Posts Tagged "Minnesota"

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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Surprised by Kindness – Cassi Piper

Posted by on May 19, 2015 in Blog | 0 comments

Surprised by Kindness – Cassi Piper

My heart was recently touched by the kindness of a stranger. I had traveled almost an hour one afternoon to attend the funeral of a good friend’s mom. In tow I had all four of my children, ages eight down to 15 months. About thirty minutes into the drive I realized I had not given my third oldest his medicine to prevent car sickness. Shortly thereafter he threw up in the back of my van. Needless to say by the time we reached the service I was a little harried!

After a quick cleanup of the van we entered the church and was greeted by the funeral director. He took one look at me and my crew and pointed me towards the nursery they had made available to little ones during the service. My kids took one look at that unfamiliar room with new faces and clung to my legs. With a sigh I headed to the sanctuary where the funeral had already begun. Peering through the doors I could tell it was a packed house.

While contemplating where to sit I heard a shuffle behind me. The funeral director had grabbed some extra chairs from the lobby and was headed into the sanctuary. Several trips later he had created an extra row in the back just for us. Grateful, I quietly thanked him and we all took a seat.

About ten minutes later my youngest started to squirm in his stroller next to me. I pulled him out and held him in hopes that he would remain quiet.  Those were soon dashed as he began babbling quite excitedly. I was about to get up to take him to the lobby when I spotted the funeral director headed my way. Oh no, I thought. Here he comes to tell me that we are being too loud. To my surprise however, when he reached my chair he kneeled down and gently offered to take my son so I could stay in the service. When I told him that I didn’t think my son would go to him he then offered to sit with my three oldest children so I could take the baby for a walk.  Sure enough, after I had left my seat he took my place and began quietly joking with my kids.

Knowing they were not alone I was able to pace in the lobby with the baby while listening to the service. Periodically I would peek through the sanctuary doors to make sure the older kids were behaving themselves. Not only did they sit quietly throughout the entire service, but time and again I saw the funeral director answering their questions and patting their heads in affirmation of how good they were being. I cannot tell you what a blessing it was to have someone be so thoughtful. After the service the director again approached me and asked if he could give the kids a sucker for behaving so well. I appreciated the gesture and my kids eagerly took the candy from their new friend.

In Hebrews we are exhorted to “… not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing so some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” (Hebrews 13:2 NIV) Now I am by no means claiming to be an angel, but I am thankful that the director of the funeral that day took this passage to heart. Through several small acts of kindness he allowed me to be present in support of a dear friend in the midst of her grief. For that I am very grateful.

I believe that God gives each of us an abundance of opportunities to be kind to one another. From sharing an encouraging word, to displaying patience, to offering prayer or financial support, as Christians we are called to reach out in love to those who cross our path. It is my prayer and challenge to us this week to intentionally look for ways we can be of loving service to others we may not know. In doing so we may or may not show hospitality to an angel, but I do know that we just might make someone’s day while exemplifying Christ’s love.

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Sinless – Pastor Matt

Posted by on Apr 20, 2015 in Blog | 0 comments

Sinless – Pastor Matt

I have been having a lot of conversations lately about the meaning of sin.  I sense that there is a general feeling of helplessness when it comes to sin.  The rational goes something like this: Christ took away my sin at the cross, I accept his good work, I still find myself sinning, I try extra hard to stop sinning, I am unsuccessful, I start to lose hope, I start to believe things will never be different, and finally I make peace with my sin.

The biggest challenge we have as Christians is knowing what it means to be born again.  Jesus says in John 3, that we must be born again.  Jesus doesn’t say, “it would be nice if you were born again.”  He says, “you must be born again.”  Being born again denotes a newness of life.  It means breaking away from our old self and becoming a new person.

Here’s the problem: how can we be born again and yet still struggle with sin?  How can we be new and yet struggle in our oldness?

Part of the problem is how we view being born again.  Wouldn’t it be great if Jesus simply took away any sin I might have in the future? Barring a few exceptions, Jesus doesn’t work like that.  If Jesus were simply there to take away all temptation to sin, then what would be the purpose of a community of believers?  We wouldn’t need each other at all.  We could become fully self-actualized individuals who never struggle with sin.

In my sinful heart, I admit, that sounds pretty good.  It’s certainly more convenient, isn’t it?  I wouldn’t have to be accountable to anyone.  I could be all on my own without the difficulty and inconvenience of other people.  I suspect that most of us want that on some level.

But maybe one of the primary ways that shows we are born again is that we enter into committed relationships based upon the life of Jesus Christ (even when it is inconvenient).  And perhaps, it is specifically through those relationships that we become born again.

If God truly designed the church as the way we become more and more like Jesus, it now becomes priority, not only as a place of fellowship, but as a means to become holy like Jesus.

I feel frustrated for friends and family who desire to stop sinning, yet they have zero connection to a community of believers.  It’s kind of like saying “I want the all the benefits of being married but I want to still live alone.”  We want all the benefits of Christ’s sacrifice for our sin, yet we don’t want to enter into relationships that would move us in the direction of holiness.

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