Friday, September 1, 2017

Change

When my children were young I used to give them notice before a transition.  “We will be leaving in ten minutes, so be sure to say your goodbyes,” or “dinner will be ready in fifteen minutes so please start cleaning up.”  These warnings helped make those moments of change easier for them to accept and prepare for.  Almost a year ago, our church family was provided one of these warnings.  We all received THAT letter from Pastor Jim that warned us all he would be retiring.  Since I read THAT letter I have been trying to wrap my brain around the fact that this big change was coming.  I have yet to successfully do that, and now the time has arrived.  I simply cannot believe the year, that seemed like such a long time away, has just about come to completion, but indeed it has.

In the church office, some are handling things better than others.  There is no doubt that seeing Pastor Jim’s office become increasingly more scarce is difficult.  The knick-knacks he has acquired in 11 ½ years have slowly been making their way home.  The bobble head Jesus that has sat lovingly on his desk, is no longer in that pole position to greet us as we enter.  The large tuba that rested in the door way, has found its new home.  The changes are slight in some cases but still difficult to absorb.

When Pastor Jim graduated from seminary his sister calligraphically penned him a note, that was found in the office of an African pastor who had been martyred for his faith in Christ.  It has hung on his office wall ever since.
I'm a part of the fellowship of the unashamed. The die has been cast. I have stepped over the line. The decision has been made. I'm a disciple of His and I won't look back, let up, slow down, back away, or be still.
My past is redeemed. My present makes sense. My future is secure. I'm done and finished with low living, sight walking, small planning, smooth knees, colorless dreams, tamed visions, mundane talking, cheap living, and dwarfed goals.
I no longer need preeminence, prosperity, position, promotions, plaudits, or popularity. I don't have to be right, or first, or tops, or recognized, or praised, or rewarded. I live by faith, lean on His presence, walk by patience, lift by prayer, and labor by Holy Spirit power. 
My face is set. My gait is fast. My goal is heaven. My road may be narrow, my way rough, my companions few, but my guide is reliable and my mission is clear. 
I will not be bought, compromised, detoured, lured away, turned back, deluded or delayed.
I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice or hesitate in the presence of the adversary. I will not negotiate at the table of the enemy, ponder at the pool of popularity, or meander in the maze of mediocrity.
I won't give up, shut up, or let up until I have stayed up, stored up, prayed up, paid up, and preached up for the cause of Christ.
I am a disciple of Jesus. I must give until I drop, preach until all know, and work until He comes. And when He does come for His own, He'll have no problems recognizing me. My colors will be clear!

These beautiful words were titled “My Commitment As A Christian.”  Pastor Jim has kept his commitment.  He retires knowing his walk, his Christ guided journey, is not through, simply changing.  And now so must we.  As a church family we must embrace this change and look forward to it as Christ would want us to. 

“Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6  

God has promised.

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:” Ecclesiastes 3:1  

We must look ahead with anticipation for the wonderful things God has planned for us.  Things change, people come and go, but our heavenly father is unchanging, and he has us wrapped safely in His loving arms.

My heart is a little heavy, and I can’t say that I am looking forward to walking into the church office on October second, but I can say I am looking forward to the future. God’s word is perfect.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things.”  Philippians 4:6-8

Pastor Jim, we will miss you dearly, your absence (your short absence) will leave a void.  We look forward to the future when you can join us again.  But in your absence we will embrace God’s plan for our church, although your final service will have ended, we will go out and serve the Lord.  Thank you for leading us, according to His will, we love you.

--Holly

Thursday, June 15, 2017

All Dogs Go To Heaven – right?

It seems that several of our Village family have recently experienced the death of a beloved pet. That is a terrible time for most of us. We tend to think of our pets as family. Witness how we talk about them: “the grand-dog,” or our “fur kids.”  We certainly anthropomorphize them and credit them with emotions and character.  When their much shorter lives run out, we hurt.    That leads to one of the most common questions that pastors are asked – and that some struggle to answer.

I have thought about this often enough that I do have an answer that works for me.  Not all my colleagues would agree, but in fact I have a Biblical basis for my answer? By the way, my answer is yes, I believe they do.

Those who would disagree with my answer tend to do so because they believe animals simply die. They contend that animals do not have souls.  I would ask them, where in Scripture does it state that animals do not have souls?
         
