Often when we buy things they come with a ‘Money back guarantee’. That means if the thing does not work, or you already had one or you changed your mind, you could return what you just bought and get your money back…guaranteed. Some places take back anything…like COSTCO. Others have a more stringent policy, like 30 days same as cash. If you are buying fancy dress clothes, the only way you can return something is if the tags are still on the product. And usually those tags are in pretty obvious places. Some places we can add years to an existing guarantee of service…for a price of course.
But we see guarantees in scripture. In Genesis 43:8-9 we see the story of Jacobs son Judah. There is a famine in the land and there is grain in Egypt. Jacob’s sons have already been to Egypt once but the man in charge of selling grain has told them not to return unless they bring their youngest brother. Jacob is not willing to let the boy go. But they need food, desperately. Judah steps in. “Judah said to his father Jacob, send the lad with me and we will arise and go, that we may live and not die, we as well as you and our little ones. I myself will be the guarantee for him; you may hold me responsible for him. If I do not bring him back to you, then you let me bear the blame before you forever.” Jacob relents and lets the young boy go. But only because he had a guarantee that he would be kept safe.
Paul writes about the promise realized through faith in Romans 4. Paul argues that the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be the heir of the world did not come by way of the law but through faith. Because if the promise is filled by the law then faith is null and void. But, Paul says, “That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring, not just for those who follow the law but those who share the faith of Abraham as well.” In other words, faith means trusting in another and not our own efforts. It ties directly to grace, which involves trusting in God’s unearned favor. Those who followed the law referred to those who were Jewish believers in Christ. Father of us all refers to faith…Abraham is the father of both the Jewish and the Gentile Christians.
Every time it rains, we see God’s guarantee He will not destroy the earth with flood waters again. Genesis 9:12-13, “And God said This is the guarantee of the covenant I am making with you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all subsequent generations. I will place my rainbow in the clouds, and it will become a guarantee of the covenant between me and the earth.” NET translation This is the first covenant promise God makes. It is made for all people through one who represents them. In this case Noah represents all of us in the covenant promise God made.
In 2 Corinthians 1:22 Paul writes to new believers these words. “And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put His seal on us and given us His Spirit to our hearts as a guarantee.” To be anointed means to be set aside and gifted by God. Paul and those with him have been set apart to teach and preach and heal as the Lord directed. It is an Old Testament picture where the priests were set apart by having olive oil poured on their heads as a sign of God’s provision. A seal is a mark of ownership. In baptism we are marked with the cross of Christ and sealed by the power of the holy Spirit forever. We have been named and claimed by the Sovereign Lord. And the word guarantee used here is the same use as the first installment of payments as a pledge to complete the purchase. The Spirit comes to pay in full, the final redemption of His people at the end of the age.
In 1 John 5:11-12 we read this guarantee. “And this is the testimony, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is His Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.” This is what God Himself has declared as the truth. These are the facts. He has really done it! It has been irrevocably accomplished. The verbiage is past tense. We are not waiting for this to happen. It is not present tense. We are not seeing it now. God has already paid the price for our salvation. Guaranteed.
In His grip
Pastor Matt W
Over the course of our lives everything changes. When we are little the world is a big wide wonderful place to explore. Everything is new and exciting...something to behold. There is wonder everywhere we look, and nothing is too big or too small to explore. Anything from flowers and rocks to animals and other kids. Many of us have happy go lucky early years. We play and get loved on and grow and learn. The luckiest ones also get introduced to Jesus. And so begins our journey. As we grow school begins. We meet other kids. We learn words and colors and numbers and rules. We learn games and that it hurts when we fall in the gravel of the playground. But that doesn’t keep us from trying again. If we are lucky, we have parents or grandparents who help us fail well. They do not try to fix everything for us. And we grow knowing that if everything doesn’t go as we would like, the world will not come to an end. It builds confidence and character. If we are lucky there will be adults in our lives who will take the time to invest in our lives. They will support us and cheer us on, even if we come in third or tenth or dead last. And if we are really lucky, they will bring us to Sunday school, and we will learn that it was Noah that had the ark and Moses who parted the Red Sea. It gets confusing because they both involve water!
