Sunday, June 30, 2013

An Inconvenient Truth ~ Part 2

With the rains behind us and the sun shining brightly, even if not yet warmly, the sanctuary was vibrant with chatter before the service. Pastor Brad, in summer plaid, came to the front to greet us. “I’m grateful you’re hear to worship with us this morning.” He noted that since it is Fourth of July weekend some of the singing we do will be about Independence Day.

1. Meeting after the service for a special congregational meeting to take a vote as a church, to build or not to build.
2. Brad read a letter/card from Paula Saxin thanking the congregation for its love and support “that kept our boat afloat” during “one of the darkest moments of our lives. “It’s amazing how much love and kindness this little church holds…. Your generosity enveloped us in so many ways… God blessed us with love when we needed it most.”

After a moving introit by Darlene, Drake led us in worship beginning with “Bless the Lord, My Soul.”

As we prepared to collect the tithes and offerings Brad noted that the church was God purposed means for redeeming the world. “There was no Plan B. Jesus said, ‘I will build My church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.’ Our tithes enable the church to do its work.”

Many prayer needs and requests were lifted up before the sermon was delivered.

An Inconvenient Truth ~ Part 2

Pastor Brad began by reading Matthew 13:24-30, the Parable of the Weeds

My wife asked me, “Why are you preaching about hell?” Perhaps it's because there are books that say there is no hell. Perhaps, too, because it has been preached and written about in so many distorted ways.

The core truth is that our human souls will experience an eternal destiny, either with God or apart from God. The latter is a tragedy.

“What about my grandmother? She’s a kind person who bakes cookies, helps others. Just because she’s just not into the God thing or the church thing, you can’t tell me she’s going to hell, really?”

Brad told a story about the life she lived that isn't told, from a different angle, the many decisions she made to push God away in the various ways God came near. In the course of a lifetime she has said no to God and locked him out a thousand times in a thousand ways.

When people say, “I can’t believe a good God would send people to hell.” But Brad said he does not believe God sends people to hell, they choose to place a wall between themselves and God so that in the end God lets them have what they want, an existence apart from Him.

Hell is the inevitable result of the subtle and persistent rejection of God.

Hell is not a vindictive torture chamber that God invented. The reason images like outer darkness and fire are in Scripture is because the writers are trying to convey the seriousness of rejecting God.

No one likes to think about hell. The prophet Micah pointed out that we would rather feel comfortable than face realities like this.

It is noteworthy that Jesus talked more about hell than anyone in the Bible. Jesus loved being in the Father’s presence. He knew how great God was. This is why He warned people as much as He did because He did not want to see people miss out on that which we were created for, to be with God and enjoy Him forever.

So we find Jesus telling parables of weeping and gnashing of teeth… indicative of a longing so deep that there are not words to express it. Jesus took this image from the Old Testament.

The wicked will gnash their teeth and waste away;
the longings of the wicked will come to nothing. ~ Ps 112:10

There is nothing apart from God that can truly satisfy your soul. The essence of hell is separation from God. You are the one who decides.

Do you realize what price God was willing to pay to keep us from this eternal separation. “My Father is like a shepherd with 99 sheep in the fold and but he can’t sleep because there is one missing.”

This is why Jesus went to the cross. There He took our pain and separation into Himself…. for us. This is why He cried out, “My God, my God! Why have you forsaken Me?”

Brad closed with a story about going the wrong way on a road that resulted in his missing a meeting. No matter how much he gnashed his teeth that afternoon he was unable to make that meeting happen again. All the while he was going the wrong way there was a voice saying “you need to turn around.” He didn’t listen.

To repent means to turn around. It can happen at any point in your life.

God will forgive. “The vilest offender who truly believes, that moment a pardon from Jesus receives.”

"We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all." ~ Isaiah 53:6

* * * * * * * * * * * *

After the service there was a congregational meeting to vote on whether to proceed with the new building project. It was a meeting with more than the usual numbers of members present. After presentations about the amount that has been raised and pledged, as well as the sequence of events that we are setting in motion, a vote was taken. The vote was unanimous with two abstains. The land will be cleared and a well dug this year now. A foundation will be laid in the spring... and the work will proceed. 

Sunday, June 23, 2013

An Inconvenient Truth

The service began with a greeting and announcements that included:
1. Meeting next week to discuss the building project.
2. Capital Campaign report: last week we took in $100,000 in new pledges and have raised $360,000 so far. The goal is for 100% participation.
3. VBS was better than ever, serving 65 children with at least a dozen who have no church home. 55 volunteers and youth helped in one way or another. Big thank you.
4. The Bloodmobile was here today. We were reminded that giving one pint of blood can save three lives.

The trio led worship today, beginning with a pair of favorites including "First Day In Heaven." After the offering and a time of prayer Brad delivered his message which dealt with the challenging question, "Is Jesus the only way to Heaven?"

An Inconvenient Truth

For the Scripture reading Pastor Brad read the passage from Luke 8 beginning at verse 26 about the healing of a demon-possessed man. He then began his message.

Brad noted that he is routinely confronted with the question, "Is Jesus the only way to heaven?" He knows, even before answering, that it is politically incorrect to suggest that Jesus is the exclusive path to God. This morning he chose to tackle the question head on, in a manner that was direct, unequivocal and yet nuanced.

First, he noted that there are some questions that have no answers. For example, when will Jesus return? When will the world end? No one knows.

In the book of Deuteronomy Moses made an interesting statement. "The secret things belong to God. The revealed things belong to us and our children."

So, on to the question. Are there many paths or is Jesus the only way?  This question is answered directly in Acts 4:10-12.