Okay, Scripture clearly teaches that humans are made in the “image and likeness of God” - but is that the same as a soul?   And where in Scripture does it preclude that animals do not have a continued existence? It does not. In fact, the Bible is silent on this question. It neither confirms nor denies animals having a continued existence – but there is what some might call oblique evidence.

We know everything was created for God’s glory.
We also know that the whole of creation is destined to be redeemed through the work of Christ (Rom. 8:21).
We are given images in both the Old and the New Testament of what heaven will be like.  These images tell us about the wolf and the lamb and other animals being at peace with one another and of Jesus coming on a white horse.
Those descriptions of heaven certainly point to a place where animals are present.

Beloved, the Biblical view of heaven is not just a consolation for the life we wished we had. It is a fulfillment and restoration of the life we always wanted.  This means that hard and painful things like the death of our beloved pets will not only be undone and restored, but will in some way make our eventual joy and glory even greater.  Everything sad is going to vanish and will by God’s grace somehow become greater for having once been lost.  In the Resurrection, we'll get the life we longed for and it will be infinitely more glorious.

So yes, I fully expect all of us to see our departed pets as they somehow participate in the benefits of Christ’s redemptive work.

I have heard Heaven described as “The place that, when you go there, all the pets you have ever loved come running to greet you."

PJ

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Thoughts on Manchester

I grew up pre 9-11. Pre-Columbine. Pre-Oklahoma City. Pre-ISIS and pre-so many horrific deaths. Our children shouldn't have to grow up in fear. We feel angry, sad, confusion and so much more. As a Christian we look to God for understanding and can become frustrated when no answers seem apparent. I join so many others in trying to remember that God was with every victim, and that we only see through a mirror dimmed at this point. Scripture tells us this place is not our final home. There are no words, except Lord in Your mercy.

Rev. Michelle


Monday, May 15, 2017

Faith or Opinion?

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
II Tim. 3: 16-17

How many of you have heard a friend say this (or something very similar):  “I know what Jesus and the Bible say about ‘XYZ’ --- but I think…

That is a really significant sign of a Liberal/progressive faith.

I really do believe that the Bible, in its original language, is the inspired Word of God, and the infallible rule of faith and practice.  It cannot be wrong, changed, added to, or deleted from.

The main obstacle to people understanding the Bible is that they don't take the time to learn what it has to teach us.  In other words, they don't take it literally enough.

Almost 100 years ago, Presbyterian Theologian and Professor wrote a book titled Christianity and Liberalism.  In it he posits that Christianity and Liberalism are incompatible.  It is important to understand that he was not speaking of social or political Liberalism, but theological.  In Protestant theology, the opposite of "liberal" is not "conservative."  It is "Reformed."

Liberal theology begins with the assumption that humanity is basically good, while Reformed theology assumes humanity is totally depraved. (There are plenty of liberal believers who are quite conservative in their politics, and vice versa.  I doubt if anyone could get elected if s/he told people they were "totally depraved.")

One of the liberal/progressive shared purposes is to portray Biblical doctrine, like sin, as outdated and inconsistent with modern understanding on a number of issues. For instance, for "progressives," on the issue of sexuality, gender and marriage practice, calls things normal that the Bible calls abnormal, abominable or sinful.  A liberal/progressive theologian does not believe that the scriptures are in fact the Word of God.  They believe that the scriptures are a book written by men which, while it may contain the word of God must none the less be read and interpreted in the light of one’s experience and the culture.
     
Liberal/progressive theology questions the Lordship of Christ, the efficacy of Jesus' atoning death, the miracles of the Bible, many of the commandments of God – even revelation itself. (If people are basically good, do they need a savior to die for them?)
     
The only way anyone can justify hyping their liberal/progressive agenda is with a theology of accommodation, taught from a loose-leaf bible.  What it comes down to is whether your faith is a matter of objective truth or of personal opinion; a politically correct, culturally accommodating agenda, or the sound doctrines of Scripture?

