrative of Israel’s history written by Moses. At this time Israel was a nation preparing for war after God had delivered her from the hands of Egypt. Numbers describes how God was getting Israel prepared to enter the promise land by providing a battle plan to fight against enemies of God who would be adversaries to Israel’s peace and prosperity.
In Numbers 10, the Lord instructs Moses to make trumpets. There were different signals that were announced through the horn. In verse 9, God instructed Moses to sound a signal when Israel went to battle against her enemies. The purpose of this signal was a battle call.
 
When the horn sounded, Israel would be called to arms to prepare for battle and fight. Israel’s salvation from her enemies required commitment to sounding an alarm throughout the camp. This alarm brought everyone together and strength was found in numbers. Salvation was found through the many people of God sticking together.
 
Today, our willingness to sound the horn still corresponds to our salvation. God is not necessarily calling us to make or buy a trumpet when we are in the midst of a spiritual battle. But if that works for you, go for it! Rather, there is a different way we can sound the alarm.
 
Confession is the sounding horn that frees us from the grasp of the enemy. When we are in the face of temptation, we need to have a signal that we send out to trusted friends and family who can support us as we battle (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10). When our enemy the devil is looking around for somebody to devour (1 Peter 5:8), and when his target has been set on you, one of the best ways to fight the battle is to gather strength in numbers.
 
When facing temptation to sin or the adversities in life, sending a text or making a phone call out to trusted friends is a great way to sound the horn for battle. Meeting regularly with people you trust who will spur you on in your faith is a great way to build trust and establish a network of warriors who will fight against sin with you and who will uphold you when your strength is failing.
 
Sounding the horn is a gift that God gives us to see us through in our salvation. Overcoming the enemy requires steadfastness and lasting commitment to “sound the horn” when we are faced with the choice to sin or doubt God in our struggles of adversity. When we confess to another, I am angry, or I am full of lust, or when we say, I fear man, or I am hurting right now, it brings us into the light before God and gathers others around us who will fight with us through temptation and adversity.
 
Just as Israel was required to sound the horn in order to be victorious over her enemies, so also ought we sound the alarm to take up arms to fight against sin. Who do you have in your life that will be an encouragement to you when you struggle? Who in your life holds you to live by God’s word instead of the ways of man in the midst of adversity? Finally, are you being that person to others?
 
Salvation, in Numbers, was found by Israel when the horn was sounded. Salvation in numbers (of trusted friends around us) is also how God saves us from the enemies of sin an temptation today. Let’s battle together and not alone.
 
Battling with you,
 
Pastor Jeremiah
 


Why God Doesn’t Always Give Us What We Want

Samantha Krieger
 
August 2017
Recently my family and I were on our summer vacation at a Christian retreat center and I decided to grab a Gold Peak sweet tea out of the vending machine before the speaking session. The man in front of me pressed the buttons for a Mountain Dew and to his surprise a Diet Coke came out instead.
“Aw man, it gave me what I needed, not what I wanted,” he turned around and said to me.
I smiled and empathized with him, offering my extra change.
“No, it’s okay. I’ll just take it anyway,” he said reluctantly.
As I went to carefully press the buttons for my tea, I thought about his words and how true they were in our spiritual lives.
Jesus is concerned about what we need, more than what we want. In fact, our wants, desires, and cravings can often lead us down a path of unnecessary pain, hurt, and tears: Coveting something that is not ours to the point of our family’s ruin, desiring the latest fad that only leaves us feeling empty, overindulging in sugar that gives us exhaustion and an expanded waistline, and more.
Jesus is the one able to give us more than we can think of or imagine. He is more than a quick fix but offers us everlasting joy and peace because he is the Living Water. What we see and long for here on earth barely scratches the beauty and majesty of the abundant life that he says he offers us today and into eternity. He knows what our soul needs most and it is Christ alone. Nothing more. Nothing added. No substitutes. Not Jesus + _______ (you fill in the blank).
It seems though, that we’re still on a meaningless chase to find happiness and joy that is already in front of us.
C.S. Lewis famously quoted:
 
“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak.  We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea.  We are far too easily pleased.”
 
Jesus is the only one who can bring the lasting, infinite joy and pleasure that our souls are longing for so deeply. Truly, we know we were made for some- something beyond ourselves and what this world skillfully markets to us, but is a false sense of happiness and security.
 
