Cause or Effect?

From the Pastor’s Desk:

Cause or Effect?

What is the cause and what is the effect? I often wonder why we put so much time and effort into working on the effects of our problems, and so little into the cure of the cause. Even as children we are told “Don’t do this or that because you could get hurt” or “I wouldn’t do that if I were you” Somewhere in the course of life we decided it doesn’t mean us and we do it anyway. When do we reach that point in our existence that we decide we are invincible and get to do it our way?

Take car accidents; according to the site drivers.com, Distracted driving, speed, and drunk driving are the three leading causes of fatal car crashes. How heartbreaking is that? The times in our lives when we are in control of the biggest, fastest, heaviest piece of equipment that any of us will ever use and we don’t care enough to watch what we are doing. Then we speed, so we can get into an accident sooner. Let alone being impaired by alcohol or drugs. Now honestly when you take down the shield of excuses of why you just had to do what you did, it looks pretty simple to solve. Watch the road, slow down, and don’t drink and drive. Wow we just solved the cause. Now we just have to do that every time we get behind the wheel and car wrecks could be almost avoided, thus changing the effects.

Life gives us choices; God gives us free-will to choose our destiny. When we choose not to follow the laws of the land we will get hurt. When we choose not to follow God’s commands we will get hurt. Adam and Eve started the fall and it has only gotten worse. So how do we change our view of the causes so we can stop trying to clean up the effects?

First we must understand it is going to take a lot of time. Second we have to choose to change. Our laws tell us “we have to follow the law or pay the fine”, God tells us “we have to believe in His Son or we will surely die”, and our sinful nature tells us “they can’t tell us what to do.” I think I have just found the solution to the cause.

Our sinful nature must be taken under control. Our hearts and minds must change. The Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ are the only way this will happen; without the Holy Spirit we can’t gain control, and Jesus Christ has the only true answer. We must choose to accept His help even when our sinful nature says it’s not needed. Change the cause and the effects will follow. God has the answer but only if we will follow the teaching. It’s up to us to change.

 

 

Easter is About Jesus! (Not a Bunny)

Do we live like people of Easter? Did you know the dictionary doesn’t mention the Easter bunny in its definition? Now don’t worry I’m not protesting the Easter bunny but I am protesting our first priority. When Easter is (sold) on TV and in stores, it is all about eggs and a magic bunny that brings kids candy etc., (Jesus is in the back isle by the religious stuff)

Our religious holidays were started and remembered for a much more important reason than to make them into a sales plan. Easter is honored as the day Jesus Christ rose from the dead and fulfilled His promise of eternal life for all who are baptized and believe in Him.

As with all things we need to be careful of the origin. The egg was pagan tradition before it was used as any part of Christianity. The egg was the symbol of new life and the coming of spring. The Easter egg is not a holy symbol but a “Scramble of pagan and Christian tradition”.

The Easter bunny is another pagan tradition that has made it to main stream through the art of salesmanship and desire. Desire? , wow pastor that is quite a word to use. I use it because the Easter bunny is known for bringing baskets of goodies and treats; it fulfills our desire of stuff. There is a huge line between our celebration of an animal bringing us what we want and our Savior dying on the cross and giving us what we need; the Forgiveness of our sin.

So why am I talking so negative about some simple, good, wholesome traditions. Well it’s my job; not to talk negative but it’s my job to remind people that there is more to faith in Jesus Christ than following the traditions of a culture. See many of those traditions can lead us away from our faith in Jesus Christ without us ever noticing. It’s when we combine secular and Holy ideas together that we end up with a watered down, weak Faith that is “Luke Warm”;

Revelation 3:15-17

15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. 17 You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. 

We have a Holy holiday of Easter to reflect on; we have a Holy holiday of Christmas at the other end of the year. Let’s keep them Holy; about the God who they are meant for. Let’s be People of Easter, worshipping our “Risen Lord” all the time, every day, every minute.

Be “Hot” for Jesus others will see your “Reason for the Season”.

Just My Thoughts

Compassion

Compassion; just another person not being held to the hard truth, after all if we have compassion on everyone they are not getting what they deserve. They may need to be taught a lesson. Sounds familiar right? The problem is if we take the act of compassion and make it a judgment call we have just hurt ourselves as well. The Bible uses the word compassion or compassionate over 80 times. Most were referring to Jesus Himself.

