Posts Tagged "Jesus Christ"

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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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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Sustained – Joel Ericson

Posted by on Jan 14, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

Sustained – Joel Ericson

I have a good friend that as suffered an almost incredible series of health issues over the last few years, culminating in a series of hospital stays, failed operations, good reports, bad reports, and the separation from his beloved family, friends and students. The maddening ups and downs remind me of something written by Camus.

You remember the “The Myth of Sisyphus” from Greek mythology where a poor soul was condemned to struggling to push a rock up a hill, only to have it roll back down, obliging him to begin his labors anew. This is how I would describe Emery’s situation. (BTW, please pray for him by name).

Yet in all of these trials he is able to maintain a good attitude and is serving as an excellent witness to God’s love and the power of the Spirit and writes continually about his faith and thoughts about God’s grace. His attitude is: (Romans 8:31-39) “What then are we to say about these things?  If God is for us, who is against us?  He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else?...

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

I pray for him daily and we exchange encouragement constantly. He’s my friend but more so, my brother.

How many of us become discouraged when life hands us bitter circumstances; I do sometimes. But we can be sustained.

Job 5:7-9 says “but human beings are born to trouble just as sparks fly upward. As for me, I would seek God, and to God I would commit my cause.  He does great things and unsearchable,  marvelous things without number.” I’ve seen it work.

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Enemies – Pastor Matt

Posted by on Aug 24, 2015 in Blog | 0 comments

Enemies – Pastor Matt

We have been talking a lot about love at Immanuel.  In Matthew 5, Jesus gives us the ultimate command to love our enemies and to pray for those who persecute us.  Presumably, Jesus is not talking about people that you simply do not like; nor is he talking about relationships within the church.  He is talking about enemies that would like to see you ruined, destroyed or worse.

How are we supposed to love people like that?  One clue is verse 45 of the same chapter.  Jesus says, “(God) causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”  In other words, God’s love for humans is indiscriminate.  His love is such that it highlights our limitations to love.  For instance, if I were in God’s place and I was aware of the hearts of all men, I would certainly want to bless the good guys with rain and hurt the bad guys with some type of acid rain.

But God doesn’t do that.  Why?  Because I’m pretty sure we’d all get the acid rain.  Who really deserves the love of God?  If my enemies don’t deserve God’s love than I certainly don’t.

The book of Romans talks about enemies too.  But in this case, we are the enemies.  It says that we were once God’s enemies; and in spite of this, he sent his son to die for us.  So if God loved us, even though we were his enemies, what should be our response to our enemies?  Love!  It’s the kind of love that wants the enemies’ good just as much as the good of those for whom we are affectionate.

God’s love falls on our enemies just as much as it falls on us.  And the only reason we are no longer considered his enemies is because of his love.

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My Work, or God’s Work? – Pastor Matt

Posted by on Aug 24, 2015 in Blog | 0 comments

My Work, or God’s Work? – Pastor Matt

What is the difference between someone who tries to earn their righteousness (person A) and someone who knows that righteousness can only be received by the work of Jesus Christ (person B)?

Person A works really hard at doing things that will prove they’re righteous.

Person B knows there is nothing they can do to earn righteousness.  It has to be received as a gift.

Person A asks, “doesn’t all my good work account for something?”

Person B says, “God doesn’t owe me anything, yet he loves me so much that he sent his son to die for me.”

Person A wants credit.

Person B wants Jesus.

Person A says, “God loves me, and the proof is all the good things I do.”

Person B says, “God loves me, and the proof is Jesus on the cross.”

Person A is resentful of other people’s blessings.

Person B celebrates when good happens to others.

Person A hides their sin that cannot be seen.

Person B confesses to others their sin that cannot be seen.

Person A defends their righteousness by comparing themselves to others.

Person B loves others because they are keenly aware of their personal need.

Person A puts themselves in the position to never be wrong.

Person B puts themselves in the position to receive God’s transforming grace.

Person A doesn’t actually need Jesus.  They have it all figured out.

Person B understands that every breath is a gift from Jesus.

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