March 30

Well we are at the end of the month of March.  And as far as the coronavirus goes, it came in like a lamb March 1st and is going out like a lion, just the opposite of how March should be.  However, I hope all of you reading this are safe and well.  It has been a long month of coping and it looks like maybe another month of separation.  And it looks like one of my worst fears is going to happen.  When I thought about canceling church two and a half weeks ago, I thought, “If we start canceling church now, we might not be able to worship on Easter together.  And more and more that seems to be the case.  I can think of nothing worse than having no fellowship and worship and praise being lifted up on this holiest day of the year.  Yes we can still listen to music on the radio or sermons on Facebook, but not being together corporately to hear and participate in giving God the glory for the resurrection of our Savior Jesus Christ is the WORST thing that could ever happen.
This is other then the resurrection not happening in the first place.  Let me remind you of what Paul says about the resurrection.  “If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. . . . And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. (1 Cor 15:14-20)
This is Easter.  Not a worship service celebrated once a year, but a realization that our preaching and our faith are real every day of the year.  (P.S. you might hear this line in one of my sermons coming up.)

March 23

As a pastor I have to  make some tough choices these days.  With the virus spreading in our country and things on lock down, I have to decide how and when to open our doors.  We have been blessed because of the blood drive on Monday and now we are a lunch distribution center for the Morton lunch program.  And because of the idea of the later, more places are becoming distribution centers in Morton.  This is putting less strain on families who need lunches but also want to stay close to home during this quarantine.  But I know that our Parent’s night out and our Easter Egg hunt are going to have to be cancelled.  And if things go the way they are, celebrating Easter itself together physically may be out of the question.
On the plus side, Facebook and other social media are bursting with sermons and other “church” activities like never before and many more might be reached this Easter because of this blooming.
So stay in prayer during this time that God’s word will continue to go forth.  Maybe this will be the start of a revival and a change in the hearts and lives of this nation and around the world.

March 16

The coronavirus is on many peoples mind this last week.  And like many pastors, I struggled with the idea of canceling worship services or not.  If we where not having a guest speaker (Justin Kron: please check out his message under the sermon page), I might have done so.  However, I would have still preached my sermon and posted it on our webpage.  I might have even done a video of it to upload.  I know that many of the people who attend our weekly services do not use computers since most did not grow up with technology and are not as comfortable with it.  But there are others who are. 
And this is my thought for the week.  I know there are smaller churches out there that have not put much effort in the past about having and maintaining a website or having an online presence.  Maybe like mine the members are not tech savvy or are older or just few in number and they do not feel the need to download a podcast, etc.  But with the quarantines and people staying at home, more and more of these churches are starting to put their messages online.  In this last week, I have seen more churches with Facebook live, or Vimeos, and other steaming videos than in the past.  This should be a great encouragement to everyone.  Because not only does it connect those who are part of a church, but it gives those who are outside of the church greater access to sermons and messages that a month ago were only delivered from a pulpit.  I hope this virus will encourage more churches to develop a web presence so that something Satan intended for evil will be used by God to spread his message to more and more people.

March 9

While I enjoyed the message yesterday morning, today I was gearing up and getting a sneak preview of our services next week.  If you have not heard we are having Justin Krom from Chosen People Ministries come next week (March 15th) to share The Passover Experience with us.  It is a wonderful presentation of the Lord’s Supper and how it relates to the Jewish Passover feast that Jesus was celebrating that night with his disciples.  Hear how many of the elements from this 3500 year old ritual shines a prophetic light on the life of Jesus.  Invite everyone you know to this unique worship experience.

March 2

I liked the idea from this Sunday that two thieves with equal assess to Jesus prayed two different prayers, with two different answers.  Both witnessed the same man dying between them, yet only one found the faith and courage to ask to be remembered.  Only the second thief had his prayer answered and paradise awaited him.  Both men had life and death held out before them.  One chose physical life and died.  One chose spiritual life and lived.  We too have that same choice  before us.  Are you going to choose the right one?