Matthew 9:36 (NIV)
36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
Matthew 14:14 (NIV)
14 When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.
So if Jesus has that much compassion on people and even went to the cross for them, what’s our hang up with having compassion?
It’s simple we have made compassion an earned right. Those people in prison; they get too much compassion. The victims don’t get any revenge for what happened. Or the illegal aliens; those people need to go home, who wants to give them any compassion. Or the kids caught up in gangs on the street; they need to be locked up and taught a lesson. Or the drug addicts, and drunks, etc.
I can go on for hours but the point is compassion should have started long before the illegal stuff happened. The kids shooting up schools; how can you have compassion on them!!? Well they weren’t born killers. They were kids just like any other and the world said “let the strong survive”. Maybe if someone would have had compassion and noticed the hurt in that child’s life when they were growing up, and helped them get better we wouldn’t be cleaning up the mess now.
As we read in; Matthew 22:37-39(NIV)
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.
Loving our God as well as our neighbor requires compassion. It is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of strength. It takes a stronger man to hold someone up than it does to knock someone down. What if it were you that had the problem in your life? Should we knock you down or hold you up? Compassion is not a choice, it is a command. Let’s get the definition correct, and remember it starts with us.

What is Important to Me?

From the Pastor’s Desk   

What is Important to Me?

 What is important to me is such a huge question. It has really changed in the last year. I think of all the things I have going on and the list seems endless. Then I see friends with children having health troubles and friends losing loved ones and friends passing at young ages and it makes me realize that endless list really needs to be stopped.

When did we get so busy with stuff? When did we trade our lives for work and meetings and all the other stuff we tend to run for? As I watch my kids grow up and live their lives I can’t help but think of the classic tune from Harry Chapin in 1974 “The Cat’s in the Cradle”. Now you may have to “You Tube” this to get the true meaning of my blog but it really hits home for me.

The things we tend to make the most important in our lives are things that normally don’t last. It is why we never seem to get ahead. Each new thing has a different set of issues, so we never find the end. Or we are so busy taking care of things that mean nothing to our lives that we get exhausted doing it over and over again. The balance is a tough thing to accomplish.

Jesus saw the haste and waste in the lives of Mary and Martha. Martha was just like many of us, doing the everyday things that take all of our time but really account for nothing in the end. She was so busy doing life that she didn’t take time to just be part of life.

Luke 10 (NIV)

40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42  but few things are needed—or indeed only one.    Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Worried and upset about many things. Sound familiar? Let’s get our priorities in order, Jesus Christ first and family next, the rest of the stuff will wait. Let’s all start a new course, may we show our youth a new way of living where we all have time for family again. It’s not too late.

The song says; “But we’ll get together then Dad, you know we’ll have a good time then.”

“Then” is not a promise in this world, we best do it now.

Just My thoughts,

Pastor Scott

 

I’m trying to be a Christian

I had an instructor tell me once there is no such thing as trying to be a Christian. You either are or you aren’t. It really upset me at the time. I told him it was surely a human trait to try to be a Christian.

His answer was if you are just trying, you haven’t made the commitment to be a Christian. Being a Christian is who you are, not what you are trying to do. We struggle with our young people not going to church and not grasping what we talk about as “Being a Christian”. It takes a strong heart to look at one’s self and say “What about me sets me apart from anyone else? What in my life says I am a Christian?” It is sometimes hard to figure out who is a true follower of Jesus and His preaching and who isn’t when we are just talking the talk and not walking the walk. We know we don’t get to heaven by what we do, but we do influence people by what they see.

We want a middle ground where we can do the things of the world yet say we are following our faith. A part of me wants to say there is a middle ground that would make me more in step with the world yet I know in my heart there is only one way into heaven. As a new preacher I remember the advice of a contemporary preacher friend who told me “Don’t get too strict or you will chase people away. Our job is to draw the people in and let God do the rest. Like a bear with some honey. Don’t upset them or they will not give and then you will surely be out of a job.”

I struggle with that more now than ever. Isn’t that the absolute wrong way to treat people? It comes back to the part about trying to be a Christian. Are we here to help people try to be Christians or are we here to show them how to be Christians. The decision has to be made one way or the other. There really isn’t a place of either-or. God was very plain in His words;

Revelation 3:15, 16 New International Version

15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.

You are or you aren’t, it’s a pretty tough thought to swallow. That’s what my instructor was trying to tell me. In God’s eyes you are a Christian and you live your life to the glory of what God wants or you are not and you live your life to the glory of yourself. Sounds like the pastor has gone law crazy right? After all Jesus came to save us no matter what we do.

Well the truth is; Jesus came to save those who die to their old life, repent of their sin and believe in His saving grace. The only catch is if you don’t do those things before it is too late you will be left behind trying to be a Christian. Just as He says “I know your deeds, that you are neither hot nor cold, I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” Please note the last phrase “I am about to spit” He hasn’t done it yet. There is still time as long as you can read this.

It is like when the doctor told me I might have throat cancer from smoking. He said there still may be time if you change your habits. You have to quit smoking not just try to quit. You have to make the decision to be different in your ways; otherwise things will not change. You are either a smoker or you are not a smoker, there is no middle ground.

