Pastor Chris White
“ A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” –John 19:29-30
The Cross of Jesus has multiple implications for everyone but in this series I will be focusing on ways the cross speaks to our mind and heart. I call this “the Four Peaces of the Cross” because ultimately, each of these, when embraced, bring us to a resting place of peace, a peace that surpasses all understanding.
The first peace is Shalom. In the Bible, the Shalom of God speaks of well-being, wholeness, soundness, completeness, harmony, and tranquility. The cross of Jesus brings us shalom because we are healed of our sins and given a new heart through the Holy Spirit sent to us by Christ at his ascension.
Another form of peace the cross brings to us is relief. Relief from what? Relief from the guilt we feel from the weight of our sin. Some people do a lot of mental gymnastics to get some relief from their guilt. They can deny the very premise of guilt and call it a socially-constructed falsehood or, as many do, assign it to an antecedent cause. I was born this way or I did those things because I had bad parents or I grew up in a bad neighborhood. Remember Adam in Genesis? Lord, I ate the forbidden fruit because of the wife YOU gave me. I’m sure the Lord felt guilty after hearing that line don’t you think?
But in our heart of hearts we know the truth. We are sinners and we need someone greater than ourselves, someone greater than our excuses to actually forgive us. And when we are completely forgiven, without reserve, we do find relief.
The very last word Jesus spoke, which translates as “it is finished” in English, is “completed”. On the cross, as Jesus suffered the last measure of our punishment, God’s full plan to redeem a fallen and lost humanity was brought to completion. Nothing more needed to be said. Nothing more needs to be done. It is fully completed and the debt of our sins before a holy God is paid in full.
The full weight of your sin was laid upon his shoulders that you might not carry that weight. That is a relief that came at a great price but gladly given. For God so loved you, that he gave his only-begotten son, that if you believe on him you will not perish but have everlasting life. What a hope. What a relief.
Hope your heart is lighter because Christ alone has taken your sin and given you His righteousness,
Pastor Chris White
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” –John 14:27
The Christian faith stands alone in the world as “Crucicentric” meaning it is centered upon the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on a cross. Remove the cross and sacrifice of Jesus and you might have a moral compass or some wise ideas to draw from, but you wouldn’t have authentic Christianity. The Cross of Jesus has multiple implications for human flourishing but in this series my focus will be on four types of peace the Lord brings to our hearts because of his sacrifice.
The first peace is Shalom. Shalom is a greeting used today by millions of Jewish and Arabic speakers. Used as such, it is nothing more than a simple as hello or goodbye, but Shalom has a deeper meaning. In the Bible, the Shalom of God speaks of well-being, wholeness, soundness, completeness, harmony, and tranquility. Remember waking up early as a child and suddenly realizing it was Saturday and you didn’t have to get ready for school? You just rolled over and half-asleep thought of the fort you were going to build with your buddies in the afternoon. That feeling is merely a glimpse of shalom.
The very night of his betrayal, in the full knowledge of the horrific death he was about to suffer, the Lord was concerned about the well-being of his disciples. I would have wanted to be comforted by my friends but Jesus offers his comfort to them. When he says let not your heart be troubled or be afraid, he is not telling them to whistle in the dark or sing a happy tune and get a grip on their feelings. He is looking past the trauma and what is ultimately to be accomplished.
Not only will there be the complete remission of all our sins and the righteousness of God given to each believer, but he will be sending the Holy Spirit to indwell everyone who trusts in Him. The Holy Spirit, sent after the resurrection and ascension of Jesus, will create a new heart in us (Jeremiah 31) which will make possible a progressive wholeness and harmony with God. The presence of the Spirit in our lives is also the assurance that God’s grace is operative in our lives and that in death we will be resurrected to an eternal life of beatitude in heaven.
