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Christmas Eve Service 10 am

Posted by on Dec 12, 2017 in Blog | 0 comments

Christmas Eve Service 10 am

It’s the most wonderful time of the year—or so the old song goes. Yet we have to admit that it doesn’t always feel that way. We can all rattle off a list of the reasons why we feel a twinge of stress or sadness mixed with happiness or excitement when the carols start playing in every public setting. Hectic schedules, rampant materialism and reminders of personal wounds are just a few of the reasons.

Whether you are the person who is ready to relax and savor the season because you did all your shopping and preparations months ago (not likely) or the person who dreads the busyness, responsibilities or loneliness that steal your joy this time of year (much more likely), the Christmas season offers a unique opportunity to experience God’s love and grace in the midst of real life.

Christmas can still truly give us a taste of the most wonderful time of world history. Jesus—the Messiah, the Savior—came as the light into the darkness and stress and pain of the world—our world. That world then, just like our world now, including our lives, needs the light to illuminate, clarify, guide, and heal. Christ’s coming brings that ultimate light and His peace, joy, and all-consuming love. Those are the true gifts of Christmas. And He is worth celebrating.

Please join us for our Christmas Eve service at 10am.

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Together as Bride – Pastor Matt Ragain

Posted by on Dec 5, 2017 in Blog | 0 comments

Our weekly schedule says a lot about us.   It tells us plainly the things we are committed to doing and the things we aren’t committed to doing. Many of us call our schedules our “commitments”.   For many of us we are committed to a job for—at least—40 hours a week. We are committed to our families in the evenings and on weekends. We are committed to our friends when we can put them on our calendars. We are committed to our hobbies and things that give us energy. All these commitments are good. They also tell us who we are. We are what we are committed to.

In the book of Ephesians, Paul talks about the church as being the bride of Christ. This is a powerful image for a number of reasons. Christ, as the groom, has given himself up for the bride (the church) to make her pure and spotless.

It is significant that the church is seen as the bride of Christ, not only because Christ is caring for her, but because she is defined by her commitment to the groom. That’s who the bride is; one who makes a commitment. By definition a bride makes a commitment. When a bride and groom come together to make vows, they are verbalizing their commitment. After the vows, they throw a party because they are celebrating the commitment they just made to each other.

The church is a body of believers, who are committed to God and to each other. That’s what a bride does, she commits. Certainly commitment to God and commitment to each other looks different. But if Jesus is the groom who gave himself up for the bride to make her pure and spotless, than how important is the bride? Extremely. It would be impossible to love God and not love his bride.

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True Thanksgiving – Joel Ericson

Posted by on Nov 28, 2017 in Blog | 0 comments

I recalled the holiday we’ve just completed and began to examine the purpose behind Thanksgiving; back to our forefathers. The meaning of Thanksgiving has undergone numerous transitions — an expression of gratitude for survival, a council’s recognition of its flourishing community, submission of the local natives, the defeat over the British, resulting in a collection of our nation’s traditions and values. Over the centuries, families added their customs to the Thanksgiving celebration, preserving that which they held most precious. At best, this includes:

·         Gathering with family and dear friends reconciling with them of our commonalities and purposes.

·         To devote our hearts to gratitude for all we have been given, granted by our Lord and blessing us throughout the year and in our lives.

·         Remembering the sufferings and sacrifices of those that came to this country and settled, seeking after the freedom to worship the lord in the manner that seemed right to them

·         Hopefully also to extend ourselves to those less fortunate

 But sometimes I am afraid that there are less than noble traditions seeping into this worthy holiday:

·         The carnage observed at various “Black Friday” war zones as our brothers and sisters FIGHT for a chance to purchase the latest discounted fad item in preparation for the Christmas holiday; imagining that these things will make THAT holiday (holy day) a success.

·         The flood of circulars overfilling our mailboxes announcing sales and special pricing, not to mention television and radio. We’re assaulted for the next month.

 Let us hope that we remember well the former and eschew that latter. Thanksgiving is really about our relationship with God and our earnest prayers and communication in supplication, for those benefits that the Lord offers and freely grants us as his children.

Upon their arrival at New Plymouth, the Pilgrims composed The Mayflower Compact, which honored God. Thanksgiving begins with acknowledging God as faithful, earnestly giving Him thanks, in advance, for His abundant blessings. “. . . In everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6). Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

And: (1 Timothy 4:4-5) For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected, if it is received with gratitude; for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer.