10 then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. 11 Jesus is “‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone.’ 12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”

Many people would say this sounds pretty intolerant and close-minded, so they're tempted to change these words. But are all religions different paths that lead to the same mountaintop? Christianity claims that Jesus is the only way to God.

1) Jesus is the only one who rose from the dead. If this is true we need to pay attention to Him.
2) In Jesus God comes to us. In other religions, we look for God.
3) Only Jesus takes care of our real problem: sin. 

G.K. Chesterton noted that "Sin is the one theological concept that is thoroughly provable by observation." The problem is that we can't fix it on our own. Jesus is the only way. Jesus is the only one who can liberate us from having to "try harder."

This position regarding the exclusivity of Jesus results in follow up questions. What about people in Africa who have never heard of Jesus? Or babies who die in infancy?

This is where the words Moses wrote speak to us: The secret things belong to God.

Is this harsh? No, not when we consider the revealed things. God is good. God is merciful. Yes, He is just, but God is likewise compassionate and God is trustworthy.

What puts us in a right relationship with God is not our theology. Rather, it's my recognition that I can't save myself.

God's way is not narrow in this regard. It is inclusive. And when others say they have the truth, Jesus replies, "I AM the truth."

Sunday, June 9, 2013

The Courage To Ride

There were surf boards at the front and Pastor Brad was wearing his Hawaiian shirt again to remind us of our capital campaign. Catch the wave. Today's message would begin with Philippians 4 but then veer into the deeper study of a passage in Mathhew 5. But first, announcements.

***VBS will begin Monday, March 17. There will be a half hour training session after church next week at the Town Hall. Anyone desiring to help set up afterwards is welcome to stick around.

The worship team sang a pair of Gaither songs before leading us in a time of worship. The Armstrongs were invited to share a bit about their family's relationship to the church. Leonard, who could probably make a living as a historian, told a few anecdotes about the early years of our region and how their family came to settle here and attend this very small rural country church.

Walt Cressman shared with us about the approach we are taking in building the new church. It's not being taken lightly that we need to spend within our means, and will count on using the skills of our congregation in many ways. By working together on some of the building ourselves we will also be building relationships with one another and creating opportunities to strengthen our church family as a result.

After the offering and a time of prayer Pastor Brad took the pulpit.

The Courage To Ride

The past several weeks have found us moving through the book of Philippians and today we finished with Chapter 4:4-13.

At the heart of this section one can discern Paul's passion to be a difference-maker. Brad asserted that this is to be our attitude as well. "I want to be a difference-maker. I want the world to be a better place because I was here." Difference-makers, no space-takers.

In Matthew 5, Jesus set forth the same message when He stated, "You are the salt of the earth."

Brad noted some facts and stats about salt. Only 8% of salt is used as table salt. Of it's many functions a primary one in the ancient world was as a preservative. Salt stops decay. Most cities in Rome were founded near salt works. Salt was so valuable that workers were often paid in salt, which is where the word salary comes from. People prized it as currency.

God's plan in this world is for us to be His salt... preserving and purifying the world. "YOU are the salt of the earth."

Salt doesn't draw attention to itself. Salt's calling is to lose itself in something else.

Brad shared a powerful story from Philip Yancey's book Rumors of Another World about a

Brad shared a powerful story from Philip Yancey's book Rumors of Another World about a man named Ernest Gordon who was powerfully influenced by a difference-maker and went on himself to become a difference-maker.

WE are the salt of the earth. If we’ve received Christ’s forgiveness we are salty.

One of the biggest problems for Christians in the 21st century is our tendency to be seduced by the culture we live in. It bends our expectations and distorts what we perceive to be wants and needs. When we have troubles, we reach for “fast, soothing temporary relief” from our pain.

We’re called to be salt. This week our homework assignment was to carry little packets of salt that we were handed at the beginning of the service and remember our calling, to be salt. Later in the week, once this message has sunk in, we can open that little salt pack and pour it out, praying as we do so… “Pour my life out.”

Monday, June 3, 2013

One Reason to Ride

Pastor Brad greeted us on this sunny June morning and began by asking a question. "Do you really know Jesus or just know about Him?"

There were a number of announcements.
1. Next Saturday evening at 6:00 p.m. we will have a campfire across the road and a time of fellowship.
2. Youth Group will meet Wednesday at 6:00 p.m.
3. Brooke shared that VBS begins in two weeks. Volunteers are welcome for transporting children to and from VBS. We also need volunteers to provide meals and to serve. This year's theme is Kingdom Rocks.
4) Finally, the Bloodmobile will be back June 23. We need at least 15 to commit  in order to make it worth their while. Contact Ruthanne.

Darlene shared her testimony this morning and then shared a song that summed up her feelings and her life: "To Be Like Jesus."

One Reason To Ride
Pastor Brad's sermon this week was drawn from  Philippians 3:4-11. He began by sharing a little about college admissions. They use a points system to evaluate students' worthiness. Essentially, when everything is added up it is a form of keeping score.

In this passage Paul shares a little bit about his "score" with a personal life audit. The sum of it in modern parlance is that he was from the right kind of family, from the right kind of people, educated, disciplined, from the right schools, an overachiever and zealous. Yet in the end he declares, "Whatever is to my profit I count as loss." The more specific word in Greek is dung. His achievements, before knowing Christ, added up to nothing more than what you would flush down a toilet.

Paul states that what he once thought was important now has no value to him.

Too often in our culture we define ourselves by our achievements. Paul's life was once defined in those terms, but had a new definition, a new aim: To know Christ.

When you come to the hard places, at the end of the day knowing Christ is the one thing that will carry you through. Is Jesus a reality in your life? Is your knowledge of Jesus growing?

We then celebrated the sacrament of the Lord's Supper.