Order in the Court!?

Over the past six weeks I have seen more drama concerning the court system than I care to recall.  First, there was the District court in Washington state which opined that the President’s executive order on travel was unconstitutional.  Then, the appellate court failed to overturn the district court.  After that, a sitting federal judge was accused of abetting the escape of a defendant charged with illegal immigration practices.  To top it all off, the senate is still fussing about the confirmation of the President’s nominee for the Supreme Court.  Why all this furor over the selection of judges?  Because we have given judges great power and authority to uphold the law and ensure justice is done.  Judges have a sacred duty to uphold the law and the people have a right to expect that their judges are above honorable and above reproach.

This is nothing new – judges have been part of cultures for thousands of years.  While much has changed over the centuries, the expectation that a judge’s character and conduct are above reproach has remained constant.  Sadly, there have always been instances of judges who lost sight of their sacred duty and allowed their own pride and prejudices to blind them to the injustices they were committing from the Bench.  This week we’ll discuss one of those infamous judges.  His name is Caiaphas and he was Israel’s High Priest and President of the Sanhedrin (their religious court).  I look forward to seeing you Sunday as we review the cataclysmic damage which can be done when a judge loses sight of his duties.  In the meantime, I ask you to pray that we may all remain strong in our faith and not succumb to the temptations of the World.

-Pastor Dave Jones

Time to Think About the Garden

Yes, I know it is currently -3 degrees and there is still a few feet of snow on the ground, but hey, it’s March! And March, to Gardeners, means preparing seeds for sowing and earnest planning and preparation for produce! Garden shops and news articles are already inundating us with ideas they hope will inspire us to new heights of gardening expertise. While planning to play in the dirt is a pleasant and useful undertaking (sorry about the pun), it is also the season to plow and prepare our hearts as we follow Jesus on His Road to the Resurrection. For the next six weeks leading to Easter, we’ll be studying the actions of Jesus in His final week on Earth. This week we begin by looking at the night of Passover as Jesus went to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray before He was arrested by the authorities.

Scripture tells us that Jesus went to the Garden to pray because he was overcome with grief and sorrow knowing what was about to befall Him. In the Garden we see that Jesus underwent a transformation from being grief-stricken to being God-driven as we witness His countenance moving from one of trepidation to one of resolve. I hope that you can join us this week as we begin to travel the Road to Resurrection to see how trusting God in EVERYTHING will bring us peace and Him Glory. As you prepare your gardens in the promise of the coming new life of Spring, please also prepare your hearts for the celebration of the new and eternal life promised to us by the One who has NEVER broken a promise. Pray without ceasing!

-Pastor Dave Jones

Prayer Requests

Most of you will be comforted to know that I have officially QUIT praying for snow!  I am running out of places to push it and had to put new brakes on my truck from all the plowing work so I will now begin praying for a gradual break-up and a nice summer!  Aside from my personal pleas for idyllic weather, please remember ALL our praises and petitions to our Creator and Lord as you go to Him in prayer.

-Pastor Dave Jones

Praying for Healing

As our nation continues to bicker and sow seeds of discontent with the leadership, Christians need to remember that our job is to  pray for peace and ensure we neither engage in nor condone the ungodly dialogue and protests occurring in the wake of the presidential election.  Everyone is entitled to their personal opinion about our elected officials and I am not concerned about your view (positive or negative) of our President.  My concern is strictly for your Spiritual fitness.

I have seen a number of posts which advocate Christians protesting against Civic leaders using the justification that Jesus Himself was a radical protester and protesting against tyranny and injustice.  I completely agree that Immanuel participated in one of the greatest revolts in human history; however, that revolt was against the Jewish religious leaders who had misused their position and led the chosen people away from God.  There is not a single reference in Scripture of Jesus protesting ANY Civil authority.  On the contrary, He instructed us to obey civil authority (e.g., Mark 12:17; Matthew 5:41).  Both Paul and Peter addressed the issue of the relationship between Christians and civic leaders in Romans 13:1-2 (Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities for there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.), and 1 Peter 2:13-14 (Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right.).

Scripture provides NO JUSTIFICATION for Christians protesting against civil authorities and Jesus certainly never advocated or endorsed such actions.  ALL people (men, women, and children) should be protected from abuse and provided fair treatment from the government, but when that “fair treatment” becomes the “right” to violate God’s laws under the guise of “personal choice,” Christians must stand opposed. 

