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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 some-thing far greater: to be fully devoted to Him.
 

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Taking Time to Rest in Jesus

Psalm 16:8-10

I keep my eyes always on the LORD.
With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my 
heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead,nor will you let your faithful one see decay.

Many of us are dreaming of “getting away” like never before as we have been extensively confined to our homes because of Covid-19. We might long for disappearing from daily life and enjoying family actives together as the summer quickly approaches— hikes in the mountains, bike trails, fishing, boating, or even simple walks down the sidewalks of Holyoke.

The problem is that we can intentionally carve out time in our schedules to get away but never actually find rest. Peace can escape us, and often does during the summer season. If you could find peace and rest from your weariness, what would that look like?

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Understanding the Risky Reality of Grace

Romans 11:6, “But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.”

Back in the summer of 2005, Samantha and I were engaged to be married. Our wedding was only months away. While I knew she was the right person for me, there was a part of me that was incredibly nervous. Up remaining on the relationship agenda was one of the most terrifying things for me.


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A Lesson from Obadiah: Why You Don’t Want to Celebrate in the Suffering of Your Enemy

Obad. 15                For the day of the LORD is near upon all the nations.

                 As you have done, it shall be done to you;

                                your deeds shall return on your own head.

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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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