Friday - April 19, 2019

  From Pastor Garry 

John 19:30 When He had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.

Continue reading

Only one has the authority to declare “it is finished.”

Jesus completed this life (including being beaten and crucified); He satisfied the requirement of perfection, standing before God for us and justifying those who believe in Him as Savior.  I believe His words and I believe what He says is truth.  And so I wonder, why do I continue to live a life of worry?  Why do I continue to wonder if He will come through for me and for those who believe in Him?  Why do I act as though it is not finished?

Truly believing His words and accepting Jesus as Savior and as Lord means that the things of this world have no power over my attitude and no power over my days.  I believe He has already won.  I’m living a life in a world where my Savior has already won and so how could I not have a smile that I cannot hide?

“It is finished”, declared Jesus.  Maybe its time for me to live like I believe that His words are true.

Honoring the Christ

Wednesday - April 10, 2019

John 12:1-8

  From Pastor Garry 

If we read through the book of John and come to this chapter, we will have read about Mary and Martha before. In fact, in chapter 11 we are told that Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. It only seems logical then that this anointing story in chapter 12 is not the first time Jesus and Mary and Martha and Lazarus have hung out. It only seems logical that they have been together before. And so, I wonder: why does Mary break out the expensive perfume this time? If they have been together before and if they have gotten to know each other to the point of John saying this family was important to Jesus, why is this meal any different? Jesus had been dropping hints that He would be laying down His life, but it doesn’t seem like He was telling them when it was going to take place? So, is Mary so intuitive that she understood His crucifixion was coming quickly? Was it because she heard the pharisees and the teachers of the law planning Jesus’ death after He raised Lazarus from the dead? I like to think that she was quite simply being proactive! Not taking anything for granted and not considering this meal with Jesus just another meal, she takes initiative and gives of her possessions, her dignity, and her time; all to glorify Jesus the Christ.

Continue reading

We aren’t given a narrator’s voice of what she was thinking but we are told by Jesus’ words that this was the right thing to do. It was the right thing for her to focus on Jesus. It was the right thing for her to spend her time doing this. It was the right thing for her to not pay attention to the rituals of the culture that she was breaking by letting her hair down. It was the right thing for her to do to not worry about the fact that she was spending a year’s wages. Whether it was because of who He was to her as a friend or for what He had done for her brother, she was ready to give Him praise and honor. What if we would be the same? What if we gave Jesus honor and praise today, even if we have been with Him for a long time and even if it’s just another day of being with Him? Could we still praise Him despite a culture that tells us not to and despite a wondering if we can afford it?

And what if there’s more to this example of Mary? What if she really didn’t know what the next few days would bring? What if she didn’t have intuition about what was going to happen? What if she didn’t know that she was preparing Him for His funeral? What if she was praising Jesus for what He was about to do-even if she didn’t completely understand what she was praising Him for!? Oh, if we could only do the same! I want to be able to say, “I have no idea what is going to happen next, but I’m going to praise Jesus in this moment!” We can praise Him for what He will be doing, even if we don’t know it completely!

Stop muttering

Wednesday - April 3, 2019

Luke 15:1-2

  From Pastor Garry 

Attending grade school, I often had a reputation for talking during class.  I would argue that the teachers came in with a bias, knowing that my older sisters were well known for not being able to stop their conversations.  But the truth is that I also struggled to know when to be silent and when to talk with my fellow students. 

Continue reading

Maybe that wasn’t a problem for you, but chances are you had one in your class.  You had a person who would turn to the student next to them or behind them and try to whisper but was never successful in staying completely unheard.  The mutterings and the whispers would always be noticed and would usually result in a scolding from the authority figure.

This is what I imagine when I read “the pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered…” I imagine them being close enough to Jesus to hear His teaching and close enough to the storyteller that he was able to notice their mutterings.  What really amazes me, then, is the idea that they must have been able to hear the words of Jesus.  They were able to physically notice what He was saying.  Not just in this passage, but in so many others, we are told the Pharisees and teacher of the law were present.  Isn’t it amazing that being there and being present doesn’t seem to be enough for them to understand what Jesus was really doing?

