Tuesday, September 30, 2014

God Loves Us

I'm a fan of a lot of things. Football, Seahawks more specifically, taking naps, Pumpkin Spice Lattes, a good pair of socks, roller coasters, date night with the wife, the sound of my girls laughing.

There is one thing I'm not a fan of. Being wrong. And believe me, there have been many times. The first thought that goes through my mind when someone tells me I'm wrong is, 'Nope. Nope. Nope. You're wrong!!' But it's true-nobody likes being wrong. This is what makes church very difficult. There is a tricky balance of talking about what we need to change in our lives.
We started going through the Book of Malachi this past Sunday at church. It's hard. We only got through 5 verses-but the water's about to get HOT! There will be a lot of sin talk on the horizon. But the message from the LORD to Israel through Malachi starts in an amazing, and if you're a Bible believing lover of Christ, predictable way. God loves us. The LORD says, 'I'm about to lay it down, but before I do I want you to know something very important-I love you.'

So how do I know God loves you and me? Jesus. Ok-wait. Thanks for the Sunday School answer-extra doughnut for you. Unfortunately, many people are cynical about God’s love, using political and economic progress as a measure of success. Simply meaning if we see strife in our nation, if we see strife around the globe-God doesn't love. At the time Malachi presented this message to Israel the government was corrupt, the economy was poor, and even those within the church were skeptical. Before Malachi they had heard and read the prophecies of Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Micah and some of them had not been fulfilled (yet). Thus, the Israelites assumed God had stopped loving them. They were wrong. This is where it gets tough-Malachi will tell God's chosen people-you're wrong. And I can tell by all the sin in your life! God loves all people because he made them.

So Malachi reminded these people, 'I have loved you!' Through Jacob will come the Messiah-the Savior of the entire world. God is telling us and reminding us today that, 'I have loved you!' Your savior has come in Jesus Christ! And he is not dead-he's alive!!

I'm a big fan of that.


Monday, September 15, 2014

Baptism-What is it?

This past Sunday we participated in something that Jesus loves, His church loves, and myself being a pastor love-baptism!! The sign of a life transformed by Jesus. It glorifies God, it brings completeness to the person and brings joy to the church!...But what is baptism? Sadly, even church going Christians don't really understand why we do what we do. We are taught what to believe but not why we believe it.
What is baptism?
Romans 6:3-6 explains it well, 'Or don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin.' 
So the first thing about baptism is that it's all about Jesus. It is understanding that Jesus lived, Jesus died, Jesus was buried, Jesus rose from the dead. It is saying Jesus is my God, died on the cross for me, and my faith is in him and my salvation comes from him alone! Jesus gave us the example of being baptized himself. We want to be more like Jesus and so we want to do the things Jesus taught us to do.
How do we baptize?
In Greek the word baptize meant to plunge, dip, or immerse, and so there will be some Christians traditions that will say you've got to go under all the way. In Mark, Jesus 'came out of the Jordan', so he was all the way in!! So get in the water!! Personally, I come at this from a little different angle. If someone wants to be baptized, I respect sprinkling, pouring or fully immersing. It's about the relation to God, not the relation to the pastor who gets you wet. This seems simple, but theologians like to make life difficult and tell you there are 'rules'. Eh.
Why do we baptize?
It's out of obedience. You are going public and saying, 'I'm on Jesus' side.' It was commanded in Matthew 28:19, 'Therefore go, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit.' So there's some actions there right? He didn't say, 'Go have church.' He gave us some pretty direct and simple instructions. So why do we baptize? Because we are instructed to do so. It's the outward sign of what God has done inside already. Which answers the question-will baptism save? No. It's what we do because we have been saved. Only Jesus saves. Your pastor can't save you, the local church you attend can't save you, being baptized can't save you-only Jesus!
Who do we baptize?
This is a question that can get a little hairy in the church. There are two schools of thought-paedobaptism and credobaptism. Paedobaptism is infant baptism, whereas credo baptism is the believer's baptism. Catholics, Lutherans, some Presbyterians will tell you that your child or infant needs to be baptized ASAP!! The problem I find here is that it's not Biblical. You can try and use tradition and logic all you want, but if it's not in the Bible...I'm sure we don't need it. We profess credo baptism because it challenges the Christian to articulate their faith. Baptism needs to be a sign of faith in your life. Therefore if you were baptized as an infant or in a church that doesn't believe Jesus is who he says he is, what does your baptism actually point back to? If you're in this position, I would love to talk to you. Your baptism has to point back to Jesus or you're just getting wet.
So what do we do with babies? Well, we dedicate them. The Bible never commands us to dedicate children, but it does give us an example in Luke 2, where Jesus, he’s a baby, his mom and dad take him to the temple and it says they, quote, “Dedicate him to the Lord.” They’re offering prayers, they’re doing it in the presence of God’s people, they’re covenanting to raise him to know the Scriptures and to serve the purposes of God.

So what signs do you have in your life? Are you a Christian, but have never been baptized? Your leader, teacher and savior is calling you. Are you a non-Christian? Jesus is the answer for your life. He died to save and rescue you. Will you accept him as your savior? I pray that you would, and be baptized.
Got questions? Email me!


God is Preparing You

Reading the book of Jonah this summer was a highlight for me. Yes-the camping trips, fun days at the lake, awesome time with friends, etc. were great but reading a book of the Bible that I had kind of 'passed over' for years came back to life for me. I realized that Jonah was a representation of myself and even the church today. We have heard the call from God. The question is will we respond?
Jonah is a quick book-you can read it in 15 minutes. It has 4 chapters that capture this amazing journey of a man that says no with his actions by sailing in the opposite direction that God called him to go. He finally turns to God after spending a few days in the gastric juices of a fish and an entire city of 120,000 people are saved!! Sounds like an amazing journey but as we find in chapter 4, Jonah isn't very happy.
He was hoping that God would destroy a people who actually had a history of tormenting his people. He gives a message that has the opposite effect of what he was hoping-they were saved and then he finds a spot on a hillside sits down with his fingers crossed that God still would bring His wrath to a sinful people.
Instead he has an interesting exchange with a plant. Yup, a plant. It's pretty warm and so God prepares a plant to give Jonah shade to only be chewed apart by a worm later to make it wither. And so Jonah was back in the blazing sun. I find it fascinating that Jonah ends like this. Here we have one of the largest revivals in history and yet this great book ends with Jonah trying to get some shade under a withering plant!!
Jonah 4:10-11 sums it up: But the LORD said, 'You have been concerned about this plant, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left-and also many animals?'
Think about a typical day for you. What do you worry about? What are the things that irritate you about your life? Do they consume your thoughts? Do they consume you to the point where you actually shove God's voice out of your head because you're 'busy'?
Of all the items in my life I complain about I wonder sometimes if I lose my awe and wonder of the journey I'm on with God. Jonah just saved an entire city and now he is cursing this plant because he has no shade and wishes he were dead. Jonah is a book of priorities. If God's people want to put actions to the words they talk about on Sunday mornings-it starts with our priorities. It means we stop complaining about temporary things and concentrate on eternal things.

Think about your life right now-what can you stop complaining about so that you can concentrate on what God has for you right now! He is preparing you for something amazing!