Easter Hope, April 2021

In the book Believe, Randy Frazee writes:

Unfortunately, too often humans put their hope in things that over promise and under deliver riches, people, idols, government. The only true source of hope is found in Jesus Christ. Christ and his promises become an anchor for our souls and the reason we can persevere. Of all the promises Jesus has made to us, the promise of eternal life with God is the most significant. No matter what we may be going through today, we know what happens in this life is not how our story ends. Our story ends, or really only begins, in the presence of God in his eternal kingdom. [Believe, p. 417]

There are things I hope for but am not very confident about. I hope I might win the lottery but I am not very hopeful that this will happen– especially since I don’t buy lottery tickets. I hope that someday our elected officials will learn to work together instead of against each other. The team I hoped for did win the Super Bowl, but that celebration ended long ago.

The Christian faith is based on a Living Hope- a Lasting Victory! The Living Hope is something that is “still unseen” and I am waiting to experience, but it is not like these other hopes. The lottery doesn’t promise me that I will win. But the Bible does!

The Bible promises this Living Hope of everlasting life to everyone who trusts in Jesus Christ as their Savior. We can all be winners! The Book of Hebrews mentions our blessed HOPE . Here are a few of the passages:

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. Hebrews 10.23

We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. Hebrews 6.19

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. Hebrews 11.1

We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, so that what you hope for may be fully realized. Hebrews 6.11

The Apostle Peter also writes about the promised hope of eternal life with Jesus. “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” 1 Peter 1.3

Once a young lady came to my door, and invited me to attend their “celebration of Jesus’ death.” I thanked her for the invitation– but also affirmed that I prefer to “celebrate Jesus’ resurrection.”

Paul the writer of 1 Corinthians, affirms what was believed and “passed down” from the first believers. “But now,Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep (who have died). He also writes: “But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15.57).

So let me ask you a question? What are you hoping for? Do you have a hope that anchors your soul? Do you have faith in the promises of Jesus Christ? I believe in an eternal hope…an Easter Hope. I believe that there is a resurrection to everlasting life for those who trust in Christ! So, no matter what happens while I live in this human body– there is something better to come! Amy Grant sings, “In a little while we’ll be with the Father, can’t you see Him smile…we’re just here to learn to love Him. We’ll be home in just a little while.” Even when death comes to us or our believing loved ones the Bible says, Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. (1 Thess. 4.13).

May you be filled with “blessed hope” as you look ahead to what God is doing, and preparing for those who faithfully wait.”

Pastor Mark

Are You Anxious For Nothing? March 2021

Perhaps like me, you might respond, “No– I have good reasons for my anxieties!” Most of us do. Life is not problem-free. Especially during the past year with Covid added on. In February we began our “Anxious for Nothing” journey. Messages have been based on Philippians 4. 4-9, along with Max Lucado’s book by the same title.

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

8 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. 4-9

This past month our focus has been on learning to “rejoice in the Lord always.” The Apostle Paul says it twice. “Again I say rejoice!”Rejoicing is a practical way to replace anxiety, and fret, and worry with calm, and faith, and peace.

There are several reasons why we can rejoice, even in those times when it’s not an easy thing to do. A] We can rejoice in the Lord because He is LORD. He is sovereign. All powerful! He is the One who is in control of things, who created all things, and who can change things. B] We rejoice because God is merciful. He cares about us. He forgives our sin. He invites us to let go of our anxious burdens, and take on his much lighter load. C] We can rejoice because it helps us enter into the Lord’s presence, and remember His blessings.

In the month ahead we will be focusing on our need to “Ask God for Help.” There is a calm and gentle spirit available when we learn to rejoice, and to trust the Lord. Thus, we are encouraged, “Let your gentleness be evident to all.” Gentleness is not the characteristic of one who is anxious. It reflects a calm, and a peace. Anger, fear, frustration, and worry go with being anxious.

So in Philippians 4, we are reminded to let our light shine (through gentle- ness, and prayer, and faith). We are reminded as well, to ask God for help. “6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

One of my biggest faults is my unwillingness to ask for help. It probably has something to do with my “manly pride.” Perhaps it is because I might not trust someone else to do it right? Whatever my reasons are, I could learn a lot from my two-year old grandson. When he finds himself in a tough place he simply says, “Help.” He does not ask in a frantic way, just in a way that implies he trusts me to help. And I do.

We are instructed to ask God to help. Too often we wait until the last mi- nute, and we’re in a difficult place, before asking for help. We can ask at such times. We can ask when we see trouble coming, or when we begin to feel anxious. The peace we need, comes after we ask God, and trust Him to be Lord over our troubles.

What is making you anxious.? A financial concern? The death of a loved one? The stress of your job, or the worry of Covid? Are you anxious for nothing? We are invited by Paul, to rejoice, and then to pray and trust. I hope you will discover the peace that can come as you choose to rejoice, and then to trust and pray.

May you enjoy God’s blessings to You!