Don’t miss the point: the very thing they are upset about is the very thing that Jesus the Christ was there to do!  He was there to give direction to those who need direction; He was there to give grace to the sinners!  And the incredible news for us is that He is the same Jesus today.  He continues to search for us and once He has found us, He speaks His words of grace, mercy and peace.  He speaks His words of “go and sin no more.”  He speaks His words of love to us through His inspired Scripture and through the Holy Spirit that lives inside of us and our brothers and sisters in Christ. 

And so, we have an option. We have a choice.  We have the decision on whether we will gather together with fellow sinners and hear Jesus, or whether we will mutter against Him. 

Accept His calling today and gather to hear Him.

Jesus, Peter and an Ear

Wednesday - March 27, 2019

Luke 22:47-53

   From Pastor Jesse

Luke 22:47-53:  “While he was still speaking a crowd came up, and the man who was called Judas, one of the Twelve, was leading them.  He approached Jesus to kiss Him, but Jesus asked him, ‘Judas, are you betraying the Son of man with a kiss?’  When Jesus’ followers saw what was going to happen, they said ‘Lord, should we strike with our swords?’  And one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear.  But Jesus answered, ‘No more of this!’  And he touched the man’s ear and healed him. 

Continue reading

Then Jesus said to the chief priests, the officers of the temple guard, and the elders, who had come for him, ‘Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come with swords and clubs?  Every day I was with you in the temple courts, and you did not lay a hand on me.  But this is your hour – when darkness reigns.” 

The more we get closer to the Crucifixion and resurrection of our Savior, Jesus Christ, the more I become fascinated with the actions of Christ during the week leading up to His death.  We must remember that Jesus, though fully God, was also fully man.  As such, there are times when he struggled just as we do.  This is evident when we look at Jesus praying in Gethsemane asking to have the burden removed to the point of sweating what appeared to be blood.  In other words, Jesus knew what He had to do, but was still emotionally and Spiritually drained.

How amazing is it, then, at the very moment of His betrayal, we see something like this passage.  Jesus, knowing he was hours before His death, having just poured His soul to God, stressed beyond what we can even fathom, still does something amazing.  And what is this amazing thing Jesus does?  In His last hours before His crucifixion, Jesus performs a MIRACLE!

In case this is getting too vague, I am talking about the miracle of Jesus healing the ear of the servant that one of the Disciples, (The Book of John states it’s Peter, because of COURSE it would have to be Peter), removes in a fit of rage.  And Christ’s response is epic.  He does not chastise those who are persecuting Him for their actions; he chastises those who are following Christ for THEIR actions.  And what’s more, this is not simply just some guy with his ear cut off.  This is supposed to be an enemy of the Jewish people!  He was Roman!  He was part of the group of persecutors!  And yet, Christ HEALS him.  Now, obviously, Christ could have done many miracles to save him from his torment.  He could have invoked the name of God and “smote” His captors, He could have asked Angels to intercede, and He could have done whatever He wanted because, as fully God, power was at His disposal.  But what did He do instead?  He didn’t use a miracle on Himself.  He used a miracle . . . for others. 

As we go on in the season of Lent, we focus on many things.  We focus on prayer, we focus on repentance, and we focus on purifying ourselves.  All these things need to be focused on.  However, I think we tend to forget something in this season.  We are so focused on ourselves and what Christ’s death means to US; we forget to focus on OTHERS.  In this season, what would it look like if we would take Christ’s example to heart?  What if, regardless of whatever struggles we are having, we reached out with Christ’s love and prayed for THEIR healing?  What if, instead of anger at our enemies, we forgave?  What if we were focused not only on ourselves, but OTHERS?  I suspect Lent would be an even more rewarding Season if we did so.  Let us pray we are God’s people that focus God’s love, not just on us, but others.

Keep Going.