As we grow as kids and then youth a funny thing happens. The grandparents we thought were invincible all of a sudden get old and sometimes fragile. They don’t love us any less but that can’t play like they once did. And our parents, who once were our world suddenly don’t look as big as they did when we were little. And when we reach our teen years, we realize they aren’t really all that smart after all. And some of them seem like dinosaurs. They embarrass us and we would rather not be seen with them. But some of us get lucky and our parents or grandparents have taken a Herculean amount of time investing in our lives and our parents aren’t stupid. They are our coaches, teachers, cheerleaders and guiding lights. And if we are really lucky, they have been spending time with us in God’s Word, reading with us and helping us understand what the Bible says. They ask us about confirmation or youth group, and they want to help us connect to Jesus. Because they made a promise in front of God and everybody when we were baptized, they would do that. It is hard work, but it is the most important gift they can give us besides their love.
Parents always say for us to stop growing and getting older, but we feel that way about them too. What I wouldn’t give for one more day with my grandmother. We grow older and go off to school, a heart wrenching thing for our parents and freedom for us. But often we learn just how good we had it at home. Meanwhile our grandparents may start joining the church triumphant. Part of our youth has gone. But we know, because people have been investing faith in us, that since we believe in Jesus, we will get to see those loved ones again. That brings a measure of comfort. But no one will ever make grandma’s famous recipe again just like her even though they have the recipe.
Our lives move on. We get a real job. Maybe we find a life partner. Perhaps we have kids, and the cycle begins again. Parents grow older. Perhaps there is illness, chronic or that which leads to an early death. When challenges arrive, we reach for the phone to call them to ask, “What would you do?”, and then realize they won’t answer. Some of us are lucky. We have had a village of folks who have sown into our lives. They have taught us how to love, laugh, cheer and share. And if we are really lucky, they have introduced us to Jesus. Now it is our turn to do the same for the next generation. Look at how all of that has enriched our lives. Why would we give the next in line any less?!
Sometimes cruel diseases overtake our loved ones. We watch as cancer eats away at them. They suffer mightily with untreatable pain. Or we watch them disappear slowly before our eyes. The once strong parent is now speaking things that make no sense. Sometimes they are happy go lucky. My mom had chickens running down the hallways of our house! Sometimes they simply withdraw from the world. And other times they become mean, angry, spiteful and hateful. And it is hard to love them let alone be in the same room with them. This is when it is hard, painful, agonizing. It is also a privilege for us. They cared for us when we couldn’t care for ourselves. They wiped snotty noses and wiped behinds. They cooked macaroni and cheese when we were sick...every day. We may well end up doing some of those same things for the ones who have given of themselves for us. It is an honor and a privilege to be able to do that. It doesn’t matter if it is hard. It is the right thing to do.
We are called to love one another. That is who we are and that is what we do. And through it all...God gets the glory.
In His grip,
Pastor Matt W.
Many of us say we have faith. We confess our faith in the words of the Apostles Creed saying, “I believe in God the Father. I believe in Jesus Christ our Lord. I believe in the power of the Holy Spirit.” We have 12 young adults who will affirm their faith this weekend in the rite of confirmation. They have taken the step of saying the faith their parents took on for them when they were baptized will now be theirs. It is not a graduation. It does not mean they now know everything. It means they want to own their faith. We will continue to walk with them as they continue to grow.
Sometimes our faith is tested, stretched and battered. The evil one does not want us to have faith in the Lord but in him and his evil, destructive ways. Sometimes our faith gets a bit wobbly. This is when we hang on to the Lord for all we are worth. The hard part for us is, we like to be able to see what we have faith in. We like to use our five senses to verify everything. But faith in the Lord does not work that way. We see these words of Jesus in John 20:29. ”Then Jesus told him, because you have seen me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen me and yet have believed.” Only a limited number of people in a very limited part of the world had the opportunity to see Jesus in person. The rest of us walk by faith and not by sight. And there is power in not seeing and yet believing.
As those who claim Jesus as their Lord and Savior, we are called to trust that what we have learned and experienced of Jesus is in fact true and can be believed. Because all things are possible for the one who believes. Paul reminds us in Ephesians 2:8-9, ” For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not of your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” We have been saved by the grace of God though Jesus Christ. He is the source of our salvation. Faith is the channel, not the cause. Only God saves. Salvation NEVER originates in the efforts of people. It always arises out of the loving kindness of God. We cannot do anything to earn our salvation. And here is the best part. Even our belief in God does not originate in us. This too is a gift, so that we do not take pride in our positions as believers.