Thanksgiving is an attitude that reinforces our intimate relationship with our Savior.

 Dear Lord:

 I come before you with all humility in order to give thanks for the great bounty that you have given to me and mine. I am thankful Lord for everything that You allow to cross my path. 

I am Thankful for the decisions that You allow me to make and the lessons that come from these decisions. I thank you for the good, and the hardships, and the strength that the you provide to overcome those difficulties.

            God You are and always will be there with me.  When I am in the wilderness, or when I am conducting my daily business, and in times when my path takes me further and further from You, You, my God are there guiding me back to Your arms.

            We thank you for the sustenance that you provide. Dear Lord, this table overflows with your abundant blessing. Help us to always be aware that all gifts come from You.  May we serve Your heavenly will In everything we do. 

 Amen.

 BTW: What did Solomon discover? That our purpose here is to serve God and keep his commandments. From that simple concept comes all that is good, a sense of purpose and a grateful heart.

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Martin Luther – Matt Ragain

Posted by on Oct 25, 2017 in Blog | 0 comments

In the year 1505, Martin Luther was caught in a tremendous lightning storm. He was convinced that he was going to die. In the midst of his great fear, he prayed to St. Anne. He cried, “Help me St. Anne! I will become a monk.” This was the beginning of Luther’s life as a professor and priest.

What makes Martin Luther so unique is that he started his career as way to earn God’s grace. He became a priest, not because he was called into it, but because he knew it was the best path to earn God’s favor.

Ironically, Martin Luther learned that it is impossible to earn God’s favor in any meaningful way. To put it in the form of a question, how much do you have to do for God to save you? How much is enough? How much is too little? These questions are impossible to answer. Romans 3:10 says, there is no one who is righteous, not even one. So even if we live as best as possible, we still fall impossibly short of God’s perfection and holiness; this Martin Luther became convinced of after reading through the book of Romans.

In his book on Galatians, Martin Luther explains it well. He says there are two types of righteousness: the active (the things we are obligated to follow, i.e. laws of man and God) and the received (what is given to us by Christ’s sacrifice on the cross). The more important is the received righteousness. This is the kind of righteousness that we cannot hope to attain on our own, but can only do so through God’s free gift of grace.

One of the best examples of this received righteousness comes at the cross. Next to Jesus hangs a thief. He is unrighteous, a law-breaker and rightly condemned to death. And yet he humbly confesses that he deserves to die, and asks Jesus to remember him when he comes into his kingdom. Jesus responds, “Today you will be with me in paradise.” How did the thief become good enough for Jesus to welcome into his kingdom? The answer is, he didn’t. He received the free gift of righteousness.

Had he lived longer, I’m sure the thief would have become a totally redeemed and different person. But he died hours after Jesus. My question is, did he deserve to go to heaven with Jesus? No! And neither do we. That is what is so amazing about grace. We all deserve what the thief got, and much worse. Even on our best days we are selfish, inward focused and undeserving of heaven. And yet our hope does not rest on our own ability to get to heaven on our own, but on the grace of Jesus Christ.

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Ecclesiastes (Part 1) – Joel Ericson

Posted by on Oct 24, 2017 in Blog | 0 comments

Ecclesiastes (Part 1) – Joel Ericson

Ecclesiastes (Part 1)

I have to admit that  among all of the Bible, I find myself reading Ecclesiastes more than any other, possibly because it is full of so much practical information and discovery; possibly because of the conclusion reached by “the student” (likely Solomon). The world can be hard to understand and we all need something to hold on to. Solomon realized that and spent the latter portion of this life, 1 – trying to atone for his early indiscretions, and 2 – seeking to gain the knowledge and understanding of all things. He had access to the greatest fortune, the greatest minds, the most power and authority in the known world, and he had experience. He was a professional hedonist but he humbled himself and addressed the concepts that we wrestle with, as has every generation.

In the beginning we learn that “All is vanity.” Everything under the sun is vanity apart from God. Everything in this world, everything in this earthly sphere is incapable of satisfying the deepest part of our soul apart from God. As Christians we know it well, yet we see the endless striving after earthly pursuits. “Vanity of vanities; all is vanity.” This is his assertion of the human situation without God. Significance, meaning, purpose cannot come from any earthly endeavor.