Well I guess that’s what I realized with my faith.  I was either a Christian or I was not. I was either going to be healthy and live or I was going to continue to kill myself with my sins and say “I was trying to be a Christian really I was.”

The part that gets confusing in this world is the fact we think we are all ok as we are. Our young people see the difference between “being” and “trying”. They need a solid place to start from or they will never make a decision either. What a scary, heart breaking thought to have our kids spit out for being “lukewarm” in their faith. Make that decision in your life to be “Hot” for God, take the step to be a Christian and not just trying to be, teach your children the same ideas. Let’s get this country back into motion, kicking our old habits that are killing us and starting to live again;      “Being Christians

Just my thoughts,

Pastor Scott

 

Lead Us Not Into Temptation

The Lord’s Prayer is the main example of prayer that Jesus Himself gave us. It is used as a prayer in itself but also to show us how to pray. I want to examine the line; “lead us not into temptation”. What exactly is Jesus saying?

 Well it is simple; we are asking God not to give us too much. To limit us to the amount we can handle.

“Give us too much?” What’s that supposed to mean?

First we must realize God tempts no one, but sin turns blessings into temptation. We are sinful by nature; we unfortunately lack self control in many areas. If the Lord gives us His bounty in His loving way we can be overwhelmed. See we all need things in life to survive; water, food, shelter just to name a few. God loves to give us these things and the Bible tells us some will be given more. Does that mean they should consider themselves rich? By no means; that is the danger of temptation. When we receive more than we can use we are tempted to store it away and claim ownership of the blessing. God provides what we need and the rest is to be used for the blessing of others. It is not for us to hide away, it is to be used wisely. He will show you how if you let Him.

 Luke 12  (NIV Bible)

The Parable of the Rich Fool

16 And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. 17 He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’

18 “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. 19 And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”

20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’

21 “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”

 The blessings that God gives are not ours alone; he expects us to manage those blessings wisely. Trust God to guide your steps in all you do. He will not “lead you into temptation” “but deliver you from evil”

Pastor Scott

Prayer and Discernment

Pastor Scott

Pastor Scott

I spoke on a chapter last week; 1 Corinthians: 6, it’s a letter that brings up controversy in our society. I understand why but I needed a way to help define it. Through prayer and discernment the Holy Spirit put an explanation on my heart.

We are a broken society but we struggle admitting it. Our sinful nature and the world give us false ideas about what is true and holy and we lose our way. The serpent started his work in the 3rd book of Genesis and hasn’t stopped. He lied to Eve causing her to fall to curiosities and want.  Adam followed the same path without question. We don’t have to wonder where it started but we have to accept that it has blurred our vision ever since.  I know that many will quit reading at this point but that is part of the Devil’s plan. When we feel uncomfortable we stop moving forward.

The bottom line is that God has created us. He is the boss, the supervisor, the CEO, the administrator, the King of the world. His decisions are final. The part we don’t seem to understand is everything He does is “for our own good”. Now doesn’t that sound familiar, our Father in heaven wants the best for us.

Let’s bring this into perspective, when a parent says “yes” a child says “no”, when a parent says “stop” a child says “go”. When a parent says “I love you” the child says “so.” We are God’s children; and just like our own children our nature is to do the opposite. Just like Adam and Eve we tend to rebel.

The part we need to grasp is; it is God’s heaven and God’s earth, His Salvation and His hell. We do not make the rules; we do not change the rules. People get irritated with an almighty ruler but without a single direction we end up with no direction. John Adams the second president of the United States made this statement on the creation of the democracy;

“There is nothing which I dread so much as a division of the republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader, and concerting measures in opposition to each other. This, in my humble apprehension, is to be dreaded as the greatest political evil under our Constitution.”

A two party system was a concern to the authors of our constitution, think of GOD’S concerns in His creation. As we have experienced in our lives, man has issues running his own existence, we need a guide. May we stop resisting our Father’s directions and give Him the respect He and only He deserves.

Habits

Ever had a habit? I still do. Habits aren’t bad; it is what you do in your habit that can make it undesirable. I have a habit of taking my medication in the morning; I have the habit of petting my cat before I leave the apartment in the morning. I think that may be the cat’s idea but it still doesn’t hurt anything.