Paul also reminds us in Romans 10:17, ”So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” We are not born with faith. We must be taught about our Lord and Savior. Part of our faith comes from learning, believing, listening and acting on what we have heard and read. Spending time in the Word of God is vital to our growth. And the deeper you dive into the Word, the deeper your faith will grow.
Hebrews 11:1 tells us, ”Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” This verse isn't so much a definition of faith as it is a description of what faith does. Faith treats things hoped for as reality. Faith proves that what is unseen is real, such as the believers reward at the return of Christ. Hebrews chapter 11 is a mighty chapter. If you have not read it lately, I invite you to do that today. It is always good to be reminded of the faithful that have gone on before us...a great cloud of witnesses.
In John 8:24 we see Jesus say, ”Unless you believe that I Am who I claim to be, you will die in your sins.” I AM is God's designation for Himself. We see that first in Exodus 3:14. Here Jesus uses the same name, one of his ways of telling people He is God without coming right out and saying I AM God. Jesus is teaching in the temple treasury here and the religious authorities are seeking ways to kill Him, but no one does because it is not yet His time. The warning, however, is clear. Jesus came to bring forgiveness of Sins and salvation. But if we choose to not believe who He says He is, we face a very long and awful eternity.
Here are some random thoughts about faith. Faith does not take us out of problems that come our way. Smooth sailing was never part of the promise. Faith will instead, bring us through the problems and challenges. Faith doesn't take pain away either. But it does give us the ability to handle it. Knowing we have a place to turn when we feel lost, drifting or are at the end of ourselves, is priceless. Faith does not take us out of the storm. The storms are where we are pulled and stretched in our faith and our relationship with the Lord grows. Faith instead, calms us in the midst of the storms.
Let me leave you with these words Paul wrote to the Thessalonians. “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11. We are all in this together. We all are in our own faith journey. But we do not travel alone. We go together, in and by the grace of God.
In His grip
Pastor Matt W
It is often said that perception is 95% of reality. How we see things or view things often colors what is going on in our world and the world around us. What we see in life is really based on how we look at things.
A young couple moved into a new neighborhood and the next morning as they were eating breakfast the young woman saw her neighbor hanging her laundry on the line. As she looked at the woman's laundry the woman noticed it wasn't very clean, and she told her husband as much. Maybe she doesn't know how to do the laundry correctly she said. Maybe she needs better laundry soap. Her husband remained silent. Every time the neighbor hung her laundry on the line the woman would make comments. She clearly thought her neighbor did not know how to do laundry. Nearly a month went by and one morning as the woman and her husband ate breakfast the neighbor was once again hanging out her laundry. But this time the laundry was sparkling clean. The woman said look! She has finally learned how to do laundry correctly. Her husband replied, I got up early this morning and washed our windows.
It is all about how we see things. For instance, there are times in our lives when we might feel like we are walking alone. But the writer of Hebrews reminds us that “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before Him He endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1-2. In truth we are not alone. Many in faith have gone before us and this cloud refers to those referenced in chapter 11, which is a litany of the patriarchs and others in the Old Testament who were tested and kept the faith. They are not actually spectators watching us; but they are witnesses testifying to the truth of the faith. Throwing off that which hinders us allows us to move forward in the race marked out for us. And better yet, Jesus is the perfected or finisher of faith. That means He has already done what is necessary for us to be able to endure in our faith. He is our example and role model. Even facing the cross, He chose joy. In our own situations are we seeing joy or struggle, peace instead of chaos, hope in the face of hopelessness. It's all in how we see things.
Paul reminds us in Romans 12:2, ”And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” The evil one is relentless in his pursuit of us. He tempts us with shiny and attractive things, things detrimental to our health and wellbeing and things that threaten our relationship with our Lord and Savior. Being transformed starts in our minds and hearts. A mind dedicated to things of the world will produce a life tossed back and forth by the currents of culture. But a mind dedicated to God's truth will produce a life that will stand the test of time. We can resist the temptations of our culture and the world by meditating on God's truth and letting the Holy Spirit guide and shape our thoughts and behaviors.
Part of our challenge is that many look at earth as their home. They cannot see beyond this life. Their perception is...this is all there is. But this is not our home. And our riches do not come from this world, contrary to what the media, friends, commercials tell us. When we fall prey to the demands of the world then we become conformed to it. But Jesus tells us in Luke 12:32-34, ”Do not be afraid little flock for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near, and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” It is all in how we look at things. We can store up all kinds of things here on earth. But they will rot, wear out, break or get stolen. We will not have them forever as we might wish. And even if they might last, we cannot take them into the next life. Instead, we work to store up an eternal treasure by giving to others. God will provide everything we need. The world encourages us to buy, buy, buy. But the Lord encourages us to give, give, give. By doing so, we store up treasure that will last forever.