Now, later in the day, as my kids play in the white sand and build castles with sticks, leaves, and rocks, they’re in their own world with not much at their fingertips but the gift of nature. Yet, they’re pleased, satisfied, and complete-ly entertained. They laugh and dance by the water. The sand covers their skin and they’re hot now.
“Let’s take a dip in the cool water!” I say.
“Yeah!” they yell, setting their shovels and buckets down for a better reward of crashing waves and clean skin. Their bodies are engulfed by the refreshing water and their little souls are refreshed.
May we be a church that is not too easily pleased by the “wants” in our life, but instead are “all in” when it comes to enjoying the beauty, greatness, and holiness of our God who promises that when we come to him that we’ll never be thirsty again.
“If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.” – John 7:37
 


The Call of Missions

The Call of Missions
July 2017
Jeremiah Krieger
 
This July the missions committee is helping our church to focus on our missions. For the next few weeks, we have invited many of our missionaries to come in to share about their ministries. On July 2, I will be kicking off the month with a message on missions and then the next few weeks we will have our missionaries visit to share about their ministries and give a message of encouragement. This will be a great opportunity to both be a good host for our missionaries and to get to know them and reconnect with them as they share about the work God is accomplishing in their life.
 
When I was growing up, there was a time that I feared that God would call me to be a missionary. As a college student, I dedicated my life to the Lord and surrendered to his calling in my life. I became willing to go wherever and do whatever he wanted for my life. My life was at peace with whatever God would call me to do.
 
Now it is years later, and I have accepted my call to missions. But it is not a calling that I fully understood years earlier.
Mission is an important word in the life of the true Christian because it describes the personal work of his or her life. When we become a Christian, one of the fundamental transformations is that we adopt a new life mission (Eph. 2:1-10). In other words, we move from being inwardly focused, pursing the desires of our flesh, and we become externally focused, reaching out to those who do not yet know Christ. Missions is not necessarily about going across the world as it is about going across the room or across the yard to your neighbor. Being on mission is about engaging others with the hope of the Gospel wherever you are and no matter where God takes you.
Some of Jesus’ final words to his disciples before he ascended to heaven were, “19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20). Jesus has called us to be on mission for him.

time that I feared that God would call me to be a missionary. As a college student, I dedicated my life to the Lord and surrendered to his calling in my life. I became willing to go wherever and do whatever he wanted for my life. My life was at peace with whatever God would call me to do.
Now it is years later, and I have accepted my call to missions. But it is not a calling that I fully understood years earlier.

Mission is an important word in the life of the true Christian because it describes the personal work of his or her life. When we become a Christian, one of the fundamental transformations is that we adopt a new life mission (Eph. 2:1-10). In other words, we move from being inwardly focused, pursing the desires of our flesh, and we become externally focused, reaching out to those who do not yet know Christ. Missions is not necessarily about going across the world as it is about going across the room or across the yard to your neighbor. Being on mission is about engaging others with the hope of the Gospel wherever you are and no matter where God takes you.
Some of Jesus’ final words to his disciples before he ascended to heaven were, “19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20). Jesus has called us to be on mission for him.

The mission Christ gave was not new. God has always had a heart for the nations. 1 Chronicles 16:24 says, “Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples!” Psalms 96:3 says, “Tell the nations about his splendor! Tell all the nations about his amazing deeds!” God has always had a love for the nations and he has always called his people to participate in the mission of declaring his glory and the good news of the Gospel.

 
2 Corinthians 5:20 reminds us of how we are involved in Christ’s mission: “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us…” What an exciting opportunity to be used by God to help be a vessel for the Gospel. Through sharing the Gospel we will invite transformation and freedom in the lives of others. However, if we don’t do our part, our culture will continue to suffer without knowing the hope that is available to them.
 
Think about that last argument you might have had with your spouse…or that time someone inconvenienced you at the grocery store or parking lot…or that person who sat in your chair at church! There is nothing wrong with stability and comfort. But when we are fighting for those freedoms, we must make sure we fight for the Gospel more than our freedoms. Galatians 5:13 says, “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.”
What would it look like if we used our freedoms to fully pursue the mission that Christ has given to us? What would it look like if we abandoned our personal mission and fully pursued the Gospel together as individuals and as a church?