Wednesday - March 20, 2019

Luke 13:31-35 and Matthew 23:37-39

  From Pastor Garry 

While Luke has a few more stories to tell after chapter 13, Matthew puts this conversation near the end of his book, during Holy Week.  I like to believe Matthew’s timing because to me it seems like Jesus is giving a beautiful “beginning of the end” song. It sounds to me like He is saying, “Jerusalem, you had a chance. But you have missed the point.”  That being said, the thing I like about Luke’s context is that He combines this song with Jesus’ conversation with the Pharisees.  His words, “I must press on” in Luke 13:33, together with His lament over Jerusalem in verse 34 gives us something to apply directly, I believe.

Continue reading

Think about this: I picture the Pharisees making this message in verse 31 up.  Because they could not figure out how to get Jesus to stop preaching a message of grace and forgiveness which is offered to all people, I imagine them stuttering and looking around while making up their words on the spot: “umm…Herod…I think he…wants to kill you.  Yeah, that’s it…he wants to kill you!  No really!  So…you had better leave!”  Of course, we know from the information we have on the Pharisees that their motive was not protecting Jesus.  We know they simply want Him gone!  They were working any angle they could think of to stop the Christ from doing the work of His Father.  And this is where Jesus replies with “I must press on.” Even if Herod really did want to kill Him, Jesus would press on.  Even if all that was happening was that the Pharisees were making up excuses to get Him out of town, Jesus would press on! No matter the circumstance, Jesus determined that He had to keep going.  Despite vain attempts, despite the temptation to call it quits and despite the reality of how hard it would continue to be, Jesus presses on.

Now, change your focus for a second to the lament song.  Why these words about Jerusalem?  Why such an emotional description about the city?  Remember, last week Pastor Jesse filled us in on the significance of the number 40 in the season of Lent.  And again, in God’s incredible eye for detail, Jesus’ location is too important to miss.  You see, Jerusalem is not a random place and it is not by chance this whole week was spiraling around the city.  Jerusalem itself symbolizes and reminds us of so many different pieces of the Old Testament; so many different works that God had been doing for the people that inhabited that city.  It reminds us of David and his desire to build a temple.  It reminds us of God’s faithfulness during the destruction of the temple and the rebuilding after exile.  It reminds us of how just a thirty some years before Jesus’ words in Luke 13, He Himself visited as a boy (remember, when His parents were looking for Him, He answered with “why were you searching for me? Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49) as if to say, “where else would I be!?”). Now coming full circle, He can say at the edge of His earthly life, “where else would I be!?”  It has to be Jerusalem where this story gets its next chapter! 

So then, let’s put those two things together: pressing on and lamenting over Jerusalem.  The people of Jerusalem had opportunities to be gathered as chicks to Jesus’ side, but instead their house is left desolate.  The people of Jerusalem saw the need for a Messiah.  They believed that One would come to save them.  They believed that God would not forget them.  They had so many things correct!  But rather than understanding it and be gathered to Jesus’ side, they missed the next step in the faith journey: the realization that Jesus was and the Christ!  The realization that Jesus was the Messiah they had been promised!  If only they could have “pressed on” in their belief and completed the journey from promise to fulfillment!

And today, if only we ourselves could not stop halfway when it comes to our faith journey.  If only we were able to press on with Jesus Christ to truly understand the work that He desires to do in our lives!  I believe He wants to do so much in us and through us but we miss the opportunity.

Take this season of Lent as a reminder to press on.  Take this opportunity to truly be gathered to Jesus’ side as chicks to a mother hen!

Press on.

What is Lent?

Wednesday - March 13, 2019

   From Pastor Jesse

Matthew 4:1-2:  “Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.  After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.”  For those of us who have read this Scripture before, we know the rest of the story.  The Devil tries to tempt Jesus into following him, Jesus rebuffs him with the words of Deuteronomy followed by commanding Satan to depart from Him, and angels then attend to Christ.  It is really a fascinating and amazing testimony of the power of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  By why bring it up now to start the Lenten season?  Why focus on this passage now?