I used to have a bad habit years ago. It was killing me. I smoked cigarettes like a mad man. I was sure I needed those cigarettes as much as the air they were taking away from me. I knew better, but how was I going to break the bad habit? First I wasn’t worried about it, second there was always tomorrow. Unfortunately it takes something more powerful than the addiction to make our minds let go. In my case it was the diagnoses of possible cancer. Long story shortened I went for a hearing test and the doctor says he must look me over first. After a short examination I was in a room with a video camera down my throat. Following a few ooos and ahhs between the nurse and the doctor he spun me around in the chair and there it was; my throat from the inside. It was covered in black spots to which the doctor said “these spot are either step four of five of throat cancer or it is the tar from your cigarettes deposited on infection in your throat.” Well when I got my heart back into my chest, after all it was pretty devastating news, I asked the doctor “What next?” He said go home, quit smoking, come back in two weeks, if the spots are gone you will be alright. If not two weeks is not going to make a difference in the outcome. I was devastated; needless to say I never smoked another cigarette after that. The good news was that when I went back He put the camera in and everything was pink and perfect. His only words to the results were,” I don’t mind fixing things that nature messes up, I HATE repairing things we mess up ourselves for stupid habits. Congratulations you are in perfect health.”

I knew I was hurting myself but I continued doing the wrong thing. Why??

Well it’s called sin. When we do things that are against the common sense of right, when we ignore the warnings and the facts; it is our sinful nature in control. There is no part of sin that is good for us; it gives us our bad habits.

So let’s look at the facts; we are dying from our sin. We are destined to eternal damnation for the price of our sin against God. There is a cure for this damnation, it is called Jesus Christ. He died on the cross in our place to conquer sin and death. So by believing in Him, being baptized, taking part in the sacraments, and most importantly attending church services regularly we can destroy death and the effect of sin on our lives.

Like the habit of taking my meds to help with my already bad habit caused physical ailments, Church is good habit that can help cure our sinful bad habit ailments. As the New Year starts give yourself a new habit; start putting Jesus Christ in your life every day. The power in this habit will be the way to cure the old bad habits that are destroying your joy and your life. Give Him the chance to change you for the better.

Happy 2018

Pastor Scott

A New Year “Ride of Your Life”

As I look back over the year it always amazes me on the direction God has taken our lives. This is not only for my wife and I, but the whole church. See when God puts His plan in place it affects people from so many different places. I can’t help but to remember a story that was told to me years ago. Maybe you have heard a different version, but this is how it was told to me.

See life is like a two seated bike. When we are young we want to be in charge. We get on the bike and take the front seat. Taking hold of the handle bars deciding on which direction we must go. We spend hours and hours steering and pedaling, getting ourselves into places that we struggle to get out of. We work so hard trying to get to the place “We” have set our sights on. The whole time Jesus is behind us watching and wondering why we went the way we did. When we finally can’t pedal any more we stop and give Him the front seat. The first thing He says is “Hold on and get ready for the ride of your life.”  As you watch Him take you to places you’ve never imagined, as beauty comes alive in areas you have never seen anything but sorrow, you feel a peace. And then you realize your feet aren’t touching the pedals. You aren’t trying to be in charge anymore. You have been reborn. You are following the Lord and Savior of your life. Jesus has taken your burdens and made them Joys. He has done just what He promised;

Matthew 11 New International Version

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

May you give Jesus the front seat in the New Year; just be ready “For the RIDE OF YOUR LIFE.”

Pastor Scott

The Advent story

The Advent story,

We all have heard the story of the birth of Christ. The story has given “birth” to many traditions and scenes that may not be totally accurate. Our mangers are cute little structures with straw lined stalls and beautifully dressed people in grandeur; but what of the real manger scene? It is thought the manger was probably a stone structure, since wood was not very plentiful in that area. It would have been cold and damp for the time of year. It was not a place of honor by any means.

This is where our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ came to be on earth. No one can say “I had it worse”; He started at the bottom and worked His way Up. That is the message He has always given us. The humble will be exalted. Now in our society we have a habit of putting a price on things. Humbleness has no price. The richest man in the world can be humble and the poorest can be proud and arrogant. It’s what’s in the heart that God looks at. In this time of self examination let us look at our hearts and not our wealth and determine “Am I truly humble?” with or without my stuff.

Advent is the story of a savior who came to us in His special way to include all. He gave hope to all people. “Hope” the emotion that keeps the sickest patient breathing, the weakest child walking, and the lowest sinner praying. Jesus gives us Hope in Eternity.

Advent is the time to look at our lives to see if we are ready. We have no part in our salvation except to be “Prepared” We prepare by our belief in the one true savior Jesus Christ our Lord, by our baptism into His family, and by our continued faith and participation in the sacrament of Communion.

These are not works for salvation they are acts of love from the “Joy” of knowing our savior. The Joy one can only feel when knowing they are loved by a God that will never leave them.

“Love” a part of the human life that can’t be explained in simple words. It is more than emotions, it is action and reaction, it is physical and mental, it is more than words can touch.

“Jesus Christ is the Reason for the Season” No one else could do what He did, and no one else would try. He is Hope, Joy, and Love in one person. He is the only way to the Father. Praise be to His name and praise be to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen