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“A Tale as Old as Time” – Pastor Matt Ragain

Posted by on Mar 15, 2017 in Blog | 0 comments

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I’m sure many of you have heard about the controversial remake of The Beauty and the Beast.  The controversy concerns a character who is apparently homosexual.  The extent to which this is shown is unclear.

I am usually not one to jump in to the pop-culture foray.  It’s too dangerous.  Very often, you can look foolish.  I remember reading about how Disney’s Frozen was promoting lesbianism.  Frozen did no such thing.  So it’s important to not react when movie marketers do their movie marketing (or when bloggers do their blogging).

Yet in the case of this new Beauty and the Beast, I hesitate.   It seems that Disney is celebrating this character LeFou’s sexual confusion.  The director has even lauded the fact that this is the first openly gay Disney character.  I think “openly gay” means the character does something that is undeniably gay.

How do Christians respond?  I’m not sure about you, but my first response wasn’t shock.  It shouldn’t surprise Christians that non-believers have different worldviews.  But this doesn’t mean I’ll go see the movie.  Just because I’m not shocked, doesn’t mean I will put my children or myself in an environment to witness/celebrate something sinful.

The closer I get to my Father in Heaven the more I’m challenged about how I spend my time.  There is a little mountain somewhere at the garbage dump filled with my old CDs and DVDs.   There are many things that are simply incompatible with my life in Jesus.  So my biggest concern isn’t The Beauty and the Beast, it’s my family and my heart.

In John 17:15 Jesus prays that his disciples would not be taken out of the world but protected from the evil one.  Jesus never advocates an us-versus-them worldview.  We are to desire good for everyone, including the makers of The Beauty and the Beast.  To desire the good for everyone requires that we participate in the culture.  But Jesus isn’t praying for protection because he can’t think of anything else to pray.  He’s praying for protection because there are real dangers to his disciples.  So Christians are left to interpret what is valuable and what is potentially dangerous.  Could this movie controversy be something that is completely made up and designed to make people look foolish? Sure.  But as a husband, father and pastor, I error on the side of caution.

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“God’s Word” – Pastor Matt Ragain

Posted by on Mar 8, 2017 in Blog | 0 comments

thI recently read an article about the Bible.  The author was arguing that the Bible is simply a book that teaches us about God.  He said the Bible is not God, and it should not be worshipped as though it was.  His logic went like this, “the Bible is just a book made up of pages and ink—and while it might describe parts of God—it is not God himself.  Therefore we shouldn’t put the Bible on a pedestal to be worshipped like an idol.”

I admit I found this author to be silly, and could not take him seriously.  I have never seen or heard of someone pray or sing to a Bible.

And yet, how does one separate what a person says from the person?  For example, if my wife texts me to pick up some milk on my way home, I cannot easily separate the text from my wife.  If I decide to ignore her text, she will ask why.  I could say, “Yes sweetie, I got the text but the text isn’t you.  A text is simply a function of technology that I can comprehend.  How can I possibly know what you want from something that isn’t you?”

So if the Bible is what God wants to communicate to us, then we tether ourselves to it.  We become inseparable from the Bible, not just because it’s the best way to understand God, but also because it comes from God.

Imagine any situation where a loved one passes away.  The letters and communications become invaluable to those left behind.  Yes the letters are not the physical person, but they communicate who the person was better than anything else left behind…say like a sock or a photo.  How much more important is God’s Word when Jesus says, “heaven and earth will disappear, but my words will never disappear (Mark 13:31).”

To separate the Bible from God would be like getting married to a ghost.  Sure you said your vows, but you heard no vows in return.  The only proof of matrimony is the occasional flying object through the air.

We remember that it was God’s Word that put the planets into motion and made everything that has been made—John 1:1.  If God’s Word did all that then to love God is to love his Word.   If the Bible comes from God through individual authors to you and me, then we bask in its glory because the glory comes from God.

This author seems to think that people take the Bible too seriously.  My conclusion is that we don’t take it seriously enough, and that’s our biggest problem.

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“Reason to Smile” – Cassi Piper

Posted by on Feb 22, 2017 in Blog | 0 comments

Screen Shot 2017-02-22 at 11.36.24 AMI have fought the good fight,I have finished the race,I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for methe crown of righteousness,which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.                                      2 Timothy 4:7-8

My eight-year-old daughter skied a black diamond her first day on the slopes. I was shocked. My husband, a competitive skier in his youth, couldn’t stop grinning. My daughter couldn’t get back on the chair lift fast enough so she could try it again. Sure enough, she skied it again, and again, and again. Four times she conquered that steep hill, each time improving her form and control.

 

It started with over a year of begging. Her big brother got to go skiing so when did she get to go? After finally arriving at the slopes in near perfect weather, we quickly got her fitted for boots, helmet and skis and away she went to a one hour beginner lesson. Soon bored with the bunny hill, we spent the day taking our time as the three of us wound down gently sloping green circles and slightly taller blue squares.

 

Then she announced that she was going down a black diamond. I was a bit nervous. My husband was all for it. I could tell my daughter was scared, but her determination won out. So, down we went. My husband stayed out in front, coaching her slowly down the hill, while I followed behind in case she lost her balance. Slowly, steadily, shakily, she made it to the bottom.