All of this sounds counter cultural, probably because it is. That is how the Lord works. He does not conform to the world. He has His own set of expectations and guidelines. They are for us. They are intended to set us apart as those who believe in Him and follow Him. We are called to live in this world and not be of this world. People may well perceive us as weird, different, or even touched. And we are. We have been touched by the Spirit. He dwells within as a guiding presence in our lives.
It is all in how we see things. It matters not how others see us. It is how we see Jesus in them, and treat them accordingly.
In His grip
Pastor Matt W
I came across this story many years ago and would like to share it with you. It is written by Francis Dorff and it is entitled The Rabbi’s Gift.
There was a famous monastery which had fallen on hard times. Formerly its many buildings were filled with young monks and its big church resounded with the singing of the chant, but now it was deserted. People no longer came there to be nourished by prayer. A handful of old monks shuffled through the cloisters and praised God with their heavy hearts.
On the edge of the monastery woods, an old rabbi had built a hut. He would come there from time to time to fast and pray. No one ever spoke with him, but whenever he appeared, the word would be passed from monk to monk: the rabbi walks in the woods. And, for as long as he was there, the monks would feel sustained by his prayerful presence.
One day the abbot decided to visit the rabbi and open his heart to him. So, after the morning Eucharist, he set out through the woods. As he approached the hut, the abbot saw the rabbi standing in the doorway, his arms outstretched in welcome. It was as though he had been waiting there for some time. The two embraced like long lost brothers. Then they stepped back and just stood there, smiling at one another with smiles their faces could hardly contain.
After a while the rabbi motioned the abbot to enter. In the middle of the room was a wooden table with the Scriptures open on it. They sat there for a moment, in the presence of the book. Then the rabbi began to cry. The abbot could not contain himself. He covered his face with his hands and began to cry too. For the first time in his life, he cried his heart out. The two men sat there like lost children, filling the hut with their sobs and wetting the wood of the table with their tears.
After the tears had ceased to flow and all was quiet again, the rabbi lifted his head. You and your brothers are serving God with heavy hearts, he said. You have come to ask a teaching of me. I will give you a teaching, but you can only repeat it once. After that, no one must ever say it aloud again.
The rabbi looked straight at the abbot and said, The Messiah is among you. For a while all was silent. Then the rabbi said now you must go. The abbot left without a word and without ever looking back. The next morning, the abbot called his monks together in the chapter room. He told them he had received a teaching from the rabbi who walks in the woods and that this teaching was never again to be spoken aloud. Then he looked at each of his brothers and said, the rabbi said one of us is the Messiah.
The monks were startled by this saying. What could it mean? They asked themselves. Is Brother John the Messiah? Or Father Matthew? Or Brother Thomas? Am I the Messiah? What could this mean? They were all deeply puzzled by the rabbi’s teaching. But no one ever mentioned it again.
As time went by, the monks began to treat one another with a very special reverence. There was a gentle, wholehearted, human quality about them now which was hard to describe but easy to notice. They lived with one another as men who had finally found something. But they prayed the Scriptures together as men who were always looking for something. Occasional visitors found themselves deeply moved by the life of these monks. Before long, people were coming from far and wide to be nourished by the prayer life of the monks and young men were asking, once again, to become part of the community.
In those days, the rabbi no longer walked in the woods. His hut had fallen into ruins. But, somehow or other, the old monks who had taken his teaching to heart still felt sustained by his prayerful presence.
The rabbi walks among us as well. Because He has promised to never leave us or forsake us. In these days when we know challenges, we can also know joy. He is with us. Perhaps if we looked at others knowing the rabbi walks among us, this world would be a better place. Perhaps if we looked at others knowing the rabbi walks among us, we would treat others with respect and not hate and distrust. Perhaps if we looked at others knowing the rabbi walks among us others would feel His presence too. And we would all look at each other differently.
