Posts Tagged "jesus"

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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One-Eyed Badger

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

One-Eyed Badger

Have your reactions ever surprised you?  Have you ever said to yourself, “this is not like me”?  Have you ever driven happily down the highway, and a loathsome inconsiderate cuts you off?  Does your reaction portray your identity in Christ?  Or does your reaction portray that of an eye poked badger?

The irony, of course, is that our reactions—not matter how unpleasant—come from within us.  We still have actions that betray our sinful hearts, even if their infrequency gives us hope they don’t exist.  What gives?

Romans 12:2b says “be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”  How is one truly transformed when exterior circumstances poke that old sinful badger right in the eye?

The vast majority of our reactions are “spill-over” from how we live when things aren’t filled with stress.  This begs the question, how are we living the transformed life when things aren’t going wrong?

God doesn’t just want to transform the parts people see; he wants to transform the whole person.  This means that if God is calling us make changes in environment or routines or calendar or friendships or entertainment, we make those changes.  Even if they seem unimportant or inconsequential,  they are the little things that make the whole of you.  If you are unwilling to change the little things, there should be no surprise when you see a surly one-eyed badger in the mirror.

The reality is, our reactions show us who we are.  The good news is that our reactions are symptomatic of the needed transformation.  We can choose to ignore them, or we can go badger hunting.

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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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