NEWS
 

 
 
PASTOR’S PEN
 
Pastor’s Pen in a blog written by Pastor Charlie, our Family Ministries Pastor and counselor.
Pastor Charlie shares biblical counsel with us on thoughts related to current issues we face during the COVID19 pandemic. 
 

Peace and Joy

I will have peace in my soul and joy in my heart when  _________________

 

Christian people should have a ready answer with which to fill the blank. If not, why not? This is a question always worth considering. And the question becomes even more obvious and demanding whenever we face a trial – a crisis – something which interferes with life as we know it. If we honestly consider our lives and those things that most influence our thinking and behavior, it becomes apparent that we are all changed by our trials and difficulties. A child loses a parent – a spouse threatens divorce unless things change – someone experiences trauma or abuse – an unrepentant sinner accepts the reality of a holy, loving God – and the world and life as we understood it is forever changed.

 

Most people who seek counseling do so to address a crisis. In addiction counseling, it is always some type of crisis that will lead to effective treatment. The fact is, with whatever we are considering, if nothing changes, nothing changes. In the challenging times things will change and real positive change and growth  can occur in the context of crises. God is in the business of healthy healing change. We also know that as part of that healthy change we need to have a vision of where we are heading – we need hope.

Paul understood this.

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us. Romans 5:1-5

Finding ourselves without hope, peace and joy in trials reveals much about the depth of our faith and our level of commitment to God.

 

Suddenly, in the early part of the year 2020 we find ourselves in a crisis. We are in the midst of something that promises to try us in ways we never expected. Several simple questions should be asked in the current situation.

 

“ Is there anything that offers lasting peace, joy and contentment in every situation in life?”

“How is my response different from the world’s response because of my relationship with God?”

“In what do I hope?”

 

To unpack this, here is another important question. How this question is answered can help clarify the nature of our response to any crisis. As we grow in our relationship with God we learn to trust in and place our hope in Him.

 

What is my “relationship with God”?

The language that is typically used in the contemporary Western church in reference to Christian salvation is that someone “accepts” Christ. Unfortunately in many cases what we mean by that is that we “accept” and permit Him to come into our life, and it is assumed that by just doing that we have become a Christian and have began an authentic Biblical relationship with God.

 

C.S. Lewis in Giving All to Christ states:

The ordinary idea which we all have before we become Christians is this. We take as the starting point our ordinary self with its various desires and interests. We then admit that something else —— call it “morality” or “decent behavior” or “the good of society” —— has claims on this self: claims which interfere with its own desires…, Because we are still taking the natural self as the starting point.

 

Christ says “Give me All. I don’t want so much of your time and so much of your money and so much of your work: I want you. I have not come to torment your natural self, but to kill it. No half-measures are any good. I don’t want to cut off a branch here and a branch there I want the whole tree down. Hand over the whole natural self, all the desires which you think innocent, as well as the ones you think wicked —— the whole outfit.”

 

Much of Christian evangelism is rightly based on the Great Commission but carefully consider Jesus’ words:

“And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go  therefore and  make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am  with you always, even to the end of the age.”  Amen.” Matthew 28:18-20

 

Jesus didn’t say “just get them to say “the sinners prayer”. He was very clear. They will be disciples who observe what He commanded. Could there be a difference between a Christian and a disciple? In scripture they are one and the same.

 

Dallas Willard in The Cost of Nondiscipleship:

The word “disciple” occurs 269 times in the New Testament. “Christian” is found only three times and was first introduced to refer to the disciples…. The New Testament is a book about disciples, by disciples, and for disciples of Jesus Christ.

 

When we accept Christ’s sacrifice for our sins it is an acknowledgment on our part. The miraculous, spectacular, overwhelming and incomprehensible fact is that God has accepted us as disciples of Jesus. What God is offering is for us to enter into His life. It does not mean that He will join us as we wander aimlessly through life continuing to live as we always have. When He accepts us, he offers to lead us from the wilderness into a spiritual and emotional garden of Eden – into a life of peace inside while the world spins out of control. Put a different way, we often treat this gift as if we simply invite Him to come along with us as we continue making poor choices and satisfying our flesh. But He will have no part in that. That is not what He died for.

 

Dallas Willard in The Cost of Nondiscipleship:

For at least several decades the churches of the Western world have not made discipleship a condition of being a Christian. One is not required to be, or intend to be a disciple in order to become a Christian, and one may remain a Christian without any signs of progress toward or in discipleship.

