24 February 2012 / Pastor's Pen
The late A.W. Tozer, pastor and author, wrote about the Christian life as being an exchanged life. Tozer said, "...a large part of Christian experience consists of exchanging something worse for something better, a blessed and delightful bargain indeed." In other words, when we are willing to give up a thing for God, He has something better to give us in return. We often have a hard time believing that, therefore, we cling to what we have, rather than relinquishing it to God, in exchange for His greater blessing.
At the heart of the Christian experience is the exchange of the guilt and consequences of our sin for the righteousness of God. The Bible tells us that "...all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus." (Rom. 3:23-24). Jesus took our sins upon Himself in His suffering and death at Calvary. The apostle Peter stated it like this: "He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed" (I Pet. 2:24).
In the Suffering Servant of Isaiah, we read: "Surely He has borne our griefs And carried our sorrows....He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed....He bore the sin of many, And made intercession for the transgressors." (Isa. 53:4,5,12).
Jesus became our substitute, taking upon Himself the consequences of our sin, and in exchange giving us His righteousness. The apostle Paul wrote: "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God" (II Cor. 5:21). Christ, by His death on the cross, made it possible for us to exchange our sin for His righteousness.
The season of Lent is a constant reminder that we have no righteousness of our own. All our righteousness is as filthy rags. It's not a matter of being good. It is a matter of God's grace, extended to us through Jesus Christ. Lent culminates in the suffering and death of Jesus at Calvary. Good Friday took place because of us and for us. We crucified Christ and He died for us, that we might be forgiven. As Tozer said: "a blessed and delightful bargain indeed."
But that's not all! Not only do we exchange sin for righteousness, but we also exchange death for life. Lent leads to Easter. The crucified Christ rose again, conquering both sin and death. Again, listen to the words of the apostle Paul: "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me" (Gal. 2:20). Jesus said, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die" (John 11:25-26).
There are many other wonderful exchanges we Christians may make if we will. But Lent and Easter remind us of the exchange of our sin for His righteousness and our sad mortality for His blessed immortality. What a blessed and delightful bargain indeed!
19 January 2012 / Pastor's Pen
For the past several weeks Linda and I have been packing and moving boxes and things from the parsonage to our new house. Having not moved in 36 years we have accumulated a lot of stuff, much of it we didn’t even realize we still had. It is amazing how things just accumulate, all by themselves, when you aren’t paying attention to it.
There are the things we never got rid of because “we might need them someday.” Meanwhile, years have gone by and we haven’t needed them, or forgetting we had them, we replaced them. Of course we haven’t forgotten the things we did throw away only later to wish we had back.
There is baby furniture and children’s toys that our children grew up with, and we saved for our grandchildren. Of course our children wouldn’t allow our grandchildren to get near those “dangerous or unsafe” things. How our children survived those things themselves I’ll never know! And what do you do with “rocket motors” that propel a toy rocket several hundred feet into the air, when your grandson is not allowed to have it?
Then there are the things that belong to our children, things that they “stored” at our house because they didn’t want to get rid of them and they didn’t want to take them. But, alas the day of reckoning has come. They take it or we dispose of it.
Boxes of mason jars filled one basement closet, reminders of days when we use to can fruits and vegetables. Oh, for the good old days! We found a home for the jars, but who knows where the canning equipment will end up. It’s not likely to be going with us.
And then the memorabilia, boxes and boxes of it; so many things to reminisce over when we retire. The sad truth is much of it we can’t remember now why we even kept it, or who those people are.
Now, all of this becomes a parable of life. How much do we allow the things of life to clutter up our lives and encumber us in our journey? How much do we spend our life filling it with things that have only earthly value, things that one day we will toss out, or leave behind for others to toss; things we will not be able to take with us when we move on to the next life?
Jesus said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal” (Matt. 6:19-20). The Jesus added, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (vs. 21). The significant thing here is that our treasure doesn’t follow after our heart, but our heart follows after our treasure. Whatever we treasure, whether it be the things of this world or the things of God, our heart then follows. Whatever and wherever our treasure, there our heart will be also.
In cleaning out and getting rid of things, Linda and I have found that sometimes you have to make hard choices, things you might like to keep but you really need to let go of. That is also true in our spiritual journey. Time and again we come upon something we would like to keep in our life, but God wants us to get rid of it. It is something that is cluttering up our life, something that is keeping us from experiencing the fullness of God’s grace and joy in our life. From time to time we need to clean house, to let God clean our house, to get rid of the sin that so easily besets us, or to let go of that treasure that has no heavenly value, that hinders our walk with Him.
Don’t hold on to the things of this life and this world until it’s too late. Let go of the earthly things you so treasure and lay up for yourself heavenly treasure that you may be able to have and enjoy for eternity.
05 January 2012 / Pastor's Pen
The New Year always brings with it the opportunity for new beginnings. Many times we don’t notice these new beginnings because life goes on pretty much as it always has. At other times the beginnings are glaring, even life changing. Such are some of the new beginnings we will encounter this year.
For Linda and me we are beginning the process of moving out of the parsonage and into our own home. We will be carrying out this process over the next couple of months. There is sadness in leaving the place we have called home for the past 36 years. But there is also excitement about the new beginning of living in our own home. Of course it’s going to take us awhile to decorate and furnish our new home. But it is a new beginning.
We will also be experiencing a new beginning mid-year when we both retire. It will bring about a drastic change in our life- style, going from 24/7 work and responsibilities to determining our own schedules and activities. But that is something that we will adjust to as we find our way into the next phase of life.
The church will also be experiencing some new beginnings. It is so easy to become complacent in our routine and not even think about changes. We expect things to go on as they always have. But you, as a congregation, will be facing a major change when you receive a new pastor and parsonage family. Things will not be the same as they have been for many years. That doesn’t mean the future is gloom and doom. Change is often good, though we may not realize it at the time. We are all set in our ways and we don’t like change. But this will be an opportunity for the church to make a new beginning for the future of the ministry and life of the church.
New beginnings can be daunting because they are filled with uncertainty. But they can also be a fresh start that breaths into us new life. As you enter into this new year and as you move through the year, en- countering many new beginnings, may you do so with the confidence that while we may not know what tomorrow holds, we know Who holds tomorrow.