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Fueling Faith

“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.” — The Apostle Paul (Romans 1:16).
 
It has already been just over a month since Thanksgiving. Christmas has now come and gone. And here we are starting a new year. During the holidays many of us went places or we had family members who came to visit. No matter where our journeys took us, none of us would have made it down any roads without fuel for our vehicles.
 

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Gratitude

“For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.”
2 Corinthians 4:15
 
When we remodeled our home, one of the most valuable tools I used was a reciprocating saw. The back and forth motion of the blade was exceptionally useful and efficient in cutting through wood, screws and nails that needed to be removed in the demolition phase.
 
To reciprocate means to respond to gesture or action by making a corresponding one. When the blade moved forward there was an immediate reciprocating motion in the opposite direction that allowed the teeth to cut in both directions. The result was quick and easy demolition.
 
Reciprocity is a law that is seen in many parts of life. For example, what goes up must come down. The social norm of reciprocity is the expectation that people will respond to each other in similar ways—responding to gifts and kindnesses from others with similar benevolence of their own, and responding to harmful, hurtful acts from others with either indifference or some form of retaliation.
 
The Bible teaches spiritual reciprocity. Paul taught the Galatians that a man reaps what he sows (Gal. 6:7-8; 2 Cor. 9:6). Jesus taught a kind of spiritual reciprocity when He said that we are to do unto others what we want them to do unto us (Matt. 7:12; 4:24; Lk. 6:38). The principle of reciprocity is taught in Proverbs 11:27. Our relationship with God is also reciprocal (Prov. 1:31; Gal. 2:20; Rev. 2:1-7).
 
In fact, one of the greatest evidences of faith is gratitude. An attitude of thanksgiving is the reciprocating evidence that corresponds to the experience of God’s grace. When we have seen and tasted God’s grace towards us we will respond with gratitude— just like a child whose eyes light up when they put candy in their mouth.
 
In 2 Corinthians 4, the Apostle Paul describes why he has gone through such great lengths, including great afflictions and suffering, to share the good news of Jesus Christ. The reason is for the sake of others. For the sake of everyone. For the sake of those who don’t know Christ yet. For the sake of everyone in the Church.
 
The purpose of his radical sharing of the Gospel, even in the face of tremendous pain and humiliation, is to cause people to experience the reciprocating emotion of gratitude. Paul hopes to increase thanksgiving in the hearts of people that deliberately corresponds to the experience of God’s grace. The purpose of Paul’s ministry, therefore, is to help people glorify and praise God as the source of grace. His purpose is to cause people to have affection and delight in God.
 
The word thanksgiving comes from the Greek eucharistia, which means gratitude. “Eu,” pronounced as “ewe,” means, “good or well.” Charistia means, “to be shown favor,” or “to show favor.” In other words, thanksgiving is a sense of wellness that corresponds to the personal experience of God’s favor and grace in our life.
 
Therefore, when we savor the grace of God in our life, when we meditate on it and remember it and intentionally reflect on our present experience of our favor in God through Christ, our heart will inevitably be filled with affection for God. We call that experience, thanksgiving. Gratitude.
 
How do you know you are grateful? We just have to look no farther than our words. Jesus taught that our words reflect what is in our heart (cf. Matt. 15:18). When grace is received gratitude responses with joy and laughter.
 
When I proposed to my wife on the banks of the Jordan river, she immediately blushed and started laughing because she was so full of joy. This is similar to the laughter of Sarah when she found out she was going to become pregnant with Abraham, even at her old age (cf. Gen. 18). Samantha had an incredibly Biblical response! Other expressions of gratitude can be songs of praise. Many psalms invite the worshipper to give thanks to the Lord or to praise the Lord.
 
What is inconsistent with God’s grace, however, is a spirit of negativity. The Apostle Paul writes to Ephesus, “Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving,” (Eph. 5:4). Instead, one of the ways that should mark the believer is that we engage with each other, “addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.”
 
How are you doing in this area? What is the attitude of your heart as it is being expressed in your words to one another? Let’s make it our aim to faithfully obey Hebrews 13:15, which says, “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise–the fruit of lips that openly profess his name.”
 
