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."

 

 

 

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

Thursday
Mar282019

April

From the Pastor's Desk:

“I Do It?”
One of the things I’ve noticed about toddlers is that they like to help out - but only in their way and in Case in point: when my family lived in Princeton, Iowa, I was in front of the sink one day washing dishes when I heard a small voice behind me. “Daddy, I help you clean?” I was delighted, and so I told my little Lizzie (4 years old at the time) to get a chair to stand on so she could help dry. She did. She dried three dishes. “All done,” she proudly declared (we were not even close) and hopped back down to go play. Ah. My DNA is in her. I was still charmed.
And one time when Lizzie and I went down to Princeton’s City Hall to take care of some business, Lizzie seemed eager to jump into civic service. She went right behind the desk and wanted to help AJ (the city clerk at the time) field some phone calls. However, after a minute, she was done - ready to start running other errands (or actually just to start running). I was still charmed.
Lizzie, like most toddlers, was eager to grow up and start doing the things she saw the big people doing. Of course, she needed to learn a little more stamina and perseverance. She needed to learn how to stick with a task until it’s done, not just until her mood changed.
To do what is good - to help others even when we don’t feel like it - is one way of charming our heavenly Father. And even though we will never be able to serve perfectly, or even finish the task completely, He is still charmed by our desire to grow up and be like Him.
In the gospels, we’ve read the stories of our Savior ministering to the needy, and reaching out to the lonely. May we have the eagerness sometimes demonstrated by the little ones, and ask: “Daddy - I help? I do it?”
By His Spirit, we can know the joy of helping out and growing up. After all, we are made in God’s image. God’s DNA is in us.
Yours in Christ,
Pastor Matthew

Thursday
Feb282019

March

From the Pastor's Desk:

 

THE CROSS OF JESUS CHRIST
Once more, we are entering the season of Lent, in which the church focuses on Jesus’ journey to the cross. Although Jesus is the world’s greatest teacher, He did not come to earth simply to give us training and information. He came to surrender His life on the cross in order to make things right between God and humanity. The cross is a complicated mystery, worthy of our reflection. The cross is at the center of the Christian’s faith.
The cross is also a stumbling block to many, and extremely offensive to our sensibilities. The God of the Universe is worthy of worship and praise. Why, then, should God’s Messiah submit to such a shameful death? In ancient times, the Romans wouldn’t speak of crucifixion in polite company, it was so shameful and embarrassing.
Perhaps we modern believers, too, tend to avoid speaking about the cross. Jesus’ blood sacrifice is difficult to explain, and we may be embarrassed to talk about the Lord’s death and resurrection. It sounds crazy.  Indeed, the early church faced the same difficulties speaking about the cross as we do. The apostle Paul acknowledges that the message of the cross is foolishness to the world, and a stumbling block to nice religious people who rightly recognize crucifixion as a ghastly inappropriate topic of conversation.
And yet it is at the cross of Jesus Christ that the power of God is poured out upon the broken human being. It is in that place of utter shame that God’s transformative love is experienced - the God who would die for His people. There, our sins and the Power of Sin are definitively beaten by the Lord who will deliver His people from slavery.
Any form of Christianity that does not take seriously the cross of Jesus Christ is not the truth as proclaimed by the disciples and apostles (at great personal cost). We have this season of Lent every year to keep us from straying too far from the tree on which our Christ hung for us. I want to help us understand it better. I want to know it better. Because I believe it is there
where we discover the saving grace of the One True God.
Have a blessed and powerful Lent, dear Church.
Yours in Christ,
Pastor Matthew