In His grip
Pastor Matt W
There are 783,137 words in the King James Bible. One of those words is ‘if’. Even though it is only two letters long it is one of the biggest words in the Bible. It speaks directly to our responsibility to God. Most of the promises we find in scripture have conditions and the word if speaks to those conditions. Jesus used the word if all the time. There are 574 times when ‘if’ is used, and half of them are in the four gospels. The if is always on our side of the equation. As in Mark 4:23, ”If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.” There are many if’s in the in the Old Testament. This one comes from Deuteronomy 11:26-28. “See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse: the blessing, IF you listen to the commandments of the Lord your God, which I am commanding you today; and the curse, IF you do not listen to the commandments of the Lord your God but turn aside from the way which I am commanding you today, by following other gods which you have not known.”
Then there are these words from 1 Samuel 12:14-15. ”IF you will fear the Lord and serve Him and listen to His voice and not rebel against command of the Lord, then both you and also the king who reigns over you will follow the Lord your God. IF you will not listen to the voice of the Lord, but rebel against the command of the Lord, then the hand of the allotted will be against you, as it was against your fathers.” God's covenant promises come with responsibilities on both His part and ours. They go something like this. If you do these things, then I will....do something else. If you keep my commandments, then I will be your God and you will be my people.
We use the word ’if’ in hopeful ways. If only I get this job, then my life will be complete. If only we can pay the bills...if only I pass this test...if only the doctor has good news. ‘If’ is a powerful little word. We see it in movies. Think about the scarecrow in the wizard of Oz...if I only had a brain!
But the evil one uses that little word to plant seeds of doubt. Jesus has just come up out of the Jordan river after being baptized by John the Baptist. Jesus is full of the Holy Spirit, and the Spirit leads Him out into the wilderness. For 40 days He was tempted by the evil one. Jesus ate nothing for those 40 days and when the days were over, He was starving. The evil one said to Jesus, IF you are the Son of God. There is the seed of doubt...IF you are. If you are, command this stone to become bread. Jesus answers him with scripture. The evil one I invited Jesus to worship him...IF you do that, I will give you everything. And a third time, again questioning His identity...IF you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from the pinnacle of the temple. The angels will catch you. The evil one whispers those kinds of words into our lives as well, causing us to doubt who we are and whose we are. All of it is a ploy to wrench us away from the Lord.
Jesus uses the word to issue invitations. “Behold I stand at the door and knock; IF anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come into him and will dine with him and he with me.” Revelation 3:20. Paul uses the word for a promise, “IF you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” Romans 10:9. Jesus also uses this little word as a challenge. ” For truly I say to you, IF you have faith the size of a mustard seed you will say to this mountain, move from here to there and it will move.” All of these if/then statements are promises God will fulfill if we do our part. Perhaps this if/then promise is fitting for the time we are living in. 2 Chronicles 7:14 tells us, ”If my people who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, THEN I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
In His grip
Pastor Matt W
Perhaps you have seen the Norman Rockwell picture of a young boy, standing in front of the mirror. He is wearing blue shorts and his faithful dog is sitting next to him. The boy’s shirt is off, and he is flexing his muscles. There is the picture of Rosie the riveter from WWII. She too is flexing her muscles. We see body builders like Arnold Schwarzenegger, and videos of the world's strongest people lifting and carrying weights that are amazing. Maybe you have kids or grandkids, nieces or nephews who have come to you to show you their muscles. Perhaps you have flexed your muscles in front of the bathroom mirror. We like to think we are strong. We like to think we can fix anything. Many of us are quite sure we can do whatever needs to be done...all by ourselves. We work out of our own strength, whatever that might be. Men and women alike. Because to ask for help or admit we cannot be 100%, totally self-sufficient would mean we are weak. We are wimpy. And we do not want people thinking we cannot take care of ourselves and those around us.
As much as we do not want to admit we need help, God did not create us to be lone rangers. He did not create us and then leave. He did not create us to do everything by ourselves. God created us to be in community with others. He has given each of us gifts and talents to use not only to help others but to bring Him glory. And, He has promised to walk this journey with us. Life is unpredictable. Just when we think our lives are on an even keel, life intervenes. Someone gets sick, there is a change in employment, a pandemic engulfs the world and touches absolutely every single part of our lives. Maybe it feels like God has moved and didn't leave a forwarding address. We begin to question our faith, our families, our abilities. But this is precisely the time we should turn to Him. The psalmist writes ”God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in times of trouble.” Psalm 46. This is a reminder yet again of who God is. He is always present, but He is also the place to go when things get tough. There is no badge of honor for trying to slog through the challenges we are facing right now...all by ourselves. God has surrounded us with people who have different gifts and talents. He has placed people in our lives that will help us work through or talk through problems...if we can swallow our pride and ask.