The world does offer an alternative peace. That peace comes in the form of large bank accounts, life-saving medical treatments, items to be smoked or ingested, beautiful children who get straight A’s and never misbehave in school, freeze-dried food, gold coins and enough guns to survive the Zombie Apocalypse, even a good university education that will secure a good job and a bright future. I’m not suggesting these are bad things, (well, maybe a couple of them are!) but the world’s goods are always subject to reversal of fortune and if lost, so is your peace and well-being.
The peace Christ gives, the shalom of God, is available to everyone and cannot be lost, taken away or subject to change. This peace was purchased with Christ’s blood at the cross and it is a transaction that stands for eternity.
May you know His Peace today!
Pastor Ron Swor
Dear Church Family,
I’m praying that your New Year will be filled with God’s presence and His joy. These past few weeks I have taken some time to look over some goals I set for myself in 2018. Now that’s a dose of reality.
To evaluate how I was doing, I divide my goals into three categories:
1. Accomplished; 2. In Process; 3. Needs a lot more work.
Here’s what I came up with, I found that my list of goals were evenly divided between categories, or in other words, each category was one third of my list. This seems pretty accurate and if you set goals you might reflect on your experience as well. Some things get accomplished, some things are in process and some things need a lot of work.
I have not only been looking back over the 2018 year, I have taken some time to think and pray over the year ahead. Annette and I have been asking Jesus for a theme for 2019; the phrase that keeps coming up is: A Year For Radical Love. We believe that radical love is something the Holy Spirit is up to in our lives and our church community.
God’s radical love changed our lives forever when He sent Jesus, “. . . who, being the very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to His own advantage . . .” (Phil 2:6). Now that’s crazy, radical love. It’s this incredible and eternal power of God’s love working through us that makes a transformative difference in the world.
Jesus told us how this works in John 13:34-35, “A new command I give you; LOVE one another as I have LOVED you, so you must LOVE one another. All men/women will know that you are my disciples if you LOVE one another.” What if in this next year we see and expect God’s love in ways that aren’t passive but as the most powerful weapon against the schemes of Satan . . . hate, darkness, selfish behavior and all other things that destroy relationships and deceive people. What if we expect this coming year to experience God’s love as an active force that’s seen in our prayer life, our giving and, of course, our relationships. This kind of love runs to the lost and broken, runs to those who mourn, runs to . . . (this one is scary) . . . our enemy, pretty audacious, isn’t it?
Honestly, when the Holy Spirit started speaking to me about His radical love, I didn’t want to listen and i am still extremely uncomfortable with this theme. Mainly because of what it will require of me - humility, generosity, sacrifice. But I know it’s the only way, what really stood out was this Holy Spirit conviction about what I live for. So much of my time is spent living for things that aren’t bad, just not the best. Here’s what God spoke to me, “Live more for the things you would die for.”
Here’s what I am asking from you, put this to prayer, to conversations with trusted friends/family and then commit to ways you can show God’s radical love to others.
You are deeply loved,
PS - I will be unpacking this more with you on the first Sunday of the New Year.
Pastor Chris White
There was a man who worked for the Post Office whose job was to process all the mail that had illegible addresses. One day, a letter came addressed in a shaky handwriting to God with no actual address. He thought he should open it to see what it was about. The letter read:
I am an 83 year old widow, living on a very small pension. Yesterday someone stole my purse. It had $100 in it, which was all the money I had until my next pension payment. Next Sunday is Christmas, and I had invited two of my friends over for dinner. Without that money, I have nothing to buy food with, have no family to turn to, and you are my only hope. Can you please help me?
The postal worker was touched. He showed the letter to all the other workers. Each one dug into his or her wallet and came up with a few dollars. By the time he made the rounds, he had collected $96 which they put into an envelope and sent to the woman. The rest of the day, all the workers felt a warm glow thinking of Edna and the dinner she would now be able to share with her friends.
Christmas came and went.
