Favorite Verses

1. John 3:16

 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

2. John 14:6

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."

3. Ephesians 2:8

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God...

4. 2nd Timothy 3:16

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousnes...

5. Matthew 11:28

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest."

 

 

 

Friday
Sep272019

October

From the Pastor's Desk:

“Bad religion has always favored escape, passivity, irresponsibility.” Thus wrote Louis Evely in his book “Inthe Christian Spirit.” Those words hit home this morning as I tried to get a better start on the day by finally

returning to morning devotions (good habits are hard to maintain!).
How desperately I want God to fix things for me - to rescue me out of my current circumstances - to confirm that I am a victim of circumstances rather than a part of the problem. How slow I am to remember that I am
called to serve the world - to be an agent of God’s love - to take responsibility for my actions and my inactions.
I do not need to remain that way, for the Holy Spirit is at the ready for those who call. The transformation doesn’t take place overnight, but resurrection does happen. It takes our cooperation with Jesus; that is to
say it takes real faith. And if you, like me, tend to slip into fantasy mode and deflect accountability, then let these words from the apostle Paul bring us to our senses:
“Dear friends, you always followed my instructions when I was with you. And now that I am away, it is even more important. Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and
fear.” -Philippians 2:12 (NLT)
This is not to say that salvation rests upon our works of righteousness, but it certainly steers us away from the thought that we are totally passive. Rather, the Bible teaches that we are called to cooperate with God.
Sometimes (many times?) we resist. We fall prey to bad religious thought. God, please adjust our thinking and help us to correct our behaviors. And thanks, God, for bringing me back to Your Word and to some
good Christian advice. I was rightfully feeling icky because of my poor thinking. Now I’m receiving healthier motivation from You.
Have a wonderful month, dear Church.
In Christ,
Pastor Matthew

 

 

Friday
Aug302019

September

From the Pastor's Desk:
In reading the stories about the calling of Peter and the first disciples, we often marvel at how quickly those folks left everything to follow Jesus. I’ve heard - and preached a number of sermons on how we are called to leave everything behind for the sake of God’s Kingdom.
However, if you’re like me, it’s not long before you start to feel guilty and ashamed, thinking about how much you tend to hold on to. You may wonder, as I do, if you would have done the same thing had you been in Peter’s place. Would you have dropped everything? Would you have been like James and John, leaving behind the family business to answer the call?
Yet upon reflection, and after spending quality time with Jesus, I’m less and less mystified by those accounts. It’s no more surprising than a hungry man eagerly making his way to the buffet line, or a thirsty woman stopping by a water fountain, or someone in utter darkness making their way towards the one light shining in the distance.
The one who hungers for the truth will be attracted to Jesus, for Jesus is the truth. The one who hungers for seen since the fall - and they saw him in the form of a perfect human being.
When others did turn away (it happened), Jesus asked them if they too were ready to leave. In response, Peter said: “Lord, where else would we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
It may seem like foolishness, but this is the truth we proclaim: The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. When we hear the truth, nothing else will do. Jesus is often called the very “Word” of God.
Let us follow our compelling, wonderful, and loving Lord into this September and beyond. Let us hear God’s voice, even through the sometimes difficult and strange prophecies of the Old Testament (right?).
The Word is be there for us, no matter what. And truly, with Jesus, life is a call to new adventure.
Yours in Christ,
Pastor Matthew

 

Wednesday
Jun262019

July

From the Pastor's Desk:

“For the Lost”
An ancient sermon on Luke 15:1-7:
Now the tax collectors and “sinners” were all gathering around to hear [Jesus]. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.
Saint Gregory the Great, one of our early church fathers, sums up this parable of the lost sheep with eloquence and insight: Our good Shepherd left the comforts of his Father’s house in heaven, and came down to the stony paths and thorn-choked gullies of this world to bruise his feet and tear his flesh with the sharp rocks and thorns, searching for each lost sheep wherever it had strayed.
“He who was purer than the very light of heaven did not hesitate to wade into the putrid swamp-waters where the lost sheep was drowning in lust, or into the sordid dens where the lost sheep was choking in greed for filthy lucre. The prostitute, the tax collector, were sought where they were at, and in the Shepherd’s eyes they did not see the look of an angry and avenging God, but the joy of the good Shepherd at finding his lost sheep.
“He’s bruised and scratched and caked with foul-smelling muck from the swamp, so that the squeaky-clean stay-at-homes will turn their eyes away from him and hold their noses, but he has found his sheep, and it will not drown or starve or be food for the wolf.
“He takes it in his arms, and his familiar voice gently calms its panic; he places it on his shoulders and carries it home, singing for joy. And when he arrives back home to his Father’s house on the day of the Ascension, with the lost sheep of sinful humanity on his shoulders, he cries out to the angels and archangels: ‘Rejoice, because I bring back the lost sheep!’ And great is the shout of joy among the ranks of heaven.”
Consider the great lengths which our Lord is willing to travel on our behalf. Grace and peace to you, church, and have a blessed summer!
In Christ’s love,
Matthew