The prophet Isaiah writes, ”He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. "Isaiah 40:29. Why would we try to do everything in our own strength when we do not have to? Why would we try to carry the entire burden of our life if there was someone so much stronger who is waiting to carry it with us? Paul reminds us in Ephesians 6:10 to be ”strong in the Lord and in His mighty power.” Truth be told, God is our ultimate source of strength. We can call upon Him at any time and He will give us strength to carry on.
Paul writes these words to the church in Corinth. “That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”2 Corinthians 12:10. This sounds very counter cultural. No one wants to rejoice when they feel weak and helpless. However, this is when we develop strength and perseverance. These are the times we can either drive ourselves to distraction, or we can turn to the Lord and ask Him to help us carry the load. Trying to live our lives in only our own strength may work for a while. But ultimately, we will fail.
We read in 1 Chronicles16:11, ”Look to the Lord and His strength; seek His face always.” There is only one place to put our faith, our hopes and our dreams. And that is in the Lord. He is our true strength and our salvation. Jeremiah reminds us with these words. ”Ah, sovereign Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Not thing is too hard for you.” Jeremiah 32:17. I like this reminder...that nothing is too hard for God. That means no matter what is happening in our lives, in this world, in our families or our jobs, God is WAY bigger. And He is OUR God.
There are many more verses about strength in the Bible. But I will close with these words from the prophet Isaiah. “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10. This is an intimate picture of our God. He has promised to always help His Children...you and me. He has promised to protect us, guide us and lead us throughout our lives.
There is no shame in turning to Him. There is no sense of failure when we ask Him for help. In fact, He is waiting for us to come to Him. Just as we had parents or grandparents who were so strong when we were kids, God is stronger now than we are. But we are still kids...God's kids. And He loves us more than we will ever know. Today...right now...stop trying to fix everything in your own strength. Turn to Him. He is waiting.
In His grip
Pastor Matt W
When God created us, He gave us five basic senses: sight, smell, taste, hearing, and touch. And each sense organ transmits information to our brains. Not only do we use our five senses to experience the world God has given to us, we use those same senses to experience God. Those five senses are a gift from God. We are indeed fearfully and wonderfully made. Psalm 139. So, on this Friday afternoon let's take a look at these senses God has given to us.
The psalmist writes in 66:5, “Come and see what God has done, His awesome deeds for mankind.” Think about the colors of a sunrise or sunset. The rainbow after the storm. The thought of seeing a loved one after a time apart. Jesus spoke these words recorded in the Gospel of Matthew, “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light.” Jesus not only speaks of physical sight. He also speaks of our spiritual sight. Our lives can be full of challenges and struggle. What do we see when we face those times? Do we see the way God has made for us to find our way…or do we see only the darkness of the trouble in front of us? Moses was given the ability to see all the promised land from the top of Mount Nebo before he died. And the writer of Hebrews has this to say. “Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfector of our faith. Hebrews 12:2.
Paul writes in Ephesians 5:2, “And walk humbly in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” In the Old Testament sacrifices were burned with incense, a smell pleasing to the Lord. If animal sacrifices were a pleasing scent to the Lord, imagine how pleasing the scent of Jesus sacrificing Himself so we could have a way back to God must have been. Think about the smell of rain, freshly baked cookies, the perfume, or cologne of a loved one. Paul also writes these words in 2 Corinthians 2:15, “For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.” When we encounter people, do they smell Jesus in and on us? Because you and I are the sweet fragrance of Christ which rises up to God. There is the sweet and thick smell of Frankincense, a gift of the wise men for the Baby Jesus. There is the scent of nard as Mary broke the jar of nard and the scent filled the house. She used that nard to anoint Jesus before He was crucified.
We use our hands for many things. We hold the hand of a loved one or friend. People who are blind use their touch to navigate the world. They read with their hands. We work to the glory of God with our hands. Psalm 24:3-4 says, “Who may ascent the mountain of the Lord? Who may stand in His holy place? The one who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not trust in an idol or swear by a false God.” Our hands can be used to bless God’s church. They can be used to serve those who have less than we do. Our hands can be used to give back to the Lord a portion of what He has given to us. Jesus used His hands to heal, bring people back to life and break bread and fish to feed thousands. We are His hands and feet in this world. How do we use them to bring Him glory?
