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“Godly Sorrow” – Pastor Matt Ragain

Posted by on Jan 17, 2017 in Blog, Posts | 0 comments

images“Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.  See what this godly sorry has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done.”     2 Corinthians 7:10

Sorrow comes in two forms: worldly and Godly.   Worldly sorrow, says the apostle Paul, brings death, yet Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation.  Why is this important?  It’s important because our response to sorrowful situations is the difference between death and salvation.

Take the book of Lamentations, for instance.  It is truly a book of sorrow.  Taken away from their homeland, the Jewish people mourn for their past and for their bleak future.  Their reaction to their sorrow makes all the difference.  They bring their sorrow to God: “Remember, Lord, what has happened to us; look, and see our disgrace (La 5:1).”  This is a much different reaction than those who don’t know God.  As you might imagine, those who have worldly sorrow blame the world, are filled with hatred and have no hope.  Yet those who have Godly sorrow can only look to God as their true source of peace and salvation.

Worldly sorrow might have benefits.  It might lead you to improve yourself or protect those you love.  Yet, it’s like modern health care.  We are quick to say that medical science saves lives.  But the reality is, medical science has never truly saved a life.  Why?  We all still die.  Even the most dramatic life saving actions—amazing as they are—do not produce a cure for the real problem…death.

In the same way, worldly sorrow might put a Band-Aid on the problem, but ultimately does not solve anything.  Yet Godly sorrow leads to the only person who has the power to do anything about our sorrow…our Father in heaven.

What is the difference between worldly sorrow and Godly sorrow in your life?

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“Promises” – Pastor Matt Ragain

Posted by on Jan 10, 2017 in Blog | 0 comments

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 For no matter how many promises God has made, they are a yes in Christ.     1 Corinthians 1:20

We all know the importance of keeping our promises.  We know what it feels like when someone tells us one thing and does another.  The pain can last a lifetime.  We also know that some promises are impossible to keep.  Even if our promises are rock-solid, circumstances can change them.

Paul is talking to the church in Corinth, and he contrasting the promises of God and the promises of himself.  In verse 17 of the same chapter, Paul says that he was planning on returning to Corinth, but unfortunately he was unable.  Now, this might be seen as a problem.  As a leader, Paul is relied upon to do as he says.

Paul clarifies that although he was unable to do as he planned, God is always able to do what He plans.  Even though Paul is undependable at times, God is always dependable.  This is a good lesson in the dependability of God, but also in the limitations of human dependability.  Even the steadfast individual finds him/herself unable to fulfill a promise.  But here is the point; God is never unable to fulfill a promise.

When God makes a promise, it always comes true.  When Paul makes a promise, it always comes true, unless it doesn’t.  So we learn—simultaneously—that God can always be trusted, and even the best humans can let us down.  Our ultimate trust must be in God and not in any one person, and we cannot confuse the two.

 

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“Change” – Pastor Matt Ragain

Posted by on Jan 4, 2017 in Blog | 0 comments

Screen Shot 2017-01-04 at 12.21.50 PMIf you are like me, you look forward to January 1st.  It represents hope, change and growth.  Using a mythological image, January 1st is the Phoenix of the year.  We can be reborn out of flames at the stroke of midnight.  There is a new hope a new chance for growth.  Unfortunately for many of us—by February 1st—we’re back in a Sisyphus-ian slog up the hill of life wondering where the new birth went.

This past Sunday we discussed how real change takes place in the heart of believers.  It all starts with the work of God.  Ezekiel 36:26 says, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”  Notices all of the pronouns.  God is saying I will do these things.  He is not saying you will do these things.

So the question is, do we have a role to play in having a heart of flesh rather than a heart of stone?  Absolutely!  Ezekiel 18:31 says, “Make yourself a new heart and a new spirit.” God is the only character who has the power to illicit real change, and yet we are called to participate.  He is the surgeon, and we lay on the operating table.  He is the wine; we are the cup.  Does God need us to make the change possible? No.  But as a good father He brings us into his good work for our benefit and the benefit of others.

What are some ways God is bringing you into the good work of making you new?

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“Light…Glorious Light” – Pastor Mark Coughlin

Posted by on Dec 27, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

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As a teenager Chris Castaldo worked in the mall during Christmas.  He tells this story: “I was the guy who ran products from the warehouse to the store clerks.  This cavernous stockroom was 6,000 sq ft and filled wall to wall with boxes.  On one occasion, I found myself at the rear side of the windowless warehouse opposite the door when someone turned off the lights.  There I was, alone in the dark with 15,000 boxes between the light switch and me.  I couldn’t see an inch in front of my face.  I know what you’re thinking: “Just find an aisle and walk toward the door.”  Yeah, if only there had been such a path.  Boxes were haphazardly piled everywhere.