Wednesday
May292019

June

From the Pastor's Desk:

IT was a gorgeous, clear summer night. On the roof of the observatory where the telescopes for stargazing were set up, some colleagues and I had a heart-stopping view of the heavens, speckled with stars and planets and the millions (billions?) of galaxies that form this incredible universe we inhabit.
In the middle of Nebraska (not far from Hastings College where the pastor’s conference was being hosted), there is not much light pollution or other distractions to cloud one’s vision. For those of us gathered that night in 2012, it was an act of worship simply looking up into that vast canopy of unspeakable wonder.
“Heaven is my throne,” says God, “and the earth is my footstool.”
In light of such a dwelling, how could we ever offer God a temple or a church worthy of Him? Can any human architect design a building that competes with the wildness and wonder of space, or design a footstool as exquisite as this precious planet we call home? There are some amazing cathedrals in this world, but none have a roof so high as the one God created, or have such elaborate furnishings as what this earth provides.
That said, there IS a temple that God would choose to dwell in - and one we can provide for God. Our souls. Our hearts. Our minds. Consider the astonishing news that God longs to dwell within US; that of all the places available to God, WE are the sanctuary God desires to renovate and live within.
So - will we offer the temple of our bodies completely to God, or are we still holding onto the keys and asking that God schedule a visit when it’s convenient? Trust me - the temple is lonely without the company of the Father, Son, and Spirit. The heart is lonely without the fellowship of Christ’s church. It’s time to open all the doors, and say “Holy Spirit, please come and make Your home in me. Let me be Your resting place, as You are mine.” Amen!
In His grip,
Pastor Matthew

Thursday
Apr252019

May

From the Pastor's Desk:

Suggested Scripture Reading: Romans chapter 6
When I was going to school in Ames, Iowa (Go Iowa State Cyclones!), I had a very religious Mormon friend, whom I took with me to the church I attended one Sunday. The sermon was about grace, and particularly focused on how we can do nothing to earn God’s favor. After worship, my friend was upset about the message. He wondered how the sermon would motivate anyone to good works if God loved them no matter what they did.
One of the objections people like my friend have had to the concept of freely given grace is that it could be misused to justify immoral behavior. After all, if God gives grace when people sin, why not sin more so God can grant more grace?
The apostle Paul brings up that very topic in his letter to the Romans.. Paul poses the question, “Shall we go on sinning so that grace might increase?” He then proceeds to answer the question in an unexpected way. Rather than go on about how bad sin is, or how misguided we are to beg the question, he responds in verse 2 by saying, “we died to sin - how can we live in it any longer?”
Paul brings up a supernatural reality - that the believer has died to sin. In this letter, Paul doesn’t say “you should try not to sin,” but rather “you are no longer a slave to sin.” This is a much different way of thinking about what God had done in our lives than some of us may be used to. As we see in this passage, God has given us a new identity.
I should emphasize, however, that this does not mean Christians will no longer sin or need to repent. If we claim to be sinless, we are lying. But this passage does say that sin no longer defines us. When we sin, we are not acting in accordance with who we have become in Christ, but rather behaving according to the habits of the “old self.” In verse 6, we are reminded that the shadow-self - the sinner - has been done away with, and we are no longer slaves to sin.
When we sin, we may be tempted to despair and think, “well, that’s just who I am.” But that mentality ignores the powerful work of God that has taken place within us. Because that is no longer who we are. We are living in a new reality - the reality of Christ’s salvation. God has freed us and changed us.
Being claimed by God in baptism is more than being drafted onto a team or enlisted into service. We are fundamentally different. The Scriptures tell us that in Christ, we are a new creation. For the one who has been saved, living in sin would be analogous to trying to live underwater or trying to breathe dirt. You can’t do it. The Spirit of Christ within you won’t allow it.
This change is not anything we have accomplished - it’s not anything we could have done on our own. We don’t boast in ourselves. We boast in a God who makes all things new.
So does this teaching gives us a license to sin? The sinner would seek to remain in sin - the sinner would be helpless to do otherwise. But the Christian seeks after God - the Christian has the license to love. And in Christ, we discover that we now have a freedom we didn’t used to have - and that is the freedom not to sin.
In His Grip,
Matthew