I don’t even know where to start with food. There are so very many flavors, so much that satisfies and pleases. The writer of Ecclesiastes 3:13 writes this about the sense of taste. “That each of them may eat and drink and find satisfaction in all their toil…this is the gift of God.” Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:13, “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses it saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.” Salt was and is used to season food. Who among us doesn’t like the taste of salt on a hot French fry? It was also used to preserve food. We are salt in the world. We bring the seasoning of Jesus Christ to both those who believe and those who don’t. The psalmist writes, “Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him.” While we sample and tase what God has to offer us, we are called to take that flavor into the world so others too might taste the goodness of the Lord.
With the sense of hearing we can listen to the glory of the Lord. Birds sing. We listen to music, both in church and outside of church. We get to hear the voices of those we love. We can hear the Word of the Lord read, preached, and taught. With our ears we hear the words, this is my body, broken for you. This is my blood shed for you for the forgiveness of sins. Jesus gave many their hearing back. And those who were blind could hear the crowd that traveled with Jesus coming. That gave them a chance to call out to Jesus, asking for healing. The prophet Isaiah writes these words about Jesus some 600 years before He comes. “Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped.” This is the promise of the healing Jesus would bring.
We have five senses. God has gifted us with them. We use them to experience the wonders He has created, the things God has created and given to us to enjoy. God has given us five senses so that we can experience Him in many different ways. God has given us five senses so that we might engage with others and introduce them to the Lord. What will you do with the five senses God has given to you?
In His grip
Pastor Matt W
In Matthew chapter 25 we read the parable of a man who is going on a journey. This is called the parable of the talents. He called his servants together and entrusted his wealth to them. One servant received five talents, another two talents and a third one talent...each according to his ability. And the man went away. A talent was equal to 6,000 denarii and a denarii represented one day's wage. The man was gone a considerable amount of time which means there would be ample time to test his servants. When he returned home, he again called his servants together and settled accounts. The first man had doubled the talents he had been given, as did the man who had been given two talents. The third man hid his talent and did nothing with it. The first two men received the same reward even though they had different amounts of talents. The reward was based on their faithfulness, not the size of the responsibility they had been given. Because the smallest task in God's work may receive a great reward if we are faithful in performing it.
The third servant did not fare as well. He did nothing with what was given to him, meaning he will not share in the rewards of his master. When we look at this parable, we can choose to look at this third man and see hopelessness, gloom and doom. And there are plenty who do see that. Many look at this and resign themselves to an unhappy outcome. But here's the thing. God has given each one of us talents. He has entrusted His wealth to us. Our talents are the skills and abilities He has given each one of us to use in this world to glorify Him. God has chosen us to do things in His name in this world. Let that sink in. God has chosen us...you and me. He has given us abilities and He has put us in places where He wants us to make a difference. But too often we think about that and it seems daunting. God is not asking for each of us to be president. Sometimes what God calls us to do might seem small and insignificant to us, but huge to the person or people who are on the receiving end. A shoebox with a few toys or clothes in it seems like a small thing. But to the child who receives the box it is enormous. And the box of goodies comes with a chance to know Jesus...to receive Him as their Lord and Savior. That changes eternity for that child, perhaps their family and maybe even the whole village.
I believe that as we age, God gives us different talents. We may well have gone camping or on retreats with kids and youth in younger years. But as we grow older that may not be possible anymore. That doesn't mean we are done working in the world for the Lord. He will find another talent to give us...something else to do that will bring Him glory. Because our lives are to be lived such that all we do brings him glory. This is not a ‘have to’ kind of life -- we ‘have to’ do things that bring God glory. This is a get to life! God has chosen us...you and me. He has given us talents. We get to do things in this life that will please Him and bring him glory. We get to treat people with dignity and respect. That is what Jesus did. We get to worship and praise Him. We get to give, both to others and back to Him in the form of a regular offering. We get to gather together as a family of believers. We get to make visits and phone calls to others to check in on them and see how they are doing. We get to share the good news of Jesus Christ with others, so they too have an opportunity to know Him and grow in faith. Doing all those things means we are using the talents God has given to us. And I have just scratched the surface of things God has given us to do.