A few days later, another letter came from the same old lady to God. All the workers at the Post Office gathered around while the letter was opened. It read:
How can I ever thank you enough for what you did for me? Because of your gift of love, I was able to fix a glorious dinner for my friends. We had a very nice day and I told my friends of your wonderful gift. By the way, there was $4 missing from the envelope. I think it might have been those darn thieves down at the Post Office!
Aren't we all a bit like Edna sometimes? God does something great for us and we focus on what we don't have. God supplies His child with everything they need and if we perceive something is missing it might be so by design. I have had some wonderful additions to my life as well as a few painful subtractions over the years. But I have learned that I am under the mighty hand of God and both, yes both, are from One in the same and are part of the wonderful story He is unfolding in this world.
As many of us celebrate the Christmas season, there will be empty chairs at our dinner tables, less than happy prognoses about our health, heart-breaking relational strains, reminders of failures and unreached goals, maybe even the specter of job loss and a very uncertain future. Life is messy and has a lot of moving parts and things don't always go the way we have hoped or prayed.
But here's my point: are you going to focus on what you don't have or will you focus on the goodness of God and what He has already done for you? God, in sending His Son to earth, the Incarnation we celebrate each year at Christmas, did so that we might have life and have it abundantly. He has taken care of the "big stuff" so there's no need to sweat the "little stuff". The joy of the Lord will overshadow any and all of our present sorrows in eternity. As a dear friend said to me once, "When we are finally with the Lord in heaven, this life will just seem like one night in a bad hotel."
And we can always make it through one night in a bad hotel.
With eyes on the Savior this season,
Pastor René Bogue
We’ve been hearing a lot about politics lately. One clear message that is repeated on both sides of the ideological aisle is: “vote!” In fact, we hear that word so much that it can become like the background music in a grocery store. Familiar, even sometimes pleasant, but easy to ignore.
It got me thinking this morning about the parallels between this right we have as citizens, and the freedom we have in Christ.
“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.” Galatians 5:1 succinctly sums up the point Paul is making throughout the entire book. Freedom is a good thing. It was hard-won, sacrificed for, and precious. Don’t, he emphasizes, lose that gift.
But, equally important, don’t take that gift for granted. He continues in that same chapter to urge his Galatian brothers and sisters to use their freedom “to serve one another humbly in love.” It is indeed a gift, but an important, costly gift. One given to us from the depths of Love. One we should – must – cherish.
Free doesn’t mean without worth.
There are the plastic lids you find in the “free” box at a yard sale, the free prizes you get just for shopping, and trinkets, and totes (so many totes).
Then there are the gifts. The things made precious by our love for the giver, and often the great cost to them. Your grandmother’s mirror, your mother’s dishes, your beloved’s ring. Such a difference between a careless cast-off, and a dearly-held, carefully given gift.
Freedom in Jesus is a great gift.
And, like the hard-won privilege to vote as citizens, we should not take this freedom for granted. We can be circumspect, grateful, sober, and full of joy as we embrace what we’ve been given. And then use those gifts to act, to serve one another, and to show our love for God and man.
Pastor Chris White
The American church of today needs to learn a lesson from the churches of the Civil War era. Now 150+ years past, the conflict between the Blue and the Gray has softened around the edges a lot and we associate the ‘Stars and Bars’ more with the Dukes of Hazzard than the Confederacy. But at the time, there was nothing quaint or homely or laughable about it. It was not merely a war of political differences, it was truly a religious war in a 95% Protestant nation that led to fratricide en masse.. Both sides of the slavery issue had festered since the days of the Constitutional convention and long before the first shot was fired on Ft. Sumter, nearly every American church denomination had divided over the slave issue.
In the Christian debate over the issue, both sides agreed that you could find slavery justified in scripture (and surprisingly, the law of Moses did cite a lot of laws regarding slaves). The crux of the argument lay in whether the race-based chattel slavery of the South was anything akin to the slavery of the Bible. Northern Christians said no, Southern Christians said yes. The Black church of the day argued that Matthew 7:12 (Do unto others as you would have them do unto you), if taken seriously, really ends the discussion. But as we all know, the Civil War, though spiritual, was settled militarily and for the most part “right” was settled by “might”. All told, nearly 620,000 people lost their lives as a result of the war, more than any other in American history. With casualties that numerous, nearly every family in America would have been grieving for a lost son.