February 24

  Lent is not a word we use a lot around this church.  Many churches, especially those of the Catholic variety, do however practice it as part of the church calendar.   As I said in my sermon Lent (from Ash Wednesday to Easter) is a time of preparation and remembering of the passion of Jesus.  The passion of Jesus refers to the last day of Jesus’ life from the prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane (also known as the Mount of Olives) through the trial and flogging, all the way to his suffering and death on the cross.  In order to remember that kind of suffering, during Lent many people “suffer” to help them remember that Jesus suffered.  This suffering takes place in many forms.  Some fast for part of the day; others give up certain foods like red meat (hence many fish fries around), or chocolate, or sweets in general.  Some others give up some “luxury” like watching TV, using the internet, or other like activities.  And there are other ways, some more extreme, others less. 
   Again, the idea is to do something as a form of suffering or denial so that we do not forget the suffering Christ went through. 
   As a little side note: if you are going to start denying yourself some pleasure starting on Ash Wednesday, the world thinks you should indulge the day/night before- and hence the invention of Mardi Gras on Tuesday.  (Because that is just what Jesus did before he started suffering . . . NOT)
   While we typically do not practice Lent, the idea behind it is sound.  Jesus did suffer intense agony.  And this is something that we should remember.  But I am not sure “denying” ourselves food or TV will help us understand what Jesus went through.  We in our modern day cannot fully understand the depths of Jesus’ suffering.  Fasting and other penitence will not bring that any closer.  Do not get me wrong.  There is nothing wrong with fasting or denying yourself something during Lent.  But let’s not believe that these actions in any way make us closer to Christ or to understanding everything he suffered for us.  Going without sugar for a month (for example), which some may consider suffering, does not equal to the suffering Jesus went through.  But if it helps you to remember not only the suffering of Jesus but also the reason for his suffering (hint: it is for our forgiveness), then Lent away.

February 17

This is the last week of my I Am series.  And I think it is a vital I am statement that we need to ponder many times.  What does it mean to be connected?  How are we to bear fruit?  Am I in danger of being cut off?  In answer to that last question, the simple answer is if you are asking the question, then most likely you are not cut off.  Being cut off is not something that you have to worry about if you are worrying about it.  It is when you get to the point of not being concerned about this possibility is the first indication that your heart has grown so cold and hardened that it doesn’t matter to you whether or not you are saved.  Nothing in life can take away your salvation (Rom 8), but if you choose to walk away from God and his gift of life in Jesus, your salvation may be in jeopardy.  Just as you have free will to accept Jesus as your savior, you have free will to reject his salvation.  However, if you are starting to ask the question, “Am I in danger of being cut off” than maybe God is urging you into a closer more intimate relationship with him.  Just as earthly relationship can grow distant and disconnected if not given the right time and effort needed to maintain those relationships, so to your relationship with God.  God doesn’t just want your initial yes to his plan of salvation, He wants that acceptance to grow closer to you as you grow closer to him.  The closer you are with God, the further you are from wandering off and losing that salvation given to you.

February 10

Heaven is a wonderful place from what the Bible tells us.  And I am looking forward one day of dwelling there.  And this is not just a hope, but a real destination which was paid for by the blood of Jesus cleansing me from my sins.  I know without a doubt that He died and rose again.  And one day (I hope soon), He will come back to take me home.  If you do not have this confidence and would like to know more, please contact me here at the church and I would be more than happy to lead you down the path that leads to everlasting life in God’s kingdom.

February 3

In my sermon this last week, I started off with a list of people who were raised from the dead.  I listed 7 including Jesus.  These were not from a list I found, but from my own memory of the Bible.  However, my memory failed me because as I was starting to prepare next week’s message, I recalled another resurrection story I failed to list.  In Acts 9, Peter raised a woman named Dorcas (also called Tabitha) back to life.

January 27

A lot of sickness has gone through our house these last few weeks and it is hard sometimes to get into the office to get things done when you have to watch a child home sick from school.  My schedule has been a bit disrupted from the norm and I find myself distracted more easily when I am wondering what my kids might be going through.  However, it is encouraging to know that Jesus as my shepherd is with me fighting the battles I am going through.  He knows what I am going through and he helps me get through them.  I find I need his guidance even more when I do not have the strength to make it through.