Additionally, there is the issue of unity.  Scripture emphasizes the importance of unity in the Church (e.g., 1 Cor. 1:10, Col. 3:13; Eph. 4:11), and also requires us to be obedient and submit ourselves to civil authorities.  Many of the signs and speeches in the recent Women’s March clearly denounced the legitimacy of elected officials and openly declared the protester’s rebellion against them.  Not what Jesus told His followers to do.

Praying Christians:

I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. (1 Timothy 2:1-2).

We are commanded to pray for our civil authorities.  We are also commanded to care for the widow, the orphan and the refugee and to seek justice for the oppressed.  However, those commands are given to us (Christians) as the responsibility of the Body of Christ; not as citizens of any earthly nation.  In other words, Scripture tells us it should be Christians helping those in need.  By all means, when we as the Church see someone in need, we should help them. 

Grace and Truth:

God loves EVERYONE.  He will forgive EVERYONE who repents, puts their faith and trust in The Lord Jesus Christ, and commits to make Him the Lord of their life.  Christians should love EVERYONE and forgive EVERYONE, but that doesn’t mean we should endorse or condone their sinful behavior.  The world will accuse Christians of being narrow-minded, bigoted, and unloving because we don’t accept their “alternate lifestyle” of homosexuality or their “personal choice” of abortion.  That’s ok, Jesus warned us that the world would hate us because the world hated Him (Matthew 10, John 15).  As followers of Christ, we must choose truth and life over deception and death.  God will always provide Grace, but not at the expense of righteousness and justice.

So, this week as we pray for our brothers and sisters, please also remember to pray for our Nation.  That we may become once again, “One Nation UNDER God.” 

-Pastor Dave Jones

Prayers for the Body

As we study how to Love like Jesus, we must remember how much time Jesus spent in prayer.  If we truly want to love others as He loves us, we should be constantly praising God and praying for others.  We have many prayer needs this week – please join me in lifting them up to Our God.

-Pastor Dave Jones

A Father’s Love

Last Sunday we jumped into the way-back time machine and grabbed “Joseph, the Husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.” (Matt. 1:16)

Joseph was kind enough to accompany us forward a couple millennia so he could explain to us about a father’s tenacious love.  Joseph, the only character in the Christmas play who doesn’t say a word, had much to tell us about how he really felt about Mary, Jesus, and God.  Joseph had earned a reputation as a righteous man who was highly regarded in the community for his devout obedience to Scripture.  When his teenaged fiancée becomes pregnant, Joseph is beside himself with grief because he knows he is not the father.  Furthermore, Mary insists that she is still a virgin and somehow her conception is from The Holy Spirit.  Far-fetched to put it mildly.  However, in spite of what everyone advised Joseph to do (publically disgrace her and divorce her to save his reputation), Joseph didn’t want to hurt Mary because he still loved her.

As the story unfolded, we saw a picture of a man who, against all human reason, decided to tenaciously love his wife and her son.  His faithfulness taught us several lessons; perhaps the most important of which is how to love the way God loves.  Joseph’s decision to stay as Mary’s husband and raise her child as his own cost him a lot.  His reputation as a righteous man was questioned, he lost work, he lost social standing, and he (probably) lived the remainder of his life hearing the gossip about he and Mary’s immorality.  Joseph’s decision to be obedient to the messages brought to him by the angels instead of caving in to peer pressure and going along with societal norms made his life difficult.  It costs something to love like God loves.  It cost God His Son.  This week we start a study about how to love like Jesus loves – I encourage you to attend and learn how to love more deeply than you have ever imagined.  It will change your life forever.

-Pastor Dave Jones

Ringing in the New Year

As we come to the end of another calendar year and prepare to begin anew, many of us will make resolutions and set goals for ourselves to achieve in 2017.  I am told that January 2d is the busiest day of the year for gyms since many people resolve to “get in shape” as part of their self-improvement plan.  Being a gym rat myself, I certainly appreciate the goal of physical fitness and Scripture tells us that our bodies are temples and we should not do anything to defile them. Achieving a healthy physical lifestyle is indeed a worthy goal and one which is decidedly difficult, but I would challenge you to strive for a much loftier goal.  A goal which will provide for you both immediate and eternal benefits – becoming more spiritually fit.  Paul reminds us in 1 Timothy 4:8: For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come.

We don’t want to neglect our bodies, but even more so, we must not neglect our spirits.  I recently read an article by Christian author and counselor Chris Russell.  He gave four reasons why we need to work on our spiritual fitness:

1) Your eternal life depends on it.

The life we spend on this earth is nothing compared to the eternal life we will enjoy with God in heaven someday. At least this applies to those of us who have put our faith in Jesus, the Son of God, and have called on God to rescue us (Romans 10:13).