Continue reading

For those of us who grew up in the Church, and even some of us who haven’t, we are familiar with the concept of Lent.  The time of year where, for 40 days, Christians all over the world prepare themselves for Easter through prayer, fasting, and repentance of their sin, which we do to celebrate the coming of Christ who gives us purity through His sacrifice.  Already, we should have some idea of why we are looking at Jesus in the desert, for there is a direct parallel:  Jesus spent 40 days fasting and rebuking the Devil; we spend 40 days fasting and repenting of our sin.  As you can see, the number “40” plays a significant part in the Lenten Season. 

But then, I suppose we are left with another question.   Why 40 days specifically?  Well, the answer to this question is quite fascinating.  As I mentioned above, Jesus uses the words of Scripture, specifically Deuteronomy, to rebuff the Devil’s temptations.  This is not by chance but by choice.  In a way only God can do, Jesus is making an intentional connection with not only the words of Deuteronomy, but also the actions of those in the Old Testament.  In other words, Jesus spending 40 days in the desert is significant as he is commemorating the actions of God’s chosen people in the Old Testament.

For example, how long did the Israelites spend wandering the desert?  40 years.  “That’s fine”, you may think to yourself, “But that’s just a coincidence”.  Well, allow me to point out other fascinating facts.  If we were to read Genesis 7:4, we see that during the time of Noah, it would rain for 40 days and 40 nights.  The purpose of which was to purify the earth of sin, which also just so happens to be the purpose of Jesus.  The parallels between Jesus and the Old Testament should be starting to intrigue you right now.

But wait, there’s more.  As it says in Deuteronomy 9:18, we see that Moses fasts for 40 days and nights, in order to appease the Lord after Israel’s sin.  In Exodus 24:18, Moses spent 40 days and nights in the presence of the Lord.  In Jonah3:4, we see that Jonah tells the people of Nineveh that they would be overthrown in 40 days, unless they repent of their sin against the Lord. 

And at this point you may be asking, “This is all fascinating, but what’s the purpose of knowing this?”  Well, all of these examples have something in common.  In all of them, the number 40 is associated with temptation, sin, fasting, repentance, and purification, which if you recall is the exact purpose of Lent itself!  In other words, in a fascinating way that only God can ordain, Lent is not just a time of remembrance and preparation.  Lent is a literal connection through all of time to our Christian forbearers.  Lent is a season where we realize that though we sin, God will be and has always been faithful to us!  I pray that in this season of Lent we not see it as just another “law” to be observed.  It is my prayer that Lent would be a time where we see God’s plan unfolding from generation to generation.

Where is Your Heart?

Ash Wednesday - March 6, 2019

Matthew 6:1-6 and 16-21

  From Pastor Garry 

Yesterday, I read a tweet that said something along these lines: “as you begin lent, don’t forget to tell everyone know what you are doing via social media!” Funny…and convicting! When I am about to do something or to give something up, I sometimes wonder “what if no one notices? What if no one sees?” I’ve learned from spending 36 years with myself that my motives aren’t always pure and completely righteous. And so I’ve learned to ask simply “Is this is a God thing or is this a Garry thing?” and my prayer becomes “God please, make this about You and not about me.” We are told in Matthew 6 to give without others knowing; we are told to pray without letting anyone see and we are told to hide the fact that we are fasting. Why? Isn’t our faith supposed to be visible and noticeable? Aren’t we supposed to be communal in our lives, especially in our faith lives? Maybe not always.

Continue reading

Ending the chapter with treasures in heaven, I think Matthew’s passage gives a clear question concerning these disciplines of faith: WHERE IS YOUR HEART? Underneath the act itself is the motive,  aka, the heart. And it seems right to ask “why am I doing this? Where is my heart?” I remember being around 10 years old when my Grandpa Lubbers passed away. I was upset, and I asked my Dad, how do I know that I will see Grandpa again in heaven? Dad answered, “because you are asking the question!” Sometimes, asking the question is the answer; it shows that we are thinking about it and that we are concerned about the right things, as we prepare to give things up for lent or to take an action of a spiritual discipline during this season, be encouraged to ask the question “where is my heart?” and let God direct your motive.