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Sunday, November 29, 2020

The Gift of Listening

Everyone has a story. The story of our life helps shape us. The events we have been through, the things we have experienced, the things we have overcome and the things that we are still overcoming will continue to affect us every day. The past cannot be changed. While our pasts are part of us, they are only just a part. The past life, before Christ, is crucified with Him on the cross (Galatians 2:20).

My past isn’t my future. The future is before us. Making new choices, making new memories, living out a new life each day -- our future is both set and not set. On the one hand, the future not being set brings excitement and caution. Every day we venture into the unknown, wondering what might be in store for us.

Yet in another way, the future is set. We know, through the Revelation of John, how the last days will unfold. We know that in the battle between good and evil that ultimately the Lord will prevail. We also know that in His great love and mercy, the saved will be rescued from a fate worse than death and will go on into everlasting life. “For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified” (Romans 8:29-30).

The story of my life before Christ cleansed me of my sins is one of death. This death wants to take hold of me and rule over me. In my life now, I look forward to the future because “in the future there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:8). The story of my life after Christ, is one of life and light, love and hope, joy and redemption.

When you find Jesus and His forgiveness, know that the past doesn’t rule over you any longer. Know that your past can’t and won’t separate you from Christ (Romans 8:38-39). Know then that your future should be one that is free from sin: “Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” (John 8:11).

The future we await, longing to hear Christ’s words: “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:14-30) lies in the choices we make every day to “take up” our “cross daily and follow” Him (Luke 9:23-26).

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Living Graciously

The holiday season is upon us! Looking back, I remember when this was a time of a houseful of cousins running amuck, strangers to pinch my cheeks and tell me how much I've grown, and a dessert table a mile long. 


Jesus tells us of a great banquet in Luke 14. The homeowner in the story is going to throw a big party and invite as many people as he can. Unfortunately for the invited guests, they had other plans that would interfere with this invitation. Other things in life became more important and something like this party would need to get the short end of the stick, so to speak. If you can't be in two places at once, then you'll just have to decide which one matters more to you. As word gets back to the master of the house that hardly anyone is coming, the invitations continue to be sent, but this time they go out to everyone else besides those who already rejected the first invitation. 


Jesus tells us this story, because in our lives we face a choice. The busyness of life can quickly erode our relationship with Christ. We can easily find other places to be, other things to do, or other thoughts to think. We can’t be in two places at once either. Jesus invites us to His banquet, but it is up to us to accept this invitation. What we saw in the parable was that some of those that were invited chose not to be there. Just the thought of it brings a great sadness into my heart. My prayer is this: Jesus, use me to show Your love and kindness to those around me so they can realize that only in You is there life and light. Help us to put You first in all things.


The next few gatherings are probably going to be different and difficult. But, there is a greater gathering that awaits the faithful. Let us take the time and make the effort to set aside the worldly distractions. Let us focus on the Christian fellowship, love, and warmth we have in a Christian home and with this church family. Let us remember that while this season is different, it is just that: only for a season and in the age to come, Jesus Christ will set all things right and “make all things new” (Rev 21:5). 


Sunday, November 1, 2020

The Danger of a Hardened Heart

One temptation we must be very careful to avoid is that of ranking sins. Though there are various passages in both the New Testament and the rest of the Hebrew Bible, it is God who is the lawgiver judge, even in these same passages. Ranking sins is dangerous because it leads to callousness.

This morning, we will be talking about the dangers of a hardened heart. One way our hearts can grow calloused is through the ranking of sins. It is very easy to look at the sins of someone else and compare them with my own. I can see all the hate in someone else's actions, I can hear it in their voice, I can see evil in their choices they make and the life they live. When I compare their life with mine, I know that I sin a lot less often and a lot less severe. My sins are oversights, mistakes, or being caught up in the moment. My sins are just little things I need to work on. Other people out-rank me in the sin department by a long shot!

If these were my true thoughts, this would be a sign that I have a hardened heart. These are the thoughts of a heart that has grown accustomed to its own sin. Blind to it, or even comfortable with it because that sin is different than someone else's. Therefore, I can sit in judgement of the others because I can rank my own sin as something little. I am calloused to the pain my sin once caused me.

Another result of this hardening of the heart is that one's heart no longer hurts for others. This hard heart views the world through the lens of the sins that others have committed. Through their own mistakes, their crimes, or their sins against God many people have made their own lives and the lives of those around them more difficult. A hard heart turns a blind eye and a deaf ear to the suffering of others.

Yes, in many ways we can bring suffering upon ourselves through our own sinful choices. But Jesus went to those very people that were fallen in their sins and He loved them. When challenged about this outrageous response to sinners, Jesus turns to Scripture: "I desire mercy, not sacrifice." (Matt. 9:13, Hosea 6:6).

Be merciful.