So what can the Christian Churches of today learn from this national tragedy?
religious then logically those who disagree with us are not on God’s side and
therefore, if our opponents are fellow Christians, we must break fellowship. This
is just where Satan wants us. This is not to say religion shouldn’t inform our
politics or efforts to reform the ills of society or create a more just society, but we
need to give real care that politics never informs our religion. Politics are restless,
opportunistic, contradictory, complex and only temporal. This should always
remind us as Christians to approach politics with a healthy dose of skepticism and
never as articles faith. Someone once said that he who marries the spirit of the age
(and politics is the embodiment of that spirit) will certainly find themselves a
widow very quickly.
Pastor Chris White
One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother. He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ). He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John. You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter). John 1:40-42
The first disciples of Jesus were John and Andrew. Earlier they had been disciples of John the Baptist but when he identified the Messiah, he sent them to Jesus. Jesus must increase and I must decrease was the motto of this prophet of God. Andrew never became part of the inner circle of disciples as James, John and Peter became. But every time Andrew is mentioned in the Gospels he is introducing someone to Jesus. Few of us will ever be great leaders and preachers but we all can endeavor to connect people we know to Jesus. This is the ministry for the connectors in the world like Andrew.
First on Andrew’s “to do” list was introduce his brother Simon to the Jesus. I don’t know if it was brotherly love that motivated Andrew or that his older brother seriously needed a “come to Jesus” moment (we all have a sibling like that don’t we?). Whatever the cause, the Bible said Jesus “looked at him”. In the original Greek this is more of a long gaze or what we would call sizing him up. Jesus then speaks momentous words to Simon: “You shall be called the Rock (Peter or Petros).” I wonder if there is a bit of double-entendre intended here. When we say someone is our rock we mean they are steady, dependable, and generally unmovable. But also when we are laying down a foundation for a new building we don’t build it on sand or bark-dust. We dig down to rock or bring a large amount of rock in. In Matthew 16 and Acts 2, Peter clearly becomes part of the foundation for the Church Jesus is building on earth.
What I think we should hopeful about in Jesus’s words to Peter is that while these things were eventually true of Peter, neither of them were at the time. Peter was loving and loyal but a fairly unstable and impetuous person. Our cultural grid for thinking about people is that they are always a product of their past and if you ever did something terrible in your past, you cannot be trusted in the future. There is an element of truth to this especially if a person has not yet been transformed by the Gospel and the Holy Spirit. But that is not how Jesus sees us or even thinks of us. With Him, we are not a product of the past but a product of our future. We become in the future what He says we will be. If any man is in Christ he is a new creature, the old things are passed away (2 Cor. 5:17). Like Peter, when we walk with Jesus, we are always becoming something new and better than we are today. And that is some very good news.
Pastor Dave Metsker
Pastoring an amazing group of dedicated people, I nevertheless grew weary. I carried the weight of speaking during the services most Sundays, noting a decline in income, strategizing again and then again, family priorities, counseling, leading, organizing, caring, and caring some more. Regrettably, in the midst of these, I found that my spiritual life was not keeping up with the demands of church leadership. I lamented, “How could this happen to me, the spiritual shepherd?”
This crossroads on my journey with Jesus caused me to go back to the basics. Distractions were aggressively addressed. I repented, understanding that a vibrant spiritual life remains indispensable. Following are a few things I learned as I renewed depth with Jesus.
The most important facet of life is our relationships with God. First, God initiated his relationship with us and longs to be intimate with us. He incomprehensibly sacrificed of his own son for us. Paul explains,
God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Rom. 5:8 NIV)
The foundation of spirituality rests, not in our meagre, dogged efforts, but in our response to God’s overwhelming, fatherly compassion. He highly values us (Psa. 86:15).
