Friday, December 15, 2017

Jesus Shows Us God

I remember watching a magician perform on TV.  I think it was David Copperfield.  He made the Statue of Liberty disappear.  I was amazed.  I don’t know what kind of trick he used, but it was impressive.  First, it was there, and then it wasn’t.  Just before he snapped his fingers, he said, “Now you see it, and now you don’t.”  Poof.  Gone. And then he said, “Now you don’t see it, and now you do.”  Poof. There it was again.

At Christmas, God the Father said, “Now you don’t see me, and now you do.  Poof!”  And then the God-child was born in a stable in Bethlehem.  It was not a trick, but more like a miracle of God’s great power.  He took his own divine nature and squeezed it down into the babe of Bethlehem.

The Bible says, “Christ is the visible image of the invisible God.  He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation.” –Colossians 1: 15   Think about that!  The mighty God who has universe-creating power and stands above the universe came to us in Jesus.  The theological word is “Incarnation”, meaning literally “enfleshment.” 

Clearly this is a mind-boggling move on the Father’s part.  The disciples had trouble believing it.  In the upper room on the night before Jesus’ betrayal, our Lord said, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.”  That means that when we know Jesus, we know God.   

Isn’t this what we all long for—to know God?  And when Jesus came, he showed us who the Father was.  God did everything he possibly could to help us know him so that we might love him and receive his forgiveness.  His biggest and boldest move was to give us a visible image of himself. 

Colossians 1:15 uses the word “image”—Jesus is the “image” of the invisible God.  In the Greek language, “image” is “eikon.”  Icons are pictures which make ideas clear.  Pictures make difficult ideas easy to understand.  Jesus is the accurate picture of who God is. 

Pause a moment and feel the wonder of that.  Jesus is God in the flesh.  “No one has ever seen God.  But Jesus the only Son, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.”  --John 1: 18

Prayer:  Thank you Jesus, for making God known to us.  Help us to believe that when we know, believe and love you, we know, believe, and love God.  Amen.

--Pastor Ken

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Christmas Means Welcoming Others In

“Then Mary gave birth to her firstborn Son, and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger—because there was no room for them in the inn.”  --Luke 2:7

I think the innkeeper and his wife have gotten a bad rap.  Traditionally they have been portrayed as inhospitable.  Why, we wonder, didn’t they give Mary and Joseph their room?  Or boot someone out who was less worthy and give them that room? After all, Mary was about to deliver.  How hard-hearted can you be—making them go to the stable.

Actually, the innkeepers were very welcoming to this couple in need.  They might have turned them away totally.  But instead they gave them what they could—a humble but cozy stable, private, safe. 

These humble but devout Jewish innkeepers were practicing the true faith—welcoming strangers.  God commanded this basic courtesy of hospitality:  “The stranger who sojourns with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.”  --Leviticus 19: 34

God’s heart is open to all who will come.  From the beginning he wanted not just the Jewish nation but also the nations of the world to come to him.   And [God wanted] that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written: “Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles; I will sing the praises of your name.” Again, it says, “Rejoice, you Gentiles, with his people.” --Romans 15: 9 - 10

God’s heart is open wide.  He welcomes in all who are willing to  come to him regardless of their tribe or clan.  This was Jesus’ point when he told the Good Samaritan parable where the despised Samaritan cared for the Jewish wounded man.  Being a “neighbor” means welcoming an outsider. 

Christmas is a time for welcoming.  People who don’t worship at any other time of the year will worship during Advent and Christmas—perhaps at Village.  Be on the lookout.  Welcome guests by being as friendly as you can. Leave your friend group and seek out newcomers. 

And in your personal celebrations of Christmas, welcome someone who is alone, grieving, hurting or discouraged.  Or at a party, look for the person standing awkwardly by himself.   

In Matthew 25 Jesus says, “For I was a stranger and you welcomed me …”  Jesus will come to us in the form of a stranger this Christmas.  Will we recognize him?  Will we welcome him?

Prayer:  Lord, show us that your love is so wide and wonderful that everyone is welcome.  Forgive us for restricting your love just to our church family.  May we open our arms to the strangers whom you send to us.  And may we lavish on them your love.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

--Pastor Ken

Wednesday, November 15, 2017


Brothers and sisters in Christ,

Can you believe it?  Thanksgiving is next Thursday.   Actually, I like the holiday of Thanksgiving a little bit better than Christmas.  I hope you do not brand me a heretic for saying that.  Of course, the coming of Jesus Christ as the Babe of Bethlehem, and our Savior is unparalleled in its importance to our salvation.  Without his coming, there would be no forgiveness, and no hope of eternal life with God. 

I like Thanksgiving because it seems more simple to me than Christmas--uncluttered, pure, and enjoyable.  The meaning doesn’t get lost as does the meaning of Christmas.  It is pure and simple the reminder that God has blessed us not because we deserve it, but because he is good and he loves us.

