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One of the liberal/progressive shared purposes is to portray Biblical doctrine, like sin, as outdated and inconsistent with modern understanding on a number of issues.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

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The Shack

Several church members have asked me if I am going to see "The Shack" or if I think it is okay for them to see it.   My answers are no -  and go ahead if you want to – BUT,  do so for entertainment purposes and in the understanding that it is not a Christian movie and it presents some troublingly flawed theology.  Any time we are confronted with entertainment that contains theological inaccuracies we must be ware of those failings.

I read the book when it came out several years ago and found it to be entertaining fiction.  Nothing more, nothing less.  It is not a treatise of Christian faith and quite frankly it conflicts with scripture in several significant ways.

As one example, the representation of God is really flawed.  Not because God is portrayed as a Black woman, but because the Father and the Spirit are shown in human form. That is completely contrary to Scripture. While both Old and New Testaments present Father and the Spirit they never do so in human form.  In The Shack the characters specifically identify themselves as individual members of the Trinity.  This is heresy.

Yes, it is ‘just a movie’ and a work of fiction that never claims to be the Bible. However, there are masses of people who will watch this show and be confused because it is a “feel good” story and the average viewer will not understand how flawed it is. Many of them will identify with the emotions, and the struggles with pain and evil in life.

The film is about Mack Phillips, who falls into a depression and questions his beliefs after a family tragedy. He receives a mysterious letter and is directed to an abandoned shack where he encounters three strangers, including "Papa."

Christians who see the film will hopefully be able to see the differences in the way that God is portrayed in the film from the way God has revealed Himself in Scripture.

So I guess I am saying that if you are looking for an entertainment, go see the movie.  If you are looking to grow your understanding of God and His love, turn to the Scriptures.

Also, if you do see it, watch for opportunities to help people who are going to be emotionally and spiritually impacted by this film. Help them with the truth of a relationship with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

It must be kept in mind that The Shack is a work of fiction.

Pastor Jim

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Time to Prepare

Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday. How is 2017 flying by? It feels as if we just took down the Christmas trees, and ran to Target to buy some Valentines gifts for the kids. Now here we are, preparing for Easter. I don’t know if I’m ready to walk the road to the cross with Jesus. I feel like the disciples scrambling when Jesus asked them to “Follow Me”. But Jesus, I still have something left to do. I have a to-do list undone, we can’t be focusing on Easter yet. Time can’t be moving so fast.

But here we are, nonetheless.

For us in the Western world, Ash Wednesday kicks off the season of Lent. The 40 days before Easter (excluding Sundays).  We prepare for Easter in these 40 days by doing a variety of things. Some people give up things (chocolate, wine, facebook). Some people add things (Bible readings, prayer time, meditation). It really doesn’t matter which path you chose. The main goal of Lent is to FOCUS. To focus in on the One who was, who Is, and who is yet to come. This is a time when we try and throw off all that holds us too tightly to this world and FOCUS on God. To see where God is in our lives. To listen to His still voice. To find Him and let Him guide us. To let God in, or back in, as the center of our heart and our lives. We are preparing to meet Him at the cross, to see the victory for our salvation.

So I encourage you to pray about this Lenten season. What is God calling you to do, or not do, during this time of preparation. Come to an Ash Wednesday service. Join in with other believers who are recommitting their lives to Christ on this Easter journey. Ash Wednesday is a time when we are one body preparing ourselves for the hard work of Lent to enjoy the great celebration of Easter.

He is coming my friends. Let’s get ready.

Rev. Michelle

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY!

"Haven't you read," He replied, "that at the beginning the Creator 'made them male and female,'and said, 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh' So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate." Matt. 19: 4-6

HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY!

A man marries a woman hoping she'll never change…   A woman marries a man sure she CAN change him...  Both are destined for disappointment.

After more than two decades counseling engaged couples, I am fairly certain that romance is a poor impetus for marriage. romance than the Bible.  Fall in love tends to be transient.  It is about the commercially marketable idea of finding our "soul mate" and believing the fantasy that he/she is the one person in the whole world who is just for me -- so I won't have to make any changes or adjustments to my way of thinking and acting.  I suspect this is a firm reason for much of the 50+% divorce rate in our nation.
 
The Christian marriage is not a fantasy, but a holy union of two complementary types of human beings who see the world differently. This necessitates a continuous process of growth and adjustment.

A Christian marriage should be based on Christian values, not the societal “market” values such as looks, income, et al.  Christian marriage is a conscious decision, forsaking all others. A Christian takes responsibility for the choice he has made.  This is because it is a commitment. Given that men and women are not naturally compatible,

Paul gives great guidance on how to love through our incompatibilities.

Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. I Cor. 13: 4-7

 

Love suffers long…The word used here describes a person who has been wronged and has it in his power to "get even" --- but resists the temptation. Spouses are often wronged more by each other and have it in their power to "get even." If marriage is not built on a love that suffers long, it won't last.

Kind… Anyone can be critical, and most people are. No one sees our faults more clearly than our spouse. Kindness is keeping  these to him/herself.

love does not envy… Some spouses are resentful of attention paid to their mates. Ideally, we should be our spouse's biggest fan.

love does not parade itself… I heard Alice tell someone once well into our married life together that she still catches her breath when she sees me come into sight. A true Christian lover will likely never feel worthy of his spouse's love.

is not puffed up… marriage is in trouble when one spouse begins to feel more important than the other. Agape love puts the ‘other’ first.

does not behave rudely… It is sad when we are more courteous to strangers than we are to our spouse.

does not seek its own… There is a marital dichotomy: You may insist on your rights/privileges; or you may remember your responsibilities. Here is the truth: marriage is never a "50/50 proposition." It is a "100/0" one all the time. A marriage is in trouble when the partners begin to keep score on each other.

is not provoked… No one has the power to provoke us as effectively as our spouse. Mates who can master their tempers can master anything, even the incompatibility of the sexes.

thinks no evil… The word used here is actually an accounting term. Too many spouses keep "books" on their mate, noting every failure/ deficiency. It is much more effective to be forgetful.

does not rejoice in iniquity… There is no place in marriage to take delight in the mishaps and shortcomings of others, especially our spouse.

rejoices in the truth… We can judge the genuineness of our love for others by the joy we feel for their successes.

bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things… What happens in the familia stays in the familia. Christians should never expose a family member's faults to others.

Paul also said:  Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Eph. 5: 21

To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. but in that casket - safe, dark, motionless, airless - it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy is damnation. The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.
C. S. Lewis

pj