 

A different model was instituted in The Great Commission Jesus left the church. The first goal he set forth for the early church was to use his all-encompassing power and authority to make disciples….Having made disciples, these alone were to be baptized into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

But in place of God’s plan, historical drift has substituted: “Make converts (to a particular faith and practice) and baptize them into church membership.”

 

 My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.

James 1:2-4

 

This emphatically underscores something we should already know – that we have a very special opportunity through the testing of our faith – to be better people and better Christians (more complete in the ways that truly matter). In that –  each one of us can agree with the psalmist – that  “The Lord is our shepherd we really will not go wanting” in His presence. God’s faithfulness to us as his people and to us as a church has been unquestionable. We can be confident that has not changed. Although the pause button has been pressed for what we call “normal church activities”, let’s be intentional and hit fast forward for our spiritual growth and the real work of God in each of our individual lives. You might ask yourself, “How is God leading me to a deeper level of true discipleship right here, right now?”

 

I will have peace in my soul and joy in my heart when __________________

 

In this time of COVID19 much of humanity is fearful as we are daily reminded how much we don’t know. If we are Christians in name only and are simply not living as disciples we have much to worry about. If we are true disciples of Jesus Christ, we increasingly recognize that the blank has been filled in, settled, finished at the cross. We already knew that we don’t know the future in this life. Yet as we walk moment by moment with Jesus and follow Him deeper into the kingdom of God, nothing can take away the joy in our hearts, the peace in our souls and our unshakeable eternal hope!


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Reality Check

There is a tremendous amount of so called “knowledge” that is destructive to our emotional and spiritual well being simply because its deceptive masquerade creates within us a totally unrealistic perception of reality. It is imperative to our spiritual and emotional health to put what we “know” into proper perspective.

 

The world around us paints a picture of great happiness and peace as being attainable in this life, and that it can even be reached while living in a total moral and ethical vacuum. We cannot afford to ever lose sight of the fact that the “reality” the world portrays to us is filled with lies. Just consider so much of the nonsense on TV and movies. We know those people are actors, but we forget that they, after all, are acting. As Christians we know this to be true, but I don’t think we realize how much our attitudes and expectations have been influenced by secular culture. For our entire lives, every person is locked in a great spiritual conflict. How we react to that conflict determines not just our temporal joy but also our eternal peace.

 

We are constantly in danger of viewing our difficulties and challenges with vision blurred by the lies, and then comparing our situations to those lies. Then we decide that we “know” things would be better if only………… Whenever those thoughts are completed in a manner that is not consistent with the truth of scripture, we become victims of the lies.

 

How much grief do we cause ourselves because we make the mistake of expecting to find an end to difficulties, and consequent complete peace and satisfaction in this life? The reality is that the true peace that our hearts yearn for is unattainable in this life. We are living in a fallen world separated from, yet longing for, perfect communion with God. The kind of “arriving” that we hope for will not happen because it cannot be achieved in this world. It is reserved for Heaven, and everything that lies between here and there is insufficient to truly satisfy the great longing of our souls for something more.

 

From Peggy Noonan, former speech writer for Ronald Reagan in Forbes magazine

“I think we have lost the old knowledge that happiness is overrated – that, in a way, life is overrated. We have lost, somehow, a sense of mystery – about us, our purpose, our meaning, our role. Our ancestors believed in two worlds, and understood this to be the solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short one. We are the first generation of man that actually expected to find happiness here on earth, and our search for it has caused such – unhappiness. The reason: if you do not believe in another, higher world, if you believe only in the flat material world around you, if you believe that this is your only chance at happiness – if that is what you believe, then you are disappointed when the world does not give you a good measure of it’s riches, you are despairing.”

 

Going no further back than the times of the founding and early development of our country we are able to see the wide gulf between our modern attitudes and those of our fathers. In the early days, when Christianity exercised a dominant influence over American thinking, men conceived the world to be a battleground. Our fathers believed in sin and the devil and hell as constituting one force; and they believed in God and righteousness and heaven as the other. These were opposed to each other in the nature of them forever in deep, grave, irreconcilable hostility. Man, so our fathers held, had to choose sides; he could not be neutral. For him it must be life or death, heaven or hell, and if he chose to come out on God’s side he could expect open war with God’s enemies. The fight would be real and deadly and would last as long as life continued here below. Men looked forward to heaven as a return from the wars, a laying down of the sword to enjoy in peace the home prepared for them.