The second time she had a bit more confidence and by the fourth attempt my husband had stopped coaching altogether and let her go her own pace as he stayed back. My daughter’s ski instructor spotted one of her attempts while riding overhead on the chair lift and her happy shouts of surprise and encouragement put a big smile on my daughter’s face. Once my own shock wore off, I couldn’t stop smiling either.

And so it is with our heavenly father. When we slowly, steadily, shakily take a step of faith He is ever so near, encouraging us to move ahead, ready to catch us if we stumble. And as our faith grows He calls us deeper, to follow Him into that which is uncomfortable or unknown, all for our own good. And when we have finally finished our earthly race, there He stands. Smiling.

It is my prayer that this week, whether God has you meandering down beautiful green circles or fighting your way through enormous moguls, that you will realize what a good father He truly is. He created us, He knows us best, and He gives us all that we need for the journey He has laid before us. Knowing that should make us smile.

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“Same Old…Same Old” – today.reframemedia.com

Posted by on Feb 22, 2017 in Blog, Posts | 0 comments

Screen Shot 2017-02-22 at 11.18.29 AMPraise the Lord, my soul . . . who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.  Psalm 103:15

We’ve reached the last day of the first month of this new year. It’s possible that, for many of us, this year may already be “the same old thing” as years before—with promises of new beginnings dashed, resolutions faltered, and hopes receded.

But newness does not come with a new year; nor does it age by the last day of an old year. Satisfying and refreshing newness is ours every day through the Lord Jesus Christ, who makes all things new. Days and years will pass, but the Word of the Lord is forever.

Once settled in Bethlehem, Ruth did not look for anything new or exciting; she was embraced by the kindness and integrity of Boaz, and she immersed herself in living out her days with her family and with God. The ancient, living Word of God kept her young and refreshed till the day she died.

After Haman’s death and Mordecai’s promotion to the king’s right hand, Esther too was done with the anxiety and evil of Haman’s persecution. It was good to rest in the victory gained by discerning God’s timing and will in her life.

Wisdom invites us to eat what refreshes and keeps us ever new; folly winks at stolen sweetness, which only embitters and binds us to perpetual old age. Take, eat, and drink from the wisdom of God, and be ever new!

Prayer

We praise you, O God! Your grace is limitless, and you provide every good thing for us. Thank you for your love. In Jesus, Amen.

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A Friend – Pastor Matt

Posted by on Feb 14, 2017 in Blog | 0 comments

A Friend – Pastor Matt

Have you ever struggled making friends?  Have you ever felt like your personality should be different?  Have you ever though that if you were like someone else, life would be better?

From time to time, we struggle with the idea that if we were just a little different we would be happy.  I have often looked closely at impressive individuals and thought, “maybe I should become more like them.”

Jesus says in John 15:15, “I have called you friends.”  That is an amazing statement.  What is a friend?  A friend is someone who likes you the way you are.  A friend is someone you don’t have to impress.  A friend is someone who just wants to be around you…period.  So when Jesus calls us friend, he is not saying we should become like someone else.  He is saying he made us a certain way for a certain reason.  Another way to put it is you, your personality, your genetic makeup are not mistakes.  You were made the way you are to live an incredible life following Jesus.

This certainly doesn’t mean we are perfect.  But it does mean that the gifts and qualities God has given us need to be redeemed for his greater purposes.  God doesn’t want you to become someone else.  God is perfecting you into a holy you, not a holy someone else.

Jesus likes you, loves you, died for you and just wants to be around you.  That’s friendship.

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“Enough” – Pastor Matt Ragain

Posted by on Feb 7, 2017 in Blog | 0 comments

Screen Shot 2017-02-06 at 12.29.53 PMRecently I had a conversation with a friend.  Like many of us, she was struggling to see God in a world that is so filled with hatred, violence and injustice.  How do we square the idea that an all-powerful God is good, yet allows unfathomable evil?  This is a question that haunts believers and unbelievers today.

In 2 Corinthians, Paul talks about a thorn in his flesh.  There has been much debate about what that thorn really is (is it a physical ailment or some kind of spiritual burden).  But there are things we do know.  The thorn is painful.  The thorn is something that was given to Paul.  Satan and his minions used the thorn to torment Paul.  Finally Paul begs God to take it away, and God does not.  Paul asks God over and over to heal him, and God doesn’t.

In response to Paul’s request God says, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).”  What Paul is looking for is relief and understanding (which isn’t bad of course).  God gave him neither; yet, he gives Paul something infinitely better…His grace.  In other words, God is enough.  Even if we don’t have all our questions answered or pains relieved, God quietly whispers “what you really need is me, and I am enough.”

In our human state, we struggle when we don’t see the full picture.  We struggle when God, in all his goodness, allows evil to be perpetuated against the innocent.  We struggle when we have physical ailments that last for years.  We struggle when we see individuals we love make poor choices.  In all that fear and weakness, God’s grace is enough.  In this life, God’s grace is all we need because it’s the only thing we cannot lose.

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