As our missionaries come to visit, be encouraged by the updates we receive and how the Gospel is at work in our world through our support. But also be inspired by the sacrifice of those who have devoted themselves to pursing global evangelization and consider the sacrifices they have made to do the Lord’s work. We might ask ourselves, “What am I willing to sacrifice for the sake of the Gospel? What is God calling you to do so that you might become more fully devoted to Him?”

In His Service,

Pastor Jeremiah



Finding Rest

Psalm 16:8-10

 

8          I keep my eyes always on the LORD.

                        With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.

9          Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;

                        my body also will rest secure,

10        because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead,

                        nor will you let your faithful one see decay.

 

            This summer, I am looking forward to taking my family on a journey to a place where my family often vacationed when I was a child during the warm Michigan summers. One of my favorite places in the world is Lake Michigan. If you’ve never been there, I can only give you my greatest encouragement to make that a summer trip for you and your family or friends one day before you die.

            There is nothing like disappearing from daily life and joyfully swimming through the crystal clear waters of the Lake and feeling the warm white beach sand squash down under your feet. The gentle Lake breeze and the smell of barbecues are inviting for you after you enjoy a full day’s activity at the lake– including swimming, boating, hikes along the sand dunes, bike trails, wind surfing and more.

            Whether you are looking to find rest miles away at a lake this summer, or whether you will simply enjoy an Eastern Colorado sunrise on your porch in the morning, I want to encourage you to take a journey that leads to rest for you this summer.

            King David describes the kind of rest that God desires for His people to have throughout their life and not just for a summer trip. We can drive hundreds of miles, fly across an ocean, and spend thousands of dollars but still not find rest if we are not careful. The kind of rest God desires you to have cannot be entered into your GPS. Apple’s Siri or Amazon’s Alexa will not help you find it either.

            The rest that God desires you to have this summer can only be found in Christ. King David describes the focus of his eyes. They are fastened on the Lord. He says that he will not be shaken nor will he eternally suffer, no matter what his days would bring. The road to rest that David is describing produces confidence in the presence and hope in the future.

            The Hebrew word for rest in this passage is Shakhan, which means to settle down, to abide, or to dwell. What David found is that there is a road to rest when we relinquish ourselves to the loving leadership of Jesus Christ in our life. It is a place where we can be at home with ourselves and with God. When we lead a life without rest, we are actually demonstrating that God is not good and that he is not trustworthy to lead our lives.

            Since Samantha and I moved to Holyoke, we have observed what a hardworking group of people this community is. It is quite impressive. Surprisingly, this culture is similar to the bustling city we left, a city that never slept. Just like how the deadlines of corporate jobs kept Dallasites hustling all year long, so also does the mercy of nature produce a hustle in this agrarian culture. If you are not careful, you will either work yourself to death or work yourself until death– neither of which are God’s desire for you.

             God desires for you to have rest this summer and all year long. The greatest activity you can do for yourself, your family and this church is to take advantage of opportunities to rest in Jesus– whether that is on your back patio, on the seat of a tractor watching the sun rise or set, or after you tell your loved ones goodnight. Take regular opportunities to remind yourself that your value, significance and worth is not found in your prestige, position or possessions. It is found only through a relationship with God by trusting in the shed blood of Jesus Christ.

            Wherever your journeys take you this summer, be sure to make one of your regular destinations that of rest with Jesus. Wherever you are, find yourself at home with Jesus. May your summer be full of joy and fun, and may your hearts overflow with the love of Christ in you.

 

Blessings,

Pastor Jeremiah



Tradition

Acts 26:22, And so, having obtained help from God, I stand to this day testifying both to small and great, stating nothing but what the Prophets and Moses said was going to take place.

When I was young, my family had several traditions. On thanksgiving, we would have a big turkey dinner with extended family. On Christmas Eve we would always get to open one gift, and it usually ended up being pajamas. On Easter we dressed up to go to church, and when we could afford it we would go out to eat. I loved these kinds of traditions.