Take a moment to recount the grace of God in your life. What is the primary way that God has bestowed grace on you? How does that make you feel? How have you experienced God’s grace at work in our church? And in other parts of your life?
 
Is there anything that you should confess to God? What do you need to repent of, and how can you start living in a way that better honors Christ with your attitude and words?
 
I am indeed grateful for the grace of God in Jesus Christ. As I write those questions, they also challenge me. When someone comes to you in a complaining spirit, take the opportunity to minister. One of the greatest ministries might be to be a reminder of God’s grace— especially during this season of Thanksgiving and as we are now moving towards Christmas where we celebrate the reason for our gratitude.
 
God bless you this December as we celebrate the birth of Christ. I am grateful for the shed blood of Jesus on my behalf. I am grateful for this Church. I am grateful for you.
In Christ,
Pastor Jeremiah
 


The Pathway to Peace

2Tim. 2:8, “Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead…”
 
 
It’s funny how quickly we can forget who Christ is and what we are called to do. Funny as in strange. In the heat of the moment, we can abandon the example of Jesus and our purpose in life and responsibility to one another. The Gospel itself is about conflict resolution (well, for that matter, the entire Bible is as well). Not only is the Gospel about bridging the gap that our sin caused between us and God, but it also fleshes out in our relationships with one another.
 
Sometimes we might have expectations that conflict shouldn’t exist, but actually conflict is a normal part of life that we experience because of the brokenness of sin. We should expect conflict at times in life, whether it is with our spouse, children or coworkers. It should not catch us by surprise.

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Mission First

2 Timothy 2:4 
4 “No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him.”
 
In recent years a head coach divorced his wife of 26 years when he left coaching a college team to become head coach in the National Football League. He said he needed a wife while coaching on the college level for social functions and to show families that he would be looking out for their sons. In pro football, however, she was an unnecessary accouterment and a distraction to winning. He said winning football was his number one priority and his two sons second. How tragic! This coach clearly didn’t know how to prioritize his life.
 
In contrast to this, Tom Landry, former coach of the Dallas cowboys said, “The thrill of knowing Jesus is the greatest thing that ever happened to me … I think God has put me in a very special place, and He expects me to use it to His glory in everything I do … whether coaching football or talking to the press, I’m always a Christian … Christ is first, family second and football third.”

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A Simple Faith

Where You Can Devote 3 Hours That Will Make The Greatest Impact In Your Life And Our Church
 
Do you ever find yourself getting 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 are doing enough, even when you are 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

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The Need for Following Up

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.”
 
A couple years ago, 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.

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How to Minister to Someone Caught in Sin

July 2019
Jeremiah Krieger
Gal. 6:1 Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.
 
Several years ago, I served in a ministry where a friend made a poor decision that hurt a lot of people. An infelicitous moment where his emotions got the best of him resulted in people who were hurt. Others were disappointed. He eventually lost his job. Nobody wants to fail. It is humiliating. Yet, nobody wants to see people we love make poor decisions. It is disheartening. We want those we love to succeed in making right choices. But just because we accept Christ as our Savior doesn’t make us immune from sin. It doesn’t insulate us from stupidity. It doesn’t protect us from rash decisions. Moments like these can happen to the best of us, and when they happen how we respond is crucial.

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How to Strengthen Our Faith

June 2019
Jeremiah Krieger
 
Hebrews 12:1, “let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,”
 
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. Yet during this season I have found myself training for a 1/2 marathon.
 
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 reflection. 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 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 victoriously! 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.
 
One way we can help develop growth in our faith is by cross training in 3 specific areas. 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 place 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 num-ber 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 worships services weekly will help us stay in the game and strong in our faith.
 
Second, we should 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 be-long 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 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 to 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.
 
Training in obedience to Christ is essential to growing our 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. If we want to run for the long haul, we should make it a priority to devote 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.
 
Let’s not forget these opportunities for growth as we enjoy this season in our life.
God bless you,
 
Pastor Jeremiah


How to Fight Against Sin When We Don’t Get Along

Matthew 18:15-16
 
May 2019
Jeremiah Krieger
 
All the kids were sitting there on the couch, perfectly lined up.
 
“What do you want, daddy?”
 