 

It still is a solid Bible doctrine that tremendous spiritual forces are present in the world. And man, because of his spiritual nature, is caught in the middle. The evil powers are bent on destroying him, while Christ is present to save him through the power of the Gospel. To obtain deliverance he must come out on God’s side in faith and obedience.

How different today: the fact remains the same but the interpretation has changed completely. Men think of the world not as a battleground but as a playground. We are not here to fight, we are here to frolic. We are not in a foreign land, we are at home. We are not getting ready to live, we are already living,…

 

That this world is a playground instead of a battleground has now been accepted in practice by the vast majority of Evangelical Christians. They might hedge around the question if they were asked bluntly to declare their position, but their conduct gives them away. They are facing both ways, enjoying Christ and the world too,…

This whole thing has grown to be so serious of late that it now becomes the bounden duty of every Christian to reexamine his spiritual philosophy in the light of the Bible, and having discovered the scriptural way to follow it,…

A right view of God and the world to come requires that we have also a right view of the world in which we live and our relation to it. So much depends upon this that we cannot afford to be careless about it.”

 

From The Lies We Believe by Dr Chris Thurman

“Life is not easy, no matter how many gold cards and garage door openers and microwave ovens we have. The very first words of the best-selling book The Road Less Traveled are golden on this matter: “Life is difficult.” That is one of life’s all-time great truths. But most of us can’t stand the fact that this happens to be true, so we keep looking for a life free from difficulty and bitterly resenting it when one doesn’t come.

 

If we want anything to be easy, we have to work hard. If we want a quiz to be easy, we have to study hard. If we want a couple of hours on the tennis court to be easy, we have to train hard. If we want our marriages to be easy, we have to work diligently on them. If we want life to be easy, we have to put our all into it, painfully so.”

 

Arnold Schwarzenegger

“Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths. When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength.”

 

 

C S Lewis

“We are not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us; we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be.”

 

Ovid (poet)

“Be patient and tough; some day this pain will be useful to you.”

 

Imagine if you will that life on planet earth is like a perilous trek through and over the most inhospitable terrain imaginable. Huge immovable boulders block your way. Horribly sharp, jagged mountain peaks must be climbed. Frightening deep chasms open up unexpectedly before you.

 

A group of mountain climbers can scale the most challenging mountain peaks, but it is a serious and dangerous undertaking. They must be prepared, equipped and willing to work together. They choose a guide who has more experience than they, and if at all possible one who has been through the same type of terrain – if not on the same mountain. From a map they calculate the route that will get them safely to their goal. With strong ropes they tie themselves together and to the mountain. By constantly helping and encouraging each other they can conquer difficulties none could even consider alone.
 
Similarly, if we expect to conquer the challenges of life, we as Christians likewise must be prepared (through prayer), equipped (trusting the Holy Spirit for strength) and willing to work together with an army of fellow travelers (other Christians). We have guides (pastors and teachers), a perfect map (The Bible), and if we stay on course and work together we will triumph!

 

Yet sometimes when we look at the struggles we are facing, it seems impossible and we become discouraged. The obstacles seem too formidable. If we aren’t careful we may listen to the world’s lies and think we “know” an easier way; like a climber who during the most difficult ascent decides it looks too hard to go on so he unhooks, expecting a soft landing.

 

This formidable and treacherous mountain range is life for every person. To try to make this journey without Christ is to be painfully locked in a sad, futile search for peace in a scorched, unforgiving and barren wasteland. The successful Christian life is a demanding but exhilarating adventure filled with challenging obstacles requiring great effort but yielding great temporal and eternal rewards.

 

Know that you were designed for this quest by God Himself. Embrace the struggles confidently knowing that you never have to face them alone because the power of the Holy Spirit is within you. Through each victory you are growing stronger, and closer to your true eternal goal. Enjoy the journey; the views are incredible. Stay tied to your group, study the map and follow your guides. Don’t be deceived by false shortcuts and temporary complications; remain focused on the only goal that is dependable, true and eternal.

 

And remember-

 

If at first you don’t succeed, you’re running about average.

M H Alderson

 

But know this –

 

Jesus – John 16:33

In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

NIV

 

 


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Biblical Grief

It might be helpful to view the current geopolitical situation through a perspective of grief. We grieve when we lose something that is important to us.
 
Normally this is first recognized in the death of a loved one. There is
considerable literature and discussions surrounding how to understand and how to process grief.

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