I remember how I felt during those 30 minutes of groping around the room:  isolation, fear and dread.  It was the kind of defining moment that is all too common in the human experience.  After the 29th minute, I crawled around a pile of boxes, and there, in the distance, I saw a dim exit sign.  I knew that below that sign was the door, and beside the door was a light switch.  At once, a new sensation emerged: hope!”

Into every life, at some time, comes that moment when “someone turns off the light.”  When it happens it really does “leave you in the dark.”  As a Christian, the darkness is still deep, but the difference is that you have Him with you.  Jesus said, “I am the light of the world, whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

I had a very enjoyable Christmas; I hope you did, too.  But maybe it wasn’t your best.  I heard a couple comments today in reference to Christmas that included the statement, “I’m just glad it’s over.”  Whether it was your best or your worst, the story of Christmas is that the Light of the World arrived and because he did, we have hope!  In this week between Christmas and New Years, rest in that reality!

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The Best Birthday – Cassi Piper

Posted by on Dec 26, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

 

th-2I was born on December 24th, just twenty-five minutes shy of Christmas Day. As a child it was a magical time of year to have a birthday. I never had school on my birthday, there was almost always plenty of snow for sledding, and Christmas Eve was a day full of presents – birthday gifts in the morning and Christmas gifts at night!

It wasn’t until I was an adult that people tried to lead me to believe that my birthday was far from ideal. “Didn’t people combine your birthday and Christmas gifts?” People would ask. “Wasn’t it hard to find time for a birthday party in the midst of the busy holiday season?” “Had you ever considered celebrating your half birthday in June instead?”

I realize people are well intentioned. Most are concerned that I somehow got the shaft as most have two days of gift receiving to look forward to while I only have one. I believe my parents shared in their concern as they always went above and beyond to make sure I felt special on Christmas Eve.  In all the focus on gifts however not once in all these years has anyone asked me the one question that I inevitably wrestle with every year: How do I focus on my birthday when a far more important birth is to be celebrated?

I must confess it is humbling to share a birthday with my Lord. Even though my own birth has all the elements of a great story (lutefisk, a blizzard, a Camaro), nothing can compare to that night in Bethlehem.

I may have come home in a Christmas stocking, but a chorus of angels announced His arrival!

It would be easy for me to get caught up in what I want this time of year. After all, I have a valid excuse. However, no matter how hard I try to make my birthday about me, reminders of God’s sacrifice through the birth of his son continually surround me. The nativity scenes, the carols, the angels on tops of trees all speak to the arrival of the Light of the world.  I am reminded of the darkness I once lived prior to God’s light pouring in through His son. I am reminded of His faithfulness, of His joy, of His peace.

And I am grateful. Grateful that on what the world would say should be my most important day I can focus on something far greater. On Christmas Eve God sent his son to redeem the world. Now that is worth celebrating!

 “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given… 

And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,

Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”   Isaiah 9:6

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Alms – Pastor Matt Ragain

Posted by on Dec 6, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

Unknown-1I was watching Disney’s classic Robin Hood with my children a while ago.  I had forgotten how much I enjoyed this film.  In my humble opinion, the song “Oo De Lally” is one of the must underrated Disney songs…way better than “A Whole New World.”

I was struck at the part when Robin Hood is disguised as an old beggar asking for “alms for the poor.”  In context, I know that Robin Hood is asking for money for those in need.  But the word alms isn’t regular in our vernacular.  Where does it come from, and is it important?

The word alms comes from the old English word ælmes meaning pity.  This term has been used by English speaking Christians for hundreds of years.  It refers to giving to those who are in immediate need.  Immanuel Church give alms in two different ways.  The first way is through a 10% “tithe” of the all the churches income.  That 10% supports missionaries and local groups that serve the poor and needy.  The second way is through the Deacon’s Fund.  The Deacon’s Fund is a direct way Immanuel addresses specific needs in and outside our church.  Biblically, the primary task of deacons is to distribute food and other needed goods to the widowed and orphaned.

We may not use the term alms at Immanuel, but any gift to the Deacon’s Fund or any tithe to the church will impact those who are in need.

Of course, our little church can only do so much.  Christmas time is a great opportunity to ask the Holy Spirit where we could give alms.  If it’s to the Deacon’s Fund that would be great.  You can do that easily through the website or app.  Or if the Holy Spirit is leading you to give directly to a local organization like Community Helping Hand, that would be wonderful (The Salvation Army is one of my favorite orginizations).  If the Holy Spirit is leading you to give directly to an individual you know, follow his leading.  So give, and give generously.

In the book of Matthew, Jesus says, “whatever you do for the least of these you do to me.”  Giving our alms and gifts is the best way to celebrate what God has done in this Christmas season.

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