“Your mommy and I are going to take a trip and Mema and Bebah are going to be here to watch you while we are gone. We need to go over the rules before mommy and daddy leave.”
 
We went over house rules and scenarios about the right response each child was to take if they felt frustrated by their sibling. Each child was able to recite back an appropriate response for how they would work through their frustrations.
 
We prayed the instructions we left would stick with them while we were gone.
 
Many of us might remember our own parents going over house rules at times when we were growing up. They are important because they are the agreement for how we relate to one another. They are also the guidelines for whether blessing or discipline might be administered for behavior.
 
Just like we go over house rules, Jesus went over house rules with his disciples. Weeks before Jesus would complete his earthly ministry through his death on the cross and resurrection, he trained his disciples for the time when he too would be gone and unable to coach them through life’s problems.
 
We were created in God’s image to be stewards. However, because of the problem of sin, sometimes we wield our influence in harmful ways towards others. Jesus understood this and fortunately, he taught us how to honor one another in our fight against sin.
 
In Matthew 18, there are a couple of principles that Jesus gives us for when we engage in conflict so that at the end it helps us to conform more to the image of God and to honor our brother or sister in Christ.
 
As we read Matthew 18:15, we see that this verse is about fighting fairly. When we have a disagreement with a brother or sister in Christ, we need to follow the rules of engagement that Jesus gives us. Just like there are international laws for how an enemy can be engaged in war, Jesus also gives us guidelines.
 
In the case when we are sinned against, Jesus says to “go to your brother.” Our first directive for fighting fairly in a way that honors God and honors our fellow believer is to call out your opponent when they sin (v. 15a). This phrase gives the sense of how a lawyer works to prove his case convincingly when he examines and cross examines witnesses. In other words, we are to make it clear to our fellow believer when they sin and specifically how that sin has affected us.
 
Second, only two in the ring (v. 15b). Jesus said, “go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone.” This is where many of us get it wrong. How many of us, when  we are frustrated with someone, go to others and tell everyone but the person who has hurt us?
 
One of the best ways to honor another believer is by going directly to that person. One of the best ways to cause division in the church is by spreading offenses to others who should not be involved. We should keep the circle as small as possible.
 
Third, Jesus says, “If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.” In other words, Jesus is teaching us to understand the battle (v. 15c). The purpose of going into the ring with an offender who is a believer is to “gain your brother.”
 
Ephesians 6:12 says,
 
12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
 
Getting into the ring to battle an opponent is a battle with an opponent and not against an opponent. Our battle when we engage in conflict is a battle against sin. If we can understand this, it will help mitigate some of the fears we might have in going to our fellow believer when their sin affects our life.
 
You might be thinking, “I’ve tried this and it didn’t go well.” Perhaps the person withdrew (and isolated). They didn’t engage with you. Or perhaps, they escalated and there was a shouting match. Or they negatively interpreted what you wished to share or invalidated your feelings. What should we do when we are stifled by these negative responses and the other refuses to listen?
 
Jesus says, “16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses.”
 
There is a circumstance when we need to expand the circle in conflict. There is a time when we need to grab a coach (v. 16). Jesus says, “But if he does not listen.” The word means, “to take heed, to admit, such as mental acceptance.” The time we are to get help is when sin is ignored (v. 16a).
 
When this happens Jesus says to invite 1 or two strong believers to observe and recommend (v. 16b). The purpose of these witnesses is, “that every charge may be established.” The witnesses are not there to take sides. They are not there to argue on behalf of another. They are there primarily as a coach who carefully watches how two people are sparing in the ring.
 
Coaches observe technique and instruct when someone is not fighting fairly. They testify to the conflict resolution techniques and are available to call a timeout to instruct an opponent on how to spar. They might teach the prosecutor how to carefully make his case: to help them to be more clear about the issue. They might help the offender to see when he is not listening well or they are not validating. In the end the coaches will be witnesses of the agreement if restitution is required and witnesses to the terms of reconciliation. They are also there to help testify to an offender who doesn’t listen to coaching.
 
Fighting fairly and grabbing a coach are the first 2 principles for fighting against sin when someone hurts us. These are the ways that we can honor our opponent when their sin hurts themselves or others.
 
Romans 12:9-10 says, “Rom. 12:9   Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. 10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.”
 
