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Are You Fully Devoted to Christ?

One of the most tragic events during the Reagan Presidency was the Sunday morning terrorist bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut, in which hundreds of Americans were killed or wounded as they slept. Some in our congregation may still recall the terrible scenes as the dazed survivors worked to dig out their trapped brothers from beneath the rubble.

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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.”

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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