Posts Tagged "Forest Lake"

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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But I Say to You…

Posted by on Nov 10, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

But I Say to You…

One of the best things about living in America is our access to Christian resources and information.  If you want to read a book about the various Jewish festivals, all you have to do is hop on to Google books and you will have libraries of information at your figure tips.  If you had a question about a specific Greek word, just hop onto lumina.bible.org.  If you want to be encouraged, pick up one of the gazillion books pastors write every day.

Living in the English-speaking world provides us with historically unimaginable resources.  One can think back 500 years to the reformation when Martin Luther and his compatriots would painfully print off pamphlets describing their Biblical positions and challenged/encouraged many believers.  Most Christians, however, couldn’t read the pamphlets let alone the Bible.

Here’s the danger with having a cornucopia of Christian information—we can focus so much on resources that we forget to go directly to the Word of God.  I have realized, at times, I’ve read more about the Bible then the actual Bible.

Is it more important to be familiar with popular Christian authors, or the Bible?  Is it more important to read about the insights of others, or finding your insights from scripture?  Is it more important to have an intimate knowledge of Hebrew and Greek, or know what God has said?  There are many professors and teachers who know lots of information about the Bible, yet they don’t know the first thing about the living Word.

During the time of Jesus, it was popular for people to follow certain teachers.  These teachers were not much different than our teachers today.  They were insightful, smart and excellent communicators.  But in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says over and over, “But I say to you.”  In other words, Jesus is clarifying what the law actually means.  The teachers were the experts in God’s Word; yet, Jesus reveals their mistakes.  When our favorite author or speaker says something wonderful, let’s not forget Jesus’ words, “but I say to you.”

I’m certainly not advocating throwing all of C. S. Lewis’ books or Jesus Calling away.  Reading insightful Christian authors is one of my favorite pastimes.  But C. S. Lewis and Jesus Calling are not scripture.  They can reveal truth, but they cannot bring the true transformation of the Holy Word.

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Honor Part Duex – Pastor Matt Ragain

Posted by on Mar 3, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

Honor Part Duex – Pastor Matt Ragain

This past Sunday I spoke on how we tend to seek honor from others.  Receiving honor is not a bad thing, in fact it can be incredibly encouraging and it’s often a real gift.  The dark side to honor, however, is when we find life from it.   If our hearts are bent toward the honor we receive from others, we will spend our lives working to make ourselves worthy of honor.

Jesus teaches about honor in the parable of the wedding feast.  But he doesn’t stop there.  He goes on to say that when you give a dinner you aren’t to invite all those individuals who are expected to return the honor, but you are to invite those who cannot hope to return the honor.  Rather than inviting the rich and wealthy, we are to invite the poor, crippled and lame.  Why?  These individuals cannot hope to repay you.  The poor the cripple and the lame are exactly the type that cannot give back what has been given to them.

This parable is, in part, an illustration of us.  If God were to throw a party, into which category would we fall? Would we be the friends and rich neighbors?  Or, would we be the poor, crippled and lame?  The friends and rich neighbors would be expected to return the favor.  How can we return any favor to God?  We can’t.  We would certainly fall into the category of poor, crippled and lame.  This is our category because we cannot earn God’s favor.

This parable is also our calling.  We are to live like God.  We are to surround ourselves and befriend those who cannot hope to give us anything in return.  We are to mimic what God has already done for us.  We are to give freely to those who cannot reciprocate.  Yet, how many of our relationships are based on the idea of reciprocation?

Question: What kind of expectations do you have for friends?   What happens when they do not meet your expectations?

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Love Is – Cassi Piper

Posted by on Feb 2, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

Love Is – Cassi Piper

I have always struggled with the concept of tough love. To be honest I have often felt the term was used too broadly. Some have used it when they don’t want to enable someone to make unhealthy choices or continue to engage in sinful behavior. Others apply it when the hard work of loving becomes too inconvenient, using “tough love” as an excuse to move on rather than acting in the best interest of someone else.  Few of us would admit to the latter. But I think if we were to examine our deepest motives, the ones we don’t want others to see, in one way or another we have all used the “tough love” card as an easy out rather than doing what real love requires.

So in the spectrum of the relationships we have with others, where does tough love fit? What is it and how should it be applied? When should it be used and what should the state of our hearts be when we use it? These are the questions that have been rattling in my head lately. I wish I had a definitive answer. But scripture does give us a true definition of love and that’s where we should start.

In the renowned 13th chapter of 1st Corinthians Paul lays out for us what love is. Many of us are familiar with at least a few of love’s many defining traits: “ Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” When I look at this list I am reminded of how my sinful nature is quick to defy loving others.

How often am I really patient with others? How often do I walk through one day without an envious thought? How often are my motives truly not self-seeking? I am humbled by this passage, especially when I think about how God’s love is perfect towards us in all of these categories. No matter what we do, God’s love does not fail.

When I think of love as Paul describes I do not picture a warrior toughened by battle ready to protect themselves from an oncoming enemy. Instead I see a shepherd with a staff ready to look out for the needs of others. I see a father patiently waiting for his son to come home. I see a savior, entitled to all things divine, but choosing to be hung on a cross so that others might live.  I see love emanating from within rather than a protective barrier keeping things unloving out.

This type of love is radical. It’s open. It’s freely given. And it can be heartbreaking. To give of ourselves in love of another and not have that love take hold in their life is painful. But we are still called to love. How often do we grieve the Holy Spirit with our thoughts, our actions or our apathy? But still God loves. And so must we.

It is my conclusion that real love is tough. It’s tough to be patient. It’s tough to be kind. It’s tough to always hope, to always persevere, to keep no record of wrongs. But the reward is worth it. For when we love we get a glimpse of God’s undying love for us. And the more we realize His love, the more we love others. Thus a beautiful cycle of grace, redemption and growth is begun.

Our love for others is not conditioned on others. It is conditioned on Christ’s example for us. We love unconditionally for we are unconditionally loved. It is my heartfelt prayer that as a church we recognize our need for God’s love while fulfilling our calling to love others so that they too recognize their need. May others see Christ in us because of the depth of our love for them and may we continue to bow in worship of the One whose love knows no depths.

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