Sin is a problem that each one of us must battle against. Jesus left us rules of engagement for this period of time when he is gone. Let’s honor one another because we are members of his household. Let’s honor one another because how we work through conflict will mark us as believers. If we become skilled at in these two principles in conflict resolution, we will better love our brother or sister in Christ when their sin is too big to be overlooked and when it is causing serious harm to themselves or others.
 
After we came home from our trip this week, we were happy to discover how well our children did while we were gone. There will be a day when Jesus returns to gather up his family. Let’s be prepared for that time by honoring Christ by how we honor one another through conflict.

In Christ,   Pastor Jeremiah



The Kingdom Harvest Machine

April 2019
Jeremiah Krieger
 
Matthew 28:19-20, “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.”
 
A few days ago, I had a discussion with a sister in Christ and her husband about the focus of the church. Should the focus of the church be internally focused or externally focused? Should we focus on discipleship (internal) or evangelism (external)?
 
It is an interesting question to think about, but when we remember the commission given by Jesus to the disciples, we will discover that our orientation is actually dual. The life of the believer and the focus of the church is both internal and external.
 
Last summer, my youngest son, William, and I had the opportunity to ride with Justin Clayton during the corn harvest. It was quite the experience as we watched the machine take up corn stalks, rip away the fodder, and save the kernels of corn. William was mesmerized by the machine.
 
I can’t help but think that the work of a combine harvester is a marvelous picture of the work of the church. The command of Jesus is to “go” and “make disciples.” The church is missional in its going, much like a custom harvester is missional in the fields. The aim is to gather the harvest. The aim of the church is to evangelize and make disciples.
 
Jesus speaks of the harvest when he commanded his disciples to pray for harvest workers. It is God’s desire to have a great harvest (Mt. 9:38). The command is given in second person plural form, which means that Jesus was looking at the entire group of disciples and not just one person. Instead of being isolated as a single individual, the harvest is to be done as a team.
 
Second, the Apostle Paul makes clear the aim of the church. The aim of the church is to do good works (Eph. 2:10), serve, and achieve spiritual maturity (Eph. 4:12-13). Just like a farmer works his machine for the sake of the harvest, so also should the church work together for the sake of the harvest. However, before that can happen, the operators need to learn to operate. That is what we call discipleship. Discipleship is the process of teaching new converts how to become harvesters.
 
The commands in Matthew 28:12-20 are in second person plural. That means evangelism and discipleship are to be accomplished in the context of a team called the church. First Baptist Church is a local expression of the body of Christ in Holyoke, Colorado. When believers join this fellowship, we become part of a team. There is a place where everyone can fit in. We have several “works” for discipleship, where we can be built up and learn about our faith— in the same way the farmer learns about his equipment in order to operate it.
 
When we are discipled through participating in church services, Bible studies and discipleship groups, God changes our character and we learn our purpose. We learn how we fit into the church and become a cog in the Kingdom harvest machine.
 
That means there are two questions we need to consider. First, we need to ask, “What am I doing to be built up (i.e. how am I growing in Christ)?” Daily devotions are as essential as daily meals. Participating in small groups or bible studies are also opportunities to be built up. This needs to be a regular part of our life in the Church– something that we are willing to sacrifice time for and in which we participate.
 
Second, we need to ask, “What am I doing to build up others (i.e. how do I serve and share Christ with others)?” Often times we can get stuck learning about Jesus without actually sharing him with others. We need a healthy diet, but the diet is for the sake of exertion of the body. The same thing is true spiritually.
 
Learning about Jesus without sharing him with others through service and evangelism is like a farmer who has learned how to grow crops but never plants or harvests. It is like a fishing club that talks about fishing but never goes fishing.
 
When was the last time you shared Christ with someone? Who is in your life that you may have occasional or regular contact with who doesn’t know Jesus? Would you please pray about how God might use you to serve that person? Consider inviting them to Church. Consider sharing the Gospel with them. Share your burden for that person (or those persons) with people in your bible study, prayer group or discipleship group.
 
The Church is Christ’s Kingdom harvest machine. Let’s work together to build each other up and reach others who God loves but are yet still far from Him. God bless you all.
 
In Christ,
 
Pastor Jeremiah