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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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Fruitful Waiting – Pastor Matt

Posted by on Oct 3, 2017 in Blog | 0 comments

Fruitful Waiting – Pastor Matt

How many times have you been described as someone who is good at waiting? I can say with 100% certainty that I have never been called a good waiter. I have had my moments of being patient, but that’s not the same thing. Waiting means to remain inactive until something expected happens.

I remember those final weeks of my wife’s first pregnancy. We were both miserable in our waiting. It probably didn’t help that she flew past her due date without a hint of labor signs. We both knew our baby was coming, but the anticipation was painful and seemed to last forever. Looking back on that time I realized that we were actually quite active in our waiting. We were both very attentive to Leah’s body. If she had a cramp or a sharp pain, we immediately thought LABOR! And when our little one finally decided to come, we were more than ready.

Before Jesus was taken to heaven, he was teaching his disciples. He taught them that he would be gone soon and that they were going to continue what he started. I could imagine that the disciples would feel a little overwhelmed with the idea of doing what Jesus did. I’m sure they were anticipating all the work they were going to have to do. But then Jesus gave them their first task. They were to go to Jerusalem and wait for a gift from God. What? Wait? That doesn’t seem right.

The disciples did what Jesus told them to do, and they waited. They went to Jerusalem, and were in constant prayer. See, Jesus told them to wait, not to be inactive. So they prayed and listened to teaching all the while their sense were sharply tuned for the coming gift.

One of the benefits of waiting is that you are aware. In our busy lives we have very little waiting time. We can fill every waking hour with work, or entertainment. And yet Jesus has called his disciples and us to wait. So when he moves, we are more than ready.

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M.O. -Pastor Matt

Posted by on Sep 19, 2017 in Blog | 0 comments

M.O. -Pastor Matt

There is a great Latin phrase that I like: modus operandi or M.O. for short. It means a method of doing something. For example, when certain people want to learn something their M.O. is to go find an expert and ask them questions. When other people want to learn something their M.O. is to go to the library and read everything they can get their hands on for that specific topic.

In the book of John, Jesus appears to his disciples after his resurrection. They are thrilled to see him. Jesus says, “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” Jesus is calling his disciples to live like he lived and to do what he did on earth. They are, for lack of a better term, called to be Jesus to the world. In effect, that is what we are called to do as well.

So the question is, how do we do what Jesus did? For starters, we observe Jesus’ method of living, his M.O. What are the foundational things Jesus did every day that accomplished his ministry? We see that Jesus lived his entire life in the presence of his Father. He was in constant prayer. Jesus often left his disciples to be with his Father. As a child he was drawn to the temple because that was his Father’s home.

Another foundational M.O. was the constant building up and training of others. Jesus was always with people. Why? Because Jesus’ purpose was to save people from their sin and teach them how to follow him. He couldn’t very well do that if he wasn’t around people.

Jesus M.O. is a constant pursuit of his Father with others. That would be a good M.O. for us as well. What other foundational things did Jesus do?

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Love God, Love Others

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

Love God, Love Others

There is one episode in the life of Jesus where I like the Pharisees and the Sadducees.   These two religious groups get together to test Jesus and to ultimately trap him. And yet in the midst of their scheming, a great question is asked. They ask Jesus, “which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” That’s a great question. And I imagine every ear was finely tuned to Jesus’ response. I don’t know if the air was electric but I would guess you could have heard a pin hit the ancient cobbled floor.

Without hesitation Jesus responds, “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and the greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments (Mt 22:34-35).”

Jesus doesn’t give them one answer; he gives them two. I love this question and response because it whittles down everything God desires from us into two commands. It changes the question from “what does God want from us?” to “how do we love God and others?”

These two questions are pivotal for the follower of Jesus. These two questions are also pivotal for our church.   How do we love God? And how do we love others?   At Immanuel Church, we are exploring the implications of these commands. If a church does anything, it focuses on these two commandments. We desire to pursue God and open ourselves up to the work of the Holy Spirit. We believe that the work of loving God and loving our neighbors never ends, and that there is always room for improvement.   How do we move forward loving God and loving others?

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Daniel-Pastor Matt Ragain

Posted by on Aug 17, 2017 in Blog | 0 comments

Daniel-Pastor Matt Ragain

In Daniel Chapter 4, King Nebuchadnezzar is walking on his roof and heproclaims, “Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my might power and for the glory of my majesty?”  At that very moment, God took from King Nebuchadnezzar everything.  God took his roof, his royal residence, his power, his majesty and even his mind.  Nebuchadnezzar was driven out of his home to live as an animal in the wilderness.

God did this to show the frailty of human endeavor.  The problem with the King was not that he was powerful or wealthy.  The problem was that he was proud.  He could not see that God gave him his power.

Pride is one of those silent killers.  It almost killed King Nebuchadnezzar, and it deceives so many of us.  We are all capable of looking at the good around us and believed—like Nebuchadnezzar—that we are the source of those good things.  But in reality all good stems from our good father.  James 1:17 says, “every good gift comes from God.”

Pride attributes to ourselves what only God can claim.  And if we don’t see the good come from God, we see the good come from us.

In verse 34, God returns Nebuchadnezzar his mind.  The first thing Nebuchadnezzar does is praise God.  Why?  Because when you see God as the sources of all good, you worship him regardless of your external circumstances.

When we are able to clearly see how much God has freely given to us, our whole perspective changes.  We now see a good thing as a gift.  And we now see a bad thing as a good thing enhancer.

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Daniel-Quiet Preparation. Pastor Matt Ragain

Posted by on Aug 17, 2017 in Blog | 0 comments

Daniel-Quiet Preparation.  Pastor Matt Ragain

Henry David Thoreau said, “most men live lives of quiet desperation.” He was talking about how most people go through life feeling as though something is missing. They have a never-ending sense of discontent. In other words, most people never experience true peace.

In the sixth chapter of Daniel, we read about a conspiracy. Certain government officials hated Daniel and wanted him dead. They tricked King Darius to create a law that made it illegal for anyone to pray to God. The punishment would be death. Knowing that Daniel would not stop praying to God, they knew he was going to fall in their trap.

We shouldn’t be surprised but Daniel doesn’t change his daily devotions to God. Daniel continues to pray to God three times a day in full view of anyone who wanted to see. What would motivate Daniel to do something that could cost him his very life? Daniel knew true peace.

Daniel lived a life of quiet preparation. Through his many years of devotion he knew that there was nothing more important than his connection to God…nothing…not his job, not his status, and not his life. Daniel accepted the judgment to be thrown into a den of lions because he knew that it would be worse to lose his connection to God.

Daniel gave up his life. What are we willing to give up to be close to God?

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