In Christianity there are also traditions. Different churches have different traditions. Here at FBC, we have a rich tradition of celebrating Easter and Christmas with special songs and decorations. The order of our service and the celebration of the Lord’s Table carries on a tradition in this church. In more practical areas, the saints of this church have a legacy of generosity and service. Traditions like these are often beautiful ways to convey the Gospel and a special reminder of God’s goodness in our life.

But something else to think about is that the Faith itself is traditional- not because of church activity (I.e. what kind of music is sung on Sunday morning or how people dress) but because of beliefs. True faith is rooted in tradition. When Paul argued his defense before his accusers, he argued that what he proclaimed was nothing more than tradition of the faith. The testimony of Jesus Christ was rooted in the Prophets and Moses.

It is not a new rabbit that Paul pulled out of a hat. It was historical tradition. Today, if a church does not carry tradition in this way, it is not a church. Core doctrines are fundamental traditions of the church, worth dying for. The Apostle’s Creed is a sum of historical traditional truth that should be present in every church:
 

I believe in God, the Father almighty,

creator of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,

who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,

born of the Virgin Mary,

suffered under Pontius Pilate,

was crucified, died, and was buried;

he descended to the dead.

On the third day he rose again;

he ascended into heaven,

he is seated at the right hand of the Father,

and he will come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,

the holy catholic Church,

the communion of saints,

the forgiveness of sins,

the resurrection of the body,

and the life everlasting.

Amen.

 

Christianity has a rich tradition of being outwardly focused and self sacrificial, pursuing others with the love of Christ and for the sake of the Gospel. May God help us to live for the tradition of the Faith and not the traditions of our preferences.

When we uphold our tradition in order to communicate and celebrate the Gospel, we should consider the outcome. If in the pursuit of our traditions we neglect to show love to others, or if it becomes unhelpful in accomplishing the mission and vision that God has given to our church, then we might pray about changing and starting a new tradition that will help us to accomplish the work that we have been given.

I enjoyed our different traditions growing up. They were fun moments we enjoyed together as a family. In some ways they defined us. In the same way the foundational beliefs of the Church are a tradition that define the Church. Every true Church by definition is traditional. They carry on the beliefs and practices of Christianity in various forms.

Take a moment and reflect on some of your favorite traditions growing up and some of your favorite traditions of this church. Give God thanks for the many good memories and experiences you’ve shared with others through the traditions you have celebrated. Ask God to help you to continue in traditions that are helpful and to show you if there are new traditions that you might start as a celebration of His faithfulness. 

 

Blessings,

Pastor Jeremiah



The Link Between Our Faith and Our Works

            Last month, I wrote about what God really wants from us: a transformed heart. I also wrote that God will reject those who claim the name of Jesus but do not do what is right. On the surface, this implies that we are saved by our works, but that is absolutely not true. Saving faith, being declared legally righteous in God’s sight and finding acceptance by him comes alone through trusting Jesus (Romans 5:1). So, how then is “doing right” related to our salvation?

            First, we need to realize that we cannot muster up the strength to just “do right.” The kind of heart transformation that we need is only accomplished by God when we trust Jesus. God continually demonstrates His works before us so that we will come to fully trust Him. In John 6, Jesus told the crowd that the work of God they witnessed (the miracles Jesus performed), was so that they would believe in Jesus as Savior.

            This is not to say that the only work from us that God wants is that we believe in Jesus, but that the work of God for us (his continued demonstration of his miraculous power and faithful love in our life) is for the purpose of wooing us to trust His love for us in Jesus. In other words, we come to believe Jesus in all that He declares about Himself and who He is and what He has accomplished on the cross and will accomplish in our future. Or to state it another way, we are freed to worship God with our wills and our lives. We are freed from our slavery to dead objects and dead pursuits to serve our new master, the living God. What a great privilege and high honor!

            The Bible teaches that once we are saved, we are not free to continue to walk in sin (Rom. 6:1-2). In fact, we are actually obligated to be good. In John 14:15, Jesus says, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” Also, 1 John 2:3 says, “And by this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments.” If we know Jesus as our King, and we respect His position and authority and believe his promises, we will both be right (because the shed blood of Jesus has cleansed us) and do right (because we are compelled to serve our King). This behavior change is the result of the Holy Spirit accomplishing what God promised us in Deuteronomy 30:6: “And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.”