2) Your current happiness depends on it.

When I was young, I used to think that Christianity was all about the “next life.” But over time, I came to learn that the Christian faith also has everything to do with enjoying a joyful, meaningful, happy life NOW. There is no greater life than a life that is lived walking with God…TODAY!

3) Your family depends on it.

If you’re not willing to take care of yourself spiritually for your own sake, I would still implore you to take care of your spirit for your family’s sake. Your kids need to see you walking with God. Your siblings need to see you walking with the Lord. Your parents will benefit when you are doing well spiritually. Your cousins and grandparents and nieces and nephews will be blessed when you are well spiritually. And it could be that you will be the only “Bible” that they will ever “read.” So do not neglect your spirit.

4) The world depends on it.

I often wonder how many unbelievers trip over unhealthy Christians when they are stumbling away from God. This world needs to see Christians who are healthy, passionate, and genuine. We are God’s vehicle for His message of love to those who are lost. But we must be healthy if we are going to effectively deliver that message in a way that will change lives forever.

Physical fitness is important. But spiritual fitness is even more important. So make plans to strengthen your spirit today!  Let’s begin by resolving to pray for the blessings and concerns of our  congregation.

-Pastor Dave Jones

A Season for Miracles

This year we celebrate the 70th anniversary of one of the most iconic Christmas movies ever made – “It’s a Wonderful Life.”  The movie tells the story of a man who wanted to end it all so badly that he wished he had never been born.  After contemplating suicide, the man is saved by a guardian angel named Clarence. The plot continues to show the man what the world would have been like if he had never been born.  Besides being a classic Christmas movie, this story shows us that the God who created the universe and continues to sustain it has a purpose and a plan for EVERY human being He created.  This season of advent reminds us that EACH one of us has a wonderful life because of the birth of Jesus.  

This past Sunday we enjoyed listening to three spontaneous accounts of a “Guardian Angel” protecting someone in our congregation. This was CLEARLY God at work since my sermon centered around the Angels’ participation in the account of Christ’s birth.  Most people have a false concept of “Angels” and either don’t believe in them at all or they perceive them as the cute, winged cherubim on top of a Christmas tree.  Let me assure you that Angels are very real.  The Bible has over 300 references to angels and their most active participation is in the story of Immanuel.  While the Christmas story is saturated with the supernatural, some of us miss the meaning because we just skim by this season on a superficial level. I want to suggest that we must see the mysterious and miraculous elements surrounding the birth of Jesus.  This is the season of miracles – the fact that Christ was born of a virgin and was all man and all God reveals to us that only the Supernatural can explain our existence and our future lives.  

As we enjoy the season of the Miraculous birth of Christ, let us remember that Angels are still among us and still serving as messengers and ministers of the God who created, sustains, and still loves us.

-Pastor Dave Jones

Waiting Expectantly

For those of us who are privileged to be parents, we all remember the last month of pregnancy before our child was born (the women likely remember it differently than the men…), particularly if it was our first child. The first child brings with him a new adventure, a new beginning, and a DRAMATIC change in lifestyle! A parent’s world is truly rocked by the coming of this child. Everything turns upside down – it seems as if life, as you knew it, is gone for good – truth be known, it is. After one becomes a parent, their life will never again be the same. Even when the child grows up and leaves the home, there is a part of us which will never stop thinking about them as “our little baby.”

Over three million babies are born each year in the U.S. alone which means that millions of parents are constantly experiencing the expectation of the last month of pregnancy. They are wondering if the baby is healthy. They are concerned about what the baby will do when he grows up. They are concerned about the kind of world the baby will grow up in. And yet, all they can do is wait expectantly, anticipating what is to come and what the future holds for their child. I well remember all the eagerness, anticipation and angst I felt in that last month. I can only imagine how Joseph and Mary felt over two thousand years ago. Besides all the “normal” things a soon-to-be parent is dealing with, they knew that their child was no ordinary baby. Their child was conceived like no other child ever born. Their child was unique. While He would be born and grow up like any other child, His destiny was pre-determined and His coming would truly turn the world upside down.

In this season of Advent (Coming), let us all wait expectantly for the birth of Jesus celebrating the hope He brought into the world. This season should bring us great joy not just for the birth of Christ, but for His life, death, and resurrection in which lies our (only) eternal hope. As the angel said to the Shepherds on that Holy night,

“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom His favor rests.” (Luke 2:10-14)

I wish you all glad hearts and joy in this season of Hope.

-Pastor Dave Jones