I encourage you to think of 30 blessings before you sit down to your feast.  Don’t cheat by putting every individual child, grandchild, aunt, uncle, niece, nephew, cousin, etc. as a separate item.  Lump them together under family.  Same with friends.  The first 10 items on your list will be the obvious things.  But the 2nd 10 items will take more thought.  And the 3rd 10 will take deep thought—not because their unimportant, but because we tend to overlook the subtle and spiritual blessings. 

So, let me offer a few suggestions of things to thank God for which you might have missed:
  •         Good health
  •         Long years
  •         One more day of life
  •         Having work you enjoy
  •         Having the strength to work
  •         Having your wits about you
  •         God’s gift of Jesus Christ
  •         Past answered prayers, including small and large miracles
  •         America, land of freedom and opportunity
  •         Living in a safe neighborhood
  •         Having been given a good education
  •         Returning from war
  • Being able to worship freely without persecution
  •         The amazing colors, textures, and sounds of God’s creation
  •         Your five senses—sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste

This Thanksgiving, be specific about why you’re thankful—try the “30 blessings” exercise.  I guarantee it would enrich your holiday.  Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family.  “Be thankful and bless His name.”  --Psalm 100 


Ken Shick, Interim Pastor

Friday, September 1, 2017


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.


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."


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?


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


"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


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


Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Looking to change the world?

In this month of New Year Resolutions, we often want better! We want to better ourselves, our health, and our world around us. One way that Village Presbyterian is committed to making our community better, i.e. "continuing Christ's mission in the world", is through the Guardian ad Litem Program (Guardian). Through the Guardian program, you get to be the voice, and advocate for, and special mentor to a child who has been abused, abandoned or neglected. Hillsborough county has the most kids in care in any county in Florida (and maybe even greater). These kids have experienced more trauma in their young lives than most adults do throughout their life.... and you can help! GALs visit with their kids, speak up for them in Court, and advocate for services needed through the Department of Children and Families. As we start this new year, consider committing to making the life of a child BETTER!!  Please contact Rev. Michelle ( for more information on how you can get involved, and check out --

"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." James 1:27

Rev. Michelle

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Sole Gratia

We Reformed believers speak often of the Five Solas of the Reformation.  In this month’s blog I am thinking about Grace. The Greek word translated grace has as its root idea the concept of bringing joy and gladness through gifts.  The Apostle Paul uses this word to refer to the unmerited and freely given favor and mercy which God bestows upon the sinner in salvation.  It is through this grace that the sinner is delivered from sin and judgment.  This grace, though freely given, is precious and costly, for its basis is the atoning death Jesus Christ.  It is granted by the will of God alone upon his elect.  Bonhoeffer in his work The Cost Of Discipleship, warns us against “cheap grace.”

A salvation that is received by grace is quite simply the opposite of a salvation that is earned by working or by obeying the law of God.  A person who is saved by grace has no basis for boasting in his salvation for he has done nothing to earn or merit it.  Those who teach a salvation that is earned or merited through obedience of any sort, have to some degree, fallen from the teachings of grace and have moved into legalism.

This is an ongoing dispute among Christian believers. There are three basic opinions.  A small number argue that there is no grace in salvation.  Others maintain that salvation is mostly of grace.  And still others such as I maintain that salvation is of grace alone, unsullied by works.

That first minority position argues that salvation is nothing but a human achievement. It is based on personal goodness and moral self-effort. This is really characteristic of pagan religions and philosophy.  An early British monk named Pelagius tried to teach pagan moralism as Christian doctrine.  He was condemned as a heretic, and his heresy was labeled Pelagianism. In this heresy the saving work of Christ is not necessary. Pelagius taught that person can save him/herself by leading a good and moral life.

The second position is that salvation is mostly – but NOT all --of grace.  The most common of these schools is Arminianism.  This is probably the most popular position held in Christianity at this time in our history.  It is a core doctrine in Methodism, Catholicism and The Anglican Communion.  Arminianism holds that the work of Christ has made salvation a possibility for all but not a finished reality for any.  In Other Words, God has done His part, and now those who are willing to do their part will be saved.

In the Arminian view, while God has the “major” role in salvation, it is the human contribution to salvation that is the final necessity and makes the difference between heaven and hell.  Under this view, the saving work of Christ is necessary for salvation but NOT sufficient.

Finally, we come to the Reformed (also called Augustinian or Calvinist) view. We hold, on the basis of Scripture Alone, that salvation is ALL and ONLY of grace.  The saving work of Christ is both necessary and sufficient to save sinners. Our view is that the cross of Christ that makes the difference between heaven and hell. Therefore we have no basis for any boasting.  
Even our ability to come to Christ in saving faith is a gift based upon the cross of Calvary. On the cross, Christ purchased -- for His elect, complete salvation.  When a sinner is converted in response to the preaching of the gospel, it is only because Christ has poured out His Holy Spirit upon that sinner to apply to his or her heart the saving power of Christ's death and resurrection.

This view of grace is very humbling, and perhaps that is why not all Christians accept Grace Alone in spite of its strong and clear Biblical basis.  William Temple (Archbishop of Canterbury during WWII) put it best when he said, “The only thing of my very own which I contribute to redemption is the sin from which I need to be redeemed.”

Pastor Jim