            So the reason it is important to pay attention to our works is because there is a link between what we do and what we believe. Our beliefs are the foundation of our works. Faith is the seed from which our works grow. That’s why Jesus taught the crowd in the sermon on the mount that saving faith is recognized by its fruit (Matthew 7:15-20). This is both a quantity of life issue (true salvation that leads to eternal life) and a quality of life issue (finding freedom from hurts, habits and hang-ups that hurt us).

            Regarding the quantity of life, true saving faith has eternal benefits. True believers will enjoy eternal years of blessing in God’s eternal Kingdom where we will forever worship and serve Him, and also to be able to enjoy the fruit of our labor. Eternal life with our eternal King will be filled will endless blessing and joy that is unparalleled to what we know in this short life (Romans 8:18-24). That promise is guaranteed to those who believe in Jesus as their savior, and it can never ever be taken away or lost (Romans 8:31-39).

            Regarding the quality of life, people who have true saving faith will experience a better way of life that offers benefits which transcend even the most extreme suffering and pain this world brings. However, for those who have experienced saving faith but continue to walk in sin, that quality of life will eventually greatly diminish— even when it seems as though people who walk in sin sometimes appear to be successful. The Psalmist lamented this problem in Psalm 73. People who experience true saving faith but continue in sin and fail to serve God will experience the Lord’s discipline. This is what the writer assures us in Hebrews 12, and the Psalmist finds peace about it in Psalm 119:75, and where the sage finds hope in Proverbs 3:12.

            Additionally, when we have saving faith, over time we learn to trust the love of Jesus more and more. As we do this, we should increasingly give up vices that we once turned to during times of stress, difficulty, or boredom and find satisfaction and freedom in Jesus. This process of maturing in the faith (or you can say, “Increasing in trust”) is called sanctification. In sanctification we grow to devote our time, talents and treasures to Jesus. In sanctification, we come to increasingly find satisfaction and contentment from a relationship with God. An increase of this kind of faith will produce fruit that is revealed in our character (Galatians 5), in our countenance (John 4), and in how we use our resources (time, talent & treasure: Matthew 25).

            Living life with an unchanged heart is dangerous because the Lord rejects the worship of the one who claims His name but has a hardened heart. Not only that, but sometimes some of the most scathing discipline can come in the form of when the Lord lets us walk in our sinful desires. Consequences to our choices can be the unbearable pain that the Lord might use to turn us back to Him (1 Corinthians 5:1-5). Our desperation in pain can be the solemn assurance of the Lord’s discipline and thus our salvation (Hebrews 12:3-8). God loves his children too much to continue to let them stay in sin.

            When we have continual hypocrisy (the practice of claiming to have moral standards or beliefs to which one’s own behavior does not conform) in our life, we can be assured of one of two things. Either we know God and are not walking in a way that brings blessing, and consequently will experience the Lord’s discipline. Or, if we habitually live without bearing true fruits of saving faith in our life, we may be proving that we never really knew God. The seeds of saving faith will increasingly yield the fruit of that faith. God will prune us to make us more fruitful. He is interested in receiving the fruit of our worship. The seeds of unbelief will produce fruits of the flesh that God rejects (Galatians 5:19-21). That is why Paul exhorts the church at Corinth, “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you–unless, of course, you fail the test? (2 Corinthians 13:5).”

            So, if you have struggled in sin (or habitually producing the fruits of sin) like I have before, you might want to ask, “Am I really saved?” That is, have I ever come to trust in Jesus as my personal Savior? If the answer to that is “no,” then begin to trust Him with your will and life now. Take a moment to confess your sin and ask for forgiveness and accept his grace. If the answer to that question is “yes,” then you should believe that Jesus’ blood covers your sin and trust in the salvation that God has provided. You should look for the root of your sin and ask Jesus, “where am I not trusting your love or where are there idols in my life?” When he shows you these, turn away from those idols and find your love, value, and acceptance in Jesus.

            Thank you for taking the time to read this letter that is longer than normal. The relationship between faith and works is something that has created great confusion in the Church for generations, but it is something we need to get right because it is a matter of eternity and a matter of our welfare here on earth and potential as a Church. Let’s get it right and keep God first in our life as a result of so great a salvation!

 

Blessings,
 
Pastor Jeremiah