Here is life without God:

(1)All is vanity/meaningless/useless…

(2)There is nothing new under the sun…

(3)Everything we do to satisfy ourselves is “is a striving after the wind”…

(4)Wisdom for its own sake brings sorrow and grief…

(5)Pleasure seeking is futile…

(6)And God has designed it to be this way…

Life with God:

(1)God makes everything beautiful= “appropriate” in its time.

(2)God has placed eternity/forever in the hearts of man…this is another way of saying that all men know there is a God and that this God has a plan that has a future

(3)God gives us 4 gifts:

The ability to rejoice and enjoy life

The ability to do good in our lifetime

God gives us an appropriate appetite to eat and drink

The ability to see good in our toil

Are his observations contemporary?

(1) Does:The world seems to be out of control.

(2) Does:Justice seem to be broken. Evil judges abound.

(3) Are we:Calling right –wrong and wrong right!

(4) Does: evil seems to triumph …death, corruption, oppression, sinful behaviors seem to abound while the truth seems to be fading into the background.

(5) Are there: corrupt and unbelieving church leaders.

A fair and apt description of the world today, we hear it in the news every day.

What then is our hope?

I’d like to continue next time for there is a lote of wisdom found in the latter chapters, including the ultimate assurance and instruction.

Now a prayer from Ecclesiastes

Dear Lord I know from your word that there is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven—

Protect us in the time to give birth and comfort us in the time to die;
Give us strength and fortune to plant and fortune in the time to uproot what is planted.
Restrain those who would kill and grant skill and success in those times to heal;
Tell me when and what to tear down and strength to build up.
Comfort in the time to weep and grant me plenty of time to laugh;
Comfort in the time to mourn and give me joy in the time to dance.
Show me the time to throw stones and the time to gather stones;
Bless me with a time to embrace and educate me when it is time to shun embracing.
Help me in the time to search and reveal the time to give up as lost;
Show me what to keep and what to throw away.
Help me if it is time to tear apart and again when it is time to sew together;
Tell me when to be silent and give me confidence when it is time to speak.
Fill me with love and turn me from hate;
Restrain any time for war and fill the world with peace.

In your blessed name

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New Normal – Pastor Matt

Posted by on Oct 3, 2017 in Blog | 1 comment

New Normal – Pastor Matt

Like all Americans, I am sad and angry about the violence in Las Vegas. I keep asking myself, “When is this going to stop?” It tares me up thinking of the blood shed and loss. I struggle thinking about those who died without knowing Jesus. And I want nothing more than to have everything reversed to find everything normal again. But what happens when the bullet casings cool and we find ourselves back to the way we once were?

I’m like most people; I take great joy in normal. I love the consistency of a quiet morning with my children warming pancake syrup in the microwave while annoying cartoons are blaring in the next room. But what if the shooting in Las Vegas isn’t an exception to our normal? What if the gun violence is not just a bitter anomaly to our every day life?   What if it is a symptom of our normal? What if our normal is damnable?

Throughout scripture, we see God trying to get the attention of his people. We see the pattern over and over again. God blesses his people; they fall away and worship other gods. God punishes his people; they fall away and worship other gods: rinse, wash, repeat. The normal for Israel, wasn’t faithfulness to God but idolatry. Their normal killed the prophets and stoned God’s messengers.

I don’t pretend to know God’s greater plan for Las Vegas and the people involved. I do know that God does not take pleasure in the destruction of the wicked (Ezekiel 18:23). I also know that God saves and is near the brokenhearted (Psalms 34:18).

I also know that what has happened is a wake-up call for all of us. Jesus says that we must be born again. Why? Because what we call normal, God calls sin. Our old normal is a blind and stuttering man who is only concerned about himself. We need a new normal. We need God’s grace and Holy Spirit, to make us into a new, beautiful and righteous normal.

Our new normal is completely trusting in our Father in heaven. Our new normal is no longer fearful because of our Father. Our new normal is painfully aware of our potential to fall back into our old sinful ways. Our new normal grieves with those who are grieving. Our new normal is quick to repent, slow to anger and lovingly patient. Our new normal is ready for Jesus Christ to return and we orient our lives around that fact.

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