We at Resurrection have been very blessed this year. We have good solid leadership who has chosen to trust in Gods provision for us. It has been a challenging year in terms of finances. But God is faithful. We have been too. We have taken this parable to heart and been faithful with what God has given to us. We have continued to gather in worship...the family of faith coming together around word and sacrament. It isn't just like it used to be, but it is good. We continue to preach the good news. We continue to lift our voices in song. Some of us just make a joyful noise! We continue to eat at the table, a reminder every week of the sacrifice Jesus made for us so we can spend eternity with Him.
We continue to move forward with what God has given to us. We are being faithful to Him. He gets ALL the glory for what we have been able to continue doing. And because we have been faithful with what we have been given, He will give us more. God is good...all the time. And all the time...God is good.
In His grip
Pastor Matt W
As I read through scripture the word satisfied comes up now and again. It is most striking when Jesus feeds the multitudes. The bread and fish are broken, and the food is distributed. People eat until they are satisfied. Many of the people who flocked after Jesus were poor, dirt poor. That simple meal of bread and fish that they ate until they were satisfied...it might be one of the only times they had enough to eat such that they were satisfied. How many of us have sat down at the table, eaten our meal and left full, but not satisfied? It is like something is missing. As we grow, the picture of what will satisfy us changes. As kids perhaps our satisfaction came in the form of sports performance, a new bike, a favorite food treat or vacation to a certain place. As we get older our criteria for being satisfied changes. When we get out of school it is a big job, a new house and or vehicle that might satisfy. Perhaps it is a significant other. As we grow older still, we might be satisfied with decent health, phone calls from family and friends or time enjoying a hobby.
But for many of us, even after we have all those things we still are not satisfied. It is like there is something missing. Sometimes it feels as though we are chasing the wind. Sometimes it feels like what will satisfy us is just beyond our reach. Somehow, we always need more. We eat and are stuffed but not satisfied. We acquire more things but there is never enough. And this dissatisfaction leads us near the root of many different sins. People cheat on their spouses, abuse drugs and alcohol, eat too much, binge watch television and scroll endlessly on social media because they are not satisfied. They have not found true happiness or joy. But true happiness and joy do not come from the things of the world. They come only from Jesus Christ. God offers us Himself in the person of Jesus. Only He is able to exceed our expectations, provide for our need and fulfill our desires. It is Christ alone who can provide the satisfaction and joy we so desperately seek. And once we lean into Him, it won't seem like something is missing anymore.
There are many promises of satisfaction in scripture. In John 6:35 Jesus tells us “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirsty. This does not mean an endless supply of food. It means our souls and our hearts will be filled to overflowing with the goodness He has for us. We will be filled with grace and mercy, comfort and strength, joy and peace. Things that we will not and cannot receive from the world.
The psalmist has much to say about satisfaction. Here is a sampling. ”For He satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul He fills with good things.” Psalm 107:9. Or this, ”The afflicted shall eat and be satisfied; those who seek Him shall praise the Lord! May your hearts live forever.” Psalm 22:26. And this, ”In your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 16:11. There is nothing in this world that can produce true goodness, unless God is its source. When we seek our satisfaction in Christ it is for our good and for His glory. Because, God is glorified when we are most satisfied in Him. Jesus came to give us an abundant life in Him. John 10:10. That doesn't mean we will have all the worldly goods we desire. It means He will lavish His love on us. We will know the peace that passes all human understanding. Jesus is so much better and so much more than anything the world has to offer. And it seems like satisfaction is a rare commodity these days.
In scripture we see that there is a time when even God is satisfied. All the way back in Genesis 1 we see God create. And when He is done with a day, He looks and sees that it is good. God is satisfied. At the end of day six, the day humans were created, God does not say everything is good. He says it is very good. God is very satisfied with the humans He has made. When we are satisfied, we are not looking for anything else. Think about it. After the Thanksgiving meal, after all the food, how many of us leave the table and look for something else to eat? Not many because we are full, satisfied.
We are most satisfied when we know God's provision and work in our lives. Our satisfaction comes when we discover our true purpose for being here. Paul summed it up In Galatians 2:20. ”I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” Part of our purpose is to reflect the glory of God in the ways and places He has called us to shine His light. Thanksgiving is just around the corner. Many of us will eat until we are satisfied, perhaps even stuffed. But we will be hungry again. In Jesus we are given abundance and a purpose. Nothing would seem like it is missing. That will satisfy us forever.
In His grip
Pastor Matt W