Fruitful ministry flows first of all out of the spiritual leader’s relationship with God, making an effective spiritual life unequivocally essential. Jesus explains,
"I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful…. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." (John 15:1-5 NIV)
Paul laments, we will find people “having a form of godliness but denying its power.” This state is so onerous, he tells Timothy, the primary elder of the Ephesian church, “Have nothing to do with such people” (2 Tim. 3:5 NIV).
Therefore, the most crucial responsibility of a fruitful leader continues to be the maintenance of a vital, dynamic and powerful spiritual life. Jesus calls us to the heart of spirituality:
“The most important [commandment],” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31 NIV)
By definition a "spiritual person" actively engages in a range of disciplines through which he or she actually loves God and intimately relates to him, experiencing a spiritual order derived from God's response. Paul explains, Spiritual=Gr. pneuma, breath
Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. (Rom. 8:5 NIV and see 4-14)
"Spiritual disciplines" are activities of mind and body purposefully undertaken by a follower of Jesus to bring his or her total being into effective cooperation with God and his Kingdom. Paul continues,Material for A and B from Willard, pp. 67-68.
In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. (Rom 6:11-13 NIV)
"Spirituality" at its simplest is the inner person united with the Holy Spirit:
The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. (Rom.8:6 NIV)
The pattern we are so often accustomed to in the Western church, "church lite," engenders a shallow misrepresentation of biblical spirituality. As Paul clarifies,
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Rom. 12:1-2 NIV)
We yearn for this posture of worship. In what ways has spirituality been difficult for you and others, and how have you especially increased your depth with Jesus?
By Pastor Chris White
We live in a time of great uncertainty where change seems to be constant and most of it doesn’t seem to be “change for the better.” From frightening natural disasters and unexpected job losses, to broken relationships and protracted illnesses, life can throw a lot of difficult things in our path. Back in the early days of Christianity, the Apostle Peter was leading the church of Rome through a terrible persecution (this was when Nero burned Rome and scapegoated the Christians) and decided to write his Christian friends in Asia Minor (modern Turkey) to tell them to prepare their minds and hearts for persecution that was most certainly on the way. This document (the Epistle of 1 Peter in the New Testament) is just as vital today as it was then in teaching us how we are to think and act in difficult times.
Pastor René Bogue
For all the flowers you see around this time of year, you might not know how hard a time this can be. You might not see the eyes averted as broken people walk past the displays. We cannot see inside the heart.
Your story might be a good one. Your mom may fit the Hallmark verse, and this might be an easy day for you to honor her. You might be that mom yourself. You may be woken up on Mothers’ Day with cold eggs, warm orange juice and a fist full of flowers. I had those beautiful mornings years ago, and it is precious.
But you may be in the majority. You may be missing your mom who has gone on before you. You may be missing those little faces that greeted you too early in the morning. You may, like me, have had a mom who didn’t know how to be present, who doesn’t fit any of the cards. Your own arms may ache for the baby you lost, or the one you never had.
For those – for us – the magnifying glass that is “Mothers’ Day” can be brutal.
This year, let’s let the day be, and let’s celebrate all women.
This year, let’s be about the nurturing heart, the love of beauty, and the strength of the feminine soul. This year, I invite you to join me in looking past the cliché and the sales pitch, and embracing our womanhood. Let’s buy our own flowers – for us, for others – and treat ourselves gently this year. Let’s acknowledge our pain, and let’s share ourselves and our stories.
Mostly, let’s take time to fully realize our belovedness in Christ. Let us take a little time to see the beauty that He made, His creative goodness in us, and remember that His care and love for you is unique, deep, and beyond any hope or expectation. You are His child. You are His best work.
“Our lives are unique stones in the mosaic of human existence -- priceless and irreplaceable.”
― Henri J.M. Nouwen, Life of the Beloved