-PJ

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Hold on Tight

Summer is almost here! I don't know about you, but I'm in that home stretch with end of year parties, programs and presentations. It is hectic, adorable, and even emotional as my babies are moving on to the next grade.  As the year closes I can't help but look at pictures from the first day of school and think - how are we already here? In the midst of field trips, homework, early (way-to-early) mornings the year has flown by. The old adage that the days are long but the years are short certainly can ring true. As I sit waiting for Danny's last school presentation of his amazing Pre-K3 year to begin, I can't help but think back on the days that brought us here.

God was with us. God was with us when Danny started this new school. God was with us when milestone after milestone was met. God was with us when new friends were made and when challenges occurred. God is there in the calm times and in the hectic.

So often we reach out to God when our world seems to tailspin. We seek His face when we are staring calamity right in the eye. But God desires so much more than that. Scripture is full of verses about God's deep love for us, how He knows every facet about us, and how He longs for us to seek His face in the details. May we use this busy "end of year" craziness as a time to reach out to God. Let us cling to His promises of love for us and know that He has us. Each and every step of the way. In the good and the tough. God is with us. Hallelujah!

Rev. Michelle

Saturday, April 15, 2017

The Final Week

Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come that He should depart from this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.  And supper being ended the devil having already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray Him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going to God. . .
John 13: 1-3

Jesus’ public ministry had come to an end. On Palm Sunday he triumphantly entered the Holy City, surrounded by an adoring crowd.  Then-- that same fickle crowd would turn against Him.  It was the Feast of the Passover. Jesus wanted to have this Last Supper with His disciples before His humiliation began.  Nowhere else in the Bible do we see so clearly the heart of Jesus.

Jesus had no doubts about who He was (the only begotten Son of God), why He had come into the (to redeem the people that His Father had given to Him) or what was expected of Him (to die on the Cross for the sins of those people). He also knew that His Father would glorify Him (by raising Him up from the dead and placing all creation in His hands).

Look at this phrase again: “. . . having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.”  Jesus wants to convey a message to all of us for whom He was about to suffer. The Disciples were just like us, struggling to understand. They too had doubts. He was assuring us that He loves us as well.  He knows we struggle. He knows we have doubts from time to time.  He wants us to know that those things do not count against us.  He loves us to the end.

On that evening, in that Upper Room, knowing that all power and glory were His -- and knowing the struggles of His Disciples --  what did Jesus do?

[He]  got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself.  Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. John 13: 4-5

Rather than holding a pep rally or rallying there spirits, He washed their feet.

Jesus knew that He had come from and was returning to God.  His earthly ordeal was over. His time was immediately at hand. Human nature might dictate that react to that reality with denial or escapism.  But --  He washed the disciples’ feet.

What Jesus knew and wanted His disciples to understand, is that no one is closer to God than when he is serving suffering humanity.

Remember this as well.  He was about to be betrayed by one of is own.  Human nature would dictate resentment, anger, bitter disappointment.  Jesus washed the disciples’ feet. . .including Judas’.

Pastor Jim

Friday, March 31, 2017

Spring Fling

Our annual Spring Fling is coming up on April 8th. It will be a time of family fun, creativity and competitive Easter egg hunting :). It's also a time of amazing community and fellowship. Too often churches hunker down and focus inward. They stress about finances, membership, issues within the congregation. But Jesus was the One who looked outward. One of the coolest Bible tidbits I learned in seminary revolved around the word tear. When Jesus is being baptized, the Heavens are torn open and God declares that Jesus is His Son, with whom He is well-pleased. We only see that version of the word, tear, one more time in the New Testament, and that is when Jesus died on the cross and the curtain to the Holy of Holies was torn in two. This curtain is what kept out the general people. Only specific priests could enter the Holy of Holies and now the curtain was torn and all could enter. All had access to God. All had access to the One who loves them beyond measure.

So we too are called to tear down the curtains and barriers in our own lives and church lives. Where are we excluding others? Where are we only focusing on ourselves or our church's needs? Where do we need God to reach in and tear away the dross that inhibits our abilities to serve and love others? As we continue into this time of Lent, may we focus on the God who desires for every person to know His Name and His amazing grace and love. May we welcome the stranger in our midst and share in real community. May we be like the early apostles who " devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer." (Acts 2:42)... and if we have some extra time let's hang out at the church on April 8th from 10 am - 12 pm for an awesome time together.

In Christ,
Rev. Michelle