Pastor Mark

Do You Fret? February 2021

Psalm 37, is one of those “life-Psalms” that needs to be read often. It reminds us of our hope and security, as we trust in the Lord. It also reminds us that even when it seems like evil is flourishing, and the wicked are enjoying prosperity, God is the final authority.

The Psalm says,

1 Do not fret because of those who are evil or be envious of those who do wrong; 2 for like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away. 3 Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. 4 Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Do You Fret? Fret (anxiety) is a cousin to fear. Fear is the natural response to a real threat. When we are threatened by cancer, or by an intruder, or by the loss of our job– there is a good reason to fear. Fret, however, is our reaction to a “potential threat.” “What if “ I get cancer, orlose my job, or some other possible difficulty?

Fretting is natural. It is good to be aware of potential threats, and stay back from the cliff, or put on our seat belts. However to experience “perpetual anxiety and to live in a continual state of “fret” is not God’s desire for us. That’s what the Psalmist is trying to teach us.

In February we will begin our “Anxious For Nothing Adventure.” In Philippians 4. 4-8, Paul challenges us to some action steps for dealing with our anxieties. He writes:

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

8 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.

This next few months we will seek to apply to our lives, these specific phrases, so that we may practice being people of faith and trust, rather than people of fret and worry.

In a previous message, I suggested that Psalm 37 provides a solution for fretting. I want to remind you that they are available for practicing. The solution to fret, is a four-part recipe, using the letters F-R-E-T.

The F– FAITH. Psalm 37.3- “Trust in the Lord, and do good, dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.” Verse 5 says, “Commit your way to the Lord…” When I fret, I need to realize that I am not trusting the Lord, but myself, or some- one else. God is sovereign and powerful– I am not. Neither are you. Put your FAITH in God

The R– REST. Psalm 37.7 says, “Be still before the Lord, and wait patiently for him.” If God is taking care of my problems, then I can just relax, and let Him do the worrying. Yes, that’s easier said than done, but I can practice and work on this, at least.

The E– ENJOY- Psalm 37. 4. “Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires or your heart. (3b) says, “…dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.” Do you count your blessings? Can you begin your day thinking of five things you are thankful for? Or do you appreciate when something good happens? Good things happen a lot! Are you noticing? Do you give God the praise?

The T– TRY A LITTLE KINDNESS! Psalm 37.3, says “Trust in the LORD and DO GOOD! Do a kind deed. Write a note, or help a friend. Give some time, or some money, or some needed attention. Giving, and doing good releases positive feelings and emotions in us. Thus, the worries and frets seem to lose their power.

Next time to start to fret, read Psalm 37, and remember: Faith, Rest, Enjoy, and Try a little kindness.

May you enjoy God’s blessings to You!

Pastor Mark

Happy New Year! January 2021

Happy New Year!

 

Be still my soul, thy God doth undertake
To guide the future as He has the past.

Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake;                                                                        All now mysterious shall be bright at last!

(Be Still My Soul, v. 2)

There are many years that we look forward to something different. This year is especially so. It has been a long weary time of dealing with coronavirus. We have been at war with an invisible enemy, and we are ready for things to be better!

It is good to be hopeful, and to look ahead to some new things. So often we do not like change, but in this case we are more than ready to be done with the pandemic. Yes, we are being warned not to “quit fighting too soon!” We need to continue to be diligent in our efforts to stay safe. Yet, we also know that physical safety, is not the only thing that matters. Our emotional health has been tested. Financial health has been tested. So we’re ready for better days!

In the Old Testament book of Joshua, we read of the Hebrews and the end of their long journey, and the new Promised Land they were entering. I have heard it said that people often fear the unknown more, than they do the present trials. And the story of the Exodus reminds us of that fact. There were many times when the people wanted to go back to Egypt. What God was promising for them didn’t seem to be worth the trip.

Who knows what lies ahead of us in 2021? We didn’t know that this past year would be so filled with loss, and fear, and unknowns.

We are hoping that the vaccines that have been developed so quickly will be effective, and will help us return to some things that we need, and enjoy. We are hoping for time together with our families. We are hoping for some vacations, and trips. We are hoping that we can talk to friends, and visit nursing homes, and attend the funerals of our loved ones.

But we don’t know for sure what lies ahead. It’s good to have hope. And our God is a God of hope. In 1 Corinthians 13, we are reminded that 3 things last forever: faith, hope, and love. If we have no hope, we are much more likely to give up.

There is a wonderful promise that we read in the first chapter of Joshua, in the Old Testament. It says, “Have I not commandedyou? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1.9)

As we move ahead into the year ahead, let’s remember God’s promise. He is with us wherever we go! If we are honest, we must even admit that He has been with us this past year too. We have seen blessings along with our difficulties. We have sensed God’s hand of provision. We have spent time with loved ones and friends. Through the lonely times we have still sensed His presence.

Yes, there will be some better days coming! And some hard days too. But, remember that God is with us, wherever we go.

Blessings, Pastor Mark